Reading: Romans 4:1-5 and 13-17
Verse 13: “It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise… but through the righteousness that comes by faith.”
Paul was born into the Jewish faith. He studied the scriptures, especially the Law, and rose to prominence in the Pharisees, a religious order that focused on strict adherence to the Law. As a Jew, he was thoroughly versed in the life of Abraham. Paul writes this letter to the church in Rome – many of the people likely without any of this background, yet some very connected to Judaism. So why does Paul choose to go all the way back to Abraham as the point to connect non-Jewish Christians to Christian Jews into one faith in Jesus Christ?
There is a 2-part answer, although the two are very connected. First, the one who held the Law above all else in his religion has come to know the saving power of Jesus Christ through faith alone. Paul now knows that faith is all about having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. He himself experienced the power of unconditional love, undeserved grace, and unlimited mercy. Second, Abraham was credited as being righteous – of living in right relationship with God – because of his faith and trust in God in a time when the Law did not yet exist. Like Paul, Abraham did nothing to receive the blessing of faith – it was by God’s grace alone.
This simple concept of grace invites anyone and everyone into a relationship with Jesus Christ. It is freely and generously available to all people. Some people struggle to accept it or to believe it because the idea of receiving something free and undeserved runs counter to our cultural norms. We measure success in our culture by what we do and by how much we accumulate. By contrast, in God’s kingdom “success” is measured by whose we are and by how we reflect that and by what we give to others. If we are focused on keeping a set of rules and on achieving certain expectations, then we are tied to this world. If we are focused on being a disciple of Jesus Christ and on living out his example of love, mercy, grace, compassion, forgiveness, and generosity, then we are tied to the kingdom of God. As you reflect on these two choices, where are you this day?
Prayer: Lord God, your grace, love – well, everything really – is a free gift to me. All are undeserved yet you give all freely and abundantly. May my grateful response be to do the same. May it be so. Amen.
March 1, 2023 at 11:09 am
I am thankful for these devotions. You do so many wonderful things. I’m impressed with Jesus working or shining through you.