Reading: Romans 4:13-17
Verse 16: “Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring — not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham.”
Paul was born and raised a Jew. He grew up under the Law. As he matured he became a student of the Law, rising to the office of Pharisee. In that part of his life, as Saul, he was very zealous for the Law. Saul was a very devout and strict follower of every letter of every law. He understands being a rule follower. Maybe you are a ruler-follower. Most of the time, I am too.
But then Saul met one of the authors of the Law. In a life-transforming encounter, Saul met the resurrected Christ. In Christ Paul learned that, yes, the law is good – unless it trumps love or mercy or grace or forgiveness or… This was hard for Jews to understand. It was hard for most non-Jews to understand. For devout Jews, it was law, law, law. Healing on the Sabbath? No! Eating with sinners so that they could know grace? Absolutely not!
To show that the Law is not necessary for righteousness or salvation, Paul points back to one of the greats of the Jewish faith: to Abraham. As one of the most revered patriarchs, Abraham lived before the Law was given. His faith was based upon a trust in God. His righteousness was from his obedience to God’s voice. Paul is saying to the Jews and to us that following the Law is not the only way to God. The Law, in and of itself, is a good thing, yes. But simply following a set of rules is not a guarantee of salvation. Love and grace and mercy and forgiveness must first flow from the heart – from the heart of God and from our heart. May it be so.
Prayer: Lord God, even as we seek to understand and follow and apply the Law, help us more so to understand the life and example of Jesus. He demonstrated when love, mercy… needed to trump the Law. Help us to understand and practice this “law” of Christ. Amen.