Thursday, November 30, 2017

Free Credit

Today’s Bible Reading:  Romans 1-4

Journal Entry on a passage from today’s reading:
Topic: Justification

SCRIPTURE:  Romans 4:2-5, 23-25

2 If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about — but not before God. 3 What does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." 4 Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. 5 However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. (Rom 4:2-5 NIV)

23 The words "it was credited to him" were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness — for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. (Rom 4:23-25 NIV)


From both biblical texts and the literature of the day we see that Abraham is a figure that looms large. His significance to the Hebrews cannot be understated. Because of this, Paul had to deal with those who insisted that the Gentiles’ accepting and receiving Christ was not enough. To be a true child of Abraham, they contended, one must fully endorse and live by the Torah (the Law). Paul fervently combated such ideology, insisting that Jews and Gentiles alike are saved only by grace through faith and not by works of the law. Paul here introduces a new way of seeing Abraham as an example of the contrast of faith versus works and quotes directly from the Torah, “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness” (Gen 15:6 NIV). Before this the Hebrew people and teachers of the Law had viewed Abraham’s faith and his works together, not separate. Paul points out that it was because Abraham believed God that it was accounted to him as righteousness. Thus, even father Abraham was justified by the grace of God through his faith, not his righteous works.  


What was true for Abraham is true for us (vv. 23-24): Christ’s death covers the death I should rightly suffer for my sins (see Romans 6:23), and because of Christ’s resurrection from death, I am justified (made to be in right standing) before God and thus the beneficiary of life eternal. Evangelical Christians generally understand this revealed truth. We are saved only by the grace of God through Christ Jesus, and not by our righteous behavior or acts of goodness no matter how benevolent they may be. Paul beats the drum for this truth repeatedly in his epistles. So how is it that so many evangelicals still are driven to the pursuit of works? “Well,” you might be thinking, “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel, and go and be witnesses” are commands we are to do—that’s what evangelical means!” No argument about that from me except that I contend that these commands are to be lived out in our relationship with God using the gifts He has given us each individually and in the strength and leading of the Holy Spirit. If we are merely looking for and strategizing ways and means of doing these works, we are missing the major truth that we are to live in faith relationship With God in Christ. It is He who will bring the increase; it is He who will bring ministry opportunities; it is He who will direct our paths. These are very real opportunities to fulfill His commands out of relationship with Him, not just making ourselves do right things.   


Lord, thank You for illuminating the truth that the credit of righteousness conferred upon us is free, not earned. As a preacher and teacher called by You, may my encouragement to others lead them toward living in relationship with You more than driving them to fulfill commands.

Through Christ for our best and Your glory. Amen.  –AP

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