Romans 4: The Promise by Faith

by Bob Young
[permission is given to reprint with credit noted]

Today's Bible Reading: Romans 4

Selected Biblical Text
...blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin."
Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised. For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression. That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring?not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all... (Romans 4:8-16 ESV)

Reflecting and Thinking
A great contribution of Paul in Romans is his explanation of the primacy of the promise -- why and how the promise precedes and overrides the Old Testament law which was always intended to be temporary. The law does did not negate the promise; the law is part of God's plan to make the promise available to people who could never deserve God's grace. God does this by declaring that unrighteous people are righteous. This is no flippant or capricious declaration. It is based on God's work in the gospel (3:20-31) and the faithful response of those who participate in the faith of Jesus (3:26), those who share the faith of Abraham.
That God's gift is based on God's promise does not undo the necessity of response -- promise produces response. The promise, delivered before the law and apart from the law, is an exhibition of grace extended to all of Abraham's spiritual descendants, that is, to all who share faith.

What is God's promise to us? In what way do we participate in God's promise to Abraham? Consider the implications of the statement: grace extends a blessing that can never be deserved or earned. How does this chapter support that statement? Why do some Christians try to earn God's grace? Why do some think grace implies universalism? Why do some believe that grace cannot be received conditionally? Try to describe these biblical truths using biblical terms and words.

Heavenly Father, we praise you this day for your wisdom. We marvel that your love extended grace to the human race when all were sinners and none deserved it. Help us appreciate and live in the grace of the promise. Increase our faith, in the name of the Christ, Amen.

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Last updated January 16, 2019