The Promise Is for All
13 God promised Abraham and his descendants that he would give them the world. This promise wasn't made because Abraham had obeyed a law, but because his faith in God made him acceptable. 14 If Abraham and his descendants were given this promise because they had obeyed a law, then faith would mean nothing, and the promise would be worthless.
15God becomes angry when his Law is broken. But where there isn't a law, it cannot be broken. 16 Everything depends on having faith in God, so that God's promise is assured by his gift of undeserved grace. This promise isn't only for Abraham's descendants who have the Law. It is for all who are Abraham's descendants because they have faith, just as he did. Abraham is the ancestor of us all. 17 The Scriptures say that Abraham would become the ancestor of many nations. This promise was made to Abraham because he had faith in God, who raises the dead to life and creates new things.
18 God promised Abraham a lot of descendants. And when it all seemed hopeless, Abraham still had faith in God and became the ancestor of many nations. 19 Abraham's faith never became weak, not even when he was nearly 100 years old. He knew he was almost dead and that his wife Sarah could not have children. 20But Abraham never doubted or questioned God's promise. His faith made him strong, and he gave all the credit to God.
21Abraham was certain that God could do what he had promised. 22So God accepted him, 23just as we read in the Scriptures. But these words were not written only for Abraham. 24They were written for us, since we will also be accepted because of our faith in God, who raised our Lord Jesus to life. 25 God gave Jesus to die for our sins, and he raised him to life, so that we would be made acceptable to God.
There are some difficult words in Romans 4. Difficult not because they send us running to the dictionary, but difficult because in the biblical context they don’t mean what they do in everyday speech and can be misleading. The Bible was written in Hebrew and Greek, and that’s another reason we have difficulty with the words in English – English doesn’t always have an exact word for what is in the original language.
There are two words that occur over and over again in this section of Romans, faith and righteousness.
Faith. Have you ever heard someone say “I wish I had your faith!” What do they mean? I like to say that it’s not because of some abstract quality called “faith” that I believe what I do. It’s because I have chosen to trust in Jesus Christ. And that’s not a blind trust. There are reasons why I trust him. “Faith” and “trust” are the same word in Greek. So when Abraham had “faith” in God it means that he chose to trust him.
Righteousness/justify. These words are really tricky. They both come from the same Greek root. The CEV avoids them altogether and uses some version of the phrase “accepted by God.” When we hear the word “righteousness” we probably think of self-righteousness, which is not an attractive quality. But the Hebrew idea behind the New Testament use of the word includes honesty, justice, goodness, vindication, restoration and loyalty. A “righteous” person defends the weak, the poor, the oppressed and the defenceless.
Jesus made a covenant with us before he died for us, giving us his body and his blood – his very self (Matthew 26:26-28). We are unable to help ourselves. He loves us to the utmost. He forgives us and will always be loyal to the promises he has made to us. He restores us as he changes us daily, bit by bit, to become like him.
Father, sometimes the Bible is hard to understand. Please help me to understand what you want to say to me, and to grow in my love for you as I figure things out. For Jesus’ sake, Amen.