Monday, March 14
Reader: “Abraham believed God,”
Response: “and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.”
Scripture: Romans 4:1-12
Abraham was, humanly speaking, the founder of our Jewish nation. What did he discover about being made right with God? If his good deeds had made him acceptable to God, he would have had something to boast about. But that was not God’s way. For the Scriptures tell us, “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.”
When people work, their wages are not a gift, but something they have earned. But people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners. David also spoke of this when he described the happiness of those who are declared righteous without working for it:
“Oh, what joy for those
whose disobedience is forgiven,
whose sins are put out of sight.
Yes, what joy for those
whose record the Lord has cleared of sin.”
Now, is this blessing only for the Jews, or is it also for uncircumcised Gentiles? Well, we have been saying that Abraham was counted as righteous by God because of his faith. But how did this happen? Was he counted as righteous only after he was circumcised, or was it before he was circumcised? Clearly, God accepted Abraham before he was circumcised!
Circumcision was a sign that Abraham already had faith and that God had already accepted him and declared him to be righteous—even before he was circumcised. So Abraham is the spiritual father of those who have faith but have not been circumcised. They are counted as righteous because of their faith. And Abraham is also the spiritual father of those who have been circumcised, but only if they have the same kind of faith Abraham had before he was circumcised.
I remember the first time I milked the cows all by myself; (well, mom carried the milk to the bulk cooling tank.) That was normally my job but I was busy putting the milkers on and taking them off the cows. Dad had been away at a field demonstration of different varieties of seed corn, differing lengths of maturity, fertilizing, etc. and the demonstration went longer than planned so he wasn’t home when it was time to milk―cows don’t really care about different maturity dates for corn! I remember how excited I was as an eight or nine year old boy to tell dad when he got home that the cows were already milked! I was so proud of what I had done (with mom!) and I knew he was proud of me too! I had earned that feeling by what I had accomplished. I also knew dad was proud of me whether I had milked the cows or not because I was his son. I was also happy because I knew what I had done brought joy to my father. In a very loose way, that milking example is a shadow of God and Abraham. In continuing the discussion from yesterday, Abraham’s righteousness before God did not depend on what he did to make him acceptable to God, but rather his faith in God.
We live in a world where people “earn respect, earn a degree, earn a promotion, earn a reputation, or earn a living.” We are so ingrained with this earning mindset that the idea of being counted righteous by God because of our faith in him and doing nothing on our part to earn righteousness, is hard for us to grasp fully. We hear “you get what you pay for.” In this case “you get what someone else has paid for.” By the grace of God the record of our sin has been cleared and all we did was to believe what God said. Without imputed righteousness from God, we have absolutely no hope. I’m wondering if we grasp how remarkable and glorious this is?
Back to the passage. There was a question in the church at Rome regarding the rite of circumcision in relation to non-Jewish believers. We saw yesterday the significance and meaning of the act so it is not an insignificant question. Paul speaks very clearly here. Circumcision does not produce righteousness in God’s sight, for Abram was already judged righteous prior to his being circumcised so righteousness is not dependent upon circumcision. God is concerned with the circumcision of the heart as evidenced by the transforming work of the Holy Spirit. (Rom.2:29) We learn in another of Paul’s letters that baptism now replaced circumcision as a sign of the covenant. (Col. 2:11-13)
So while I had great joy as a result of milking the cows, I knew I was “accepted” by dad and mom not because of what I had done, but because I was their son and I had done nothing to earn my way into the family. I simply needed to acknowledge that I was a Sharp. Your righteousness before God is never earned, it is imputed when you exercise faith. Abraham is our model.
Music: “The God of Abraham Praise” Grace Community Church
Lord God, your mercy is from everlasting to everlasting to all those that fear you, and your righteousness unto our children’s children to those who keep your covenant, and to those who remember to do what is required. Grant it, Lord Jesus, that I may hour after hour, day after day, and year after year fear you as I receive your mercy and righteousness that I might live and teach it to the generations that follow me. For your faithfulness has no end to your children. Help me to be attentive to the voice of the Holy Spirit and be quick to obey. May I have the honesty and integrity of Abraham as he walked with you.This I pray through Christ, who reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
―Daniel Sharp, adapted from Psalm 103:17,18