I have to admit I am enjoying my study of the Epistle to the Romans. The process is revitalizing my faith, while helping me to trust God’s process. As we move toward the midterm elections we hear so many fear mongers. Daniel 2:21 reminds us that God “changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding.” I trust God and His plan, which is ultimately the message of Romans chapter 4.
In chapters 2 and 3, the Apostle Paul told us that all have sinned. There is no distinction made between those who were a part of the chosen people and those who were not. All of us have hamartia, missed the mark. However, in chapter 3 Paul explains God’s plan for dealing with this problem, the death of His Son on the cross. In chapter 4 of Romans, Paul now explains the avenue through which one can participate in this blessing. That avenue is faith.
Chapter 4 begins with “what then shall we say?” In other words, I have just argued that all have sinned, but all can be saved by faith in Jesus Christ. To solidify his argument he answers the question, what about Abraham? What can we learn about the relationship between God and human kind from Abraham? In verse 3 it says, “Abraham believe God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” I think this is the key verse in chapter 4, but what does it mean?
Wuest states, “It will therefore follow, that it was not the act of believing which was reckoned to him as a righteous act, or on account of which perfect righteousness was laid to his charge, but that the fact of his trusting God to perform His promise introduced him into the blessing promised.” Abraham’s trust that God would perform what he promised is the exemplar of human kind’s relationship with God. If we trust that God’s sacrifice does what He said it does, then we are counted as righteous.
I am a business guy. I like numbers and efficiency. I like managing people. So, when I see a word like accounted I am interested in the meaning. The Greek word is logizomai, and it refers to “putting something down to one’s account.” Wuest describes what is meant here, “God put into Abraham’s account, placed on deposit for him, credited to him, righteousness. The actual payment had not been made, the actual bestowing of righteousness had not been consummated, and for the reason that our Lord had not yet paid the penalty of man’s sin.” Because of faith Abraham possessed righteousness in his account, but it became realized after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
I like this. King David rejoiced in this truth, “Blessed are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity” (Psalm 32:1,2). When we trust God that He will accept Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for our sin, we are forgiven, no wonder we experience the gushing of living water. As Jesus stated in John 7:38, “He who believes in Me, as the scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” Through salvation we now experience the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives giving us a new life filled with love, joy, peace, longsuffering, etc., which is the fruit of the Spirit.
Contrast that with the hatred we see around us in the world. Try posting something online that is contrarian with what is acceptable to the masses, and you will receive the full force of the world system. I think this illustrates Paul’s juxtaposition of the law and faith. All through these first four chapters Paul has been contrasting two experiences. One that is associated with the law, that brings about wrath. When we break the law, we are punished. The law is unbending, you either obey the law or you will receive probation, fine, or jail time. In the case of God’s law, it involves eternal punishment. However, Paul contrasts that with grace. “Therefore, it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed” (Romans 4:16). In other words, whether you are Jew or Gentile the offer is to all, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.
I am finishing up a book that discusses the relationship of the Church with Social Justice. Ronald Nash was the author. He was a philosophy professor at Reformed Theological Seminary. He was a proponent of religious particularism. This was a new phrase to me, but one I believe. Nash taught that “one had to possess explicit belief in Jesus Christ in order to obtain salvation.” Using this as our definition of religious particularism I think we can safely assume that Paul was of the same belief.
Nash was also an opponent of Liberation Theology, which has been and will be a subject for this blog, and Socialism. He used three claims to describe Liberation Theology. 1. Christians out to become politically active on behalf of the poor and oppressed. 2. The major cause of poverty and oppression in the world is capitalism. 3. Christians should attack capitalism and see it replaced by socialism. My opinion after spending time with Nash in his book that he would agree with the first claim, but not the last two. I too would agree with his assessment. As stated I will address this further at another time.
However, I bring this up at this point because I see so many people who are believers that spend so much time in the political realm that they have forgotten Paul’s message. God’s “righteousness shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead” (Romans 4:24). To not share this message and only focus on oppression is missing a huge part of the gospel. As I have said before, there is no gospel without social concern, and there is no gospel without salvation.
And that is my thought for the day!