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Works or Faith

Romans 4:1-3

Many people revere Abraham.  Why?  Ultimately, because God honoured him!  But why did God do that?  Certainly not because Abraham was perfect; he was a man who made many mistakes.  Even so he has one key quality: whenever God spoke to him, Abraham listened and took it seriously. The Bible says that he believed God and God was very pleased with the man who trusted Him (Genesis 15:6).  God made Abraham his friend (2 Chronicles 20:7) and declared him ‘righteous’ (Romans 4:22).

Wages versus Gifts

Romans 4:4-8

Christless religion, of whatever kind, says that we earn God's eternal approval by doing well.  But that is not the gospel of Jesus.  Paul explains by using the metaphor of wages - we earn what is agreed, we get what we deserve.  If we insist on earning divine payment for our good works, we will also deserve our punishment for everything bad.  That is no way to find peace with God.

Outward Signs or Assured Faith

Romans 4:9-10

Religious people are often addicted to the signs and symbols of their faith.  They provide physical and visual ways of identifying themselves as adherents and forming a community of co-believers.  The Jews also had many symbols, of which circumcision was the most personal.  Those physical signs, including the tabernacle and temple, priests and sacrifices, were designed to help God’s people remember who they belonged to; but only until Jesus was revealed – because each of the signs pointed forward to Him (Hebrews 10:19-22).

The Mark of True Faith

Romans 4:11-12

Circumcision was a mark of faith to the Jews.  It said, ‘I belong to God because I belong to His people’.  However, the Jews thought so much about the sign that they forgot what it meant!  Abraham knew that he belonged to God before he was circumcised, because he believed what God had said.  Eventually he was circumcised because God commanded it and, because he believed what God said, he obeyed (James 2:18-24).

Law Brings Wrath

Romans 4:13-15

Those who rely on doing what is right to establish their righteousness, will always have a shock.  Legalistic righteousness is a matter of knowing the law and being disciplined to fulfil the rules and regulations.  It is about always keeping the rules, all the time with no exceptions.  But nobody, except Jesus, can live a completely perfect life (Romans 3:23), and so every time they fail to do right, they invite the weight of the law to condemn them.

God's Grace Brings New Life

Romans 4:16-17

Promises are good, but only if they can be fulfilled.  That is the problem with so much commercial trading: orders not completed, goods not perfect, money not paid on time.  But when God makes a promise, He keeps it. And often He arranges things so that it seems that even God could not do anything - and then He does!

Hope, Against all Hope

Romans 4:18

Post-menopausal women do not have babies.  That is why Sarah laughed when God told her that she would have a son (Genesis 18:10-12).  Then God said, "Is anything too hard for the Lord?" (Genesis 18:14).  Of course, we know that the answer should be, 'No, nothing is too hard for God'.  But often it is hard for us to believe it and keep believing when everything is against us.

The Realism of Faith

Romans 4:19-22

Believers in Jesus are sometimes accused of 'blind faith'.  It is intended as an insult, meaning that 'you cannot see the problems, you cannot understand the issues, so you just believe without evidence ... your so-called-faith is therefore an excuse for not thinking'.  But that is not Biblical faith.  Real faith is realistic.  It fully sees the problems but refuses to allow the difficulties to overcome the confidence that God can do anything; and that He will always keep His promises.

Resurrection Faith

Romans 4:23-25

'Faith' is a very special word. Although it is used by some people to mean 'following a religious system', the Bible speaks of a personal relationship with the Creator God who can raise the dead.

Peace and Open Access to God

Romans 5:1-2

Over four chapters in Romans, we have seen Paul demolish all ideas that we can earn our way to heaven with good deeds.