March 2015

Focal Passage:  Romans 4: 13-25

Romans 4:17 “As it is written, ‘I have made you the father of many nations’—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.”

Once again Paul refers to the promise given to Abraham by God as recorded in Genesis 17:5 to confirm his point:  Salvation is for both Jew and Gentile alike.  God’s promise to Abraham was central to His promise to all people in that He promised Abraham that he would be the father of “all nations.”  God’s intention was always to bring in people from every tribe and language and people and nation. (Revelation 5:9) Look at the fulfillment of that promise even today.  More than two billion people on the planet today worship the seed of Abraham!  And how has all of this come to fruition?  By works?  By ceremony?  By heritage?  No!  All of this is by grace through faith in Christ—“in the presence of the God in whom he believed.”  Abraham believed God’s promise that he and his wife, both old and barren, would be the beginnings of a people who would also believe and that these people would be from all the earth.  Glory to God!

Study/Meditation:  How might you explain this promise to an unbeliever?  Decide today how you would present the notion that salvation is by grace through faith in Christ.

*Father, thank You for Your promises and for the fulfillment of all of them.  You are great and glorious and the one, true God.  Let Your name be praised in all the earth!  Amen.

Focal Passage:  Romans 4: 13-25

Romans 4:16 “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.”

Because the law ultimately brings condemnation in that we cannot keep it to perfection, justification must depend on faith.  And not only that, Paul contends, but our justification must depend on faith because faith works with grace, not with law-keeping.  Grace is given without merit; it cannot be earned or paid for.  God’s grace was manifested in His gift of His own Son.  To try to look in the face of God’s grace and say, “Let me earn this” would be similar to someone bringing out their chest of family jewels worth a fortune and offering that to you as a gift, and your response being to reach in your pocket and pull out three crumpled dollar bills and saying, “No, no, let me give you something for that.”  There is nothing we have that can merit what we’ve been given.  That’s why we offer something outside of ourselves, faith in God’s promise, in response to His gift of grace. This is the very same faith that was demonstrated by Abraham, the father to all nations, and it rests on God’s grace.  It is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Study/Meditation:  In what ways do you still try to merit God’s gift of grace?  How can we balance knowing it is a gift of grace while seeking to live a righteous life?

*Father, thank You for Your gift of grace.  Make me ever more aware of how only faith can respond appropriately to Your grace, and help me see what that looks like in my life.  Amen.

Focal Passage:  Romans 4: 13-25

Romans 4:15 “For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.”

One of the contingencies of being “good enough” or “nice enough” for salvation is keeping the law.  The law is what ultimately determines whether or not one has met the standard of being “good enough.”  By its very nature, the standard for keeping any law is perfection.  If you break a law, it’s broken and there are penalties for doing so.  The law is designed to condemn, and because of that, the person it is levied against will not like it.  It will bring wrath.  But our loving God sent His Son to perfectly keep the law that we could not keep so that it would not condemn us.  We are saved unto eternity by God’s promise, not by the law, or by being “good enough.”  Just a Paul reminds us in his letter to the Ephesians:  “For by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8)

Study/Meditation:  Why do we by nature despise the law but at the same time try to use it to determine our salvation?

*Father, Your law is perfect and I know that I cannot keep it perfectly.  Thank You for sending Your Son as the One who did perfectly keep it, thereby taking away the wrath that I rightfully deserve.  Amen.

Focal Passage:  Romans 4: 13-25

Romans 4:14 “For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be heirs, faith is null and the promise is void.”

Keep in mind here that the law was given some 430 years after Abraham’s faith and God’s promise to him in regards to His people.  With that as his foundational argument, Paul goes on to make another stunning statement.  In effect he is saying that if being good enough, i.e. keeping the law, is the instrument by which we are saved, then we are claiming that God’s love is conditional on our behavior.  That does not make God more loving, as some might claim; it makes Him less.  Later in chapter 5 Paul reminds us that Christ died for us “while we were yet sinners,” not once we were good enough.  God reached out and grasped us not while were good, not while we were loving and obedient, but while we were none of those things.  This is a far more loving God than one who accepts those who are good but rejects those who are not good enough.  Recognizing that God’s love cannot be earned but is given by grace through faith in Christ is not narrow minded; it is to recognize the spectacular nature and character of our great Lord.

Study/Meditation:  Why do you think the world rejects Jesus Christ as the only way to eternity with God?  What is the common denominator with every other religion when it comes to salvation outside of Christianity?

*Father, help me to convey the great truth of Your love to the world around me.  Give me the wisdom to speak words that reveal You to them.  Amen.

Focal Passage:  Romans 4: 13-25

Romans 4:13 “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.”

There are a couple of wonderful things that Paul asserts in this one little verse, and they are indeed wonderful.  First, the promise, which is justification and the imputation of righteousness given to Abraham, is for the world; it is for anyone who believes.  God is no respecter of persons, no matter their heritage or language or country or background.  The salvation of Jesus Christ is available to all.  And if that news weren’t wonderful enough, Paul goes on to tell us that this imputation of righteousness which results from our justification is not dependent on our obedience to this righteousness.  Instead, it is fully from God, outside of us.  In other words, our personal obedience is not the basis whereby we receive the promise first given to Abraham.  Instead that promise is received by faith, just as it was first received by faith to Abraham.  This wonderful truth is that our salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

Study/Meditation:  What does it mean that “Abraham and his offspring” are heirs “of the world”?  How is this such extraordinarily good news to those who aren’t of Jewish heritage?

*Father, Your grace is immeasurable and Your mercy great.  Thank You for making me an heir with Abraham’s offspring to Your promises.  Amen.

Focal Passage:  Romans 4:1-12

Romans 4:11b-12 “The purpose was to make him (Abraham) 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.

Paul says, in other words, that Abraham served as the father in the faith to both those who were Jewish and Gentile believers.  The righteousness that was imputed to him was done so before he was circumcised, when he wasn’t even Jewish, so he was the father of Gentiles.  Likewise, he is also the father to those who were circumcised and were Jews because they were obedient and followed in his footsteps.  The key in both instances was that Abraham was the father “in faith” not “in obedience.”  It is only faith in the life and death and triumph of our Lord, Jesus Christ that justifies and saves us.  Faith saves, not outward signs or things that we do.  This is the amazing truth Paul is imparting in this passage, and just as it must have been a comfort to his readers in Rome, it has been the source of great peace for all believers since.

Study/Meditation:  How is Abraham the father of your faith, even if you’re not Jewish?  How does this negate the notion that there are two paths to salvation—one for Jews and one for Gentiles?

*Father, thank You for Your eternal  and unchanging plan for our salvation.  You are mighty and loving.  Amen.