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Focal Passage:  Romans 4:1-12

Romans 4:4-5 “Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due.  And to the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.”

Paul has been explaining the concept of “justification” in the first part of Chapter 4.  Now he moves to “imputation,” an accounting term where moneys are moved from one account to another, from one ledger to another.  In salvation, God clears our account in justification and then moves Christ’s account to ours; His righteousness becomes our righteousness.  We have a tendency to view salvation in terms of compensation, i.e. if I’m good enough, I can make it into heaven.  Once we take the viewpoint of earning salvation, we enter the equation of compensation, getting one thing for doing something else.  Salvation, however, is by grace, not by compensation; therefore we receive it by faith, not by works.  None of us wants what is truly due us.  God’s grace which justifies us in spite of what we do then gives us what we could not earn—righteousness.  He is an amazing God!

Study/Meditation:  Why do you think it is human nature to try to be “good enough” to gain eternity in heaven?  Why are you thankful that this is not the means by which you have been saved?

*Father, though I do not deserve Christ’s imputed righteousness, I know it is necessary to enter Your presence, so you therefore gave it to me.  Thank You for that amazing love.  Amen.

Focal Passage:  Romans 4:1-12

Romans 4:3 “For what does the Scripture say?  ‘Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness.’”

Paul goes straight to the passage the Jewish rabbis would go to so that they might defend Abraham’s works as his means to justification—Genesis 15:6.  However, Paul uses this passage to prove that Abraham had nothing to boast about in his salvation, for it was of faith, not of works, and most importantly, this faith originated with God, not with Abraham.  God didn’t look down and say, “Abraham, you’re good enough; I’m going to bless you.”  Instead, Abraham looked up and responded to the gift God had promised.   Abraham’s salvation was initiated by God, not himself.  His belief was simply the response to what God had already done.  Only then was he counted as righteous.  Brothers and sisters, our justification and salvation can never be a result of something inside of us or of something that we do.  Our justification and salvation can only be a result of what has been done for us.  Our belief in that act is simply the natural response to understanding the magnificence of what that something is.

Study/Meditation:  Why is it so important to understand the order of salvation?  What is that order?

*Father, You initiated my salvation in Your grace and mercy.  It is all of you and it is all of grace, and I magnify Your Name.  Amen.

Focal Passage:  Romans 4:1-12

Romans 4:1-2 “What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh?  For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.”

Paul has been going to great lengths in Romans 1-3 to teach that justification is given by grace and received by faith.  Now in Chapter 4 he begins to address one of the arguments he will receive from both the Jewish rabbis in his audience as well as some of the Jewish and even Gentile Christians.  They have always taught and believed that salvation was received in the Old Testament by merit, or righteousness, and that this fact is best exemplified in two Old Testament leaders, Abraham and David.  These are, of course, the two examples Paul will use to prove the opposite—that justification came to these two by grace and that they then received it by faith.  You see, Paul’s point in the following Focal Passage will be that there is a beautiful continuity of justification and salvation that flows through both the Old and the New Testaments.  No one, and that includes the father of the Jewish nation, can possibly receive justification according to merit.  No one, Paul argues, can receive salvation outside of God’s grace.  What comfort we should take today in knowing the continuous nature of our Lord’s plan, the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Study/Meditation:  What comfort do you take from knowing that God’s plan is continuous and unchanging?

*Father, You are the God of today, tomorrow, and yesterday.  You are the same always and glorious in Your ways.  I love you.  Amen.

Focal Passage:  Romans 3:21-31

Romans 3:31 “Do we then overthrow the law by this faith?  By no means!  On the contrary, we uphold the law.”

Our justification—the point at which God declares us righteous—is based solely and completely on the work of Christ.  It is our faith in that work that results in justification, which is absolutely nothing at all in us.  It’s all Jesus.  However, the argument then naturally goes to faith versus works.  If we are saved by faith alone through grace alone, then is works out of the picture?  Paul teaches emphatically that this is not the case.  On the contrary, a heart that has been renewed, the very definition of justification, desires good works according to the law written by the very One who justified it.  Our love for our Father who justifies results in love for His law; therefore we strive to uphold this law.  This is evidence of the justification that has occurred.  Faith and works are never mutually exclusive.  The latter always results from the former.

Study/Meditation:  Read Ephesians 2:8-10.  How does Paul deal with faith and works in these verses?  How does this dealing in Ephesians uphold his point in Romans?

*Father, I know that I was created in You for good works.  Help me see where those are today and then give me the wisdom and courage to boldly step forward and do them.  Amen.

Focal Passage:  Romans 3:21-31

Romans 3:30 “…since God is one.  He will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.”

Again, Paul is writing to his Roman audience, many of whom were of Jewish descent.  They would have been very familiar with Deuteronomy 6:4 which says that God is one.  If He is one, then there is only one way of justification and one way to salvation, the same one way for everyone.  He is appealing to their theology and common sense.  God is one and in that there is one way to Him.  This, too, is somewhat unpopular today.  It’s become unpopular to say that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven.  It’s considered “narrow-minded” or “simple.”  The truth is, however, that this is not a man-made concept; it’s God-made.  Man didn’t say this; God did.  One cannot simply be open-minded about Jesus.  God says you’re either for Him or against Him.  Jesus himself said that this is a narrow road and few find it.  God is one and there is one narrow road to Him, and that road has always been Jesus Christ.

Study/Meditation:  Why do you think Jesus said the way to Him is narrow and difficult and that few find it? (Matthew 7:14)

*Father, You are one and You are holy.  Thank You for giving us the one way to eternity with You through Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Focal Passage:  Romans 3:21-31

Romans 3:29-30a “Or is God the God of the Jews only?  Is he not the God of the Gentiles also?  Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one.”

The Jews believe that in their being God’s chosen people through God’s covenant with Abraham that salvation was therefore only for the Jews.  Paul is making the point here in his letter to the Romans that God’s plan was always for all people, not just Jewish people.  This was certainly not a popular viewpoint in his day, and oftentimes it is not a popular viewpoint today.  There are many Christians who still believe the exclusivity of the Jewish nation inasmuch as they believe that God has two specific plans—one for the Jews and one for the rest of us.  This is simply unbiblical, and again, sometimes not very popular.  The Bible teaches that Jesus is the only way to salvation—for everyone—regardless of race, creed, or color.  Every word of the Old Testament points to its fulfillment in Christ because Christ has always been the plan.  God doesn’t change His mind and there isn’t a “Plan A” and a “Plan B.”  There is one plan and it is the same for all, and that plan is Jesus.

Study/Meditation:  God has always had a “chosen people.”  How is this exemplified in both the Old and the New Testaments? (Genesis 17 and Ephesians 1)  How does this show God’s unchangeable nature?

*Father, You are God and You are unchangeable in Your holiness and justice.  Right and glorious are Your ways in all the earth.  Amen.