Romans 4:13-17 (ESV)
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. 14 For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. 15 For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression. 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, 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.
Faith Apart from The Law
In Genesis chapter 17, God promised Abraham and his descendants the land of Canaan. He also promised to make him a father of many nations. In Romans 4:13, Paul indicates that Abraham’s promise from God also included being heir of the whole world. God initially intertwined Himself with a specific people (Israel) and a specific location (Canaan or the Promised Land), but His heart has always been for all of humanity in all geographic locations. We see this in God’s original mandate to Adam and Eve before the fall. He told them to fill the earth and govern it. God’s heart is that all people in all nations be governed under the rightful rule and reign of King Jesus. With Jesus as king, any privilege that the Jews might have had (geography, birth right, etc.) is available to all through faith. One specific privilege the Jewish people had was God’s word, the law. Just like Paul denounced the act of circumcision as a means to righteousness, in this section He denounces the law in the same way. God gave the sign of circumcision to Abraham 14 years after He counted Abraham righteous. In the same vain, the law was given to Israel 430 years after God called Abraham righteous. God relates to people on the basis of their faith. The law gave God’s people moral standards as a way to be set apart from pagan nations, but it was not a means to salvation. In fact, the law makes it very clear that humanity is in great need of a savior. Good behavior will never be enough to break sin’s power. Paul is clear that when people try to justify themselves by following the law, faith has no value, God’s promises are worthless and the law brings the wrath of God on you. It’s so relieving that it really is that simple. It always comes down to faith in Jesus and His finished work on the cross.
Are you righteous before God’s throne? Why or why not?
How has your faith activated the promises of God in your life?