4 What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:
7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
and whose sins are covered;
8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”
9 Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. 10 How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. 11 He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, 12 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.
This passage is a long one, but I think it’s an important continuation from the passage we looked at yesterday and paints a beautiful picture of the framework God uses for us to enter into relationship with Him.
Yesterday we looked at the Genesis passage in which Abraham believed the Lord. Here, today, we have the Apostle Paul in the Letter to the Romans explaining a foundational belief for many Christians, justification by faith, or sola fide. It’s important that we get this right, and I’ll try to do it as quickly as I can.
Justification (in Christian theology) is an act of God in which God pardons the sinner and accepts that person as righteous. It is the act in which God looks at you who is broken like you’re whole, and not just looks at but fully treats you, not as broken but as complete The theological question is not about whether God does this or doesn’t do this, but the question is, “what makes Him do this?” Justification by faith, sola fide, says that it was in Christ’s death that a switch was made, and we who have faith in Christ receive His righteousness, while he received our penalty (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus did this willingly, laying down His life for His people.
That raises another question though, who exactly are “His people?” All of the talk about circumcision in this Romans passage tells us something about that. For the traditional Jewish person at the time, circumcision was the sign that showed that you were a part of God’s people. It was this outward expression that proved your righteousness. Paul is showing that faith is the indicator of righteousness, not circumcision, and he does this by explaining that Abraham was called righteous before he was circumcised because he “believed the Lord.”
That’s truly all it takes to be seen by God as whole, as righteous. Sometimes we overcomplicate this process and want to provide a laundry list of the things we’ve done that make us a good person, but that isn’t the rubric God uses. He’s looking for faith. Faith is the key that unlocks the door to relationship. That doesn’t mean that once we have faith that we just sit and wait until we die to join Him. It means that we join Him now in the renewal of all things. He, indeed, calls us to work, but the work isn’t what gets us to Him.