Today’s Passage: Romans 4
Today’s passage, one-sentence summary edition: Abraham was justified by faith, not works.
Paul here hinges his case on Genesis 15:6, “Abraham believed God; and it was credited to him as righteousness,” arguing to his Roman-Jewish audience that Abraham, beyond being the “forefather according to the flesh” of the Jews, is more broadly the spiritual father of all who trust God to grant them righteousness. Paul makes a number of points that I think are particularly cogent:
- that Abraham obtained his faith-based righteousness before either the Torah or the commandment of circumcision were given
- that Abraham trusted God’s promise to bless the nations through his descendants despite his age and Sarah’s apparent infertility (cf. Abraham’s and Sarah’s reactions, Gen. 18:9-15)
- that David attests to God’s unmerited favor in forgiving our evil (Psalm 32:1).
In some of his writing, Paul strikes me as hard to follow or questionable, but I have no difficulty acceding to his conclusions in this chapter. If I were a 1st-century Jew reading this segment of his letter, you could color me convinced.
I don’t believe we can approach God on the basis of our good works. If heaven is a perfect place, then admitting anyone less than perfect into it would make the place itself less than perfect. Imagine letting a known larcenist into a community where no one else stole, or a murderer into a community of pacifists. Earth, in my view, is not a proving ground for who gets into heaven. It’s a place where God works on us, on the basis of his grace through our faith, to perfect us and prepare us to live forever with him. The choices we make are less like a worker earning wages from his employer, and more like a person with a heart defect agreeing to open-heart surgery and then going through physical therapy under the guidance of the therapist. Earth is a hospital.
Today’s chocolate: Justin’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups. I know that a lot of chocolate is produced under harsh, inhumane conditions, sometimes even via child labor, and I want to step up my humane chocolate game. Do you have a favorite ethically-sourced/fair-trade chocolate? Drop a comment with your recommendations.