I love to write through chapters of the Bible or spend time on thinking and writing through Biblical topics. Here is that collection, arranged easily to be able to find what you are looking for. Here is the list of things I have written on.
"Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham's offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all" (Romans 4:16)
The Apostle Paul has just spent the past 16 verses making the case that righteousness cannot be earned. He says it in so many ways that hopefully we’ll start realizing that this right standing with God only comes by faith. Then he turns a sharp corner so all of us reading this letter will have an amazing, jaw-dropping “Ah-ha” moment! Here it is:
“Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed…”
“...because law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression” (Romans 4:15)
What a marvelous statement!
What a heretical statement!
For the Jews living in Paul’s day, for the Gentile Romans to whom he writing and also for Christ-followers today, this is a shocking statement!
Here is the Juli summarization of what Paul is saying: Living as a rule-follower makes Jesus’s sacrifice worthless. Rules only bring punishment…but if there are no rules to follow, then we can never be guilty of breaking them (Rom. 4:14-15).
Is anyone uncomfortable now?
Admittedly, it is easier to have a list to follow of the things we should or shouldn’t do. It certainly makes it more apparent if we’re doing okay before God. But following the rules to simply follow them actually changes the way we want God to relate to us. We are asking Him to deal with us according to what we’ve done instead of what He’s done.
Happy Resurrection Sunday! Today is Easter, one of my favorite days of the year. It is very significant for those of us who follow Christ Jesus.
In preparation for today, I spent an evening this week at an explanation of the Jewish Passover. The organization, Jews for Jesus, was connecting each element of a traditional Passover feast with Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. It was incredible! Very thought provoking, convincing and powerful. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind Jesus is the Lamb of God.
At the close, the host had us stand while he pronounced the priestly blessing over us. He first sang it in Hebrew and then spoke it over us in English. It was beautiful. He was reciting the blessing the Lord instructed Moses to have the Israelite priests bless His people with. This is how it goes:
“For if those who live by law are heirs, faith has no value and the promise is worthless…” (Romans 4:14)
Because I write so extensively about grace and trusting in Jesus’ provision of a right-standing with God by stressing that our behavior has nothing to do with this standing. I get many emails reminding me of the importance of living well (i.e., following rules, the law, or the 10 Commandments, or the rules we make up as Christians).
Sometimes, I feel this makes people uncomfortable as they think that I am saying, we can live however we want, steeped in sin, and it doesn’t matter.
No, it does matter for many reasons (many of which Paul will get to in Chapter 6). However, nothing—again I say, nothing—nullifies the grace of God faster than believing that we somehow can sway God’s opinion of us by our behavior.
I lived for years trying to do the right things, but in the back of my mind, I always thought that God was just waiting for me to mess up. I fully believed I was saved by grace, but that is where it ended. After that starting point, it was up to me to be good, do good, and not mess up.
This mentality kept me sin-conscience and afraid of God. As Paul observes, living this way made God’s promise of grace worthless in my life.
“It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith” (Romans 4:13)
Paul stresses that nothing Abraham did is what earned him this promise from God that the world would be blessed through him (Gen. 12:2-3).
It’s also important to remember that the “law” Paul refers to was given to Moses 430 years after Abraham. Therefore, this promise had to come by another way.
This isn’t a one-time decision. Instead, this is a daily choice to trust in God’s faithfulness toward us.
Paul goes on to say in the next verses that it’s a good thing the promise came by faith, otherwise if those who lived by the law are heirs, then the promise is worthless! (Rom. 4:14) Because the law only unleashed God’s wrath on mankind (Rom. 4:15), not His blessing.
“And he is also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.” (Romans 4:12)
Growing up in the Church, I’ve heard a lot of testimonies over the years. It’s easy to celebrate the depth of God’s grace when we witness the transformation of a person steeped in addiction, sin, or recovering from abuse and trauma, or just living his or her own way far from God. However, sometimes we don’t fully celebrate the faithfulness of the many people who have followed God all of their lives—and that’s a disconnect.
Where today can you celebrate the faithfulness of someone who has encouraged your faith walk?
Paul just made a marvelous statement that Abraham is the father of everyone who is uncircumcised (or living outside of the promise God made to Abraham and the Jewish nation) but who still have the faith of Abraham. He explained that they, too, are credited with righteousness (Rom. 4:11).
"And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them" (Romans 4:11)
When I was in my early twenties, I occasionally traveled to other states to help train cooks and servers when new Perkins restaurants were opening. I’d be gone for a couple weeks at a time. After one trip, my boyfriend surprised me with a beautiful diamond engagement ring. We had been talking marriage, and I knew it was coming, but this was one of the best homecomings I’d had ever had. A little over a year later, we were married and the rest…well, as they say, is history.
My ring and the millions of rings floating around the world are a symbol of the amazing covenant of marriage. It is not uncommon during a wedding ceremony for an explanation of the ring to be given. Wearing a ring doesn’t make you married; instead, marriage is willingly entering into a covenant relationship with another person. The ring is simply the token of the exchange that takes place.
Watch this video teaching by Juli entitled Fully God, Fully Man*
The Bible tells us that Jesus is the very image of the invisible God. If we want to know what God is like, we look at Jesus. The Creator of the world became a human baby so that we would not be afraid to to approach him, to know him, to learn from him and to worship him. When Jesus came, He came fully God and fully man, but this is such a hard, hard idea for us to grasp. This is tension we see lived out in Jesus’ life, and it is a tension we have to hold on to as we relate to Jesus. As fully human, he knows our weaknesses, he understands our temptations, so he is approachable. As fully God, he is sovereign over his own birth, his own life, and his own death, as well as over the manner in which he had to cover our sin and shame with his own life.
*Juli taught this sermon at Orchard Hill Church on December 10, 2017.
"Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We have been saying that Abraham's faith was credited to him as righteousness. Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before!" (Romans 4:9-10)
In the 10th grade, I sat with two friends at lunch every day and we argued about baptism. We all had different viewpoints and because of it, different agendas. It seems so silly now. Absolutely nothing was accomplished during those mealtimes, except our ability to talk over each other.
Thinking back, I wonder why this debate was so important to us. I imagine it stemmed from a similar debate Paul was heading off in these verses—when exactly is righteousness obtained?
The Jews, to whom circumcision was a big deal, were staking their claim in it. It was so ingrained in their culture and in their spiritual practices that it became synonymous with being righteous (or acceptable) before God.
However, Paul had already dropped a mind-blowing statement in chapter 2 saying that this by no means makes a person a true Jew, as circumcision is merely an outward and physical sign and true circumcision is of the heart done by the Spirit of God (Rom. 2:28-29).
Knowing this, here’s the next question Paul raises: When was Abraham justified? Was it before he was circumcised or after?
"David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: "Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him" (Romans 4:6-8)
Can you imagine King David shaking your hand? He’d see you from across the room only to make a beeline straight to you in order to congratulate you. Sounds weird, right? This is King David we’re talking about, a symbol of the glory of Israel.
And yet, in the Psalms, King David saw a glimpse of what was coming through the Messiah, the time we now live in and called us blessed. The Amplified Bible puts it this way:
“Thus David congratulates the man and pronounces a blessing on him to whom God credits righteousness apart from the works he does:
Blessed and happy and to be envied are those whose iniquities are forgiven and whose sins are covered up and completely buried.
Blessed and happy and to be envied is the person of whose sin the Lord will take no account nor reckon it against him.” (Rom. 4:6-8 AMP)
King David saw this through the eyes of faith and said these people should be congratulated because they are extremely blessed.