“Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” (New International Version)
Sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of why we are here and what we are really supposed to be doing. There’s just so much stuff going on around us all the time that it seems like we have spiritual ADD and can’t focus on what’s most important. Certain people irritate us, we scramble to making a decent living, there never seems to be enough time to accomplish everything, and there is adversity and obstacles all along life’s way.
There’s a lot going on in the book of Romans. At first glance, like our lives, it seems complicated. The Apostle Paul had all kinds of words for the Christians: hope; faith; righteousness; and, justification, just to name a few. But all those ideas funneled to and pointed toward a singular focus: the Lord Jesus. Everything in church and life comes down to Christ.
The church was losing sight of why they existed. Within the church at Rome were both Jews and Gentiles together as one people of God. They didn’t always see eye-to-eye on everything. The Gentiles thought the Jews were stuck in tradition and needed to move on. The Jews had centuries of history behind them of God working through them; they thought the Gentiles needed some solid Old Testament law to bolster their primitive spirituality. Would the church take their cues on life from the Gentiles, or the Jews?
Paul essentially told the church that they were focused in the wrong direction. The issues and problems of living the Christian life were to take a back seat to faith in God. To prove his point, Paul went back to Abraham as Exhibit A of what it means to live with and for God.
It went down like this: God made a promise to Abraham of progeny in his old age; Abraham believed what God said; Abraham demonstrated his faith by having the confident expectation (hope) that God is good for his promise; and, God declared (justified) Abraham to have a right relationship with himself (righteousness).
In other words, the heart of Christian faith and practice is: God makes promises; people respond in faith, hope, and love. Law and the willpower to keep it doesn’t even come into the equation.
Christians are the spiritual children of Abraham. All God’s promises are fulfilled in Christ. We respond to God by believing in Jesus. The redemptive events of Jesus make us just and right. So, what does this mean for you and me?
We are not to get sidetracked with trying to make others like be like us. Instead, we are to proclaim the promises of God in Christ so that others might respond by believing and embracing those promises. Furthermore, we have no need to try and get God to like us, notice us, and/or listen to us. God has already made and kept promises to us, demonstrating his love, mercy, and grace through his Son, the Lord Jesus.
Our lives are not to center in our abilities, or lack thereof, to live a godly life. Rather, our lives are to revolve around the person and work of Jesus Christ through faith, with the hope that God will always hold to his promise to be with us, which frees us to love others. This is Christianity 101. This is the faith we embrace.
Righteous God, you have made and kept promises to me. My ultimate deliverance from sin, death, and hell isn’t through my ability to keep the law, but in your Son’s life, death, and resurrection. Help me to live by faith in Jesus who loved me and gave himself for me; in the strength of your Holy Spirit. Amen.