What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about – but not before God. What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness. – Romans 4:1-5
Scripture tells us, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” What we receive from God is a gift because of our faith in Jesus Christ.
Through Jesus Christ, we in the Christian church are also children or descendants of Abraham. We are a part of that great nation of which Abraham is the father.
The Jews had the perception that Abraham was a righteous man and, consequently, deserved God’s gift to him. In the text, Paul puts this misperception to rest.
What Abraham received from God was a gift because of his faith in God’s promise to him. He did nothing to deserve anything from God. Abraham was not justified by his good works, but by his faith.
Therefore, no one can boast about how good they are. No one can make any demands upon God. No, it is not what we have done, but what Jesus did for us on the cross at Calvary. He died for our sins. He undertook our debt. With his death, he guaranteed eternal life for us.
We nor Abraham have reason to gloat because God is the giver, and we are the receivers. Even though Abraham was perceived as a good and great man, he could not boast.
Scripture tells us that God called Abraham from among his father’s people and told him to leave that place and go into a distant land which he would give to him. He also told him that he would be the father of a great nation. Through that nation, the Messiah would come.
In human terms, this promise to Abraham about being the father of a great nation was absurd. At the time, Abraham was old, and his wife was barren and beyond childbearing age.
Yet, Abraham believed God and, consequently, his faith was credited to him as righteousness. His faith was the instrument of his justification, not his works. Justification is the instantaneous and irreversible divine declaration of the unrighteous as righteous.
This justification comes to us in the Christian church because of the merit of Christ’s obedience. This is applied to us by God through faith.
Had Abraham warranted God’s grace by his works, then like the laborer who deserves his pay, it would have been a debt, something God would have owed to Abraham. In such a case, Abraham could have demanded what he had earned.
However, unlike the worker who works for another and is owed wages for the work he does, Abraham could not make that demand on God. No humans can make God a debtor.
We are not good enough, no matter how good we may think we are. We do not have the purity in us to be in a position to deserve anything from God.
The apostle quotes from Psalm 32: “Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit.”
Where God refrains from counting a man’s sin against him, such a man is called blessed.
This means that God accepts him and gives him credit, despite his lack of merit. Like Abraham, our faith in the promise, the Messiah, Jesus the Christ, makes us worthy before God. Amen.
• Reverend Samuel M. Boodle, pastor at the Lutheran Church of Nassau, 119 John F. Kennedy Dr can be reached at P.O. Box N 4794, Nassau, Bahamas; or telephone 426-9084; website: www.nassaulutheranchurch.org.