“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 the 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. David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the one to whom God credits righteousness apart from works” – Romans 4:1-6
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 are also children or descendants of Abraham. We are a part of that great nation which God spoke about to Abraham.
Therefore, no one can boast about how good he or she is. No one can make any demands on God. No, it is not what we have done, but what God has done for us in Jesus.
He died for our sins. He undertook our debt. With his death, he guaranteed eternal life for us. Our father which art in heaven justifies us, not works.
In the text, the apostle Paul proves that Abraham was not justified by his good works but by his faith. The Jews felt that they could share in Abraham’s righteousness because of the privilege they enjoyed. They felt that because they were Abraham’s descendants and by the works they performed, particularly keeping the law, they deserved God’s grace.
Paul says no! Abraham was not deserving of anything from God. He had nothing about which to boast because everything he received from God, he got through the generosity of God.
We have no reason to gloat because God is the giver and we are the receivers. Even though Abraham was a good and great man, he could not boast.
Paul puts to rest the argument that Abraham received the promise from God because he was a righteous man. Paul explains, 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. God also told him that he would be the father of a great nation. Through that nation the Messiah would come.
Abraham believed God, which we call faith. God gave him credit as if he had earned it by keeping the whole law. This he called righteousness.
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 owed to Abraham. In such a case, Abraham could have demanded what he had earned.
Unlike the worker who works for another, and is owed wages for the work he does, Abraham could not make that demand on God. None of us humans can make God a debtor.
We are not good enough, no matter how perfect a life we may think we live or the things we may do. We do not have the purity in us to cause God to give us what we have earned from him.
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 a sinner because, like all humans, he was of the seed of Adam.
Therefore, like Abraham, we are justified by faith, not our works. We come to faith, then our faith through the working of the Holy Spirit causes us to do the good things that we do. Amen.
• Rev. Samuel M. Boodle, pastor at The Lutheran Church of Nassau, 119 John F. Kennedy Drive, can be reached at P.O. Box N 4794, Nassau, Bahamas; or telephone: 426-9084; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; website: www.nassaulutheranchurch.org.