Simply Romans 4 ‘It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord’

From Romans 3.27-4.25

45 Romans for Gentiles thumbIn today’s passage IJ asks Paul about Abraham. Abraham was circumcised therefore he must have been justified by works? Paul responds no, not before God. He then describes how God made Abraham some pretty amazing promises and how Abraham believed. God saw Abraham’s faith and counted it as righteousness. The purpose of counting him then and there was to show God’s purpose in making Abraham the father of a massive family consisting of Jews and Gentiles who share the same faith and have their sins forgiven.

I want to speak about how Romans 3 and 4 relate to people who already have faith in Jesus. People like Paul’s Roman audience.

This post is part of my SIMPLY ROMANS series.

Passage and Comments

Paul has just finished explaining how both Jewish and Gentile sinners are made right with God. God has been faithful to his covenant promises through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ and Jesus’ blood propitiates God’s wrath at human sin.

Paul finishes off Romans 3.26 speaking about those who have faith in Jesus. I ended that last post stating the remainder of chapters 3 and 4 concern existing believers. Those who have faith.

Paul has effectively replaced Judaism with Christianity. IJ, still unsure of what Paul has said, has a few questions to ask.

Cartoon Rom 3.27-31
Rom 3.27-31; Click to enlarge

‘What becomes of our boasting?’ IJ refers to Jewish boasting in the law of Moses and in God (Rom 2.17). He asks because Paul has effectively ruled out Judaism as the means by which people are made right with God and recognised as such. So Paul responds, ‘it is excluded’. This prompts IJ to ask how Jewish boasting in God and the law of Moses excluded. Paul answers it is excluded because of the law of faith.

‘We hold’ (Gk. Trans. ‘logizometha’). Paul refers to the common belief of the apostles and all Christians.

Paul says, We Christian’s consider faith [in Christ] apart from observance of the works of law as the means by which people are identified as righteous.

000 Justified Mindset - C3 to C3

‘Or’, ‘Only’. Paul alludes to a significant feature of his dialogue with IJ. It’s one way OR another. Paul captures both in v28-29.

  • Paul’s argument is that all believers (both Jews and Gentiles) are righteous (justified) in God’s sight (v28).
  • IJ’s argument is that only [Gk. μόνον Trans. monon; cf. Rom 4.16] the Jews are righteous in God’s sight (v29).

Paul rallies against IJ’s continued assumption the Jews are the only group regarded as God’s people, the righteous.

Paul says God is also the God of the Gentiles. The way God tells who the righteous are, for both the circumcised (Jews) and the uncircumcised (Gentiles) is by their faith in Him.

‘Since God is one’. Paul alludes to the Shema (Dt 6.4) and this is the basis of his argument God is God of Jews and Gentiles. There is only one God over all.

‘Do we [Jews] overthrow the law of Moses?’ IJ wonders if the Jews should cease observing the law of Moses. Paul encourages IJ and other Jews like him to continue upholding the law.

Now we move into Romans 4. For a bit of background, I’ve written a bit about Romans 4 in my post about ‘logizomai in Romans’ and Luther and Calvin on Justification in James. See also Kevin Bywaters treatment of the Testament of Abraham for some understanding of how second Temple Jews viewed Abraham.

The Genesis 15.6 quote Paul quotes in Romans 4.3 is well used by the early church fathers to signify Gentile believers being recognised as righteous in God’s sight with covenantal implications. Here’s a list of links to their relevant quotes;

I follow their lead when I interpret Romans 4. I assume the earliest consensus of Rom 4.3 interpretation is most likely the correct interpretation.

Cartoon Rom 4.1-8
Rom 4.1-8; Click to enlarge

‘What was gained by Abraham our forefather’. IJ interjects for the last time in the dialogue asking about Abraham, both IJ’s and Paul’s forefather. Abraham is IJ’s last ditch effort to defend Judaism from this new Jew-Gentile, faith in Jesus movement.

‘If Abraham was justified by works he has something to boast about’. ‘Works’. Paul is careful with his terms, but sometimes he compacts a lot into words or expressions. For example sometimes he uses the shorthand ‘faith’ (e.g. Rom 3.25,28) to denote ‘faith in Jesus’ (e.g. Rom 3.26). Here he is using the shorthand ‘works’ (Rom 4.2) to denote ‘works of law’ (Rom 3.28). The key is to look at the immediate context to determine what he is referring to. Faith = Faith in Jesus, Works = Circumcision, Works of law.

Alluding to circumcision as Abraham’s work, IJ asks if Abraham could boast (Rom 4.1-2). The text draws a parallel with the Jews boasting in the law of Moses (Rom 2.17; 3.27).

‘But not before God’. Paul answers IJ, now beginning to refer to significant elements in Abraham’s life story, as he will for most of chapter 4.

I’ve drawn the following chart to display the sequence of these events. Genesis 15 and 17 are what Paul’s focuses on in this text, but the other chapters put these in context and help us see how Paul views them.

45 Abraham life eventsGenesis 12. Abraham first comes believe in God and obey him in Genesis 12 (Heb 11.8). At this point Paul thinks of  him as the ‘man of faith’ (Gal 3.9). This event in Genesis 12 carries the implication Abraham is an existing believer in Genesis 15.

Genesis 15. Three elements of Genesis 15 are significant for Romans 4. God’s promise, Counting of righteousness and the Abrahamic Covenant.

  1. God promises Abraham a massive family saying ‘Look toward heaven and number the stars if you can number them. So shall your offspring be’.
  2. Abraham believes God. His belief is counted as righteousness.
  3. God cuts a covenant with Abraham (ratifying it). Since Abraham is counted righteous in the context of this covenant, he can be assured God will give him what he promised.

Abraham of course is not circumcised at this point, which is what Paul alludes to when he associates him with the ‘one who does not work’. He is the prototype Gentile believer, yet to be circumcised.

Genesis 17. God commands Abraham to be circumcised. Circumcision is a covenant sign, marking off all the members of the covenant. Circumcision was considered by the Jews as one of the most important commands in the law of Moses.

Genesis 22. God commands Abraham to offer up his son Isaac as a sacrifice. At the last moment, God stops him, commends him for his obedience and reaffirms the covenant with him.

Paul responds to IJ describing the implications of Abraham’s faith being counted as righteousness (Rom 4.3; Gen 15.6). He does this in relation to his wider story and what this means for the Gentile believers in his audience.

Paul is still discussing the Jew-Gentile issues surrounding who are the people of God and how they are to be recognised. You might remember Paul has at times alluded to obedient Gentiles earlier in Romans (Rom 2.6-11,13-14,25-29). Now he will speaking about them in conjunction with faith.

Paul now moves to compare two kinds of people:

Jew Gentile believer (Abraham)
The one who works The one who does not work
Works of law, circumcision Believes in Him
Wages due, not a gift Faith counted as righteousness

‘To the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift, but as his due’. Paul uses a book keeping metaphor. IJ has referred to ‘works’. Paul accepts the Jews (the ‘ones who work’) are expected to be circumcised and observe the law of Moses. If they are expected to work, then anything they get in return cannot be considered a gift, rather something that is due them.

‘To the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.’ Paul in this verse describes two instances of justification which I will distinguish, but not separate:

  1. The justification of the ungodly, and
  2. Abraham’s faith being counted as righteousness.

‘Believes in Him’. The immediate context highlights Abraham and Genesis 15.6 is in view. Abraham is the one who believes in God.

Believes in him who justifies the ungodly‘. Genesis 15 helps us understand Paul’s take on specifically what Abraham believed about God and how this relates to the justification of the ungodly. As the scripture says;

15 After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.”

2 But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.”

4 And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” 5 And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

6 And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness. (Gen 15.1-6)

This is later backed up in Rom 4.16-21 where Paul makes it clear the content of Abraham’s belief in God was that God would give him a massive worldwide family – offspring. (Note: This is the earliest take on the Romans 4 passage I found in the Epistle of Barnabas (c.e. 70-130)).

Abraham believes in God who justifies the ungodly. Paul creates an interesting twist on how God will fulfill this promise in giving Abraham many offspring. God will justify the ungodly.

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Some seem to think Abraham thought of himself as an ungodly sinner and he believed in God so that he would become righteous in God’s sight. This is a mistake.

In rebutting this mistake we should note God does not regard the ungodly as righteous. This is exactly what God does not do or will not tolerate (Isa 5.23; Prov 17.15; Ex 23.7).

15 He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the LORD. (Prov 17.15)

As I’ve argued before Paul could refer to justification in one of two ways;

  1. When sinners become righteous in the sight of God by some sort of means, and
  2. When people or even God are identified as righteous by some sort of means.

With respect to the ‘justification of the ungodly’, Paul refers to the initial event where all God’s people become righteous in God’s sight and this makes sense of God’s promise to bring ungodly Gentiles into God’s worldwide family.

It’s not about God looking at a sinful believer and declaring them righteous. Contra. Luther. No one is both sinner and righteous at the same time in the biblical sense of these words.

Its about God forgiving and transforming a sinful person so they become righteous in his sight and in their behaviour. This is the same kind of justification I see in Rom 3.24-25; 5.8-9; 1 Cor 6.11 and Tit 3.7. Especially Romans 5.19 – the many will be made righteous.

But this belief also has implications which now pick up on the second kind of justification.

‘His faith is counted as righteousness’. Paul is saying, it is because Abraham believed God would incorporate Gentiles into his worldwide family as his offspring that he was recognised (identified) as righteous in God’s sight.

Abraham was counted righteous because he believed God would justify the ungodly. That is Abraham believed God would justify sinful Gentiles, making them righteous in his sight (Gal 3.8) and thereby incorporating them into his massive worldwide family.

This is what Abraham believed God would do. Note the continued emphasis on Gentiles and God’s promise of offspring in the chapter (Rom 4.5,16-18,21). Because Abraham believed God would do this, he was counted righteous – a beneficiary of God’s covenant and promise.

Paul will keep coming back to this point which has huge implications for the Gentile believers in his audience.

000 Justified Mindset - C3 to C3

‘Just as’. Here is the supposed smoking gun. Paul draws a comparison between Abraham and King David. So we should ask, ‘How does Paul liken Abraham and David?’

Abraham David
Thinking about others Thinking about others
Justify the ungodly Blessing of Forgiveness
Blessing of Non-Counting of Sin

‘Blessing of the one’. Paul quotes David saying, ‘The blessing of the one’, ‘Blessed are those’ and ‘blessed is the man’. The language speaks about someone other than oneself.

Psalm 32 specifically addresses David’s own sin for which he was forgiven, but the text Paul quotes has him speaking about others. Abraham believes in the promise which is about his offspring, about others again.

They both speak about others being justified (made righteous) and having the benefits of forgiveness. These are clearly coterminous. Likewise justification and reconciliation (Rom 5.8-11).

‘Apart from works’. Apart from which works? Which works are Paul alluding to? Sins require atonement and forgiveness. In David’s time forgiveness was achieved by the Levitical sacrificial system, practiced before the tent of meeting and part of the covenant. In New Testament times, people went to the temple to be justified (Lk 18.10,14).

In Rom 4.6, the ‘apart from works’ Paul is describing specifically relate to Levitical sacrifice. The well practiced means of atoning for sin and bringing about forgiveness. These are both considered by David as covenantal blessings. As I have discussed in my section on Justification, the Levitical sacrificial system was part of the ‘works of law’ which the Jews believed identified them as ‘the righteous’.

So the sacrificial system both identified the Jews as being of ‘the righteous’ and was part and parcel of maintaining their righteousness when they sinned.

Paul argues forgiveness is granted by repentance and faith in God, not by works of the law of Moses. This clearly anticipates the appropriation of the benefits of Christ’s atoning death on the cross described in Rom 3.25.

‘God counts righteousness apart from works’. Paul’s argument relating to David, is that David knew, he and others are not recognised as righteous before God because they offer levitical sacrifices, nor do they need to make animal sacrifices in order gain God’s forgiveness. David makes this quite clear in Ps 51 saying,

‘For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.’ (Ps 51.16-17)

Normally these blessings were reserved for the people of Israel only. Paul now moves on to explain to IJ, this is the blessing Gentile believers have received.

Cartoon Rom 4.9-22
Rom 4.9-22; Click to enlarge

‘How then was it counted to him?’ Paul is still speaking to IJ at this point and explaining that believing Gentiles are counted righteous in God’s sight. Paul makes the point Abraham was counted righteous because he believed God would give him a massive family. He was also counted righteous in Genesis 15 before he was circumcised in Genesis 17. This means he was a Gentile believer when he was counted righteous.

Gentile believers are counted righteous by God even though they are not circumcised or observe the works of the law.

‘Sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness’. Paul argues the covenant sign of circumcision signified what he already had by faith. The implication being Gentile believers are counted righteous by God, even though they are not circumcised.

45 Abraham life events

‘The purpose’ (Rom 4.11). Abraham could have been counted righteous by God at any point in his life. Why was he counted righteous in Genesis 15 and not a some later time? The purpose in counting him then was to make him father of all (both Gentiles and Jews) people who ‘walk in the same footsteps of faith’ as he did.

Righteousness, Covenant and Family

As I have mentioned in my series on righteousness, the word is commonly used to denote the identity, character and behaviour of a group of people. But, I also note that it’s possible for a word to have a general meaning, which can be employed in different contexts in specific ways. With respect to righteousness and in addition to the ethical aspects I identified three:

  • Kingdom (Ps 22.28-31; 99.1-4),
  • Covenant (1 Sam 12.6-8; Dt 6.24-25; cf. Dt 5.1-3; Lev 26.14-15) and
  • Law Court (Dt 16.18-20; Lev 19.15-16).

Paul’s use of ‘righteousness’ in Romans 4 carries with it covenantal connotations. In a few other passages we see a person’s righteousness can have covenantal significance (Hos 6.7; Dt 5.2-3; Heb 11.13, 39). I assume all the righteous are beneficiaries of God’s covenant promises and will inherit the kingdom to come.

The righteous are also commonly depicted as God’s people in scripture. If we look at scripture we see the righteous are described as;

  • God’s people (Ps 14.5-7; 94.14-15; 125.2-3; Lk 1.75-77; cf. Ps 106.3-5; Isa 26.7-11; 32.16-18; 56.1-3; 60.20-21),
  • God’s nation (Ps 33.1,12; Isa 26.2; 58.1-2; cf. Je 31:23),
  • God’s servants (Ps 34.21-22; Mal 3.17-18), and
  • God’s saints (Ps 31.18,23; 37.27-31; 97.10-12; Rev 19.8).

There is also a close relationship between righteousness and sonship. The apostle John and Jesus could not be clearer (1 Jn 3.7,10; Mt 13.43).

Sonship is at times, synonymous with righteousness. Weights and rules cannot be God’s sons, but the righteous are. The ethical and familial associations are bound together in the one concept (e.g. Lk 3.7-8; 1 Pet 1.16-17).

There is a stream of thought within covenant theology where covenants are said to form familial bonds. Think of marriage as a covenant bond which makes a husband and wife, family. Similarly, because God made a covenant with Abraham, Israel is now his son (Ex 4.22-23; Dt 14.1; Hos 11.1). Scott Hahn is one advocate of this. He argues a covenant is a means of establishing a kinship relationship between two parties. See my review of his book.

We should keep this in mind as we read Rom 4.9-12. Paul says, ‘the purpose was to make him the father’. What did God do that made Abraham the father of all who believe without being circumcised? God counted his faith as righteousness prior to his circumcision. This counting of righteousness established his fatherhood over all who would believe. Jews and Gentiles. They would be counted righteous and as his offspring because of their faith.

Likewise in Galatians (Gal 3.5-9) Paul says the Gentiles have become ‘sons of Abraham’. Paul is explicit that those of faith are the sons of Abraham. Just as faith confers righteousness, so to does faith confer sonship in Paul’s thought. For him, the two are synonymous. ‘Justify the Gentiles by faith’. As with Romans 4 in Galatians we see righteousness is virtually synonymous with sonship.

As I mentioned before traditionally, Israel was considered God’s son. In Romans 9, Paul acknowledges this by saying they were adopted (Rom 9.4-5). He implies, that just as righteousness is now counted to Jews and Gentiles who believe, so is being one of Abraham’s offspring counted to Jews and Gentiles (Rom 9.6-8).

‘Counted as offspring’. What we see in english as ‘counted’ is in the Greek λογίζεται and is transliterated ‘logizetai’. I wrote a post on Paul’s use of this verb in Romans 4. Just as Paul uses logizetai to describe God regarding Abraham’s faith as righteousness. So to does he use the verb with respect to Abraham’s offspring.

I’m not denying the ethical and moral overtones associated with righteousness or its general meaning. I’m adding to that understanding, saying that in some contexts the ethical and familial connotations are inseparable and in Romans 4 the familial connotations are quite important.

(Note: ‘Walk in the same footsteps of faith’ This is one of a few expressions (Rom 4.18-21) that indicate the faith Paul has in mind is not simply the faith a sinner comes to when they first come to the Lord. Rather the faith that marks the whole life of God’s people, the righteous.)

Abraham’s worldwide fatherhood and the counting of righteousness go together.

‘The promise to Abraham did not come through the law’ (Rom 4.13). Paul compares two expressions;

  • through the [righteousness of the] law [of Moses],
  • through the righteousness of faith.

Still focussing on the implications of Abraham’s counting of faith for Gentile believers and the covenant, Paul compares the law and faith as forms of righteousness.

In Deuteronomy ‘Moses’ says;

5 And Moses summoned all Israel and said to them, “Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the rules that I speak in your hearing today, and you shall learn them and be careful to do them. 2 The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. 3 Not with our fathers did the LORD make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us here alive today. (Dt 5.1-3)

24 And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day. 25 And it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to do all this commandment before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us.’ (Dt 6.24-25)

‘But through the righteousness of faith’ (Rom 4.14). Highlighting the covenantal nature of the law and righteousness. In the context of Genesis 15.6 belief in God’s promise also has covenantal overtones.

The value of faith and the promise were effective from the point they were given.

If they were not effective, that is to say something more was needed, then the value of faith would be nullified and the promise made to be worthless. The logic applies equally to who are the beneficiaries. If they only applied to the adherents of the law (the Jews) and not believing Gentiles, then the same logic applies – faith is nullified and the promise made void.

‘The law brings wrath’ (Rom 4.15). As a further disincentive for adopting the law as the means of covenant righteousness, Paul says the thing it brought upon the Jews was wrath. I’ve written on how the law brought wrath here. The presence of the law gives more opportunity to break its commands. Breaking more and more commands results in greater wrath. The giving of the law increased the transgression and brought wrath. Without the law, there is no opportunity to transgress it.

(Note; Sin is falling short of the mark and can happen when or where ever. Transgression can only happen when some law is being violated and a specific command broken. All transgressions are sins, but not all sins are transgressions. These concepts are different from sins of action or omission.)

‘That is why it depends on faith’, ‘Not only’. Paul gives two reasons for why the counting of righteousness depends on faith and not on observing the law of Moses, so the promise of receiving a massive family:

  1. may rest on God’s grace,
  2. be guaranteed to all his offspring,
  3. not only the adherents of the law (cf. Rom 3.29).

The promise has to rest on God’s grace because Abraham and his wife are of themselves completely unable to have children without divine aid. They have to do the usual sex bit, but Abraham is so old he is ‘as good as dead’ and Sarah’s womb is barren. The feat is equivalent in difficulty to:

  • Giving life to the dead (which echoes Jesus’ resurrection), and
  • Calling into existence things that do not exist (an act of new creation).

But this is what Abraham believes God can do. They rely on God’s grace and power to have children.

Despite these seemingly insurmountable difficulties Abraham is shown to have commendable faith in God.

‘That is why his faith is counted as righteousness’. Consider the expressions Paul uses – ‘in hope he believed against hope’, ‘he did not weaken in faith’, ‘no unbelief made him waver’ and ‘he grew strong in his faith’. Paul’s description of Abraham’s faith is intended to encourage the Roman believers see the value of faith and to want faith.

‘Depends on faith’. It also ‘depends on faith’, because Abraham has become the father of all who believe. Which means all the promises given him are also applied to his offspring. Abraham’s offspring are both the adherents of the law (the Jews) and Gentile believers.

Cartoon Rom 4.23-25
Rom 4.23-25; Click to enlarge

Over the last few paragraphs, Paul’s statements are become more and more focussed on the needs of the Roman believing audience. Particularly the Gentile believers.

“But the words ‘it was counted to him’ were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also”. Paul makes the implication of his discussion about Abraham relevant to his Roman audience. We saw earlier, the purpose (Rom 4.11) Abraham was counted righteous when he was was to make his the father of all believers, Jew and Gentile.

The Roman’s believe (cf. Rom 1.8) in God just like Abraham. Paul says they too will be counted righteous like he was.

The Romans believe in God who raised Jesus their Lord from the dead.

‘Delivered up for their trespasses’. Jesus was delivered up on the cross. He died for our sins. Echoing Isa 53.5-6 Paul relates Jesus’ death to the Isaiah prophecy which describes the atoning benefits of his death.

‘Raised for their justification’. The Romans Christians believe in God who raised Jesus their Lord from the dead. The gospel proclaims Jesus as the risen Lord. This is the belief which is the basis for the justification of God’s people (Rom 10.9-10).

Questions for us

As promised these questions help us consider the illocutionary acts involved in the performance of the text.

What do you think reading this section aloud would do to a group of believers?

Paul’s repeated statements about people being justified by faith would give them all assurance they are righteous in God’s sight.

They would see themselves to be part of the same family as Abraham and beneficiaries of the promises God gave him. They would understand Abraham’s family consisted of Jews and Gentiles who have faith. Faith is the common element in all of Abraham’s family. They would see themselves as evidence of God’s faithfulness to his covenant promises.

They would know that they have received forgiveness of sins apart from observing the Levitical sacrifices and God will not count their sin against them.

Paul’s description of Abraham’s faith would encourage them to value their own faith in God’s promises and persevere as Abraham did.

Because they have faith that God raised Jesus from the dead, they would have assurance as Paul has said that they will also be counted righteous in God’s sight.

How do you think the JEWISH believers would respond?

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Paul and IJ talk about Abraham their forefather. They would all recognise him as their most important ancestor.

Paul’s statements about his faith, circumcision and the law would lead them to recognise faith is what is important in God’s sight. Not circumcision and observance of the law. They would be reminded of their peoples long and sad relationship with the law and God’s wrath on their people. But they would be reminded of God’s faithfulness to his promises to Abraham in giving him many offspring.

They would see their Gentile brothers as forgiven, despite the fact they have not offered any sacrifices for their sins.

They would see Gentile believers as their brothers. Not by blood or law-observance. Rather by faith in God’s promises and his grace given to all who believe.

How do you think the GENTILE believers would respond?

Gentiles would be affirmed in their faith and would feel no obligation to be circumcised in order to be seen as righteous in God’s sight.

Abraham’s counting of faith in Genesis 15.6 would become a powerful proof text for establishing themselves part of God’s people without having to observe the law. If Jews denied they shared faith in the same God or were sinful, they could use this verse to defend their faith and status before God.

The Gentile believers would not think they had to do any of the works of law in order to receive forgiveness.

What do you think the effect of saying this to an audience of Jewish and Gentile believers would have on their GROUP DYNAMICS?

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The Roman audience of Jew and Gentiles believers would understand they are all righteous in God’s sight because of their faith in Him. Hence faith in Jesus is their common ground. What joins them together as the one people of God.

Why do you think Paul crafted this performance this way? What was his intent?

Paul crafted the passage to draw his audience together through realising they all share the same faith. He wanted them to understand they are not part of something new. Rather they are part of God’s original plan for a world wide family.

Paul anticipates potential counter arguments by Jews wishing to impose circumcision and the law of Moses on Gentiles coming to Christ. He provides them with scriptural counter-examples to use in potential arguments.

Words for Believers

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Have you ever thought that you are related by faith to Abraham? That you are part of one big family consisting of Jews and Gentiles? Do you see other people with faith in Jesus as your brothers and sisters?

Abraham’s faith is highly commended by Paul. In the gospel Jesus likewise commends the faith of an Italian Centurion.

5 When he had entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, 6 “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.” 7 And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” 8 But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 10 When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. 11 I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, 12 while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 13 And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment. (Mt 8.5-13)

The Centurion’s faith anticipates the faith of Gentiles believing Jesus is the Christ. These statements were not written for him alone, but for us who believe Jesus is the risen Christ.

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