We begin this week by reading from Romans 4:1-8
Being justified (declared righteous) by faith was not something that originated in the New Testament. It is also, very much so, an Old Testament understanding. Genesis 15:6 very clearly teaches this: one is justified by faith (through the grace of G-d), and not by the works of the law (works of man). Paul repeats and emphasises a lot of the key concepts in Romans. This repetition helps to lay a very solid foundation in regard to the doctrines etc found in this book.
v1: What then shall we say: We need to come to an agreement (be “on the same page”). We all need to be assured that salvation is through faith and not through works.
- Father: Abraham is called our father because he is an example for us. We are going to enter the family of G-d in the same way that Abraham entered it – through a covenant. Abraham entered into this covenant with G-d by faith. The purpose of this covenant was to change Abraham and to make him righteous in G-d’s sight.
- (Was) found: This is an idiom. When people are separated from G-d, we call them “lost”. If this situation changes and they enter into a covenantal relationship with G-d then they are considered “found” (Luke 15:4-7).
- Found according to the flesh: Paul is asking if Abraham was in a covenantal relationship with G-d by works of the flesh – because of the things that Abraham had done.
v2: Justified: Made righteous
- Works: His behaviour
- Not before G-d: Isaiah 64:6. Noone is declared or made righteous through doing good works.
v3: What does the Scripture say: Paul does not base his teachings on logic, on the rational mind, or on human wisdom or understanding. He consistently based his teachings on the Word of G-d, on Scripture (the Old Testament, the Tanakh). Here Paul quotes from Genesis 15:6.
- Believed G-d: Abraham said ‘yes’ to G-d. He had faith in G-d.
- Accounted to him: Credited to him. This is an accounting or business term which has legal implications. Abraham did what was legally acceptable to G-d – he believed G-d. That belief (far superior to works) was pleasing to G-d.
v4: Works: Does labour.
- Wages: The earned payment received for doing the work.
- Grace: Grace is something that is unmerited. It is not something that we deserve. Grace, like a gift, is something that is freely given.
- Debt: Those who go to work expect a pay check at the end of the week or the month. This pay is earned through work/labour. That payment is not a gift, it cannot be attributed to grace.
v5: Him: G-d. G-d the Son did the work for us. It is only through His work that the ungodly can be declared righteous.
- Justifies: Makes righteous
- His faith is accounted for righteousness: This is a phrase that Paul is repeating, therefore emphasising.
v6: David: Paul now shows us that this was not an isolated principal only relevant to Abraham in the Old Testament. He, therefore, gives us another example from the writings of King David that teaches this same gospel truth.
- Blessedness: The man who G-d counts as righteous (apart from works) is a blessed man (or woman).
- Apart from (without) works: This righteousness comes to him not based upon works or upon anything that he has done. The truth of the matter is that we cannot do anything that is going to cause G-d (according to His standards of holiness) to say that we have managed to make ourselves righteous.
v7: Note: Quoted from Ps 32:1
- Lawless deeds: Sins. Violation of the commandments of G-d.
- Covered (up): Only G-d can cover up our sins. He is the only One who can give us grace – not holding us accountable for our lawless deeds when we repent of them, and instead giving us what we do not deserve. Grace brings about forgiveness, and that forgiveness puts us in a situation where we can enter into an eternal relationship with G-d.
v8: Note: Quoted from Ps 32:2a
- The L-rd shall not impute sin: We are all guilty of sin. We are indeed blessed when G-d does not count our sins against us or charge us for them. When we are in a covenantal relationship with G-d, through Messiah, He covers up our sins, which means that we are no longer going to be judged for them.