Today in God’s Word
1 Samuel 4; Romans 4
In our daily reading today we see Paul the Apostle make an argument about justification by faith. He labors to evidence that it was by a promise that Abraham would realize the blessing of God, not through his works. The key is that the power of God’s promise rests not in the actions of the recipient but in the authority, power, and faithfulness of the one who made the promise…otherwise the promise would not rest on grace, and would not be to the praise of his glorious grace (Eph 1:5-6).
But there is another element Paul argues for in this chapter and it is regarding who the promise belongs to. We see in verse 3 that Abraham was counted righteous (justified) because of his faith, but Paul wants to dig into this and help the reader understand why this is a massive reality and how it pertains to them. He explains how one is justified, when they are justified, who will be justified, what is accomplished in their justification, and finally why God had determined to do it this way…
Question– Exactly how is one justified? Exactly how does the promise God made to Abraham come to pass?
Answer– We are justified by faith, which is to say our justification is conditioned upon our trusting God (Rom 4:3-5). And this promise of God made to Abraham was personally acquired not by keeping a law but but trusting the law-giver (Rom 4:20-22). This means we place no confidence in our own ability to keep the law but rely solely on God’s ability to keep his promise.
Question– When is someone justified in God’s eyes (deemed to be righteous and ‘not guilty’)? Is it after they get baptized or after they get themselves fixed up or after they prove to God that they are going to do right things?
Answer– It is in the moment that they trust God, taking him at his word (Rom 4:10-11).
Question– Who is the one that can receive this promise of blessing? Is it only those of the physical family of Abraham identified by the mark of circumcision?
Answer– It is most assuredly not those who are merely physical descendants (Rom 2:28-29) but it is all those, and only those, who share the faith of Abraham (Rom 4:9, 16, 18, 24). And thus Abraham is the father of all of God’s children (Gal 3:7-9, 28-29)!
Question– What is the result of God keeping his promise to us by his grace and through our faith rather than through our law keeping (works)?
Answer– He deals with us not according to our sin record but according to the perfectly righteous record of Christ (Rom 4:6-8; Phil 3:9). We are completely forgiven!
Question– What is the ultimate reason that God has chosen to save in this manner (by promise)?
Answer– Paul expresses that the reason is so that the promise would rely upon the grace of God and so that it would be absolutely certain. Abraham’s faith was not in his ability to comply with the law but in God’s ability to fulfill his promise, no matter what. Paul tells the Ephesians that this method of salvation results in the praise of God’s glory, and especially his glorious grace (Eph 1:3-14).