Thursday, May 23, 2013

God's ledger and faith

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Romans 4:1-15

TO CHEW ON: "Now to Him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness." Romans 4:4-5

Paul is here trying to convince the Christians at Rome (his readers) that the gospel is really a matter of faith not works. He does it by using Abraham (their genetic and faith father) as an example. Quoting Genesis 15:6 ("Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him as righteousness") he pictures God as a paymaster who keeps accounts.

["Accounted" = "logidzomai" which means numerically to count, compute, calculate, sum up. Metaphorically to consider, reckon, reason, deem evaluate, value. Logidzomai finalizes thought, judges matters, draws logical conclusions, decides outcomes, and puts every action into a debit or credit position - New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1554]

Paul says it was Abraham's belief that was accounted (reckoned, computed) to him for righteousness. If it had been his works (keeping the law) God would have owed him. But that's not what "accounted" in Genesis implies. Rather, it says that Abraham's righteous standing came purely because God extended grace, calculating him righteous on the basis of his faith. It was a deposit made, not on the basis of anything Abraham did but solely on the basis of his faith.

That's why circumcision (the physical sign of God's covenant, complied with in obedience to Moses' law) wasn't/isn't the determining factor (vs. 9-12). And it's also why Paul says later (much to the consternation of those who trust in their standing as Abraham's offspring) that Abraham is "the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also" (vs. 11b). In other words, Abraham is the faith father of believing Gentiles too.

What does this have to do with you and me? Everything if we're at any level trying to earn our way into God's favour. Oh, it's easy to give head assent to the fact that salvation is a gift we don't deserve and can't earn. But how easily, too, the barter ethic that says there must be something we can or should do to earn God's favour takes over, at least in our hearts.

A footnote commentary on this passage sums it up so well:
"Many human attitudes such as love, joy, patience, courage and mercy can be somewhat worked up by our own effort. But faith occurs when we cease trying to do something by our own efforts and trust someone else to do it for us. Faith is the one attitude that is exactly the opposite of trusting ourselves. Apparently this is why God decided that faith should be the attitude of heart by which we obtain salvation" - Wayne Grudem, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1555.

PRAYER: Dear God, help me to live in the truth of my helplessness to save myself by anything I do. Thank You for the free gift of salvation that I get by simple faith. Amen.

MORE: "My Heart is Filled with Thankfulness" by Keith and Kristyn Getty


The Holy Bible, New King James Version Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. - Used with permission.
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