In Romans 3, Paul reminded us that everyone – regardless of ethnicty – is sinful, and that everyone can be made right with God by believing in Jesus Christ. Recall that he is countering the notion that only Jews could truly be right with God. So here in Romans 4, Paul considers what it is that we learn about “being made right with God” from the founder (humanly speaking!) of the Jewish nation: Abraham. Was Abraham made right with God because of his good deeds? If so, then he could boast that he had made himself right with God. But that was not God’s way, reminds Paul. Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith. (Gen 15:6; Rom 4:3)
Paul’s point is clear: being in a right relationship with God isn’t something that we can earn – it is the gift of God. We are counted as righteous because we trust in God who forgives us. As David wrote, it is the most wonderful thing in the world to know that our sins are forgiven. (Psalm 32:1-2, which Paul quotes here, are two of my favourite verses in the psalms!)
Is being Jewish a pre-requisite for being forgiven, though? Of course not! God counted Abrahm as righteous before he was circumcised. Circumcision was considered the sign that one was Jewish, that one was committed to keeping God’s laws and commandments. Actually, though, circumcision was the sign that Abraham already had faith and that God had already accepted him and already declared him righteous. Abraham didn’t get circumcised so that God would accept him; God accepted Abraham and so Abraham got circumcised.
Which means, as Paul notes, that what is foundational to being right with God isn’t being circumcised but having faith! It isn’t about being Jewish it’s about trusting Jesus.
But what does it mean to receive God’s promise by faith? It means trusting God no matter what. It means believing that God can do what he has promised to do. It means trusting God more than my circumstances. Like decrepit old Abraham who refused to stop trusting God’s promise that he would be the father of many nations.
In fact, Abraham learnt to trust God more and more. This brought God glory. In chapter 3, there were those who thought sinning would bring God glory; acting as a sort of foil to his righteousness. The truth, Paul reminds us, is that what brings God glory is actually when we trust him.
Abraham trusted God – and God counted him righteous. Ergo: if we trust God – if we believe in him the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead – then we too will be counted as righteous. Being right with God isn’t a matter of doing enough good or being good enough. It’s a matter of trusting God; believing his promise that he will save us.
Why should we trust God? Because of the history of God’s accepting those who trust in him. And because of what God has already done. He handed over his son Jesus because of our sins, and raised him to life to make us right with God. He has proven himself to be trustworthy and faithful.
Lord, you want me to trust you. You want me to take you at your word. You want me to believe that you are able to do all that you have promised to do. You want me to trust that Jesus Christ is your Son, and that he died because of my sins and was raised to make me right with you. And I do. I do, Lord. I trust you. You have proven yourself trustworthy so many times to so many people in the past. People like Abraham, the apostles, all those who saw you resurrected. People throughout time have trusted you – and you have shown yourself true. Help me to trust you more and more. Thank you for saving me.