The Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Romans 4:1-12

Abraham—the Father of All Who Believe

In all the history of the Jewish people, there was none counted greater than Abraham.  In John 8 the Jews continually insist that Abraham is their father, a claim in which they took great pride.  And indeed, he was their father, literally, their progenitor.  I am told that in some of their apocryphal and pseudepigraphal works, Abraham is described as “perfect in all his deeds” and that “no one has been found like him in glory” (Moo, NICNT, 278).  For the Jews, he was ever an exemplar of the faith, the pattern of obedience which every Jew should follow.

But Paul sees Abraham in a slightly different light than his Jewish brethren.  Whereas the Jews of Paul’s day saw Abraham as their father to whom they had exclusive rights, Paul sees Abraham as the father of all who believe—Jew and Gentile.  And how does Paul do this?  He does this by showing that Abraham was reckoned as righteous before God, not by works, but by faith.  Paul argues that to the one who works, his wages are not awarded him as a gift but as his due; after all, the laborer is worthy of his hire (1 Timothy 5:18).  But just as he used Habakkuk 2:4 (“The righteous shall live by faith,” in 1:17), Paul now quotes Genesis 15:6 which becomes yet another key passage for him when arguing that salvation by grace through faith for all who believe is the doctrine taught in the Law and the Prophets, whose words Jesus came to fulfill in his life, passion, and resurrection.  God had promised Abraham that he would have a son, even at his advanced age, and since “Abraham believed God,” Paul quotes Genesis 15:6, “it was counted to him as righteousness.”  Thus, from Genesis 15:6, Paul deduces two things: 1) Abraham was counted righteous before God on the basis of his faith, not his works, on the basis that he believed God’s promise, not on the basis of anything he did; and, 2) that Abraham was so counted as righteous before he was circumcised, which command God did not give until later (Genesis 17).  Paul then concludes that Abraham is then the father all who trust God for salvation apart from works (per #1), and God’s fatherhood includes believing Gentiles though they be uncircumcised in the flesh (per #2).

I know, it all sounds very theological.  Paul just wants his Jewish brethren to understand that God has broken down the wall between all who believe on the basis of faith (Ephesians 2:14).  And what is more wonderful to hear than, “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin” (Psalm 32:1-2).  To be counted righteous by God is to be forgiven of sin.

Author: The Reformed Baptist

My name is Stephen Taylor, ordained Baptist minister of eighteen years pastoral experience with a Ph.D. in Historical Theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Better than that, I am married to a godly woman, Karla, who has been very patient with me since 1989. I have two daughters, both of whom I homeschooled for extended periods of time, who became godly young women, and who ran off and married godly young men, all of which is very proper. The oldest daughter has even seen fit to bless me with a grandson and a granddaughter, and my youngest daughter with a grandson, all three of whom are bundles of exceeding joy. As you can see, I am quite blessed. This website is dedicated to helping people grow in the wisdom and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ through the gift of writing that the Lord has given to me. It is specifically about helping His people grow in godliness, the theme you see repeated above. I write devotions with this aim and hope that they might be of some help to God’s people. Full disclosure: I am of a Reformed bent, meaning that my understanding of Scripture is primarily informed by the Reformers and their successors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, as a student of church history and theology, I strive to remain true to that teaching handed down once for all unto the saints through every age of the Church. I like to think of myself as a “catholic” Christian, as the Reformers thought of themselves. At any rate, feel free to read, pray, and contact me if you wish, or correct me if need be. As you can see, I tend to follow the church year. Of course, I make no special claims about these devotions. I know very well that others have written better and plumbed the depths of God’s word with greater insight. But if my musings help someone draw closer to the Lord, well then, I have my reward. Blessings to you and may the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ speak to you that word which He knows you especially need to hear. Grace & peace, Stephen Taylor

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