Romans: Moving Beyond

“Faith is moving beyond a belief about Christ to a solid conviction in Christ.”

Moving beyond our ideas about God to a way of living it out has consequences. It’s building your life on a foundation. It’s the difference between seeing some bricks in a pile, knowing the color, the weight, the texture, and the dimensions of the bricks, then building a bridge with them and crossing it.

The apostle Paul was writing to a mixed group of early Christians in Rome. And as he has previously, Paul spends the majority of his efforts talking to the “religious” people. There was something about them and something about us that makes us prone to graduating from grace.

Romans 4
1 What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, discovered in this matter? 2 If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about – but not before God. 3 What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation.

When payday comes, how many of us think, “Yay, thank you so much! You’re so generous, and I’m so grateful!”

No. We all think, “Give me my check! I worked for this. I deserve it.”

Romans 4
5 However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly (who are the ungodly – not “those people over there”), their faith is credited as righteousness.
The Apostle Paul begins by using two Old Testament characters that his listeners would have known, and many of us know. Abraham and David.

He was one of the first God-followers. He was this guy living in a wealthy, pagan place. No one knew who God was. Then, this God no one knows of speaks to him and calls him to leave all he knows to “go to a land I’ll show you.” And Abraham goes.
  • Abraham was like the George Washington of the Jewish nation – a role model, a legend even. There was this belief amongst some Jewish rabbis and leaders at the time this was written that “Abraham was perfect in all his deeds before the Lord.”
  • Looking at the stakes, Abraham seems like a pretty good guy who took a big step.
  • But Paul says something else here – Abraham was credited by faith apart from his deeds. (Not because of his deeds) It’s similar to a surprise direct deposit into your account that’s not your expected paycheck.

There often end up being 3 “acceptable” ways we try to shorten up our own salvation WITH our deeds.
  • I try my best to be a “good Christian.”
  • I believe in God and try to do His will.
  • I believe in God with all my heart.

For the most part, these sound pretty good. If you were to ask any number of churchgoing people, you’d get one of these. The last couple sound really good to many of us. We might even describe ourselves that way.

Paul essentially says, yes, what or who your faith is in is proven by what you then do, but it is in no way made by your doing. Not even the best parts of your doing.

Then he shifts to King David, the writer of Psalms.

Romans 4
6 David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the one to who God credits righteousness apart from works. 7 “Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, who sins are covered.

Psalm 32
8 “Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against them.”

He was known for a lot of things. He was known as a man after God’s own heart. He was the guy with the sling that defeated Goliath. He was the writer of many of the Psalms. He was king over Israel.

But there was a defining moment – not in a good way – that he was also known for. He sinned by committing adultery with Bathsheba. And to be clear, this was likely not a bad choice between two equally consenting adults as much as it was David using his power to get what he wanted.

There are the sins where we mess up, slip up, or fall short. But then there are the sins where we take, we consume, we steal, or we destroy – the willful sins.

Maybe you have one of those in your past that you’re really not proud of. Maybe you were the victim of one of those by someone else. There’s something that enflames us. And like a fire, it consumes and destroys whatever and whoever is around us.

That’s David’s other legacy. That’s why he wrote the words he did in Psalm 32.

So, if Abraham was credited with God’s righteousness apart from his deeds, David is given something even more scandalous – he’s credited with God’s righteousness despite his deeds.

We’re made right before God apart from our activity.

But this isn’t the only thing we try to tack on to our faith.

Romans 4
9 Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. 10 Under what circumstances was it credited? Was is after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before! 11 And he received circumcision as a sign, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them. 12 And he is then also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also follow in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.

Remember what circumcision was in the Jewish faith. It’s a symbol of God’s covenant, his favor. But, at its most basic, it was a ritual.

Most of us don’t have formal rituals. But is there a ritual you do that unlocks God’s goodness? Do you give? Do you pray? Do you serve? Do you attend church?

If you aren’t doing these things you’re really missing out, but you don’t get God’s favor by showing up. You already have it.

We’re made right before God apart from our rituals.

Romans 4
13 It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. 14 For if those who depend on the law are heirs, faith means nothing and the promise is worthless, 15 because the law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression.

The existence of the law makes having faith in something greater necessary. Greater than our works, even our best works.  

Romans 4
16 Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring – not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. 17 As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in who he believed – the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not. 18 Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead – since he was about a hundred years old – and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. 20 Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21 being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. 22 This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.”

There’s this story in the Old Testament about God promising a son to Abraham and Sarah his wife, even though they were very old. There was nothing they could do, become, or try harder at. They were “as good as dead.”

We’re made right before God apart from our adequacy.

In our world and achievement, we have a lot to offer. And we confuse the good things God has placed in our lives (and in us) as something that somehow earns credit.

And then, Paul turns it back to us.

Romans 4
23 The words, “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness – for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.

We don’t like hearing “as good as dead.” There is nothing we can offer God to justify ourselves, not our good works, rituals, rule-keeping, and not even our personal adequacy. But looking at that last verse, we stand before a God who raises us “dead” to life.

Maybe you feel that way in some area of your life. He’s the only one who can do that. So, how can we respond to this?

We can’t give God anything else, but we can give Him our YES.

Move beyond…
…knowledge and talk to a faith that has consequences.
…the little rituals we all do.
…all the ways we try to gain favor by staying inside the lines.
…all the things we think we have to offer, or wish we did.

There’s a barrier we all run into with these. We have to move, and moving is uncomfortable. And we don’t move to achieve, but only to receive.

The greatest barrier that most people run into in their lives isn’t that change isn’t possible or necessary; it’s the misplaced understanding that it can happen while leaving our understanding of the truth of the world, God, ourselves, and others, and their own personal comfort level largely undisturbed.

God is speaking to you about one of these. He’s asking you to move. Will you say yes?

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