“For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.
That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.” (Romans 4:13-16)
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Ro 4:13–16.
Romans 4 is an important chapter in the book. Beginning in chapter 1, the Apostle Paul has been talking about how the righteousness of God is revealed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and it is received by faith. The promise of God, the promise of the forgiveness of sins, salvation, and eternal life, has always been that – a promise. It is never based upon our own works or performance, for we all fall short of the glory of God, both Jew and Gentile alike. Now, in chapter 4, Paul is going to back up a little bit to the patriarch Abraham to show that God’s relationship towards us has always been based upon the promise of Jesus Christ.
Searching the Scriptures
- Read vv. 4-5. How do these verses underscore the free and undeserved nature of God’s grace?
- Read v. 11. What was the significance of Abraham’s circumcision?
- How does Abraham’s story as recounted in chapter 4 make the same point as earlier chapters about the extent of God’s mercy and about the means by which human beings are saved?
- Verses 3-4 and 22-23 use a form of the expression “counted…as righteousness” (from Genesis 15). How does this relate to the meaning of “justification” as that term was used in connection with chapter 3?
- Romans 4:25 is both a summary of what has gone before and a thematic verse for the entire book. In fact, some scholars believe that Paul is here quoting from an early Christian confession. How does this verse use Jesus’ crucifixion and His resurrection both to highlight the futility of human efforts to attain righteousness and the certainty of God’s saving act in Jesus Christ?
The Word for Us
- How is a life by faith and a life lived by the Law a contradiction? How are they mutually exclusive?
- On the basis of the material in this chapter, how might we respond to those who despair of their attempts to “live a Christian life” and as a result wonder how God could possibly be favorably disposed to them?