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Epistle of Paul to the Romans 4: 13-25 (NIV)
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 live by law are heirs, faith has no value and the promise is worthless, 15 because law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression.
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 are of 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 whom he believed – the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.
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.” 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.
Verse 14 of this Epistle speaks a deep truth about which we do need reminding from time to time.
Today there are many who consider that they are able to do without God. They consider they are able to live their lives without any “god” which means they have made themselves the “god” who sets the rules by which one should live. We might hear these people claiming to live good and generous lives, helping others perhaps through volunteer work in the community and keeping a clean slate as far as “the law of the land” is concerned.
Do these people thereby earn a way into “heaven”, supposing that is something of importance in their world views?
The Apostle Paul says “no”. But before saying “no” he has tried to show that if such people achieve eternal life with the Father then others (I trust that includes us) who have rejected such a philosophy and instead are relying on the promises of Jesus Christ are living in vain.
“The promise” was God’s promise to Abraham. For us today “the promise” comes from Jesus that we have been saved from our sins by him and that we may come to the Father only through him (John 14: 6). If faith has no value to God, then the promises of the Hebrew Scriptures and Jesus’ promises to us are “worthless”.
But, as Paul has explained, God has credited to Abraham and to us a “righteousness” that comes from our belief “in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead”. Thanks be to God!