Romans 4 — Righteousness by faith: a new idea?

It would be easy to think that this idea of being made righteous by our faith is a new thing.  That it was an invention of Paul and the other apostles.  It was, in fact, a contention that Paul probably dealt with back in his day.  “What is this ‘righteousness by faith’ thing?  I’ve never read anything about this in scripture before!”

And so in this chapter, he shows what Jesus revealed to him and the other disciples after his resurrection.   (Luke 24:27, 44-47, Galatians 1:11-12).

We already have seen him quote the prophet Habakkuk in chapter 1, where he said,

The righteous will live by his faith.  (Habakkuk 2:4)

Now he writes what Moses said about Abraham in Genesis.  This was important to the Jews because they considered Abraham the father of their nation, and their example.  So Paul writes,

What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter?  If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about–but not before God. What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”  (1-3)

He then asks,

Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before!  (10)


So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them.  And he is also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.  (11-12)

He also points out what David wrote in Psalm 32.

Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.  Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.  (Romans 4:7-8)

Why was David forgiven?  Because he did a lot of good things to make up for the bad things he had done?  No.  Because he had simply thrown himself upon the mercy of God and put his trust in him.  (Psalm 32:5, 10)

Paul writes much more on this in the chapter, and we’ll get to that in the following blogs.  But he concludes by writing,

The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness–for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.  (23-24)

That’s the good news for all of us:  not that we somehow make ourselves righteous before God.  Not that we somehow have to work to clean ourselves up before God and then he accepts us.  But that right here, right now, if we put our faith in him and the work that Jesus did for us on the cross, he accepts us.  It’s the truth that sets Christianity apart from all other religions.  It’s the truth that sets us free to have a relationship with God without fear.

How about you?  Do you have that kind of relationship with God?  Or do you live with that little doubt in your heart, “Does God accept me?”

May you truly come to know the grace of God in your life today and every day.


About bkshiroma

I'm from Hawaii, but have been in Japan as a missionary/English teacher since 1995. I'm currently going to a church called Crossroad Nishinomiya, an international church in Nishinomiya, a city right between Kobe and Osaka. Check out their website: 私がハワイから来ましたけど1995年に宣教師と英会話の教師として日本に引っ越しました。 今西宮にあるクロスロード西宮という国際の教会に行っています。どうぞ、そのホムページを見てください:
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