Sunday, April 25, 2010


Romans 4-5

In chapter four, Paul continues his discussion of the importance of faith by citing Abraham, who "believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." He contrasts justification to wages, which are "not credited to [a man] as a gift, but as an obligation." Likewise, he says, "to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness." He cites the psalms, where we are told that "blessed is the man whose sins the Lord will never count against him." And then he asks whether this blessing is only for the circumcised. No, he says, for Abraham's faith was counted as righteousness "not after [circumcision], but before!" In this way, Abraham is the father, not only of the circumcised (the Jews) but the uncircumcised, those who believed without circumcision. After all, "It was not through 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." So the promise of the Gospel comes by faith, not by the law, not by works. "Jesus our Lord ... was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification."

Chapter five continues, "since we have been justified through faith, we[e]have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." We rejoice in our hope of the glory of God, but also in our sufferings "because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope." He comments on the power of Jesus' action, noting that one might occasionally see someone die for a good man, but "while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." So "we have now been justified by his blood" and "reconciled to [God] through the death of his Son." So just as sin entered the world through one man, Adam, and death came with it, so in Christ all men are saved, "so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men."

Thoughts, questions, issues

  • Want to know what Paul believed the Gospel said? You really don't have to go looking any further for it than this. This is very likely not the earliest epistle composed, but it's easy to understand why it gets pride of place as the first one in the canon. Paul, who was spoken to directly by Jesus, who evangelized the Gentiles, tells us that Jesus died for our sins and we are justified not by any actions we can take, but by the action he has already taken, and our faith in him. There's no sugar-coating here, no wishy-washiness or "mights" or "maybes." This is it, the Gospel, fully formed within a generation of the crucifixion.

Proverbs 28:15-28

There is a theme running through this set of proverbs. "He who hates ill-gotten gain will enjoy a long who chases fantasies will have his fill of eager to get rich will not go unpunished...stingy man is eager to get rich and is unaware that poverty awaits him...greedy man stirs up dissension...who gives to the poor will lack nothing..." Note that the condemnation here is not to one who succeeds and accumulates wealth, for "he who works his land will have abundant food," but to those who are "greedy" or "stingy." Those who are "eager to get rich." These people are focused on the wrong thing. It's a focus on material wealth over the love of God.

Proverbs 28:15-28 (New International Version)

15 Like a roaring lion or a charging bear
is a wicked man ruling over a helpless people.

16 A tyrannical ruler lacks judgment,
but he who hates ill-gotten gain will enjoy a long life.

17 A man tormented by the guilt of murder
will be a fugitive till death;
let no one support him.

18 He whose walk is blameless is kept safe,
but he whose ways are perverse will suddenly fall.

19 He who works his land will have abundant food,
but the one who chases fantasies will have his fill of poverty.

20 A faithful man will be richly blessed,
but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished.

21 To show partiality is not good—
yet a man will do wrong for a piece of bread.

22 A stingy man is eager to get rich
and is unaware that poverty awaits him.

23 He who rebukes a man will in the end gain more favor
than he who has a flattering tongue.

24 He who robs his father or mother
and says, "It's not wrong"—
he is partner to him who destroys.

25 A greedy man stirs up dissension,
but he who trusts in the LORD will prosper.

26 He who trusts in himself is a fool,
but he who walks in wisdom is kept safe.

27 He who gives to the poor will lack nothing,
but he who closes his eyes to them receives many curses.

28 When the wicked rise to power, people go into hiding;
but when the wicked perish, the righteous thrive.

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