Romans 4: 1-25

1 So how do we fit what we know of Abraham, 
our first father in the faith, 
into this new way of looking at things?

2 If Abraham, by what he did for God, 
got God to approve him, 
he could certainly have taken credit for it.

 But the story we're given is a God-story, 
not an Abraham-story.

3 What we read in Scripture is,
 "Abraham entered into what God was doing for him, 
and that was the turning point.
 He trusted God to set him right
instead of trying to be right on his own."

4 If you're a hard worker
and do a good job, 
you deserve your pay;
 we don't call your wages a gift.

5 But if you see that the job is too big for you, 
that it's something only God can do, 
and you trust him to do it – 
you could never do it for yourself
no matter how hard and long you worked – 
well, that trusting-him-to-do-it
is what gets you set right with God, by God. 

Sheer gift.

6 David confirms this way of looking at it, 
saying that the one who trusts God
to do the putting-everything-right
without insisting on having a say in it
is one fortunate man:

7 Fortunate those whose crimes are carted off, 
whose sins are wiped clean from the slate.

8 Fortunate the person against whom
the Lord does not keep score.

9 Do you think for a minute
that this blessing is only pronounced
over those of us who keep our religious ways
and are circumcised? 

Or do you think it possible
that the blessing could be given
to those who never even heard of our ways, 
who were never brought up in the disciplines of God?

We all agree, don't we,
that it was by embracing what God did for him
that Abraham was declared fit before God?

10 Now think: 
Was that declaration made before or after
he was marked by the covenant rite of circumcision? 

That's right, 
before he was marked.

11 That means that he underwent circumcision
as evidence and confirmation
of what God had done long before
to bring him into this acceptable standing with himself, 
an act of God he had embraced with his whole life.

12 And it means further that
Abraham is father of all people who embrace
what God does for them
while they are still on the "outs" with God, 
as yet unidentified as God's,
 in an "uncircumcised" condition. 

It is precisely these people
in this condition
who are called
 "set right by God and with God"!

 Abraham is also, of course,
 father of those
who have undergone the religious rite of circumcision
not just because of the ritual
but because they were willing to live
in the risky faith-embrace of God's action for them, 
the way Abraham lived
long before he was marked by circumcision.

13 That famous promise God gave Abraham
–    that he and his children would possess the earth – 
was not given
because of something Abraham did or would do. 
It was based on
God's decision to put everything together for him,
 which Abraham then entered when he believed.

14 If those who get what God gives them
only get it by doing everything they are told to do
and filling out all the right forms properly signed, 
that eliminates personal trust completely
and turns the promise into an ironclad contract! 

That's not a holy promise; 
that's a business deal.

15 A contract drawn up by a hard-nosed lawyer
and with plenty of fine print
only makes sure that you will never be able to collect. 

But if there is no contract in the first place, 
simply a promise
-    and God's promise at that – 
you can't break it.

16 This is why the fulfillment of God's promise
depends entirely on trusting God and his way,
 and then simply embracing him and what he does. 

God's promise arrives as pure gift. 

That's the only way everyone can be sure to get in on it, 
those who keep the religious traditions
and those who have never heard of them. 

For Abraham is father of us all.

 He is not our racial father – 
that's reading the story backwards. 
He is our faith father.

17 We call Abraham "father" 
not because he got God's attention by living like a saint, 
but because God made something out of Abraham
when he was a nobody. 

Isn't that what we've always read in Scripture,
 God saying to Abraham, 
"I set you up as father of many peoples"? 

Abraham was first named "father" 
and then became a father
because he dared to trust God
to do what only God could do: 
raise the dead to life, 
with a word make something out of nothing.

18When everything was hopeless, 
Abraham believed anyway, 
deciding to live
not on the basis of what he saw he couldn't do
but on what God said he would do. 

And so he was made father
of a multitude of peoples. 

God himself said to him,
 "You're going to have a big family, Abraham!"

19Abraham didn't focus on his own impotence
and say, "It's hopeless. 

This hundred-year-old body
could never father a child." 

Nor did he survey Sarah's decades of infertility
and give up.

20 He didn't tiptoe around God's promise
asking cautiously skeptical questions.

 He plunged into the promise
and came up strong, 
ready for God,
21 sure that God would make good
on what he had said.

22 That's why it is said,
 "Abraham was declared fit before God
by trusting God to set him right."

23 But it's not just Abraham;
24 it's also us! 

The same thing gets said about us
when we embrace and believe
the One who brought Jesus to life
when the conditions were equally hopeless.

25 The sacrificed Jesus made us fit for God, 
set us right with God.


 

1What then shall we say?  
Have we found Abraham
to be our forefather
according to the flesh?  

2For if it is on the basis of works
that Abraham was justified, 
he had grounds for boasting, 
but not before God.  

3For what does Scripture say? 
 “Abraham trusted God [‘s promise] 
and it was counted to him
unto righteousness” 
(Gen 15:6)

For the one
who works
wages are counted as due, 
not according to grace, 

5but for the one
who rather than working
 trusts in him [God] 
who justifies the godless, 
his trust is counted
unto righteousness, 

6even as David also
announced [God’s] blessing
on the human being
to whom God counts righteousness
apart from works:

“Blessed are those
whose iniquities have been forgiven
and whose sins have been covered; 

8Blessed is the man
 whose sin YHWH
will not count to him”  
(Ps 32:1ff)

9Is this blessing then
 [only] for the circumcision
or also for the uncircumcision?  

[For the latter also,] 
since we say,
 “trust was counted to Abraham
unto righteousness.”  

10Now, how was it counted,
 in a state of circumcision
or of uncircumcision?  

Not in circumcision
but in uncircumcision 

11and he [later] received
“the sign of the circumcision-covenant” 
(Gen 17:10f) 

as a seal
of the righteousness
of [his] trust in uncircumcision.  

This was in order
that he might become: 
the father of all who believe
in a state of uncircumcision,
 in order that the righteousness
may be counted also to them, 

12and the father
of the circumcision; 
[father] not only to
those of the circumcision
 but also to those
who follow in the footsteps
of the trust our father Abraham had
in a state of uncircumcision.

13For the promise to Abraham, 
or his offspring, 
that they should be heirs of the world, 
did not [come] 
through [God’s] righteousness,
 i.e. faithfulness.  

14for if [only] those of the Troah were heirs, 
then [his] faithfulness would be empty
 and [his] promise void.  

15For the law works wrath,
 since where there is no law
there is also no rebellion.  

16Therefore [the inheritance is] 
from [God’s] faithfulness,
 in order that it might be
according to grace,
 so that the promise
may be certain of fulfillment
for all the offspring, 
not only for those of the Torah, 
but also for those of the faithfulness of Abraham, 
who is the father of us all, 

17as it is written:
 “I have made thee
the father of many Gentiles”
 (Gen 17:5)  

[Abraham is the father also
 of Gentiles] 
in the sight
of the God whom he trusted, 
who gives life to the dead
and calls into being
what does not exist.  

18Beyond hope
he trusted hopefully
that he would become
“the father of many Gentiles”, 
according to the statement: 

“Thus will thy offspring be” 
(Gen 15:5)  

19Without weakening in his trust, 
he considered his own deadened body
(for he was about one hundred years old) 
and the deadness of Sarah’s womb.  

20He did not contradict
the promise of God
with lack of trust, 
but with trust
he became potent [again], 

and gave God the glory,
 21and a conception resulted,
 because what [God] had promised, 
that he was able to do.  

22Therefore
 “it was counted to him
unto righteousness.”  2

3But these words
“it was counted to him”
 were not written for his sake only
 24but also for our sake. 
 It will be “counted” to us, 
who are believers in him,
who raised up from the dead
Jesus our Lord, 
25who was delivered up
for the sake of our faults