“What then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh?” (Romans 4:1)
It felt only right that after reading about Abraham we look at what Paul said, since it is part of the lectionary readings for this Second Sunday of Lent. Not that I would avoid reading what Paul said otherwise, but it makes a nice flow.
“For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” (Verses 2 – 3)
But Abraham did not just believe God, or believe in God. Abraham stepped out in faith that God had called him to something new, and something that was large in scope and design. And as I am learning in these days, that can be a very hard thing to do. Paul was called out too, and perhaps for that reason he can speak well to Abraham’s belief and righteousness.
“Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness.” (Verses 4 – 5)
I would like to believe, as Paul explains it, that grace from God cannot be earned as one would earn a paycheck but that God grants that grace to those who believe. In fact, in these days I am counting on God’s grace to get me through some hard times. And that as was true for Abraham, that God will show me the plans that the Divine had for me.
“For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 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, neither is there violation.” (Verses 13 – 15)
So, I am trying to follow along with Paul, and being aware how it pertains to my own situation – without, beloved reader, setting out my tale of woe. As far as I can figure, Paul is contrasting the law (meaning Jewish law) with believe that leads to righteous. The law cannot bring righteous or God’s grace. But belief in God can. But again, not just passive belief but belief that is active and acted on. Paul uses the term faith, and perhaps his meaning of the what incorporates action that reflects following the direction and guidance of God – I think. What Paul emphasizes is that if the law is what is important, then faith has not power or foundation. And that, Paul says, is not true.
“For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”) — in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.” (Verses 16 – 17)
By now I am feeling that Paul is so far into his theology that he sets forth here that it has to be true or everything that Paul asserts falls apart. And quite frankly, beloved reader, that is a little scary. Maybe Paul is scared, in that he has set forth his whole life since his conversion on belief in God. Just as Abraham set forth his whole life when he was called out of Ur. And just as I am setting out in faith that things will work out for me.
Maybe choosing this passage was not a good choice. But you know beloved reader, by the time you read this some days will have passed. And what was before me know as I write this will be in the past. It is my fervent prayer that events will have resolved themselves in such a way that will be evident that God’s grace and blessing was with me the whole time but I could not yet see it. And that perhaps, just maybe, my faith in this will be counted as a small sliver of righteous to me. Shalom!