Now, is this blessing only for the Jews, or is it also for uncircumcised Gentiles? Well, we have been saying that Abraham was counted as righteous by God because of his faith. But how did this happen? Was he counted as righteous only after he was circumcised, or was it before he was circumcised? Clearly, God accepted Abraham before he was circumcised! Circumcision was a sign that Abraham already had faith and that God had already accepted him and declared him to be righteous—even before he was circumcised. So Abraham is the spiritual father of those who have faith but have not been circumcised. They are counted as righteous because of their faith. And Abraham is also the spiritual father of those who have been circumcised, but only if they have the same kind of faith Abraham had before he was circumcised. Clearly, God’s promise to give the whole earth to Abraham and his descendants was based not on his obedience to God’s law, but on a right relationship with God that comes by faith. If God’s promise is only for those who obey the law, then faith is not necessary and the promise is pointless. For the law always brings punishment on those who try to obey it. (The only way to avoid breaking the law is to have no law to break!) So the promise is received by faith. It is given as a free gift. And we are all certain to receive it, whether or not we live according to the law of Moses, if we have faith like Abraham’s. For Abraham is the father of all who believe.Rom 4:9-16
Continuing on from what was said in the last Gem: Notice what was said related to verse 4:9. Clearly it means Jews and Gentiles. But Paul changes it to circumcised / uncircumcised. What makes Abraham righteous? Was it being circumcised? Many Jews would like to think so but was that true?
Paul takes a different tack with a critical question: Was he counted as righteous only after he was circumcised, or was it before he was circumcised? Paul says “Clearly, God accepted Abraham before he was circumcised!” If God accepted Abe before he was circumcised then it follows that circumcision has nothing to do with being accepted by God. God’s acceptance of a person has nothing to do with whether a person is circumcised or not. So Paul concludes that circumcision is a sign of God’s blessing not the cause of it. Therefore he adds Abraham is the spiritual father not of those who have been circumcised but those who have the same faith as Abraham. The emphasis is on faith; not circumcision. God’s promise to Abe was on the basis of the righteousness that was imputed to him on the basis of his faith in God. Circumcision is a sign or a symbol of the faith in God.
If you look at the order of things in the chapters of the Abrahamic story in Genesis and it becomes clear.
- Chapter 12: He is promised much and called from his home to follow God without much detail.
- Chapter 13 & 14: sorting out the details of the new land and life
- Chapter 15: a repeat of the promise including a son, sealed by a solemn Hebrew oath. This do to me and more so if I don’t fulfil my side of the bargain . . .
- Chapter 16: Oops, Abe gets a son but not the son of the promise
- Chapter 17: The promise and covenant revisited and the sign of circumcision introduced.
- Chapter 18: The “visitors” and the laugh.
- Chapter 21: The promise is fulfilled; Isaac is born
- Chapter 22: Isaac is offered up as a sacrifice
Sure we all remember the events of Chapter 22, but is this the first time Abraham believes God and it is credited to him as faith which leads to righteousness?
Ponder these things and we will look at the details in the next Gem.
You may not always know the details of your journey or clearly see where the trail is leading, but God will always give you enough light to take the next step.Anon