We’re reading along in Romans and we come to chapter four. A man named Abraham appears. Do we read on, or skip to chapter five?
If we think that reading about Abraham is for the Jewish people only, we’ll move on. If we see Abraham as a mere example of faith, we may conclude that we already know what faith is, so we can do without the illustration. If we view the past as having little to do with the present and the future, Abraham will be irrelevant to us. Our decision? Get a running start and jump over Romans 4, landing firmly in chapter five where we get back to Jesus. That would be a mistake.
We should read this chapter of the Bible not from the standpoint of what we learn from Abraham, but of what we see of God through his call and promise to Abraham. The question is, what is God showing us about himself through Abraham?
Here are four reasons to read Romans 4.
God reveals that the way of justification before him is by grace through faith. “Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness (verse 3).” And, “… it depends on faith in order that the promise may rest on grace. (verse 16).” By grace through faith is the theme of all God’s saving activity in Christ.
The storyline of the Bible is about the promise made to Abraham. God promised that Abraham would be the father of many nations (verse 17). From that point on, God worked to raise up one nation from which would come the Savior of the nations. That Savior died to save a people for his own possession, a multitude from every nation who will live on after history as we now know it comes to an end. We can’t understand history without Abraham.
The multinational people of God (from every ethnic and language group) is the church. There are not many churches, but one. All who have faith in Christ have one spiritual father, Abraham (verses 11-12). This definition of the church has the double impact of teaching Christians to relate to one another as family, and of showing the world what true unity looks like.
The mission of God has always included the nations. From Genesis 17:5 and the promise that Abraham would be the father of a multitude of nations, to Revelation 7:9 and the scene before the throne of Christ with believers from every nation worshiping him, the mission of God marches on. God’s mission is the church’s mission, and Jesus gave it to us. “Go make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19).”
This weekend, read Roman 4. Pray with me that our congregation will hear and receive what the Lord will speak to us from this chapter on Sunday.