Abraham, Christian, Christmas, Deacon Alfred Sturges, Faith, Faith and Works, God, Hope, Jake Byrne, Jesus Christ, judgment, justification, Loss, Miscarriage, Paul's letter to the Romans, pregnancy, redemption, Romans, Romans 4, salvation, St. Paul, St. Paul's Letters to the Romans, trust, works
It’s Day 4 of Deacon Alfred Sturges’ challenge to read a chapter of Romans each day until Christmas. If you missed earlier chapters, you can find them on this blog under the category of 16 Chapters to Christmas. If you just want to join me for today, that’s fine, too. Here’s the chapter and below is my reflection.
New International Version (NIV)
Abraham Justified by Faith
What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, discovered in this matter? 2 If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. 3 What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
4 Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. 5 However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness. 6 David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the one to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:
7 “Blessed are those
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
8 Blessed is the one
whose sin the Lord will never count against them.”
9 Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. 10 Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before! 11 And he received circumcision as a sign, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them. 12 And he is then also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also follow in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.
13 It was not through the 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. 14 For if those who depend on the law are heirs, faith means nothing and the promise is worthless, 15 because the law brings wrath.And where there is no law there is no transgression.
16 Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. 17 As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.
18 Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. 20 Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21 being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. 22 This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” 23 The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.
My thoughts: Still traveling today, on the way to Saint Gabriel’s Anglican Church in Greeley, Colorado for another Our Lady of Guadalupe Mass. Here’s my reflection on Romans 4:
Back to the circumcision, Abraham was “justified” before his circumcision, so again, I’m understanding that matters of faith go deeper than circumcision, works, or other rituals. It comes down to faith. Abraham, it is said, had nothing to boast in the presence of God, but being saved by grace, through faith. Abraham is the spiritual forefather of all believers, an example of obedient faith.
Being a mom, I’ve always struggled with the thought of Abraham being able to obediently follow God to the point of offering his own child. But, I certainly understand the need for our faith to be so submissive to God’s will, that we are able to say (and truly mean), “Okay Lord. I’m offering this situation to You in total faith. May Your Will be done.”
I remember my first real grown-up prayer like that. It was a result of waking up on blood-soaked sheets, cramping in pain. I was three months pregnant. After being admitted in the hospital, the doctor affirmed I was miscarrying. I argued with God. He created me with a super strong maternal nature. I already loved this baby. Why was he taking my first child away? I wanted to be a mom more than anything.
It took one word from a sweet nurse (or maybe she was an angel) to change my argumentative prayers and hopeless wailing into a humble prayer of submission; Hope. The nurse had said, “always have hope.” That was it.
I pondered on that word, then realized that hope meant giving a hopeless situation to God and trusting in the outcome, no matter what the outcome might be. I was scared, sad, and alone in that hospital. I lifted my heart to God and gave the situation to Him completely and wholeheartedly, by some grace. I dedicated the baby to God, placing my unborn, but already loved child in His hands. I prayed, “Whatever the outcome, Lord, I trust that it will be Your will. I trust You completely. Though I will be sad if I miscarry, I will understand that it was Your decision. This baby is Yours Lord.”
Immediately after my Amen, total peace washed over me. The bleeding ceased. I heard my baby’s heartbeat for the first time. The medical staff was shocked. (I never again saw that angelic nurse who seemed more concerned about my emotional and spiritual health than my physical health.)
The outcome of that prayer was fantastic. Jake is a wonderful son and I’m thankful to God for him and for my other two children, Nick and Betsy. I found peace in that moment because I’d submitted this child to God in faith and let go, trusting that only God could help me. God made a decision. It was good. But, I also know the flip-side of the same situation.
A few years after Jake was born, I had a miscarriage. I’d offered a similar prayer and dedicated that baby to the Lord. I also experienced a profound sense of peace with this outcome. I accepted in faith, that this child returned to the Lord. I don’t know why it happened like that. I left it with God. I’ve suffered other great losses and pain in my life, but I trust that God, our Loving Father is always in control. He has given me a profound sense of peace through everything.
Though the rituals (Baptism, Confirmation, etc.) are outward signs of inward grace, making us new creatures in Christ, our complete submissive faith in God in all situations, is what I believe makes us righteousness before God. And of course, doing good “works” would be the natural result of being a Christian, though I don’t believe we are justified by the merits of our own works.
Reading Scripture, (thanks for this challenge Deacon Alfred) helps me understand the promises of Christ, and hold to them through everything.
The last line of this chapter says it all: “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”
So, we are not justified by the merit of our own works, but by faith in Jesus Christ and his righteousness. We have salvation because of Jesus Christ. Through His death and passion, he paid our debt, discharged us from the guilt and punishment of all our sins. Thanks be to God.