Therefore, the apostle concludes, it (that is, salvation) is of faith, that it might be by grace.  I take this to be one of the most important principles of the New Testament.  Far from faith being the one meritorious work which God now requires of men, Paul argues that salvation is designed to be apprehended by faith for the very purpose of confirming that it is entirely by the grace of God.  Faith, to borrow a frequently used analogy, is simply the feeble hand that receives the gift of divine kindness.  There is nothing intrinsically meritorious about it, nor is it God’s “easier” way of salvation as compared to the difficult method of the law.  Salvation by faith itself would be an impossibility, if God were not active in the entire process, because we cannot even come to saving faith except we be drawn of the Father (John 6:44).  When Paul sets faith in contrast to works, he is showing that salvation is gained by nothing except believing in the promises of God as they have been confirmed in Christ, as opposed to striving to perform some act of obedience which will compel God to accept us.

KJV_Romans_4-16

The end in all this, or the fulfillment of God’s purpose, is that the promise might be sure to all the seed.  God promised rich blessings to Abraham and to his seed after him.  Does this restrict it to the Jews?  Far from it!  Paul here emphasizes something he began to touch upon in the second chapter, and will deal with again here in Romans, to say nothing of his other epistles: namely, that the true seed of Abraham are not those of Hebrew lineage, but those who possess the same faith as Abraham.  Understood this way, a man need not be even distantly related to Abraham by blood to be his true descendant; he need only be a believer in the divine promise of salvation, and thus he is accepted as Abraham’s spiritual heir.  As always, God is far more interested in the spiritual realm than the carnal.

Thus, the promise is confirmed to all of Abraham’s spiritual seed, but not through the works of the law.  God gave the law to Abraham’s natural descendants, but if Israel proved anything it was that they were utterly incapable of pleasing God by steadfast obedience to His law.  All too many of them proved to be reprobates, who had not even a glimmering of the faith of their great patriarch.  No, the promise is confirmed only to those who receive righteousness through faith, just as Abraham did.

Advertisements