Romans 4:1-8 Justification by Faith
Paul has previously affirmed in Romans that his Gospel is taught by the Law and the Prophets (3:21). He then asserted that his teaching on faith establishes the Law (3:31). Now he personifies this teaching by using Abraham as his supreme model and a glance at David. Abraham is in the books of the Law, but chronologically came before the Law. David is also referred to in vv6-8, and now the three divisions of the Hebrew Bible have been represented: the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings. Thus Paul is demonstrating that the entire Old Testament, the “Scriptures,” teaches that righteousness is accounted by faith and not by works.
Why reference Abraham at this point in the flow of the argument?
1. The Jews considered Abraham to be the founder of the race and the representation of everything that a godly man should be.
2. Despite Jews thinking that this Gospel contradicted everything they knew, it is actually as old as the Jewish faith. This is the basis of Jewish religion.
3. The teaching on faith is now personified in a major religious figure.
4. Paul has sought to explain that righteousness comes apart from Law and works. There is no better way to prove that point than by Abraham who was accepted by God some 430 years before Law.
Abraham, the father of Judaism, was not accepted by God because of the works he had accomplished. He had nothing to boast of before God. And that verse supports my definition of works as “anything that one would place before God in order to be accepted by Him.” There is no human on this earth or in history that can boast before God, not even Abraham. Abraham found that his believing God was accounted to him for righteousness (Genesis 15:6).
If we truly worked to “earn” right standing before God, then God would owe us something. But when there is nothing we can do before God, and He justifies us anyway, then it is called grace. The Christian life is created and continued by grace. We deserve nothing but death, yet God in Christ has called us, justified us, adopted us, is sanctifying us, and will glorify us.
Abraham found these things to be true and so did David. David understood that righteousness was attainable through repentance and faith (of course if you are repentant then you must believe). David believed that when he confessed his transgressions to the Lord he was forgiven (Psalm 32).