Second Sunday in Lent (March 12, 2017)
Romans 4:1-5, 13-17 | New Living Translation (NLT)
4 Abraham was, humanly speaking, the founder of our Jewish nation. What did he discover about being made right with God? 2 If his good deeds had made him acceptable to God, he would have had something to boast about. But that was not God’s way. 3 For the Scriptures tell us, “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.”
4 When people work, their wages are not a gift, but something they have earned. 5 But people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners.
13 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. 14 If God’s promise is only for those who obey the law, then faith is not necessary and the promise is pointless. 15 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!)
16 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. 17 That is what the Scriptures mean when God told him, “I have made you the father of many nations.” This happened because Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing.
This Sunday I am preaching from John 3. Which is the account of Nicodemus coming to Jesus after dark. Nicodemus is curious about this Jesus. My belief is that he wanted to know more about this man. Who was this Jesus? Is he really who he claims to be? I believe that he was a genuine seeker. We find later in John’s gospel that Nicodemus comes to Jesus’ defense. He even helps Joseph of Arimathea bury the body of Jesus after he is crucified. That conversation in John 3 was just the beginning. Jesus tells Nicodemus that he must be born from above (we use the term born again, but the Greek here is fuzzy.) Nicodemus doesn’t understand all of that, but Jesus explains. It seems that while Nicodemus is a religious leader, he doesn’t understand all things spiritual. Toward the end of the conversation we come upon what is probably the best known verse in all the Bible. If you grew up in church, you probably even memorized it.
16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.
This helps set up our New Testament scripture for this week. Paul is making the case that it is our faith that makes us right with God…not our good deeds. After all if our good deeds make us righteous, Paul goes on to say then we have something to boast about. We come upon these words that are also found in Genesis 15:6:
Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.
We are reminded that Jesus is a free gift. That it is through Jesus that we are saved…not of ourselves and the things that we do. Paul tells us that we are counted righteous…not because of our work…but because of our faith in God. It is God who forgives sinners because of their faith – through the blood of Jesus Christ. We are reminded in the John 3:17 passage that Jesus came to save the world.
Abraham is the father of the Hebrew nation. Even so, Paul tells us that Abraham was not made righteous because he obeyed the law (the Law wasn’t even written in stone yet.) But it was because of his right relationship with God through faith. Paul will go on later to say that the whole point of the law is to show that we are helpless on our own to obey the law. It only shows how sinful we really are. In fact he says, that if we could obey the law then God’s promise is pointless, because the only way to avoid breaking the law is to have no law to break.
Here we learn that the promise of eternal life is received by faith…not of ourselves. The promise is a free gift…it is not something that we can earn. How do we receive it? We need to have a faith like Abraham’s.
I love how Paul finishes up this section:
Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing.
God desires to make each one of us new. God wants to redeem us from the empty life. The cross of Jesus has made a way. Jesus is our free gift. God wants us to call upon him. Later on in Romans Paul writes these words:
9 If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.
The gift is available for those who believe. Will you believe? Will you have faith in God? Will you declare that Jesus is Lord? Will you believe that God raised Jesus from the dead? If so, you can be made right with God…you can be reconciled to Him.