Monday after the Fifth Sunday after Trinity Sunday
Scripture: Romans 4:1-25 (NKJV)
1 What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” 4 Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. 5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, 6 just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: 7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8 Blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin.” 9 Does this blessedness then come upon the circumcised only, or upon the uncircumcised also? For we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness. 10 How then was it accounted? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised. 11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also, 12 and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised.
13 For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. 14 For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect, 15 because the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression. 16 Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all 17 (as it is written, “I have made you a father of many nations”) in the presence of Him whom he believed—God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did; 18 who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, “So shall your descendants be.”
19 And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. 20 He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, 21 and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. 22 And therefore “it was accounted to him for righteousness.” 23 Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, 24 but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25 who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.
It is clear from Romans 4:3 that neither the circumcision of Abraham’s descendants, nor our Baptism are a work of ours that makes God owe us. Forgiveness is ours just as it was Abraham’s: through trust in the promise our Judge made to forgive us in connection with Abraham’s Descendant, Jesus Christ. Circumcision then, and Baptism now, must be seen as God’s own work, by which He connects us with this promise.
False teachers would make our faith into a work. One sort denies the Third Article of the Creed, saying that they “have decided to follow Jesus,” when we know from Scripture that we “cannot by [our] own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ [our] Lord or come to Him.” Another sort teaches that you have already been forgiven before trusting in Christ—that God no longer imputes sin to any unbeliever—and ridicules the Bible’s teaching of our being declared righteous by grace alone through faith in Christ alone. They say that if you are not already righteous before trust in the promise, you believe that you are making God save you by your ‘good work’ of faith. By teaching this, they show that they do not believe faith to be what the Bible says it is: the gift of God (Eph. 2:8–10) that is given through the message concerning Christ (Rom. 10:17).
Yet, St. Paul does not write that Abraham believed God had already counted him righteous and therefore was counted as righteous, but that Abraham trusted in the promise of Christ who was to come and the work He would do. And through this God-given, promise-created confidence, Abraham was declared righteous.