Friday, March 02, 2007

Romans 4

Romans 3 ends w/ a rhetorical question - does the reality (or prominence of faith) thereby overthrow the law? "By no means!" says Paul (interesting to note that this phrase occurs some 11 times in Romans - 3:4, 3:6, 3:31, 6:2, 6:15, 7:7, 7:13, 9:14, 11:1, and 11:11 - each time as Paul anticipates potential objections).

Faith does not obviate the law - it upholds it (3:31). What's interesting is that Rom 4 doesn't follow that line of argument, eg. trying to explain or illustrate HOW faith upholds the law - instead, it simply asserts that reality (for now) and skips forward to a different question - was our great forefather Abraham justified by faith or by works? (4:1-2).

Of course the classic passage for this is Gen 15:6 (3:3) - "Abraham believed God and he credited it to him as righteousness". What's interesting here, however, is that P also connects this same faith principle to David, is Psalm 32 (3:7-8). This psalm is interesting, not only because it talks about forgiveness, but because this forgiveness comes simply through heartfelt repentance (and thus through faith) - there's no "work" to earn God's favor, not even sacrifice.

The key point for P's larger argument here (that BOTH Jews and Gentiles are justified by faith) is that this blessing to Abraham on the basis of his faith comes BEFORE he has been given the "work" of circumcision (the key mark that distringuished Jews from Gentiles) (10).

Interesting that circumcision has both a "sign" function (illustrating something), as well as a "seal" function (guaranteeing something). Won't explore either of those in detail right now. Also interesting to note that the "purpose" of sign following faith here is to make him the father of all who believe, w/ or w/out circumcision (11).

vs 14 - interesting how this verse - "if it is the adherants of the law who are to be heirs, faith is null and promise is void" - seems to juxtapose strongly w/ what we saw back in 2:6 - "he will render to each according to his works"

vs 16 - "that is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring" - there can be no guarantee (no promise) unless it can be ensured for offspring - but if it depends on their works, its really a possibility at best, not a promise - this statement wouldn't seem to be possible if Paul actually was an Arminian (or Open Theist) - and grace wouldn't really be grace

vs 17 - the whole point of Abraham receiving the promise of an heir, is that at the age when he believed it he was functionally dead - so he is incapable of "responding" or "doing his part" - he's too old. That's precisely the point of course - only God can fulfill the promise, because he is the one "who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist" - faith is simply the conviction that God will do what he has promised (21).

vs 23 - this was all written, not just for his sake, but for ours - we're supposed to look at Abraham and draw conclusions about our own situation

vs 25 - passive and active obedience of Christ - he was given up for our trespasses, he was raised for our justification - seems hard to suppose that his death was simply exemplary (let alone accidental). Paul seems to see something much more concrete and significant in both his death -AND- his rez - not only does he HAVE to die, but he also HAS to be raised. I think "justification" here is much more than just "our legal standing, entry into salvation" - it's synecdotal for everything we have in Christ (our sanctification, our worship, everything).

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