Was Abraham still in a state of damnation when he…
Was Abraham still in a state of damnation when he believed God and was declared righteous even though he hadn’t been circumcised?
***Rom. 4:1-5, “What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? 2For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3For what does the Scripture say? “ Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. 5But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.”***
Paul continues his conversation with his Jewish questioner by mentioning Abraham, the great founder of the Jewish nation. Paul wants to make it clear that Abraham is forefather to all believers, whether Jews or Gentiles.
According to Jewish tradition, Abraham had been chosen by God for his unique role in history because he was the only righteous man alive at the time. Abraham was the epitome of what it meant to be a Jew, and he was the first Jew, the father of all Jews. John the Baptist had warned that being descendants of Abraham did not settle matters with God (see Luke 3:7-9). Jesus had anticipated the broader application of Abraham’s faith (John 8:39). Clearly there was more to being a child of Abraham than simply being able to trace one’s genealogy back to him. Abraham, too, had experienced being saved by faith.
If Abraham was accepted by God because of his good deeds, then he would have had something to boast about. This was the traditional rationale for religious pride that Paul expects from his Jewish questioner. Many Jews saw Abraham as being made right by God because of his obedience, especially to God’s command to sacrifice Isaac. They believed that he had every reason to boast in his relationship with God. As Abraham’s descendants, they believed that they also had reasons for pride. But Paul knocks down that argument by saying that from God’s point of view Abraham had no basis at all for pride. To underscore his point, Paul quotes directly from Genesis 15:6, “Abraham believed God, so God declared him to be righteous.” Abraham’s works or obedience were not credited as righteousness, but his faith was.
Paul illustrates the difference between faith and work by describing the process of employment. An employer does not call an employee’s wages a gift; instead, the workers earn what they receive. The employer is obligated to pay for work that has been completed. The wages are the agreed-upon amount, not a gift. If a person could earn right standing with God by his or her works (doing good, obeying the law), salvation wouldn’t be free; it would be God’s obligation, like payment for our efforts.
In contrast to the wage earner are the sinners (the ungodly) who trust in God. These people do not work—in other words, they have come to God because of faith and have not performed any rituals or followed any laws. Yet these people are declared righteous because of their faith, not because of their work. How could God do this? This verse means that if a person could earn right standing with God by being good, the granting of that gift wouldn’t be a free act; it would be an obligation. Our self-reliance is futile; all we can do is cast ourselves on God’s mercy and grace.