“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. If God’s promise is only for those who obey the law, then faith is not necessary and the promise is pointless. 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!)”
Romans 4:13-15 NLT
Paul now makes a valid point in his thoughts about the Law. He makes the statement that faith is not necessary if it is possible to be completely obedient to the Law. But as soon as a set of rules and regulations appear, then human beings have a tendency to become box-tickers.
Do not murder – tick
Do not steal – tick
Do not commit adultery – tick
Do not covet your neighbours goods – errr – tick?
Love the Lord Your God with all your heart – oh dear.
Honesty compels a response that acknowledges the impossibility of being able to keep the Law. And Paul points out that punishment is the only response to the Lawbreakers.
It is impossible to keep the Law. I always consider the difficulties of laws around speed limits. There is a tendency to resent them, but they are there nonetheless. A 30mph speed limit is difficult to keep to if we drive near that limit. Before we know it we find our speedometer recording 31mph and technically we have then broken the law. The local law enforcers may not detect our lawbreaking, but God sees everything. He knows that we have broken this particular law. A simple and trivial example I know, but one that illustrates the difficulties of keeping the Law, and the need for God’s grace to be poured out and for us human beings to live in faith.
Paul pointed out that perhaps the remedy is to have no Law. Then there is nothing to break. Good point, but lawlessness is not helpful, as we know. Without laws, anarchy will rule our lives with disastrous consequences. In our first verse today, Romans 4:13, Paul wrote about God’s promise to Abraham. He said that this promise depended on “a right relationship with God that comes by faith”. It’s all about our faith. Back in Genesis 15:5-6 we see the scale of Abraham’s faith. “Then the Lord took Abram outside and said to him, “Look up into the sky and count the stars if you can. That’s how many descendants you will have!” And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith”. God made an outrageously extravagant statement to Abraham, who then believed it through faith. And God was pleased with him, considering him righteous. Abraham then orientated his life around God’s promise.
What about us pilgrims today? We too have received a promise from God. For example, John 3:16, “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”. By having faith in Jesus, believing in Him for our salvation, God promises that we will receive the right to spend eternity with Him in return. So like Abraham, we must then orientate our life around God’s promise. Through our faith we will clean up our lives, dealing with sin, avoiding worldly pleasures and so on, demonstrating to ourselves and to others, what it means to have a “right relationship with God”. We pilgrims are Kingdom people living Kingdom lives. There is no other way than to do this with faith.
Dear Father God. It’s all about You and Your grace. You know our frailties and sinful inclinations. But through faith we believe Your message, delivered through Jesus at Calvary. We are so grateful. Amen.