Romans 4:1–5, 13–17 (NRSV)
Chapter 4What then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh? Verse 2For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. Verse 3For what does the scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness." Verse 4Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. Verse 5But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness. Verse 13For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. Verse 14If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. Verse 15For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation. Verse 16For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us,
Verse 17as it is written, "I have made you the father of many nations") -in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.
In the 16th century Reformation, salvation by grace through faith was revealed anew through Paul’s letter to “God’s beloved in Rome,” liberating believers from bondage to the medieval church’s penitential systems. In the 1st century, the Apostle Paul was contending for the full inclusion of all who trust God’s promise, including, but reaching beyond, those who observed Jewish rituals of circumcision and dietary practices. We mortals are forever tempted to point to markers of our “righteousness,” proofs of our good standing before God and the world: long life, financial wealth, high-performing families, public recognition, etc., the stuff of well-crafted obituaries. “There’s no righteousness like self-righteousness,” sad and exhausting as it is.
Living in Christ Jesus is liberation. Beloved of God, you don’t need to prove you are worthy. You are free to join God’s care for the neighbor and the world, “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). Live in joy, loving those God sends to you, today!
Fill my life with your love, Lord Jesus, to trust I am beloved of God without proving myself and to share this gracious love with everyone I meet today in God’s world. Amen.