Sermon – August 8, 2021

Romans 4:9-12 – The Primacy of Faith (mp3)

Circumcision was not a small deal to the Jewish people. It was a religious mark, a physical reminder not only of God’s promise, but of their belonging to God through their father Abraham. Yet, almost offhandedly, Paul sweeps away all concerns about circumcision with 4 small verses here in his letter to the Romans. Why can he do this? He offers a brief, straightforward explanation: Abraham was justified without, so too, then, are we. Other than not becoming Jewish, what does this mean for our lives? What can we learn from Paul’s insistence on faith being not just all we need, but the only thing we can have to be justified before God?

1. Our interpretation
One of the first things that this section of Scripture points out to us is that small details in texts matter. We might think that it is no big deal that Genesis 15 and the promise occur before Genesis 17 and circumcision. But this makes all the difference in the world to Paul. Because Abraham was justified as an uncircumcised man, so also can the Gentiles be made right with God outside of circumcision. The details of the text matter.

2. Our identity
The problem of circumcision in the early church was a big deal, and a real problem that they had to reckon with. In the end, what the church insisted upon was that faith was primal, and the central thing that connected you with God and the church. We must insist upon the same. We cannot insist that outsiders, desiring to be members of Christ by faith, also jump through cultural hurdles that we have erected. No political affiliations, no sports, no musical tastes should define what it means to be a Christian. Our identity is established by faith in Christ alone.

3. Our inheritance
Paul says something interesting about Abraham here. He is the father of many, as was the promise, even of those to whom he looks nothing like a father in the world. He did not beget us in the normal worldly sense. We are not related to him biologically. Yet, it is safe to say, we are Abraham’s children. And we are his children because we walk as he walked. Interestingly, this is much the same way in which the second person of the Trinity, the Son, is indeed a son to the Father. Not by descent, or time, or biology, but by being from the Father, and doing all the Father does. God makes Abraham, our Father, much like God the Father. Just as he will one day make us like God the Son. Our inheritance is nothing less than the growing glory of the Son radiated through us! If we are to be made like him, then by all means, let us start to live like him!