“Wrestling With Romans”
Freedom Road (Chapter 4 Verses 1-25)
The circumstances through which this condition of spiritual happiness is caused has nothing to do with religious rites, whether circumcision, baptism, or communions (vv9-10). The act of Abraham’s being circumcised took place after he believed, after he was made righteous, the rite was merely a sign that he had been justified by God (v11a). So circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing (1Corinthians 7.19), it is faith that matters. So Abraham was not, as the Jews wrongly thought, the father of the circumcised, but of believers (v11b). They boasted about being Abraham’s children (John 8.31-41), but Jesus makes it clear, telling them if they were the children of Abraham they would have done what Abraham did, believed (v12. They did not. Bringing this forward, it is exactly the same regarding baptism, whatever our views might be on that issue, it is not baptism that saves, that justifies, it is faith in Jesus Christ, and that alone.
The promise that Abraham would be a blessing to the world (Genesis 15.1-6), that from him would stem the family of faith, it is clearly stated here that it was promise (vv13-15), not law (Galatians 3.18; 4.30). All Abraham had to do was believe that promise, trust, rest in it, God would make it made good. Well, that is what happened, and he was credited by God with righteousness because of it (Genesis 15.6). Abraham was chosen by pure gospel grace, just as all believers are today (Ephesians 1.11), and become, along with Abraham, inheritors of salvation (Ephesians 1.13-14). Now if you want to go down the law route, that is, working yourself right with God, well then you negate this promise, you cancel the grace promise, and you have much work to do. Even after having done it, you will still not be right with God (Galatians 2.16). You stay under the law and you stay under the wrath of God (v15a). Of course if there is no law, there cannot be any sin (v15b), but where in all the world do you go to find a place where there is no law. We have already been told that even the heathen have the law written upon their hearts (Romans 2.14-16). Yes, there is law, and so there is sin (Romans 3.23), everywhere, in everyone, hostility to God stalks the face of the earth. The final whistle is blown on those who would justify themselves by keeping the law of God, the game is over. No, it’s trusting the gospel promise, faith in Christ Jesus, that is freedom, and that is the way to stay free (Galatians 3.1-3).
(© James R Hamilton, written September, 1997)