The earliest Christians followed a Jewish tradition of pausing to pray, preferably together, first thing in the morning, about mid morning, at noon, about mid afternoon, and in the evening. “Just a Note” posts are brief observations made from Scripture readings not related to a lectionary. If I have one to post, it normally appears about 9:00 in the morning, at “the hour of prayer.”
At the beginning of Romans 4 Paul turns to Abraham as an example of righteousness. His claim is very bold. If Abraham earned God’s approval he should boast. None of the rest of us can boast. We are imperfect. Did Abraham win God’s favor by his good works? Not at all. The Scripture says that Abraham believed God and it was considered righteousness. Abraham didn’t receive God’s favor as payment for his good service. Abraham was given God’s favor as a gift.
The situation is very similar to one of amnesty. In granting amnesty, the judge or governmental organization grants that there was crime. There was a situation which could require punishment. However, the crime will be formally forgotten. It isn’t a declaration of “not guilty.” It is, rather, a declaration that the guilt will not be pursued.
This is what God granted Abraham as Abraham believed. He didn’t account Abraham’s sin against him, but rather chose to consider him as righteous.
Paul contends that this is the same situation which the Christian finds himself in. We are declared righteous not because of our holiness but because God has chosen not to hold our sins against us. It is a completely different picture than that of someone whose good works earn God’s favor.
The unmerited favor of God is the great gift received by the Christian. Paul will go on to describe it in more detail. In the meantime, may we consider our guilt in light of God’s holiness so as to better grasp the enormity of God’s justification.
If this brief meditation was helpful to you, I hope you will check out the other materials on our website at www.WittenbergCoMo.com and consider supporting us.