ISSL Reflections May 12 2024 Romans 4:13–25 Post 1

Paul puts a lot before us in this passage and I begin to wonder where might be the best place to start our reflections.

Do we start by a focus on what he says of “law” or what he says of “faith” or maybe with his remarks about Abraham?

Maybe all three?

Here’s a thought, read the passage three times with a focus first on Abraham, then a focus on law, then a focus on faith.

Romans 4:13-25 (NRSVue)

For 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. For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law, neither is there transgression.

For this reason the promise depends on faith, in order that it may rest on grace, so that it may be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (who is the father of all of us, as 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. Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become “the father of many nations,” according to what was said, “So shall your descendants be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), and the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. Therefore “it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” Now the words, “it was reckoned to him,” were written not for his sake alone but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was handed over for our trespasses and was raised for our justification.

Which of the three foci lead you best through this passage? Which opens up the most meaning for you?

I keep going back to the thought, “faith is null and the promise void.”

Null and … void” – What do you think?

Does such a phrase help you see how strongly Paul wants us to pay attention to the contrast between “law” and “faith” and which is at the foundation of Abraham’s behavior?

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

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