[forthright] Recovering Paul's Message in Romans 4

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From: Forthright Magazine <forthrightmag@...>
Date: Wed, 28 Oct 2009 08:12:41 -0700 (PDT)
Forthright Magazine
http://www.forthright.net
Straight to the Cross

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COLUMN: HANDS-ON FAITH

Recovering Paul's Message in Romans 4
 by Barry Newton

The layers of grime plastered over Romans 4 are so
thick that the message which is often heard does not
originate with the apostle Paul. Minds have been
trained not to hear the apostolic voice.

To grant Paul the opportunity of a fair hearing might
require the drastic measure of a really corny joke.

"Commander, we need to use a surprise attack. I
remember that in 1941 the Japanese launched a surprise
attack on Pearl Harbor which succeeded in decimating
the American navy because they were caught unprepared."

"What? Have you not noticed that we are infantry? I do
not have any planes."

Was the military subordinate suggesting to his
commander that airplanes were needed for a surprise
attack? Of course not. He was arguing for a surprise
attack, not for the specific means of attacking the
enemy.

How people handle Romans 4 would be equally laughable,
if it were not so lamentable.

As Paul trotted out the example of Abraham believing
God's promise and being counted as righteous, Paul
proved the principle that justification is by faith and
not upon fulfilling the works of the Law.

Any response of faith while Abraham was uncircumcised,
whether it entailed just believing or required action,
would have sufficed to prove his point against the
advocates of the Law.

Why is this so? Because for Paul, works involved more
than merely doing something. When Paul denounced works
he revealed the futility of trying to show oneself
righteous by fulfilling the Law and thus earning
justification.

Just as the military subordinate was not arguing that
his commander should execute a surprise attack by using
planes, neither was Paul arguing that we succeed in
trusting in Jesus by only believing.

For Paul, when a person is immersed, he or she has
begun to rely upon Jesus for salvation. Obeying the
call to trust upon Jesus by being baptized involves
obeying from your heart the form of teaching which
causes a person to be set free from their sins and to
begin to serve righteousness (Romans 6:17,18).

Accordingly, Paul sought to lead people to the
obedience of faith (Romans 1:5).

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