The issue Paul is dealing with here is much more than just theology. It gets to the heart and soul of salvation and of our relationship to God. If one believes that he or she must earn acceptance-that he or she must reach a certain standard of holiness before being justified and forgiven-then how natural to turn inward and to look to oneself and one’s deeds. Religion can become exceedingly self-centered, about the last thing anyone needs.
In contrast, if one grasps the great news that justification is a gift from God, totally unmerited and undeserved, how much easier and more natural is it for that person to turn his or her focus on God’s love and mercy instead of on self?
And in the end, who’s more likely to reflect the love and character of God-the one self-absorbed or the one God-absorbed?
Read Romans 4:6-8. How does Paul expand here on the theme of justification by faith?
“The sinner must come in faith to Christ, take hold of His merits, lay his sins upon the Sin Bearer, and receive His pardon. It was for this cause that Christ came into the world. Thus the righteousness of Christ is imputed to the repenting, believing sinner. He becomes a member of the royal family.” – Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, book 1, p. 215.
Paul then continues, explaining that salvation by faith is not only for the Jews but for the Gentiles, as well (Rom. 4:9-12). In fact, if you want to get technical about it, Abraham wasn’t Jewish; he came from a pagan ancestry (Josh. 24:2). The Gentile-Jewish distinction didn’t exist in his time. When Abraham was justified (Gen. 15:6), he was not even circumcised. Thus, Abraham became the father of both the uncircumcised and the circumcised, as well as a great example for Paul to use in order to make his point about the universality of salvation. Christ’s death was for everyone, regardless of race or nationality (Heb. 2:9).
|Considering the universality of the Cross, considering what the Cross tells us about the worth of every human being, why is racial or ethnic or national prejudice such a horrible thing? How can we learn to recognize the existence of prejudice in ourselves and, through God’s grace, purge it from our minds?|