Paul’s letter to the Romans presents the case of our need for Christ in a pretty airtight fashion. He begins of course with identifying himself, as an Apostle set apart by God, and tells us the letter is written to all beloved of God, called to be saints in Rome. It seems this is a letter aimed at humanity as a whole, not simply geared toward Jews or non-Jews exclusively. He tells us rather quickly ungodliness in anyone brings about the same results which is a steady spiral downward away from God’s intended righteousness.
Ultimately Paul, or should I say the Spirit in Paul, sees all of us as having the one and the same trouble and that’s rebellion. “We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). While the Jews were, and I believe still are, God’s special, chosen people He doesn’t treat them any different than the rest of us. To Him we are all in trouble and have absolutely no ability to recover on our own. This of course is why God Himself has to save us, which leads me to my point today. How exactly are we to be made “right”, or “righteous” with God?
If we look in chapter 4 of Romans we will discover Abraham is the Father of our faith, that is to all who believe. The Apostle Paul does a masterful job of explaining the circumstances in which Abraham was accepted by God. He says simply, “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Wow! That’s it? Simply believing is what God is after? Of course this now brings us to question what exactly does “believing” God mean? Well I’ll tell you it is much more than believing He exists. In fact James tells us “the demons also believe, and shudder.”
When we read that Abraham believed God it means Abraham “believed into” God. In other words, Abraham trusted God, he had placed his faith, or trust, in who God was and what He had told him. You see God had promised Abraham he would be the father of many nations even before Abraham had any children. In fact from an earthly point of view Abraham and his wife Sarah, who was barren, couldn’t have children. So you see Abraham was believing something he couldn’t rationalize or figure out apart from faith. Apart from a miracle this simply wasn’t going to happen.
Romans four tells us “In hope against hope Abraham believed, so that he might become a father of many nations according to that which had been spoken…” Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb…” If you think about it this isn’t that different than what we are called to believe is it? I mean Jesus was crucified and buried-He was dead! There was nothing that could be done to bring life into His body outside of a promise God had given which was, “You will not abandon my soul to Hades, nor allow your Holy One to undergo decay” (Psalm 16:10). King David wrote these very words and Peter used them in Acts 2 to reiterate the resurrection of Jesus was prophesied long ago. The promise David had declared in his psalm had come to pass in the resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ.
When all is said and done, whether we are Jewish or Gentile, religious or non-religious, God sees us all in the same position of hopelessness if left to ourselves. The good news is He has provided a solution to our conundrum. Paul, a self-proclaimed Zealot for the traditions and religion of his people, the Jews, came to this conclusion. In his letter to the Philippians he said, “Whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith…”
In another of the Apostle Paul’s letters, 2 Corinthians the first chapter we read another astounding statement. Paul said, “we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead.” Like Abraham and Paul, we have to come to the same conclusion. Apart from God’s promise, which is fulfilled in Christ, we are doomed. Everything depends upon the trustworthiness of God and we simply have to believe Him.