Romans Bible Study #13
Solo Christo= Christ Alone
9Is this blessing then on the circumcised, or on the uncircumcised also? For we say, "FAITH WAS CREDITED TO ABRAHAM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS." Gen.15:6
10How then was it credited? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised;
11and he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised, so that he might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised, that righteousness might be credited to them,
12and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham which he had while uncircumcised.
Verse 9 and 10 The blessing pronounced on Abraham was many years before offering Isaac on the altar, in fact, Isaac wasn’t even born yet! The blessing of Chapter 15 of Genesis was also many years before the institution of circumcision in chapter 17. In fact, Ishmael was given the sign of circumcision also. He is not however included in the people of God, so he was a child of Abraham, but not in the line of the promise. He was a child of the bondwoman, not the free. Later on even though he has circumcision, he is sent out and not an heir like, Isaac. (Galatians 4:21-31)
So the inadequacy, of circumcision was being shown even then. It is not enough. It points to a truth, but it is not the truth.
The righteousness that is by faith is the true beginning of the positive relationship between God and man. Abraham at this point is pagan, uncircumcised and has done no ‘works’ to earn anything. God is the one who brings everything positive to this relationship, all we bring is death, and the acknowledgment of what we cannot do. All religions that have “a way” to God involving works are a lie, and would show themselves to be a lie by anyone who would honestly and truly attempt to “live” by them. Our inability to make ourselves “right with God” is not only understood and accepted in Christianity, it is almost “celebrated” as a truth that leaves us swimming in the ocean of God’s grace. Paul continues to “drain the pool” of any thought that we have some ‘part’ in salvation.
The ‘reckoning’ or ‘credited’ of righteousness is effected, in Abraham, by God, before circumcision. Paul trashes boasting by humans, he speaks of righteousness as a blessing, a gift.
Verse 11 “Sign” and “seal” are the two important words in this verse. Circumcision is not the foundation, it is a ‘sign’ pointing to what God had already done. It is a confirmation of what has taken place in the spiritual world out here in the concrete world. It is ‘religion’ and it is NOT essential. Our ‘works,’ our struggles to obey and live this life, are not the foundation, they are a sign that God has already done an amazing work of new birth in us.
Our obedience is not the foundation of our Christian life, otherwise we are completely rocked and lost every time we disobey. That is not the Christian life, our foundation is the faith that God has imparted and the fact that in our hearts a work has been done by God, that hates the sin, that wants to turn from it. His life has been imparted to us by faith. True religion is a set of steps that leads out of a dark hole and ends in fresh air and light. The mistake that is made is to “add to it” and ‘make it exclusive’ by erecting a building around the steps and saying that the building was the goal. The mistake that is made is “they loved their religion more than the God of their religion,” which is how the “hope” movie, described what happened to the Jewish religion, by the time that Jesus arrived on the scene. Faith is not exclusive, all can believe in God by faith. Circumcision which was meant to be a ‘sign’, gets twisted to become a ‘basis’ of being right with God.
There is a verse in a hymn that brings out this truth.
“He breaks the power of cancelled sin.”
The truth of the Christian life is that we are ‘walking out’ what God has done for us. He cancelled the sin, by faith. His life in us works to ‘break the power of sin’ over us, over time, thru many failures and stumbles and falls, each of which humbles us and reminds us of the source of our power.
Legalism is a bondage that says “I will break the power of this sin over me.”
Religions right place in all this is ‘between’ the amazing beginning of faith, God’s work done in us, it is a sign that that work has taken place, and it looks toward the end of faith, God’s final work of transformation, this mortal putting on immortality.
Verse 12 So Abraham is right with God, by faith, and those Jews who are circumcised have nothing unless they also have become right with God, by faith, like Abraham. And those who are uncircumcised can still rejoice and be right with God, totally outside of that because the foundation is “sola fide”, by faith alone!
Continuing our review of the 5 “Sola”s of the Reformation
Solo Christo! By Christ's Work Alone are We Saved
The Reformation called the church back to faith in Christ as the sole mediator between God and man. While the Roman church held that "there is a purgatory and that the souls there detained are helped by the intercessions of the faithful" and that "Saints are to be venerated and invoked;" "that their relics are to be venerated" -- the reformers taught that salvation was by Christ's work alone. As John Calvin said in the Institutes of the Christian Religion, "Christ stepped in, took the punishment upon himself and bore the judgment due to sinners. With his own blood he expiated the sins which made them enemies of God and thereby satisfied him...we look to Christ alone for divine favour and fatherly love!" Likewise the Heidelberg Catechism, Question 30 asks, "Do such then believe in Jesus the only Saviour who seek their salvation and happiness in saints, in themselves, or anywhere else? They do not; for though they boast of him in words yet in deeds they deny Jesus the only deliverer and Saviour: for one of these two things must be true that either Jesus is not a complete Saviour or that they who by a true faith receive this Saviour must find all things in him necessary to their salvation."
An added word about the baptism of infants.
This is an add on because the Presbyterian church and ‘Reformed’ churches take Romans 4:11 and other verses to support the baptism of infants. They say since circumcision is a sign and baptism is a sign and circumcision was given to male
babies at 8 days old, baptism could be administered to the ‘seed’ of the children of the new covenant. The argument falls apart when we acknowledge that the new covenant is not a relationship between God and a specific physical group of people. We are brought into the family, by faith, and an infant cannot, understand and express faith.