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  • Think about our father, Abraham, who was not circumcised. How do we reconcile his salvation? If he were justified before God by works, he could never claim he was justified by God. But the scriptures tel us he was justified by faith: Abraham believed God's promises, and his belief was counted by God as righteousness.

    When you work, you receive a payment for your service. This payment is a debt incurred by the one you work for. Abraham worked for God, but God is not in debt to man.

    Yet for those who believe and do not work, God justifies sinners, and their faith is counted as righteousness.

    In the Psalms, David tells us the blessed state of those who believe in God's promises: “Blessed are they whose sins are forgiven; whose transgressions are covered. Blessed is the man who is redeemed by God.”.

    So does this blessing come only to the Jew, or to all mankind? We have already said that Abraham was justified by faith and not by his works. Remember, when all this happened, Abraham was not circumcised.

    He received the sign of circumcision as a way to set us apart so that he could become the Father of us all. Through his righteousness, we are heirs of the promise given to him by God.

    God's promise to Abraham was not for him to be the father of many nations through the law, but through righteousness that led to faith. The law only works to condemn mankind, and if we live only by the law, then faith for us is dead, and God's promise cannot be fulfilled. For without the law, there is no sin.

    But the law is in effect for us, and the law condemns us, for we are all sinners. Therefore it is faith in the grace and mercy of God that redeems us, the same faith of Abraham who believed God's promises so we could all be heirs to that faith.

    His faith in God was justified, as we are the fulfillment of God's promise. God, who can resurrect the dead and reshape the world with a wave of His hand. God, the creator of us all.

    Abraham chose faith over all things, so he could become the father of many nations as God promised. His faith was so great that he believed God's promise when he was more than one hundred years old and his wife, Sarah, was far past child bearing age. He did not doubt God, but gave glory to God and trusted His word. Abraham believed God was able to do what He had promised, and that belief was counted as faith.

    That promise was not written for Abraham alone, but for us, his heirs. And we have only to believe in the resurrection of Jesus, the promised Messiah whom God has raised from the dead, who was delivered to death for our sins and raised from the dead for our salvation.

    Faith, not Religion, is the key

    Here Paul touches on the cornerstone of all Christianity, and in reality, all spirituality. Faith is the key to a relationship with God. No one can earn their way into the next life, be that in Heaven, Nirvana, or whatever place you believe you are going. (Personally, I hope I get permission to explore the universe in my spiritual body for at least a millennium.)

    Remember, Paul is telling the Jews in Rome that the old ways have changed with the coming of the Messiah. For centuries, the Jews were ordered by God to remain separate from the world. Some of that was to keep their bloodlines pure, some of it was to keep them from being ravaged by diseases, and some of that was to keep them on track and away from unclean or corrupted faiths. With the coming of the Messiah, the need for the Jews to remain separate was gone.

    Remember what I said in the last entry, how there are two main factions of Jews at the time of this writing, the ones who are cooperating with the Romans and the Zealots who want the Romans out of Judea. Paul's message is redundant in places because he knew both sides would need more than just his word to come together and unite as a people under the risen Messiah. And he also knew both factions would fight against the idea of a suffering Messiah for their own reasons.

    For the Priests, the coming of the Messiah removed their power over the people and placed them in a precarious position with both the Romans and their flocks. The removal of a priesthood meant these men would no longer have the financial support of the people, nor would they be able to tell them how to behave under Roman rule.

    For the Zealots, who were looking to the Messiah as a conquering warlord who would dominate the world with armies, the message of a benign and merciful Christ opposed their mission to forcibly remove Roman domination and restore their nation under a righteous priesthood.

    Paul knew the Jews who had accepted Jesus as the Christ were still being influenced by those who did not, so he is using this letter as a logical argument from the scriptures to strengthen their resolve and reinforce their faith.

    While Paul's message is directed toward Christians, I think the entire book of Romans is a prime example of why faith is the key in any relationship with God. It points out one fundamental truth several times, once specifically in this chapter. God is not in debt to man.

    God is the creator, the engineer, the wellspring of all goodness that lies in the human heart. Yes, we are responsible for how we live our lives, but if we have faith in a loving and merciful God, we can live lives that are more fruitful and meaningful than we could ever hope to imagine. You doubt what I say?

    Look around you at the examples of people who have changed the world in permanent and significant ways and you will know I am right. Mother Teresa, Billy Graham, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, even the current Pope are people who have surrendered their lives to the service of God, and look what they have accomplished. And they freely admit their lives have been led by the Spirit and not by their own wills.

    Faith, not religion, is the key to a relationship with God.

    I hope you have a blessed day.

    Fred
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