Bible Book: Romans / Romeine
Chapter: 4
Verse: 1
Verse (to): 17


Romans 4:1-17

To understand Paul’s line of reasoning in the first verses of Chapter 4 we need to take note of 3:27-28: “Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.” (NIV).
The good news that we are justified by faith in Christ and not by doing good deeds according to the law means that all grounds for boasting about our position of being justified are annulled. To show that this principle is imbedded in the Old Testament Paul asserts in verse 2 (of chapter 4) that Abraham does in fact not have anything to boast about. To prove his point Paul quotes Genesis 15:6 and then explains that Abraham had been justified by faith.
Some of the first readers of this letter might have been Jewish Christians for whom the essential truth about themselves may have been that they were true Hebrews. For a true Hebrew to be a descendant of Abraham, to have the law and to live according to the law, were indeed valid reasons to boast about and to be confident in (cf Phil 3:5). I can imagine that for them this passage must have been difficult to understand. It might even have caused serious disagreement with Paul.
I can sympathise with those first Jewish Christians. They were brought up to think in that way, so it would have been difficult to understand that justification by faith in Christ was by faith alone –  not by works (cf 4:1-8),  not by rites (cf 4:9-12) and not by law (cf 4:13-15).
That the first Jewish Christians struggled with this truth is understandable. What is more difficult to understand is why we are still struggling with these principles 2 000 years later? We are still inclined to boast about ourselves. It is so easy to deem someone else who appears to have sinned (broken the law according to your understanding) as less than yourself.
Do you think that I am exaggerating?  Why then are there so many Christians who find it difficult to identify with people who are living with HIV?
To think about (or discuss):  Is it not dangerous to emphasise faith while there are other things that are also valuable? Read Philippians 3:5-11.
Author: N du Toit (Ds)
Language: English