The Contemplative New Testament: Romans 4

As a PhD candidate in Christian Origins, I spend a lot of my time in the Bible. What this means is that if you would trust a first year med student to operate on your brain, you will feel comfortable using these for your devotional life.  I have translated the texts with two main angles always in mind:  God’s Kingdom and Christian Spirituality.  I trust you will find these new paraphrases enlightening as you live out God’s counter-intuitive ways on earth as it is in heaven. (Note…this is dense and difficult passage.  Good luck!)

Romans 4.1-25

What therefore can we say using human thinking? Can we discover our father Abraham? For if Abraham considered himself righteous through works, he has pride.  And it is not from God.  For what does the writing say, “and Abraham believed in God and it was calculated as righteousness to him.”

For usually wages are not calculated according to grace but according to what is owed—to the one who works. And to the one who did not work: His faithfulness is calculated into righteousness through being faithful to the One who makes the ungodly righteous.

And David talks precisely about this. He blesses the happiness of the man who God considers righteous without works. “Blessed are those who stop their lawless ways.  And blessed are those whose sins are forgiven.  Blessed is the man whose life the Lord does not calculate as sinful.”

Is the person who leans upon his status as “God’s people” or even the one who leans upon his “not part of God’s people” status therefore somehow happy?

Therefore, how is it that we discover who is “in God’s people” or who is “not in God’s people” or “not in God’s people” but in “not God’s people”? Get it? Is it not by saying that faith was calculated to Abraham as righteousness?

For he received a sign in his flesh which was a seal of the righteousness of faithfulness.  The seal was literally sliced into his “not in God’s people” body part.  And this seal was righteousness for those also who received it and became fathers of God’s people, to those who were not part of God’s people.  But not only this, it also became righteousness to those who behaved, to those who sliced the sign on their “in God’s people part.” It was all because of the faithfulness of our father Abraham.  He is the father of all who are faithful as they move from “not in God’s people” to “in God’s people.”  Still with me?

Now, the agreement made for Abraham (or really to his offspring) was that he would be heir of the world. And this agreement was not through the law but through the righteousness of faithfulness.  For if the role of “heir” was accomplished from the law, then faith has been emptied and the agreement made void.

For the law works wrath and where there is no law there is no transgression.  This is from faithfulness, so that according to grace we verify the promise to all the offspring—the promise is not only by the works of the law but also through the substance of Abraham’s faithfulness.  Remember he is the father of all of us.

Just as it is written: “You have been made a father to many nations.”  It happened before the throne of Him in who you believed. It happened before God who pulls life out of the dead ones.  The God who can call out something from nothing. The God in whom the father of many nations pledged his faith, hope against hope.  The God who blessed him just as it was spoken to him, “just as it will be for your offspring.”

The pledge of faithfulness gets deeper.  And though he was not ill, he thought about his body (already nearly dead, close to a hundred years, it was).  And this isn’t even to mention the nearly dead body of Mother Sarah.

But even that did not cause him to be faithless about God’s promise. But faith welled up in him, as he gave glory to God.  He was filled. He chose this option because the powerful promise was given even to him.

Therefore, this was calculated to him as righteousness.  And it was not written for him only.  It was calculated to him and for us.  God will calculate righteousness to us, to those who are faithful.  And it will happen to us upon the resurrecting of our Lord Jesus from the dead.  He was given over because of our transgressions.  And he was raided for our righteousness.