All Jews and All Gentiles Can be Saved by Faith Alone
“Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.” (Romans 4:9-12 ESV)
Here is the power of Paul’s argument. He merely points out that Abraham was declared righteous before he was circumcised. There’s no way to get through Romans without getting over the awkwardness of talking about circumcision. There. I acknowledged it. I won’t again and hope we can see circumcision maturely and theologically. For the Jews this had become more than a sign of the covenant. It was a sign of God’s favor and blessing; dare I say a guarantee of eternal forgiveness and life. Similarly, the lack of circumcision was seen essentially as a sign of divine disfavor. So, all the Gentiles were under God’s wrath. They were uncircumcised.
What does Paul do? He points out the obvious. God reckoned Abraham righteous while he was uncircumcised. At least 14 years before, maybe 29 by some opinions. For up to three decades, the not-yet-circumcised Abraham lived declared righteous. Here is the skeleton in the Jewish closet: Abraham was saved without the sign!
Talk about awkward. The Jews in Rome read this and realized what Paul was saying. If the uncircumcised Abraham could be saved by faith, then the uncircumcised Roman, Corinthian, Spaniard, Indian, and anyone else could be too!
Paul goes so far to say that Grandpa Abraham isn’t merely Grandpa to Jews by DNA, he is Grandpa by spiritual DNA to anyone who is saved by faith in Jesus alone.
This is why “Father Abraham had many sons/Many sons had Father Abraham/ I am one of them, and so are you/So let’s all praise the Lord!/ Right arm!/ Father Abraham…” Indeed, let’s praise the Lord that in God’s purpose, even saving Abraham communicated that his love and mercy are wide enough to include every tribe, tongue, language, and people! “Red and yellow, black and white, they’re all precious in his sight.”
All that he is saying is summarized in verse 5. “And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.” (Romans 4:5) This is possibly the clearest statement in the whole Bible of where a sinner’s trust must be placed in order to be saved.
“To the one who does not work.” He is not talking about vocation or employment. He certainly isn’t advocating laziness. No. “Work” here is any doing on our part that we are trusting in as a basis or condition for God declaring us righteous. To the one who does not look to their apparently good and righteous doings. To the one who does not trust in their charity or church going, to their prayers or piety, to their positions or politics, to their duties or doings. Why? Because despite all those things we are still sinners who fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). We might as well reach up and touch the stars as think that we can work our way to heaven. No. God’s righteousness is far beyond our reach.
Rather than trusting in my doings, what must I do? “But believe in him who justifies the ungodly.” That’s an amazing statement. “Justifies the ungodly.” This is God. He justifies the ungodly. Not the clean-up-their-life people or believing-in-Jesus people. God saves us in our sins and in our unrighteousness. He does not turn to us because we turn to him. No, we turn to him because he turns to us. He justifies the ungodly.
But see the result, “his faith is counted as righteousness.” Where have I heard that before? It’s the same thing that happened to Abraham. Abraham believed God’s promise and God declared him righteous. For us, we don’t look at the stars and wonder if God can and will fulfill his promise. We don’t look at the stars, we look at the cross and place all our hope for ever being declared righteous in what Jesus did for us. God declares us righteous and we are righteous in his presence forever, time without end.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
© 2018 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.
 “Father Abraham,” Author & Date Unknown.
 “Jesus Loves the Little Children,” Written by: Donna J. Krieger, George F. Root. Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., Music Services, Inc.
To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here