Living by faith, living by grace- Saturday, 28th week in ordinary time- Romans 4: 13, 16-18

For the Jew in Rome and throughout the Roman world, one was justified by God if one kept the Jewish law. It is only through the practice of the law that blessings could flow into one’s life. In short, if you kept the law you were saved and blessed and if you did not, you were damned.

Paul does not buy into this argument and he does not do so flippantly. Before his conversion, Paul was an ardent defendant of the Jewish law. He himself had studied under the Gamaliel who was held in great esteem by all Jews. But now Paul realizes the futility of holding on to the view that one is justified through the law.

Paul now acknowledges that the law could not save him; only faith in Jesus did and so he wishes to make his case to the Jews. To make his case, Paul turns to the champion of Jewish faith, Abraham. For the Jews, Abraham was their father in faith and they believed that Abraham was justified because he kept the law; not so says Paul.

Paul looks at the evidence in the Pentateuch. In Genesis 15 it is the faith of Abraham that was counted as uprightness. It is much later in chapter 17 that Abraham was circumcised and that too as a “sign of the covenant”. Paul argues that circumcision has nothing to do with justification. So in simple words Abraham was made righteous because he believed in God’s promise first. Circumcision came later as a sign between Yahweh and Abraham’s family.

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