Summary: A priceless inheritance awaits those who trust in God’s promise
Sixty–seven year old Tomas Martinez was living on the street in Santa Cruz de le Sierra, Bolivia, when he was approached by police officers who had good news for him. His ex-wife (whom he had abandoned years earlier) had died and had left him her fortune of $6 million. However, Martinez thought the police were there to arrest him for his drug and alcohol related issues, and he fled without hearing what they had to say. Local newspapers called him the “new millionaire paradoxically not knowing his fortune”. Martinez has never been located.
This morning we’ll talk about another inheritance – one that is far more valuable and which, unlike Tomas Martinez’ inheritance, is available to everyone. But unfortunately, just like Tomas Martinez, most people end up missing out on that inheritance because they fail to receive it when it is offered to them.
This morning, we’re near the end of a section of Paul’s letter to the churches in Rome that began back in chapter 3, verse 21. In this section of his letter Paul has been primarily addressing his fellow Jews and reminding them that their righteousness before God is not a matter of what they can achieve but rather a result of God’s grace that they receive.
Here in chapter 4, he is using the example of Abraham to prove to the Jews that the things that they were relying on as the basis for their relationship with God were all inadequate. He began by pointing out that it was not anything that Abraham had done, but rather his faith that resulted in God counting His righteousness to Abraham. Then, as we saw last week, he showed that not even a religious ritual like circumcision made Abraham righteous since that didn’t occur until at least 14 years after Abraham had been declared righteous as a result of his faith.
This morning, Paul will address the third way that the Jews considered themselves to be righteous – keeping the law.
So go ahead and turn in your Bibles to Romans chapter 4 and follow along as I read beginning in verse 13:
For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression. That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.
(Romans 4:13-17 ESV)
In this passage, Paul restates the argument that he has been making over and over again in this section from another perspective. He points out that all are going to receive one of two possible spiritual inheritances. On one hand, I can be Abraham’s spiritual offspring and be an “heir of the world” along with him and the rest of his spiritual descendants. That inheritance is priceless. On the other hand, I can choose to be an “adherent of the law” which leads to inheriting wrath. That inheritance is pointless.