Summary: While our rituals and ceremonies testify of our faith, they are not the source of our faith.
Grace And Rituals
I. Abraham’s Faith (vv. 1-3)
A. Paul’s continual discussion that salvation is by neither works nor heritage or through the Law.
1. It may appear Paul belabors this point, but establishing a proper foundation for how salvation is attained is just as necessary today as it was in his time. Basing salvation on an erroneous premise has temporal and more importantly eternal consequences.
2. Consider the building of a ship. It is important to do it right or when it gets in the ocean someone is going to have problems.
3. The Jewish people were proud to be called children of Abraham.
4. Paul refers to him as the founder of the Jewish nation. (v. 1)
5. Abraham is called a Hebrew in Scripture. (Genesis 14:13) The term Hebrew is derived from Shem’s (one of Noah’s sons) descendant Eber.
6. Abraham is also a Jew, a name derived from one of Jacob’s (Israel) sons, Judah.
7. Paul will appeal to the example of Abraham-one they held in such high regard, to prove faith has always been the way to approach a holy God.
8. Abraham lived before the Law was given to Moses, but Paul is not appealing to Abraham to show disregard for the Law or to propose it was not important but simply to show that obedience to it did not lead to salvation.
9. Paul proposes the question as to whether Abraham was saved because of his good deeds. (v. 2)
10. Among the many good deeds that Abraham performed, his initial one was leaving his homeland and going in the direction God told him to move-toward the Promised Land.
11. But later Abraham also obeyed when God instructed him to sacrifice the son through whom his promised descendants would come. The commentary in Hebrews says he believed God had the power to raise Isaac from the dead to procure these descendents. (Hebrews 11:17-19)
12. Did God accept Abraham because he did this, or did this have anything to do with his salvation at all?
13. God accepted Abraham because of his belief which is the very thing that led him to leave his homeland not knowing where he was going and to be willing to sacrifice his promised son.
14. He trusted God unreservedly, and this was counted unto him as righteousness.
15. Jewish tradition taught Abraham was chosen for his unique role in history because he was the only righteous person alive at the time.
16. But simply being the descendent of this godly man was not enough to gain acceptance from God and this is one of the main points Paul is trying to impress upon his Jewish listeners.
17. The fiery wilderness preacher, John the Baptist, promoted this same idea when he told those coming to him for baptism not to trust in their descent from Abraham for acceptance with God. (Luke 3:7-9)
18. Jesus also in speaking to those who trusted in this heritage reminded his pious listeners that if they were true children of Abraham they would do as Abraham did. (John 8:39)
19. As Paul teaches, being a child of Abraham involves much more than just physical lineage.
20. Since Abraham was not made right with God by his works, he has no reason to boast, nor does anyone else.
21. It is all because of God’s grace, and the resulting honor and glory are attributed to him.
22. When Abraham believed God, God declared him righteous. (v. 3)
23. The Greek word for declared-that is variously translated, is logizomai (la ge’ zo my) and means to reckon, count, compute or calculate.
24. The focal point in salvation history is the cross, and whether one was saved before or after that event, the salvation is based on what took place there.
25. Christ took our sins upon himself; he paid our sin debt.
26. When we accept that payment for our life through repentance and belief, like with Abraham, God reckons it to us as righteousness.
27. We are not actually made righteous, but we are reckoned as such because Christ’s righteousness is applied to our life.
28. Our account is not credited with good deeds, but once we stop trying to be good and let Christ make us good, then righteousness is credited to our account.
29. We have no power to live the Christian life unless we allow Christ to live it through us.
B. The worker and his wages (v. 4-5).
1. All of us who have been paid for our work do not consider the wages a gift.
2. Rather, we consider pay our due for the hours of time we have put in that have allowed our employer to make a profit and continue running his business.
3. If God gave us salvation based on good works, it would no longer be a gift but simply what he owed us.