Getting back to the basics is stressing fundamental principles. You will hear a coach speak of getting back to the basics or a business leader. It is important because all we do build on fundamental principles. As believers, it is crucial to regularly get back to the basics of our faith to avoid drifting spiritually from the fundamental truths of biblical or orthodox Christianity. Paul lays out the basics of the faith in his letter to the Romans. Starting in Romans 3:27 through chapter four, he speaks of justification by faith and uses Abraham as an example of this blessed gift of God.
Justification speaks of the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. It is a mighty act of God by which He declares sinful people not guilty but righteous instead. God does this by accounting the righteousness of Christ upon the believer. This acquittal and remarkable exchange of the price for our sins (death) for righteousness occurs to all who receive it by believing in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and believing that what He has done is sufficient to make us right with God.
We discover in Romans 3:27-31 some implications of justification by faith. For instance, the believer can’t boast in their own part of salvation since they are saved by faith in Christ’s finished work. The believer is not justified by doing works, but through our Lord’s salvific work (v.27). The believer is not justified because they have fulfilled what the law requires (vv. 28-30). However, justification by faith does fulfill the law through Christ and by pointing to Him and showing how His Spirit is working in our lives, making us more and more like Jesus (v.31). We boast in Christ, not in ourselves.
Paul then uses Abraham as an example of saving faith (justification by faith). Abraham is the father of God’s people. Paul will establish that we can expect to find salvation and be justified by God the same way as Abraham.
Paul explains in Romans 4:1-5 that Abraham was not declared righteous on account of good behavior. If we could come to God on any other basis other than faith, it would mean that God owed us something. All God owes us is the wages of sin, which is death. It is through Christ we receive the gift of life. To stress this point further, Paul in Romans 4:6-8 shows that like Abraham, David (psalmist, one of the kings of Israel, and known as a man after God’s heart) enjoyed forgiveness by faith, not works. Faith is the instrument that allows the ledger sheet (wage of sin is death, but the gift of God through Christ is life) to be reconciled.
Some Jews fell into the trap of believing because they were circumcised, they were right with God. Circumcision occurs as part of the religious ceremony for a Jew. It signified the covenant relationship between God and Abraham. In Romans 4:9-12, Paul describes how Abraham was not declared righteous on account of religious ceremony. In fact, Abraham was declared righteous by faith before ever being circumcised. For the churchgoer, today, communion, baptism, church membership can be seen as somehow bringing salvation. These are religious acts that have meaning, but not the power to save. No ceremony or ritual can administer salvation to us. Only Christ offers salvation to those who place their faith in Him.
Some Jewish teachers taught that Abraham was perfect. They apparently had not read the accounts of Abraham’s life in Genesis. He was a man of faith, but certainly not perfect. So, Paul in Romans 4:13-16 shows how Abraham was not declared righteous by keeping rules. In fact, Abraham is declared righteous before the law had even been given. The law given to Moses was not given until some 500 years later. Abraham was justified by faith, plain and simple. This is a model for all of us of saving faith. Paul strongly emphasizes in Romans 4:17-22 that Abraham was a man of faith, and that made all the difference. Justifying faith is a faith that looks at the problem and believes upon God as the solution. Our faith in God releases His righteousness in our life.
Paul concludes in Romans 4:23-25: “But the words ‘it was counted to him’ (speaking of righteousness) were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” Jesus was crucified for our sins and resurrected for our salvation. This is a fantastic reality. I stress the term reality. It is real. It is authentic. We place our faith in a real God and actual work done by Jesus Christ. Like Abraham, we can be justified (saved) by believing God is real and that He sent Jesus Christ to die for our sins, and Jesus was resurrected that all who receive Him in faith will be saved. I hope you have placed your faith in Christ and are saved (in a right relationship with God). If not, consider doing so right now. If you have, celebrate this gift of our Lord and share the good news with others. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!