Exploring Romans 4

Promises don’t mean much in our contemporary culture. When we bring home a new appliance boasting the latest technology and most trendy styles, there is an implied promise. It promises to do the job it’s designed to do. It promises to do it better than any other product on the market. And it promises to make our life easier, happier, and freer than it’s ever been before.

When the appliance fails, sometimes only months later, all promises are off. We’re told we should have purchased the extended warranty – the fault is our own; we should have worked to ensure our easy, happy and free existence with the product would endure. The promise was merely wishful thinking on our part.

The same seems to go for most other realms in life: in education, career, marriage, parenting, health and especially our lifespan, there are no promises anymore. Or, at least, we have learned that the promises weren’t really meant to be kept. Our world is changing too fast to be hampered by mere promises.

The one exception to the rule is found here in the fourth chapter of the New Testament letter Romans. In it, we are reminded of a millennia-old promise made by God to us. To who? While it was voiced early on in the history of mankind to an ancient, later named Abraham, there was, even then in the promise, a clause that included us. It said, “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” What this meant, the Apostle Paul tells us in Romans, is that because of Abraham’s unconventional response of faith toward God, he would be considered the father of all who would also have faith in God.

“It was not through law,” explains Paul, “that Abraham and his offspring received the promise…but through the righteousness that comes by faith.” And later, “Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed…”

Let’s stop and rest here for a moment. This is heady news. God, the only being truly capable of making and fully keeping a promise of eternal value, has made you and me a promise. He has promised His blessing. The blessing of an all-good, all-loving and all-powerful God is not fairy dust and wishful thinking; it is the most solid, robust and meaningful element available to any creature in this world.

The great irony, or so it seems to me, is that it comes by faith. We are asked to simply believe it and entrust ourselves to the hope it will ultimately embody. But there is more. There is a guarantee. Unlike the new front-loading washing machine that self-destructs after only one year of service and is not worth repairing, God guarantees that our simple faith in His promise of blessing will never be disappointed. Faith is the full cost we bear in the transaction. The extended warranty is His responsibility alone.

“Having believed,” explains Paul in the letter Ephesians, “you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory.”

It’s good to think that through again, or maybe for the first time. God offers blessed relationship with Him; God provides the means for it to happen through Jesus’ redeeming work on the cross; and God guarantees our inheritance will be delivered by imparting His own Spirit to live within us. He is fully invested in His promise becoming reality for us. And again, what is our part? Our part is simply and only faith. Yes, it will be life-changing faith if it’s authentic. Our lives will be the expression of our relationship with God, not our means of purchasing it. That’s what happens when God makes a promise, and we accept it.

(Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons; Ambitibo)

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