The Protestant Reformation is often viewed as one of the most divisive events in church history. Countless denominations have arisen as a result of it. What if anything does Justification by Faith have to contribute to church unity? Come and hear what the Apostle Paul teaches in the book of Romans as we continue our series on the generative possibilities of his doctrine.
When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said … “…How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?”
—The Apostle Paul
“Whenever we find that our religious life is making us feel that we are good—above all, that we are better than someone else—I think we may be sure that we are being acted on, not by God, but by the devil.”
“The doctrines [George Whitefield preaches] are most repulsive and strongly tinctured with impertinence and disrespect towards their superiors, in perpetually endeavoring to level all ranks and to do away with all distinctions. It is monstrous to be told you have a heart as sinful as the common wretches that crawl on the earth.”
—Catherine Woodville, The Duchess of Buckingham
Genesis 12:1-2, 15:3-6, 17:4-5, 10-11
12:1 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.”
Years later, 15:3 Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” 4 And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” 5 And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6 And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
After many more years had passed, God said to Abram, 17:4 “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. 5 No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.
10 This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you.”
Romans 3:28–4:1, 9–18
3:28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also,30 since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.
4:1 What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh?
9 Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. 10 How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. 11 He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, 12 and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.
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. 14 For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. 15 For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.
16 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, 17 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. 18 In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.”
CONFESSION OF SIN:
Father, you have said that no one is righteous, that no one understands, that no one seeks God.
Forgive us for denying our need of you,
For turning to idols when we are anxious,
For trusting in our own strength and goodness.
And for imagining we deserve your love more than others.
Forgive us, Father, and cleanse us from our sins by the blood of Jesus Christ. Renew us, Holy Spirit, and grant us faith to trust in you alone for our salvation. Amen.
SONG TO CONSIDER: