The Apostle Paul in his earlier days had been full of zeal for keeping the law and saw the followers of Christ as having no respect for keeping the law. So, he persecuted them until he was dramatically converted. After his conversion and the maturity gained by the experiences that followed, he wrote his remarkable letter to the Romans, a letter primarily to the Gentiles.
Chapter 3 begins with a key question, “what advantage has the Jew?” and Paul answers, “Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God”. This means the Old Testament, which was the Bible of the first generation of believers, before the Gospels and letters were in circulation. It is sad that most Christians today, if they read at all, only read the New Testament.
Paul stresses “the faithfulness of God” (verse 3) toward His chosen nation, and now toward all nations (verse 9,29). But there are two sides to this “faithfulness”. God reacts to what He sees – seeing “faith” and also faithlessness! Therefore, we must not say, “God is unrighteous to inflict wrath” (verse 5) on the disobedience He sees in His creation. As he highlights the example of Abraham in chapter 4, Paul says God looks to see faith, genuine belief and trust in God for “faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness” (verse 9) and it will be “counted” to us also.
Paul stresses this was “the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe … so that righteousness would be counted to them as well” (verse 11). We read in Genesis all the things Abraham did through faith. Paul stresses that “the promise God made 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” (verse 13).
Acting faithfully toward God in our lives is what matters most, and Abraham is the key example for us to follow. Paul now realized that “the law brings wrath” (4:15): that is why he then wrote, “it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace … to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all” (verse 16). We recall God’s promise to him in Genesis 17:4,5 and his life of faith beginning from when he left Ur. We must reflect on our own acts of faith, for it is not just something we talk about! What things have we done, and are doing that show our faith? Our eternal future “depends on faith”.