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Faith and Salvation – Romans 4:13–5:21

Read the Passage: Romans 4:13–5:21

Abraham’s Faith (4:13–25)

In Rom. 4:1–12 Paul had appealed to two important Old Testament figures—namely, Abraham and David—to show that salvation has always been by faith in Christ alone. In Rom. 4:13–25 Paul expands his teaching about Abraham to more fully demonstrate that God’s promise to Abraham entailed salvation by faith. In reference to the Abrahamic Covenant, Paul plainly states, “The promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith” (Rom. 4:13). Further, Paul notes that if salvation were to come through the law, this would nullify God’s promise to Abraham. The role of the law, then, is to highlight one’s sin and need of salvation (cf. Rom. 3:20; 4:15). Note Jesus’ words along these same lines as He taught, “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin” (John 15:22).

In Rom. 4:16–18 Paul makes a logical argument, showing that if salvation was by law-keeping and only for ethnic Jews, then it would not have been possible for God to make Abraham “a father of many nations” (Rom. 4:17). This is because only the nation of Israel had the written law and all other Gentile nations were without the law. If, however, salvation has always been by faith in Christ alone, then Abraham can become “the father of us all” (Rom. 4:16) and salvation is open to all of mankind. As he had done at Rom. 4:3, so again at Rom. 4:22 Paul cites Gen. 15:6 to show that Abraham was redeemed by faith in God’s promises, despite circumstances that made fulfillment of God’s promises seem impossible. Note that “faith” is not sincere irrationality but trusting in God’s revealed grace. In Rom. 4:23–25 Paul taught that Abraham’s faith is an example for all people to follow as Abraham trusted in God’s promises.

God’s Love (5:1–11)

After arguing for the truth of salvation by faith alone in Romans 4, Paul explains some of the benefits of salvation in Romans 5. Two important truths related to the gospel, writes Paul, are that salvation creates “peace with God” (Rom. 5:1) and that salvation provides believers with standing grace (cf. Rom. 5:2). We have peace with God because Jesus made propitiation for us (cf. Rom. 3:25) and we receive continual grace because God has promised to justify and to sanctify His people (cf. Phil. 1:6; Heb. 12:2). A third result of salvation is that Christians can “glory in tribulations” (Rom. 5:3). This is not to say that believers ought to seek tribulation or to develop a martyr complex; rather, it is simply to recognize that in the fallen world Christians will experience trials; yet, with the lens of the gospel, believers can view the world differently and have hope, even in the midst of trials and suffering.

In Rom. 5:5 Paul teaches that another benefit of salvation is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit who was given to believers because of God’s love. In Rom. 5:6–11 Paul explores the depth of God’s love for mankind, and especially for the redeemed, as he teaches, “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). In this passage Paul reaches the logical conclusion that if Jesus was willing to die for us while we were still His enemies, then how much more will God keep and provide for us now that we have become His children. In his teaching in Rom. 3:21–5:21, Paul repeatedly highlights both the negative and the positive aspects of salvation—negatively, Christ has taken away our guilt and sin (i.e., expiation); and positively, Christ has reconciled us to God by satisfying the wrath of God (i.e., propitiation).

Adam’s Sin (5:12–21)

In Rom. 5:12–21 Paul compares and contrasts the actions of Adam and Jesus. This is one of the clearest passages in the Bible on the doctrine known as original sin (cf. 1 Cor. 15:20–22). The teaching here is that the sin of Adam, who stood at the head of the human race, is imputed to all of mankind. Similarly, the righteousness of Christ, who stands at the head of all who believe, is imputed to all those who put their faith and trust in Him. Note that the comparison here is functional, not numerical. In other words, while all mankind is imputed with the guilt of Adam’s sin, only those who believe in Jesus will be imputed with the righteousness of God. Note that when Paul writes, “Sin is not imputed when there is no law” (Rom. 5:13), he is teaching that sin is not counted as breaking a command when there is no law. This teaching further shows the benefits of having the written law of God.

Application Questions:

  1. How does the law work in concert with the gospel in order to bring about the salvation of mankind? Are the law and gospel opposed to each other?
  2. What does Paul mean in writing, “Where there is no law there is no transgression” (Rom. 4:15)? To what law is Paul referring in this verse?
  3. How would you define faith (cf. Heb. 11:1–2)? How do believers obtain faith (cf. Eph. 2:8–9)? Is faith a work of mankind?
  4. What does it mean to “glory in tribulations” (Rom. 5:3)? How does the gospel change the way in which Christians process the triumphs and trails of life?
  5. Do you ever doubt God’s love for you? Practically speaking, when do you feel most loved by God? When do you feel most distant from God?
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