Advent: December 19
13 It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. 14 For if those who depend on the law are heirs, faith means nothing and the promise is worthless, 15 because the law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression.
16 Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring – not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. 17 As it is written: ‘I have made you a father of many nations.’ He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed – the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.
Abraham the patriarch predated the Law. He stood before God as a man who had faith (see Hebrews 11). God had made a very special promise to Abraham that he would have descendants as numerous as the stars he could see on a clear night, and there’s no reason to think that Abraham had poor vision. Abraham believed in God’s promise (the word “in” moves us from belief into faith). That made Abraham a righteous man in God’s eyes. Note that it wasn’t what Abraham did that made him righteous before God.
Paul is quite meticulous in his writing, and this can present itself as dense and complex at times, especially when he proposes and answers questions that a lesser brain like mine would probably not ask. After his conversion he realised that the Law, under which he was brought up, in which he was an expert as a Pharisee, was not the permanent answer that God had planned for the world. There’s something better, and it is gift-wrapped in grace. Only faith, not following the Law, makes people heirs to God’s promises. There are people who live under the Law, and there are people who know nothing of the Law – if they exercise the trust that Abraham displayed, then they, too, can become heirs of God’s promises.
This is grace, that God gives freely of himself to us whose only claim is the blood of Jesus.
Do you think of yourself as a descendant of Abraham?
Do you recognise times in your life where grace picked you off the floor?
How are people who were not given the Law treated?
Father God, I thank you that You are gracious and compassionate, merciful and long-suffering. I thank you for the example of our forefather Abraham, who trusted your call and left his homeland for a foreign land, and your guarantee that we, his offspring, are heirs to the world. Amen.