…..and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham which he had while uncircumcised. Romans 4:12
True belief that lives by faith follows in the steps of Abraham.
Chapter 4 of Romans is about Abraham and his faith. Why was it so important to bring Abraham into the conversation now? Because Paul needed to expand his case from the previous chapter on how we are all saved by faith apart from the law or anything else.
Even the highly revered Abraham, who did not even have the old law, could not earn God’s favor by his works. Like everyone else since the beginning of time, he had sinned so his lawless deeds left him in debt to God. Everything he could try to make things right would only be earning a wage that was due to God anyway. He would always be in the negatives regardless of what he did. There had to be something that he could get as credit that went above and beyond his debt. The only credit that could be given to solve this problem was a credit that would be undeserved. A credit he couldn’t work for, but one that would be given by grace. That credit was faith, and it was Abraham’s faith in the promises of God that gave him the righteousness apart from works that would settle his debt.
It’s important to note that this grace through faith was given before Abraham was ever circumcised. Why is this so significant to point out? Because many Jews believed that circumcision was necessary to be called a descendant of Abraham. But as you can see, they can’t rightfully make this claim because Paul proves that descendents of Abraham are based on following in the steps of Abraham’s faith before he was ever circumcised.
How does true belief follow in the steps of Abraham? By recognizing that we can’t earn our salvation by works. If we are trying to do that, then we are putting ourselves under a debt we can’t pay. Just like Abraham, we need credit and not just any credit. We need credit we don’t deserve. We need credit given by grace. That credit is only aquired by God’s grace through faith. This faith can’t be dependent on our works, but on belief in the promises of God apart from our works just like Abraham’s faith.
But let’s be careful not to take this idea too far out of context in saying that there was nothing Abraham had to do in his faith to obtain God’s promises. That is an extreme conclusion that misses the whole point of what Paul is explaining and denies the true nature of faith. He’s not trying to promote a faith that does nothing; he’s trying to put to rest the idea that the Jews had that circumcision, works of the law, or any other works done to merit salvation could save them.
Think about the promise of descendants God gave Abraham when he had no children by Sarah and him and Sarah were well beyond child bearing years. Did Abraham just sit back in faith that God was going to give him children through Sarah without ever having relations with her? Unless there’s some immaculate conception we don’t know about, we can see that Abraham still had to have relations with Sarah to conceive a child. He had to do what was necessary to gain what was promised, but the driving force behind it was his faith. This is what the genuine nature of faith is all about.
If we have true belief that follows in these same steps of Abraham, we too can gain credit by faith apart from works. God promises that if we believe in the power of the gospel, then He will save us (Rom. 1:16). Our debt of sin will be totally forgiven and we can call Abraham our father as we will be one of his descendents by faith.