Updated: Mar 3
For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation.
For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, 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. Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become “the father of many nations,” according to what was said, “So numerous shall your descendants be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. Therefore his faith “was reckoned to him as righteousness.” Now the words, “it was reckoned to him,” were written not for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification.
This is the Epistle reading selection for the second Sunday in Lent, Year B, according to the Episcopal Church lectionary. It is read along with the Old Testament reading from Genesis 17, where is found the covenant God made with Abram to become the father of many nations. It is also read along with Psalm 22, where David sang that “kingship belongs to the Lord,” as it is He who “rules over the nations.” Finally, Paul’s selection from his letter to the Jews of Rome is accompanied with the Gospel reading from mark, where Jesus told his followers they must pick up their crosses and follow him.
Verse 13 here is very important to grasp, as Paul said the Law is not the source of salvation. Paul was not necessarily referring to Mosaic Law, but all the laws of man that have streamed from that [for Jews], which become the foundation for many civil laws. As such, the law [from “nomou”] is a collection of customs that are an external force of influence that impels actions. This form of external law becomes a way for force conformity, rather than being representative of an internal influence to do what is right [righteousness], rather than what is against a law [sinfulness].
Paul then wrote this assessment: “If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void.” By “adherents of the law,” the reference is to Jews, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob [at that time]. The use of “heirs” is relative to the promise between God and Abram [to be named Abraham] that a multitude of nations would come, with kings who will rule those nations. This means all nations professing to be Christian then fall into this lineage.
The change of course that says “faith is null” means the concept of a birthright as a form of exclusivity, as a child of God amid others who are no so blessed, ceases all true faith. This is like James wrote: "faith without deeds is dead." (James 2:26b) Without true faith, there is no promise of a multitude of nations with kings born of Abraham’s blood.
This concept was stated by Jesus in Matthew 5:5, when he said, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” The Greek word translated as “meek” is “praeis.” According to HELPS Word-studies: “This difficult-to-translate root (pra-) means more than "meek." Biblical meekness is not weakness but rather refers to exercising God's strength under His control – i.e. demonstrating power without undue harshness.” They add that the word is read as a combination of “gentleness (reserve) and strength.” Therefore, Jesus preached that the kings of a multitude of nations from Abraham would be “meek,” like their progenitor.
This is why Paul then wrote, “it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham.” That says that meekness is a demonstration of faith. Where there is faith there law exists within, with no need for it to be externalized in written law. Had the Israelites all possessed true faith in God [as Moses possessed], then there would have been no law needed to be brought down from the mount.
This is why Paul said, “For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation.” “Wrath” is a legal punishment for breaking a law, demanded in a society where all are not on the 'honor system' of true faith. True faith means one never goes beyond the boundaries of law, as if no law existed beyond oneself.
Abram had faith without any external laws guiding him. When Paul wrote of Abram, saying “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,” he was saying God was within Abram, so the law was written on his heart, exercised by his mind. The “life to the dead” is relative to any and all descendants of Abram, who at that point was childless, having cast away Hagar and Ishmael [a statement that God disowned a child born to Abram that was not from Sarai].
All souls come from God. They are breathed into clay [flesh], such that all humanity [including Abram and Sarai] is soul-flesh life forms called “into existence” that become all descendants of God, beyond those who adhere to any law given Moses. Law did not exist external to Abram; but God breathed into Abram the ways of righteousness, as an addition to his breath of life in a body of flesh, which became the codes by which Abram lived.
The faith of Abram led him to live righteously, not because he benefited from others for his good acts, but because it pleased God and that made Abram happy. The promise made to Abram by God was that he would sire a child through Sarai, when he was ninety-nine years of age, and seemingly beyond the age of parentage. As such, God made a promise of a miracle birth coming, which did not change Abram in any way [other than he started going by Abraham]. Paul wrote: “No distrust made [Abraham] waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.” The promise increased Abram’s faith.
The promise of one producing a multitude of nations is a way of promising eternal life, through progeny. This is then a story of God's promise to all human beings, as they too can live on forever through lineage that is founded in true faith. God's promise that we recognize today is the eternal live through the covenant of Jesus Christ. This promise must increase one's faith, rather than let one lose faith because one believes more in a promise than God.
When Paul then used the story of Abraham and the covenant made to him by God to turn it to a Christian theme, he wrote: “Therefore his faith “was reckoned to him as righteousness.” Now the words that translate as “it was reckoned to him” were written not for Abram's sake alone, but for ours also. Thus, Paul wrote, "It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification.”
This says true faith is much more than a profession of belief. Whereas belief in an inheritance to God’s family through birth [Judaism and now Christianity] will be tested, judged by how righteous one is, the reckoning we all face today, in Lent, is one’s faith in God. Lent is not a test of beliefs, but a test of one's true faith in God.
In verses 22 and 23 is the translations above that state “was reckoned to him.” In the Greek, the capitalized word “Elogisthē” is written, which means [in the lower case spelling], “was reckoned, was considered,” with usage including “was counted, charged with; reasoned, decided, concluded; thought, supposed.” However, that ignores the importance Paul placed on that past state of being between God and Abram, where the capitalization places importance on a time “Taken into Account.” Just as Abram was judged by God to be righteous, as a demonstration of his true faith, so too will everyone who claims the right to be a child of God, through Abraham, will be judged.
That is the meaning of Paul writing, “It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification.” We will be judged as to how well we have faith in a promise between us and God that says we will be granted eternal life and the absolution of past sins. Without the true faith possessed by Abram, we will distrust God, we will waver in our commitments to serve God unconditionally, and we will grow weak in what we say we believe in, as far as God’s promise is concerned. This becomes why this reading is read during the season we call Lent.
For a Christian to say he or she believes that Jesus of Nazareth “was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification,” we need to fully understand what “justification” means. The word written by Paul is “dikaiōsin,” which means “the act of pronouncing righteous, acquittal.” (Strong’s) The word implies “a process of absolution,” whereby a demand is made upon us, individually upon each of our own deaths, such that the word’s usage “is closely associated with the pressing need to be released from deserved punishment.” (HELPS Word-studies) In other words, each individual’s faith will be judged by God, based on one’s acts of righteousness.
To say one believes Jesus died for our sins is meaningless, unless one has walked that walk, so one has the right to talk that talk. One needs to become Jesus, so one’s self-ego becomes “handed over to death,” due to the guilt one has for one’s own sins of the past; so, sacrifice of self-ego, replaced by the name of Jesus Christ, one can be judged so one's own sins are no longer reflective of one's faith. One has to become Jesus to know Jesus firsthand, in order to have faith that Jesus Christ has redeemed one's soul.
The only way one can then become “raised for our justification” is to have died of self, having been reborn as Jesus Christ. The “process of absolution” can only pass the Lenten test of faith when God looks upon our flesh and sees His Son reborn within. Otherwise, one will be sweating bullets to give up one meaningless sin for forty days, longing for that time of pretend sacrifice to end, so one can return to the ways that justify eternal damnation.
This is where one needs to look closer at the story of God’s covenant with Abram, so one can understand just what it means to be a multitude of nations, where kings born of Sarah will proliferate. Each body of flesh must be a nation alone unto God, whose laws are the faith that result in righteous acts. The laws of one's flesh are written on one's heart, not on something external to oneself. Each body of flesh that becomes such a nation is ruled by the Christ Mind, where the true kingdom of Jesus resides. With that guidance in one’s brain, one becomes the rebirth of Jesus [name meaning “Yah(weh) Will Save”]. To be that, one must die of self.