Why Did Paul Use the Example of Abraham to Exhibit Grace?

It’s no wonder that the apostle Paul, when reaching for an Old Testament example of grace, went straight for Abraham.  After writing three chapters about God’s unconditional love through Jesus (Romans 1:18-3:30), Paul summed up his argument in one short phrase: “[God] justifies the ungodly” (Romans 4:5).  How do we know this?  Just look at Abraham (Romans 4:3-5)

– Sprinkle, Preston; Charis: God’s Scandalous Grace for Us; David C. Cook Publishing; Colorado Springs, CO; Kindle version; copyright 2014; page 54

The Clearest Indication that We Have Idolized Ourselves

Yet at its heart sin is the eclipse of thankfulness toward God (Romans 1:21).  Why thankfulness?  Because rather than seeing ourselves as self-creators who choose our own identity and purpose, the biblical worldview tells us that we are on the receiving end of our existence.  We are beholden to someone else.  Our life is a gift from God, not our own achievement.  And our ingratitude is the clearest expression that we have idolized ourselves.

– Horton, Michael, Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World; Zondervan; copyright 214; Kindle Edition; page 89

What the Gospel is Not

The power of our activism, campaigns, movements and strategies cannot forgive sins or raise the dead.  “The gospel…is the power of God for salvation,” and, with Paul we have no reason to be ashamed of it (Romans 1:16).  That is why phrases like “living the gospel,” “being the gospel,” and “being partners with Jesus in his redemption of the world” are dangerous distortions of the biblical message of good news.  The gospel is not about what we have done or are called to do, but the announcement of G0d’s saving work in Christ Jesus (II Corinthians 4:5).

– Horton, Michael, Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World; Zondervan; copyright 214; Kindle Edition; page 39

On What Basis Shall We Be Judged?

Surely God will judge the world on the basis of whether we have done our best with the light we have been given.  But Paul’s whole point in these first three chapters (of Romans) is to convince us that regardless of how much light we have been given, we always do the same thing with it.  We suppress the truth, whether it is the light of nature (God’s existence and moral will known to unbelieving Gentiles) or the light of grace (God’s revelation of the gospel in the Scriptures).  There is enough revelation to render a guilty verdict.  Regardless of our own evaluation before God’s bar no one is good and no one seeks God.

– Horton, Michael; The Gospel Driven Life: Being Good News People in a Bad News World; Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; Copyright 2009; page 59-60

Sin Is Not Necessarily Loving Bad Things

The great church father Augustine pointed out that sin is not necessarily loving bad things, but loving good things inordinately.  In other words, it is turning God’s gifts into idols.  It is our “enlightening” way of fulfilling the apostles description of ungrateful living in Romans 1:22-25.

– Horton, Michael; The Gospel Driven Life: Being Good News People in a Bad News World; Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; Copyright 2009; page 45-46

The Ultimate Crisis Facing Us

We may have problems in our marriage, child rearing, stress at work, low self-esteem, and worries about our health or financial market.  However, the ultimate crisis facing us is summarized in Romans 1:18.

– Horton, Michael; The Gospel Driven Life: Being Good News People in a Bad News World; Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; Copyright 2009; page 39

So We Saunter Through the Carnival, On Our Way to Nowhere

So we saunter through the carnival, on our way to nowhere.  Like tourists, we are not really seeking the truth as much as we are spectators of new experiences, identities, images and styles that have been marketed to us in the giant mall of Western consumerism.  Indeed, we have become “futile in [our] thinking, and [our] foolish hearts were darkened.  Claiming to be wise, [we] became fools” (Romans 1:21-22).

– Horton, Michael; The Gospel Driven Life: Being Good News People in a Bad News World; Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; Copyright 2009; page 34

We Are Left With No Excuse

Paul makes it clear (Romans 1:20) that everybody sees this manifestation of God’s majesty.  This revelation gets through to all people so that all people see it clearly.  The force of Paul’s assertion is that every person who has ever lived knows that there is a God and is aware of His transcendent majesty and holiness.  The medium God has selected to reveal Himself universally is so clear and so potent that it leaves no one with an excuse.  It is a medium far more powerful and effective for its task than a television broadcast.

– R.C. Sproul, The Holiness of God, Tyndale House Publishers, Carol Stream, Ill., Copyright 1985, Kindle Edition

Is the Gospel ‘From’ God or ‘About’ God?

Historically Christianity claimed to be and was received as revealed truth, not truth discovered via human insight or ingenuity.  Paul begins his Epistle to the Romans with these words:” “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God…” (Romans 1:1)  What does the phrase “gospel of  God” mean?  Does the word of indicate possession or does it mean simply “about”?  Is Paul saying that the gospel is something about God, or something from God?  Historic Christianity would consider this question an exercise in the fallacy of the false dilemma or the either/or fallacy.  Classical Christianity would say that the gospel is a message that is both about God and from God.

Sproul, R.C.; Grace Unknown: The Heart of Reformed Theology; Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; copyright 1997; p. 12

Ungodliness Defined

Grace first teaches us to say no to ungodliness and worldly passions.  Ungodliness is usually equated with wickedness: that which is immoral, dishonest, cruel, evil or debased (see, for example: Romans 1:18-32).  Ungodliness, however, in its broadest form basically comprises disregarding God, ignoring Him, or not taking him into account in one’s life.  It is a lack of fear or reverence for Him.  The wickedness portrayed by Paul in Romans 1:18-32 all starts with the idea that “although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him” (verse 21).  In this wider sense, then, a person may be highly moral and even benevolent and still be ungodly.

– Bridges, Jerry; The Disciplined of Grace:God’s Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness; NavPress; Colorado Springs; copyright 1994; p. 82-83