What do you recall from last week’s lesson? Contrast of law and faith.
Romans 4:13-15 For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. We can easily imagine Paul’s former colleagues of the Jewish faith were hard-headed, for he continues to beat the drum of faith over law, using Abraham as his primary wedge. As he drills down even further into the promise made to Abraham and how one is related to him, Paul stresses that people are Abraham’s offspring not because of the law but through righteousness that comes through faith. As he noted elsewhere, if works are added to faith, then faith is worthless and the promise – made in Adam’s hearing after the Fall and to Abraham 19 generations later – is void. If a promise from God is voided, the character of God is thrown down and He is no more reliable than a man!
This hinges on Paul’s assertion that the promise did not come through the law. This is the idea that man must be disengaged from, as we are by nature hard-wired for works-righteousness. And we tend to have a very superficial concept of faith, believing it mere wishful thinking rather than firm belief in God. Our trust in God can be subtly undermined if our understanding of His Word is not solid. How many times have you seen picturesque portrayals of Phil 4:13 plastered on walls? Without regard to context, people abuse this verse to claim outrageous things they think God will equip them to do – because they can do ALL things through Christ! Here’s the context, which sheds light on that one verse: Philippians 4:11-13 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. He is speaking explicitly about having learned to be content in Christ Jesus without regard to his physical comfort. He is not teaching us that God will provide everything the prosperity gospel pimps claim. Context is critical in understanding how to interpret and apply Scripture in our lives. Knowing which covenant you are in helps a great deal as well – this is how we know the Levitical laws about diet and mixed materials in clothing do not apply to us who are in the New Covenant while the one about loving God does.