Romans 4 vs 13 - 16
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.
During our summer holidays last year I would sometimes waken in the early hours to the sound of scratching overhead. I blamed in on mice in the roof space for it seemed to be directly above the bedroom ceiling and this was confirmed, for me at any rate, when I made thumped the wall and the scratching stopped. I reckoned I’d scared the mouse away. Night after night this went on until on one night I got out of bed and went into the hall and discovered the dog scratching the mat by the back door to make a comfortable bed for herself. Things are not always what they seem to be.
We are so drilled in the concept of merit that we find it very hard to comprehend grace. We are told as children that Santa will not call at Christmas unless we’re good. We’re told to work hard at school and if we do well we will be rewarded, be that a new bike for passing an exam, or a place at the big school we want to attend. By the time we become adults we’re so complete wedded to the idea of merit that if someone gets something they apparently don’t deserve it gets right under our skin.
Well the truth is if God gave us what we each have earned we would all likewise perish because we are all sinners. We all suffer from the same disease though we each display different symptoms of that sinful condition and if God did not show grace, not one of us could endure to eternal life. You see what Paul writes to the Christians in Rome is that Abraham, the father of all who have faith in Christ, did not receive the promises of God by keeping on the right side of the law. The law hadn’t even been given at that stage. No, he received the promises of God because he believed God and God counted him as righteous. It was an act of God’s grace. We try to make the law do something it can never do, set us right before God. Yet no matter how much effort we put in all the law seems to do is show us how far we fall short of God’s standard. The only way in which we can have peace with God is through God’s grace and that grace comes to us as we put our faith in Jesus. This grace, though free to us, was costly to God who in Jesus took on himself the weight of the law and its penalty as he stood in our place. It’s that great exchange; he took our sin and gave us his righteousness.