Lenten Devotional: March 20

Psalm 77; Psalm 79; Psalm 80;
Jeremiah 7:1-15
; Romans 4:1-12;
John 7:14-36

“For what does scripture say? Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” Romans 4:3

The apostle Paul was good at using arguments related to his particular audience. Here he was taking up the Jewish conviction that doing good deeds brought them the right relation with God. Paul’s message was that the justification came through faith. His proof was their ancestor Abraham who did not do good deeds for gain. Abraham believed God, and was obedient to him (i.e. Abraham left home at God’s word and traveled with his family to Canaan. Abraham believed God when he was told he would have a son, even at his very late age. Abraham obeyed God, and was willing to sacrifice his son Isaac).

Next, Paul brought in their cherished law of circumcision. Was Abraham circumcised before or after he believed God? It was after. Hence circumcision was unnecessary. Non-Jews and Jews are justified by their faith. Paul tackled what he considered further errors in the laws. He failed to convince this group and decided to turn to more fertile ground among the Gentiles.

We have been brought up with the “faith” belief. We know that love has already been given to us by God, and we don’t need to earn it. So of what help is reading Paul’s often tortuous arguments? Do we have to follow them every step of the way? Paul gives us the clue. He said it was not he speaking, but Christ in him. It is surely Christ in us when we are led to do good deeds for each other.