Reading through Romans
+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Opening sentence Praise to You, Lord Jesus Christ, King of endless glory. You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.
A reading from Romans: Romans 4:9-12 (NLT)
Now, is this blessing only for the Jews, or is it also for uncircumcised Gentiles? Well, we have been saying that Abraham was counted as righteous by God because of his faith. But how did this happen? Was he counted as righteous only after he was circumcised, or was it before he was circumcised? Clearly, God accepted Abraham before he was circumcised!
Circumcision was a sign that Abraham already had faith and that God had already accepted him and declared him to be righteous — even before he was circumcised. So Abraham is the spiritual father of those who have faith but have not been circumcised. They are counted as righteous because of their faith. And Abraham is also the spiritual father of those who have been circumcised, but only if they have the same kind of faith Abraham had before he was circumcised.
Reflection: Romans 4:9-12 (John Stott, The Message of Romans: God’s Good News for the World)
Did Abraham’s justification come before or after his circumcision?
Paul’s answer to his own question is brief and blunt: It was not after, but before! In fact it happened long before. For his justification is recorded in Genesis 15 and his circumcision in Genesis 17, and at least fourteen years (even twenty-nine years according to the Rabbis) separated the two events.
Although they were separated, they were not unrelated, however. Abraham’s circumcision, though not the ground of his justification, was its sign and seal. For Abraham received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised.
Implication: the order of events for adult converts is plain. First, we are justified by faith, and then we are baptized as a sign or seal of our justification. But we must get the order right, and we must also clearly distinguish between the sign (baptism) and the thing signified (justification).
There was a double purpose in the fact that Abraham was justified by faith, and circumcised only later. First that Abraham might be (as he is) the father of all who believe, and so have been justified, but have not been circumcised, i.e. Abraham is the father of Gentile believers…. The second purpose was that Abraham might also be (as he is) the father of the circumcised who in addition to their circumcision also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.
Thus Abraham is the father of all believers, irrespective of whether they are circumcised or uncircumcised…. For where circumcision divides, faith unites.
Christ, as a light illumine and guide me. Christ, as a shield overshadow me. Christ under me; Christ over me; Christ beside me on my left and my right. This day be within and without me, lowly and meek, yet all-powerful. Be in the heart of each to whom I speak; in the mouth of each who speaks unto me. This day be within and without me, lowly and meek, yet all-powerful. Christ as a light; Christ as a shield; Christ beside me on my left and my right.
May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you, wherever He may send you. May He guide you through the wilderness, protect you through the storm. May He bring you home rejoicing at the wonders He has shown you. May He bring you home rejoicing once again into our doors.
+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen