Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Romans 4:13-25 in the Good News Translation. Note 1-3 insights or questions.
Reflect: In Chapter 4 of Romans, Paul deals with our question from yesterday: “What must we do to be saved?”
When the jailer asked this question in the earthquake rubble of Philippi, Paul immediately said, “Believe in (“Have faith in . . .”, “Put your trust in . . .”) the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved . . .” (Acts 16:31, ESV). Writing from Corinth now, he’s not in the middle of an earthquake, so he takes his time and tells a story—a story that addresses the same question. It’s one of the Jews’ favorite stories, the story of Abraham and his promised son.
Here’s the story in simple terms. God promised to give Abraham a son. This son would come in the usual way children are born. Even though Abraham knew he was too old to have children and that Sarah was also too old and was barren, he had finally learned to trust God. (Paul generously fails to remind us of the mess Abraham created when he hadn’t yet learned to trust.) He now believed God’s promise, and trusted that the One who can make dead things live and can create things out of nothing, would keep His promise. The promise was a gracious and generous gift. It was not a contract, so Abraham didn’t try to work (by keeping the law) to get God to give him the son. That would have shown that he really didn’t trust God to keep His promise. Because Abraham showed that he trusted God, God said, “That’s good (righteous). That’s what I want from my friends. You truly are my friend, Abraham.”
Paul then goes on to say that this friendship-based-on-trust (righteousness) is available to all who believe that God has given us the gift of His Son. Once again, it’s not a contract, so don’t try to get it by working (by keeping the law), but by putting your trust in the life, death, and resurrection of His Son.
It’s the same answer Paul gave the jailer: “Believe in, have faith in, put your trust in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” By doing this, we share in the faith of Abraham, who is the spiritual father of us all, and God says, “That’s good. That’s what I want from my friends.”
It doesn’t get much simpler than that.
Recalibrate: Can one believe something so sincerely that the belief makes it true? Isn’t that what “blind” faith is?
Respond: Pray for the grace to enable you to accept the freely-given gift of God.
Research: Read the story of the Philippian jailer in several different Bible versions. Do you believe he and his family were “saved” that night? Why or why not?
Remember: “So the promise is received by faith. It is given as a free gift . . .” (Romans 4:16, NLT).
Dr. Mark Johnson is executive director of the public health department in Jefferson County, one of the most populous counties in the state of Colorado. He received his medical training at Loma Linda University School of Medicine and Johns Hopkins University and is board certified in preventive medicine and public health. He is chair of the vision board at Boulder Adventist Church where he is a regular preacher. Mark is married to Diane Johnson and they have two adult children and three granddaughters.
Make a large gift box with a lid on top. Place your little one’s favorite toy inside and then show them where it is. If you can fit inside the box, hop in with your little one. Pray while you’re inside the box, thanking Jesus for being the best gift ever—the gift of life and the choice to love.
Yesterday, we read that Abraham and his children would get the whole world. Imagine that! All Abraham had to do was believe that God would keep His promise. Now, I could promise you the world, but the world is not mine to give. God, the Creator of the world and everything in it—He can give the world. Do you think that if we believe we are promised the world that will change how we treat it?
We’ve heard a lot about the difference between “the law” and “faith.” Paul works really hard in the book of Romans to remind us that the promise of life and freedom from sin that Jesus has given us can only be received by faith and not by following the law. Do you remember what Paul tells us this faith and grace is? It’s a gift. There is a huge difference between receiving a gift and buying something for yourself, right? How would you feel if, for your birthday or for Christmas, your parents handed you a list of the presents they thought would be really great to get you and told you that you should buy them for yourself? These things wouldn’t be gifts at all, right? God’s gift to us is something special and something He has done for us—it’s a gift. The law is like a transaction. You go to the store and want to buy an Arizona tea, for instance. You have to exchange money for the tea in order to get it. But if a friend went to the store and bought you a bottle of tea, it would be a gift. God’s promise is a gift.