“For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect, because the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression. Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all” (Romans 4:13-16).
If anyone in the first century world should have known that justification did not come through the Law of Moses, it ought to have been the Jews. Neither God’s reckoning of Abraham as righteous in Genesis 15:6 nor His promise of the Messiah in Genesis 22:18 was connected in any way to the Law of Moses. Both events occurred hundreds of years prior to Mount Sinai.
Abraham (Genesis 25:8), his son Isaac (Genesis 35:21), his grandson Jacob (Genesis 49:33), and his great-grandson Joseph (Genesis 50:26) had all breathed their last and been gathered to their people long before there arose in Egypt a Pharoah who did not know Joseph (Exodus 1:8). Israel’s sojourn in Egypt for 430 years (Exodus 12:40) began over 100 years after Abraham’s death. Clearly, then, the Law of Moses and justification before God are not in a cause and effect relationship.
If there had been a cause and effect correlation, it would have made all God’s promises to Abraham null and void, for no Jew prior to Jesus had obeyed every jot and tittle of the Law. Because “whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10), everyone under the Law of Moses was cursed (Deuteronomy 27:26).
Justification by flawless conformity to the Law of Moses was a perfect road map to utter, abject, universal failure. Justification by an obedient faith—like Abraham’s—to the Law of Christ and His gospel of grace is a perfect plan of success for all, Jews and Gentiles alike.
Trust God’s word and the stunning promises He graciously makes to us in the gospel. Be like Abraham, the father of us all.