Romans 4:13-25                “God’s Promises”

 

           

            First, I want to thank all of you for keeping up with this series even if you cannot be here because of your travels by watching us online. I was surprised that by Sunday evening we already had thirty views! I am so glad that our church ohana are keeping up with this series, because obviously the text is one letter to Rome written by Saint Paul, and one idea flows into the next. Missing pieces or dropping into the middle might be a little difficult to be sure. 

            I do need to go back to the theme from the last two weeks just to lead us along into this week’s point from Paul. We have already discovered that faith is acknowledging God’s intervention in the world throughout history and in our individual lives. For example, God sent His Son Jesus Christ to us; hence, God intervened on our behalves that we may be saved unto God. Likewise the Holy Spirit was sent to us as Jesus promised that an advocate would be sent to us while he was still on earth. The coming of the Holy Spirit was once more an intervention that gives us faith in God.

            Last week, we read and then discussed how it was that Father Abraham in the Bible was really the first one to receive this positive intervention, in which God claims us as God’s own people. We are all therefore children of Father Abraham. In that we have inherited his faith.

 

Today, we have come to the point of whether we personally accept or deny our inherited faith. Let us look at verse 13 of chapter 4 in Romans: “For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the Law but through the righteousness of faith.”

Because we have faith in God, God has promised us what? The Greek word here is κοσμος, that is of course “cosmos” in English and just about every other European language. Our translation here says “world,” but this reference in this case is more than just creatures crawling on the planet's surface. This reference is to everything that God created in that moment of creation. We are promised the cosmos indeed.

 

I also have a little bit of a problem with the term “promise” in our translation.  Does God have to promise us anything at all? Does God really promise? When I hear that word “promise” I think of a couple saying their marriage vows. “Do you promise to love honor and cherish from this day forward, forsaking all others, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do you part?  If so please say ‘I do.’”  Aunty so-and-so in the first row starts to cry! The “I do” is spoken with a tremolo of nervousness. Next is her turn to say “I do.” The rings are exchanged and finally the deal is sealed with a kiss.

This is not what is happening in this verse of scripture. We do not have two equal parties making a promise to one another. The word to “promise” here is in the Greek επαγγελω. This term is elsewhere translated in the Bible as “proclaim.” However, in this case I feel that what Saint Paul is trying to convey is not that God has proclaimed as much as “laid a claim” on us. Hear the difference? Our translation in the pew bible says that “God promises us.” I read it from the original text as “God claims us.” Elsewhere in the bible this word is translated as “proclaim” or even “profess,” as in 1 Timothy 6:21 “by professing it some have missed the mark as regards the faith.”

Remember that Paul was a Pharisee and was really into the Law. To “lay claim” is a kind of a legal concept. The majority of us will run into this concept first on our income tax returns. On our taxes we “claim our dependents.” We “claim” our deductions. If property taxes, we “claim title” to the land.

What about Jesus promising the Holy Spirit? We all recall John 14:15-18 when Jesus is talking with His disciples and “promises” the Holy Spirit. If you turn there in your pew bibles, you will see that the supertitle even says “The Promise of the Holy Spirit.” Yet, nowhere in the text does it say that a promise is made. The word  επαγγελω does not even appear. Yet when we read this, we get the understanding that a claim is being made: “ . . .I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate to be with you forever. This is the Spirit. . . .I will not leave you orphaned. . . .” God claims us as His children. We are His dependents. Again, that is even more than a promise! We are claimed by God!

 

Again in a courtroom when a legal claim is made, it is followed by an “assent.” This is where it gets really interesting: Do you accept the claim that God has over your life? To be sure, the word επαγγελω in the Greek is made up of two roots. Αγγελω means “to send.” For instance we still use that term in English to say that the ones who are sent from heaven are “angels.” The “επ” prefix means “on” and is made into Latin with a simple “a.” So, επαγγελω literally means the legal term “assent.” That literally means that we agree and affirm the claim made over us.

Let me give you an example of the difference once more. When Jesus was baptized by John in the Jordan, which was the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, he did not turn to the crowd and say “I promise you ____________ if you follow me.” Let us look at Mark 1:16-20, “As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a nest into the sea–for the were fishermen. And Jesus said to them ‘Follow me and I will make you fishers of men. . . .’” Jesus just claims them as His new disciples. They do not sit down and fill out a contract and shake hands on the deal! Jesus just proclaims “You belong to me now. You are mine. I claim you to the ministry.”

When I went into the ministry myself, I can assure you that never in my prayer life did I hear a promise from God. The message I kept on hearing was “I claim you and your life.” We as Christians today do not go out “promising the gospel.” We go out claiming the Good News, or we say “proclaiming Christ”

            So, Christ claims His people. We are not orphaned, but are children of Abraham. We do not have to promise anything in return. All we do is give our assent. When we all leave this world and are standing before the Judge on His Throne in heaven, Jesus will make His claim over our lives. WE enter heaven by giving our assent. Do you know that Jesus has a claim over your life in this world and the next? Give your assent. You are claimed by Jesus!

 

            In Romans 4:22 “Therefore his faith was reckoned to him as righteousness.” This is how you know that Saint Paul was from Tarsus: He uses the term “reckon.” That is a joke! From the Greek word λογος, this is just the retelling of the story of one’s life. It is like the ship’s “log” from a long journey. Or, we can say it is like looking back at the claim that Jesus had over your life! This is the claim to which you gave your assent! You were going to live your life for Jesus. Do you reckon that the life everlasting is yours? Is your faith reckoned as righteousness?

            Saint Paul writes to the church in Corinth, his second letter II Corithians 1:21-22, “It is God who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us by putting his seal on us and giving us his Spirit in our hearts as a first installment.” In other words, God claims His children. 

 

 

Amen.

           

 

Amen.