Understanding ancient Jewish culture is a peculiar thing. You see, before Paul, Jewish scribes and religious leaders meditated through the Old Testament stories and searched for deeper meanings and workings in the relationship between Almighty God and all of mankind. There was no greater figure in the mind of the Jewish scholar than the founding father of the Jewish people, their Patriarch, Abraham. Abraham was the one who God came to and made of him a “chosen people,” the Jews. It was through the family of this relationship that eventually the Messiah would come to save the world. But, according to Paul, almost all of the Jewish theologians had missed a glaring point in the story of Abraham.
Jewish scholars always looked back at Abraham as a friend of God because every time God asked Abraham to do something, he obeyed. He followed the law of God before there was given (through Moses) a law of God. Well, Paul the greatest theologian came in to the story of Abraham and points out something that happened long before Abraham willingly followed God in obedience. “Abraham believed God…” and this is what truly pleased God- Abraham’s faith. The Jews for centuries had chased after the thought that the only way to please God was through the keeping of the law, but now Paul turned that on its head and said, “No, God wants you to trust Him first, obedience will come later. He’s measuring faith, not works.” And this is how God wants you to operate too. Trust Him first, the obedience will come later.
Food for Thought: Read Romans 4:1-8. What does Paul say is the thing that justified Abraham? What reference in the Old Testament does this occur?