In Part 3 of this series on the alleged Israelite identity of the Romans, we discussed Paul’s extensive background in stoic philosophy — and by extension, his experience with logic and rhetoric. We argued that those who believe the Romans are Israelites rely overly much on adding to Paul’s context in their own arguments. In other words, Paul knew how to construct an argument — and he knew how to say specifically what he meant. When we add our own context over and above Paul’s own context — so as to change the meaning of his plain words — we tend to take his own argument away from him.
To this end, we did a general exposition on Romans 1:16 – 2:16 — proving that Paul does indeed follow a carefully constructed argument which relates to itself, builds on itself and establishes its own context. We also used Paul’s arguments from elsewhere to show that our exposition of his argument fits the same pattern. In our exposition in this article we will rely on the same principle — and prove it once again as it relates to Paul’s writing.
Furthermore, we began Part 3 by highlighting Paul’s twin Romans 1:16-17 theses:
- The gospel is for everyone
- The gospel is accessed by personal faith
Paul’s writing is quite unique in the New Testament because often his style is to convince his audience rather than simply command them. We certainly don’t have a problem with any New Testament author commanding anything; however, we should note the style of delivery in our exposition. In Part 3 we discussed Paul’s admonition to his audience from the Genesis 10 nations in the epistle to the Romans as a building block towards the first thesis.
He wanted to show them that they needed the gospel and were under threat of God’s judgment despite never having received the law. There also seemed to be some of them who hypocritically judged others for homosexual behavior while engaging in the same behavior themselves.
We also touched briefly on the fact that Paul’s argument in Romans 1:16 – 2:16 was a building block he intended to combine with Romans 2:17-29 — where he convinced the Israelites that they likewise had no excuse and needed the gospel as well. These building blocks led to his conclusion in Romans 3 that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) — a conclusion he relied on as far later as Romans 11:32 when he said, “God has shut up all in disobedience, so that He may show mercy to all.”
As such, Paul’s twin theses provide the foundation of the whole epistle. In this article, we will do a general exposition on Romans 4 — Paul’s argument for his second thesis: The gospel is accessed by personal faith.
ABRAHAM’S FAITH VERSUS PERSONAL FAITH
Before diving into Romans 4, we’d like to briefly unpack what we aim to address here. Those who believe that only Israelites will be saved have a view on faith which diverges quite dramatically from most of Christianity — and bears a remarkable similarity with the doctrine of “Christian universalism.”
First, let’s establish a baseline that they, ourselves and even most of Christianity believe in:
- Abraham had faith that his seed would become “as the sand, which is on the seashore” (Genesis 22:17), that his seed would “possess the gate of their enemies” (Genesis 22:17) and that in his seed “all the nations of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 22:18).
- Eternal life — or eternal salvation — is a fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant through Christ Jesus.
- If we are to attain eternal life, we must be forgiven of our sins — “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)
- The only way to be forgiven our sin is through Christ Jesus’ atoning sacrifice and the New Covenant in His blood.
- There is nothing we can possibly do to “earn” the Lord’s forgiveness for our sins — it is a free gift of grace.
- In that way, the Abrahamic covenant — which Abraham had faith in — could not have been realized without Christ Jesus.
- Abraham had faith that somehow the Abrahamic covenant would be fulfilled — and that fulfillment results in eternal life through Christ Jesus.
For the sake of our argument, we will call the last bullet point “Abraham’s faith” — the faith he had which is objective relative to ourselves.
Now here is where we begin to diverge. Those who believe that only Israelites are saved believe that Abraham’s faith in Israelites according to the flesh is what saves Israelites. In other words, they believe Abraham’s faith in them is all Israel needs to be eternally saved — they do not need to express faith as individuals in any way. From their perspective, Israel needs only Abraham’s faith.
Furthermore, they believe that Abraham had faith only in Israel itself — therefore, only Israelites will be saved.
On the other hand, many Christian denominations believe that one must have a personal faith in the Lord Jesus in order to partake in the Abrahamic covenant. This faith may play out in diverse ways — and doctrine differs dramatically on exactly what that faith should look like.
There are those who believe they merely need to “believe in Jesus” to be saved — without having to turn away from sin — and that any non-Adamic, upright biped can take this “belief” upon themselves and be saved. We severely disagree with this view and see it as a modern incarnation of gnosticism — a view where one is saved based only on what they know — regardless of what knows it, as if knowledge could turn a non-Adamite into a descendant of Adam.
Our disagreement can be summarized in James’ words, “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.” (James 2:19)
We on the other hand believe that faith must result in an ever-increasing cessation from sin and a desire to purify ourselves just as the Lord Jesus is pure (1 John 3:3). James said that “faith without works is useless” (James 2:20) and that “faith without works is dead.” (James 2:26) In that way, if faith without works is useless and dead — then it was never faith at all.
We are “justified by works” (James 2:22), which is the Lord Jesus’ divine power to cleanse our lives of sin — after we have acknowledged our sin and His free grace (1 John 1:9). These “works” are not rituals, “works of the Law” or indulgences — rather they are obedience to the Lord Jesus — the practicing of righteousness, just as the Lord Jesus is righteous (1 John 3:7) — and faith working through love (Galatians 5:6). Ultimately we have faith in His ability to produce righteousness in us (Galatians 5:5) and in His forgiveness and grace (Hebrews 8:12).
Although, no matter what form this personal faith takes, for the sake of our argument we will call this “personal faith” — a faith which we personally express and exhibit in the Lord Jesus specifically.
We have absolutely no intention of arguing that Abraham’s faith doesn’t exist or doesn’t play a part in true doctrine. Abraham definitely had a faith in us — and there’s no denying it. However, the existence of Abraham’s faith does not nullify personal faith — they are not mutually exclusive.
In a way, Abraham’s faith — a faith objective in relation to ourselves — was indeed a personal faith which he expressed and exhibited. Not only is Abraham’s faith not mutually exclusive with personal faith — but as we will show, according to Paul the personal and subjective aspects of Abraham’s faith necessitates that we display the same personal faith in our own lives.
Unfortunately those who believe that only Israelites are saved have bought into this idea that Abraham’s faith and personal faith are indeed mutually exclusive of each other — and they are forced to malign Scriptural teachings on personal faith into teachings on Abraham’s faith — tragically distorting the Scripture to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:16).
If they cannot malign a teaching on personal faith into Abraham’s faith, they will instead malign into a faith toward worldly gain — or more often merely overlook and ignore teachings on subjective faith entirely.
Now the doctrine that only Israelites are saved commits two great heresies — and its nullification of personal faith is one of them. The other is the nullification of any need to live in obedience to the Lord Jesus in order to be saved — on which we have written at length. As such, these two great errors are intertwined.
When they remove subjective faith, they remove any and all need for faith in the Lord Jesus. They will argue that if one is an Israelite according to the flesh, one could live a life of atheism and debauchery — even be an unrepentant mass murderer — yet still attain to eternal life in Christ Jesus.
They will say that such a person would merely receive little or no reward, or they’d be “dishonored” in the next life — despite the fact that Isaiah 60:22 tells us that “The smallest one will become a thousand, And the least one a mighty nation” — confirming that everyone who attains to eternal life will be honored.
Their doctrine argues that the only reason one would need — or want — to actually believe in Christ would be to attain a “greater” eternal reward — or worldly material reward. Again, their views are almost point-for-point exactly the same as universalist Christianity — except where universalism believes in the unconditional salvation of all “humankind,” they believe in the same kind of salvation for all Israelites according to the flesh.
They have a desire to rule out non-whites — or non-Adamites — from the covenant promises — and we certainly do not begrudge them for this view. However, their method of doing so has needlessly — and perhaps inadvertently — cast themselves out of a true personal faith in the Lord Jesus. Many of us might believe we have faith, yet the way we conduct our lives may show double-mindedness and a lack of faith.
Unfortunately, any view which does not require a personal faith in the Lord Jesus — and does not require any obedience to Him and His gospel — will result in the eternal death of anyone and everyone who holds that view, including Israelites according to the flesh. Paul says that God will give wrath and indignation to those who do not obey the truth — but rather obey unrighteousness (Romans 2:8). Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8,
7… when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God, and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 These people will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power
As such, we do not write to condemn anyone — and we have no pleasure in anyone suffering that penalty of eternal destruction. Rather, we write with a sincere hope — as the Holy Spirit and the Lord Jesus are our witnesses — that we may help some turn to the Lord Jesus in a most holy and personal faith — that He may save them from that grave penalty.
After all, the gospel is good news — and none should think we are “ashamed of the gospel,” nor shall we be, “for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Judean first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written: ‘But the righteous one will live by faith.'” (Romans 1:16-17)
OUR FOREFATHER ACCORDING TO THE FLESH
What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found?
When Paul says “our forefather,” those who believe only Israelites will be saved take this to mean that Paul has included his audience by the use of “our” here. In other words, from their perspective, Paul tacitly calls his audience children of Abraham according to the flesh — and if they are children of Abraham, then they must all be Israelites. They will say the same thing of 1 Corinthians 10:1,
For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and they all passed through the sea;
In this logic, they have not considered that “our” could mean those from whom the epistle has come. As such, they exhibit very little sensitivity toward any kind of ambiguity — as if just because they have found one possible explanation — then that explanation must necessarily be true merely because it agrees with their view — while ignoring one or more other possible — and plausible — explanations that disagree with their view.
Moreover, they accept the explanation which suits them regardless of whether it agrees with the rest of Paul’s argument or not. Let us instead find an explanation which does agree with the text — because Paul tacitly creates a distinction when he says, “forefather according to the flesh.”
If he specifically said “according to the flesh,” then we presume that later in his argument, Paul will elaborate on a kind of forefather not according to the flesh. If this were not the case, Paul could just have well had said, “What shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, has found?”
In 1 Corinthians 1:1, Paul indicates that a brother by the name of “Sosthenes” — an Israelite leader of the synagogue in Corinth (Acts 18:17) — joined him in writing the epistle. Furthermore, Paul sends greetings from Aquila and Prisca (1 Corinthians 16:19) — who were definitely Israelites as well (Acts 18:2). Thus when Paul said, “our fathers,” the “our” could just as well be referring to himself, Sosthenes and any number of Israelites in Paul’s social circle when he wrote the epistle.
As we explained in Part 2, there definitely were Israelites among Paul’s audience in the epistles to the Romans — therefore, Paul would rather be including that subset of Israelites in his audience when he said “our.” As such, we have a logical explanation for why Paul was not merely calling his entire audience Israelites — which certainly aligns with our own exposition on his writings — and Paul’s own plain words.
We have again expounded on an ambiguity in a rather pedantic fashion — due only to necessity — given that those who claim only Israelites will be saved have baselessly placed their proverbial flag on one side of an apparent ambiguity — without bothering to even acknowledge the existence of this ambiguity itself as we have done.
Then Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:2, “You know that when you were pagans, you were led astray to the mute idols, however you were led.” The Greek word underpinning “pagans” is ethnos (Strong’s G1484) — the Greek word for nations. More specifically, it is the plural form of the word, meaning more than one nation. There’s simply no way one could reconcile Paul directly addressing “pagans” here with a supposedly ethnically homogeneous audience — let alone all of them allegedly being Israelites.
To those of our readers who have not yet been exposed to these “special explanations” and extra context which they add to Paul’s writing, Paul was obviously not calling his entire audience Israelites. We understand and acknowledge that.
Furthermore, let us reiterate that Paul specifically called Abraham “our forefather according to the flesh” — and not merely “our forefather.” When he says, “according to the flesh,” he uses the same Greek words “κατὰ σάρκα” — as in Romans 1:3 when he says, “concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh” — and in Romans 9:3-4 when he says, “my countrymen, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites.” In each of those cases he is referring to physical descendants. Therefore, we conclude that when Paul says “forefather according to the flesh,” he is referring to Abraham’s physical descendants.
SALVATION BY WORKS
1 What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about; but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, the wages are not credited as a favor, but as what is due. 5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness
Many Christians attempt to use these verses to support their gnostic view of Christianity — that works don’t ever have anything to do with salvation. If someone believes that works are an integral part of their Christian journey, such gnostic Christians will say something to the effect of, “You believe in salvation by works, thus Christ is not a benefit for you.” They might even quote the first two of the five solae mantra, “By grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, according to Scripture alone, For God’s glory alone.”
The only way these tenets could retain any usefulness is if the Christian were to see them as representing only the beginning of the Christian journey. They cannot be used to define the entirety of Christian faith — because James 2:24 says, “a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” For this reason, we will bring James’ own teaching on Abraham as a juxtaposition with Paul’s teaching. Not that Paul needed James’ teaching to help his own argument — but rather that we may arrive at a more precise understanding of each — and that we may understand that each needs to be completely true and not compromise the other.
In other words, we assume Paul and James were both inspired by the Holy Spirit — and thus completely correct in their arguments and conclusions. If we come to an understanding of either of them which becomes irreconcilable with the other, we have made an error — not them. Moreover, if we place them alongside one another, we will be able to see each one all the clearer. Much like how an off-white color may seem white at first glance — but when placed next to a true white, the nuance of the off-white stands out.
Furthermore, Paul made essentially the same argument in Galatians 3 as he did in Romans 4 — and he makes similar arguments elsewhere — so we have yet more to help us very specifically understand Paul’s own views which he wanted to convey.
Many tend to take Paul’s words in Romans 4 in isolation — instead of in the context of the entirety of the epistle to the Romans — or the rest of his works — or even the works of his peers in the rest of the New Testament. Therefore, we must endeavor not only to show what Paul did say, but also what he most certainly did not say — and where his argument fits within all teachings on New Covenant Christianity.
Now Paul says, “if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about; but not before God” — yet James 2:21 says, “Was our father Abraham not justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar?” James 2:23, Romans 4:3 and Galatians 3:6 all quoted the same verse from Genesis 15:6, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Paul says Abraham wasn’t justified by works while James says he was justified by works. As we mentioned, they definitely do not disagree with one another, so they must have different meanings.
This subject of “works” has been a great stumbling block in Christianity for almost two millennia. Those who claim only Israelites are saved merely by being born naturally rail against the idea of a “works based salvation” — and we have been accused of discarding God’s grace in our doctrine which requires works in the life of the believer. Therefore, over and above proving the doctrine of personal faith — we will scripturally resolve this matter of “works based salvation” once and for all — that if any such accusation persist, it will be revealed as willful slander.
If James said, “a person is justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:24) — and John said, “the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous” (1 John 3:7) — then we understand that works are an integral part of faith — and it would be impossible to prove personal faith without addressing “works based salvation.”
6 just as David also speaks of the blessing of the person to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: 7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, And whose sins have been covered. 8 Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account.”
Here Paul begins to qualify what he meant in verses 1-5 — and where we see the scope of his argument diverge from the scope of James’ argument. Here Paul quotes Psalm 32:1-2, where God has forgiven David’s sin apart from works. Psalm 32:5 says, “I will confess my wrongdoings to the Lord; And You forgave the guilt of my sin.” In David’s context, the only way to be forgiven of sin — or to have one’s sin covered — was through the law of sin offering.
Yet David said in Psalm 51:16, “For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You do not take pleasure in burnt offering.” We can see that David was very familiar with an atonement for sin which fell outside of the Law. Indeed, David’s atonement came through faith alone.
In Romans 4:6-8 Paul used a very specific example of forgiveness from sin — David was praising God for forgiving his sin. As we discussed in Part 3, Paul had just argued that “all [Israelites and Genesis 10 nations] have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23–24) and that justification came through “faith in Jesus Christ” (Romans 3:22).
In Paul’s example from Psalm 32, David was credited with righteousness apart from the works of the law of sin offering. Paul’s example shows us Scriptural precedent for the kind of faith he is proposing in the Lord Jesus. Paul says in Galatians 3:10-11,
10 For all who are of works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all the things written in the book of the Law, to do them.” 11 Now, that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “the righteous one will live by faith.”
Now recall that Paul said, “by the works of the Law none of mankind will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes knowledge of sin.” (Romans 3:20) Then he said, “Do we then nullify the Law through faith? Far from it! On the contrary, we establish the Law.” (Romans 3:31) Now we see thus far that the Law has two purposes:
- Provide a path of justification and atonement for sin
- Provide knowledge of sin
In Paul’s example, David came to know about his sin through the Law — but he repented of his sin outside of the Law of sin offering. David bypassed one purpose of the Law through faith — but one purpose was still upheld. David might not have known he had sinned in the first place if the Law did not provide him knowledge of that sin. It’s a good thing too, because Paul already established that “all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law” (Romans 2:12).
We also begin to understand what “works of the Law” truly means. Knowledge of sin is not something we can actually do — rather, it is something which we can only know. Knowledge of sin and not sinning cannot be counted as a “work of the Law.” Knowledge of sin and cessation from sin would not have justified anyone according to the Law if they had already sinned unto death.
On the other hand, the laws of sin offering and the punitive judgments for sin certainly are something which we can actually do. According to the Law, the works of sin offering would have justified the one who partook in that law — just as Leviticus 5:10 says, “So the priest shall make atonement on his behalf for his sin which he has committed, and it will be forgiven him.”
Now we know for sure that by his own example Paul was saying, “There was absolutely nothing you could have done in order to be forgiven of your sin — not even partaking in the laws of sin offering. The only way is through faith in the grace of the Lord Jesus.”
9 Is this blessing then on the circumcised, or on the uncircumcised also? For we say, “Faith was credited to Abraham as righteousness.” 10 How then was it credited? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised; 11 and he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised, so that he might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised, that righteousness might be credited to them, 12 and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham which he had while uncircumcised.
Here Paul introduces a third purpose — or kind of work — of the Law: that is to say, religious rites. Male circumcision was just one of a few religious rites found in the Law — like wearing tassels (Numbers 15:38) — though the Law treated circumcision by far the most severely of all rites. If one was not circumcised, then one was not even considered a part of the covenants in the first place (Genesis 17:14).
Note that religious rites are also something which a person must do. They are works of the Law.
As Paul says, Abraham’s righteousness by faith was credited to him before he became circumcised. In other words, Abraham’s heart was already circumcised by the time his flesh became circumcision. His fleshly circumcision was merely a sign of what had already happened. As such, Abraham was “the father of all who believe without being circumcised.” Rites generally remind Israel of — or symbolize — spiritual truths.
Thus Paul teaches us that religious rites will not do anything to ensure our salvation — circumcision included.
Though we should always bear in mind that the Lord Jesus said, “until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke of a letter shall pass from the Law.” (Matthew 5:18) Therefore, even the laws of sin offering and religious rites have heavenly fulfillments. The sin offering foreshadowed the Lord Jesus’ work as High Priest — and physical circumcision foreshadowed spiritual circumcision of the heart.
Now let us consider a point we made earlier — that Paul originally called Abraham a “forefather according to the flesh.” We expected that Paul would later define a kind of father not according to the flesh. Paul makes this very distinction again when he says Abraham is “the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also follow in the steps of the faith.” Herein Paul tells us that Abraham would be a father of some other group over and above the circumcision.
Those who believe only Israelites will be saved may try to argue that “the circumcision” refers only to Israelites part of the southern kingdom of Judah — and the “uncircumcised” refers only to the dispersions of the Israelites part of the northern kingdom of Israel.
Although neither Paul nor anyone else in the entire New Testament ever makes this argument — so those who hold to it are begging the question — that is, presuming the truth of their own premise. We rather look to what Scriptural authors actually said for our own doctrine.
Admittedly, Paul never specifically defines the terms “circumcision” and “uncircumcision” in his epistle to the Romans itself — so we assume Paul took its meaning to be self-evident to his audience. After all, why write a letter to a faraway community explaining important doctrinal points — yet never say what he actually meant? We’d expect Paul to write his letter in a way that made the meaning of the letter self-sufficient.
Now if Paul considered it self-evident — without bothering to provide any elaborate context on northern versus southern kingdom Israelites in any of his epistles from which we could glean the idea that the “uncircumcised” might refer to dispersed northern kingdom Israelites — then we assume the interpretation must be rather simple.
With an audience of the Romans epistle including Israelites and non-Israelites — as we proved in Part 2 — we do not have to make any extra assumptions — making use of Occam’s razor — to conclude that “circumcision” would mean Israelites and “uncircumcision” would mean non-Israelites.
However, in Galatians 2:8 Paul says that “He who was at work for Peter in his apostleship to the circumcised was at work for me also to the nations.” Then again in verse 9, “we might go to the nations, and they to the circumcised.” Paul creates a distinction between the “circumcised” and the “nations” twice in a very short space. “Nations” here means the Genesis 10 nations — it does not mean the dispersed northern kingdom Israelites because no one in the New Testament ever made that argument at all.
Therefore, if “circumcision” refers to the Israelites — then “uncircumcision” means something other than Israelites — which must be the Genesis 10 nations. Reiterating Romans 4:12, Paul said “not only are of the circumcision, but who also follow in the steps of the faith.” There’s that distinction again — just like in Galatians 2. Not only the circumcision, but also something other than the circumcision.
Thus in Romans 4, Paul claims that Abraham was the father of the nations — a fatherhood which fundamentally could never be “according to the flesh.” Abraham was not the father of the Genesis 10 nations according to the flesh — Noah was.
To this end in Galatians 3, we see Paul take a radical stance on the Abrahamic covenants. He says in verse 16,
Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as one would in referring to many, but rather as in referring to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ.
This verse alone stands as a powerful witness against the view that only Israelites will be saved — and as such, we have seen those who believe only Israelites will be saved attempt to argue that “Christ” should actually be rendered “anointed” — taken to mean “collective Israel.”
They will argue that the Greek work for “Christ” — or “christos” (Strong’s G5547) — merely means “anointed.” However, “christos” always means Christ Jesus — which comes from the verb “chrió” (Strong’s G5548), which means to anoint. “Christos” was the Greek word for “messiah” — just as John 1:41 says, “We have found the Messiah” (which translated means Christ [“christos” — Strong’s G5547]).”
Moreover, the doctrine is so pre-occupied with its own agenda that it fails to account for Paul’s plain words in verse 19,
Why the Law then? It was added on account of the violations, having been ordered through angels at the hand of a mediator, until the Seed would come to whom the promise had been made.
Paul argues that the Law was given “until the Seed would come.” If Israel were given the Law in the wilderness — and Israel predated the Law — how is it that the Law would be given until Israel came? How could Israel both predate the Law and come only some time after the Law?
This “Seed” of Galatians 3:19 was obviously Christ Jesus — but those who believe only Israelites will be saved have no choice but to interpret differently each instance where Paul uses the term “seed” between verses 16 and 19 — as if Paul would just randomly switch his definitions within just a few sentences without explaining anything.
With the witness of the Greek word “christos” itself — as well as using a uniform definition of the word “seed” — we can most assuredly conclude that the “seed” between verses 16 and 19 are one and the same.
Therefore — according to Paul, the promises were spoken to Abraham and to Christ Jesus Himself — that is, “to Abraham and to his seed” (Galatians 3:16). In this way, the Lord Jesus is the Paragon of Promise — or the prototypical Child of the Promise. The Abrahamic covenant could be realized only through the Lord Jesus.
Furthermore, Paul says that “the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.” (Galatians 3:22) He also says that “in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham would come to the nations, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” (Galatians 3:14) That “promise” is the Abrahamic covenant — given to those who believe through faith.
Paul’s argument in Galatians 3 easily aligns with our interpretation of Paul’s words in Romans 4 — Abraham has children other than Israel — “all who believe without being circumcised” (Romans 4:11) and “who also follow in the steps” (Romans 4:12) of Abraham’s faith. Thus since Christ’s first coming, the Abrahamic covenant will be fulfilled only by faith in the Lord Jesus.
Let us provide a practical example to tie all of these points together. Cornelius, the Roman centurion in Acts 10, “feared God with all his household” (Acts 10:2) — despite not even being an Israelite according to the flesh. When Peter visited Cornelius in Acts 10, Cornelius received the Holy Spirit. Acts 10:45 says, “All the believers from the circumcision who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had also been poured out on the nations.” After this event, Cornelius and his house underwent the rite of baptism as a sign of what had already happened.
Likewise, Paul says in Galatians 3:2, “did you receive the Spirit by works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?” Cornelius was not circumcised or baptized, yet he received the Spirit by faith — instead of any work of the Law — whether temple rituals or religious rites. Therefore, through Cornelius’ faith in the Lord Jesus, He became a child of Abraham not according to the flesh — but according to faith in Christ.
If the nations can become children of Abraham through faith — and if Paul preached this gospel message to the Romans — then not all of Paul’s Roman audience were Israelites — and not only Israelites will be saved.
Paul says that Abraham was father of those “who also follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham which he had while uncircumcised” (Romans 4:12). Here lies a very awkward and unresolved conundrum in the view that only Israelites will be saved. The Lord said in John 8:39, “If you are Abraham’s children, do the deeds of Abraham.” Paul said that in order to be children of Abraham, we must “follow in the steps of the faith” of Abraham.
Conversely, if we do not do the deeds of Abraham — and we do not follow in the steps of Abraham — then we cannot claim to be children of Abraham, regardless of whether or not we are born an Israelite according to the flesh. Yet those who believe only Israelites will be saved also believe all Israelites according to the flesh will be saved — even while the Scripture is filled to the brim with examples of Israelites according to the flesh who did not do the deeds of Abraham or follow in his steps.
Paul was not unaware of this paradox — that Israelites according to the flesh could somehow not be Abraham’s children — as was the case with the Pharisees in John 8 — despite literally being Abraham’s children according to the flesh. Paul says, “For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel” (Romans 9:6). “Israel” could only ever mean sons of the twelve tribes of Israel — Jacob’s sons. Therefore, Paul speaks a paradox — not all the descendants of Israel according to the flesh are accounted as Israel.
Then Paul says, “it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants [literally ‘seed’].” (Romans 9:8) When we read these words in Romans 9, we must note that Paul had already written extensively on what it might mean to be seed and children of the promise.
In other words, the “seed” of Abraham are those in whom the promises have been fulfilled through faith in the Lord Jesus. If an Israelite according to the flesh does not have a true faith in the Lord Jesus, then they will not enter the eternal Kingdom but instead die an eternal death.
Those who believe only Israelites are saved will attempt to argue that Romans 9 was only about non-Adamic Edomites who had infiltrated Israel in the land of Judea; however, we have addressed that argument at great length already. See the following studies:
- Will All Israel Be Saved — Or Just A Remnant?
- Edom In The Old And New Testaments
- Edom In The Prophecy of Malachi
- How Do I Know I’m An Israelite?
There’s more to Abraham’s faith, however, even before the time of his circumcision. As we stated earlier, James said that “a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” (James 2:24) Like Paul said, we must “follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham which he had while uncircumcised.” (Romans 4:12) What steps did Abraham take while uncircumcised? Hebrews 11:8-10 tells us,
8 By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he left, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he lived as a stranger in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; 10 for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
There was nothing Abraham could have done to earn the promises — therefore, the promises were based on faith alone — and “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” (Romans 4:3) In that same way, there’s nothing we could have done with works of the Law in rites or rituals to earn the Lord Jesus’ grace. The forgiveness of our sin and access to the New Covenant in Christ Jesus’ blood comes through faith alone.
Yet Abraham acted on his faith. His faith produced works. If he had merely believed and stayed in the land of his forefathers, he would never even have ended up in the land of promise. Verily, “By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place….not knowing where he was going. By faith he lived as a stranger…” Abraham’s faith produced obedience to God — despite his actions working seemingly against his own material wellbeing. If he didn’t have faith, he wouldn’t have lived as a stranger in the unseen realm of faith.
James provides us with examples of Abraham’s faith after his circumcision in James 2:21-24,
21 Was our father Abraham not justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.
Hebrews 11:17-19 clarifies why Abraham exhibited so much faith in this act,
17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and the one who had received the promises was offering up his only son; 18 it was he to whom it was said, “Through Isaac your descendants shall be named.” 19 He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type.
By the time when the Lord commanded Abraham to offer up Isaac, Abraham already knew that the promises were to be fulfilled in Isaac. Firstly, Abraham believed that the Lord is God — and that He is to be obeyed. Secondly, Abraham knew he was giving up the heir to the covenant promises — therefore, he believed that something was going to happen that he might receive Isaac back.
After all, Abraham said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey, and I and the boy will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.” (Genesis 22:5) Then when Isaac inquired about the offering, Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” (Genesis 22:8) Yes, Abraham believed in the promise to be fulfilled in his son — and again he acted against his own wellbeing, trusting that the Lord would work a miracle on his behalf.
If we are to follow Paul’s command and follow in Abraham’s steps, then our faith must produce obedience in us as well — even to the detriment of our own material wellbeing — but in faith that the Lord will restore us in the magnanimous promise of eternal life. Now James says, “faith without works is dead.” (James 2:26) If our faith does not produce works, then it is a dead and useless faith (James 2:20) — it is not faith at all.
When Abraham had faith in the Lord, he was obedient to keep the Lord’s commands. If we have faith in Him, then we must likewise be obedient to keep His commands. If we don’t, then not only do we not have faith in Him — but we do not love Him either, just as He said in John 14:15, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” He also says in John 13:34, “I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”
Likewise, Paul says, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.” (Galatians 5:6)
Thus Paul and James most definitely agreed with one another. No work could have brought about the Lord Jesus precious gifts — and we are justified by faith in Him, but that justification comes “by works and not by faith alone.” (James 2:24)
THE PURPOSES OF THE LAW
13 For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith. 14 For if those who are of the Law are heirs, then faith is made void and the promise is nullified; 15 for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, there also is no violation.
Here Paul again compares the righteousness of faith with the works of the Law. In verse 12 he stated that those who follow the steps of the faith of Abraham would be considered his children — not merely those who had been circumcised — a rite and work of the Law. Being a child of Abraham means following in the righteousness of faith — yet as we showed, Paul’s definition of “faith” is not some kind of gnostic knowledge where one merely has to know and acknowledge the Lord Jesus. Faith must produce action, or it is a dead and useless faith. If your “faith” does not produce faithful action, it is not real faith.
Paul provides another dimension through which to prove this point in stating the fourth purpose of the Law when he says “the Law brings about wrath” — punishment of sin. Paul goes into more detail on this topic in Romans 7 — but suffice to say for now that the Law contains codified, punitive judgments which deal with the penalty of sin.
Let’s recap the four purposes of the Law:
- Provide a path of justification and atonement for sin
- Provide knowledge of sin
- Provide rites for the remembrance of Spiritual truth
- Provide punishment for sin
Note how none of the purposes actually create sin — just like Paul says, “Is the Law sin? Far from it!” (Romans 7:7) — and “the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.” (Romans 7:12) Moreover, none of these purposes provide the power to stop sinning — because “the Law brings about wrath” (Romans 4:15) — and “the Law made nothing perfect” (Hebrews 7:19). The purpose was to punish sin, not fix the sinner.
Ultimately, all purposes of the Law presuppose that sin already exists. Hence why Paul says “that Law is not made for a righteous person” (1 Timothy 1:9). Note how Paul tacitly defines righteousness — one for whom none of the purposes of the Law have any benefit derives no benefit from the Law. In other words, if one were righteous, they are already in a state of not sinning:
- One has no need of justification and atonement for sin, because the Lord Jesus already covered sin outside of the Law.
- One has no need of a knowledge of sin if one is already not sinning — though we are all sinners, necessitating knowledge (1 John 1:8).
- One does not need rites to remember Spiritual truth if its heavenly fulfillment already guides one’s life — what use of circumcision of one’s heart is already Spiritually circumcised?
- One has no need of punishment of sin if one does not sin.
Therefore, when Paul says “faith is credited as righteousness” (Romans 4:5) — Abraham would be “heir of the world….not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith” — and “Law is not made for a righteous person” (1 Timothy 1:9) — we must understand the nuance of what Paul is saying. In other words, we must be very careful to understand what he is not saying.
Paul says, “the one who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the Law” (Romans 13:8) — and “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the Law.” (Romans 13:10) In Galatians 5:6 he said, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.” Yes, faith must work through love — which is the fulfillment of the Law.
Through love and faith, we do not need justification, atonement, rites or punishment. Faith demolishes the works of the Law — sacrifices, rituals and rites — but it establishes the Spirit of the Law — that is, lives which are conducted with self-control, love and the practice of righteousness (1 John 3:7).
We’ve seen that James says, “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” (James 2:24) When James refers to “works,” he can only be talking about the command of the Lord Jesus which says, “I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (John 13:34) But Paul words it a different way in 1 Corinthians 13:2,
If I have the gift of prophecy and know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
Many take this saying to be some hyperbole — as if Paul is saying, “Obviously no one could ever have prophecy, mysteries and all knowledge — and faith so as to remove mountains — if they didn’t have love in the first place.” Instead, why don’t we just accept Paul’s words at face value? Verily, don’t we see ourselves in our own minds to have prophecy, knowledge and faith — or some part in the above?
Yet we don’t consider within ourselves that if we do indeed have prophecy and knowledge — whether it’s true or not — that if we don’t have love, they become useless. Indeed, we even use our vaunted prophecy and knowledge as justification to take our own personal vengeance on our kindred — whether in interpersonal relationships or Scriptural debate. We do the very opposite of love.
Does anyone have all prophecy and knowledge? Come and let us all don love also that we may put prophecy and knowledge to use. As James said, let us show our faith by our works (James 2:18). See the example James uses in James 2:15-17,
15 If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? 17 In the same way, faith also, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.
Yes, James was also talking about love. Then James and Paul agree — and Paul’s teaching could not possibly include a kind of faith which does not produce love. See how faith must necessarily result in the fulfillment of the Law in our lives. As we have pointed out, that sola — “by faith alone” — could only ever apply to the beginning of the Christian journey — because that faith must produce works through love. As James points out, “Can that faith [without works] save him?” (James 2:14) The answer to that rhetorical question is a resounding, “No.”
Simultaneously, this faith is very deeply personal. It’s so personal that it represents the very core of our being. It is the Law written on our hearts. Yes, Abraham had this faith — but so must we. We must have it because Abraham also had it — we may be his children. The Lord says to Zaccheus in Luke 19:8-9
8 But Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I am giving to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone, I am giving back four times as much.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham.”
The Lord confirmed Zaccheus was a son of Abraham in verse 9 — because in verse 8 Zeccheus had just related to Him the works of love he had done — according to the exact standard we have exposited in this essay.
Now love is not limited to acts of charity like in these examples — which can be done to garner the approval of men. The Lord said, “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9:35) — and “if I, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:14)
Love does not force itself on others that we demand to tell others how we expect them to treat us — as if through our own selfishness we could force others to love. We cannot use love as a weapon against others. Paul tells us in Romans 12:10,
9 Love must be free of hypocrisy. Detest what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor
Love represents our most fundamental disposition toward others — that when the Lord judges us, He does not judge merely our acts — though acts we must have. No, when the Lord Judges, He “searches the hearts [and] knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8:27)
The Lord examines us according to those very same places within us that we even dare not peer into. John 3:19-21 says,
19 And this is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the Light; for their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light, so that his deeds will not be exposed. 21 But the one who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds will be revealed as having been performed in God.”
We must expose our lives to the light of Christ — which does not leave any shadows or darkness left behind — unless we merely admit to loving the darkness more than the light. How can any of us claim to have faith, prophecy or knowledge, if we hate the Light?
We must treat one another according to true love — and route out all selfishness, callousness, jealousy, egotism and uncontrolled anger. We must acknowledge the darkness within us and shine the light of Christ there. Most difficult of all, we all have to be brutally honest with ourselves — because when we display evil, we merely reject Christ. Proverbs 16:32 says,
One who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, And one who rules his spirit, than one who captures a city.
Furthermore, true love “does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6) — and all will be “judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.” (2 Thessalonians 2:12) So we are not to domineer over our brethren and force our “love” on them, that they may rejoice in unrighteousness and wickedness with us — because love must be given first and foremost to our Lord Jesus Christ who said, “If you love Me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).
Thus Paul says, “abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22) and “Detest what is evil” (Romans 12:9). If one must be forced to choose his so-called “brother” over the Lord Jesus, then the choice is clear.
To tie it up, consider Paul’s words in Romans 6:20-23,
20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in relation to righteousness. 21 Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. 22 But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gracious gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Note that Romans 6 was the natural conclusion of the arguments which Paul had made until that point in his epistle. We must consider that nothing Paul said in Romans 4 would contradict Romans 6. On the contrary, Romans 4 must support and compliment Romans 6.
We cannot simultaneously be slaves to sin and slaves to righteousness because Paul says when we are slaves to sin, we are free in relation to righteousness. Being freed from sin results in sanctification with its outcome, eternal life. That is God’s gracious gift in Christ Jesus.
Therefore, we cannot lay any claim to the “righteousness which comes by faith” if we are slaves to sin. We hope we have made clear that when Paul teaches on the righteousness in accordance with faith in Romans 4, that faith could never be a dead faith through lack of works in love.
When Paul tells us that we are not justified by works, he is referring to the works of the Law which we know full well are incapable of bringing about righteousness. Our righteousness and justification come from faith — because there is nothing we could have done to deserve the Lord Jesus’ magnificent grace and work. Thus He worked first in our lives — and we must trust that He worked first — that we may purify ourselves, just as He is pure (1 John 3:3).
HOPE AGAINST HOPE
16 For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, 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, 17 (as it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations”) in the presence of Him whom he believed, that is, God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that do not exist. 18 In hope against hope he believed, so that he might become a father of many nations according to that which had been spoken, “So shall your descendants be.” 19 Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb; 20 yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, 21 and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform. 22 Therefore it was also credited to him as righteousness.
See the angle through which Paul teaches us about Abraham’s hopeless situation. If Abraham had trusted in his own understanding, he would have logically concluded that he would not have received an heir through Sarah’s womb. He was about one hundred years old — “as good as dead” — and Sarah more so, given that women lose their reproductive capability before men.
When Christians see the words, “calls into being things that do not exist,” we see only the prophetic angle. In other words, we limit these words merely to the fact that God foresaw things which were to happen — so He spoke them beforetime. Yes, this is true — yet it does not account for the full meaning of Paul’s words.
Paul also says, “who gives life to the dead,” meaning that God does the impossible. What we consider hopeless within our flesh — as Abraham considered the producing of an heir through Sarah impossible in their own flesh — God does through His own power and will.
Therefore, Abraham would have children above and beyond what was possible through his own physical seed. God called things into being which did not exist — that is, a seed beyond the physical seed of Abraham — “who are of the faith of Abraham.” (Romans 4:16) If Isaac was born through biological impossibility — then Abraham’s seed would come through biological impossibility. Recall how we pointed out “that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham would come to the nations” (Galatians 3:14) — and Galatians 3:8 says,
The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the nations by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations will be blessed in you.”
When Paul quotes Genesis 12:3 saying all the nations, we take him to mean not excluding any — especially considering Genesis 10 had just lain out what “all the nations” would very specifically mean. Moreover, if God preached the gospel to the Genesis 10 nations, then the gospel could never, ever extend beyond the Genesis 10 nations — the pure descendants of Adam and Eve.
Thus Paul says, “In hope against hope he believed, so that he might become a father of many nations” (Romans 4:18). Now we know that when Jacob blesses Ephraim he says, “his descendants shall become a multitude [literally “fullness”] of nations.” (Genesis 48:19) That may be so — however, Paul says Abraham’s descendants would not only be according to the Law — that is, his descendants according to the flesh. If it were only his physical descendants in accordance with the Law, then there would be no need for faith or grace, because Paul said in verse 16,
For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham
Paul tells us that there is a group over and above “those who are of the Law,” which is “those who are of the faith of Abraham.” Yet “those who are of the Law” must still demonstrate “the faith of Abraham.” Indeed, “those who are of the Law” were guaranteed to bring forth those who demonstrate “the faith of Abraham” — which includes all the nations (Galatians 3:14).
But those who are not of the Law may join those who are of the Law — because “if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, since otherwise grace is no longer grace.” (Romans 11:6) Those from the Law must turn to grace — “For God has shut up all in disobedience, so that He may show mercy to all.” (Romans 11:32) If mercy and faith for all, then no longer through the Law for any.
Therefore, Abraham through his hope against hope, inherited a Spiritual seed — he became the father of the Genesis 10 nations who would walk in his steps of faith. What was impossible in the flesh became possible through God’s mercy and power. It must necessarily be so, because Psalm 86:9 says,
All nations whom You have made will come and worship before You, Lord, And they will glorify Your name.
Yes, Abraham would become the father of these nations through the One Physical Seed — the first Child of the Promise — the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, let us not glory in our flesh — our white skin — but let all honor, power and glory go to Him for all eternity — through His own greatness and mercy toward all who have been destined by His Father to partake in His Kingdom. Amen.
23 Now not for his sake only was it written that it was credited to him, 24 but for our sake also, to whom it will be credited, to us who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25 He who was delivered over because of our wrongdoings, and was raised because of our justification.
Here Paul emphatically affirms a personal faith — that the promise will be credited to us only if we “believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead” — and believe through Jesus our Lord. He tells us in John 3:14-15,
14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes will have eternal life in Him.
We understand that Abraham’s faith necessitates our own faith, that we become his children in displaying the same qualities which he did. Abraham’s faith in no way excludes a personal faith. If we do not have a personal faith — and believe on the Lord just as Israel believed on the serpent in the wilderness — then we will not “have eternal life in Him.”
Furthermore, that faith must produce righteousness — and we should hope against hope for that righteousness. We might consider the proverbial mountains before us impossible to scale — addictions, lusts, hatreds, anger, lack of motivation and powerlessness over the flesh. But Isaiah 51:1-2 says,
1 “Listen to Me, you who pursue righteousness, Who seek the Lord: Look to the rock from which you were cut, And to the quarry from which you were dug. 2 Look to Abraham your father And to Sarah who gave birth to you in pain; When he was only one I called him, Then I blessed him and multiplied him.”
See how Isaiah speaks of hope specifically for those of us who pursue righteousness. The Lord says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6) If we pursue righteousness — and hunger and thirst for it — then we must look to Abraham and follow in his faith.
We must lay supplication before our God night and day, day in and day out — with audacity and perseverance — in prayer to Him. If we do so, we definitely will be satisfied. Isaiah 51:3 continues,
Indeed, the Lord will comfort Zion; He will comfort all her ruins. And He will make her wilderness like Eden, And her desert like the garden of the Lord. Joy and gladness will be found in her, Thanksgiving and the sound of a melody.
If we look to Abraham and have faith — and we show ourselves to be his children — being cut from a Spiritual Rock — the Lord will do impossible things for us. Where we saw a wilderness and a desert land in our lives, He will make it like Eden — the garden of the Lord. He will pluck us from the fires of our own sin — and He will clothe us with white garments.
Therefore, let us put away these twin heresies that we need not have faith — and that faith doesn’t need to produce works — so that we may love our Lord with “all [our] heart and with all [our] soul and with all [our] strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5) By the gracious gift of His blood in the New Covenant — and by His divine power, He will write the Law on hearts.
He will deliver us from the “wrath of God [which] is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18) — because “He is faithful and righteous, so that He will [firstly] forgive us our sins and [secondly but distinctly,] cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
Ultimately, all it takes to be a true Israelite — or for anyone from the nations to join Israel — is to have the desire and faith to do so. Will we stand before the Lord Jesus one day and stand accused of not even wanting to be blameless before Him?