March 13, 2018

Following in the Footsteps of Faith

Romans 4:9–12

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Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. 10 How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. 11 He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, 12 and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.

In Context:

4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: 7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.” 9 Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. 10 How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. 11 He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, 12 and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised. 13 For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 14 For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. 15 For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression. 16 That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, 17 as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.

Following in the Footsteps of Faith



Bio | Taylor Dodgen

Hi, my name is Taylor, and I love being a dad! My two little girls and their baby brother keep my wife, Kristin, and me occupied with living-room ballet recitals, struggling with vegetable consumption, and making-up over a good picture book. I don't have it all together (not even close), and I'm grateful that God is willing to use me anyway. Please pause and pray for these next few moments. My words won't mean much to you today unless God speaks through them!

Central Truth

God gave the people of Israel an outward symbol (circumcision) to demonstrate their devotion to Him. However, this physical change was always meant to be just a sign of the real deal: righteousness by faith.

Devotional | Romans 4:9–12

My wife, Kristin, and I met in middle school when she moved to Texas from the land of blueberries, Wolverines, and "much better ice cream"—Michigan. Through the years, we have given each other a lot of...

My wife, Kristin, and I met in middle school when she moved to Texas from the land of blueberries, Wolverines, and "much better ice cream"—Michigan. Through the years, we have given each other a lot of tokens of our affection, from ridiculous mums in high school (seriously, what's with the mums?) to beautiful rings on our wedding day. We have now been man and wife for nine years, and the smooth pieces of metal we wear on our fingers have not magically kept us married. We're committed. We're all in. Our rings communicate this devotion to others, but they're just an outward symbol. They sure don't change diapers or plan date nights!

God gave the people of Israel an outward symbol (circumcision) to represent their inward commitment and belief (faith), and Paul wanted to make sure that his readers got this right. Circumcision didn't make them righteous before God; faith did. It always does. In fact, nothing we do on our own can ever make us right with God. We can't try hard enough, follow the rules well enough, or be impressive enough to earn the forgiveness we need. And boy, do we all need forgiveness.

Notice that circumcision is also called a "seal." Imagine, for a moment, a wax seal placed on an important document. By the time you imprint the wax seal on the envelope, the letter has already been written and carefully placed inside. You seal it after the work is done. Again, Paul wants this point to be crystal clear: outward expressions like circumcision (or baptism for Christians today) are not the things that save us. Circumcision for Abraham and baptism for us today take place after we have committed ourselves to God. They're like the wedding ring after the "I do."

Our rituals and sacrifices can never be a substitute for faith in God and His rescue plan! That plan actually led Jesus to change His outward appearance for us: taking nail scars on His hands and feet. Lord, fill us with gratitude today.

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Discussion Questions

1. Are you counting on any outward works to earn God's approval and good will? Think through the most "spiritual" things you have ever done or currently do. Consider carefully your heart's motivations. "For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7b)

2. Matthew Henry writes, "Abraham was pardoned and accepted in uncircumcision, a circumstance which, as it might silence the fears of the poor uncircumcised Gentiles, so it might lower the pride and conceitedness of the Jews." Do you consider your best accomplishments worth anything in comparison to "the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:8)? Are you basing your identity and value on anything but "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27)?

3. Baptism is one important, outward sign of God's forgiveness and favor in our lives. If you're a Christian, have you obeyed Christ by following through with this public expression of your inward commitment? If you have, look for an opportunity to serve at the next Baptism Sunday at Watermark. Go facilitate this experience for others!

4. Pray that you would "walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had" (Romans 4:12) by devoting yourself to Jesus today. Lord, may Your mission take priority today, Your desires become ours, and Your sacrifice be our meditation. Give us this day our daily bread.

15 Comments available

Kathy Hempel Cox 9 months ago

Thank you, thank you, thank you. Hugely blessed me today…and convicted me. Grateful that I am a work in progress (Phil. 1:6)

Michael Scaman 9 months ago

Michigan has the best blueberry vinaigrette salad dressing

greg jones 9 months ago
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@Sue, nobody loses their circumcision, never thought of that that way before. Can I add this? If we consider salvation to only be about being saved from something and not about being saved to something, we might be diagnosed with resurrection dysfunction.

David Green 9 months ago

Sorry Taylor – you lost me at “much better ice cream”.

Rita Satagaj 9 months ago

Great devo Taylor. Loved your examples, especially in marriage. The rings being an outward symbol to others was great. Marriage is a commitment that we work at. This is much like our lives. We are sinners and have to strive daily to be more like Christ. I thank God for His merciful grace. Eph 2:8-9

greg jones 9 months ago

#4 A great reminder by prayer. Father as I dwell on the source of peace in my life, may that source of peace better this world thru my life. Thank you for that reminder today.

Michael Scaman 9 months ago

Great song about Abraham from Michael Card: They call him laughter: “https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=47IcPOZcWe8

Many of the themes of Romans from are seen in the story of Ruth such as death under the law (of the father and sons), God visits His people providing bread but that leads to salvation for both Jew and Gentile alike. We could say Ruth had a circumcised heart. The emphasis is on Boaz as redeemer, but in a surprise twist at the end the child Obed becomes the future hope and restorer redeemer of Naomi

Michael Scaman 9 months ago

“He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised…” Gen 4:11 In this case the sign and seal was described to be after Abraham was righteous by faith suggesting an outward sign of an inward reality.

Todd Shaddock 9 months ago

Brilliant write-up this morning! Thank you for the fresh and fun words making this passage palatable and easily “swallowed and digested”. Thank you for the humility strongly detected through out and for reminding me that my values is in Christ alone and not any areas of life (i.e. work.)

RAJASEKAR SUBBIAH 9 months ago

Amen. Very nicely said. We should never forget this simple truth. All our outward exhibits like calling ourselves as Christians or our Baptism means nothing if in our heart we are not faithful. Thank you brother for explaining the biggest of truths in such simple language. God bless you and your dear ones.

Michael Scaman 9 months ago

Abraham offered loot from the King of Sodom… no thanks… like a flashing comet Melchizedek interrupts the conversation blesses Abraham and leaves… Abraham turns the King of Sodom down cold. God assures Abraham that God himself will be his exceeding great reward promising a child is in part context for Gen 15:6

Like Abraham, we seek a city we cannot see We seek a better reward and pleasures God is our exceeding great reward We walk in the footsteps of the Lord’s anointed, not always easy but it’s worth it Ps 89:49-51 “… they mock the footsteps of your anointed…”

Sue Bohlin 9 months ago

EXCELLENT devo, Taylor! I love how you explained how circumcision was both a sign and a seal, especially connecting it to your wedding rings.

My husband Ray’s wedding ring went missing over a year ago. We’re pretty sure it’s in a crack or a corner of the fitness center of the Carnival Breeze. (Heads up to anyone who sails on that ship out of Galveston!) That fact that his “sign” of our marriage covenant was lose-able (is that a word?) contrasts powerfully with God’s choice of the sign of His covenant with His people in the Old Testament. Nobody loses their circumcision! That’s God being smart . . . again.

Lindsey Driscoll 9 months ago

Great reminder that “Walking in the footsteps of faith” (4:12) is more important than our outward acts of faith: baptism, VBS, community group, serving others in need. All is for nought if we are not faithful to walk with the Lord daily.

Hugh Stephenson 9 months ago

Today I am reflecting on the “seal of righteousness that [I] have by faith”.

Paul explains to me in perfect terms that I did nothing for this and have it regardless of whatever sacrament (circumcision, baptism, communion etc) I thought might be needed. How do I model the faith of Abraham and the life of Jesus such that my life reflects this truth? How do others see that “righteousness would be counted to them as well”.

Here is how I don’t - airport lines, traffic, bad service, hassles, crowds, noisy restaurants etc, etc. Anyone who sees me in these settings would seldom think of me as having “righteousness by faith”.

JPs message helps me see that its all pride. All these settings are opportunities to model Christ and even start some faith conversations. What good am I if I only model Jesus when its easy?!?!

Praying for surrender.

Julie Newmeyer 9 months ago

This is such an important section that many people misunderstand, even though it is so clearly written by Paul. You did an awesome job explaining this section of scripture, Taylor. Praying that eyes are opened and hearts will be changed as they read this morning!

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