I Want to Be Sure
Romans 4:1-5, 13-17
I'm not so sure. She didn't know who this man was by the well where she regularly came to get water. She usually tried to avoid the crowds because of her embarrassing past and she certainly wanted to avoid conversation. As she got closer, she noticed that he was a Jew- one of those - another reason to avoid talking. She couldn't turn around and go home now. That would be strange. So she pressed on. As she reached the well. Of course, he spoke first, asking for a drink. She wasn't sure if the kindness in his tone was real or demeaning. She was used to the passive aggressive conversation from the other women in town.
Wait. What did he say? How did he know her adulterous past? Thinking fast she used her normal change-the- subject defense tactic. She knew enough about religion because she has been trying to get rid of the guilt she so often buried deep inside. But how could she get right with God. She wanted to be certain. She must be sure about this. She didn't want to end up in Satan's dungeon. Of course the messiah told about in God's book would clear everything up. If only.....
The woman that we met at the well in the Gospel lesson scrambled for certainty as she conversed with Jesus. It is something we all want. We want to be sure that we are ok with God. I don't want to be duped. I want to know I am good with God.
Paul hadn't yet been to this church in Rome but in his travels around, he made some observations and saw common themes. One was certainty in heaven, not simply that heaven is real, but that each person is certain he/she is going to be there. In Rome was a clash between ethnicity and opinion. There was a clash between tradition and the new wave of church that Jesus introduced. Clash between how you became a part of Christianity and a part of the group. So in the clash, there grew uncertainty.
Paul knew that they needed a solid foundation so that they could be certain. The people boasted about their own actions. They say that they are connected to God through what they did. They say that they are connected because they are born from Abraham and in the right ethnic group that God chose. Because the people connected their certainty back to a guy named Abraham, it would be good to return back to how he was certain about his relationship with God.
What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefathers, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about-but not before God. The Jewish people who knew Abraham's story thought him to be an upstanding guy. He left everything and dedicated his
life to God. He trusted God to take care of him and his family. He was even willing to give up his son because God was first in his life. He was generous with his money. He did amazing things to show how good of a guy he was. But did he bank his certainty on how good of a person he was? No. Then how did he? What does Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." Simply stated, Abraham believed. He was saved because of God. His salvation was not based on a system of reward. It wasn't because of Abraham's hard work. It was because of God's grace. His status or standing before God was credited to him. What does that credit mean?