The very thought should make us shudder. And you know why, right? Because if God changed then He either became better, or He became worse. Now, if He became better, then He wasn’t perfect yesterday, and tell me, just who or what exactly was answering your prayers last week? And if He changed for the worse, well, horrors…
So get ready for a 5 cent theological word: immutable. That’s what God is – it means He never changes. Put that on the list of something God can’t do: He can’t change. After all, how could One who is already perfect in beauty and power and love ever change? It’s impossible…and praise God that it is.
Well then, what are we to do with this grace thing? After all, when we turn the page from the Old Testament to the New, don’t we go from law to grace? Wasn’t Yahweh one God in the Old Testament and another in the New?
The $64,000 question…did He change?
Of course not! God has always been perfect in love and grace, in the New Testament as well as the Old. And this is the point that Paul must prove to his readers in Romans chapter 4. After all, the people of the church in Rome know that if the Apostle is teaching them something which shows God as being different than he was before, they must throw out all of Paul’s teaching.
And, at least according to some, Paul was presenting a “new” God: Jewish teachers of the day taught that Abraham was saved by his good works, as for instance, the book of Jubilees said, “For Abraham was perfect in all his deeds with the Lord, and well-pleasing in righteousness all the days of his life.”
So to make his point, Paul takes us all the way back to a story…from the Old Testament, Genesis 15 to be exact, and it happened this way…
The Lord came to Abram (God had not yet changed his name) one night in a vision, and he promised him protection and blessing. But Abram immediately thought about the primary way he was not being blessed: he did not have a son. And in that holy moment, God promised him…a boy, his very own son. And then…
And with that, Abram…was saved. And it didn’t happen by being circumcised – Paul goes on to show that circumcision happened after this – and it didn’t happen by any other good works either, not even because he was a really great guy.
No, no, Abram was saved…by God’s grace, through faith…and this, at the very start…of the Old Testament. Glory to God, He hadn’t changed after all.
And therefore this gospel that Paul was proclaiming was not presenting a new God after all – he was simply telling all the rest of us the most glorious and wonderful news that Abram had heard centuries before, telling us that we could be saved in the same blessed and hopeful way, and for this even we Christians call him “Father Abraham”, for he was indeed the “father of all who believe”. (Romans 4:11)
Tomorrow I welcome my first guest blogger in our Inspired readings through the New Testament: my son, Josh Knowlton…on Romans 5