Romans 4-7

Paul addresses at least four things here: The importance of faith, the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice, the obligation we have to live in obedience and the war that this understanding sets up in our body.Read Romans 4-7 here
Paul insists that faith alone will allow us to receive forgiveness from Christ.   Apparently the Jews who were living in Italy were teaching the people that “Jesus was the way, but you still have to obey Jewish law” and circumcision was part of the law.   It wasn’t circumcision in particular that Paul was fighting against…because that one part of the law wasn’t any more holy than any other part.   It was the principle of the matter.   The Jews said something besides faith was needed to please God and cause Him to forgive us of all our sins.   Paul insisted that faith alone was required.
No one is saying that AFTER God forgives us that we can relax and do nothing.   Paul felt that once you were saved your life was radically altered.  The Jews felt that your life had to be radically altered before you could accept Christ.   Everyone believed that after you accepted Christ you became transformed.
However, because Paul was preaching “faith alone” there were those who took his message and twisted it to say “we don’t have to do anything, ever” and then they took that a step further and said that they could go on living unhealthy, dysfunctional sinful lifestyles and still be in God’s good graces…simply because they had asked for forgiveness.   They argued that when they sinned, God forgave them, so the more they sinned the more God forgave, the more grace God displayed…so they proposed that their sinning was actually good.
It’s the same argument that says it’s a good idea for me to burn down your house, because then firefighters have something to do, and can be revealed as being heroic.   Along that same line of reasoning, it would be okay for me to rob a store, since it would cause policemen to respond to the scene and consequently make it safer there.   Every once in awhile some misguided soul will perform an act of terrorism to demonstrate how vulnerable our country is to attack.   Their thought is that they are helping us to realize how to protect ourselves, but they don’t consider the people hurt in the process.  
Continuing to sin and expecting that it increases God’s grace is a foolish and defeated way to live.  It harms others, including ourselves and never brings about what we need the most: salvation.
What we must accept by faith is that Jesus did everything necessary for us to be saved by Himself.  His life and death were all that was needed, nothing more needs to be added by you or I.   Remember, we are talking about salvation here…not holy living.   For salvation, no effort is required on our part, save the acceptance of what Christ did …by faith.
Then Paul moves on to discuss how we behave once we accept Christ.  The Holy Spirit enters into our life and begins to point out areas in which we need to change.   And because we already belong to  Christ, and because we have the Holy Spirit, we are able to make the changes.    Paul looks back to the law for moment to help us understand his perspective.    I confess that this is pretty heavy reading, so hang in there with me.   It’s good stuff.
Okay, so Paul is saying that everything about the law is good.   But wait, wasn’t he just insisting that we not follow the law?  (circumcision).    Yes!  He was.   But what he was saying is that the law cannot do for us what we are asking it to do.   It can’t forgive sins.   The law is wonderful, and should be obeyed, but it can’t get us into heaven….only faith in Jesus Christ can do that.     Once we have faith in Christ we realize that large parts of the law were simply designed to point our our sins….it was never about fixing it.    Other parts of the law were meant to point to Jesus, now that He’s been here, those parts are completed and no longer necessary.    So the whole sacrificial portion of the law is done.   And the rest of the law is only valuable in so much as it glorifies Jesus.
I still honor the Sabbath and don’t kill or lie, because that honors Jesus.   If I thought that circumcision honored Jesus in some way, I would applaud the practice.  But as far as spiritual reasons go…there isn’t any significant reason for it.     Remember, the Jews were insisting that it must be done in order to be saved.
Paul will later reveal that he doesn’t consider any one day more “holy” than another….that’s how deep his belief in salvation by faith was.    I believe that going to church on Sunday won’t save you.  Neither will giving 10% of your income, or helping others in need.   In fact, as sad as this is, there will be some very nice people who end up in hell….simply because they didn’t accept by faith that Jesus Christ is the pathway to heaven.
I also believe that once we accept that Christ is the only way to heaven, and we allow the Holy Spirit to fill our surrendered lives, we will have no problem attending church every Sunday, and giving 10% of our income…or more.   And we will always be helping others in need.    The only difference is what you believe about Jesus, and what you allow Him to do in your life.