All the Way Back to the Beginning
I think this would be a good point to take a look at an outline to re-orient ourselves.
JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH (3:21-4:25)
Righteousness of God (3:21-26)
By Faith Alone (3:27-4:25)
Example from Abraham (4:1-25)
Faith and Works Abraham and David (4:1-8)
We are a large section of Paul’s letter to the Romans that discussesJustification by Faith. This section begins at Chapter 3, verse 21 and continues on to the the end of chapter 4. First Paul addresses the Righteousness of God, in verses 21-26, then in the remainder of this section he discusses what he means by faith alone. The section we covered last week, verses 27-31 can be thought of as an explanation of faith alone, and then chapter 4 deals with a practical example from the life of Abraham, and that is where we are today.
Now, the best way to understand faith alone is by example, so Paul takes all of chapter 4 to show us how this plays out in Abraham’s life. Let me read Romans chapter 4, verse 1 through verse 8.
What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness. David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the one to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against them.”
Today we are going to look at 2 points, we can learn from the first few verses of chapter 4
How radical Justification by Faith alone really is
How it Demonstrates that Justification by faith alone it is the foundation for Christian life.
Teaches us How radical this idea really is
There really is no other place that there is an idea anything like this. All of society is based on the idea of justification by works. Every court system in the world since law began is based on the idea that we are declared guilty or innocent based on what we do, our actions. If I was speeding I am guilty, if not I am not. We teach this to our children.
But it isn’t just in secular society, it is also in place in many other major religions as well. Karma for instance is the universe either paying you back or rewarding you for your actions. Islam you are judged by a set of scales, and you good deeds must outweigh your bad.
When the reformers rediscovered the doctrine of Justification by faith alone it was radical enough that it started the reformation. To this day this is the doctrine that divides protestants, from all other religions.
Yet Protestant churches often drift from this doctrine. A drift began right after the reformation. As churches try to equate some sort of work with justification. It has always been and continues to be a point of contention.
Here in the letter to the Romans we see that Paul knew that his audience would find it just as radical. That is why he goes to great lengths to explain it. For thousands of years Judaism was based on justification by works. So Paul here in chapter 4, reaches back into Jewish history. All the way back, to their most revered Father, and founder of the Faith Abraham. What Paul is going to show, is that Justification by Faith alone is actually not new, and radical as people think. Instead Paul will show that the Biblical plan all along was justification by faith alone. It goes all the way back to the beginning.
You may recall last summer we did a study of Genesis. We went through the first 11 chapters of the book of Genesis, and then as summer came to and end, the last message was on Chapter 12, the call of Abraham. Let me refersh your memory.
In Chapters 1-11 of the book of Genesis, we read about the story of the descent of man deeper and deeper into sin. The world and Adam and Eve are created good, then in Chapter 3, they sin, and are expelled from the garden. People then sin amore and more, right? Cain and Able the first murder, and then the world is so corrupt, that God decides to pour out his wrath on the earth in a great flood. Noah and his family is saved, but Noah too sins. Then, all of mankind is gather in one place, the tower of Babel. God sees their wickedness and scatters them to the ends of the earth.
But then....Starting in chapter 12, the rest of the whole book of Genesis is the story of God’s rescue plan unfolding through one family, the family of Abraham. Abraham is the father of the Jewish nation, and through His obedience He becomes the father of the Jewish nation.
Paul then anticipates the Jews rejection of justification by faith, because in the Jews mind, Abraham was justified, by his obedience.
What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, discovered in this matter?
Abraham as you know was the father of Issac and Issac the Father of Jacob and Jacob the father of the twelve tribes. Abraham, was the ancestor of Israel. The forefather according to the flesh. Then Paul writes in verse 2
If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God.
Jewish rabbis, and believed that Abraham actually kept the whole law, even before the law was given. Jewish tradition believed that Abraham was blessed, because he was righteous. The argument that the rabbis would hold to goes like this. Genesis chapter 12, Abraham follows God and leaves his country and goes to the land, this is Abraham being obedient. Then he lives his whole life as a godly man until chapter 22, when He is tested. To the Jewish mindset, all of the promises of God are hanging in the balance as to whether or not Abraham will follow God and sacrifice his son Issac. Since Abraham does indeed offer Issac on the altar, Abraham is proved righteous and the blessing comes into effect.
Then Paul, says, If anyone would have a right to boast it should be Abraham. Paul already wrote extensively about boasting so he does not press it too hard and just passingly says, but he can’t boast before God, no need to revisit that.
But then Paul takes a radical turn. Paul writes
What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
Here is the bombshell, Paul quotes Genesis 15, 6. Why is that such a big deal. because, Paul is not quoting something at the end of Abraham’s life after he had proved himself righteous by offering Issac on mount Moriah. That event doesn’t take place until chapter 22, He is quoting a passage that happens long before that. Long before the promises are fulfilled, while Abraham was still in the middle of the struggle to trust God,
He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
Abram-believed the Lord and that was credited to him as righteousness. In the verses before God gave the promise to Abram. God gave Abram the promise that he will make him into a great nation, and Abram believed the Lord, and it was credited it to him as righteousness. It says he believed God, He believed what God said, He believed what God had promised. This is more than believing there is a God, that has long passed, He believed what God said, and that was credited to him as righteousness.
That word credited in the Septuagint is logizomai. You may recognize the prefix log is there to record, it has this sense of recording, as if in an accounting ledger. It has this sense of thought as if in an accounting ledger, the money may not be there physically, but a record of the money is there. Along with that is to reconcile as if a debt.
Abram was not inherently righteous, but God credited Him as righteous, or logizomai, him as righteous. This word is extremely important in chapter 4, it appears 11 times in the 25 verses of chapter 4 alone.
Here in verse 3, then in verse 4, now to the one who works, wages are not credited to him as a gift, verse 5, his faith is credited as righteousness, verse 6, God credits righteousness apart from works. Verse 8 it is in the negative-whose sins the Lord will not count against him. Verse 10 under what circumstances was it credited, logizomai. Verse 22, this is why it was credited to him as righteousness, and verse 24 to whom God will credit righteousness.
Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation.
We go to work, we work hard, and we are due our wages. In the accounting ledger of the employer it is a debt they owe us the money. We work for someone and they owe us, our wages. When our paycheck comes it just squares up the account. He then moves that debt off his books, and we are back to zero. It is not a gift when the boss hands you your check, it is what you are owed.
If Abram, indeed worked hard at his righteousness, where is the blessing? Why would that be a gift? If Abram worked for his righteousness, then God was not crediting his account as a gift, it would have been an obligation. God would have owed Abram. God would have been in debt to Abram, a mere man. Can God be in debt to a man?
Can the one who owns the cattle on a thousand hills be in debt to anyone? What need would God have to go in debt. Which of us can search our heart and say to the Holy one, the creator of the universe, God you owe me? Didn’t God already pay us ahead? When we took our first breath and was given the gift of life, didn’t that place us in debt to the creator who gave us life? In spite of our sufferings and difficulties in life, didn’t God give us one another, and Sunrises and newborns, families, and church families, children and joy and laughter? In reality aren’t we the ones in debt to our creator. we owe it to Him to follow His law. Which we fail miserably, as we know.
So in verse 5 Paul writes
However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.
Abram’s account because of sin is in debt to the Lord, Like all our all acounts, Romans 3.23, for all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God. All are in the negative. But then notice this God logizomai, or credited it as righteousness. Abram, and us when we believe God we do not just go from the negative to neutral. We do not just go back to zero, because our sins or our debt is removed. We are actually moved into the positive, or credited as righteousness. We move all the way to the positive, in the eyes of God by our faith in Jesus.
This is why the sinlessness of Jesus is important. Jesus faced the enemy Satan in the wilderness in Luke 4, and was tempted but did fall. In Hebrews 4 the writer Jesus was tempted in every we are-yet he did not sin. He lived a perfect life, he kept the law to the positive, then He was raised from the dead, because the death penalty no longer applies to one without sin, and our faith in His perfect life credits it to us HIs righteousness in place of our sinfulness. Not just brought to zero, but also credited to the positive.
Yet, we are still sinners-As one commentator put it, when We believe in this promise of God, it as if we are dressed in filthy rags, representing our sinful deeds. But when we believe in Christ he gives us His robe of white-pure-sinless righteousness and drapes it over our filthy rags. When God the Father looks at us, he does not see our filthy rags, but instead only sees Christ’s robe of righteousness that cover’s us.
Paul using this example of Abraham this shows us how radical this idea really is. Chapter 4, through observing the life of Abraham.
Demonstrates that Justification by faith alone is the foundation for Christian life.
Perhaps you are wondering why Paul is hammering on this idea of faith alone over and over again.
Faith alone, I get it, so what. How does knowing this stuff help me to live today? Teach me how to avoid temptation, or how to avoid discouragement. I have kids to raise, a job, money or health problems, how does justification by faith alone help with any or that.
You can think of it like kids in school, right? They are complaining about having to learn Math and science and rhetoric and they say why do we have to learn this junk anyway? I will never have to use it. Teach me something I can use. Well of course, we know that you have to reading and writing skills to get a good job, and you need math to be able to balance you checkbook. Justification by faith alone, is like that. It is the foundational building block to understanding the whole christian process.
It tells you where you are positionally with respect to God and His kingdom. How can you feel like a failure, knowing that God has purchased you and justified you, while you were still a failure. When the accuser comes to you to tell you otherwise, you know that you have been redeemed by the blood of the lamb, justified fully by HIs blood. How can you overcome temptation? Knowing that you have been justified, by your faith does not place the burden of achievement on your shoulders, you are free to ask God, by the power of the Holy Spirit to remove this temptation from you since he has indeed overcome. How can you avoid discouragement? You know that since God has purchased you and secured a relationship with you that although this world has difficulties and challenges, and discouragements that there awaits a future glory for those that he has justified.
Let’s go back to that account of Abram, in Genesis. Like I said earlier the first 11 chapters describes the decent of the human race deeper and deeper into sin, then in Chapter 11, God calls. God reaches into the sin of the world and begins this rescue plan by calling to Abram.
The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
God calls each of us. He has called all of us to believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Either you have, believed in the promise-that through the cross of Jesus Christ, God will remove your sins and credit you with righteousness or you remain in your sin where you sit today. In a group this size there is no doubt someone here who has not believed and trusted that it is by faith alone in Christ alone for the forgiveness of sins. I plead with you today to believe and receive the promise of the gospel and eternal life by faith in the Lord Jesus.
When you do that it begins the Christian life. You become a Christian, and your life starts new. You move from being lost to being found. There is a response to the promise. Abram makes that response, in the next verse, So Abram went.
So Abram went, so we go onward in the Christian life. Now it does not mean that your life will be perfect. It will be hard to trust in God, for the promise, temptations will come at you, you will find yourself trusting in yourself rather than God. That is what we see with Abram. Right away just 6 verses later in verse 10 of Chapter 12, Abram arrives in Egypt, and he is afraid that the King will steal his wife. He is afraid he will lose the blessing that God has promised. In fear of losing what God has promised, Abram lies.
But the Lord does not abandon those he has called. Verse 17, starts out But the Lord. So through a series of circumstances and through disease, God rescues Abram from his lie, and moves him on.
By Chapter 13, Abram’s family leaves him, Lot leaves him to live in a city, and in chapter 14 war breaks out and Abram, is faced with the struggle of losing his family once again. Abram fights the battle, and rescues lot. All that happens, then we get to chapter 15.
Then chapter 15 opens with this.
After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.”
After this, the Lord reminds Abram. The Lord comes to Abram, after he goes through those trials and difficulties to remind him-I am your shield your very great reward. But Abram still doubts verse 2
But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?”
But Abram said.....We also doubt, we also struggle, It can be hard to see the blessing God has for us. We face battles, we think that someone will steal the blessing from us, so we lie, or try to take it in our own hands. We doubt as Abram doubted, but that is when God came to Abram. God came to him and took him outside and showed him the stars of the skies, and God says see those stars Abram-so shall your offspring be, and it is then that we get to Gen 15:6
Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
God had to remind Abram of the blessing. The blessing for Abram was out there but for now it was outside of His reach, he could not even see how it would be manifest but God showed him the stars and He believed God.
Here is my point-Paul goes over this section of Romans over and over because God wants to remind us of the blessing, that awaits those that believe Him.
God is reminding us today. Maybe you get caught up in the same sin over and over. Maybe it is discouragement or anger or lust or pride. Romans 4, reminds us that God has credited us with righteousness. Believe God.
Believe God in the middle of your discouragement, believe God in the battle, believe God when it feels like you will never see the blessing he has for you, believe God. He has credited it (Past tense) as righteousness.
Let God show you the stars. How do we let God take us outside and show us the stars and see the blessing again. I know of no better place to see the blessing of God than the book of Ephesians. Ephesians chapter 1.
Let me show them to you know.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.
In Jesus name