From the life of Abraham, we see that God justifies people because of their faith, not based on their works. We are children of Abraham when we share in his faith, and are heirs of the promise to all his offspring.
Romans: The Glory of the Gospel Part 10
Belief as Righteousness – Romans 4:1-11a
Mosaic Rockford – Dave Spooner – Oct. 29th, 2017
- Paul writing to the believers in Rome whom he had not met face to face but was planning to visit on his way to Spain. They have heard the gospel, and Paul is writing “to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations” (Rom 1:5) wherein he lays a full foundation of the faith and explains to them the glory of the gospel.
- The church in Rome was made up of both Jewish and Gentile believers who were wrestling with the issue of the character and heart of God, in relation to humankind, and how we are to have a right standing with Him. So, Paul deals with the nature of our fallen humanity in relation to a holy, just and merciful God along with the purpose and intent of the Old Testament Law.
- The Jews were taught that they were the “children of God” because of their natural physical heritage. They thought that because they had the law of God and were counted among His people by circumcision, that they would indeed inherit the blessing and salvation of God that was promised to Abraham.
- Paul explains that having an outward expression of faith is not the same as having an inward transformation of faith. A “circumcision of the flesh” vs. a “circumcision of the heart”. A person is a “real Jew” if there is a transformation of the heart through the work of the Spirt by faith.
- In the last part of chapter 3 we saw that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” (Rom 3:23-25).
- This morning we will continue in chapter 4 where Paul uses the life of Abraham as an example and evidence of being justified and declared righteous by faith.
Abraham believed God
Rom 4:1-3 ESV
What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.”
- Everyone knew about Abraham, who is called the “father of the faith”. Paul uses Abraham as an example of the truth he is teaching. Saying that Abraham was not justified by what he did, but by what he believed. Here is the passage that he is quoting:
- the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” 2 But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” 4 And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” 5 And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6 And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness. (Gen 15:1-6 ESV)
- Abraham was not justified by what he did, he was justified and counted as righteous because he believed in what God promised.
Faith is counted as righteousness
Rom 4:4-8 ESV
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 trusts 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.”
- We will be counted as righteous apart from our works based upon our faith in the promise of God who justifies the ungodly.
- So, he quotes the psalm that the lawless sinner is blessed when his sin is forgiven and covered. This is not a righteous person who is recognized as righteous, but a sinner who is blessed by God because God has forgiven him of his sins apart from his works
Faith is completed by obedience
Rom 4:9-11a ESV
Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? 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.
- Abraham was declared righteous on the basis of his faith in the promise of God before he did anything. So, righteousness comes from our faith and not from our works (the order is important)
- Now after he had faith, then he “received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised”.
- Seal – proved that the faith was genuine (like a seal on a birth certificate) The works prove that the faith is genuine.
- Now we need to take a look at what James says and how what he says fits together with what Paul is saying (noting that it is the Holy Spirit writing through both of them)
James 2:18-26 ESV
But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.
- Faith can only be seen by our actions (we can’t see faith for faith’s sake – or love for that matter – because there is faith – therefore there are actions. Actions are a result of our faith, not the basis of our faith).
- Abraham justified by works – when he offered up his son Isaac – the son of the promise was Isaac, so Abraham believed in the promise before Isaac was born, and because Abraham had faith in God it was proved to be genuine because of his “obedience of faith” by doing what God requested by offering his son as a sacrifice (which he thought that God then could raise him from the dead) Gen. 22 Heb. 11:17-19
- You can have works without the faith, but you cannot have faith without the works.
- Rom 14:23 ESV For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin
- James 2:26 Faith apart from works is dead
- These two truths are put together like this in Ephesians Chapter 2
Eph 2:8-10 ESV
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
- You don’t need to clean your life up to come to faith. You are declared righteous the moment you believe (outside of your works – thief of the cross), and because you believe, you will then live in obedience because of your faith (do the good things that God has planned for you to do.)
- Remember the example of Abraham as the “father of the faith” who believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness.”
- Remember that our faith is counted as righteousness and that our faith is completed in obedience. These things go hand in hand and keep us from becoming either a pharisaical hypocrite or a cultural Christian
- Put your trust in Christ who is the “author and perfecter” of our faith
Questions for the week ahead:
- What is your understanding of how faith and works fit together when it comes to our salvation? and the Christian faith?
- How will this understanding impact your thinking and your actions?