Romans 4:1-8

Sunday, August 25th, 2013

Text: Romans 4:1-8

ABRAHAM AND RIGHTEOUSNESS BY FAITH

INTRODUCTION:

In Romans 1:16-17 we have noted the theme of Romans. It is the gospel of Christ which is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth. The one who is made righteous by faith in Christ's finished work on the cross at Calvary is the one who will have eternal live.

The first major section of Romans deals with man's lack of righteousness. It shows the need for the righteousness of God. All humanity lacks the righteousness of God, and, therefore, stands condemned before God and deserves to spend eternity in hell. Romans 3:21 begins the second major division of the book of Romans. It deals with God's provision of righteousness: justification by faith and extends from Romans 3:21 through 5:21. In Romans 3:21-31 we see God's righteousness provided by faith; in Romans 4 we see righteousness by faith illustrated in the life of Abraham.

We have seen the method of salvation presented in Romans 3:21-26 .

1. Its threefold nature

It is by faith - v.22

It is adapted to all men - v.22

It is free - v.24

2. Its ground - the redemption in Christ Who is the propitiation for sins - v.25

3. Its twofold object

To declare God's righteousness - v.26

To reconcile God's justice and mercy - v.26

In Romans 3:27-31 we have seen that righteousness by faith excludes boasting, that it is equally suited to all, whether Jews or Gentiles, and that it establishes the law.

Remember what it means to be justified by faith. It pictures God as the judge rendering His official verdict. It is a declaration of righteousness. We are forever afterwards treated by God as righteous, even though we are still sinners. It has to do with our relationship to Christ. We have placed our trust in Him as our personal Savior. It has nothing to do with any supposed righteousness on our part because there is none. It has nothing to do with the way we live as if we could earn the forgiveness of sin or admittance into heaven. It has nothing to do with church membership. The fact is that you can be a member of this church and not make it to heaven, and you can make it to heaven without being a member of this church or any other church.

In Romans 4 one Greek word is used eleven times, but it has been translated in three different ways, all of which mean the same thing. It is also used in Romans 3:28 , where it is translated conclude.

Romans 3:28 - Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

Romans 4:3-10 - 3 For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. 4 Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. 5 But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. 6 Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, 7 Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. 8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. 9 Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. 10 How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. 11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also:

Romans 4:19-24 - 19 And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara's womb: 20 He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; 21 And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. 22 And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. 23 Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; 24 But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead.

This is illustrated in Philemon 18 .

Philemon 18 - If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account.

In Romans 4:1-8 , we see that Abraham was justified by faith.

We remind ourselves that Abraham is the father of the Jewish nation. All Jews are descended from Abraham through his son Isaac. Therefore, the Jews were quite proud of their relationship to Abraham. No one doubted Abraham's salvation. Was the way in which Abraham saved consistent with what Paul has been writing, that we are saved by faith rather than by any works which we might do? Romans 4:1-8 shows that Abraham was saved in exactly the same way we must be saved. He believed what God said.

Notice -

I. THE NECESSITY OF FAITH - 4:1-2

Romans 4:1-2 - (1) What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? (2) For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.

Then is inferential and is understood in the sense of therefore, accordingly, consequently, or so.

One cannot be certain whether the we is the literary we, i.e. Paul himself, or whether Paul is including the ones to whom he is writing in asking the question; and it makes no practical difference.

The tense of hath found implies the consummation or result of a process. The suggestion is that Abraham learned something over a period of time and came to a settled conclusion on the matter.

Abraham is described as our father. He is the father of the Jews in that all Jews are descended from him through Isaac.

He is also the spiritual father of all believers (Galatians 3:7 ).

Galatians 3:6-7 - 6 Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. 7 Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.

Back in Romans 4:1

As pertaining to the flesh is according to the flesh, with reference to the flesh, or with regard to the flesh. These words are to be understood with hath found rather than with our father. This is made clear by Paul's question in verse 2 which is assumed to be contrary to fact.

Romans 4:2 - (2) For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.

If Abraham were justified by works is a condition which is assumed to be false or contrary to fact. Abraham was not justified by works.

He hath whereof to glory is also contrary to fact because its truthfulness is dependent upon the truthfulness of the condition. It, therefore, remains an unfulfilled condition.

To glory means to boast. He does not have anything to boast or brag about because he was not justified by works. Had he been justified by works, however, he could have bragged about how he had earned his justification. The thought is that he does not have anything to boast about because he was not justified by works.

But indicates a strong contrast.

Not before God leaves no doubt that Abraham was not able to boast about justification by works in the presence of God and that he never would be able to. There is not any room to boast before God because the Scripture teaches that justification was given to Abraham; he did not earn it as is indicated in the next verse.

We have seen that it was necessary for Abraham to have faith.

We notice also that -

II. THE OBJECT OF FAITH IS GOD - 4:3A

Romans 4:3 a - For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God. . . .

For what saith the scripture?

By the scripture Paul means the Old Testament. The Scripture was the final source of appeal, and Paul appealed to it in order to settle the matter.

Likewise our final authority for all that we believe and practice is the Word of God.

Abraham believed God. Abraham believed what God said.

It was necessary that Abraham have faith in God.

Notice next that -

III. THE RESULT OF FAITH IS RIGHTEOUSNESS - 4:3B

Romans 4:3 b - Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.

This is the answer Paul gives to his own question. It is a reference to Genesis 15:6 . Abraham was childless, and God promised him that his own child would be his heir and that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars of the heavens and as the sand on the sea shore. Abraham believed God. Thus, we see that God was the object of Abraham's faith. As a result God counted it unto him for righteousness. It means that righteousness was credited to Abraham's account. Thus, righteousness is the result of faith.

Counted is used literally of numerical calculations or in banking terminology, and is used figuratively as in this verse to take into account characteristics of something or reasons for something. It is used 11 times in Romans 4 and is variously translated by the terms counted, reckoned, imputeth, and imputed.

For righteousness is a prepositional phrase which is used in the sense of as righteousness. It means that righteousness was credited to the account of Abraham because he believed God. Thus, righteousness was given to Abraham because of faith and not because of any works he had done.

Notice next -

IV. THE PRINCIPLE OF FAITH CONTRASTED WITH THE PRINCIPLE OF WORKS - 4:4-5

Romans 4:4-5 - (4) Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. (5) But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.

When someone works and thereby earns something, whatever he earns is owed to him. It is a debt that must be paid.

To him that worketh is to the worker or to the one working.

The reward is the pay or the wages. The reward is understood in the sense of his reward, his pay, or his wages.

It is not reckoned (i.e. it is not considered) a matter of grace to pay him because grace is unmerited or undeserved favor.

But indicates a strong contrast.

His pay is a matter of debt. It is deserved. It is considered an obligation because he earned it.

Romans 4:5 (5) But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.

But indicates a contrast with what has preceded in verse 4. In verse 4 Paul discusses the principle of works, but in verse 5 he discusses the principle of faith.

To him that worketh not refers to an individual who is not attempting to work in order to be justified by works. He recognizes that it is impossible for anyone to be justified by works.

But believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly indicates what he does instead. He believes.

Him that justifieth the ungodly is God. Abraham did not work; rather, he believed on God.

His faith is counted for righteousness indicates the result of believing on God.

For righteousness is a prepositional phrase which is to be understood in the sense of as righteousness.

Is counted has also been translated reckoned and imputed in this chapter. It means that righteousness is set down to his account. He is given righteousness.

Faith is the method by which righteousness is obtained. Cf. John 3:14-18 .

John 3:14-18 - (14) And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: (15) That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. (16) For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (17) For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. (18) He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

Finally, notice -

V. THE OUTCOME OF FAITH - Romans 4:6-8

Romans 4:6-8 - (6) Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, (7) Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. (8) Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.

1. Righteousness is reckoned - 4:6 - Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works,

Romans 4:6 (6) Even as (i.e. just as) David (i.e. King David) also describeth (i.e. speaks about, asserts, or reports) the blessedness (i.e. blessing) of the man (i.e. human being), unto whom God imputeth (Imputeth is the same word translated counted in verses 3 and 5 and reckoned in verse 4) righteousness (i.e. what is credited to this one's account) without (i.e. apart from) works.

2. Sin is forgiven - 4:7a - Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven

Verse 7 is quoted from Psalms 32:1 , and by it Paul shows that iniquities are forgiven and that sins are covered. They are covered by the blood of Christ.

Blessed means happy.

Iniquities is literally lawless deeds or transgressions.

Are forgiven means are canceled, are remitted, or are pardoned.

3. Sin is covered - 4:7b - Blessed are they . . . whose sins are covered.

Whose sins are covered is another way of saying whose iniquities are forgiven.

Sins is the term which means missing the mark.

Are covered is an intensive form whose action took place in past time with the results continuing. Blessed persons are those whose sins were covered in the past and remain covered in the present. This is something which is true of all believers. That which covers sins is the blood of Christ.

4. Sin is not reckoned - 4:8 - Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.

Whereas verse 6 indicates that righteousness is reckoned to the believer, verse 8 indicates that sin is not reckoned. Verse 8 is quoted from Psalms 32:2 .

Blessed or happy is repeated, and this time man is the term for an adult male.

Not is a very strong negative, while impute is the same word translated counted and reckoned in verses 3-5.

Sin is the same word translated sins in verse 7 meaning a missing of the mark. The man who is blessed (i.e. happy) is the man to whose account sin is not credited. It has been forgiven; therefore, it is not laid against his account. The implication is obvious that the individual who has sin imputed to him is not blessed (i.e. happy).

CONCLUSION:

The conclusion of the matter is that Abraham was counted righteous by his faith.

First came the divine revelation. God revealed salvation to Abraham.

Second came the response of Abraham's faith. Abraham believed God.

Third came God's reckoning of Abraham as a believer.

Fourth came God's justification of Abraham, thus God regarded him as righteous and treated him as righteous.

In the same way we have received the divine revelation that Jesus Christ died on the cross to atone for our sins and that He rose again from the dead.

Second we believe it. This is our response of faith.

Third, God reckons us as believers.

Fourth, God justifies us, i.e. He regards us as righteous and treats us as righteous from then on.

Have you understood His revelation about Christ?

Have you placed your trust in Christ as Savior?

If not, won't you do so today?