Grace Nuggets: Romans 4 (Justification Illustrated)

In my last blog post in Romans 3, Paul explains to the readers how we are justified. Justification means that God sees us through the lens of Christ through faith. We are not justified by our works, behavior or actions but just by believing what He said. When we believe in the finished work of Christ, God declares us righteous or justified in His sight. It’s as if He says, “I’m declaring you ‘just as if you’ve never sinned.'” We are justified apart from the law; we are justified by faith alone; justification is for all mankind; justification is by grace exclusively; justification came at a cost; and justification solves the dilemma of God being just and being the justifier.

In Romans 4, Paul illustrates justification to us through the life of Abraham. In this study, we will learn 3 important facts about how the spiritual experience of Abraham was the same as believers today.

  1. Abraham was justified by faith, not works (v. 1-8)
    • Romans 4:3 says, “What does Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.'” The key term here is “believed.” It wasn’t because of Abraham’s works or his obedience. It was because he believed that God would do what He said He would do. He trusted in the Word of God. The Greek word here is a banking term which means “to put to one’s account.” Abraham did not work for justification but because he believed, righteousness was accredited to his account through faith.
    • Romans 4:4-5 says, “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.” Justification/salvation/righteousness cannot be earned. If we work for it then we will expect it as an obligation and not a gift. But righteousness is ours when we trust God and the work that’s already been done! It also says that God justified the ungodly. Wait, He doesn’t justify the godly? No! There is none righteous, no not one! (Rom 3:10) We don’t deserve it, we can’t earn it or work for it. We are justified solely by faith and on the work of Christ! Amen.
  2. Abraham was justified by grace, not law (v. 9-17)
    • Verses 9-12 talk about Abraham being circumcised after God had counted him righteous. Abraham was not counted righteous because of the law of circumcision but because he accepted the grace of God’s promise to him before the law of circumcision was given. Circumcision was merely a seal of righteousness as a sign of his faith in God.
    • Romans 4:16 says, “Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all.” The promise of salvation comes by faith and rests on grace. And as we believe in faith, we are given salvation by the grace of God. The law only shows us our sin and points us to our need for a Savior. That’s why we cannot be right with God through the law but by God’s free gift of grace. If we earn salvation through keeping the law, we will boast in ourselves. But if we just simply believe that the work is done and is given to us by the grace of God, we will boast in Him. Praise God for making a way for us by believing in His grace!
  3. Abraham was justified by resurrection power, not human effort (v. 18-25)
    • These verses talk about how Abraham believed when God said that he would have a son and that he would be a father of many nations. Did Abraham try to make God’s promise happen in the flesh? Yes, and it proved to be detrimental to their family. Trying to fulfill anything in our lives by the flesh will always prove to be detrimental and we will always find failure. But did God see Abraham’s failure? No, we don’t see any mention of his failure in these passages but we see his faith. Abraham was definitely an imperfect man but God saw his faith and that faith counted to him as righteousness.
    • Verse 19 says, “Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead.” Warren Wiersbe explains this verse beautifully, “The application to salvation is clear: God must wait until the sinner is ‘dead’ and unable to help himself before He can release His saving power. As long as the lost sinner thinks he is strong enough to do anything to please God, he cannot be saved by grace. It was when Abraham admitted that he was ‘dead’ that God’s power went to work in his body. It is when the lost sinner confesses that he is spiritually dead and unable to help himself that God can save him.” 
    • Romans 4:23-25 says, “The words ‘it was credited to him’ were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” Because Jesus died on the cross he took the penalty for our sins. And because Jesus resurrected from the grave, He gives us justification.  When we believe in the work of Christ through faith, we now have His resurrecting power within us. Human effort could not accomplish this, only by Christ’s resurrecting power!

Justification cannot be attained by our own human effort, by keeping the law, or by our good deeds. It comes by believing in faith, resting on God’s grace, and by His resurrecting power. Father, may we put aside striving to earn and maintain our salvation. May we simply believe in the finished work of your Son and rest on your grace. May we come to a place where we see that we cannot save ourselves but we need your resurrecting power, not only for salvation but for our Christian walk. May we rest in You alone. Amen.

 

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Grace Nuggets: Romans 3:21-31 (Justification Explained)

In the overview of Romans 1:18-3:20, we left off with the immoral man, the moral man, and the religious man that are all condemned and are without excuse for their sin.The question asked was, “what hope is there if all men are guilty?” If we leave off there, we will be hopeless because we will always be controlled by our sin. But then we get to a beautiful “but” of the Bible in Chapter 3, verse 21. In this study, we will unfold and unravel the Father’s glorious plan of salvation. Let these verses soak deep into your heart as you fall more in love with Him!

In this section of scripture, we will see words like justification, righteousness, redemption, and propitiation. These seem like big “church-y” words so let’s define them.

  • Justification – the act of God whereby humankind is made or accounted just, or free from guilt or penalty of sin based on the finished work of the cross of Christ and must be received by faith. Another way to remember this is “just as if I’ve never sinned.”
  • Righteousness – this word is another word for justification and means that we are made right with God. He declares us righteous and perfect when we believe in faith in Jesus.
  • Redemption – in this passage of scripture, redemption means setting free from captivity or slavery for the purpose of setting free.
  • Propitiation – Propitiation was appeasing God through sacrifice and when Jesus died on the cross, He became the propitiation or covering of our sins. Atonement (covering) is another word for propitiation which means we become “at one” with Christ through His sacrifice.

David Guzik sums up these words: “Justification solves the problem of man’s guilt before a righteous Judge.Redemption solves the problem of man’s slavery to sin, the world, and the devil. Propitiation solves the problem of offending God our Creator.”

In these verses, Paul will explain justification and we will highlight 6 characteristics of it.

Romans 3:21 – But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.

  1. Justification is apart from the law.
  • As I said above, justification is another word for the righteousness of God. We are no longer justified or righteous by the law, rules and regulations. Works cannot save us from sin. We can never work enough, be devoted enough, or do enough good things to earn salvation.  The law was given to show us one thing: we are sinners and we need a Savior.

Romans 3:22 – This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile.

2. Justification is by faith alone.

  • How are we justified? By faith. Justification by faith means that we are declared righteous in the sight of God simply by believing in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. We are no longer keeping a list of “do’s” and “don’ts” but we are simply believing in our hearts and confessing with our lips that Jesus Christ is Lord of our lives.

3. Justification is for all mankind.

  • God not only offers salvation to the Jews but He also offers it to the Gentiles (everyone else). It’s not about who you are or what you’ve done. Jesus offers salvation to anyone who believes in Him through faith.

Romans 3:23-24 – For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus

4. Justification is by grace exclusively.

  • Everyone that is born into this world is a sinner. God’s glorious standard is perfection and no one is perfect. Only one man was perfect on this earth and that was Jesus Christ who was God and man. No fleshly man can follow the law because the law condemns him and shows him that he desperately needs a savior.
  • Yet God justifies us and makes us right in His sight through grace. Grace is God’s unmerited, undeserved, unearned favor. It’s a free gift that He gives to us not asking for anything in return. We don’t have to work or do a list of things for God to make us right in His sight. All we have to do is believe that He wants to give us this beautiful gift and accept and receive it into our lives by faith.
  • Also, note that when it says “all are justified freely” that in the Greek language this is in the aorist tense. This means that being justified is a continual act. We are continually being declared righteous and we will for eternity!
  • Here’s the word redemption we defined earlier. Jesus purchased us back from slavery to sin, the world, and the enemy for the very purpose that we could be free! And He did it freely by His grace and requires nothing from us in return. What an amazing God!

Romans 3:25 – God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished. 

5. Justification came at a cost.

  • The cost was the death of God’s one and only Son, Jesus. Jesus left His heavenly throne; came to this earth and wrapped Himself in flesh; lived a perfect, sinless life; allowed sinful men to punish Him and put Him to death on a cross. He was beaten, bruised, pierced, crushed, whipped, and cursed. All to save man. All to give man a way to have a relationship with the Father. It cost Him everything so that we could have everything. Think about that.

Romans 5:26 –  He did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

6. Justification solves a dilemma.

  • How can God be just and be the one who justifies at the same time? A God of love wants to forgive sinners but a God of holiness must punish sin and uphold His righteous law.  The answer is Jesus Christ. Wiersbe gives us a great answer to this question. “When Jesus suffered the wrath of God on the cross for the sins of the world, He fully met the demands of God’s law and also fully expressed the love of God’s heart.” Jesus’ sacrifice would reach all the way back to Adam’s sin as well. Therefore, God’s dilemma is solved. The wrath for our sins was poured out upon Christ. All we have to do is believe in Christ’s sacrifice in faith and accept the amazing love He has for us!

Romans 3:27-31 – Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith. For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.

  • We truly cannot boast about justification because we didn’t do anything to earn it or deserve it. We only boast in what Jesus Christ has done for us.
  • We are no longer bound under the law but that does not make the law null or void. Why? Because the law has a purpose and that is to bring us to Christ. Galatians 3:23-24 says, “Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith. And now that the way of faith has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian.” The law did exactly what is was supposed to do. It points us to something greater than our faults, failures, fears, and foibles – Jesus Christ.

Friends, understand that justification and salvation are given to us as a free gift of grace. Jesus redeemed us by purchasing us back from slavery through His blood and taking the wrath of God for us by being our propitiation. When God justifies us, it’s just as if we’ve never sinned and the best part is, it’s FREE! We will stop trying to earn God’s love and just worship God for who He is and what He’s done. When we receive God’s grace into our lives, we will be free to just love Him. Amen.