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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.