Romans 4:1

 

 

Welcome to the study of the Bible, the greatest and most important book in the world. Romans 4:1-2 says, "What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, has found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God."

 

Abraham was not justified by works and he was not justified by the flesh. The flesh refers to that which is physical and material. As humans we are made up of both flesh and spirit. That which is flesh is flesh, and that which is spirit is spirit. We come into contact with God through the spirit, and not through the flesh. Jesus said in the gospel of John that God is a spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.

 

If I am going to be in contact with God, then I must contact Him through my spirit. There is no physical activity, there is no human effort that brings a person closer to God, because God is a spirit. And there is no physical or human activity of any kind that will result in you becoming justified before God. The life of Abraham proves this point. And Paul quotes Genesis chapter 11 as evidence. Romans 4:3 says, "For what says the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness."

 

God made Abraham a promise. Abraham believed the promise that God made, and as a result God counted him as being a righteous person. Abraham made mistakes in his life. He was a sinner just like everyone else in the world. Therefore, he became justified not by his works but by his belief, his trust, his confidence that God would keep His word and that the promise of God was worthy of his trust. God has also made us promises. These are written down in His Word. It is essential that you know the promises of God, so that you can have faith in them. If you have true faith it will be based upon the promises of God. And the most important promise from God is the promise of forgiveness of sins that is in Jesus Christ. There is an old hymn written about this theme:

 

ďStanding on the promises of Christ my King,

Through eternal ages let His praises ring.Ē

This is the second verse:

ďStanding on the promises that cannot fail,

When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,

By the living Word of God, I shall prevail,

Standing on the promises of God.Ē

 

Your religious activities are all in vain if you do not have faith. "Without faith itís impossible to please God." Several times Jesus rebuked His disciples after so much had been shown to them, and Jesus said, "O ye of little faith."

 

Faith is born the first time that we put our trust in God for the forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ. Faith is spiritual, and that is why Jesus called this birth of faith in the heart and mind of a human; a spiritual birth. Jesus said, "except a man be born again, he cannot enter the kingdom of God."

 

Faith in God has a definite beginning point in the life of a human. The promises of God are proclaimed, and especially the promises in regards to the forgiveness of sins that is in Jesus Christ. A human responds to the promises by reaching out to God through Christ for the forgiveness of sins. He or she trusts and commits themselves to God through Christ. They believe. This initial belief in God can happen as a child or as an adult. It is the birth of faith, and it is the most important thing that can happen to any person because of the everlasting results.

 

"Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness." Sometimes we hear that God takes an account of our works. That for each person, He keeps a record of all that we have done: both good and bad. If thatís true, the problem is that we have all done bad things. But according to Romans 4:3 there is actually another record that God keeps. He keeps a record of who is accounted righteous and who is not. In computer terminology it may be considered like a giant bit map. For each person there is a switch, a bit that is either turned on or turned off. You are either accounted as righteous or you are not, and what makes the difference is faith. If you believe God, it will be counted to you for righteousness.

 

Romans 4:4 says, "Now to him that works is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt." We were already told in Romans chapter 3 that "we are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." Grace is the free gift of God. If you have believed God for the forgiveness of sins, then you have received a free gift from God. Paul is emphasizing the fact that once "grace" has become a key part of justification, then there is no more room for good works in reference to the issue. You can always tell that someone does not understand the gospel very well when they list certain human works or certain human actions as a part of their discussion of the gospel.

 

There is a big difference between someone giving you a free gift, and someone giving you something because they owe it to you. Salvation is a free gift. If you try to work for it, you are implying that God will eventually owe you something. It will be a debt for Him to pay. Of course, you could never do enough to earn it anyway. If you have entered into faith, you have nothing to fear. You can be confident of Godís kind regards towards you. You did not gain it through your good works, and you cannot lose it through bad works. If you have entered into faith, you may yet fail miserably, even as Peter did when he denied Christ. But with kindness and gentleness the Lord sought Peter out and encouraged him, because it is all based upon Godís grace and not our works. One of the great promises of the Bible we will come to in Romans chapter 8. It says, "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are the called according to his purpose." This promise and others like it can only be possible if we are basing everything on the principle of Godís grace.

 

You must understand the book of Romans if you are going to understand the gospel. Because of a lack of understanding, some people are confused about the relationship between faith and works. Too often faith and works are mixed together in an explanation of the gospel. Paul did not make that mistake. Salvation is by faith alone, and works has nothing to do with obtaining salvation. Of course, no one should ever claim that they have faith, and then never have any good works. As James said, "Faith without works is dead." But good works do not help gain justification, they are simply an evidence of it. Donít put the cart before the horse. Itís not what you do that determines if you are righteous, itís what you believe. "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness."

 

Paul states it one more time in Romans 4:5. The Bible says, "But to him that works not, but believes on him that justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." Anyone that says that you must have a certain number of good works, or do a certain number of things, or add anything else to justification by faith: that person does not preach the gospel that Paul preached. There is no religious ceremony that you must do, there is no amount of money that you must give, there is no sacrifice that you must make. The only requirement is faith.

 

Notice that in Romans 4:5 Paul says that through faith God justifies the "ungodly." The emphasis is on the fact that God justifies people who not only do not earn justification, but who also who do not deserve justification: the ungodly. He is talking about you and me. He says in Romans 4:6, "Even as David also describes the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputes righteousness without works."

 

Abraham was the first example from the Old Testament to prove that justification was by faith and not by works, and the first book of the Bible, the book of Genesis was quoted. Now a second person from the Old Testament, King David, is being used to show that justification is by faith and not by works. This time Paul quotes the book of Psalms and says in Romans 4:7-8, "Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin."

 

In the example of Abraham we are shown how we are given what we do not have on our own: righteousness. That which we need the most, is that which we do not have on our own, and itís that which God gives freely through faith: righteousness. If you have faith, you have all the righteous deeds that Christ did credited to your account. Now we are shown through the example of David the other side of the coin. We are shown that the things that we wish we did not have, the things that we wish that we had not done, our own bad works and our own sins, do not get charged to our account, and it also is through faith.

 

Paul quotes Psalms chapter 32, and describes our condition. The word "blessed" is used twice. "Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven", and "blessed is the man unto whom the Lord will not impute sin." The French translation of the Bible translates the Hebrew and Greek words for "blessed" as "happy". "Happy is the man whose iniquities are forgiven", and "happy is the man unto whom the Lord will not impute sin." If you are blessed of God, then you are in a happy condition. The greatest blessing is the blessing of the forgiveness of sins. If you have the forgiveness of sins through faith, then you should always have as a goal to make that the source and the reason for your happiness. Jesus indicated this. He said to the disciples, "Rejoice not that the demons are subject unto you; rather rejoice that your names are written down in heaven."

 

Most of the things that humans often seek for happiness in life are very fleeting and untrustworthy anyway. With the temporary and dangerous nature of life, you could lose anything and everything. You could lose your closest human relationships; you could lose your material possessions and the material security that you work so hard to get; you could lose your health and your freedom. But if you have put your faith in Christ, you will never lose the justification or the forgiveness of sins that He has given you. Jesus said about His believers, "I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish." He also said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you", and "I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am, you may be also."

 

"Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven." The word "forgive" is a wonderful word. As with some of the other words of the New Testament, its meaning is clarified by noticing places where the same Greek word is used, but translated a little differently because the context demands it. The word that is translated "forgive" is the word ďafiami.Ē It means to forsake, to depart, or to separate from. In Matthew 4:20 it says of the disciples, "and they immediately left their nets and followed Him." When it says they "left" their nets, itís the same word that is here translated as "forgive". They left their nets; they separated themselves from their nets. When God forgives us our sins, He separates us from our sins. When He considers us, He no longer sees our sins because He has forgiven us; He has separated us from our sins. "As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us."

 

Have you ever done something wrong, and then someone five or ten or even twenty years later, reminds you of it. In their mind, they still connect you with a particular sin. They do not forgive you, because they do not separate their view of you from that sin or failure. Thatís why the forgiveness of God is such a wonderful thing to have. No matter how great are your sins, if you have the forgiveness of sins, when God thinks about you, He thinks of you as if you have never sinned. "As far as the east is from the west; so far has He removed our transgressions from us."

 

In case removing your sins from you is not a good enough picture of the justification through faith, Romans 4:7 also says that our sins are covered. God does not see our sins because they are removed far off from us, and He does not see them because they are covered. And if that is not enough to convince you that justification is by faith alone, Romans 4:8 says that "blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin." Even if you do sin, the Lord will not impute it against you; He will not charge it to your account. Thatís justification by faith, and thatís salvation by the grace of God.

 

In Romans 4:9-12 Paul gives another reason that the blessing of imputed righteousness that was given to Abraham in the Old Testament had nothing to do with his works, and nothing to do with the law. He wrote, "Comes this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. How was it then reckoned? When he was in circumcision or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. 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: and the father of circumcision to them that are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised."

 

The importance of circumcision in this argument is the fact that circumcision was one of the major physical and outward things that had to be done for someone to be considered a real Jew and a true worshipper of God, under the terms of the Old Testament. That being so, the circumstance in Genesis chapter 11 where Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness happened before Abraham himself was circumcised. This helps to prove the point that a person is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. If you are not a Jew, you can become justified by faith just the way that Abraham did; and if you are a Jew, you can become justified by faith just the way that Abraham was.

 

God has given us a precious salvation. It comes by grace through faith, not of works. No one can boast that they merit the favor of God. Throughout eternity as you meet the acquaintance of all the other people who end up in heaven, you will find that every one of them will give credit to the grace of God that is in Christ Jesus. No one will be in heaven because they earned it, and if it were not for justification by faith, no one at all would be there.  

 

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Copyright; 2000 by Charles F. (Rick) Creech
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