Romans 1.18 speaks of God’s wrath. It is continuously revealed from Heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in ungodliness. The unrighteous, ungodly truth suppressors are the licentious who live lives of unrestrained sin (Romans 1.18-32), the legalists who live lives of self-restrained sin (Romans 2.1-16), and the law-keepers who live lives of self-deception. Law-keepers forget that they are sinners at all (Romans 2.17-29). Romans 3 makes clear that ALL have sinned and ALL fall short of the glory of God. The good news of the gospel is that the righteousness we ALL lack is God’s gift freely received through our faith not through our works (Romans 3.1-31).
Romans 4.1-12 argues that justification is a work of God received by faith. Abraham and David serve as illustrations to fortify the argument explicitly stated at the end of Romans 3. God is most certainly glorious and receives ALL the glory when it comes to the work of salvation (see Romans 11.33-36). Salvation is by grace alone. Therefore, the justification of the soul is not based upon any kind of merit or works on our part, but solely by faith in Christ alone.
Paul appeals to the Old Testament Scriptures regarding justification by faith. Abraham was made right with God by faith. That is, Abraham believed God. God did not believe for Abraham. If Abraham had been justified by works and not by faith, he would have something to boast about. Yet his righteousness was imputed to him by God’s grace alone through Abraham’s faith alone.
Good works neither save nor sanctify people. If you work to earn or to keep your salvation, you bring nothing but your sinfulness and self-righteousness. This is great deception. You think you stand for Christ when you actually belittle His full and finished work on the cross. This is why Paul uses both Abraham and David as examples.
Abraham was justified while he was still uncircumcised. Since this is true, he becomes the father of us ALL (Jew or Gentile; circumcised or uncircumcised) who believe. Ironically, the Jews consider Abraham their father when in fact Abraham is the father of us all. But Abraham was justified by simple faith not extraordinary faith. Faith need not be extraordinary. It can be weak, feeble, and trembling faith. This is faith like the woman who held fast to the hem of our Savior’s garment for physical healing. It is the object of our faith that counts.
David (see Psalm 32.1-2) describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works. Imputation means to count something as true and rightfully credited to my account. God does not impute iniquity to the Christian, but He imputes righteousness to the Christian. This righteousness is from God imputed to us who believe in the Person and work of Jesus Christ. This transaction takes place the moment we believe on Christ. Our sins are gone and ALL of His righteousness is credited to us. Romans 4.1-12 leads to four very important conclusions:
- All believers are justified the same way, namely by faith alone.
- Those who preach any doctrine contrary to faith alone are accursed.
- Believers justified by faith alone are truly liberated from sin.
- Believers set free have the grace of God to teach them how to live.
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