Summary: This is the eight message in a series that examines the reality of our sin problem based on Romans chapters 1-5. This message examines the fact that God declares us righteous based on faith and not works.
We have a hard time believing that anything is totally free. Whenever we see something free, we immediately assume that there are strings attached. The majority of us have experienced those hidden strings. “You have won a free vacation.” “Download the free clipart.” “Sign-up for a free no obligation quote.” The free vacation often requires us to buy our own plane tickets and to sit through some boring presentation about time shares. The free clipart comes with a lot of annoying adware that bogs down our computer. The free quote results in a stream of never ending inconvenient phone calls. Experiences such as these cause us to believe that nothing is truly free. This skepticism often determines how easy it is for us to accept God’s grace. Let’s be really honest here for a second, I have to work to get a paycheck; doesn’t it make sense that I would have to work to earn my salvation? This is exactly what the Jews struggled with as they heard the Gospel message. Even the Old Testament taught that justification came through faith but somewhere along the line that concept got distorted in the minds of the Jewish people. The Jewish leaders had constructed a religion that was almost completely dependent upon works. So the concept of grace truly went over their heads. So in our text Paul skillfully turns to the pages of the Old Testament to present concrete evidence using the patriarch Abraham that God declares us righteous based on what He had done not on what he had done. Today, we need to truly soak in Paul’s words and discover that there truly is something that is free. Although God’s grace is difficult to wrap our brain around, it doesn’t change the fact that salvation comes through faith and not by works.
I. Paul uses Abraham to show that God makes us right through faith.
A. An examination of the most revered character in Jewish history.
1. Paul is setting out to do one of the most difficult tasks in the world, changing someone’s mind when they are convinced that they are right.
2. Judaism constructed a view of Abraham that was not entirely correct.
a. They viewed him as being the first example of religious piety.
b. They viewed Abraham’s righteousness as a result of obedience to God’s Law.
3. The problem with their view was that Abraham came centuries before God had given the Law through Moses.
4. There was no written code for Abraham to follow, in fact scripture does not support the idea of Abraham being justified before God because of the things he did.
5. Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:6—NIV 2011)
B. Abraham is not an example of great piety but an example of great faith.
1. Piety would require Abraham to flawlessly keep God’s written code which had not been given yet.
2. If you examine Abraham’s life and compare it to the Law you find out he was exactly like us, he sinned and fell short of God’s standard.
3. As Paul has pointed out repeatedly throughout the letter so far, if you break one law you are guilty of them all so there is no way to be justified that way.
4. However, we can see that Abraham took God at His word time and time again even when it did not make any sense.
5. The bottom line? Faith not obedience made Abraham righteous in God’s sight.
II. Paul further makes his point by contrasting real life situations.
A. A paycheck is not a gift, it is payment for work that has been completed.
1. Paul uses the process of employment to demonstrate the difference between faith and works.
2. You work and the employer pays you at the rate that has been agreed upon once the work is completed.
3. The wages are not a gift, the employed is obligated to fulfill their side of the agreement.
4. A business that simply gave money away to their employees without any work being done would soon be bankrupt.
5. If we could earn our righteousness, salvation would not be a gift it would be something that God was obligated to do.
B. The ungodly do not earn their righteousness, it is credited to them when they believe and place their trust in God.
1. The truth is, there is no do-it-yourself kit that comes with salvation.
2. Each of us come to God by faith in Jesus Christ not by obeying a bunch of laws or by doing a bunch of good works.
3. Paul blows holes in the theory that salvation is earned with the statement that God justifies the ungodly.
4. Martin Luther put it this way; “God does not accept the person on account of his works, but he accepts the works on account of the (believing) person.”