Summary: In this sermon we observe David’s testimony of how God justifies and blesses sinners.
In our series in Paul’s letter to the Romans we are learning about the good news of God. The apostle Paul is teaching us how unrighteous sinners come into a right relationship with a holy God.
We are sinners by nature. We are rebels against God. We want to rule our own lives, and we have no interest in submitting to our Creator.
God is therefore understandably angry with us. Even though he created us for fellowship with him, we have broken fellowship with God because of our sin. God cannot look on wrong (Habakkuk 1:13b), and he must condemn us to hell for all eternity.
Thankfully, God has made provision for us to enter into a relationship with him. He has done so by providing his own righteousness. He credits us with the righteousness of Jesus and transfers our sin to Jesus. God then justifies us and we receive his verdict of “Not Guilty!” by faith. We call this “justification by faith.”
The apostle Paul in Romans 4 uses the patriarch Abraham as an Old Testament example of justification by faith. Paul teaches that Abraham was saved, not by his own good works, but rather through faith in the righteousness that God provided. Abraham believed God that he would provide Abraham with his divine and perfect righteousness, and because of his faith in God’s work Abraham was justified.
Paul knew that the Jews would require more than one witness to establish a legal matter (Deuteronomy 19:15, 17:6-7, Numbers 35:30). So he added the testimony of King David to that of the patriarch Abraham to support his illustration of justification by faith. He did so by citing the first two verses of Psalm 32.
1 What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:
7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are
and whose sins are covered;
8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will
not count his sin.” (Romans 4:6-8)
When I talk to people about heaven and salvation I often ask the first Evangelism Explosion question, “Do you know for sure that if you were to die today that you will go to heaven?”
The answers I receive are, “Yes,” “Maybe,” “I hope so,” and “No.”
Then I follow up with the second Evangelism Explosion question, “Suppose you were to die today and you were to stand before God, and he were to say to, ‘Why should I let you into my heaven?’ what would you say?”
The answers I get to that question are very revealing. How would you answer that question?
The answers I receive to this second question are, “God will let me into his heaven because. . . I try to obey the Ten Commandments. . . I try to be a good Christian. . . I’m a basically good person. . . I go to church. . . I am a member of a church. . . I believe in Jesus AND go to church . . . and so on.”
The problem with each answer is that the person is trusting in his own work to get him into heaven. Theologians sometimes call this “works-righteousness,” meaning that we are presenting our own works to God to satisfy his requirements for perfect righteousness.
Other people do not think of themselves as being in a wrong relationship with God. They assume that all is well between themselves and God. So they do not feel a need for justification.
This is illustrated by what theologian R. C. Sproul speaks of as “justification by death.” Years ago Sproul asked his young son, R. C., Jr. the second EE question, “Suppose you were to die today and you were to stand before God, and he were to say to, ‘Why should I let you into my heaven?’ what would you say?”
R. C., Jr. replied, “I’d say, ‘Well, I’m dead, aren’t I?’”
Young R. C., Jr. thought that all he needed to do to get into God’s heaven was to die. The righteousness of Christ received by faith did not seem to enter his son’s thinking in the slightest.