Summary: This sermon seeks to communicate that Christ’s own righteousness is imputed to those who believe thus, enabling the believer to live the Christ life like God designed it be lived.
Martin Luther a German monk and theologian dealt the symbolic blow that began the Protestant Reformation when he nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Church. That document contained an attack on abuses by popes and the sale of indulgences by church officials. But Luther himself saw the Reformation as something far more important than a revolt against ecclesiastical abuses. He believed it was a fight for the gospel. And at the heart of the gospel, in Luther’s estimation, was the doctrine of justification by faith--the teaching that Christ’s own righteousness is imputed to those who believe, and on that ground alone, they are accepted by God.
Chapter 4 in Paul’s gospel to the Romans emphasizes this very teaching – that people are saved by faith alone and apart from any works on their own. Justification by faith means everything when it comes to living the Christian life like God intended. God never intended you and I to live the Christian life, but for His Son Jesus to live it through us. So, the teaching that Christ’s own righteousness is imputed to those who believe is paramount for effectively living the Christ life.
That causes me to as several questions about justification by faith. I pray that the answers to these questions will enable us to live the Christian life like God designed. So let’s ask:
I. What Is Justification By Faith? verses 1-5
Paul concluded Chapter 3 by asking if the principle of faith robs the law of its rightful role. His answer was, “No, not for a moment.” So Chapter 4 serves as Paul’s proof that the principle of justification by faith apart from works of any kind was in fact the principle operating in the OT. This was not some kind of new doctrine Paul came up with. So now, he asks what might we learn from Abraham’s experience.
You see, the Jews of Jesus day used Abraham as an example of justification by works, but Paul holds him up as a shining example of justification by faith. He argues in vv. 2-3 that if Abraham was justified by works he had something to boast about, but not before God. So, let’s assume for the moment that Abraham was declared righteous as a result of what he did. In that case he would have something to boast about. But that can’t be, because we’ve already established in Romans 3:27 that God’s method of setting people right excludes all boasting. Abraham may have had something to boast about before others, but certainly not before God.
As for justification by faith, Scripture says in Genesis 15:6, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” He was accepted as righteous. God declared him legally just, not guilty and forgiven. The word credited here is passive. God does it to you. And it means to impute, to reckon, to account. It’s a legal declaration and a positive imputation of Christ’s righteousness. Christ’s righteousness, that quality of His is extended spiritually to you and me! It’s God’s way of accepting people, setting persons right with Himself and making them righteous. Justification by faith is the way people got saved in the OT, as well as in the present. This passage affirms that we’re unable to save ourselves. Grace through faith is your only hope (vv. 4-5).
II. Who Is Justified By Faith? verses 6-12
Justification by faith is the way people got saved in the OT as well as in the present. To begin with the point has been made by Paul that all who believe are justified by faith looking back to Romans 3:22. David says the same thing here, just in a different way. He speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits or imputes or accounts or reckons righteousness apart from works. He quotes in verses 7-8 from Psalm 32:1-2.
So who is justified by faith? All stand unworthy and guilty before God. David was guilty of adultery and capital murder while Abraham was known for his obedience. However, the conduct of neither merited God’s favor or forgiveness. Here David tells of the happiness of those whose violations of the law are forgiven and whose sins have been put out of sight. The forgiveness that follows repentance relieves an enormous burden of guilt. And there is a deep blessedness of life for the person whose sin the Lord will never count against him. It’s a done deal! He dealt with your sin once and for all.
But again, the question is: who is justified by faith? Who are the beneficiaries of forgiveness and justification? Is it for the Jews only or does God intend it for the Gentiles as well? It is for all who trust in God to make you righteous, holy and forgiven completely before Him with whom you have to do. God is the father of all who put their trust in Him regardless of your racial or religious background or anything else.