Summary: What are some of the things we should say concerning justification according to Paul in Romans 4?

What Shall We Say Then?

6 Occurrences: What then shall we say? (6:1; 7:7; 8:31; 9:14, 30)

When we are talking about Paul’s argument, we are talking about blessings…that define who God is and what he has determined for those who love Him.

Abraham is an example of how God deals with people.

Just as Abraham was declared righteous, so can you be. That’s a blessing!

Verses 7-8 describe a blessing that only God can give…the forgiveness of sin!

Verse 9 begs the question when it asks “is blessedness only for the circumcised,”….. with the answer being ….God has blessed not only the Hebrews as Abraham’s descendents; but also believers today as spiritual descendents.

These ideas lead me to consider something: If I am arguing that a person is saved one way or another; I am also led to the question: “Why would anyone care about salvation?” In the world we live in today, there are many people who don’t care. They do not see the importance concerning what I will speak on today! When asked about salvation today, many use phrases like, “I haven’t done anything bad to anyone” …and when asked if they are good people…most everyone would say that they are. Still others, work especially hard for everything they have….. and some dwell upon what that has resulted in. Let’s follow Paul’s argument today, and address some of the most important issues concerning life,…. and even death.


Our Father: the relation of Abraham physically and spiritually (SPEAK TO THIS BELOW WHEN ADDRESSING verses 9-16.

v. 2 (justification by works) The general consensus is that people are saved by doing good things…..or in the case of the Jewish people, by following the law.

v.4 (working causes debt) how much of what we work for costs us nothing?

v.5 (Contrast) ‘those who work’ and ‘those who believe’ on “Him who justifies the ungodly” (verse 5 does not mean that you do nothing)

v 6-8 (Blessings) Blessings to those who God has imputed righteousness.

IMPUTATION MEANS TO ATTRIBUTE SOMETHING; SOMETHING THAT IS CLOSELY ASSOCIATED WITH YOU…So are you attributed righteousness or sin ..what does your account have in it? In describing how great grace is, Paul says, Blessed is the one who the Lord does not impute sin to. (IMPORTANT: Because the Lord does not impute sin, he removes it)

TRANSITION: Is this blessing for just the Jewish people and the physical descendents of Abraham? Paul begins to explain this by talking about what started as a Hebrew custom. Many of the cultural aspects of Judaism may seem strange to us even though our culture has adopted some of them. For instance, circumcision may seem to be a normal aspect in our culture now; but what about when we read in Genesis 17 that Abraham was circumcised at 99 years old and his son Ishmael was 13? Not only that, we are told that “every male in Abraham’s household including those born in his household or bought from a foreigner, was circumcised with him.” Joshua 5:3 says, that so many people were circumcised that they called the place where it occurred the “hill of the foreskins.” Why would this become necessary? Very pointedly, God was using the culture of the time to speak to people. Today, we might not be able to fully receive the message that God was trying to convey to the Hebrews with circumcision being a sign of the covenant that God made with Abram; but there was meaning attached to it. Genesis 15:9-10 tells us that Abram ‘cut’ a covenant with God. It says, “So the LORD said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon. Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half.” When Abram passed between the parts of the animals he had cut in half; it symbolized that if one party broke the covenant, he would end up like the animals in the ceremony—dead. Among the symbolism of cutting a covenant is the presence of blood; and the concept of sacrifice. But another interesting thing is bound up in Paul’s discussion here: If you were uncircumcised; you were not part of the covenant community. You were banished from fellowship, and considered a heathen. Circumcision meant so much to the Israelites of Jesus’ time that Paul had to say that it meant nothing in regards to how God would justify people. Romans 2:28-29 tells us that the Jews would have to rely on more than their special status due to circumcision for their salvation.

Romans 4:9-12 WE ARE NOT JUSTIFIED BY TRADITION OR SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS (working our way to heaven)

Paul advances his argument concerning justification by making the point that Abraham was not circumcised before his faith was ‘credited to him as righteousness.’ Abraham was declared righteous by God before he was circumcised. (in doubt?, v.10).

Romans 4:13-16

This is where Paul begins to speak of ‘the promise;’ which is the covenant that God gave to Abram. Abram was told that his descendants would be as the stars of the sky…uncountable. (told Abram to count the stars….if he could)

Abram did not receive the promise by obeying the law; but by trusting God. And if obeying the law resulted in righteousness; then there would be no need for the promise from God. The Scripture tells us something here that we should all already know: the law brings wrath. The literal rendering is “the Law keeps on producing wrath.” What does the Bible say about the intentions of the heart of man? Do we have cultural traditions that we assume make us good in others sight…..and God’s sight? One of the most interesting things that I see on web forums today is what I call ‘finger-pointing.’ In other words, it is the position that if you tell anyone anything in judgment then you are faced by the accusation…”you shouldn’t judge me!” (are you then not making a judgment?) This is a cultural trend that says, “I can be better than you!” And further is the implication, “if God doesn’t see how righteous I am, then he just is not a just God!”

ROMANS 2:17-21 tells us how the teachers of the very teachers of the law were doing with their lives. (read it) If any one person could ever perfectly obey ‘just’ the Ten Commandments, then that would be a demonstration that we all could somehow attain to our own salvation. That we could get through that problem that holds us back. That we could rest in the knowledge that we have a prosperous future.

Because that is not possible, the promise that God gave to Abram…and his physical descendents, and to us…his spiritual descendents; comes by grace through faith! Galations 3:7, 29 (read).

TRANSITION: Someone has said that if you could convince a man there was no hope, he would curse the day he was born. Hope is an indispensable quality of life. Years ago the S-4 submarine was rammed by another ship and quickly sank. The entire crew was trapped in its prison house of death. Ships rushed to the scene of disaster off the coast of Massachusetts. We don’t know what took place down in the sunken submarine, but we can be sure that the men clung bravely to life as the oxygen slowly gave out. A diver placed his helmeted ear to the side of the vessel and listened. He heard a tapping noise. Someone, he learned, was tapping out a question in the dots and dashes of the Morse Code. The question came slowly: “Is … there … any … hope?” This seems to be the cry of humanity: “Is there any hope?” Hope, indeed, is the basis of all human existence in Christ!

Romans 4:17-22 WE BELIEVE IN HOPE

Paul goes back to the law to make his argument when he says, “it is written;” and he says something very important about God. I am using the NIV here: “the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.” Romans 4:19 helps explain this fact for us. Could a husband of 100 years old and a wife that was both medically and biologically unable to have children be given life?

How would you respond if you were in a similar situation? Verse 18 gives us the condition of the situation! “AGAINST ALL HOPE” You ever been in a situation in which there was no hope? Have you ever rationalized a situation going on in your life to its logical end….that there is no hope? How bout this…. Have you ever worked so hard for something….and it ended up in ruins…leaving you in a heap of despair, with no hope of relief? Further still, Have you worked so hard for something….that you got what you wanted and have since found out that that one thing can never satisfy?

It says here that, “Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations” and also, “he did not waver through unbelief” …. “but was strengthened in his faith” and what other thing can you do when that happens, but do what Abraham did…..gave glory to God. If you have ever experienced victory by doing what God wants you to, then you know that there is blessing in obedience; and I cannot express how much joy comes from glorifying God in the things he is doing in your life. “I like to tell everybody at my workplace (especially when things are tough) that it does not get any better than this!” In other words, whether you feel particularly blessed at this time in your life, or even suffering; we can be content and glorify God in everything we do. It’s not easy, and it may be ‘against all hope,’ but all things are possible with God.


Why was circumcision given? Not only was it a sign that Abraham belonged to God; but it was a seal that God had made a promise that he would keep. God was so powerful, he was a God that Abraham, Paul, and you and I can trust! “Believers today are sealed by the Holy Spirit of God (Eph. 1:13–14). They have also experienced a spiritual circumcision in the heart (Col. 2:10–15), not just a minor physical operation, but the putting off of the old nature through the death and resurrection of Christ.

Now, when the Jews heard Paul’s preaching, do you think they took it lightly? These men were not like the people in our society that rationalize by saying things like, “I never hurt anybody!” But these were the so-called righteous! Can you imagine their response when somebody with Paul’s background was telling them that their way of life leads to death and God’s wrath? Talk about ‘no hope.’ In fact, in Ephesians 2:12; it says that we were at one time without Christ; having no hope and without God in the world.

If you tell a man that there are 581,678, 934,341 stars in the universe, he’ll believe you. But if a sign says, “Fresh Paint,” he has to make a personal investigation. It amazes me, the movements that exist today in our culture!.... Historical revisionism, or a re-writing of history books to slant them towards the political correctness of the day…or changing them in the name of diversity. Things are becoming more and more nebulous, as so-called scholars explain away reality.

An Arlington, Virginia, minister said, “We have closed our minds to such trivial considerations as the question of the resurrection of Christ. If you fundamentalists wish to believe that nonsense, we have no objections, but we have more important things to preach than the presence or absence of an empty tomb 20 centuries old.”

Many would rather dispel the truth by saying that something is not real than acknowledge that God exists; or that He can perform a miracle like raising someone from the dead. It’s what Paul calls a ‘suppression of the truth.’ In other words, because we rationalize; because we want/need to be in control; we can’t handle ….something as wonderful……. (thinking)… speechless…..

1 Corinthians 1:18 says, “ ….the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Imagine this world for a moment!

A place…. in which everybody does really care for and love everybody else. Yes, I care about you! (and I mean it!)

A place….where special status is not granted to people based on how much money they have, or if they were of a particular ethnicity or family line.

A place ….where people say, “I haven’t hurt anyone!” and they would be telling the truth.

A place….. where work produces joy! And the work of our hands results in true satisfaction as opposed to unexpected regret.

A place….with no suffering or death? What is your idea of a better world?

In Romans 4:24-25 we are brought back to a reference made by Paul in verse 17; the reference

“--the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.”

Not only had God given a child to Abraham and Sarah, bringing life where there was no hope of any; but He raised His Son Jesus from the dead; justifying those who believe in Him.

The words of verse 23-24 are for everyone who believes that God raised Jesus from the dead. John Walvoord makes a point that I find necessary here: “Responding in faith to God’s promise is not meritorious, since the promise springs from His grace, His disposition of favor toward those who deserve His wrath. The human exercise of faith is simply the prerequisite response of trust in God and His promise. Since faith and grace go together, and since the promise is by grace, the promise can be received only by faith, not by the Law.” In other words, we simply accept what God has given us.

God does do miracles in peoples lives! Romans 4:25 says, that “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” so that we might see that better place come to realization. Just as Abraham hoped and received all that he was promised; so we can receive what is promised!

Romans 8:11 says, “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.” The same miracle that God did in saving Abraham through believing, can be accomplished in you; when you trust in God for your salvation through Christ Jesus. God has the power to call things that are not as though they were!

He was delivered over to death means that God was willing to sacrifice His own Son that you might have life. And when I say life, I mean something greater than just settling for the status quo. Romans 8:32 says, “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”

Hebrews 11:8-16 read in conclusion.