Summary: Abraham justified by faith
June 27, 2010
Tonight we’re back in the book of Romans at the end of the third chapter.
Paul has established that all men are equally under sin and that “no flesh will be justified in God’s sight" (Rom. 3:20). The pagan Gentiles were easy because they were immoral idolaters. They invented evil, and they were proud of it (1:30-32).
The Jews listened to Paul’s charges against the Gentiles and no doubt agreed. But then in chapter two Paul turned his guns on the Jews. They too were guilty of breaking God’s commands and as a result they would suffer the same fate as the godless pagan.
The only righteous being in existence is God, and so He demonstrated His righteousness and provided a means for justification through pouring His wrath onto His Son at the cross.
The only way for a man to receive justification is through faith in Jesus Christ.
But now the Jews start shaking their heads and say something like, “But, we’re sons of Abraham. We’re God’s chosen people.”
The really believed that their ancestry was the only requirement for their salvation.
That brings us to our text tonight…
These verses can be broken up into three questions:
Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. 28For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.
This first question will be answered at length through the faith of Abraham in chapter four. For now, the short answer is that man has nothing to boast about because he hasn’t done anything good.
29Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one.
This question comes to the Jewish mind and asks, “Didn’t God pick the Jews? Aren’t the Gentiles left out of salvation?” This answer is that God is one and He is the God of all. He justifies everyone (Jewish or Gentile) through faith.
31Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law.
This third question is obvious: if Jews aren’t saved because of the Law, then isn’t the Law useless? Why do we even have it? Paul’s answer is the same as he’s been saying: the Law is good because it demonstrates the righteousness of God and it reveals our sin; nevertheless, it doesn’t manifest or impart righteousness.
And now we come to chapter four where all these questions are answered in detail by using the faith of Abraham (the father of the Jews and the first recipient of circumcision) as the example.
1. Abraham was justified by faith (:1-8)
4:1What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found?
The Jews saw themselves as children of Abraham, and they thought this would save them.
So he began saying to the crowds who were going out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8"Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ’We have Abraham for our father,’ for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. (Luke 3:7-8)
Paul describes their relationship with Abraham as a relationship “of the flesh.” In verse sixteen he’ll make this point even clearer when he says that Abraham is the father of us all; not those who are of circumcision, but those who are of faith.
Paul asks, “What did Abraham, the one you claim is your father, what did he find?”
2For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.
I like how the NLT puts this: “Was it because of his good deeds that God accepted him? If so, he would have had something to boast about. But from God’s point of view Abraham had no basis at all for pride.”
3For what does the Scripture say? "ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS."
This is a quote from Genesis 15:6. God promised Abraham a son, and “then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.”
These words “credited” (Romans) and “reckoned” (Genesis) are essentially the same in meaning. They literally mean to “charge up a debt.”
The Jews are thinking circumcision has something to do with Abraham’s righteousness before God, but here Paul says that Abraham received a credit of righteousness when he believed.
4Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. 5But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness,