About Jesus Steve Sweetman
Abraham Justified By Faith (ch. 4)
needed to illustrate his point that he has made in chapter 3, that is,
justification is by faith and not by any kind of good works. So,
chapter 4 Paul brings Abraham into his defense of faith.
The Jews considered Abraham to be the father of their nation, and
indeed he was. They considered
him to be as perfect as a man could be.
It is only logical that Paul would use him to defend his point.
It is also important because the book of Genesis speaks of Abraham
being a man of faith.
verse 1 Paul asks yet another question.
He asks what Abraham thought, and as the NIV puts it, thought about
"this matter". What
do the words "this matter" refer to?
To answer this question we must go back to see how Paul ended
chapter 3. "This
matter" is in reference to both Jews and Gentiles being justified by
faith and not by circumcision or the works of the Law.
Jewish leadership would say that Abraham was justified by works but the
way Paul writes verse 2 implies that in fact he was not justified by
works. If Abraham was made
right in the eyes of God by any good things he had done, then, he could
have had reason to boast.
backs up what he just said in verse 3 by quoting Genesis 15:6 and 22 that
states that because Abraham believed what God told him, God credited
Abraham as righteous. The
point here is that Abraham's faith, or trust, in what God told him was the
reason why God viewed him as righteous.
Therefore, Abraham being viewed as righteous was a matter of faith
and not of good works.
should note the word "credit" in verse 3.
This is an accounting term. To
understand how God views the believer as being righteous we need to
understand what the word "credit" means in this context.
Because we trust what God has said and done, He credits our
heavenly accounts with righteousness.
It's not that we really are righteous because we're not.
He, as a matter of His divine will, just deletes our sin from His
books and credits our account with righteousness.
Think of it this way. You
have a bank account that is half line of credit and have checking account.
The account is in the red. You
owe the bank one thousand dollars. Well,
the bank decides to be nice to you and wipes out the debt you owe them and
puts a thousand dollars into your bank account.
This is exactly what Paul is talking about here.
help us understand what Paul is saying about Abraham's faith I remind you
of Abraham's story. The story
is told in Genesis 15 where Abraham had no biological son.
God came to him and told him that he would have a son that would
come from his own body, through his aging wife Sarah.
Abraham believed what God said and as a result God
"reckoned" as the KJV puts it, or, “credited” as the NIV
puts it, Abraham as being righteous.
story goes on to show how God confirmed
need to note one thing about the Abrahamic Covenant, and that is, although
it was spoken to Abraham, it was directed to
is plainly saying that Abraham did nothing to be counted as righteous.
He only believed in God‘s promise.
When it came to the covenant ritual with God, Abraham was not even
awake at the time in order to participate in the ritual.
Abraham did absolutely nothing to be counted righteous.
He simply trusted what God told him, and that is, he would have a
son through his aging wife Sarah.
This is Paul's point.
verse 4 Paul says that when a man works, he gets paid for what he does.
In modern times this is in the form of a paycheck.
The paycheck is not a gift. It
is something that he has earned. Paul
now introduces the word "gift" into the discourse.
He is about to say that being credited as being righteous is a gift
verse 5 he goes on to say that to the man who does not work, but still
gets paid, his paycheck is a gift. That
is to say, that if you don't work for your salvation by doing good works;
if you believe, your paycheck is God counting you as being righteous.
is important to note that this free gift of righteousness is given to the
wicked that has faith, which to the Jews would mean the Gentiles.
often see the word "work" as it relates to faith in the New
Testament. In connection with
salvation, work simply means "doing something in order to receive
salvation from God". To
be specific, work in connection with Jews means obeying the Law of Moses.
One example of works is circumcision.
It can be infant baptism in our day.
It can be not smoking, not going to movies, as it was in the
Evangelical world in which I was raised.
Anything we do, apart from faith, in order to be saved, is works.
These kinds of works, in my thinking add to what Jesus has already
done for us on the cross. Such
works are blasphemous. They
are telling Jesus that what He did for us on the cross is not good enough.
We need to improve on what He did by adding some of our own works.
What a sinful thought.
commanded Abraham to be circumcised. It
was a symbolic token that he trusted what God had told him.
Circumcision was a practice that made among men in various Middle
Eastern societies, not just with the Jews.
Like other social practices, these other societies simply copied
the Jews. Over the years, the
Jews turned circumcision into more than a symbol of one's faith.
It became a symbol of Jewishness.
Therefore, if you weren't circumcised, you weren't considered a
real Jew. For this reason, the
prophets had to preach that even though outward circumcision was a command
in the Law of Moses, inward circumcision, that is, circumcision of the
heart, at Paul puts it in Romans, is what God wants most.
is simply saying that we are not to work for our righteous standing before
God. We are to simply trust
what He has done for us. That's
faith. Works, or doing
something to earn our salvation, actually shows a lack of trust or faith
verse 6 and throughout chapter 4, we see the word credit.
I remind you again that the word "credit" is an
accounting term. If you credit
the bank account of a friend, you put money in his bank account.
The Bible makes it clear that God has some kind of accounting
records when it comes to man and his sin. When we trust God's provision
for us being viewed as righteous, He simply makes an accounting
adjustment. He deletes the
record of sins from His books and replaces these sins with one word, that
verses 6 through 8 Paul brings in another important Jewish person to back
up his point. He refers to
what David said in Psalm 32:1 and 2. "Blessed
is the man whose offenses have been forgiven, and whose sins have been
covered. Blessed is the man
whose sins the Lord will never count against him."
David was keenly aware of his sinful state, unlike our Christian
world today. This is why he
felt so blessed.
verse 8 Paul closes what David said by saying, "blessed is the man
whose sin the Lord will never count against him."
Just think about that. Someday
you and I will see Jesus face to face.
If we have trusted Him for our salvation, He will look on us, as
sinful as we are, but will not accuse us of anything.
This is almost too good to be true, as they say, but it is true.
reason why Paul quotes from the Psalms is to point out that the idea of
being righteous by faith is not knew.
David, whether he knew it or not, spoke prophetically of the day
where God would view people as being righteous if they have faith in God.
should know that Abraham was seen as righteous by God because he trusted
God. When it comes to
circumcision, Abraham wasn't circumcised until 14 years after God first
viewed him as being righteous. Circumcision
was not an immediate response to Abraham's faith.
verses 9 through 12 Paul makes another important point to back up his
thinking that righteousness by faith is for all mankind, and not just for
the circumcised Jew. As he
used David's quote to support his point the salvation by faith is not a
new concept, so Paul now notes that when Abraham was counted as being
righteous by God, he was not yet circumcised.
Circumcision came later. It
was a sign that God viewed Abraham as being righteous.
Abraham was already viewed by God as being righteous prior to him
being circumcised. Therefore,
circumcision had nothing to do with receiving this gift of righteousness.
If this is the case, then all of the Gentiles who were not
commanded to be circumcised can also be made righteous by faith as well.
It makes perfect sense.
verse 9 Paul makes one simple statement.
God credited Abraham as being righteous entirely on his faith and
nothing else. This is one of
the most important facts of our gospel message.
the words "seal of righteousness" in verse 11.
This is a legal seal as in a lawyer's notarized stamp of approval.
This is not a seal in the sense of something that covers something.
It's like the seal that appears on one's passport.
in verse 11 Paul says something that would have driven the Jews crazy.
He begins by saying "so then".
That suggests that he is making a conclusion here.
The conclusion is that since Abraham was justified by his faith
prior to being circumcised, he is the father of all those who believe,
whether Jew or Gentile. Circumcision
alone doesn't constitute being a valid Jew.
In New Testament terms, a Jew is one who has faith and is
circumcised in the heart, as he has already stated in Romans 2:28.
As I've said, before, we do need to understand that when it comes
to salvation, there is no Jewish Gentile distinction, but, when it comes
to prophetic history,
Paul says that Abraham is the father of all who believe, this in fact
helps fulfill one of the promises God spoke to Abraham in the Abrahamic
Covenant. The specific promise
is that Abraham would become the father of many nations as seen in Genesis
12:1 to 3.
John 8:39 and 41 the Jews claimed that Abraham was their father.
This shows you how they thought concerning Abraham.
In John 8:44, Jesus in His boldness, tells the Jews that their father
was in fact the devil, not Abraham. Jesus
was saying that they had no right calling Abraham their father because
they did not do as Abraham did, neither did they believe as Abraham
believed. In the Old
Testament, if any man in
in Romans 4 Paul says that people who have faith in Jesus can claim
Abraham as their father. The
only reason why you would want to do this is to copy Abraham in his faith.
We have the same faith as he did, and as a result of this faith God counts
us as being righteous when in fact we are not righteous.
Abraham was not righteous either.
He still sinned after God counted him as being righteous.
this point I want to quote from James concerning Abraham and his faith.
James quotes the same verse as Paul quotes, "Abraham believed
God and it was credited to him as righteousness" (James 2:23, from
Genesis 15:6). What does James say about this verse?
In James 2:24 he says, "You see that a person is justified by
what he does and not by faith alone."
This appears to be a direct contradiction to what we have just seen
Paul say, when he says that righteousness is by faith alone.
How can we reconcile this apparent discrepancy?
James 2:18 James says, "Show me your faith
thing we learn from James is that just because someone claims to have
faith doesn't mean he really does have faith.
If one claims faith, you will know their faith is real by what they
do. This is not a matter of
judging the person in today's misunderstanding of judging.
We simply observe what the one claiming faith does in his life,
which, will make it clear to us if he has real faith or false faith.
False faith saves no one.
verse 13 Paul continues the story of Abraham.
He moves away from circumcision as being the means by which one is
declared righteious. He moves on to the law in gerneral, or Law of Moses, as the means
by which one is declared righteous. He
says that Abraham and his offspring were promised to be heir of the world.
This had nothing to do with the Law of Moses because the Law of
Moses was not even in existence at the time of this promise.
This promise was based on Abraham believing what God told him,
which was confirmed in the covenant ritual that God made with Himself to
bless Abraham in Genesis 15.
the word "offspring" and the word "heir" in verse 13.
I know there is much controversy over this, but, I believe the word
"offspring", especially because it's associated with Abraham,
refers to Israel. Therefore, even though it's
not what Paul is addressing here, Paul does imply that
it comes to the Law, Abraham was long gone.
The Law came to Moses, and therefore, has nothing to do with
Abraham being justified. It
really has nothing to do with the promises God spoke to Abraham. Both
circumcision and the Law should be excluded from the discussion of God’s
promise to Abraham.
order for Abraham to be the father of many nations, he first needed to
have a son. This was a problem
because both he and his wife Sarah were too old to have children.
As Romans 4:21 and 22 says, "He was fully persuaded" that
God would follow through on His promise.
As a result of this assurance Abraham was counted as being
righteous, and indeed became the father of many nations, through the birth
of his biological son, in which his lineage produced Jesus. When we
have faith in Jesus, we have the faith of Abraham and his family.
way to view Abraham as being the father of many nations is that one of the
recipients of the Abrahamic Covenant is Jesus.
The other two are Abraham himself and Abraham's descendents, the
Jews. In New Testament terms,
when those of Gentile nations have faith, they become sons of Abraham,
thus Abraham becomes the father of these Gentile nations.
That being said, you must not discount the prophetic significance
of the Abrahamic Covenant that views
verse 14 Paul states that if living by the law, whether law in general or
the Law of Moses, makes one become
recipients of the promises, then law, or the Law, nullifies faith.
Faith becomes useless and worthless.
That only makes sense. One
can't be a recipient of God's promises by two ways.
It's either by faith or by works.
You can't have it both ways. This
is what Paul is saying here.
15 might be hard for some to understand.
Paul says that the law brings wrath.
That simply means that
you disobey the Law, you provoke God to wrath.
Paul then says that where there is no law, there is no
transgression. Think of it
this way. If a parent does not
tell his child to stay clear of the cookie jar, then when the child eats a
cookie, the parent can't be upset with the child for eating the cookie.
The parent didn't lay down the law in reference to cookies.
Taking a cookie was not wrong.
If there is no law, there is no breaking of a law.
verse 16 Paul concludes that all mankind can receive the promises of God,
not just the Jews who have the Law of Moses.
Anyone who has faith in God, as Abraham had, can receive God's
promise of righteousness, because the Law has nothing to do with receiving
God's promise. That only makes
important to realize at this point that the promise Paul is talking about
is the promise of God crediting our account with righteousness; the
promise of how God views us as being righteous.
Paul is not saying that the promise of Israel being a great nation
or having a specific portion of land as seen in the promises God spoke to
Abraham are offered to Gentiles as Replacement Theology teaches. The
context is simply the promise of being counted as righteous and nothing
the word "grace" in verse 16.
Grace is being compare to Law, or, law in general. We must remember
what Paul is arguing here so far in Romans.
He proves that all have sinned.
No one is able to obey the law of God in its totality. Therefore, God viewing us as being righteous must be a matter of
God's grace, His divine unmerited favour extended to us.
verse 17 Paul repeats one of the promises of the Abrahamic Covenant as
seen in Genesis 12. This
promise is that Abraham would not only be the father of the Jews, that is Israel; he would be the father of many nations, meaning, and the Gentile
verse 17, I need to make a comment. Paul
says that God gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as
though they were. Many
Christians, especially those in the Hyper Faith Movement, misunderstand
this verse. They use this to
say that we are to believe, claim, and act as if we already have what we
ask from God. That is to say,
we should call things that aren't, that is, the things we want but don't
have, as though they are, that is, as if we already have them.
For example, if we ask for good eye sight, we throw away our
glasses and live as though we can see well, even though we can't. This is
not the meaning of Paul's words. In
context, the things that are not in this verse are the Gentiles that
weren't considered to be the offspring of Abraham in Old Testament times.
Remember, Paul is talking about Abraham being the father of
Gentiles here. The context
clearly explains the meaning of these words.
God calls the Gentiles, those who weren't, as those who are, that
is, part of the descendents of Abraham.
This verse has nothing to do with hyper faith and claiming things
that we want but don't yet have. We
as Christians cannot simply speak things into existence as hyper faith
folk tell us. Such thinking is
a new age concept that has sadly infiltrated the church these days.
Because of the word "dead" in this passage, some suggest that Paul had Sarah's unproductive womb in mind. Remember, prior to the birth of her son Isaac, she was not able to have a child. You might say that her womb was dead. There may be some validity in thinking Paul had Sarah's dead womb in mind, but, in my thinking, it's speculative. Yes, God can speak things into existence. He can consider that which is not as if it is, but, the text does not say that is what we can do. Again, Hyper Faith folk are wrong to use this verse to support their position.
verses 18 through 21 Paul says that against all hope Abraham became the
father of many nations. Abraham
believed God while in a hopeless situation. Both
he and his wife were dead when it comes to producing children.
How could even one descendent, let alone nations of descendents, be
born through his lineage? Still,
Paul says that Abraham did not waver in his faith.
This is the kind of faith God wants us to have.
We believe even when things look unbelievable.
One might challenge Paul's statement that Abraham didn't waver in his faith. Remember, he did agree with his wife to have sex with Hagar in order to have a son. That does seem to imply, at least for one evening, Abraham's faith did waver. That being said, even though Abraham's faith was not perfect, in the long run, in the grand scheme of things, he did have faith. That tells me that even when we struggle with faith at times, God can still come through for us. We are human and our faith is not perfect.
above paragraph being said, the Greek word translated as waver here
doesn't exactly mean waver in the since that I've just used it.
The Greek word translated as waver here means to make a judgment
that would make one change his mind. That
is, Abraham did not sit down and rethink God's promise and conclude he was
wrong in trusting God. Yes,
Abraham did waver in the since I used it above but he did not waver in the
sense the Greek states. Abraham
did not change his mind concerning God's promise of a son.
verses 22 through 25 Paul closes chapter 4 by saying that the words
"it was credited to him (Abraham) was not just written for Abraham
alone but for us as well". We
who have the same trust in God as Abraham had can be blessed with God
crediting our heavenly account with righteousness.
"We who believe that God raised Jesus Christ our Lord from the
dead" have the same promise of salvation as Abraham had.
This is why we say that salvation has always been by faith, in both
Old and New Testament times. In
Old Testament times people put their faith in God just as we do today.
The only difference between us New Testament saints and the Old
Testament saints is that we look back to the coming of the Messiah while
those in the Old Testament looked forward to His coming.
verse 25 Paul says that Jesus died because of our sins and rose for our
justification. That means that
when Jesus died, He was punished for our sins, so that we would not have
to be punished. We have been
forgiven for the sins we've committed.
Our sins have been stricken from the heavenly records, but, it
doesn't end there. The
resurrection of Jesus provided our justification.
That means God views us as being perfectly just, just as He Himself
is perfectly just, and this is due to the resurrection of Jesus.
fact that Jesus took the penalty of death for us means we do not have to
face this penalty. This
deathly penalty is eternity spend in the Lake
clarity sake, redemption is the process by which God the Judge removes the
penalty due us because of our sin. Justification
is the pronouncement by God the Judge that He has declared us
completely just, or righteous, even though we are still unrighteous.