Lesson 72: "Faith Was Reckoned to Abraham for Righteousness." (Romans 4:9)
Lesson # 72, welcome again! Before we read, may I
encourage you to do a quick review. What was the theme
of this book? (1:17).
"The righteousness of God revealed from faith to
faith"through the gospel. It was written in the O.T. "The
just shall live by faith."
Then in the next verse, Paul began discussing the
"unrighteousness" and "ungodliness" of men. Even in the
garden, Adam and Eve understood what God required.
After disobeying and being forced out of the garden, their
first sons, born outside of the garden, Cain & Abel,
"By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent
sacrifice than Cain..." (Heb. 11:4).
Abel "obtained witness that he was righteous, God
testifying of his gift..." (same verse). The point is: Abel
obeyed God explicitly. Cain undoubtedly knew what to do;
but, sought to do it his way, rather than God's way. Cain
did an offering! Yes! But, he did it Cain's way and did not
put his faith and confidence in God as Abel did. From that
"God hath showed it unto them" (1:19),
i.e. since the beginning God, in some way, has communicated to man and man understood God required certain moral laws. At times at least, possibly all the time that intervened, God required certain additional religious laws, i.e. some kind of worship, offerings, etc. We simply don't know all the details, back there. It was approximately 2,000 years from the time of Cain & Abel to the time of Abraham. But, even Abraham lived 430 years before the giving of the 10 commandment law to Moses (according to Gal. 3:17), if you remember that. God incorporated into what we call the 10 commandment law (that was given to Moses) certain moral and spiritual elements; offerings for atonement, animal sacrifices, etc. Thus, there was more to the law of Moses than just the 10 commandments on tables of stone as recorded in Ex. Ch. 20. These additional elements are usually referred to as "statutes and judgments" for example in Mai. 4:4, at the very end of the O.T. The law of Moses actually included the moral code given to
all mankind as referred to in Rom. 1:19 PLUS certain additional laws for the Hebrews. The law of Moses was the constitution and by-laws for the Hebrew nation, in the which God himself was the ruler. The word for that is "theocracy." The Hebrew nation or Jewish nation was a theocracy. But, this covenant and arrangement with the Jews was only temporary until the time that the messiah should come (Gal. 3:19). When Jesus, the messiah, came; he changed all this. It was not a new patch on an old garment. It was like putting new wine into new bottles, Jesus said. Jesus took about three and a half years to appoint, teach and train 12 apostles. It was through the apostles, by the Holy Spirit, that Jesus launched the church or kingdom after His resurrection from the dead and after His ascension back into heaven. Through the apostles the constitution and by-laws for Jesus's kingdom (called the church) figuratively speaking, was ultimately completed and written down by apostles and other holy men of God. We call that constitution of Christ's kingdom the New Testament. You're supposed to have a copy there in your hand, open to Rom. Ch. 4. Got it? Paul, in Ch. 2 & 3 of Romans, discussed God's dealing with the Jews. It would seem, across the Roman empire, many Christian Jews arrogantly want to hang on to the Mosaic law. Some Judiazing teachers across the empire were trying to blend, mix and merge the Mosaic law with Christ's law. You've heard it over and over in II Corinthians and in Galatians. So, as Paul wrote to the Roman church, where he had never been, he tried to discuss the RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD in such a way and in such minute detail as to eliminate all future confusion on this issue.
Now, let's by review, touch on a few of Pauls conclusions. First,
"the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against
But, some having enough knowledge of God to know better
"changed the glory of the uncorruptible God...", etc. After
discussing unrighteousness (homosexuality and all that, plus a whole
catalogue of other evils, 1:29-31) Paul concluded:
"they which commit such things are worthy of death" (1:32).
Next, beginning in Ch. 2, Paul said the Jews were in effect doing the
"thou that judgest doest the same thing" (2:1).
Not the same conduct; but, the same principle. They knew better,
but insisted on going about to establish their own righteousness.
Paul asked the Jews if they thought they would
"escape the judgment of God?" (2:3).
"there is no respect of persons with God." (2:11).
God would take into consideration the laws to which each were
"God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ" (2:16).
Circumcision makes no difference,
"He is a Jew, which is one inwardly..." (2:29).
Jews were given certain advantages in that
"unto them were committed the oracles of God (i.e. the Mosaic
But now (3:9)
"both Jews and Gentiles...are under sin..."
Then finally done (3:20), Paul concluded:
"by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified..." In v.
21, he said
"BUT NOW the righteousness of God without the law is
Then in v. 21-31, the rest of Ch. 3, Paul did a sort of recap, i.e. the
conclusion of these thoughts is repeated in review. Then, beginning
in Ch.4, where we are now ready to read; Paul began to illustrate
with Abraham and draws these conclusions again from the patriarch
Abraham. He also appeals to David. So, let's read! Well read down
through v.12. Beginning in Rom. 4:1, let's read.
"What shall we say then about Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For, if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the Scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was accounted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imparted unto them also: and the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised."
Alright, as we said before; Paul illustrated and examined the principle of faith reckoned for righteousness, using Abraham and David. Abraham lived before the law of Moses was given. David lived during the time the Mosaic law was in force. You see Abraham and David were looked up to by all Jews. David and Abraham were "A-OK", in Jewish thinking. So, Paul took advantage of this patriarchal loyalty and asked them (in effect): what is the conclusion if you compare this principle of righteousness with the experience of Abraham? (that's the question, v. 1). Now, something you've got to contend with in v. 2, and even further down, is this. The way Paul used the word "works" here in these verses is not the same way as James used that word when James said: "faith without works is dead."
That's James 2:26. James used the word "works" to mean obedience, i.e. to carry through with your faith and do what you believe. We said before, this is really implied in the word "faith" as that word is ordinarily used in the New Testament, i.e. if you have faith you will naturally act accordingly. But, in contrast to that usage Paul here in these Roman passages used the word "works" to mean works of law. Now, what's the difference? Well, to be righteous by works of law implies that one must keep the law perfectly. If the law says—"thou shalt not bear false witness," and you lie -one time- you have disobeyed that law and broken that law completely. You can then obey that law a thousand times and it won't take away that one sin, when you broke it. So, to be righteous (or to be "justified," is Paul's word, v. 2) by works of law requires keeping the law perfectly, which absolutely no one can do in practice. Thus, if Abraham did that, i.e. kept some law perfectly, as Paul said in v. 2, Abraham could boast or "glory" is the word there. But, that was NOT the case, the scripture doesn't say (Paul argues) that Abraham kept any law perfectly. Then, what DOES the Scripture say (v. 3)? Gen. 15:6, the verse from the Old Testament that Paul selected to illustrate his point (here) says: "Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness."
Paul quoted it here in v. 3. Thus, Abraham's experience, when compared to Paul's thesis on righteousness (the question in v. 1) is answered and it agrees perfectly with Paul's theme of this book and illustrates that theme: "The just shall live by faith." (1:17). Then (here in v. 4 & 5), Paul shows the meaning of "works" as Paul used it to mean works of law. To keep a law perfectly (any law) for the purpose of obtaining something would be in effect to earn a reward. Thus, salvation by works would be to earn salvation, you see. We do not earn salvation! That's the point in v. 4 & 5. The bible teaches that we are "justified freely by...redemption that is in Christ Jesus." (Rom. 3:24). It is not what we do in terms of human merit that brings salvation; it's what Jesus did that brings salvation. Now, does that mean that we can just believe our way to heaven and never do any thing? Absolutely not! Look at the end of v. 5! "His faith is counted for righteousness," see that? Now, is that a faith separate and apart from obedience, i.e. works? As James used that word. Absolutely not, James said: "as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works [i.e. obedience] is dead also." Paul and James do not contradict each other. Paul is teaching on faith, i.e. faith that is counted for righteousness, as the apostle stated it at the end of v. 5, i.e. in contrast to salvation by works or by law keeping. A saving faith is an obedient faith, just like Abraham. The patriarch Abraham had explicit faith in God. When God told Abraham, get out of Ur of the Chaldees, Abraham got out! He acted according to his faith. Then God told Abraham he would be the father of many nations, Abraham believed explicitly it was a good as done. If God said it, that settled it, it would happen, even though Abraham obviously didn't understand the mechanics of it at that time and maybe never did, I don't know. Then in v. 6-7-8, Paul makes the same comparison using David. The passage Paul selected to illustrate his point is Psalm 32:1-2. Undoubtedly, Paul anticipated that someone would say, yes; but the law came after Abraham. So, Paul proceeds to show that exactly the same principle applied at the time of David, i.e. when the law of Moses was still in force. Verses 7 & 8 are quotes from that Psalm passage, that Paul selected to make his point. Thus, Paul's argument goes something like this: the faith principle, i.e. faith is counted for righteousness, was true before the Mosaic law (as illustrated in Abraham), it was true during the Mosaic economy (as illustrated in David), and it was/is still true yet, after the Mosaic law was fulfilled. If Paul could make that point and make it stick with the Jews; he had accomplished his purpose in this book, i.e. "The just shall live by faith." now, what did the Judiazers teach? To be saved, one must be circumcised and keep the law of Moses (Acts 15:1). The Judiazers were trying to push circumcision upon the Gentiles. So, the old apostle again anticipated that question and asked that question for rhetorical purposes at the beginning of v. 9. Put your eyes on it! "Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also?" In other words, Paul's question is: (this principle of: faith is counted for righteousness, Paul's theme); did, this apply to the Jews only or did it apply to the Gentiles also? The Jews, under the old law as descendants of Abraham were required to be circumcised. The Gentiles were never required to be circumcised. Thus, Paul undoubtedly anticipated somebody would say: yes, but Brother Paul, old buddy, Abraham was circumcised, you see; thus they might conclude from this that the Gentiles must be circumcised, you see. So, Paul very tactfully restated the conclusion, i.e. the faith-righteousness theme at the end of v. 9 and called attention the Abraham case again. Then the first two questions in v.10. Was Abraham circumcised in Gen. 15:6? (is in effect) what Paul asked. Paul said the answer is NO! The thing that happened in Gen. 15:6, where it says Abraham's faith was reckoned for righteousness, happened before Ishmael was born. Abraham was 86 years old when Ishmael was born (Gen. 16:16). Then in Gen. 17:25, it says Ishmael was thirteen years old when Ishmael was circumcised and you might notice that Ishmael was circumcised the same day Abraham was circumcised. Thus, when God said Abraham's faith was counted for righteousness in Gen. 15:6, this took place at a time at least thirteen years before Abraham was circumcised, i.e. somewhere between one and two decades. So, at the end of V.10, (here in Rom. Ch. 4); Paul said about Abraham: "Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision." So, in other words, this would not serve as proof for Gentile circumcision; but, Jesus is opposite.
Now the big long sentence that makes up v. 11 & 12, is( really and simply) a restatement of the question, answer and conclusion we just covered in v. 10. Two main points: (#1) Paul's theme, faith is imputed for righteousness, applied to the circumcised and the uncircumcised. (#2) Abraham was not only the father of the circumcised; but, Abraham was also "the father of all them that believe," circumcised or uncircumcised, makes no difference. O.K. let's read v. 13-25, the rest of the chapter. I guess we won't! Old father time has got us, so we'll begin there (in v. 13) with our next lesson. With the moment of tape we have left, notice at the end of v.ll and in the last of v.12; where it talks about: walking in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham; that, there is motivation to follow the example of Abraham. We need to perfect our faith; as Abraham did. God will accept (or account) such a faith for righteousness. If we explicitly believe God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, who was the author of this book, and if we thus act accordingly; i.e. obey the gospel, then we have the power to become, John said (John 1:12). And not only do we have the power to become children of God, we have the power in the gospel to take us to heaven. Paul said, "The just shall live by faith." The just shall live! Did you get that? To live or to have life means eternal life. Paul wants us to have life. That's the theme of his book. I'll see you in our next lesson. Until then, this is saying: Have a good day!