Lesson 73: "The Promise. . .Was Not. . .Through the Law. . .But. . .of Faith" (Romans 4:13)
Welcome to lesson # 73. I'm going to let you review our last lesson on your own. We are going to read quickly; so get your bible in place. The text is Rom. 4:13-25. The last half of Romans Ch. 4! We've learned in our last lesson that Abraham was not justified by work of law; but,
"Abraham believed God and it was counted unto him for righteousness" (v. 3).
Then down in v. 9-10 we learned,
"that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness" BEFORE Abraham was circumcised. Thus, Abraham ALSO became
"the father of all them that believe" (v. 11). Most of our text here in v. 13-25 is still talking about Abraham. Let's read, beginning in Rom. 4:13, here we go: "For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect: because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression. Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all, (as it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations) before him whom he believed, even God, who qnickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were: who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, so shall thy seed be. And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about a hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah's womb: he staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; and being fully persuaded, that what he had promised, he was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification."
All right, take you eyes back to v. 13! It starts off "for", F-O-R, i.e. here is the reason. Now, what reason? You see, this goes back to the verses we covered in our last lesson. Abraham's faith was reckoned for righteousness (v. 9); before Abraham was circumcised (v. 10). Thus, Abraham became "the father of all them that believe" (v. 11); "which he had yet being uncircumcised" (end of v. 12). What's the reason?
"The promise...was not to Abraham...through the law," i.e. NOT through the law of Moses, (v. 13). Now, what is meant by "the promise?" I suppose you could write a book on "the promise." This goes back to Gen. Ch. 12, where God appeared to Abraham and told him to get out of his country, i.e. out of Ur of the Chaldees or what we know today as Iraq. Then step by step and piece by piece, God made promises to Abraham. First, that through Abraham's seed, i.e. through Jesus the Christ (we learned in Gal. 3:16), all the families of the earth would be blessed (according to Gen. 12:3). Later God gave Abraham more promises. Abraham's descendants would be numberless. Abraham would be the father of many nations. And then came the land promise; i.e. his children (or immediate descendants) would be given the land of Canaan (better known as the PROMISED LAND) after they spent 400 years in Egypt as slaves (that prophecy is in Gen. 15:13ff). And there's more to it. Here in Rom. 4:13, Paul said "the promise, that he should be the heir of the world...",
i.e. the promise to Abraham. Now, to my knowledge, that is different language than is found any place else in the Bible, i.e. "heir of the world."
Some think this is Paul's way of summarizing all the other promises we talked about a moment ago into one aggregate promise. But, lest we get tangled up in this and spend too much time here, re-read Gal. 3:16 and let's try to move on quickly. That word "promise" is not used in the book of Genesis at all. But, this concept, God's promise to Abraham are nevertheless discussed there many times. For example in Gen. 26:3, the Lord appeared to Isaac (Abraham's son) and said:
"I will be with thee, and will bless thee; for unto thee, and unto thy seed, I will give all these countries, and I will perform the oath which I swear unto Abraham thy Father..."
And, as one moves on through the O.T., many references are made to God's promise(s) to Abraham. The promise, the promise, the promise. As we come to the New Testament, do you remember the prophecy of Zechariah? I'm talking about the priest, the father of John the Baptist. After his tongue was loosed he spoke of these promises, the oath which God swore to Abraham in Luke 1:72ff. Many other references but, in Luke Ch. 24, (that Sunday night, the day that Jesus arose from the dead), when Jesus appeared to all the apostle and disciples behind closed doors that night (Luke 24:49); as Jesus addressed the apostles, he said:
"Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things. And, behold, [now are you listening?, BEHOLD!] I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high."
Now, what is the point? Jesus said he would send "the promise of my Father upon you..."
Then in Acts 1:4, Luke in re-telling this said Jesus
"commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but
wait for the promise of the father."
Then Peter, on the day of Pentecost, (Acts 2:38) in that famous sermon
recorded by Luke on the birthday of the church; Peter said:
"Repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ
for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy
Now, what is the gift of the Holy Ghost? Everyone gets all excited and
they discuss and they discuss and they guess and they guess they fumble
and they get all mixed up and many times go off on a tangent and never
find their way back. But, my friend, look at the next verse, v. 39!
"For the promise [what is that? THE PROMISE, have you found
it?, the promise] is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are
afar off [now that is you and me], even as many as the Lord our God
I.e. as many as will obey. Now what was the promise? In Gen. 12:3,
God told Abraham:
"in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed."
Then, we learned in Gal. 3:16, that blessing came through Jesus. That's what Paul said. So, like I said, we could write a book on "the promise." Now, get your eyes back on Rom. 4:13. Paul said, "For the PROMISE, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law..
." That promise did not come through the law of Moses. BUT! Look at that three letter word: "but!" How did that promise come? Not through the law, "but through the righteousness of faith."
If the promise came by the law (v. 14) then faith is made void, i.e.
empty. It means nothing. Beyond that
"the promise is made of none effect"
i.e. useless. And then, worse than that (v. 15),
"the law worketh wrath."
It tells one how to be lost; but, it does not tell you how to be saved. It says "thou shall not kill" for example, negative approach; but, the emphasis is not upon WHAT TO DO, you see. Thus, Paul said back in 3:20, "for by the law is the knowledge of sin."
The law defined sin, i.e. the emphasis was upon transgressing the law. Furthermore, (v. 15), Paul said: "where no law is, there is no transgression" Why? That's the definition of sin! The apostle John said (1 John 3:4)
"sin is the transgression of the law."
So, on the other hand, without law there could be no sin. Now, if the promise, i.e. salvation; if it did not and does not come by the law how does it come? The answer is in v. 16! Here is the conclusion: "Therefore!" Therefore what? "Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace." Salvation is a free gift from God. You can't earn it by works. Look again at v. 4 & 5! The word "grace" in v. 16 means unmerited favor. Salvation is not a wage or a paycheck. Why is that? "to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all." By basing salvation upon grace through faith; God deals more even handed with all people. Now, think just a moment. What has Paul said thus far in Romans Ch. 4? (#1) Salvation is not by works, (v. 1-9). (#2) Salvation is not by circumcision, (v. 10-12). Salvation is not by the Mosaic law (v. 13-15). Then how does salvation come? By grace and by faith is the answer in v.16. Who is included in the promise? Peter said:
"For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call," (Acts 2:39).
Salvation is by grace through faith. Now, what does that mean? God gives it away and we do nothing but give mental assent; is that right? WRONG! Our faith is accounted for righteousness. Don't forget! Salvation is conditional. That means we must do something. In the next breath, Peter said: "Save yourselves from this untoward generation." (Acts 2:40) Do you remember Matt. 7:21? Jesus said: "not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven..." How does faith come? "Faith cometh by hearing" (Rom. 10:17). Hearing and reading and concentrating and understanding takes some effort. The Pharisees asked Jesus on one occasion: "What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?" Jesus answered: "This is the work of God, [now listen, THIS IS THE WORK OF GOD] that ye believe on him whom he hath sent"
Thus, Jesus said, believing or faith is a work in one sense. It requires effort as we have said. Further more, as we have emphasized before; faith requires obedience, i.e. to be bible faith, obedience to that faith is understood. Faith without obedience is dead. Stop for a moment and try to think through Paul's gospel; i.e. what Paul is teaching here. The gospel is God's power to save man, "to everyone that believeth" (1,: 16). Through that plan (the gospel plan), sinners can be made righteous. Through that plan we can have forgiveness of sins. If our sins are forgiven, then our sins are covered and we are blessed (4:7). This comes through the grace of God and by our faith, an obedient faith. It does not come by keeping the law of Moses. It does not come through circumcision. It does not come by works of law; salvation cannot be earned by human merit. I think you've got it! But, lest someone should think this is an exercise in mental calisthenics; Paul in the rest of this chapter, commented upon Abraham's faith to show Abraham's faith was an obedient faith, not just some mental process divorced from human action. In the parenthesis of v. 17, Paul said: "As it is written, I have made thee..."
God makes us what we are, not by human merit; but, by faith and through faith. Against hope (v. 18), Abraham believed in hope. You will remember that Abraham had no children when God made this promise.
Thus, for Abraham to be the father of many nations, as Paul quoted in the parenthesis of v. 17; it was against the hope of nature. How could Abraham's descendants inhabit many nations; or any nations, if Abraham did not have even one child? Thus, Abraham believed against hope. It was not just mental assent. Abraham was fully persuaded (v. 21) "that what [God] had promised, he was able also to perform."
It was not just an idea. It was not just an opinion. It was not just, an idle hope. When God said it, it would be that way; Abraham believed it would be that way. That settled it. Finally, in v. 23-25, Paul said in essence: Moses didn't just write this about Abraham to honor Abraham. When Moses wrote Genesis; Paul is saying he wrote it for our benefit, also. Not for his sake only, (v. 24)
"But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification."
This applies just as much to us as unto Abraham. Now, I want to read the first 11 verses in Ch.5. We may not be able discuss it all, but, notice something! Verse 1 in Chapter 5 starts off: "THEREFORE" What does "therefore" mean? Here is the conclusion. Based upon what has been said: you need to be aware of this. Here we go (Rom. 5:1-11), let's read. "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also; knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience hope: and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his son; much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement." O.K., as I indicated a moment ago, this section starts off; "THEREFORE." And, even though we don't have time to discuss this section in detail in this lesson; I want you to see that what is said in this section is drawn from the previous discussion, we have now completed. These verses bring this section of Paul's discussion on "the just shall live by faith" to a close, in that Paul has now established: justification by faith (v. 1). That statement is a rephrasing of Paul's theme, "the just shall live by faith" you might notice. And this section (v. 1-11) also serves to introduce the next section of our study Chapter 5-8; which is simply a broadening of that same theme. We'll deal with that later; but, for the moment: what is Paul's conclusion? (#1) beginning in v. 1,
"Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God [How Paul?] through our Lord Jesus Christ" (#2) in the middle of v. 5,
"the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us." And finally, #3, down in v. 9,
"being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him."
One is justified when he stands acquitted of sin before God. That was the thought back in 4:8. That's the idea of faith, righteousness and justification in this section. When one is justified he has peace with God through the Lord Jesus (v. 1), the love of God is shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost (v. 5) and we SHALL BE saved from wrath through him (v.9). Have a good day!