Sermon #1418                                   Miscellaneous Sermons


          Title:            Justification By Faith

          Text:            Genesis 15:1-6

          Subject:       Justification by Faith

          Date:            Sunday Morning – August 27, 2000

          Tape #         V-99a

          Reading:      Romans 3:21-5:11



          My subject this morning is Justification By Faith. We see this doctrine, (this grand, foundation doctrine of Holy Scripture), illustrated in the experience of Abraham in Genesis 15. It is stated for us in verse 6.


(Genesis 15:6)  "And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness."


But Abraham’s faith and the justification before God are the subject matter throughout this entire chapter. So I want you to hold your Bibles open on your laps, and follow me through the chapter. May God the Holy spirit graciously teach us that which is written in these verses.


It is my prayer that you who are yet without Christ may, this day, be granted life and faith in him, and that we who are believers may, this day hear from and worship God our Savior.


Abraham is set before us in the Scriptures as the father of all who believe. He is the first man spoken of in the Word of God as a believer. Certainly, there were other believers before him. Adam, Abel, Enoch, Noah and many others also believed God. But the word “believed” is not used in reference to any man in the Bible until we come to Genesis 15:6. Therefore, he is called “the father of all them that believe” (Rom. 4:11).


Abraham is also the father of all believers in the sense that he is held before us as the pre-eminent example of what it is for a man to believe God. From the time of his calling until the day of his death, the Lord God appears to have dealt with Abraham specifically to show us by example what the life of faith is.


Proposition: That which is here written concerning Abraham and his faith, is written specifically for our instruction in the matter of faith and justification before God.


This is exactly what God the Holy Spirit tells us in Romans 4:23-24


(Romans 4:23-24)  "Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; {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."


          With these things in mind, let’s look at Genesis 15 together, beginning at verse 1.


Genesis 15:1 -- "After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward."


          After these things” – Many years had now passed since the Lord God first appeared to Abram and called him out of Ur. Terah, his father, was now dead. Many years had passed since God first promised to make of him a great nation and make him a blessing in all nations. Abram had come into the land of Canaan. He had been tried by great famine. He went down to Egypt. There, the Lord let Abram see how weak he was. Even the father of believers was weak, when left to himself.


After he came back up to Canaan, there was a terrible strife between Abraham’s herdsmen and Lot’s herdsmen, and the two parted company. Though Lot abandoned his Uncle and abandoned the land of Canaan, Abram never forgot his erring nephew. He was truly a magnanimous man. When the kings of the land fell out with one another and went to war, Abram seems to have looked upon it as a matter of nothing but casual, passing interest, at most. The fall of Sodom and Gomorrah was of no concern to the heaven bound pilgrim But, when a messenger came and told him that Chedorlaomer and the kings of the plain had taken Lot captive, Abram acted without hesitation.


He armed 318 of his men and pursued the kings, slaughtered them and their armies, and brought Lot, his family, his goods, the people of Sodom, and the king of Sodom back to their place.


Upon their return, Melchizedek met Abram with bread and wine, and blessed him, as priest of the most high God. He blessed him upon the basis of that sacrifice (the sacrifice of Christ) portrayed in the bread and wine. To him, Abram, gave tithes of all that he had.


The king of Sodom saw and heard all that passed between Abram and Melchizedek, but was totally unaware of what was going on and had no interest in such matters. No sooner had Melchizedek departed than that proud pimple of a man offered to give Abram the goods which Abram himself had recovered! Upon that Abram did two things, which tell us much about the kind of man he was.


1.    He told the king of Sodom plainly that he would not take anything from him, because he had already sworn to his God, “the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth,” that he would not.


2.    And he pointedly told the little man who wore a king’s robe that the goods he offered to give Abram were not his to give, by telling him exactly what he would do with the people and the goods.


          After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision.” – He who appeared to Abraham was the Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Word, the Son of God. God always reveals himself to men and speaks to men only through Christ, the Mediator.


          After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.”


          First, the Lord bids his servant to cease from fear. – “Fear not, Abram.” Why does he tell him not to be afraid? He had just succeeded in conquering four armies with 318 shepherds! Perhaps he feared retaliation from those who remained of the kingdoms he had conquered. That seems to be the universal opinion of the commentators. I am inclined to think otherwise. I think, he was fearful simply because he was overwhelmed by the manifest presence of God. He was fearful because he knew himself a sinful man in the presence of the holy Lord God.

·        Moses

·        Daniel

·        John


          This is a blessed fear. Should not a man aware of his own corruption of heart, depravity, and sin be overwhelmed and humbled before the Lord God? But when Christ appears to his own, he appears in perfect love, to cast out fear. Thus, he says, “Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.” Here the Lord God our Savior, makes two great promises to Abraham, by which he quietens his fears, comforts his heart, and encourages his faith.


1.    I am thy Shield.” – Who or what shall harm me, if the Lord God himself is my shield?


          “Thus, in tender grace, did Jehovah quiet the troubled heart of the one whom he was pleased to call his ‘friend’.”

   -- (A.W. Pink)


2.    I am thy Shield, and thy exceeding great Reward.


          After Abraham had defeated the kings of the plain and had been blessed by Melchizedek, he declined to take anything from the king of Sodom, lest a heathen king should point to Abraham and say, “I made him what he is.” His refusal to be enriched by a pagan worldling is here bountifully compensated. He forsook all for the glory of God, but lost nothing.


So it is to this day and shall be forever. We are required to forsake all to follow Christ. Indeed, we cannot be his disciples, if we do not surrender all to him. But God will never permit his own to suffer any real loss by following him and seeking his glory.


Illustration: “Lacked ye anything?


I am thy Shield, and thy exceeding great Reward.” This great promise is applicable to all believers, to all who are “strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” The Son of God himself is our Shield of faith. He is our Shield and defense. Christ is the One behind whom faith hides, upon whom faith leans, and in whom faith finds refuge and safety.


(Psalms 3:3)  "But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head."


(Psalms 5:12)  "For thou, LORD, wilt bless the righteous; with favor wilt thou compass him as with a shield."


(Psalms 84:11)  "For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly."


(Psalms 91:4)  "He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler."


(Psalms 119:114)  "Thou art my hiding place and my shield: I hope in thy word."


As he is our Shield, our Savior is also our exceeding great Reward. “The Lord is my Portion, saith my soul. Therefore will I hope in him.” “The Lord is the Portion of my inheritance and of my cup.


Genesis 15:2-3 --  "And Abram said, Lord GOD, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus? {3} And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir."


          After hearing the Lord’s declaration, Abraham seems to have immediately thought, -- “If I am to have the inheritance in God, which he has promised me, if I am to be a blessing to all the nations of the earth, as the Lord has said, I must have a son through whom the blessing shall come.” He recognized that heirship is based upon sonship.


(Romans 8:16-17)  "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: {17} And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together."


(Ephesians 1:5)  "Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,"


(Ephesians 1:11)  "In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:"


          Abraham’s asking God for a son, in verses 2 and 3, was not an act of unbelief, as many suppose, but of faith. He took God at his word. He seems to have reasoned like this – “If God has promised me a heritage, promised to make me a blessing to all nations, and promised to make my seed to be as the dust of the earth (people scattered throughout all the earth!), he must first give me a son.” Therefore he asked for one. That, it seems to me, is obvious from the Lord’s response in verses 4 and 5.


Genesis 15:4-5 -- "And, behold, the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir. {5} And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be."


          Remember, in Genesis 13:15 and 16, the Lord promised Abraham that his seed would be as the dust of the earth. Here, he takes him by the hand, leads him outside, and points him to the sky, saying, I will give you a seed like the stars of heaven.


          Be sure you understand the meaning of this, as it given in the Scriptures.

·        Without question, his seed has reference to the whole, innumerable multitude of God’s elect, whom he purposed to saved before the world began (Heb. 2:16).

·        However, the primary significance of this promise is that God here promised Abraham that he would send the seed of the woman, that great Redeemer who would crush the serpent’s head and redeem God’s elect (Gen. 3:15), through his loins.


·        (Galatians 3:16)  "Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ."


          Now, look at verse 6. When Abraham heard the gospel preached to him, as the Holy Spirit tells us he did (Gal. 3:8), he believed God.


Genesis 15:6 -- "And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness."


          There is no single text in the Old Testament so thoroughly and specifically expounded in the New Testament as Genesis 15:6. The Apostle Paul was inspired to write extensively about this text in the Book of Romans and in the Book of Galatians. He uses this text as the foundation upon which the entire house of God rests, which is justification by faith alone. “Abraham believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness.”


          Here the Holy Spirit gives us the first explanation of justification found in the Bible. As we have seen, there were many others before Abram who were justified, in exactly the same way Abram was. In fact, a careful reading of the Scriptures makes it obvious that Abram was himself a believer a man justified before God, before this.


·        The Scriptures tell us plainly that he was a believer when he left Ur of the Chaldees (Heb. 11:8). – “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.”


·        Though he was then a justified man, his justification is not mentioned on that occasion because there is no connection between our experience of grace and our justification before God. -- Justification is the result of redemption accomplished, not redemption experienced. – Therefore, the Holy Spirit here speaks of Abram’s justification in connection with Christ and the redemption of our souls by him.


That faith which was “counted for righteousness” was and must be faith which believed what God had said concerning the promised Seed. Therefore the Holy Spirit picked this experience, and arranged it, to stand as the first and primary model and example of justification by faith.


There is no justification apart from Christ. This is the only way God has ever, will ever, or can ever justify the ungodly. — “Through this Man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins. And by Him all that believe are justified from all things” (Acts 13:38, 39).


Justifying faith is directly connected to the person and work of Christ. Saving faith is that faith which looks to Christ crucified and trusts him.  This is what we have in Genesis 15. God made a promise and revealed to Abraham that Christ, his Son, would come into the world as Abram’s son, and redeem him. -- And Abram believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness.”


1.    First, the gospel was preached to Abraham (Gal. 3:8-16).


          This is not a matter of speculation on my part. This is exactly what the Holy Spirit tells us had taken place in Genesis 15:1-5. God’s method of grace never changes. “Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.


(Galatians 3:8-9)  "And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. {9} So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham."


(Galatians 3:13-14)  "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: {14} That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith."


(Galatians 3:16)  "Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ."


2.    Second, we read that “Abram believed in the Lord.


          How was Abraham justified? -- He was justified by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.


·        He was not justified by religious ceremonialism, circumcision, but by faith (Rom. 4:3-10).


(Romans 4:3-5)  "For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. {4} Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. {5} But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness."


(Romans 4:9-10)  "Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. {10} How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision."


·        Abraham was not justified by works, but by faith.


          Though he had done many noble, good things in the exercise of faith, though he had lived upon the Word of God, for the glory of God for many years, his works are not mentioned in connection with his justification, except as the fruit of it.


·        He was not justified by keeping the law, but by faith in Christ.


          We must always distinguish between the truth, that true faith always produces good works; and the lie, the damning heresy, that our works are mixed with our faith in the matter of our acceptance with God.


·        Notice this, too – “He believed in the Lord,” not in facts about the Lord (Rom. 4:3, 16-25).


(Romans 4:3)  "For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness."


(Romans 4:16-25)  "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, {17} (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were. {18} 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. {19} And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah's womb: {20} He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; {21} And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. {22} And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. {23} Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; {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; {25} Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification."


          Christ himself is the solitary Object of all true faith. Faith is not believing that there is a God. All men and women, whether they acknowledge it or not, believe there is a God, that he is holy, and that they must meet him in judgment.


          Faith is not simply acknowledging the historic facts of Christ’s incarnation, obedience, death, and resurrection. You cannot be a believer and deny the historic facts of the gospel. But faith is not believing historic facts.


          And saving faith is not the embracing of gospel doctrine. Without question, that person is not saved and does not know God who does not believe the doctrine of the gospel. But we are not saved, we are not justified before God, by believing certain doctrines. No one has ever been justified, no sinner has ever been saved, by believing the doctrines of predestination, – sovereign election, -- effectual atonement, -- irresistible grace, or any other. Saving faith does not trust facts or feelings, creeds or confessions, but a Person! -- “Abraham believed God!” That is the issue, the only issue between you and God. – “Dost thou believe on the Son of God?


3.    Third, He believed in the Lord: and he counted it to him for righteousness.”


          Multitudes have jumped on this text like ducks on a June-bug, pointing to Abram’s act of believing and saying that it was that act which was imputed to him for righteousness. Such doctrine is utterly blasphemous. It makes faith a work, an act of man’s will, meritorious before God. It makes justification to be, not a matter of righteousness and justice, but a gracious compromise, declaring that God accepts faith in the stead of righteousness and satisfaction. Nothing could be further from the truth.


          Justification is a legal term. It has everything to do with law, and justice, and righteousness, and nothing to do with compromise (Rom. 3:24-26).—“By mercy and truth iniquity is purged” (Pro. 16:6). In justification, we are declared right at law, right in the court of heaven. In justification, our sins are all blotted out, put away, and forgiven, upon the grounds of justice satisfied. In justification, we are made to be perfect before God, holy, blameless, utterly unreproveable. In justification, we are accepted in the Beloved, complete in Christ, who is made the righteousness of God unto us.


The act of believing has no more to do with the accomplishment of justification than the act of sinning. Our justification was accomplished by Christ, when he died at Calvary. Indeed, it was accomplished in the decree of God from eternity, and God’s elect are declared to be justified from eternity (Rom. 8:28-30), justified in the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.


We simply receive and experience the blessedness of justification by faith. Faith contributes nothing to the work of righteousness and the satisfaction of justice. Our righteousness was accomplished for us by Christ’s obedience unto death. It is that which was imputed to Abraham, not his act of believing; and it is that which is imputed to us for righteousness, not our act of believing. Our justification is by the Object of our faith, -- Jehovah-tsidkenu – “The Lord our righteousness” -- not by the act of our faith (Rom. 5:19; 2 Cor. 5:21). In fact, the Apostle Peter tells us plainly that our faith in Christ is the result, not the cause, of our justification (2 Pet. 1:1).


(2 Peter 1:1)  "Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Savior Jesus Christ:"


As C.H. Spurgeon put it, “Faith cannot be its own righteousness, for it is the very nature of faith to look out of itself to Christ…We must look altogether away from ourselves to Christ alone, or we have no true faith at all…To say that faith becomes our righteousness is to tear the very bowels out of the gospel, and to deny the faith which has been once delivered to the saints.”


(Romans 4:25 - 5:1)  "Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.   (5:1)  Therefore being justified, (The comma belongs right here, not after faith.) by faith (This is the result.) we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."


The whole work of justification took place and was accomplished outside ourselves, by Christ alone (Rom. 5:9-11).


(Romans 5:9-11)  "Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. {10} 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. {11} And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement."


Application: Would you like to be justified before God? Would you like to go down to your house today, like the publican, justified? Would you stand before God, from this day forward, in peace, being forever righteous, justified, freed from the debt of sin and the curse of God’s holy law? O sinner, would you like to silence that screaming conscience that torments your soul night and day? My friend, if you would be saved, you must believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, just as Abraham did.


1.     Abraham believed God’s promise of grace, salvation, and eternal life in Christ, preached to him in the gospel.


2.     Abraham believed God’s word concerning his Son. – He believed that which was not possible, except by God’s own work. He believed that God would from his dead body and Sarah’s dead womb, raise up a Son in whom they would have life (Rom. 4:20-24).


3.     Abraham believed this word from God as the word of God to him (Eph. 1:13).


(Ephesians 1:12-14)  "That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. {13} In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, {14} Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory."


(1 John 5:1)  "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him."


(1 John 5:10-13)  "He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. {11} And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. {12} He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. {13} These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God."