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Sermon #39 — Romans Series
Title: “What shall we say?”
Text: Romans 4:1-25
Subject: Abraham and David Examples of Faith
Reading: Hebrews 11:1-19
My text is the 4th chapter of the Book of Romans — Romans 4:1-25. You will find the title of my message in opening words of verse 1. — “What shall we say?” That is my subject — “What shall we say?”
In these twenty-five verses the Apostle Paul takes us back to two great examples of faith found in the Old Testament (Abraham and David), by which he demonstrates all that he has taught us in the 3rd chapter. In Romans 3 God the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to show us four things. These four things are written as with a sunbeam throughout the pages of Holy Scripture. Yet, they are understood only by a few. See that you understand them. Ask God the Holy Spirit to inscribe them upon your heart.
1. There is no salvation, no justification, no sanctification, no righteousness to be obtained by the works of the law (Romans 3:20, 28).
(Romans 3:20) Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
(Romans 3:28) Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
2. Every sinner who trusts the Lord Jesus Christ is freely, fully, and forever justified and sanctified, made perfectly righteous and holy before God by the righteousness of Christ, “by faith of Jesus Christ” (Romans 3:21-22).
(Romans 3:21-22) (21) But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; (22) Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference.
3. This perfect righteousness honors God’s law and enables God to be “a just God and a Savior,” both just and the Justifier of all who believe on his Son (Romans 3:26).
(Isaiah 45:21) Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the LORD? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me.
(Romans 3:26) To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
4. The only way sinners like you and me can honor God’s law is by faith in Christ (Romans 3:31).
(Romans 3:31) Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.
Now, let’s look at chapter four together — Romans 4:1-25. Here Paul illustrates these four facts by using two of the most prominent and highly esteemed men mentioned in the Old Testament Scripture: Abraham and David. — “What shall we say” about…
1. Abraham’s Righteousness (vv. 1-5)?
2. David’s Blessedness (vv. 6-8)?
3. Religious Rituals and Ceremonies (vv. 9-13)?
4. Faith in Christ (vv. 14-16)?
5. The Hope of Life (vv. 17-22)?
6. Jesus Our Lord (vv. 23-25)?
Paul first points us to Abraham, the friend of God, as an example of a sinner justified by faith, without the works of the law. — What shall we say about Abraham’s righteousness (vv. 1-5)? How was Abraham justified? How did he obtain righteousness before God?
(Romans 4:1-5) (1) What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? (2) For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. (3) 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.
Abraham found justification the very same way we do, by faith in Christ. He believed God. I know where the Spirit of God tells us that Abraham “believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness.” We read that in Genesis 15:6. But God the Holy Spirit plainly tells us in Hebrews 11 that Abraham believed God when he left Ur of the Chaldees.
· When he was called, he believed God (Hebrews 11:8).
· When God told him he would make his seed more numerous than the stars, Abraham believed God, offering a heifer, a goat, a ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon upon the altar of sacrifice (Genesis 15:6-11).
· When God promised him a son, he believed God, “being fully persuaded that what God had promised he was able to perform” (Romans 4:21).
· As he sojourned in the land of promise, he sojourned by faith. — Abraham believed God (Hebrews 11:9).
· And most distinctly, when he offered up Isaac on Mt. Moriah, he believed God (Hebrews 11:17-19).
Abraham trusted Christ as his Surety and Substitute. He believed God’s testimony concerning his Son (John 8:56).
(John 8:56) Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.
The basis of Paul’s appeal is crystal clear. He asks, “What saith the Scriptures?”
· Not what saith the fathers?
· Not what saith the reformers?
· Not what saith the Puritans?
· Not what saith the creeds?
· Not what saith the confessions?
· But — “What saith the Scriptures?”
(Romans 4:3) For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.
Faith in Christ is not meritorious. Faith does not produce righteousness. Faith in Christ discerns, receives, and appropriates the perfect righteousness wrought out by Christ, the sinner’s Surety. Believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, God the Holy Spirit makes saved sinners conscious of their perfect righteousness in Christ, imputing Christ’s righteousness to us consciously (Hebrews 9:11-14) in the sweet experience of his saving grace.
Second, I ask, — What shall we say about David’s blessedness (vv. 6-8)?
(Romans 4:6-8) (6) Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, (7) Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. (8) Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.
If anything were required of man as a condition of righteousness and justification before God, all men must be forever damned, because all men are destitute of both power and will to good. — “There is none that doeth good, no, not one!”
(Psalm 143:1-2) (1) Hear my prayer, O LORD, give ear to my supplications: in thy faithfulness answer me, and in thy righteousness. (2) And enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.
(Job 25:4) How then can man be justified with God? or how can he be clean that is born of a woman?
(Isaiah 45:25) In the LORD shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory.
Hear the universal testimony of Holy Scripture. — Sinners are justified only and entirely by him whose name is “The Lord our Righteousness!” And to be justified is to…
· Have righteousness imputed to you, without works (v. 6).
· Have all your iniquities forgiven (v. 7).
· Have all your sins covered (v. 7).
· Never have iniquity, transgression, or sin imputed to you by God (v. 8).
That’s called “Grace!”
Third — What shall we say about religious rituals and ceremonies? To make his argument even more clear and convincing the Apostle proceeds to tell us that the idolatrous and imaginary merit or efficacy of religious ordinances, rituals, ceremonies, and rites is without foundation in the Word of God! He returns to Abraham and tells us that he was justified before he was circumcised, before he had even heard of circumcision (vv. 9-13).
(Romans 4:9-13) (9) 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. (11) 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 imputed unto them also: (12) 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. (13) 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.
Circumcision was a sign of justification, not a contributor to justification. When the Lord God commanded Abraham to be circumcised, he did so to give Abraham and all the sons of Abraham a sign in their flesh by which God’s covenant blessings were sealed (assured) to them (v. 11). That circumcision was not a symbol or type of baptism. It was the symbol and type of the new birth, by which we have sealed to us (assured to us) the righteousness of Christ and all the blessings of God’s covenant grace in him (Ephesians 1:13-14; Philippians 3:3). —— Assurance comes with faith, not before!
(Ephesians 1:13-14) (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.
(Philippians 3:3) For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.
Understand this: — Religion without Christ is damning! The practice of religious rituals and ceremonies without faith in Christ is damning! A religious profession without faith in Christ is damning!
· The Lord’s Supper
· Church Membership
· Religious Service
Saved sinners are those who “walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham” (v. 12). — Trusting Christ alone, depending exclusively upon Christ, we live in communion with and walk with God as Abraham did. All God’s elect, all true believers, are one spiritual, holy, heaven-born family, united by the common in union with Christ as members of his one mystical body. And wherever true believers are found upon earth, who thus walk in Abraham’s steps, their faith (doctrine) is essentially the same, and their salvation is infallibly secure.
Faith in Christ
Fourth, I ask — What shall we say about faith in Christ (vv. 14-16)?
(Romans 4:14-16) (14) For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect: (15) Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression. (16) 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,
· The Popish and Protestant scheme of human merit turns salvation upside down and “faith is made void.”
· “The law worketh wrath,” nothing else!
· “Therefore it is of faith that it might be by grace” (ver. 16), that the promise of eternal life in Christ Jesus “might be sure to all the seed,” to all the election of grace whether Jew or Gentile.
· All who believe on the Son of God, all who trust Christ, are “the children of Abraham,” “the Israel of God,” “heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ,” children of promise!
Hope of Life
Fifth — What shall we say about the hope of life (vv. 17-22)?
(Romans 4:17-22) (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 Sara'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.
We have hope of eternal life in and with Christ because “God quickeneth the dead!” And God, who gives life to poor, helpless, dead sinners, “calleth those things which be not as though they were!”
· He called us his people before we were his people!
· He called us righteous before we were made righteous!
· He called us holy before he made us holy!
· He called us justified before he gave us justification!
Like Abraham, all who are born of God, all who believe God, against all hope in ourselves believe God, being fully persuaded that what he has promised God is able to perform! — Yes, he who is God indeed can even save a poor sinner like me! This is strong faith, the strongest faith mentioned in the Book of God. In the teethe of all my sin, knowing the deadness of my body, knowing my utter inability, I give glory to God, being fully persuaded that Jesus Christ is “able to save to the uttermost all who come to God by him,” even me!
Jesus our Lord
That brings us to verses 23-25. — What shall we say about Jesus Our Lord?
(Romans 4:23-25) (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.
All that God the Holy Ghost has recorded in his Word about this man Abraham he has recorded for sinners who trust the Lord Jesus Christ, for sinners who (having no hope in themselves) “believe on him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead.” Righteousness shall be imputed to us, as well as to Abraham, if we believe God, who is identified by the fact that he raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. To believe for salvation is not to believe only on the existence of God but to believe on him in regard to his gospel. Saving faith involves the person and work of Christ who was promised of God, sent by God, bruised by God, raised by God, and seated victoriously on the Father's right hand (John 3:14-16, 36).
(John 3:14-16) (14) And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: (15) That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. (16) For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
(John 3:36) He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.
Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and righteousness is yours. By faith in Christ we receive in our souls the testimony of God that we please him (Hebrews 11:1-6).
(Hebrews 11:1-6) “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 2 For by it the elders obtained a good report. 3 Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. 4 ¶ By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh. 5 By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. 6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”