Romans Chapter 4
First Baptist Church
Des Moines, NM
Welcome to the Ministerial Alliance program on KLMX radio. Iím Bryan Kimsey from 1st Baptist Church, Des Moines. Iím working my way through the book of Romans and this week weíre on chapter 4. Before I start, Iíd like to ask God to bless this message and pray that it glorifies Him through the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
In previous chapters of Romans weíve seen that Paul does not pick favorites- he shows how both Jews and Gentiles fail to observe Godís law and how both fall short of the glory of God. His purpose in doing this, as weíll see, is to show the necessity for Godís grace and mercy. No man can stand on his own works- the Jews have Godís law and fail to fully observe it, while Gentiles have the law of God written in the hearts and violate their conscience. Everyone needs Godís grace and mercy and no man may be justified by their works. Paul says this plainly in:
Romans 3:20-26 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. (21) But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, (22) even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; (23) for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (24) being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, (25) whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, (26) to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
This catches us up and now we can move on into Chapter 4 of Paulís letter. Let me remind you again that our chapter and verses are a fairly modern addition to the Bible- Paulís original writings were letters and flowed from one thought to another. In this next section, Paul brings up Abraham. He says:
Romans 4:1-3 What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? (2) For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. (3) For what does the Scripture say? "ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS ACCOUNTED TO HIM FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS."
Jews, of course, claim Abraham as their father. We can see this from several New Testament passages including:
John 8:31-33 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. (32) And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (33) They answered Him, "We are Abraham's descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, 'You will be made free'?"
This is precisely what Paul is driving at- the Jews claim Abraham as a father and think that they can rest in their heritage. Jesus response to their claim is this:
John 8:34-38 Jesus answered them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. (35) And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. (36) Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed. (37) "I know that you are Abraham's descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. (38) I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father."
Their response and Jesusí answer to that response are:
John 8:39-45 They answered and said to Him, "Abraham is our father." Jesus said to them, "If you were Abraham's children, you would do the works of Abraham. (40) But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this. (41) You do the deeds of your father." Then they said to Him, "We were not born of fornication; we have one Father- God." (42) Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. (43) Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. (44) You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. (45) But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me.
Jesus is basically telling them that their father is not Abraham but the devil. Ouch! This had to be a blow to these men who believed they were righteous in and of themselves, through their following of the law. Jesus says otherwise.
Paul says otherwise, too. Paul is now going to drive at Abrahamís righteousness and how it was obtained. It was not obtained by works for, if it were, Abraham, as Paul says, ďwould have something to boast about.Ē Instead, Abraham was justified because he ďbelieved God and it was accounted to him for righteousnessĒ. This is quite a statement and we should take the time to examine it. Rather than being justified by his works, Abraham is justified simply because he believed that God was able to do what God promised. And what God promised was to make Abraham the father of many nations. Now, remember, up to this point, Abraham is childless and his wife, Sarai, is past the age of childbearing. So, this would seem like an impossible task to most people. How is God going to make Abraham the father of many nations when Abraham isnít even capable of having children? It seems impossible, yet Abraham believed God.
Because Abraham believed God ďit was accounted to him for righteousness.Ē Note that this does not say ďAbraham was righteousĒ but rather says ďit was accounted to him.Ē That means that righteousness was laid to Abrahamís account. It was imputed to him. Abraham himself was not righteous- that becomes very clear when he tries to speed up Godís plan by having a child thru Saraiís servant Hagar and itís very clear when Abraham lies (twice!) about Sarah to protect himself. But, because Abraham believed in Godís promises, righteousness was imputed to him.
This is a very important point because in it, we see imputation occurring way back in the Old Testament. Imputation is, in fact, at the heart of the Old Testament. Apart from Abrahamís belief, Adamís sin is imputed to his offspring, the innocent blood of the Jewish sacrifices atones for the sins and imputes a temporary innocence to the one making the sacrifice, and so on. Imputation is also at the heart of the New Testament. Jesus Christ did not come to earth simply to be a good example for men and to cause the blind to see, the lame to walk, and the deaf to hear. He did all those things, certainly, but the real reason he came to earth was to fully satisfy the Law of God, something which no mere man could do. All who attempted to satisfy the law and thereby gain righteousness from it failed. Adam failed, Noah failed, Abraham failed, Moses failed, Joshua failed, David failed, Solomon failed, and all the way down the line- all the historical figures in the Bible failed the law at some point or many. This is why Paul said in Romans 3:
Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
But Christ did not fail. Because He was born of a woman, he was fully man, but because God himself was his father, he had the very nature of God and as such was able to essentially satisfy his own law. Having thus fulfilled the law of God, he had no sin of his own and having no sin is what we call ďinnocent.Ē Christ therefore was truly righteous and fully sinless. In this condition and only because he had no sin of his own for which to atone, Christ was able to make payment for the sins of others, which He did by dying on the cross. The great chapter of Isaiah prophesizes this:
Isaiah 53:4-10 Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. (5) But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. (6) All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. (7) He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth. (8) He was taken from prison and from judgment, And who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; For the transgressions of My people He was stricken. (9) And they made His grave with the wicked But with the rich at His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth. (10) Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand.
And here is the imputation of the New Testament- our sins are imputed to Christ and his righteousness is imputed to us. He is not sinful and we are not righteous, but God lays each of these on the account of the other. In this way, Godís justice is satisfied. Had God simply waved our sins aside and forgot them, justice would not be served. But because Godís wrath was satisfied in the death of the innocent and holy Christ, justice is served. This is why Abrahamís example is so important and itís why Paul brings it up here. Itís not that Abraham was a good man with some desirable characteristics and therefore God picked him out among all the people of the earth. On the contrary, Abraham was, at the time of his calling, an idol worshipper. God is his infinite grace and mercy selected Abraham for reasons known only to God, and made him able to stand.
Romans 14:4 Who are you to judge another's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.
God made some impossible promises to Abraham, Abraham believed that God could do what He promised, and Abraham received the righteousness of Christ by imputation.
Up to now, the Jews have missed all this and were trying to stand on their own works and on the works of Abraham rather than on Abrahamís faith. Paul is going to show them the error of their ways in a few more verses. For now, though, heís bringing up the fact that Abraham was credited with righteousness long before he had any works worth bragging about. This imputation is something that many modern Christians miss but it is, in fact, the heart of the New Testament message and Paulís presentation of it is precisely why weíre studying his letter to the Romans.
Join me again tomorrow at 9:45 here on KLMX as we move forward through Romans chapter 4. May God bless your day and may he lead you to the truth that is Jesus Christ. Amen.
Forward to Part 2