Romans Chapter 4
First Baptist Church
Des Moines, NM
Welcome to the Ministerial Alliance program on KLMX radio. I’m Bryan Kimsey from 1st Baptist Church, Des Moines. We are looking at Paul’s letter to the Romans and this week we’re in Chapter 4. May God be glorified by this message and may it convey the truth that is Jesus Christ to my listeners today- Amen!
Yesterday, we saw Paul bringing up the example of Abraham, using an Old Testament passage from Genesis 15 which says “Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” I pointed out that this phrase “accounted to him” is what imputation is all about and that an understanding of the term imputation is critical to our understanding of the gospel message. Paul is going to show us this concept in this chapter. After introducing the fact that “it was accounted to him for righteousness”, Paul now proceeds to show us the relationship between grace and works. Today’s passage is:
Romans 4:4-8 Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. (5) But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, (6) just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: (7) "BLESSED ARE THOSE WHOSE LAWLESS DEEDS ARE FORGIVEN, AND WHOSE SINS ARE COVERED; (8) BLESSED IS THE MAN TO WHOM THE LORD SHALL NOT IMPUTE SIN."
Once again, Paul is going to the OT to prove his point, this time bringing up one of David’s Psalms. Before going there, though, he sets up the scenario of works vs. grace. To a person who works, wages are not counted as grace, but as debt. In other words, if you spend all day toiling at your job, then you expect to be paid- that’s why you’re working, right? But grace is when you get something that you not only don’t expect, but have done nothing to deserve. And that’s what Paul is showing here. He says “to him who does not work, but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness…” So, when we say “we have faith in Jesus” or “we have faith in God”, what we are saying is that we believe God can do what He’s promised. We believe that Jesus accomplished what He set out to do. Our contribution to this is exactly nothing. We cannot obtain the righteousness of Christ by doing good works to earn it. In fact, if we obtain it by works, then it is no longer of grace. Paul will say pretty much this exact thing a little later in Romans:
Romans 11:6 And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.
After this, Paul brings sets up the stage for David’s Psalm when he says:
Romans 4:6 just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works:
Again, notice how Paul carefully uses the OT to illustrate his point. Actually, he’s not illustrating HIS point as much as he’s pointing out that the point’s been there in the OT all along. Here’s the quote that Paul uses:
Romans 4:7-8 "BLESSED ARE THOSE WHOSE LAWLESS DEEDS ARE FORGIVEN, AND WHOSE SINS ARE COVERED; (8) BLESSED IS THE MAN TO WHOM THE LORD SHALL NOT IMPUTE SIN."
This is a quote from Psalm 32. Note the language carefully…the person’s deeds are not righteous but “lawless”. Consequently, these deeds are “forgiven”. If they were deeds leading to righteousness, they would not need to be forgiven. The person’s sins are “covered”. The language of “covered” makes me immediately think of the Garden of Eden. Going back to Genesis, we see this:
Genesis 3:6-7 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. (7) Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.
Here, Adam and Eve make coverings of fig leaves in a feeble attempt to cover their sins. That’s what man does today- he tries to justify or make excuse for his transgressions. How many times have you heard these excuses? “Well, I didn’t know!” or “Hey, everybody does it!” or “It was just a little lie!” Those excuses don’t fly with God. In God’s eyes, sin is a transgression, period. Any sin is a falling short of God’s holiness. Paul told us that back in Romans 3:23 when he said “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” After attempting to cover themselves, Adam and Eve are called before God for an accounting and when this is done and the curse delivered, we read this passage:
Genesis 3:21 Also for Adam and his wife the LORD God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.
Even though He punished them for their sins, God showed mercy and clothed, or covered Adam and Eve with coverings of skin. These skins required the death of an animal. The animal didn’t sin against God, but its death supplied the skin which covered Adam and Eve’s sin. Thus when David says “whose sins are covered”, it recalls Adam and Eve and the fact that sin must be covered. These two passages show us the role of Jesus Christ in that His imputed righteousness covers our sins.
David points to this in the Psalm when he says:
Romans 4:8 BLESSED IS THE MAN TO WHOM THE LORD SHALL NOT IMPUTE SIN."
Blessed indeed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin! Blessed is the man upon whom the righteousness of Christ is imputed instead. That man’s sins are completely and fully covered. I hope we can clearly see that concept of imputation is clearly taught in the Bible starting from the very beginning when Adam and Eve’s sins are covered by a covering supplied by God himself. In the same way that their own covering was wholly inadequate, our attempts to gain righteousness by our works are totally inadequate. Instead, we must rely on God’s grace and mercy.
Did Adam and Eve do anything to earn their covering? Absolutely not! Quite the opposite. Instead of seeking God’s favor by doing things that He approved of, they broke His one simple commandment to not eat from the tree. Instead of being content to let God be God, they wanted to be like God themselves. This, of course, is impossible since there is only one God. Nevertheless, God’s grace and mercy are shown in his providing the skin covering for their newly aware nakedness. And likewise, God provided sacrifices for the Jews, and eventually provided Jesus Christ as the perfect lamb. John the Baptist proclaimed:
John 1:29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
Later, John the Beloved writes:
1 John 2:1-2 My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. (2) And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.
Peter, speaking of Jesus, says:
1 Peter 2:24 who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness- by whose stripes you were healed.
Peter’s statement recalls yet another Old Testament passage and that is:
Isaiah 53:3-6 He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. (4) 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.
There in Isaiah is, once again, the concept of imputation. Isaiah says “And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” What good is it that our iniquity is laid upon another, unless we are talking imputation? By having our sins laid upon Himself, Christ has made the payment for them. Peter says this when he says “…who Himself bore our sins in his own body…” Christ literally and actually took our sins on Himself and paid the price for them to God Almighty. That Christ’s righteousness is laid up on us is seen in:
2 Corinthians 5:21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
If you can see this, then you should also be able to see the futility of your works adding anything to Christ’s payment. What can your sinful works add to Jesus’ perfection? Isaiah doesn’t mince words but says:
Isaiah 64:6 But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away.
No, our works cannot add anything to our salvation. Salvation is by grace and grace alone, mercy and mercy alone, through Christ and through Christ alone. The role of works is described here:
Ephesians 2:8-10 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, (9) not of works, lest anyone should boast. (10) For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Good works are done in Christ, that is, after salvation. After we are saved and after Christ’s righteousness is laid to our account, then and only then, will God find our works pleasing. Never forget that these works are not done by you, but only because you have Christ working in and through you.
Paul touches or implies all this in his Romans passage. Here’s what we’ve covered so far- let’s re-read it and see if you can spot the concepts I’ve discussed:
Romans 4:1-8 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." (4) Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. (5) But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, (6) just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: (7) "BLESSED ARE THOSE WHOSE LAWLESS DEEDS ARE FORGIVEN, AND WHOSE SINS ARE COVERED; (8) BLESSED IS THE MAN TO WHOM THE LORD SHALL NOT IMPUTE SIN."
Blessed indeed is the man whose lawless deeds are forgiven and whose sins are covered! Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin. If you have not accepted the payment for sins made by Jesus Christ on your behalf, I urge you to stand on your own righteousness no longer. Are you better than Paul? Paul wrote this:
Philippians 3:9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;
Grasp the righteousness which is from God by faith.
I’m Bryan Kimsey from 1st Baptist Church in Des Moines. Join us again tomorrow at 9:45 as we continue through Paul’s amazing letter to the Romans.
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