Romans Chapter 4
First Baptist Church
Des Moines, NM
Welcome to the Ministerial Alliance program here on KLMX radio. I’m Bryan Kimsey from 1st Baptist Church, Des Moines and we’ve been looking at Chapter 4 of Paul’s letter to the Romans this week. Let me ask God to bless this message and I pray that it gives him glory for his grace and mercy through the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
We are up to verse 9 so far this week. Let me re-read our previous verses to refresh your memory:
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."
Paul’s point so far is to show that the concept of imputation is nothing new. Far from being a teaching unique to the New Testament, it really has been present in the Bible from the very beginning. Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness- the phrase “accounted to him” is imputation. Paul now asks this question:
Romans 4:9-10 Does this blessedness then come upon the circumcised only, or upon the uncircumcised also? For we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness. (10) How then was it accounted? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised.
Paul’s question concerns the faith of Abraham- was it credited to him while he was circumcised or uncircumcised? It’s an important question because it addresses the issue of whether or not faith is credited before one has done works or afterwards. Is there something that must be done in order to get faith, or are things done after faith is given? Does a Gentile need to become a Jew first, or may he receive faith as a Gentile? There are many, even today, who state that a person must first do something- he must first become baptized, or he must first confess a creed, or he must first accept Christ and THEN faith comes. But Paul shows that this is not true. Faith comes first. As Paul says in the next passage:
Romans 4:11-12 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also, (12) and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised.
Paul says quite specifically, and so, for that matter, does Genesis, that Abraham received faith while still uncircumcised. His circumcision was a sign of faith; it did not bring him faith. His circumcision was not works from which the wages of faith were granted. Faith comes first, and then the righteous works. So many religions try to obtain righteousness on the basis of their works, but as we can see from Romans, this is not what the Bible teaches. I find that when I talk to people of that persuasion that they, indeed, are often either not familiar with the Bible, or they focus on only a few passages to the exclusion of others, or they introduce some other authority besides the Bible. Personally, I stand on Scripture alone and sufficient, and faith alone and sufficient.
Note that Paul uses, once again, the term imputation when he says in v. 11: “..that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also…” Their righteousness is not their own, but is imputed to them. It truly is surprising to me how often I have to explain imputation in light of how often the concept occurs in the Bible. Imputation is a key element of the gospel message.
Paul now pushes on into the relationship between the law and faith, another key element of the gospel:
Romans 4:13-15 For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. (14) For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect, (15) because the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression.
In Genesis, God promised that Abraham would be the father of many nations. Abraham believed this and it was accounted to him for righteousness. God never said “If you follow the law, then you will be the father of many nations”. Once again, faith came first. The law wasn’t even given to Abraham- it was given to Moses! Abraham walked by faith. Paul says “if those of the law are heirs, faith is made void….” So, if one inherits the kingdom of God by earning it through obedience to the law, then what use is faith? We would rest in our own righteousness and there would be no need for imputed righteousness. Instead, the kingdom of God is delivered to those who believe that God is able to do what He promises.
Paul says “…the law brings about wrath.” The purpose of the law is point out our shortcomings, not to make us righteous. Paul’s already said this back in:
Romans 3:20-22 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.
And he’ll expand on it here:
Galatians 3:18-25 For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise. (19) What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator. (20) Now a mediator does not mediate for one only, but God is one. (21) Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law. (22) But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. (23) But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. (24) Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. (25) But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.
Watch what Jesus told the Pharisees:
John 5:45 Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you- Moses, in whom you trust.
All of these point to the same thing- the law exposes our unlawlessness, it exposes our unholiness, and it condemns us. Jesus doesn’t accuse us to the Father- Moses, the Lawgiver, is the one who does that. Jesus saves. John tells us that:
John 3:16-17 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (17) For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
And this is where our faith lies. Abraham believed that God would make him the father of many nations- and Paul will discuss this more just a little further on. Christians believe that Jesus Christ satisfied the law perfectly, took my sins personally and literally upon himself, fully paid the penalty due me by his death on the cross, and that God then raised Him from the dead, showing His victory over death. Recall from Genesis that death did not exist until Adam transgressed God’s law, and that God warned him that transgression would lead to death. Paul says in:
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death…
By raising Jesus from the dead, God signifies that the penalty for death has been paid. Christ’s resurrection signifies the end of death. Paul tells us:
1 Corinthians 15:53-57 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. (54) So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: "DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP IN VICTORY." (55) "O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING? O HADES, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY?" (56) The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. (57) But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness. What about you? Do you believe God? Do you believe that Christ paid the penalty for sins? Do you believe that God raised Him from the dead? Can you trust in His works and not your own? If you do, then, like Abraham, it will be accounted to you for righteousness. You don’t have to do good works to earn this salvation; in fact, you cannot. Faith is a gift of God…wait, here is the passage:
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.
Don’t think that you can come to God in any other way but through Jesus Christ. I see no other way mentioned in this passage:
Romans 5:1-2 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, (2) through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
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.
Isaiah says that God does not hear the prayers of the wicked:
Isaiah 59:2 But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.
So do the Proverbs:
Proverbs 15:29 The LORD is far from the wicked, But He hears the prayer of the righteous.
The only way to God is through Jesus Christ and the only way to gain righteousness is when that righteousness is imputed by faith. I urge you, as Peter did:
Acts 2:38-41 Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (39) For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call." (40) And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation." (41) Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.
Be saved from this perverse generation. Put on the covering provided by Jesus Christ today and have peace with God.
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