Highlights from last week:
Righteousness is for all who believe.
Justification by faith does not nullify the law but establishes it. That is, the law itself points to the fact that human obedience to the law cannot save and that righteousness can be achieved only through faith in Christ.
What “law” is Paul talking about? The moral law of God. We strive “in Christ” to uphold the moral law. John Woodward said,
“We must not “go beyond what is written” (1 Cor. 4:6) by rejecting the references to the ongoing validity of God’s moral law in the NT. Theologians note that the Moral Law does not become void because God character is unchangeable. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8). God’s moral precepts correspond to His righteousness and therefore remain constant.”
Romans Chapter 4:1-12 (read context 3:27ff).
v.1- “What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter?”
What was “discovered” by Abraham? Are people who are created in the image of God still discovering today? Praise and glory to our God for grace that allows discovery of salvation. And, even greater discovery of things that accompany salvation.
Abraham is considered here as a “test case” to establish the biblical truth that justification is by faith alone. Abraham was considered the father of the nation of Israel. Therefore to establish “justification by faith alone” through the life of Abraham is crucial for Paul’s argument, especially for the Jewish readers.
v.2- IF Abraham stood as righteous before God on the basis of his good works, then he could truly boast, since his obedience would function as the basis of his relationship with God. However, Paul clearly states that Abraham could not boast before God.
Is there ever a time when we can boast about our good works, moral diligence, or faithful service? What does Paul tell us about boasting?
v.3-“What does the Scripture say?” To understand “truth” and experience God, do we have to rely on Scripture?
To emphasize that Abraham’s close relationship to God was not based on works, Paul appeals to Scripture. Abraham understood that no amount of obedience or good works justifies, or made him right with our holy God. Therefore, there was no basis back in the day, or for today, where “boasting” about “being or doing good” is an acceptable measuring stick for being right with God.
Harrison (1976) said, “Justification is for the glory of God, not of man.” The inspired Scripture declares that Abraham stood in the right before God by believing, not by doing. Paul references Gen.15:6 “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
In light of this Scriptural truth, how do we reconcile James’ inspired writing? “faith without works is dead?”
Harrison said, “The nature of Abraham’s faith was essentially the same as that of the NT believer despite the difference in time. (Abraham looked forward to something God would do, whereas the Christian looks back to what God has provided in Christ.)”
Moreover, is the “object” of faith the same? Yes! It is implicit in the promise to Abraham, and explicit in the gospel. (ref. Gen 12:3).
What is the relationship between Abraham and Jesus?
“Christians view God’s interaction and covenant with Abraham as something leading up to the coming of Jesus Christ. God’s love for his creation was so infinite that he determined to somehow bridge the immeasurable gap that man had made when he sinned. To this end God made the first covenant with Abraham which included the promise of a future savior, Jesus, who would come through Abraham’s descendants”(abrahamtojesus).
It is very reasonable to conclude that Abraham trusted in a promise that pointed to Christ (Jn 8:56, Gal 3:16), although he may not have completely understood.
Abraham’s faith was credited to him “as righteousness.” Therefore, faith itself is not righteousness. Faith in “the promise” or “in Christ” deems one righteous. As Christians, Christ is always the “object of our faith.”
v. 4 Here Paul uses an example from employment and wages as an obligation and not a gift. However,
v.5 Righteousness before God is not earned or somehow obtained through good deeds or works (e.g., going to church, baptism, being a good person, keeping the law, etc.,) Rather, right standing before God or “imputed righteousness” (our status before God vs. our actual condition in this life) comes, as it did for Abraham, by believing, hence trusting God with everything pertaining to our lives.
Harrison (1976) reminds us, “…faith means that one who exercises it receives a righteous standing simply as a gift (literally, “grace”) from God.”
Furthermore, grace vs. obligation and faith vs. works.
Since we are deemed right with God by faith: (belief, trust), where does works/obedience fit into our relationship with God?
In both the old and new covenants: obedience does have a significant role through the life of all who believed. First, the supernatural occurrence of God stirring the heart and the hands of the heart engaging (believing, trusting) experiencing faith in our mighty God. Second, a living faith now produces obedience from a genuinely transformed or as Paul says, a circumcised heart.
v.6-8 Paul introduces David as a second example of righteousness by faith citing Ps. 32:1-2:
“Blessed are they whose offenses have been forgiven and whose sins have been covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.”
In this example with David, no good works are involved. In fact, sin has been committed. Therefore, we see the significance of “justification” even in the context of sinful behavior: David was already justified, hence, right with God. Before the writing of Psalm 32 David was considered a “man after God’s own heart…”
Therefore, we can conclude that sinful behavior does not cancel justification. Thank you Lord! God is able to forgive our sinful, even acting out behaviors. In Christ, God’s gifts are irrevocable. How should this truth motivate us?
1. A futile walking the line, hence luke-warm existence? Do enough to get by, yet unfullfilled and uncertain about a genuine “in Christ” life?
2. Or, a striving in obedience because I am thankful for grace and mercy in my life, which effects the life of my family, children, etc., in supernatural and overtly powerful ways?
David was disciplined until he fully confessed his sin. However, he still suffered the consequences of sin. For example, he suffered humiliation when Absalom led a revolt, etc., David had genuine faith that trusted God in all circumstances, even the ones he did not understand.
Another point, David lived under the Mosaic law. However, “he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: (v. 6).”
Harrison (1976) suggested, “after having sinned, David could not rectify his situation by means of works. He was completely shut up to God’s mercy exhibited in the forgiveness of his transgressions.”
v.9-10 Moreover, Abraham was righteous before God before he was circumcised (Gen.17), and therefore circumcision was unnecessary in order to be right with God.
Are we beginning to understand the emphasis God places through Paul’s writings on justification by faith?
v. 11-12 Circumcision was the sign and seal of Abraham’s righteousness that belonged to him by faith. In other words, circumcision documented and ratified the righteousness by faith that Abraham enjoyed before his circumcision.
What demonstrates to those around us our inward transformation today?
How do others know you are a disciple of Christ?
Are there behaviors we should promote as Christians?
What if there is no desire to explore and learn about the things of God?
Are you expected to grow and learn about God, mature in our shared faith on your own?
Is it important that I make time to ask, seek, and knock? How much time is enough?
Should I ask for other brothers to keep me accountable to grow and mature? How?
What are the basic disciplines we should strive to master as Christians?
Presented by Bob Duck and Randall Torres.
ESV Study Bible
Expositor’s Bible Commentary (1976) F. E. Gaebelein (ed).
Henry, Matthew Commentary
NIV Study Bible