Title: Abraham was Justified by Faith
Text: Romans 4:1-8
Introduction: We’re in Romans 4 today. We’ll also be in Psalm 32 – so mark those passages.
Our topic this morning, The Doctrine of Salvation is vital to us as Christians and Southern Baptists. What I mean by that is that it is vital you and I understand what that means. You might even say it is foundational in determining who we are. We need to get this right. And, we need to be communicating this right.
CS Lewis teaches us in his book, Mere Christianity, that Christianity will not make sense until you realize three truths:
- There is a moral law. Simply discussing it establishes it.
- There is a ‘Somebody’ behind it. He says this to the random mind in discussing this moral law. It had to come from somewhere.
- We’ve broken the moral law and are at odds with this ‘Somebody’ because we’ve broken it.
When it comes to the study of the Doctrine of Salvation, Romans is a great book to choose. Really, you could choose any one of so many different books, but Romans is definitely focused on Salvation.
In some ways, you could say it is a doctrine that is pretty straightforward and easy to understand. And, in other ways, it is a doctrine that can be confusing and hard to understand. It’s easy and straightforward, but there must be more to it. It only makes sense that there is something you must “do”.
We’re like the Philippian Jailer who asked Paul and his companions: What must I ‘do’ to be saved? We want to ‘do’ something – make amends, earn our way. John 6 demonstrates for us a crowd of confused individuals who sound very much like us. They asked: “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?”
I think Paul is trying to make this very point in 3.27-4.1 with all of the questions:
- Then what becomes of our boasting? By what kind of law? By a law of works?
- Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also?
- Do we then overthrow the law by this faith?
- What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh?
Is it really that easy? Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Acknowledge him in all your ways and he will make your paths straight. Is it really that easy? Yes! But it can’t be. Surely there is something I must “do”! What must I ‘do’ to be saved? The answer: believe. Yeah, but what must I ‘do’…
This is important. We need to get this doctrine of salvation thing right. Souls depend on it.
Transition: if there is no boasting because there are no works that bring about salvation; if for the Jew, justification is by faith, then, Paul asks this question.
I. The Question (1)
exp.: rd 4.1a; What then shall we say was gained by Abraham…? Consider the Mt. Rushmore of the Jewish Faith. What 4 faces would be on there? Abraham, Moses, David… I don’t know who gets the 4th spot. Here we see Abraham and in v 6, Paul will quote David. Moses appears in chapter 5 with Adam. I think Paul is pulling out the heavy hitters to make his point.
ill.: think about it, If I were talking computers and technology and I said something like: Steve Jobs said… wouldn’t that add some validity and weight to my point? If I were talking money and I dropped Warren Buffett’s name…
app.: that’s what Paul is doing…; the argument might sound like this:
27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded.
By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
Oh, really? Then what about Abraham? Abraham is on the Jewish Mt. Rushmore because of his works! Remember how he willingly offered up his own son?
t.s.: So, he continues in v 2 and answers his question…
II. The Answer (2-5)
exp.: rd v 2; If… that’s such a big word. 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. Many Jews believed Abraham was justified by his works: Jubilees 23.10 – Abraham was perfect in all his deeds with the Lord. Or, Kiddushin 4.14 of the Babylonian Talmud says: we find that Abraham our father had performed the whole Law before it was given. The Jews held this principle of Abraham’s perfection to the Law in high regard. And, Paul is saying – yeah, but no! If he could…then he would, but he can’t – not before God. It would be that way for all of us. If anyone here could be justified by works alone – then, yeah, there is room to brag.
ill.: We like to brag: about our kids, our accomplishments, anything that shows how awesome we are.
- My son took his first steps when he was 7 months old.
- Oh, yeah, my kid was able to read at the age of three.
- My son, started on varsity.
- My son started on varsity for both the Offense and the Defense.
- My son played college ball.
- My son played for the 49ers.
- My son invented the football!
Brian Regan calls it the “Me Monster” – Me, Me, Me, Me, Me. If you haven’t seen it, Google Brian Regan on YouTube and watch: I walked on the Moon.
If we could actually attain salvation through our works… could you imagine the egos? The front row would be reserved for those very few who actually attained that perfection. We’d have a place in the hallway for their pictures. We’d have classes on how you, too, can attain salvation by your works. We’d have levels and patches and pins you could wear. You would know who was where on the scale by the color of their hat or the many badges on their sash.
app.: if you’re studying world religions and looking for how to get to heaven, then let me let you in on the difference. World religions are all about doing. Islam, Hindu, Buddahism… it’s about attaining. I just read a book entitled: Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nebeel Qureshi. In it Nabeel presents the reader basic Islamic beliefs. And, the way to heaven is through works. I highly recommend the book if you’re wanting to know what Muslims believe. Paul is saying here: here’s the truth – you can’t earn it. For the Jews: look at Abraham – even he has no room to boast before God in his works.
exp.: rd 2b; But not before God; no one can boast before God; 1 Cor 1:26-29;
26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.
exp.: next Paul quotes from Gen 15:6; rd v 3; So, why can’t he boast? Rd v 4; it isn’t something earned, it’s a gift; someone who has worked and earned something deserves his just wage; but not so with gifts; gifts are undeserved.
ill.: As I grow older and hopefully wiser, I’m deeply moved at the grace of God in my life; The Grace of God is a wonderful teacher. Consider your sins. They teach you all about your weakness, your need for God to protect you from yourself. You tried it your way and you failed miserably. Now, you stand as someone wiser. The sins of your past have made you who you are;
- They keep you humble because you know how weak you can be.
- They keep you trusting God, because you can’t trust yourself to accomplish this on your own.
- They keep you dependent (I know I’ll fail on my own – that is my experience).
exp.: v 5; this is the 3rd time ‘counted’ is mentioned; look at the other verses 3-8; logistics; it comes from the Gk word meaning to calculate something. This is an accounting word and it means to give credit to one’s account; to balance your books.
app.: to illustrate his point, Paul will bring in another heavy hitter… another whose face is on the Mt. Rushmore of the Jewish Faith: David
t.s.: The last section here is…
III. The Illustration (6-8)
exp.: rd v 6-8; Paul is referencing Psalm 32.1-2; Some people think Psalm 32 should be read with Psalm 51 – the great Psalm of repentance from his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband, Uriah. There are a half dozen words for sin in the Bible for sin and in Psalm 32, David uses three of them.
1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. 2 Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
Transgression or rebellion; sin: a missing the mark; iniquity: think perverse. Three separate words to define for us just how far from God we are.
- Rebellion is an uprising against the authority. I’m going to do it my own way.
- Sin is a missing the mark. You line up, tee up your golf ball and shank it or hook it off into the woods. That’s missing the mark!
- Iniquity is crookedness, perverse or wayward.
Each word describes a different part of who we are:
- Rebellion is in relation toward God. It describes our action against God.
- Sin describes our relationship to God’s Law. We simply fall short.
- Iniquity describes the affect of sin on who we are now. It describes what we do and how we do it.
But just as David uses three different words to describe us in the state we’re in, he also uses three words to describe God’s action toward us in pardoning us.
1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. 2Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
- Forgiven means to lift or carry away. You get this picture of sin that weighs you down. It is a burden to big to carry and God simply lifts it off of you and carries it away.
I think of the people who get trapped under mounds of rubble in an earthquake or like when the twin towers came down. What a fearful and scary nightmare to be trapped below ground, pinned beneath the weight of hundreds of pounds of concrete. That is until someone comes and lifts it off of the person trapped. That’s a picture of your and my sin. And God lifts it and carries it away.
- Covered: it means atoned for. It is the word for atonement. The blood sacrifice covers the sin.
The 3rd word is different in that it describes something God does not do.
- Counts not: He does not count our sins against us. There is now no record book to show our sins. You have this record of your debts and now, God has credited to your debts the necessary amount to balance your books.
David was there. His sin was ever before him. Like a giant boulder, he was suffocating beneath the weight of his sin. But look at v 3-4 (Psalm 32.3-4):
3For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. 4For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah
But something changes in v 5:
5I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah
Conclusion: This Psalm means so much to me today. Many years ago, as a young man struggling between the way of the world and walking with Jesus, I found myself in this state. I remember coming across this v 3-4 and thinking to myself that this is where I am. I hated myself. I hated who I had become. I hated the decisions I was making – the decisions I had made.
But then something happened: I read v 5 and said, God, I want to do this. And so I did. I acknowledge my actions were missing the mark. I wasn’t even aiming at the right mark. I no longer tried to hide my sinful behavior, but rather uncovered it. The truth was I thought I was hiding it beneath my good works, but my good works was too small of a blanket. And, I confessed my rebellion and repented of it.
I wish there was a way to describe my relief. I wish I could communicate verbally to you the liberty I now felt.
I want you to know that you can have that same freedom today. You cannot do anything on your own to alleviate the burden you’re under. Salvation is available to you today and you don’t have to work to receive it. All you have to do is believe that what God said is true.
- God’s Character: He is holy.
- Offense of Sin: We are not. We have broken the law of the lawgiver and are at odds with him.
- Sufficiency of Christ: Christ died to save us from our sin.
- Personal Response: I want to give you the opportunity to respond.
I’d like to ask … to lead us in a benedictory prayer after we’ve had a moment of silence. Then, when he says amen, I’d like to invite you to the back for some cookies and coffee where we can visit.