21/06/15 – Romans 4:13-25 “Faith is accounted for righteousness”
A little digression today to reinforce what we have already seen in Romans. It is important to see how Paul’s argument has developed in the first four chapters of Romans. Paul began (after his introduction) by proclaiming that which he would argue for in the following chapters. It is found in Romans 1:16-17 – 16For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. 17For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.
He then demonstrates how the Gentiles, even though they had no excuse to deny God’s existence, did so anyway, choosing to worship the creature rather than the Creator.
Then in Chapter 2 he admonishes the Jews who thought they were of the law and therefore would be found righteous according to the law. They believed in their circumcision as their national right as God’s people, practising all the outward show of obedience but ignoring the more important inward obedience that God required.
Romans 2:28-29 – 28For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither [is that] circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: 29But he [is] a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision [is that] of the heart, in the spirit, [and] not in the letter; whose praise [is] not of men, but of God.
Then in Romans 3 Paul shows that both those of the law (the Jews) and those not of the law (the Gentiles) were all condemned by the law regardless of how they received the law. Paul then says that no-one can be justified by the law, for all have sinned (3:23) but that the all who sinned in Romans 3:23 may also be justified freely by the redemption in Christ Jesus – the law of faith. The law is fulfilled by faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross.
Romans 4 explains that we then have two choices, of works (the law) but being found in debt, and faith (believing in God’s salvation) which would result in righteousness. The Jews believed in the works of circumcision of Abraham but ignored the fact that Abraham was declared righteous before he was circumcised! Paul then goes on in today’s passage to go more fully into the practical side of righteousness.
Romans 4:13 – For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, [was] not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.
The promise of God was not through the circumcision (= the law) but through faith being accounted for righteousness, as per Romans 4:5.
Romans 4:14-15 – 14For if they which are of the law [be] heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect: 15Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, [there is] no transgression.
If the law could set people free, if people could be justified by the law, if the law didn’t demand impossible penalties such as death, then why plead guilty when they might be able to prove their innocence. If they could inherit eternal life through the law which had been given to them, then why bother with faith in any promises?
Why need the faith to trust God to help if it were possible to be made righteous without God? That is, you can do your own thing and God has to just sit back and accept what obedience you choose to offer Him!
Especially if the law didn’t exist or apply! It’s the penalty of the law that hurts, not the law itself. There’s no penalty if there’s no law to break. A law without penalties cannot hurt anyone. And, without the law there can be no offense. You can’t break a law that doesn’t exist. And God cannot get angry at people who break a law that legally cannot be broken!
Romans 4:16-17 – 16Therefore [it is] of faith, that [it might be] by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all, 17(As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, [even] God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.
But the law does exist and it does carry a severe penalty – death! (Romans 6:23) Paul explains that in order for the promise of righteousness to be available for all, it must be according to grace by faith. And grace assumes the lack of right of all to anything, but that it might only be received by undeserved merit through God’s grace. That is, you have no right before God to demand anything but the penalty of sin, which is death. By the law man deserves only death, which means that only by the grace of God (through faith) can anyone escape that penalty of death. God cannot and will not act against His own law; thus He sent His Son to pay the penalty demanded by the law, thereby enabling God to exercise His grace in granting life to those who believe by faith.
That means that the Jews cannot claim to be the chosen ones just because they are the children of Abraham. The claim must be by faith, not works, and thus those outside the law (the Gentiles) may claim the promise equally with the Jew. Therefore, Abraham is named as ‘a father of many nations’ by the God in whom he believed (and his faith was accounted for righteousness).
before him whom he believed – the covenant was made between Abraham and God.
Genesis 17:1-7 – 1And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I [am] the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. 2And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly. 3And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying, 4As for me, behold, my covenant [is] with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. 5Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. 6And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. 7And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.
quickeneth the dead (or gives life to the dead) – See Vs 4:19…The covenant in Genesis 17:1-7 was just before God promising to give Abraham a son, and at 99 years of age, Sarah being around 90 at the time, to have a baby would have to be called a miracle, giving life where it was considered impossible.
calleth those things which be not as though they were – God promised Abraham things that did not yet exist (and didn’t look likely, either) as if they did exist, and indeed, they did exist, because Abraham did become the father of many nations. God spoke of the future as a fact, when we can only see it as unknown as yet.
Romans 4:18 – Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations; according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be.
It was against all probability that Abraham should hope for a son, yet God had promised that he would have a son, so Abraham believed in the impossible. When someone promises something impossible, then we naturally reject it as false, yet when God promised Abraham the impossible, Abraham believed (once again the evidence of his faith which would be accounted for righteousness).
Genesis 15:5-6 – 5And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. 6And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness.
Romans 4:19-22 – 19And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara’s womb: 20He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; 21And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. 22And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.
By the time Isaac was born, Abraham was about 100 years old and Sarah probably 90 or 91 years old, well past child-bearing age). How many old-age pensioners give birth? If a doctor made this promise to a 90-year old couple, what would their reaction be? But Abraham didn’t question (waver) what God had promised. His faith said that what God promised, He would also deliver. Abraham was fully convinced concerning God’s promise, that His promise was 100% guaranteed. And this was accounted to him for righteousness. Abraham expected God’s promises to be sure, even if impossible by man’s standards.
Romans 4:23-25 – 23Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; 24But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; 25Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.
This righteousness wasn’t only imputed to Abraham for the sake of Abraham alone. It was to be imputed to all those who would believe as Abraham did. However, Abraham had to believe that God would provide him with a son, an impossible event by their standards. We also have to believe in an impossible event, that someone who died on the cross should rise again from the dead. Not only this, that He should rise from the dead but His sacrifice and new life would cancel our offenses (of the law) before a holy God.
Furthermore, His resurrection would be because of our need for justification. That is, God has given His Son to die on the cross, and then raised Him up to life again, and as the firstborn from the dead, Jesus has become the first of many to be raised to new life in Him (Romans 8:29). Through Jesus, God will pardon all who call upon the name of the Lord to be saved. Our faith in these promises of God is our justification. But Jesus had to rise from the dead in order to complete our justification.
We are reconciled to God by His death, and saved by His life.
Romans 5:10 – For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
Before we enter Chapter 5 next week, it would be useful to look at why we use certain terms such as justification and redemption, and why we have been told that all are justified freely (Romans 3:24), yet justification is established by believing and that this faith is accounted for righteousness. To understand it better, we need to go back to when it all started, to the time when mankind began needing to be justified and redeemed.
Originally man was without sin, likewise satan and his angels (whom we call demons). When God created the world, He must have known from the start that sooner or later man would sin. He even gave man a law that he was not permitted to break, and then made it possible for man to break that law, by putting that tree in the middle of the garden, seemingly unfenced and very available. I’m not suggesting that God ordained sin (as many calvinists will claim) or even that He meant it to happen as MacArthur states (“Ultimately, we must concede that sin is something God meant to happen. He planned for it, ordained it – or, in the words of the Westminster Confession, He decreed it.” – P.113 The Vanishing Conscience, J MacArthur). However, God certainly knew it would happen (by foreknowledge) and planned for it before it happened. There’s a big difference between decreeing that it should happen and permitting it to happen (within His guidelines, that is). God’s sovereignty is not jeopardised by not having ordained sin but merely permitting it to happen by man’s free will. God would also have known per His foreknowledge the exact nature of that original sin and thus would have planned a perfect solution to it. And He did. That solution is what produced man’s redemption and justification.
The fall of satan and his angels was sometime early in Genesis, probably between the start of Genesis and the fall of Adam and Eve (although there’s actually no reason why it had to be after the actual creation of our solar system, but ‘when’ isn’t really important). God gave certain creatures (man and angels) a moral nature that allowed them to make decisions regarding conscience. They were also created eternal which means that whether you go to heaven or hell, your soul exists eternally. (In hell it could hardly be called life!)
When satan fell, he and his angels were banished from heaven and seemingly had all areas of responsibility and authority removed. When man was created with dominion (authority) over the earth, satan must have been quite upset. Why should man get what he, satan, deserved, being a much superior creature? Of course, man was made in God’s image, but satan probably couldn’t see the importance of that fact!
Satan probably would have liked to destroy that upstart of a creature, man. But, that wouldn’t have done anything for satan except to make him feel better, perhaps. No, it would be better to use man to gain what satan wanted, so satan decided to take control of man and thus take control (dominion) of the earth. But man had disobeyed God and wouldn’t be all that willing to take on another master. Throughout history, satan has had to use lies and deceit to ensnare man to obey him. It is likely that Adam and Eve still obeyed God, even after they had disobeyed that one time in the garden. Their son Abel offered a sacrifice of obedience acceptable to God while Cain was disobedient. All through that time, there were always people who obeyed God (or had a heart to obey God). Satan did try hard to take over – perhaps if he got total control then he could rule the earth independently of God – at least it must have appeared to satan to be that way.
After about 1500 years satan had almost total control of the world. It was only Noah (and maybe his family) who stood in his way. So God destroyed all those who were about to give satan his dream of ruling the earth, and rescued only Noah and his family. But satan probably already had control of one of Noah’s sons, Ham, from whom Canaan, Mizraim (Egypt), Nimrod (of Babylon fame), Babylon and many other anti-God nations descended. Throughout the Old Testament there have always been those faithful people who haven’t bent the knee to Baal (such as the 7000 in the days of Elijah –1 Kings 19:18), who have died and gone to the grave along with the wicked ones. Except, according to Jesus in His parable of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:19-31), the wicked go to Torments and the good go to Abraham’s bosom (probably known as Paradise). When Jesus rose again, He took those who had been waiting for that day in Paradise to heaven with Him (Ephesians 4:7-8). He also preached to those in Torments and probably told them the news that they had failed to be approved to come with Him (1 Peter 3:19-20).
In the Garden of Eden, satan failed to take full control of man’s obedience, but he did take ownership of man’s destiny. With man’s sin, every person descended from Adam and Eve would be tainted with this sin, and therefore all would fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23), and therefore not one could be accepted into His presence. All mankind was now offensive to God, even those who made some effort to obey Him. Man was effectively “owned” by satan, and his future appeared to be with satan in hell for eternity. Not one person could stand before God without being accused by satan the accuser, the prosecutor of God’s people, concerning their penalty according to the law. (Note Joshua the high priest and satan the accuser in Zechariah 3.) The law’s penalty prevented all people from coming back to God and satan knew it!
But God had planned a remedy before the creation of the world (Revelation 13:8). Even though Jesus wasn’t crucified until 2000 years ago, once He was crucified the result became eternal, for all time. (That is, outside or independent of time.)
Those in the Old Testament knew something of this and looked forward to it; for instance, King David spoke of it a few times in his psalms. The Old Testament sacrifices were never intended to take away sin – they were incapable of such (Hebrews 10:4) – but they were a sign, a type, of what was to come (Hebrews 9:9). God required these sacrifices and He would honour His promise concerning them. But the remedy had to do more than just be a band-aid fix for the massive problem of sin for all mankind. Man needed a way of starting anew, starting a fresh new page without the curse of sin on it. Man needed to be bought back from satan, in fact, redeemed. Redemption demanded a price far beyond what any man, or even mankind collectively, could pay. The law demanded the penalty of death; man had to die before he could live, an impossibility!
Only a sacrifice of infinite value could pay for what appeared to be a problem of infinite proportions. Satan tried to destroy the bloodline of Jesus’ ancestors a few times and finally, when Jesus came to earth, satan planned to have Him put to death. Apparently satan just didn’t realise that this would destroy him, satan, until it was too late. Perhaps satan didn’t believe that God could or would be prepared to die. Maybe He would be rescued from the cross before He died; then satan would have won control of man’s destiny forever. Perhaps satan didn’t realise that Jesus could die and rise again to life. A dead Jesus would cease to be a threat to satan. However, what satan never seemed to realise is that no-one but Jesus had the power to put Himself on the cross (John 10:17-18). Satan never had a say in it!
And then Jesus rose again. For whatever reason satan had for crucifying Jesus, it cost satan dearly. That which satan had had control of was no longer his to control (John 12:31-32). Yes, satan would have a short while longer to run things a bit, but his power was quite limited. He would have one more taste of power during the end-times 7-year tribulation, but his future was sealed in hell forever now. An infinite price had been put on man to repurchase him, such a price that satan probably considered impossible to pay. But Jesus died, and man was bought back again, redeemed, in fact. Satan had lost control of mankind, and one day this will be totally enforced, at the end of the tribulation and especially at the end of the millennium. This was the redemption of mankind, and Jesus had paid for it on the cross.
Only, satan didn’t get the payment. The offense of sin was against a holy God, and the payment was the penalty God’s law had demanded for every sin of every person that ever lived. This penalty for everyone was required by a holy God who demanded that the law not only be upheld, but that its every required penalty be paid in full for everyone. This was not only redemption, but the potential justification for every person that would ever live. This gave every person the freedom to be able to come to God without offense, in order that he or she might be saved. (See removing the barrier – Ephesians 2:14, and opening the temple veil – Mark 15:38). God as judge demanded payment in full and that payment was indeed made in full, according to the Judge’s requirements! “It is finished!” was the cry from the cross (John 19:30).
This is what we call justification – the law regarding its penalties was satisfied in full for every person that would ever live. God then would be totally justified in granting a free pardon to whomsoever He desired, and the law could no longer prevent Him from doing so. Man was redeemed from the power of the law, and God was now free to permit man to come to Him (in faith) for justification. The middle wall of partition between God and man had been torn down (Ephesians 2:14). No longer did the law dictate the terms and conditions, for its penalty had been paid in full. Now God had the total right to dictate His own terms and conditions for eternal life according to His gospel through Jesus Christ.
But mankind still had a problem. He was blind to the truth of the gospel (whom satan, the god of this world, has blinded (2 Corinthians 4:3-4). It was necessary for the word of the gospel to be preached, enabling God’s truth to be proclaimed (Romans 10:14-15), but even then this didn’t guarantee that every man would accept. That brings up the 2 choices, works (= debt) and faith (= righteousness) (Romans 4:4-5). If a man acknowledged all his sin and pleaded guilty, then God was free to grant that person an effective pardon as per His promise that whoever called upon the name of the Lord to be saved should indeed be saved, that is, salvation and eternal life, and faith being accounted for righteousness (Romans 10:17). However, if such a person decided to plead not guilty, and attempted to prove his or her innocence (according to his works of the law) then God would find without exception every such person guilty of debt, guilty of an inability to present sufficient works to be justified.
A person’s sins are atoned for by the putting aside of the wrath of God due to sin, thus freeing man to be able to approach holy God through faith. That wrath was laid upon Jesus on the cross, and so propitiation was made for all, the appeasement of the wrath of God for all sin. Propitiation does not automatically mean salvation, though; it is the gift that must be accepted in order to gain eternal life (Romans 6:23).
So, justification was given freely through the redemption that is in Christ through His blood on the cross, but had to be accepted by faith in order to become a reality. Atonement means the covering of sin by blood in the Old Testament but complete cleansing of sin by the blood of Jesus in the New Testament. Remission means the cancellation of a debt, charge, or penalty, and is also through the blood of Jesus (Hebrews 9:22). (It can also mean the reduction or removal of a prison sentence for such as good behaviour in our present world.) Remission is similar to justification. They don’t remove the fact of the crime, but remove the penalty for such. Atonement and remission are through the application of the blood of Jesus on a person’s life, as are redemption and justification. Propitiation is the appeasing of God’s wrath against sin through the application of the blood of Jesus to provide redemption, justification and atonement.
“propitiation” is translated from 2 Greek words in the New testament. One is the Greek word hilasterion which represents the mercy seat, the lid of the Ark of God, upon which the blood offering was sprinkled on the Day of Atonement. It is translated “mercyseat” in Hebrews 9:5 and “propitiation” in Romans 3:25. The other Greek word is closely related to the first. It is hilasmos which is the means of appeasing the wrath of God, and is translated “propitiation” in 1 John 2:2 and 1 John 4:10
Because of the blood of the cross, God offers a pardon to all who call upon the name of the Lord to be saved. A pardon doesn’t pronounce the person innocent, but instead permits freedom from prosecution of the penalty for that sin. A pardoned person may plead guilty, yet be free from prosecution.
Thus God can pardon sinners and remain totally within the requirements of the law. He is therefore justified in offering a free pardon to all who will accept it in faith. The sinner who repents through godly sorrow and therefore pleads guilty (repentance) is also accepting the verdict of the Judge who has promised to pardon all who call upon the name of the Lord to be saved (2 Corinthians 7:10). They are then pardoned, by faith in God’s promises, and are set free from the requirements of the law (Romans 8:1). God is justified in that no law was put to one side in order to forgive them. And the sinner is justified by his faith in the God who promises to save him to the uttermost. That is, he trusts God’s promise so implicitly that he puts his life in God’s hands by pleading guilty as charged. He has therefore thrown himself on the mercy of the Judge. (Note hilasterion the mercy seat.)
The law was totally satisfied and satan cannot accuse any person who has trusted in the sacrifice on the cross of breaking the law in any way, nor can he accuse God of unrighteousness in breaking the law, for God has paid the full redemption cost required by the law. The sinner is justified by faith in claiming his freedom from the curse of the law and satan cannot argue with such justification.
That is, our opposition to satan’s accusations concerning our sin is justified by our faith in Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. We are totally justified in claiming our salvation fully from God, who is fully justified in granting us a free pardon (a remission for all sin) without the breaking of His law.