Sunday, March 6, 2016

How to be Right With God (Part 7)

SERMON               GM16-076

SERIES:              Renewal Through Romans: The Gospel Defined, Explained, and Applied

SETTING:          North Kelso Baptist Church

SERVICE:          Sunday AM (March 6th, 2016)

SUBTITLE:        How to Be Right with God – Part 7

SCRIPTURE:     Romans 4:1-8

SUBJECT:          The Righteousness of God

SUMMARY:       The Righteousness of God is granted through to all who believe in Jesus Christ

SCHEME:           To prove that God justifies sinners through faith rather than by their works

Our theme is:  God justifies sinners who believe

Proposition:   God justifies sinners through faith who believe in Jesus Christ

Interrogatory Sentence:  What do we need to understand about the righteousness of God?

Transitional Sentence:  The passage before us provides three (3) elements that helps us understand the righteousness of God. We gain an understanding of righteousness by Paul’s Introduction to Righteousness; by Paul’s Illustration of Righteousness; and by Paul’s Implication of Righteousness.

[Announce the Text]

Please open your Bibles to Romans 4:1-8

 [The Title of the Message]

How to Be Right with God - Part 7

Today’s Truth: 

God justifies sinners who believe

Re-announce and read the text

Our text for today is Romans 4:1-8

Prayer for illumination & understanding

Our gracious Father, help us as we hear your holy Word that we may truly understand; and that, understanding, we may believe and believing, we may be in all in all things faithful and obedient.

So Father we ask you, through your Holy Spirit to open our hearts and minds for the sake, the honor, and the glory of your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, so that as the Scriptures are read and your Word explained, we may hear with joy what you say to us today. We ask you Father to show us all that Christ is and what He has done for us by His atoning work on the cross of Calvary.

Father, will you enable me to clearly communicate the word of God to your people, I ask you for power and unction to preach your word. Amen.

[Main Introduction]

Attention Getter

Martin Luther, when teaching on justification by faith made this point:

“The question is asked: How can justification take place without the works of the law, even though James says: ’Faith without works is dead’? In answer, the apostle distinguishes between the law and faith, the letter and grace.

The ’works of the law’ are works done without faith and grace, by the law, which forces them to be done through fear or the enticing promise of temporal advantages. But ’works of faith’ are those done in the spirit of liberty, purely out of love to God. And they can be done only by those who are justified by faith.

An ape can cleverly imitate the actions of humans. But he is not therefore, a human. If he became a human, it would undoubtedly be not by virtue of the works by which he imitated man but by virtue of something else; namely, by an act of God. Then, having been made a human, he would perform the works of humans in proper fashion.

So, the lesson is that just like the ape which cannot by his own “efforts” became a human being, it follows that neither can a sinner become a saint by his own “efforts.”

Paul does not say that faith is without its characteristic works, but that it justifies without the works of the law.

Therefore justification does not require the works of the law; but it does require a living faith, which performs its works.” (- Martin Luther)

Orient the Text:   Central Point of the Text (CPT)

This morning I will continue to speak to you about the fact that God provides righteousness to sinners through faith rather than on the basis of the sinner’s works 

Raise a Need: The Purpose of the Sermon

It is crucial that we understand this principle that the justification of sinners is by faith alone apart from any and all works. It is one thing to present a principle but as believers we must understand that principle. We need something that will help us understand this principle clearly. We need something that will shed light on this principle and will give us more clarity? And what is that something that we need? An illustration.

State the Purpose

My purpose today is to provide you with Paul’s example or illustration of this very important principle that God has provided righteousness through the instrumentality of faith rather than works with the person of Abraham.

[Sub Introduction]

Paul now illustrates this the principle of justification by faith in Romans 4:1-25. If you haven’t already done so, please turn to it as we answer the question, “What we need to understand about the righteousness of God?”

We are in a series entitled Renewal through Romans: The gospel defined, explained and applied. We are looking at the third section or division in this letter entitled The Provision of Righteousness. We have examined quite thoroughly The Prologue to Righteousness, The Perversion of Righteousness. And now we are examining, “The
Provision of Righteousness.”

We have just finished with the first main point of this section which I called The Introduction to Righteousness. Today we are going to begin the second main point.

[But first, let’s take a minute or two and…] 


Last week we continued to answer the question, “How to be right with God?” I am convinced that our text contains the answer to this question! I am convinced, and you should be also, that the reason we must understand this truth is that this text because it is the essence and heartbeat of the gospel.

Last week we finished looking at the first major point in this third section of Paul’s letter which is THE INTRODUCTION TO RIGHTEOUSNESS which is found in vss. 21-31.  

Paul makes two arguments in this section. The first argument that we see is, Paul explains the basics of God’s righteousness in vss. 21-26.

The second argument we see is that Paul excludes the boasting against God’s righteousness in vss. 27-31. We looked carefully at three (3) reasons why Paul excluded boasting.

Paul excluded boasting

…in order to establish a principle - Paul makes it clear that the individual sinner’s justification is not achieved by any human effort, merit, or activity. The word boasting carries the meaning of “the matter” or “the reason” or the “cause” of boasting. And so what Paul is actually asking, is “what is the cause behind your boasting?” It is your belief that your accomplishments, your actions, your obedience places an obligation on God.

Paul excluded boasting…

…in order to eliminate a problem - There is another stumbling block in the mind of the Jews in regards to the question of justification by faith alone and that is what about the Gentiles? Does God justify the Gentiles by a different method than He justifies the Jews? How will God justify two distinct groups of people? Problem eliminated. The Jews and the Gentiles are justified by the same means.

The reason that justification must be by faith is that there is one God who justifies all types or kinds of sinners, such as Jewish sinners and Gentile sinners. God’s plan of justification by faith alone brings unity between the Jews and the Gentiles.

Paul excluded boasting…

…in order to exonerate a proposition - Paul’s proposition is that faith establishes the law. Faith does not nullify the law, but establishes the law. This proposition is related to what Paul has written in verses 27-30 and his point is clear. Does justification by faith shut out the law? Of course not, justification by faith actually establishes or confirms the law! The law was fulfilled because the penalty of the law was fulfilled by the death of Jesus Christ.

[Now let’s move to our…]


[We now center our attention on…]


We come to a new chapter and a new thought. But we are not seeing a new subject. Paul is still dealing with justification by faith alone. Paul is going to head off an objection that he believes the Jews will have against what he has just written.

There is no doctrine that Satan hates more than salvation by faith. He has done more to distort and destroy this doctrine like no other teaching in the Bible. If Satan can cause confusion and error when it comes to salvation he can continue to deceive men.

Paul will use the entire chapter to illustrate the biblical truth of how a man is made right with God – BTW let me say that Paul uses David simply to substantiate what he says about Abraham.

Let me remind you that the proposition of Romans 3:27-28 is that righteousness is by faith and not by keeping or obeying the law. Verses 29-30 confirms that justification applies to all people, both Jews and Gentiles alike.

Paul introduces us to Abraham to confirm and illustrate these two truths – that righteousness is obtained by faith and that it is obtainable by all types or kinds of people, namely, Jewish people and Gentile people. Paul uses Abraham because he is the Father of the Jewish people.

In Chapter Four (4) Paul is going to use Abraham to support his proposition that righteousness can only be obtained through the instrumentality of faith. If you look closely at this division in Paul’s thought process you will see that Paul is not only interested in making the point that justification is by faith only, but Paul wants to share the implications of this proposition or principle with his readers.

To accomplish this Paul draws his readers attention to the truth contained in Genesis 15:6; “And he believed in the LORD and he accounted it to him for righteousness.” (Romans 15:6, NKJV)

Mind you, the “he” and the “him” refer to Abraham. Paul uses this to exclude Abraham’s right to boast or brag about his means of justification. This comes on the heels of what we saw last week in regards to the fact that all boasting is excluded or shut out by the fact that fact that justification is by faith alone. This is what we call, “sola fide.”

Paul will refer to this verse as he uses Abraham to illustrate his argument and then as he provides the implications of his argument. The reason that Paul uses Abraham as an example is very clear and we see this in a moment.

Most people think that if you do your best and you make an effort, and you give the old college try, you will go to heaven. Man is actually very hostile to justification by faith alone through the grace of God. They hate it.

As a matter of fact the “unwritten” motto of unredeemed man taken from a Smith-Barney commercial would go something like this, “We get our salvation the old fashion way – we earn it!”
The Jews of Paul’s day were no different. For them Abraham was a prime illustration of someone who was justified by his works. As a matter of fact, the Jews at this time believed that Abraham had kept the entire law perfectly even before it was even given.

Listen to these examples:

The Mishnah says, “Because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.”

The Book of Jubilee states, “For Abraham was perfect in all his deeds with the Lord, and well-pleasing in righteousness all the days of his life.”

The Prayer of Manasses concludes with this tid-bit, “…Abraham never had need of repentance.

Some might have thought Abraham earned his righteousness the old fashion way, but Paul knew better. So Paul uses Abraham as an illustration to show the very opposite.

As we look at the illustration of righteousness, we see that this passage describes four (4) contrasts that prove Paul’s proposition or principle that justification of sinners is through faith and not by any human participation.

[The first contrast described in our passage that illustrates that justification is through faith and not by human participation is the contrast between…]


To illustrate the contrast between faith and chores, or works, Paul is going to use two important and familiar icons of the Jews. Paul enlists the help of Abraham and David.

[Let’s begin with the first icon that Paul enlists and that is…] 

Abraham: The Religious Father of the Jews (vss. 1-5)

How did Abraham obtain righteousness? Everyone will admit that Abraham was justified. The question is how was he justified?

As we look at Abraham we see that Paul makes three things clear.

 First, Paul makes it clear that while he is using Abraham as an illustration he points out that…

          Abraham is not an exception (1-2)

Right off the bat Paul is going to use a rhetorical question to head off or deflect a real or anticipated objection.

“What then shall we say that Abraham our forefather has attained by his own efforts according to the flesh?

The word that is translated in your text as “has found” or “hath found” is attained. What did he get? What was his reward?

The grammar is a bit difficult here. I think Paul is asking, “What shall we say, then, that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh obtain?” Abraham according to human reckoning is our forefather, we have descended to him.

Why would Paul ask such a question? Well, the Jews believed that justification and salvation had to come from obeying the law. It came from works, or in my outline from doing chores.

So, Paul asks, “What did Abraham get by doing the chores or keeping the law? The Jews would have answered, Abraham got at least three (3) things when he was justified. 

·        Righteousness – of course righteousness is the essence of salvation

·        Inheritance – “Then He said to him, ‘I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to inherit it.” (Gen 15:7, NKJV)

·        Posterity – “As for Me, behold my covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations.” (Genesis 17:4, NKJV)

These things were iconic to the Jews. They were actually sacrosanct.

So now the question then is how did Abraham obtain these things? The answer of course will settle the entire question of by faith or by chores. Paul will use the Jew’s venerated icon as an illustration of how he obtained these things.

Paul will use them that he is not an exception. He did not obtain them by his own efforts or works. He did not keep the law perfectly nor did he obey God perfectly in all things.

But look at what Paul does say in verse two:

For if Abraham was justified out of the source of his own works, he has grounds for boasting, but not when he is facing God.” (GDM’s translation)

You need to notice at least two spectacular thoughts in this verse,

First – if Abraham was justified by what he did, he has the grounds, the reason, or the right to boast. Remember the foundation of boasting is the actual accomplishment which stems from pride. If he in fact did what he needed to do to obtain righteousness by his own efforts, he would have the right to boast or to brag or to glory in his accomplishments.

BTW, boasting is not being rejected here like it had been in verses 27-31. If Abraham was able to keep the law perfectly boasting would be appropriate.

Now, we know that Abraham did not nor could he obtain the necessary and need righteousness need to face God.

Second – the term “before God” refers to a direction. IOW, because Abraham could not and did not obtain righteousness by his own efforts, he could not face God. He could not be face to face with God and boast or glory in his efforts.

So, Paul makes it very clear that Abraham was not an exception. He could not and did not obtain righteousness and the blessings of righteous by doing chores, or by working.

The next thing, Paul makes clear while using Abraham as an illustration, is that …

Abraham is now an exhibit (vs. 3)

“For what does the Scripture say? And Abraham believed God, and it was put to his account resulting in righteousness.” (Romans 4:3, GDM from Majority Greek Text)

Look at the text – Abraham believed God. What happened when Abraham believed God?

“…it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Abraham is now Paul’s “Exhibit A.” Paul is making his case and he uses Abraham as his evidence, his proof, as an exhibit.

First of all the word count, impute, and reckon are all the same word in the Greek language. It means” to put to one’s account”

For example:

Martin Lloyd-Jones gives this illustration:

“You remember what Paul says in writing to Philemon abut Onesimus, He says, ‘If he has defrauded you and if he owes you anything put that down to my account, I will pay it.’ The Apostle did not owe Philemon anything; but he tells Philemon to put it down to his account as if he did owe something. That is “imputing…”

When we have nothing at all, God puts in the righteousness of Jesus Christ, He imputes it to us…as it were in our account, and thereby clears out guilt and debt. He does not make us righteous in so doing, we are left, in this manner of justification, exactly where we were; but God puts this to our account and thereby clears our debt. He pronounces that all His claims against us are satisfied.” [1]

And so Abraham believed God and God put righteousness to the “account” of Abraham.

The Jews would claim that Abraham’s work or effort had something to do with God counting or reckoning Abraham righteous. After all didn’t Abraham do some good works?

Well, we now know that, first of all, Abraham is not an exception. He couldn’t earn or merit righteousness. He had to believe God or exercise faith in order to be made righteous. Secondly, Abraham is now an exhibit for the Jews in that he believed God.

[Thirdly, we see as Paul uses Abraham as an illustration is that…]

Abraham is now an example (vss. 4-5)

Paul will make clear that Abraham does not serve just as an exhibit for the Jews. Abraham also serves as an example for the Gentiles, and really, for all men.

“Now for the one who works with a definite result in view [his wages] the remuneration is not put down on his account as a gift, but as a legally contracted debt.” (Romans 4:4, translation by Kenneth Wuest)
Why is this such a big deal? Why is it so important to Paul that he uses Abraham as an exhibit or evidence and as an example to be emulated?

First – look at the words that are coming up in a minute in verse 5, “…justifies the ungodly…” Have you ever really thought on those three (3) words? They describe what the OT says God cannot or should not do.

Exodus 23:7 says, “Keep yourself far from a false matter, do not kill the innocent and righteous. For I will not justify the wicked.” (NKJV)

Proverbs 17:15 – “He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the just, both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord.” (NKJV)

This is why it is so crucial to make the distinction between being declared righteous and being made righteous. God does not make a sinner righteous. God declares the sinner to be righteous and then from that moment on treats the sinner as righteous.

This is why it is theologically and biblically wrong to say, “Just as if I have never sinned.” God cannot undo sin. He cannot pretend that sin never happened or that the sinner had never sinned.

Christ’s death satisfied God’s wrath from having been offended by sin. Then, through the instrumentality of faith God declares the sinner to be just and treats the sinner as just.

And so Paul makes it clear that there are two consequences from Abraham being used as an exhibit and as an example:

·        Works have no part in justification by faith alone

·        Justification is given freely

Paul uses a contrast between works and wages and grace and debt.

If a man works, the pay that he receives is an obligation, or fair compensation. Why?
Because the employer “owes” the employee for his labor and the wage is not freely given. It must be given, it is an obligation.
But Paul makes it clear that God is never obligated.

·        Justification is a free gift – (it cannot be earned or merited)

·        Justification is freely given (because it is not an obligation, it is not owed)

·        Justification is not a wage (it cannot be justly earned)

Once more Paul is showing that God acts graciously towards his people, he is not compelled nor does he act out of necessity.

Paul’s purpose in vss. 4-5 is to show that the faith that justifies is “faith alone.” Faith apart from works. As a matter of fact…

John Chrysostom remarked, “For a person who had no works, to be justified by faith was nothing unlikely. But for a person richly adorned with good deeds, not to be made just from these, but from faith, this is the thing to cause wonder, and to set the power of faith in a strong light.” [2]

Here is why, and I know you know, but the person who works considers his wages or payment not to be a gift, but it is a debt that he is owed. If righteousness or justification were to be based on works then it would not be a gift but a wage that God would owe a sinner.

Take this bad idea one step further, if justification were earned like a wage, then the sinner who earned it would have the right to boast or to brag. But, from start to finish a right standing before God is a gift from God.

Be careful, even though faith is the instrument, faith has now power to save. “If you say my faith has saved me, I am telling you, no it didn’t.” Justification and redemption is by God’s grace and gifting. Ephesians makes it clear that it is by grace that a sinner is saved. 

John MacArthur gives at least four (4) reasons why a man cannot be saved by his own works or efforts:

·        Sin prohibits a man from ever reaching or obtaining the standards of God
·        Work or efforts can never atone for sin, only the death of Christ satisfied God
·        Christ’s death would be useless if a sinner could atone for their own sin
·        God’s glory would be eclipsed if a sinner could justify himself [3]

John Murray in his great, great book, Redemption Accomplished and Applied wrote, “God cannot but accept into His favor those who are invested with the righteousness of His own Son. While his wrath is revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness and ungodliness of men, his good pleasure is also revealed from heaven upon the righteousness of his well-beloved and only-begotten.” [4]

So, Paul uses Abraham as example of a man who did not work, had no wage or compensation coming and did not have obligatory claims on God, but was pronounced just by the grace and gift of God.

[Let’s look quickly at vss. 6-8 and see that Paul enlists the help of…]


First of all Paul is still committed to proving that any and all works are excluded from the justification of sinners. So what does he do? He brings in another Jewish icon of the Jewish people; King David.

“…just as David describes…”

Secondly, Paul uses what he the content of vss. 6-8 to confirm what he has said in vss. 4-5. He probably uses this quotation for at least two (2) reasons: 

·        The quotation contains the word “reckon or impute”

·        He follows the tradition established in the law of providing 2 or 3 witnesses to establish a point – he uses Abraham and David to prove justification is by faith alone and not by works

So, Paul quotes Psalm 32:1-2.

David says, “Blessed are those who lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered…”

What sins is David referring to? His sin of adultery with Bathsheba and his attempt at covering up the sin by engineering the death of Uriah.

David says two things in this verse:

·        He speaks of having sins or lawless deeds forgiven

·        He speaks of having sin or lawless deeds covered up or covered over

Remember, in the OT and prior to the cross, sins were not removed from God’s people when they repented and sought forgiveness. The blood and death of the sacrificial animals could not remove sin, God, through the death of the sacrifices merely covered over their sin.

But David went on to say, “Blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin.”

The man to whom God does not reckon, or put to his account sin is very blessed and has great joy. The great joy stems from the fact that God does not hold him responsible or accountable for his sins since he has repented and offered an animal.

Paul’s purpose in reminding his Jewish readers is to prove his point that God is not reckoning any good works to the account of repentant sinners, but God reckons justification by faith which constitutes the forgiveness of their sins.
So, what is Paul saying? There is great blessedness or joy in forgiveness.

What provides forgiveness? Not good works, God forgives.

What does the usage of this quotation teach us? What does David, Israel’s royal father teach us? I think it teaches us at least six (6) things:

·        Sinners who have experienced forgiveness should also experience joy

·        Forgiveness is a basic component on justification by faith alone

·        Justification is a legal concept – God judicially or legally declares a sinner to be just and then treats the sinner as just

·        God is the one who reckons or imputes righteousness, it is not earned

·        Righteousness is associated with the forgiveness of sins

·        Blessedness reminds us and comfort us with the gracious character of justification by faith alone apart from works

And so Paul uses both Abraham and David as illustrations in order to prove that God reckons, accounts, imputes, or puts to the account of sinners the righteousness that is needed and that he requires.

Our theme has been:  God justifies sinners who believe

Proposition:   God justifies sinners through faith who believe in Jesus Christ

My purpose today was to provide you with Paul’s example or illustration of this very important principle that God has provided righteousness through the instrumentality of faith rather than works by Paul’s use the Jewish icons of Abraham and David.

 [What do you say we wrap this up?]


Let me conclude with an illustration:

The story is told of a poor farmer who had saved his money for years in order to buy an ox to pull his plow. When he thought he had enough saved, he traveled a great distance to the nearest town to shop for an ox.

He soon discovered, however, that the paper money he had been saving had been replaced by a new currency and that the date for exchange from the old to the new had long since passed. Because he was illiterate, the man asked a neighbor school boy to write a letter to the president of their country, explaining his dire situation and asking for an exemption.

The president was touched by the letter and wrote back to the farmer: “The law must be followed, because the deadline for exchanging bills has already passed. The government can no longer change your bills for the new ones. Even the president is not exempt from this rule.”

“However,” the president continued, “because you need this ox and cannot obtain an ox on your own, I am changing your money for new money from my own personal funds so that you will be able to buy your ox.”

Before God, every person’s good works are as worthless as that farmer’s outdated money. But God himself, in the Person of his Son, has paid the debt. And when a confessed sinner casts himself on God’s mercy and accepts by faith the Lord’s atoning work in his behalf, he can stand forgiven and righteous before him.”

And so, we say with David, “Blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin!”

Let’s pray! 

[1] Martin Lloyd-Jones, Romans: An Exposition of Chapters 3:20-4:25, (Carlisle: Banner of Truth Trust, 2011), p. 167

[2] Cited from Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans’s,), p. 265

[3] John MacArthur, MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Romans 1-8, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1991), p.239

[4] John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1955), p. 124

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