Sunday, March 13, 2016

How to be Right With God (Part 8)

SERMON               GM16-077

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

SETTING:          North Kelso Baptist Church

SERVICE:          Sunday AM (March 13th, 2016)

SUBTITLE:        How to Be Right with God – Part 8

SCRIPTURE:     Romans 4:9-12

SUBJECT:          The Righteousness of God

SUMMARY:       The Righteousness of God is granted to all who believe in Jesus Christ apart from works as well as apart from the law, which ratifies the promise made by God resulting in definite benefits for the believer.

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

Our theme is:       God justifies sinners who believe

Proposition:         The Righteousness of God is granted to all who believe in Jesus Christ apart from works as well as apart from the law, which ratifies the promise made by God resulting in definite benefits for the believer.

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 4:9-12

 [The Title of today’s Message is…]

How to Be Right with God - Part 8

Today’s Truth is: 

The Righteousness of God is granted to all who believe in Jesus Christ apart from works as well as apart from the law, which ratifies the promise made by God resulting in definite benefits for the believer.

Prayer for illumination & understanding

Our gracious Father, help us as we hear your holy Word read and taught to truly understand; and with our understanding, that we might believe and believing, we might be in all things faithful and obedient.

So Father we ask you, through your Holy Spirit to open our hearts and our 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.

Re-announce and read the text

Our text for today is Romans 4:9-12 

[Main Introduction]

Attention Getter

Rabbi Menachem made this outrageous assertion in his commentary on the Books of Moses – “Our Rabbis have said that no circumcised man will ever see hell.”

The Jalkut Rubeni, a book of Jewish Tradition states emphatically, “Circumcision saves from hell.”

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

This morning I want to speak to you about Abraham’s circumcision – or more specifically, that Abraham was circumcised long after he had been justified. The Jews had misunderstood the purpose of Abraham’s circumcision which in turn, blurred their understanding of Abraham’s justification. Their traditions usurped God’s purpose for this ritual changing its meaning and its intent.

It is no different today is it? In our culture and in many differing religious traditions circumcision has been transferred to baptism, particularly infant baptism. The meaning and purpose of baptism has been usurped leaving many people deceived and lost. This is because baptism is taught as a means of justification and as a vehicle for salvation. But just like circumcision, baptism, or any other tradition cannot and does not justify a sinner. Neither can any tradition produce nor provide the righteousness that God requires in order to belong to His family.

As we will see Abraham having been justified by his faith prior to circumcision makes circumcision unnecessary in order to belong to God. Abraham was righteous before God before he was circumcised. 

Raise a Need: The Purpose of the Text

The stories of adoptions can be the most moving and interesting stories. There are a number of reasons why the information of how one was brought into a family is of great interest or importance. There can be issues of medical problems, hereditary traits, or even trivia. These can be important for at least two reasons:

·        Health and medical issues as I already touched on.
·        Curiosity drives us to know the whys, the hows, and the what-fors.

As genuine believers we have been adopted in a family. The family of Faith. Abraham is the father of this family. We were not naturally born into this family.

It is important to know the whys or the hows and the what-fors of this family.

For example:

·        When did Abraham stop being a pagan?

·        When did Abraham become the head of this family of faith?

·        How did Abraham become the head or Father of our family?

·        What does circumcision have to do with his point of righteousness and justification?

·        Why is this information important to us today?

State the Purpose

My purpose today is to prove that Abraham was justified before he was circumcised thereby rendering circumcision unnecessary. This truth is important because it gives us comfort and security. It shows that we do not need to perform ritualistic ceremonies in order to enter and remain in the family of God.
[Sub Introduction]

Paul painstakingly proves this principle that circumcision is unnecessary for justification in Romans 4:9-12. If you haven’t already done so, please turn to Romans chapter 4 as we continue to answer the question, “How to be Right with God?”

[This morning we will continue to look at the second main point of this division that I call…]


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


Last week we came to a new chapter and a new thought. But we did not come to a new subject. Paul still continues to deal with the subject of justification by faith alone. Paul is simply heading off the objection that he believes the Jews will have against what he has just written.

And last week we made the point that 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.

So, Paul uses the entire chapter to illustrate the biblical truth of how a man is made right with God.

Paul introduced us to Abraham to confirm and illustrate two vital truths – first, that righteousness is obtained by faith and second, that righteousness is obtainable by all types or kinds of people, namely, Jewish people and Gentile people. Paul used Abraham as an illustration because he is the Father of the Jewish people.

Paul’s design is to head off anyone from thinking that justification can be obtained by any other means than by faith.

As we looked at the illustration of righteousness, we saw that our passage described four (4) contrasts that proves Paul’s proposition or principle that justification of sinners is through faith and not by any human participation. Paul contrasts faith and chores, faith and circumcision, faith and (the) covenant, and faith and Christianity.

[Last week we looked at the first contrast described in our passage that illustrates that justification is through faith and not by human participation which was the contrast between…]


To illustrate the contrast between faith and chores, or works, Paul used two important and familiar icons of the Jews. Paul enlisted the help of Abraham and David.

Paul used Abraham who was the Religious Father of the Jews (vss. 1-5)

As we looked at Abraham we saw that Paul made three things very clear.

 First, Paul made it clear that Abraham is not an exception (1-2)

Right off the bat Paul used a rhetorical question to head off or deflect a real or anticipated objection. Paul made 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 made clear by using Abraham as an illustration, was that Abraham is now an exhibit (vs. 3)

Abraham believed God. What happened when Abraham believed God? The Scripture says, “…it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Abraham is now Paul’s “Exhibit A.” Paul is making a case and he used Abraham as evidence, as proof, or as an exhibit. 

[Thirdly, we saw Paul use Abraham as an illustration to show 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.

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

We then we saw that Paul used DAVID: ISRAEL’S ROYAL FATHER (VSS. 6-8)

Paul quoted David from Psalm 32:1-2.

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

Our theme this morning is: Circumcision is not necessary

Proposition:         The Righteousness of God is granted to all who believe in Jesus Christ apart from works as well as apart from the law, which ratifies the promise made by God resulting in definite benefits for the believer.

[So, now let’s move to our…]


[We will now center our attention on the second contrast described in our passage that illustrates that justification is through faith and not by human participation is between…]


Before we begin this section, allow me to say, in order to understand this passage you must understand the importance that the Jews attached to circumcision.

First of all – to a Jew, a man who was not circumcised was not a Jew, no matter what his heritage was. Listen to the prayer that was prayed at the time circumcision was performed.

“Blessed is he who sanctified his beloved from the womb and put his ordinance upon his flesh, and sealed his offspring with the sign of the holy covenant.”

Rabbinical law stated, “Ye shall not eat of the Passover unless the seal of Abraham be in your flesh.”

“This law is for all generations forever, and there is no circumcision of the time, and no passing over one day out of the eight days; for it is an eternal ordinance, ordained and written on heavenly tables. And every one that is born, the flesh f who foreskin is not circumcised on the eight day belongs not to the children of the covenant which the Lord made with Abraham, for he belongs to the children of destruction; nor is there moreover any sign on him that is the Lord’s but (he is destined) to be destroyed and slain from the earth.” (The Jewish Apocryphal Book of Jubilee 15:25ff)

If a Gentile wanted to convert to the Judaism, he had to do three things:

·        Submit to a cleansing baptism by immersion
·        Offer appropriate sacrifices
·        He had to undergo circumcision

But it doesn’t stop there. Secondly, they believed that was what ultimately saved you from punishment in hell:

·        “Our Rabbis have said that no circumcised man will ever see hell.”

·        Circumcision was considered such a mark of God’s favor that even if a Jew had practiced idolatry his circumcision must first be removed before he could go down to hell.

·        As I shared earlier the Jalkut Ruben taught that “Circumcision saves from hell.”

·        The Book of Akedath Jizehak taught that, “Abraham sits before the gate of hell, and does not allow that any circumcised Israelite should enter there.”

Not only did the Jews believe these things strongly they often spilt over into the Christian churches that were predominantly Jewish in flavor. As a matter of fact it was such a hot topic that Christian Jews traveled some 300 hundred miles from Jerusalem to Antioch (Syria) to teach that the Gentiles who had been saved in Syria had to be circumcised. Such a debate raged that Paul, Barnabas and several other believers had to travel to Jerusalem in order to confer with the Apostles and the Elders of the Jerusalem Church.

And so, Paul anticipates the objection that would go something like this, “Suppose we do admit that all you say about Abraham and about the fact that it was his faith that got him a “right relationship” with God – you will have to admit that he was circumcised.”

Paul would say, “You are right.” But let me tell you about that.”

And so, as Paul contrasts faith and circumcision we are going to let him explain three (3) arguments that justification come by faith and not by circumcision.

[Let’s begin with…]

The Concern Prompted by Paul’s Contrast (Vss. 9-10)

It is essential to determine who the blessing spoken of in verse 8 was designed for.

ο μακαρισμος ουν ουτος επι την περιτομην η και επι την ακροβυστιαν λεγομεν γας οτι ελογισθη τω αβρααμ η πιστις εις δικαιοσυνην [10] πως ουν ελογισθη εν περιτομη οντι η εν ακροβυστια ουκ εν περιτομη αλλ εν ακροβυστια

[Is] this blessedness then [come] upon the circumcised only or upon the uncircumcised also? [Let’s stop here for a minute] (vs. 9a)

So far Paul has been talking only about Abraham. Now, he needs to clarify for the Jews who are reading this if the Gentiles are also included in the promise of this blessing or is this blessing solely for the Jews.

Paul uses Psalms 32:1-2 to confirm and even interpret Genesis 15:6, which says:

And he believed in the LORD, and he accounted it to him for righteousness.” (Genesis 15:6, NKJV)

Paul appeals to this verse to shed light on Psalms 32.

I want you to notice something very interesting. He asks a very specific and important question, and then uses this reference from Genesis. But, this passage does not answer the question that he just asked and he doesn’t answer the question either.

This question would have certainly gotten the attention of both his Jewish and Gentile readers. They would want to hear his answer to this vital question.

So, what does Paul do? He makes a very definitive statement:

For we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness.” (Romans 4:9b, NKJV)

Paul offers no proof for his statement, but he does have a very definite chronology in mind that is vital to his case. The timeline of Abraham’s faith and circumcision is very important to Paul.

Paul asks another question in vs. 10:

How then was it accounted? While he was circumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised.” (Romans 4:10, NKJV)

Paul is asking whether righteousness by faith applies to the Jews or also to the Gentiles. Of course the Jews would have thought that the blessing of righteousness was applicable for the Jews only.

Paul is implying that if Abraham was declared righteous by faith then circumcision is inconsequential.

Here is what Paul is getting at:

·        Abraham believed God and was justified in Genesis 15:6
·        Abraham was not circumcised until Genesis 17:22

Paul is showing that the covenant grace of God does not depend on circumcision. Faith alone is the path to blessing! Circumcision is not necessary – faith is the vehicle or instrument that enables a man to be right with God!

So, let’s look at Paul’s timeline or the chronology that is important to him:

·        Abraham was actually 99 years old when he was circumcised (Gen 17:24)

·        Ishmael, Abraham’s son by Hagar was circumcised the same day (25)

·        Ishmael was thirteen years old at this time

·        God had made the covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15:18 before Ishmael was conceived and born

So what is the conclusion: between Genesis 15:6 and the events in Genesis 17:24 contains a period of time that is at least 14 years. I say at least, because Jewish chronology puts the elapsed time at 29 years.

Whether 14 years or 29 years have gone by doesn’t really matter. The issue is that Paul has shown that Abraham was justified by faith prior to his circumcision. Therefore, circumcision does not make one justified or a member of the God’s family.

This would have shocked the Jews that Abraham was justified by the instrumentality of faith. And it would have shocked some Gentiles to learn that the blessing of the forgiveness of sins and justification was available to them as well as the Jews.

And so Paul removes the concern that was prompted by his contrast between faith and circumcision just as he did with his contrast between faith and chores, or works.

Our theme is:       God justifies sinners who believe

Proposition:         The Righteousness of God is granted to all who believe in Jesus Christ apart from works as well as apart from the law, which ratifies the promise made by God resulting in definite benefits for the believer.

But this leaves us with another lingering question that needs to be answered, and that is if circumcision was not necessary for justification, then why did God command in the first place?

[The answer to this question leads us to…]

The Claim Proved by the Contrast (VSS. 11a)

God gave circumcision as a sign that testified to the validity of God’s promise.

And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised…”

The first question we have to ask ourselves then, is why did God give or require circumcision?

Well, Paul is going to amplify or expand his answer that he gave at the end of verse 10. If it isn’t related to justification and if Abraham was justified without it, what did it prove?

Paul claims that it was a “sign,” “And he received the sign of circumcision…”

It was a sign. What is a sign? Paul goes on to say, …a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised…

The sign of circumcision was a seal of the righteousness of faith that was already his. Genesis 17:11 calls it “a sign of the covenant.” Remember, Genesis 15 makes it emphatically clear that everything in Abraham’s experience was by faith.

So, what is a seal? A seal is something that confirms the truth or the reality of something.

For example:

We read in 1 Corinthians 9:2, “If I am not an apostle to others, yet doubtless I am to you. For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 9:2, NKJV)

The false teachers that were plaguing the Corinthian Church had stated that Paul was not a real apostle to them or anyone. So, Paul says, “Well, if I concede and say that I am not an apostle with authority over any other churches, I am an apostle with authority over you. Why is this so? You are the sign or the seal, what has happened here shows that I am an apostle over you by God’s authority or appointment.”

Mind you there is no material distinction between a “sign” and a “seal.” Both confirms, documents, ratifies, and authenticates the right standing that Abraham already had. Paul is removing any doubt that circumcision is essential to obtain righteousness by stating that Abraham had the necessary righteousness while he was uncircumcised.

Abraham’s circumcision only confirmed his righteous status. Circumcision had and has no independent value. It cannot make you righteous for an entrance into heaven. It does not signify that you belong to God

No, let’s be clear, circumcision was given by God and required for every Jewish male for three (3) reasons:

·        It was a sign – it pointed to or confirmed what already had taken place

·        It was a stimulant – every time circumcision was preformed it stimulated the memory, it served as a reminder for God’s people of two things:

o   First – Abraham’s justification was ratified or confirmed

o   Second – that every Jew, or every person needed justification as well

·        It was a seal – For Abraham circumcision was a guarantee of the trustworthiness of God’s promise. Abraham could depend on God’s promise

Illustration: Rainbow

The rainbow in the sky will not keep you from ever drowning in a flood, but it does serve as a guarantee that you can trust, that God will never drown the entire human race in another flood.

That is why God gave and commanded circumcision. The Jews should have known this. Listen to what Moses had written:

“Moreover the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with your soul, in order that you may live.” (Deuteronomy 30:6, NASB)

Every Jewish male was a reminder that men’s hearts need spiritual cleansing. 

This is what baptism signifies today. You know that baptism will not save you. It will not wash away original or consequent sin. Baptism only points to like a sign and serves as a seal or guarantee of the fact that faith in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection has saved you.

So, circumcision was the seal of what Abraham already had received, namely justification by faith. Listen to this carefully, the sign and the seal was designed by God to prove the claims of Paul that Abraham was regarded and treated by God as righteous through the vehicle of faith.

BTW – this is why we have the Lord’s Table or communion. It serves as a reminder or proof that God has accepted Christ’s sacrifice and God regards and treats those who by faith in Christ as justified.

Our theme is:       God justifies sinners who believe

Proposition:         The Righteousness of God is granted to all who believe in Jesus Christ apart from works as well as apart from the law, which ratifies the promise made by God resulting in definite benefits for the believer.

And so Paul removes the concern that was prompted by his contrast between faith and circumcision just as he did with his contrast between faith and chores, or works. And Paul proves his claim justification is by faith and not by circumcision.

[This leads us to our third and final point and that is…] 

The Conclusion Proved By the Contrast (VSS. 11b-12)

By this time, Paul’s Jewish readers, his Gentile readers, and now you and I must come to the conclusion that Abraham by way of his circumcision is the Father of both Jewish and Gentile believers.

          “…that he might be the father of all those who believe…”

[Let’s stop here for a minute]

It is important to understand Paul’s logic. Paul demolished the wall that separated the Jews and the Gentiles. This passage cannot be overestimated nor should it be under-appreciated.

This last part of verse 11 and verse 12 contains one long purpose clause with what we call a result clause. With this purpose clause Paul spells out the only conclusion that anyone can come to as they understand his logic.

[So, this conclusion provides us with two vital truths.]

Abraham is the father of the uncircumcised – the Gentiles

“…though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness may be imputed to them also…” (vs. 11b)

Paul depicts Abraham as the spiritual father of all believes, but more specifically, the spiritual father of believing Gentiles.

Because Abraham believed while he was uncircumcised he is the father of believing Gentiles.

Why is this so important?

It would infer that justification/salvation would be available only for those who would become a spiritual child of God through incorporation into Israel through physical birth.

But Paul has maintained that becoming a spiritual child of God is through faith and not incorporation into Israel.

This is probably because Paul had in mind Genesis 12:3:

“I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:3, NKJV)

So, being justified prior to circumcision enables Gentiles to be justified through faith.


Abraham is the father of the circumcised – the Jews

          “…and the father of circumcision…”

Because Abraham was circumcised he is the spiritual father of the Jews who believe.

But be clear, don’t miss the fact that Paul makes it clear that circumcision is not enough to justify the Jews nor does being circumcised make one a child of Abraham. Notice what Paul says:

“…but who also walk in the steps of the faith which our Father Abraham had while still uncircumcised.”

Being born a Jew is not a free ride. Being circumcised does not get you in. This might have been the biggest shock yet to the Jewish readers. They must walk in his steps.

What were the steps of Abraham? Well, William Newell in his commentary lays them out pretty well for us. He says these steps of uncircumcised Abraham would embrace all Abraham’s story from his call in Genesis 12 to his circumcision in Genesis 17.

Just listen:

·        The revelation of the God of glory to Abraham in Ur & his turning from idols to the living God

·        His obedience to God’s command to leave Ur, his father’s house & friends

·        His altar worship of God in Canaan

·        His separating from Lot and choosing his place by faith in God

·        His victory over the banded together Kings when rescuing Lot

·        His acceptance through Melchizeck of the new revelations from God and rejecting the riches of men

·        His believing God about his future seed resulting in his accounting of righteousness [1]

Pretty impressive huh? Faith all the way. His steps were marked by faith. To be a spiritual child of Abraham, a Jew must be a believing Jew, not just circumcised.

Newell goes on to make this startling but true statement:

“The blessing of righteousness, then, comes not only without works, but also without ordinances, whether Jewish or Christian. And we see that only those Jews are really accounted circumcised in God’s sight, who have heart-belief, as mere sinners, in the redeemer…According to this, there are very few real Jews on earth; yea, and relatively few true Christians, also; if righteousness be wholly by faith, apart from works, and apart from ordinances.” [2]
Well, Paul removes the concern that was prompted by his contrast between faith and circumcision just as he did with his contrast between faith and chores, or works.

Paul proves his claim that justification is by faith and not by circumcision. And Paul’s conclusion proves that Abraham was justified prior to circumcision which qualifies him to be the spiritual father of both Jews and Gentiles.

Our theme has been: God justifies all sinners who believe

The Righteousness of God is granted to all who believe in Jesus Christ apart from works as well as apart from the law, which ratifies the promise made by God resulting in definite benefits for the believer.

My purpose this morning was to prove that God justifies sinners through faith rather than by their works including circumcision.

[What do you say we wrap this up?]


"It is entirely by the intervention of Christ's righteousness that we obtain justification before God. This is equivalent to saying that man is not just in himself, but that the righteousness of Christ is communicated to him by imputation, while he is strictly deserving of punishment." (- John Calvin)

Let’s pray! 

[1] William Newell, Romans Verse by Verse, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1976), p. 140
[2] Ibid, p. 141


Shannon King said...

Beautifully said my friend, thanks for sharing your wisdom.

Gregg Metcalf said...

Thank you. I am humbled.

Paul G said...

Very impressive my friend.
All though I have a problem with those Christians who think that Christ's righteousness has been imputed to them. I prefer the word 'accredited', which is a big difference.

lyn said...


I must warn you about Paul G, he recently left a comment on my blog. After some investigation, I found he denies the trinity vehemently. His blog is devoted to destroying this biblical truth, the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. Be very careful in allowing him to comment, I deleted his comment right away because he specifically stated the trinity was false.

Just a 'heads up' for you friend.....


Gregg Metcalf said...

Thank you. I do know this. I didn't think this comment was too dangerous, but I have deleted him and when they are unbiblical I will delete him. I wasn't going to delete it just over the difference between impute and accredited, but I am watching, thanks.