Romans 4

 

Romans 4:1-3
What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?

For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.

For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.

We need to take some time here to remind ourselves of the context of what we are reading. To understand the bible it is important to keep the immediate context as well as the remote context clearly in mind. Romans is addressed to new believers, some of whom were Gentiles and some of whom were Judeans. Among those new believers some were born again and some were not. What we have are people walking in off the streets with all their problems going to home churches hoping to find answers. Paul was addressing people with vile affections, those who worshipped and served the creation rather than the creator, all those filled with unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness, full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity, the whisperers, the backbiters, the haters of God, those who were despiteful proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, those who were disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, the implacable and the unmerciful. That's where we all came from and that's what we will have to deal with in our home churches.

Paul has been sorting things out between the Judeans and the Gentiles so they will stop judging each other, forgive each other and learn to love each other. He has also shown us that we were all guilty of death for one reason or another and that the righteousness of God is something Jesus Christ died for us to have. With that righteousness comes justification, which is the legal perspective of righteousness. There is nothing, absolutely nothing that we as children of God will ever be held accountable for because we are forgiven. All those new people going to the home churches in the first century didn't know this, and those who come to our home churches today will not know this either.

This is the context that has brought us to chapter 4 and now Paul starts dealing with believing, and that it is believing that is required to receive the righteousness of God, not any works we may or may not do. The Judeans, like all religious nuts today, thought you had to please God somehow by doing all sorts of 'Judean' things. Religious nuts today think you have to please God somehow by doing all sorts of 'christian' things, or 'muslim' things or some other forms of religious things in order to get eternal life. Most Gentiles on the other hand think they are so evil that God wouldn't be the slightest bit interested in them.

Listen, if you are a home church leader or thinking about starting a home church, this is important stuff you need to understand. People are people and you will have to take care of them and teach them and help them and be there for them, no matter who they are or what they have done. You will have gangsters and criminals, religious maniacs and zealots, soldiers and terrorists, communists, freemasons and activists, people from all walks of life who hate each other and who may have done terrible things coming to your home churches. You need to be there for them and help them. That's what Paul is doing here.

When people first come to our home churches they may be deceitful, wicked, backbiting haters of God weighed down with things such as guilt, sorrow, pain, anguish, anxiety, depression, anger, hatred, bitterness, jealousy, envy and pride. Get the picture? Running a home church is not for the faint hearted and you will have to learn to walk by the spirit before even thinking about running a home church. With these kinds of problems walking into your home you had better be walking by the spirit with Jesus Christ as your Lord giving you directions on how to deal with stuff. That's what Paul was doing. He didn't make this all up. He wrote the book of Romans by revelation. This was God giving him answers through the spirit, the Christ in him on how best to deal with people in the home churches at that time.

The Judeans who looked down their noses at all the sinners needed help. Paul didn't kick them out of the home churches, he loved them and helped them. Same with the Gentiles who were coming with all their problems. He didn't kick them out of the home churches for being gangsters, homos and criminals, he helped them.

The next major issue Paul now addresses is believing. All these Judeans and Gentiles, like everyone all over the planet today, all thought they had to do something to get something back from God. They didn't understand what Jesus Christ had done for them. People today have no idea what Jesus Christ has done for them. There is nothing anyone anywhere can do to earn righteousness, that would be as impossible as a dead body trying to raise itself from death. There is nothing a person guilty of death can do to absolve them of that sentence. Righteousness is something Jesus Christ died for so we could have it. We can't do anything for righteousness, we believe for it because Jesus Christ made it available.

Romans 4:1-3
What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?

For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.

For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.

See Paul's logic here? The Judeans all knew about Abraham from their extensive knowledge and understanding of the Old Testament scriptures. Abraham didn't do a damn thing to earn his righteousess, he believed God and God counted his believing to him for righteousness. That's in the Old Testament and the Judeans knew that so this would have made sense to them.

Before moving on, let's refresh our memories about something we learned in chapter 3, that we are not justified by doing works or keeping the Old Testament laws.

Romans 3:25-28
Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation [payment] through faith [believing] in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;

To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.

Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith [believing].

Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith [believing] without the deeds of the law.

We are not justified because of anything we have ever done or ever will do, we are justified because of what Jesus Christ did for us. We cannot do anything to earn that justification, it is impossible to do anything to get it. Jesus Christ paid the price for us to have it. It is not something we work for. Back to chapter 4.

Romans 4:4,5
Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.

But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith [believing] is counted for righteousness.

Simple logic here. If you do work and get paid, your pay isn't something given to you out of the goodness of someone's heart, that pay is something you earned and is owed to you. It is your property, your reward for doing that work. Justification is not something we work for and receive as wages, it is something we believe to receive because someone else made it available. All we have to do is believe to receive it.

Romans 4:6-8
Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works,

Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.

Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.

Jesus Christ died so we could have the righteousness of God. He paid the price for all our sins, which is all the evil we have ever done. If he paid the price for all your sins, do you still have to pay for them yourself? No, you don't. All you have to do is believe and go pick up for free what Jesus Christ made available for you. He paid the price for us to have this. Jesus Christ is our justification.

Romans 4:9
Cometh
this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith [believing] was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness.

Let's not leave the Gentiles out of this, because they can believe for it as well. Jesus Christ didn't just die for the Judeans, he died for the sins of the whole world.

John 3:16
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Romans 4:10
How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision.

Abraham was not circumcised when God counted his believing to him for righteousness. The law came with Moses so there was no law when Abraham was alive. He wasn't even circumcised when God counted his believing to him for righteousness. See how Paul is using the scriptures to reach the hearts of the Judeans? God reckoned righteousness to Abraham before there was any law and before he was circumcised. It was his believing that God counted to him for righteousness, and it is our believing that is required to receive the righteousness of God today.

Romans 4:11,12
And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith [believing] which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also:

And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith [believing] of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.

God reckoned Abraham righteous before there was law and before he was circumcised. Abraham did absolutely nothing except believe God and it was his believing that God reckoned to him for righteousness. Abraham's righteousness had nothing whatsoever to do with him earning it, or keeping any stupid laws, he wasn't even circumcised at the time. Today we don't have to do a thing to receive the righteousness of God either, all we have to do is believe to receive it.

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 [believing].

Just as Abraham received his righteousness by believing, we too receive the righteousness of God by believing. Paul hasn't told them the details of what they had to believe yet, he is preparing them so they will be ready to believe. What he is doing is preparing all the new people going to the home churches from among both the Judeans and Gentiles so they will be ready to believe when he teaches them what to believe.

Romans 4:14
For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith [believing] is made void, and the promise made of none effect:

That makes sense. God promised Abraham that he would be the heir of the world long before there was any law so it is impossible for the law to negate that promise.

Romans 4:15
Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression.

If there are no laws, you can't break them so you can't transgress anything. It is only when you have laws in place that you can break laws. This isn't to say there were no consequences for doing stupid things before there was law, it means there were no legal consequences. If you drove your chariot too fast around a corner you would go off the road and damage your chariot and injure yourself, but if there were no speeding laws in place you would face no legal consquences. However, if there were speeding laws you could also be charged with speeding offences and there would be legal consequences as well. Abraham received the promise before there was any law and it was his believing that was counted to him for righteousness.

Romans 4:16-19
Therefore it is of faith [believing], 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 [believing] of Abraham; who is the father of us all,

(As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth [makes alive] the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.

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.

And being not weak in faith [believing], he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara's womb:

At this point we need to understand exactly what it was Abraham believed. He had been told by God that he would be the heir of the world. The problem was he didn't have any children and his wife was barren and couldn't have any children. Regardless, Abraham believed that what God had told him would come to pass.

Romans 4:20-22
He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith [believing], giving glory to God;

And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.

And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.

God told Abraham he would have children. As he and his wife got older he still believed that what God had said would come to pass. See that's believing, that is being fully persuaded, and it was that believing that God counted to him for righteousness, not keeping any stupid laws. Think that was easy for him? Abraham was around 100 years old before he had a son and in all that time he kept believing, he never doubted God's word.

Romans 4:23
Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him;

Here we read that God had this record of Abraham's believing written for our benefit so we could learn from it and learn to believe God for ourselves. Here is the record of Abraham first receiving God's promise in Genesis.

Genesis 15:1-6
After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.

And Abram said, Lord GOD, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus?

And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir.

And, behold, the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir.

And 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.

And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.

Abraham believed God when he had no children. Even though his wife couldn't have any children he still believed God's promise that he would have children. It was that believing that God counted to him for righteousness, and it is the same for us today, it is our believing that is required so we can receive the righteousness of God.

Romans 4:23-25
Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him;

But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead;

Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.

And here we see the details of what we have to believe to receive the righteousness of God. We have to believe that God raised the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. We will be dealing with this in much more depth as we work our way through the book of Romans.