Scripture reading – Romans 4
Paul’s epistle to believers living in Rome established the universal sinfulness of man (Romans 3:10, 23). Yet, there were some of Abraham’s lineage who placed their hope of salvation in their kinship with that Old Testament patriarch. To them, Paul declared, “there is no respect of persons with God” (2:11). The children of Israel were God’s chosen people, and privileged to be given His Law and Commandments; nevertheless, Paul declared, “by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (3:20).
If obedience to the law does not justify (meaning, to be declared righteous in the sight and judgment of God), then by what might a sinner be forgiven his sins? We cannot merit salvation by good works or adherence to the law (Ephesians 2:8-9). Therefore, salvation is an act of God’s grace and favor, “through the redemption that is in [provided by] Christ Jesus” (3:24). A believer is “justified by faith, [and not by] the deeds of the law” (3:24).
Yet, there were Jews who resisted Paul’s teachings concerning faith, and supposed he was teaching a new doctrine and way of salvation. They believed their salvation was based upon circumcision, and keeping the Law. Paul countered their false beliefs, and stated Abraham’s relationship with God was not based upon his works, but upon his faith in God’s promises (4:1-2). He “believed God,” and his faith was “counted unto him for righteousness” (4:3).
Paul then gave a second example in his argument for salvation by grace through faith…King David. David understood the importance of faith (Psalm 32:1-2), and believed a sinner enjoyed God’s favor (“blessedness”) by faith, for “God imputeth [credits to one’s account] righteousness without works” (4:6). Though the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), one’s sins are covered and his sin debt paid in full, by the gift of God’s grace (4:7-8).
Still, there were some who believed Abraham was justified before God by circumcision and in keeping the law. Paul reminded them, before Abraham “received the sign of circumcision,” he was sealed by “the righteousness of the faith” (4:11). Indeed, Abraham was not only the father of the Jews, but he is the spiritual “father of all them that believe” (4:11). Before the Law and Commandments were given to Israel, Abraham “believed God” and was declared righteous (4:3-5, 13).
Closing thoughts – What purpose does the law serve? (4:15-17) – I conclude with three observations regarding the Law and Commandments: 1) The law reveals God’s perfect standard of holiness, which every man should aspire to keep (4:15). 2) The law demands punishment for the transgressor. 3) While the law does not save, it shows a sinner his need of a Savior.
As it was for Abraham, so it is for all sinners (4:18-25). Because of the Law, we are convinced and convicted of our sins, and find salvation by faith in God’s grace. “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” who is the Law incarnate (5:1; John 1:1).
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