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A Quick look at Romans 4

 

Abraham-looks-at-stars1

So let’s look at Romans 4:4 out of context first and see what it says, “…Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due.…”  Out of context we see that this verse is talking about receiving what one has earned for himself.  This seems pretty obvious.  When we add context we can infer so much more than a vague sense of getting what you deserve.  So let’s add some context now.  Here is Romans Chapter 4;

“  1What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? 2For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3For what does the Scripture say? “ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.” 4Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. 5But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, 6just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:

7“BLESSED ARE THOSE WHOSE LAWLESS DEEDS HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN,             AND WHOSE SINS HAVE BEEN COVERED.

8“BLESSED IS THE MAN WHOSE SIN THE LORD WILL NOT TAKE INTO ACCOUNT.”

9Is this blessing then on the circumcised, or on the uncircumcised also? For we say, “FAITH WAS CREDITED TO ABRAHAM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.” 10How then was it credited? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised; 11and he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised, so that he might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised, that righteousness might be credited to them, 12and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham which he had while uncircumcised.

13For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith. 14For if those who are of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is nullified; 15for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, there also is no violation.

16For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, 17(as it is written, “A FATHER OF MANY NATIONS HAVE I MADE YOU”) in the presence of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist. 18In hope against hope he believed, so that he might become a father of many nations according to that which had been spoken, “SO SHALL YOUR DESCENDANTS BE.” 19Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb; 20yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, 21and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform. 22Therefore IT WAS ALSO CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS. 23Now not for his sake only was it written that it was credited to him, 24but for our sake also, to whom it will be credited, as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.”

In the first two verses we read,

““  1What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? 2For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.”

This tells us that we cannot be justified by our works and that trying to cite them as justification before God is not.  To back this up Paul quotes scripture in verse 3,

3For what does the Scripture say? “ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.””

And then in verses 4 and 5,

4Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. 5But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness,”

Now we have Paul explaining that the sinner who does works to attain righteousness can never do enough to remove their guilt and that they have earned for themselves condemnation.  This is in response to the Jews at the time who were attempting to put the gentile believers under their same yoke.  Then he explains that the ungodly sinner who puts his faith in Jesus for the fulfillment of righteousness has that righteousness from Christ.  In the next few verses Paul backs up what he said by quoting scripture again,

6just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:

7“BLESSED ARE THOSE WHOSE LAWLESS DEEDS HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN,             AND WHOSE SINS HAVE BEEN COVERED.

8“BLESSED IS THE MAN WHOSE SIN THE LORD WILL NOT TAKE INTO ACCOUNT.””

In verses 9 through 12 we see that the circumcision was the outward working and seal of the righteousness credited to him by faith before he was circumcised.  This is how we can know that saving faith that justifies and imputes righteousness can be for the gentiles as well, because it was done to Abraham before he was circumcised.

9Is this blessing then on the circumcised, or on the uncircumcised also? For we say, “FAITH WAS CREDITED TO ABRAHAM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.” 10How then was it credited? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised; 11and he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised, so that he might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised, that righteousness might be credited to them, 12and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham which he had while uncircumcised.”

“      13For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith. 14For if those who are of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is nullified; 15for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, there also is no violation.”

In 15 people have used this inappropriately to justify not sharing the gospel, but this is not what this is about at all.  This is about someone who by faith has been justified and is no longer subject to the condemnation the law brings.  That is the point being made and is supported in context by the rest of the scriptures.

Verse 16 says quite a bit so we will look at it by itself for a moment,

“      16For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all,”

This verse unpacks the doctrine that elect people of the Jews and gentiles alike are part of the true faith that Abraham had from God Abraham and that through faith in the work of Jesus and by His grace to us all who believe and repent are part of the covenant of the true justifying faith.

In the following verses Paul sums up the doctrine of saving faith verse works righteousness,

17(as it is written, “A FATHER OF MANY NATIONS HAVE I MADE YOU”) in the presence of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist. 18In hope against hope he believed, so that he might become a father of many nations according to that which had been spoken, “SO SHALL YOUR DESCENDANTS BE.” 19Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb; 20yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, 21and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform. 22Therefore IT WAS ALSO CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS. 23Now not for his sake only was it written that it was credited to him, 24but for our sake also, to whom it will be credited, as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.””

Abraham’s faith that God would make him a father of many nations even at his old age was credited to him as righteousness and then we can see how it is extrapolated out to his descendants who include the Jews and the gentiles.  This is made clear in verses 24 and 25 as those who have faith in the work of Jesus Christ on the cross and His resurrection to save us from our sins.

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