Romans Chapter 4
First Baptist Church
Des Moines, NM
Good morning and welcome to the Ministerial Alliance program here on KLMX radio. I’m Bryan Kimsey from 1st Baptist Church, Des Moines and this week we’ve been looking at Paul’s letter to the church in Rome. We’re in Chapter 4, keeping in mind, again, that our chapter and verse divisions are a modern addition to the original letter and were designed only to help make references easier. We should always keep in mind that Paul’s letter was written indeed as a letter with one thought flowing to the next. Before we get into the text, I’d like to ask God to bless this message and may it glorify Him through Jesus Christ, in whose name I ask. Amen.
Now so far we have seen Paul laying down the case that faith, not works is the means by which we are saved. He uses the example of Abraham, quoting the Old Testament passage which says:
Romans 4:3 For what does the Scripture say? "ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS ACCOUNTED TO HIM FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS."
This allows Paul to spring into the concept of imputation and to support his argument, he quotes again from the Old Testament, this time from the Psalm of David.
Romans 4:7-8 "BLESSED ARE THOSE WHOSE LAWLESS DEEDS ARE FORGIVEN, AND WHOSE SINS ARE COVERED; (8) BLESSED IS THE MAN TO WHOM THE LORD SHALL NOT IMPUTE SIN."
Paul then asks if this blessing came upon Abraham while he was circumcised or while he was uncircumcised- in other words, had Abraham done works to merit the imputation of faith? The clear conclusion is that Abraham was justified while uncircumcised, apart from works. As Paul says:
Romans 4:11-12 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also, (12) and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised.
Paul then anticipates the question “What then is the purpose of the law, if it we do not receive justification from it?” and he answers that question like this:
Romans 4:13-15 For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. (14) For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect, (15) because the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression.
The law brings about wrath and exposes our sins. I then used several other passages from Paul’s letters to push this point- if you missed yesterday’s message, please pop on to the internet and check out the church website at www.fbcdesmoines.org and you’ll find all my messages there. In any case, this brings us to today’s passage in which Paul will continue to show that Abraham’s imputed righteousness was not due to his observance of the law but to his trust in God’s word. Here’s today’s passage and I’ll back up and include a few other verses so that we can get context:
Romans 4:14-22 For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect, (15) because the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression. (16) Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, 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, "I HAVE MADE YOU A FATHER OF MANY NATIONS") in the presence of Him whom he believed- God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did; (18) who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, "SO SHALL YOUR DESCENDANTS BE." (19) And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah's womb. (20) He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, (21) and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. (22) And therefore "IT WAS ACCOUNTED TO HIM FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS."
There’s a lot here and I can’t even begin to do justice to it in 15 minutes, but the first thing we should see is Paul’s statement in v. 16- “Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law…” First, faith and grace are totally intertwined here. Faith comes by God’s grace alone and is not something we earn or deserve. God hands faith to whom He sees fit, and He does this because- as Paul points out- He promised to make Abraham a father of many nations. Not just the father of a law following nation, but the father of those without the law, as well.
The second thing we should note is that Paul describes what the promise is. “God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did.” Abraham had no children and his wife was past child-bearing age. As a couple, they were essentially dead. Yet, God promised and God accomplished. Abraham believed God, or, as Paul says:
Romans 4:19-21 And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah's womb. (20) He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, (21) and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.
As it did yesterday, this leads us to the gospel message and the application of Abraham’s faith to the Christian’s faith. Christians believe that Christ lived a perfectly righteous life before God- not just a life of outward works, but a life of inward holiness. An ordinary man might be able to follow the law externally; the rich young ruler and the Pharisees certainly thought they did, but internally, they still rebeled against God. Jesus did not. Because the virgin Mary was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, the man Jesus had the nature of God Himself. Paul tells us:
Philippians 2:5-7 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, (6) who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, (7) but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.
And the author of Hebrews calls Jesus the “express image” of God. “Express” in this case means “exact” and when the Bible uses “exact”, it’s serious:
Hebrews 1:1-4 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, (2) has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; (3) who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, (4) having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.
What we have in Jesus Christ is the human incarnation of God himself. That’s what Christmas is all about, folks! It’s the incarnation of God. God among us. But don’t take my word for it- here’s what Matthew says:
Matthew 1:21-23 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins." (22) So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: (23) "BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD, AND BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL," which is translated, "God with us."
Because Jesus had the nature of God Himself and was God in the flesh, He fulfilled the law perfectly. The law exposed no sin in Him. As such, he had no payment to make to God. And as one w/out a payment of his own, he was able to make the payment for others. Thus, Christ’s righteousness can (and is) imputed to those who believe in this. When a person “accepts Christ”, that doesn’t mean that they simply believe Jesus Christ existed- even the demons do that! It doesn’t mean that they ask Jesus to help them achieve their own righteousness. Isaiah says our righteousness is like filthy rags before God. What “accepting Christ” means is that the sinner a) acknowledges that they are indeed a sinner and fall short of God’s righteousness, b) acknowledges that Christ is able to make the payment for them, and c) acknowledges that Christ defeated death, that God raised Him from the dead, and will do the same for us. When this is understood, through faith granted by God, then Christ’s righteousness is imputed to the sinner and the sinner’s sin is imputed to Christ. I’m not making this up. Pay attention to these passages:
1 Peter 2:24 who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness- by whose stripes you were healed.
Isaiah 53:3-6 He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. (4) Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. (5) But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. (6) All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
Peter says that Jesus “Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree…” and Isaiah says “the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” That is imputation. Our sins imputed to Jesus. That his righteousness is laid upon us as a cover for our transgressions is shown by Paul here:
Philippians 3:8-9 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ (9) and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;
This imputation of righteousness is also discussed by Paul in the last few verses of Romans 4, which we’ll cover tomorrow! For now, consider the Bible verses I’ve shown you today and consider as to whether or not you believe that the righteousness of Christ can be applied to your own unrighteousness.
I’m Bryan Kimsey. Tune in again tomorrow at 9:45 am as we finish up Romans Chapter 4. May God be praised for the wonderful gift of Jesus Christ. Amen.
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