Please turn with me the Book of Romans chapter four. Look with me at verse one. Romans 4:1 “What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? (2) For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. (3) For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. (4) Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. (5) But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”
Paul’s subject here is the matter of justification before God. His question is this. “How is a person justified (declared righteous) before God?" And as an example of someone, from the very beginning of the Jewish race, he uses Abraham to show that it wasn’t Abraham’s good works and gain him the reward of justification, but rather the fact that Abraham believed what God said and did that enabled him to be declared righteous by God. Just like anyone at any time in either the OT or in the NT or even today, there is only one way to experience God's salvation and that is by faith.
If the very first Hebrew was justified by faith and not by works, how is it possible that anyone could say that God rewards our good works by giving us salvation? Notice verse one. Abraham is the example. Verse two. Abraham, or anyone else, cannot justified by works. Verse three. As proof, Paul cites the Scriptures. He quotes Genesis 15:6 which says Genesis 15:6 “And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.”
Now, notwithstanding the numerous writers, speakers, even preachers that declare that the way to gain salvation is by good works, the Scriptures plainly declare that it comes by believing God and no other way. “And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.”
As a young boy of ten and eleven years old and up, I was taught that my good works had to outweigh my bad works if I was to ever get into Heaven. So, it is a fact that some ministers teach a works salvation. And that's why so many people believe that good works are the means of salvation.
Here’s the plain sense of Scripture.
1. All of us are sinners. We are sinful people. “All have sinned” - Romans 3:23
2. And because of our sins, all of us are equally under God’s just condemnation. Romans 5:18 says that we are all under God’s just condemnation because of those sins. Romans 5:18 “Therefore as by the offence [sin] of one [Adam] judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one [Jesus Christ] the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.
3. But the wonderful Good News is this. Jesus Christ paid the entire penalty for sin. He became sin for us. II Corinthians 5:21 'For he [the Father] hath made him [the Son] to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”
Whether it’s Adam or Abraham and or whether it’s you or I; when we believe what God says; when we receive the facts that Jesus Christ paid our sin debt, then and only then, does God remove our condemnation and declare us not only “not guilty.” He declares us “righteous” in His sight.
So, here's what we see in this 4th chapter of Romans as Paul uses Abraham for an illustration of justification by faith.
Verse 1 - Abraham is the example.
Verse 2 - No one can be justified by works.
Verse 3 - Paul quotes Genesis 15:6 which says Genesis 15:6 “And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.”
And verse 4 - It’s impossible to “work" for your justification. You see, if you were to “work” for our justification, then you are declared righteous (justified) not by God’s grace, but by your efforts; your good works; your merit. Good works as an attempt at Salvation means that you deserve salvation because you’ve done enough good things. But as you are about to see; this is impossible. Salvation by your good works is rejected by the LORD.
Now verse five. When anyone stops depending upon his good works and begins to simply believe God, his faith is then counted for righteousness.
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