From our last study in Romans 3, you’ll recall the statement that “not one person on earth at any time in history can claim to be good” (Romans 3:12). Regardless of whether a person has a deep-down desire to be good, and even if in their heart they really do understand what “good” means, there would always be a wide range of response on what is required to be “good”. And then beyond that, the Bible declares that there are none (anywhere, at any time) who are good – that is, righteous in God’s sight, holy, sinless. Man is utterly, hopelessly condemned and lost in his sin.
The result? Because of God’s holiness and justice, He is not able to have sin (or sinful behavior) in His presence. Because man has rebelled against God holiness, he finds himself under judgment, accountable to God for his actions, and destined to pay a penalty of eternal existence in a place the Bible calls hell. We also learn from the Bible that man is completely unable to do anything to resolve this condition – he desperately needs to be rescued!
Abraham is a “primary source” for information about faith and righteousness. Not only is Abraham the father of the Jewish people, but with him God established essential fundamentals about how a man can be declared righteous by faith.
Time to Think: Paul establishes the foundation for this truth first in chapters 4-5, then develops the full picture of “justified freely by faith” in chapters 6-8. Take the time to read these two passages in one sitting in order to have a clear grasp of where Paul is headed in this major section of Scripture.
In Romans 4, Paul introduces a simple equation for redemption – AB=GD: Abraham Believed what God said He would do = God did what He said He would do: declare a man righteous. Paul presents a “question for the ages” in 4:3 – “What does the Bible say?” We will often encounter unbelieving skeptics who struggle with the clear message of the Gospel – the reason that happens is they aren’t willing to consider the Bible to be an absolute and final authority for Truth. As we share the Good News of the Gospel, we need to keep that in mind and try to guide your friend to see how you have come to trust the Bible.
Time to Think: So the Bible tells us that these things are true. But our unbelieving friend says he/she doesn’t believe the Bible and has no concern for sin and eternal judgment. How do you respond? How do we help an unbeliever get to the place where they can believe the authority of God and His Word?
Romans 3:28 opens the door by stating that man can be “saved” – i.e. rescued from the sure judgment he is headed for. Man can be saved by “faith” in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the Cross. Paul recognizes this is a major statement, so in Romans 4, God leads him to use Abraham to give us a clear example of how our faith opens the door for God to accomplish our rescue, our salvation.
Time to Think: Faith – Is it as simple as that? What Bible verses would you suggest help to understand this simple faith?
What does the Bible mean by “justification”? God is holy and righteous, both His character and actions. His holiness is so intrinsic to His nature that unholiness, sinfulness, can’t be in His presence. Because man rebels against God and His holiness, He stands “condemned already” (John 3:18). But if a person hears the Truth about the Gospel and believes it, His faith opens the door to God for His work of rescue, regeneration and redemption. “Justification” is the unilateral action by God to declare us “not guilty” based on Jesus paying the penalty for our rebellion on the Cross. God does this when we place our faith in Christ’s finished work of salvation – based on our faith, God applies Jesus’ righteousness to our account.
Man’s Faith/God’s Work; There is an important distinction to be made in God’s great work of salvation between man’s believing faith and God’s redeeming work. In the world’s religious efforts, man is led to think that if he “does” the right things, he will be righteous in God’s eyes. However, the Bible makes it very clear that man in his completely sinful state is totally unable to do anything to accomplish rescue, salvation, being made righteous. Jesus in His earthly ministry often spoke of how hopeless it is for man to depend on “works of righteousness” in order to be allowed into God’s presence. All man can do is hear and believe – then God does the work of salvation. Hear the truth declared that God has accomplished our redemption through the finished work of Christ on the Cross , then express to God believing faith that He will redeem you. Then God accomplishes His regeneration work in you, declares you righteous, adopts you as His Son, indwells you with His Holy Spirit.
- How were Old Testament believers redeemed/justified?
- Describe the difference between being justified by works and by grace.
- God made many promises to Abraham about salvation, the Messiah’s coming and eternal reign, future inheritance, etc. How are we impacted by those promises?
- How does Abraham’s experience show the unbeliever today that things he doesn’t have to stay hopeless?