Godís Righteousness Illustrated

Romans 4

Jerry A Collins




Ł      Is justification a gift or is it earned?

Ł      Are OT and NT believers saved the same way?

Ł      How is Abraham an illustration of faith?


The fundamental question of humanity is this: How can a person have a relationship with God? On what basis can we guarantee that we are in a right relationship with God? The answer is summarized in one of two ways. First, with the word ďDOĒ. One answer is that we must do something to ensure that we will be OK with God. There are many forms of Ďdoingí that religions have measured and determined to be the path toward Godís favor. Some of these include (1) The moral path which says my goodness is the measure of my acceptance by God. (2) The Muslim path which teaches the five practical duties to please God. (3) The Hindu path which states that thru shedding Karma I can reach Nirvana. (4) The Buddha 8-fold path of the faithful. (5) The Catholic path of 7 sacraments. (6) The Mormon path of coming into my goodness. Second, with the word ďDONEĒ. Another answer is to trust in something already done to secure Godís favor. That is Christianity and it declares that people are righteous on the principle of faith instead of works. In our passage this is illustrated from the past to indicate itís validity in the present and future.


(1) In vs 1 we have a foundational question. What lesson can we learn from the biblical record of Abrahamís experience? This is pertinent to both the Jews and the Gentiles (11-12). It is not just his physical ancestry under discussion but his spiritual fatherhood.

(2) In vs 2 a hypothetical solution is postulated. Letís say that Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about. Especially him. But even then it would only be before other people not before God. This would also be true for any religion that basis itís works on securing the favor of God. (3) In vs 3 is scriptural support for this. Abraham was justified by faith not by works. This is a quote of Gen 15:6. Abe had already believed God before this (Gen 12:1-4; 14:22-24) but here he learns that he would receive an heir from own body and many descendents. He believed this too. He trusted God and specifically believed His promise to him. So trust in Godís promise is what constitutes faith resulting in justification. Promises of God vary but the one constant is the object of my faith, God. Because he believed God credited to him righteousness. Faith is the vehicle by which Godís righteousness comes to us. There is no other way.

(4) This justification was not by good works 4-8. He contrastís works and faith. Logically speaking, a workerís wages are what are owed him and what he deserves. Conversely, a person not working but believing receives a gift he does not deserve. And incredibly God does this for one who deserves condemnation instead because he is ungodly!An illustration in 6-8 proves this. Abe lived before Law, David lived under it. Abe represents patriarchal period and David monarchial. The quote from Psa 32:1-2 describes Godís gracious dealings with David who viewed his justification by faith. It stresses that David believed in imputed rather than earned righteousness resulting in sins being forgiven and covered.


(1) Because of its time 9-10. Was Abe justified by faith before after his circumcision? It was not after but before. He was a virtual gentile. Abe was 86 (Gen 16:16) when Ishmael born. 14 years later Abe underwent circumcision (Gen 17:24-26). Meaning his circumcision followed his justification by 14 years.

(2) Because of its intention 11a. His circumcision was a sign, a label,of what he already possessed. Circumcision added nothing to his justification.

(3) Because of its divine purpose 11b-12. First, to become the father of believing uncircumcised 11a. Second, to become father of believing circumcised 12. Jews must do more than be circumcised to be right with God. They must walk in footsteps of faith like Abeís. Circumcision is secondary to faith. It does not contribute to oneís status before God. Neither does baptism, local church membership, giving your money, morality, or any rituals, traditions or religious paths devised by world faiths.


(1) Statement: Inheritance of promise is acquired by faithvs.13 God gave His promise to bless Gentiles thru Abe long before Law. So, incorrect to believe that Gentile blessing depended on their obedience to Law. Instead, it depended on Godís faithfulness to His promise given not on Abeís obedience but his faith.

(2) Reason: Inheritance acquired bylaw-keeping nullifies faith & promise 14-16 First, if Jews could become heirs by law-keeping, then faith has no value, itís been made empty and irrelevant. Second, if law-keeping makes one an heir, the promise is made worthless and invalid. No longer a promise of a gift to be received but a promise of a reward to be earned. Third, rather than bringing blessing, which God promised Abe, Law brings wrath since it cannot be kept perfectly 15. Without Law there can be no violation and thus no wrath. With Law there is both. Fourth, Abe obtained the promise simply by believing it, by faith, not by law-keeping 16. The promise springs from Godís grace toward those who deserve His wrath. Like Abe, it is guaranteed to all who exercise faith in God for the promise. This is the only way that the promise can be realized for certain.


(1) Object of Abeís faith 17. It is God in whom Abe believed. God gave the ability to father many nations to Abe when he was already dead, past ability to reproduce children. God would have to step in, he One who calls non-existing things to exist. Impossibilities, possible.

(2) Obstacles to Abeís faith overcome 18-21. Negatively, Abe believed despite human disabilities 18-19. He did not stagger at the impossibility. Positively, he believed in Godís ability 20-21. He did not waver, doubt in unbelief. Fully persuaded that God has the ability to do what He said. Not weak in faith in spite of odds;not divided in thinking by unbelief; but empowered by faith, persuaded in Godís ability!

(3) Outcome of Abeís faith 22. For this faith, God declared that Abe stood righteous before Him!

(4) Application of Abeís justification to us 23-25. First, He is same God who brings life out of death as God Abe believed. We trust God as Abe did. May be easier now to believe than for Abe since we look back on resurrection and Abe anticipated it 23-24. Second, because He lives, God can credit His righteousness provided to the account of every person who responds by faith to the offer 25. 1. It is still faith in what is Ďdoneí. Nothing has changed. 2. Noone has privileged status with God and noone is exempt from need to believe. 3. Law-keeping pride-based, faith humility-based. 4. Faith is risk, problems, worthy object!