Romans 4

Jerry A Collins




ü  Is justification a gift or is it earned?

ü  Are OT and NT believers saved the same way?

ü  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 “DO”. One answer is that we must do something to ensure that we will be OK with God. There are many forms of ‘doing’ that religions have measured and determined to be the path toward God’s 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 “DONE”. Another answer is to trust in something already done to secure God’s 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 it’s validity in the present and future.





A. Justification is by faith 1-3

(1) In vs 1 we have a foundational question. What lesson can we learn from the biblical record of Abraham’s experience? It is not just his physical ancestry under discussion but his spiritual fatherhood.


·                (2) In vs 2 a hypothetical solution is postulated. Let’s say that his works justified Abraham then he had something to boast about. Especially him. But even then it would only be before other people and not before God. This would also be true for any religion that bases it’s 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 his own body plus many descendents. He believed this information too. He trusted God and specifically believed His promise to him. So his trust in God’s promise is what constitutes faith resulting in justification. Promises of God vary but the one constant is the object of one’s faith, God. Because he believed, God credited to him righteousness. Faith is the vehicle by which God’s righteousness comes to us. There is no other way.


·                B. Justification is not by works 4-8

·                Logically speaking, a worker’s wages are what are owed him and what he deserves vs 4. Conversely, a person not working but believing receives a gift he does not deserve vs 5. And incredibly God does this for one who deserves condemnation; “He justifies the ungodly” vs 5. An illustration in 6-8 proves this. Abe lived before the Law and David lived under it. Abe represents patriarchal period and David monarchial. The quote is from Psa 32:1-2 describing God’s gracious dealings with David who viewed his justification by faith. It stresses that David believed in imputed rather than earned righteousness resulting in sins as forgiven and covered (not yet paid for until Christ died).

·                Application: So now we can define justification as the act of God whereby he declares a sinner righteous by means of faith in Christ on the basis of grace.



·                (1) Because of its time 9-10. Was Abe justified by faith before or 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 (Gen 15:6) 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—that is you and me 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 Abe’s. Circumcision essential for justification and is secondary to faith! It does not contribute to one’s status before God (remember the Jews in Jesus’ day). Neither does baptism `local church membership, giving your money, morality, or any rituals, traditions, or religious paths devised by world faiths. Every faith has it’s own big deal!


·                (1) Statement: Inheritance of promise is acquired by faith vs. 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. (Jews considered the Law a special revelation from God as a special basis of their standing before God.) Instead, it depended on God’s faithfulness to His promise given not on Abe’s obedience but his faith. Abe believed the promises of God—a land, a people, a blessing before the Law. Believers of all ages are Abe’s seed who enjoy the same spiritual blessing, justification, which he enjoyed      (Gal 3:29).


(2) Reason: Inheritance acquired by  law-keeping nullifies faith & promise  First, if Jews could become heirs by law-keeping, then faith has no value, it’s 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 it becomes a promise of a reward to be earned vs 14.

Third, rather than bringing a blessing, which God promised Abe, the Law brings wrath since it cannot be kept perfectly 15. Without Law there can be no violation and thus no wrath. If there is no command against something then there is no transgression-inciting wrath. With Law there is both.



First, Abe obtained the promise simply by believing it, it comes out of or by faith, not by law-keeping 16. Responding in faith the promise springs from God’s grace, His favor toward those who deserve His wrath. Since the promise is by grace it can only be received by faith and not by works, rules, or law keeping. This promise is certain to all his descendants by faith—both Jews under the Law and Gentiles outside of it—since he was declared righteous by faith before the Law was implemented.


Second, the object of Abe’s faith was in God powerful ability 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, the One who calls non-existing things to exist when it seemed impossible in his and Sarah’s old age 90 & 100.



1. It is still faith in what is ‘done’. Nothing has changed.

2. No one has privileged status with God and no one is exempt from need to believe.

3. Law-keeping is pride-based and faith is humility-based.

4. Faith is risk, problems, worthy object!