If you’ve been following this series in Romans, you are aware that the theme of this Epistle is The Righteousness of God. You are aware of the fact that it takes God’s perfect righteousness to make us fit to dwell in Heaven with Him for eternity.
Jesus unequivocally demanded in His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:48 “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect.” That is a human impossibility. Thank God, He has seen fit to justify us to meet His humanly impossible requirement of perfection.
How did He accomplish this? He came down to earth in the person of His Son, Jesus, to live the perfect life He required of us, die on a cross in payment of our sins and then rise from the dead three days later, proving that The Father was pleased and satisfied with His sacrifice for our sins. Because none of us can attain that perfection through our own efforts, He provided it for us through God’s legal act and declaration known as Justification.
Justification is not an emotional feeling nor an experience that we seek. As sinners, we simply recognize our need of His righteousness. We hear and believe the Gospel. When we believe and personally receive this Gospel through simple faith in Him, He imputes to us; that is, He puts to our account Jesus’ perfect righteousness. That’s the message of II Corinthians 5:21.
When we put our faith in Christ, God no longer sees us in our sins. Rather, He sees us in the perfect righteousness of Jesus.
JUSTIFICATION, A DOCTRINE ROOTED IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
We’ve come to chapter 4 in our study of Romans where we learn that justification is not just a New Testament, Pauline doctrine. Two thousand years before Christ; Abraham, the father of the Jews, became the father (the prototype) of all who are justified by faith.
David and Justification
But before we examine Abraham and justification by faith, Paul calls our attention to David, the sweet Psalmist of Israel, in Romans 4:6-7 by quoting Psalm 32. What did David say about justification? There in Psalm 32:1-2 David, without using the word justification, describes the blessedness of this wonderful truth.
“Blessed is he
1. whose transgression is forgiven,
2. whose sin is covered.
3. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputes not iniquity,
4, and in whose spirit there is no guile or sense of deceit or guilt.”
Throughout the Old Testament God required the shedding of the blood of innocent animal sacrifices for sin. All those animals pointed to the one perfect, final sacrifice for sin forever, the blood of our holy, perfect Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.
John the Baptist introduced Him to the world as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” John 1:29
Hebrews 10 goes into great detail explaining how the Lord Jesus Christ is the final, ultimate sacrifice for sin. No longer are animal sacrifices needed nor required.
Think about this! When God lifts the load and guilt of sin from our conscience, that is HUGE! I remember so well as a nine year old, the night I understood the Gospel for the first time and invited Jesus to be my Saviour. I went home with the huge load of sin lifted from my conscience and the fear of going to Hell gone forever. Though I have never been perfect since and never will be perfect until I am in Heaven, I have never in the almost seventy years since, felt that load of the guilt of sin again.
Now, as a Christian, when I find myself guilty of sin, I immediately confess it to God as sin and immediately sense the cleansing of Christ’s blood and the removal of guilt. I John 1:7-10 explains this so well for us as Christians. Memorize it and live by it.
Abraham and Justification
1. Abraham, though a man of good works for the most part; was not justified by his good works, according to Romans 4:1-8.
Some of Abraham’s good works include:
a. When called by God, he left Ur of the Chaldees to follow God’s leading to a land God had given him, though he had never seen it. Hebrews 11:8
b. In that land God had promised him, He lived as a nomad in tents. Why? Because according to Hebrews 11:9-11 he looked for a permanent city, a permanent land, a permanent Heavenly Home built by God Himself. True, he possibly understood that the land, which would one day be known as Israel, would eventually be ruled by His Seed, the Lord Jesus. That will take place in the Millennium when Christ will rule from Jerusalem over the whole world for one thousand years. See my series on PROPHESY for more on this.
c. God promised him an innumerable seed. All through the years Abraham and Sarah had no children. Finally in their late nineties, he and his wife, Sarah, had their miracle son, Isaac; long after her normal child bearing age.
d. When his nephew, Lot’s, herdsmen were quarreling with his herdsmen, Abraham gave Lot first choice of the disputed land which was his. Lot selfishly chose the best land for himself. Read the story for yourself in Genesis 13:1 & 5-13.
e. Abraham generously entertained angels Genesis 18:5-8 He generously prepared a feast for them, referring to it as “a morsel of bread”. Later, in contrast, we read in Genesis 19:3 that Lot prepared what he called a feast for those angels. Actually it was just some unleavened bread.
f. Abraham prayed, pleading for the sinful city of Sodom when it was facing God’s judgment. Genesis 18:23-33.
However, Abraham was not perfect before God.
1. He lied to Pharaoh about his wife not being his wife.
2. He took his wife’s maid, Hagar, and had a son, Ishmael, by her in order to try to help God fulfill his promise of innumerable seed like the sands of the sea. That got Abraham into trouble. Worse than that, it has gotten the Jews, the descendants of Isaac into trouble with Ishmael’s seed, the Palestinians
Running ahead of God and doing things our way, instead of seeking God’s will always gets us and those we love into trouble.
The reason we are not justified by our own works is because if we offend in one point we are guilty of all. James 2:10
Furthermore, Isaiah 64:6 tells us that all our works of righteousness to try to attain God’s favor are as filthy rags in God’s sight.
Though he lived a life of good works and though people today live lives of good works to attempt to gain favor with God; we all fall short of God’s perfect standards. God demands nothing short of perfection. None of us have it, according to Romans 4:2 Therefore we need to cast ourselves on God’s mercy and accept His gift of Jesus who alone is our perfect righteousness.
2. Abraham was not justified by circumcision Rom. 4:9, 12-27
Abraham was not circumcised until he was 99 years old. And yet Abraham’s righteousness was reckoned to him long before his circumcision. See Romans 4:3-12 This makes him the spiritual father of us all who trust in Christ, his promised Seed, whether we are Jews or Gentiles. Read carefully Galatians 3:1-6 to understand that circumcision does not even enter into the picture as far as our standing before God is concerned.
3. Finally, Abraham was not justified by his attempt to keep God’s Law. Romans 4:13-16
This is obvious. Abraham was born in 2000 BC. God’s Law given by Moses came 600 years later in 1400 BC. So Abraham could not possibly have been justified by the Law when there was no Law.
Furthermore, the Law justifies no one. It only condemn us because we’ve all broken it. See Romans 4:15.
When a criminal stands before a judge for breaking the Law, what good doers it do to recite all the other laws he has kept? If a man is guilt of breaking the Law, the Law will not save him. It only condemns him.
Here’s the conclusion of the matter. Abraham and his children, the Jews; as well as we gentiles can only be justified before God by our faith in Christ, God’s provision for our sins. He alone lived the perfect life and then shed His blood and died to pay for our sins. Such a salvation calls for humility before God as God’s grace is magnified in our lives.
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