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Recommended reading Romans 4:1-25.


Paul defines the gospel as the righteousness of God. Righteousness is all of God's doing without human contribution. The righteousness that God attained for the human race is made effective by faith and nothing else. We cannot earn it by our works or buy it with our money. Justification by faith is the only way that man can be saved. Justification by faith qualifies us for eternity now and in the judgment. The fruit of justification by faith is sanctification. The redemption in Christ enables the righteousness of God to be ours, this is not only a promise it is a historical reality. It is ours because of the doing and dying of Christ. God is legally just in declaring sinners righteous in Christ. Paul defends this fact strongly in the scriptures. God can uphold His Law and at the same time justify us. Justification leaves no room for human boasting. We have not contributed anything toward our justification. It is given to us entirely by the grace of God. We don't deserve it; we haven't earned it; we don't contribute to it! We are justified by what God has done, not by what we have done. We are saved by faith, or through faith, but not because of our faith. Justification by faith establishes the law. What Christ did, His life and His death, met all the demands of the Law. To establish the Law, every demand of the law must be met.

I. Paul is defending justification by faith against a three fold opposition.

· The opposition came mainly from the Jewish Christians who followed him everywhere.

· The threefold opposition that Paul faced is as follows:

1.) The issue of works as is found in Romans 4:1-8. The Jewish Christians were insistent that our works were essential for justification by faith. Paul said we are justified without works only by faith.

2.) The issue of circumcision. The Jews said you could not be saved without being circumcised. Paul addresses this in Romans 4:9-12.

3.) The issue of the keeping of the Law. Paul addresses this in Romans 4:13-17.

· To all three of these issues Paul says no. It is important to understand that Paul is not against works or circumcision; in fact, Paul circumcised Timothy. Paul is also not against the keeping of the Law. The problem with these three issues is that they are not to be used as a means of salvation. Paul teaches them as a way of life; he is against them as a means of salvation. Paul is against salvation by faith plus works; he is for salvation by faith that works.

· Paul is not saying that we do not have to do any works, that we don't have to keep the Law, or that we don't have to keep the Sabbath. Paul is defending the doctrine of justification by faith.

II. Paul focuses on the flesh.

· Paul focuses initially in Romans 4:1 on the word flesh. We rejoice in Christ and have no confidence in the flesh. Philippians 3:4-6, Paul defines the word flesh.

· Paul describes his own accomplishments and says if anyone should have confidence in the flesh, he should be the one to have that confidence. Paul accomplished a great deal from a fleshly viewpoint. Paul even states that he was blameless regarding the rules and regulations of the church which he describes as the righteousness of the Law. When Paul understood Christ and what Christ had done for us, he gave up all those things as he describes in Philippians 3:7.

· In respect to Paul's comments about the flesh in Romans 4:1, if we are depending upon ourselves for our salvation, that is the flesh.

III. Paul selects Abraham as an example.

· Abraham was selected because Paul dealing with the Jews so he wanted to use someone that was special to them.

· Abraham did great works, far more than we have done. Notice this very point in Romans 4:2. All the works that Abraham did, did not contribute to his justification.

· When Abraham believed God that is when it was accounted to him for righteousness. In verse 4-8, Paul clearly shows that if we work for our justification then it would no longer be by grace, rather God would owe it to us. Abraham worked, not for his justification but only as fruit of justification by faith, never as the means of justification. Paul shows that David was justified as was Abraham.

IV. Paul begins to focus on circumcision in Romans 4:9.

· Paul spoke positively at times about circumcision. Paul was not against circumcision. There was an event in Acts 15:1-5, where the Jews were stating that circumcision was essential and a requirement for salvation. Paul and several other Apostles did not want to put a burden on the Gentile Christians.

· Justification, salvation, righteousness, holiness, purity, do not come through obedience because all have disobeyed. We cannot live up to the Law. In Romans 4, Paul states that circumcision does not contribute to our salvation.

· The reason for circumcision is found in Romans 4:11. God gave circumcision as a seal. A seal to confirm a fact. The fact was justification by faith.

V. How is and why is circumcision used as the seal of the righteousness of faith?

· We must first understand the background of the three fathers of Israel - Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Genesis 12:1-4, describes the calling of Abraham by God. God promised Abraham a son to fulfill the promise God had made.

· Abraham walked and talked with God asking Him for understanding and clarification. Genesis 15:6, Abraham believed God and it was accounted to Abraham for righteousness. Abraham had tremendous faith in God. Abraham was ultimately very patient in waiting for God.

· Righteousness - whether it be imputed through Jesus Christ or imparted by our submitting to God and obeying God, it is still God who is doing it. Our part from beginning to end is faith.

· God wants Abraham to reach a perfect faith so God tells Abraham to be circumcised. God wants all doubt and unbelief removed. That is the meaning of circumcision. From the point of circumcision forward, Abraham was to walk by faith alone. Abraham agreed and said yes.

· Circumcision did not save Abraham, it was only a sign and a seal. The Sabbath does not save us it is a sign and a seal.

· We read in Exodus 31:13, God gave the Sabbath as a sign. The sign is not to the world. The world does not know that the Sabbath is God's Sabbath. The Sabbath is a sign between God and His people. People who have understood the Sabbath and then leave the Sabbath do so because they do not understand that it is a sign between God and His people. It is not a sign to the world. Loving one another is a sign to the world that we are God's people and that His spirit dwells in us. The Sabbath is a sign between us and God.

· Abraham made mistakes after he was circumcised, but he continued to walk by faith and nothing else. Abraham was justified by faith. As a result he became the father of all who believe as we see in Romans 4:11-12. An individual who is in Christ is of the seed of Abraham and an heir as Paul states in Galatians 3:29.

· Circumcision does not justify, it confirms. The Law was given over 400 years after Abraham was justified by faith.

VI. Faith does produce works but works are not a contribution to our justification.

· The moment we try to save ourselves by the Law, we come under wrath as Paul states in Romans 4:15.

· The moment we save ourselves by faith, we have peace.

VII. God did not give the Law to solve the sin problem.

· God gave the Law to help us realize what we truly are, so that salvation by faith may become desirable.

· Paul discusses in Romans 4:16-17, that our salvation is guaranteed even though we are sinners and failures. It is guaranteed because it is not of works but of faith in Jesus Christ. It is guaranteed because Abraham is the father of all those that believe.

· Paul tells how faith works in Romans 4:18-25. If we are to be the seed of Abraham and therefore the heirs according to the promise, we must have the faith that Abraham had.

The faith we should have does not does not make us feel guilty. We should have a faith that brings peace. God does the promising and the performing, in these scriptures. Abraham believed and that was all. Faith is taking God at His word. God tells us something. We do not need evidence; we simply believe! May God help us to have the faith to take Him at His word.

United Christian Ministries

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