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  • Writer's pictureBrian O'Kelly

27 - Romans Chapter 4

Updated: Oct 3, 2022

1. Romans 4

3. Paul has just spent three chapters pointing out that Gentiles are sinners and then pointing out the Jews were sinners, some of whom had considered that their Jewishness would be a protectant.

4. Having made the case that both Jews and Gentiles were guilty before God Paul began the last half of chapter three to articulate the solution.

5. 1 What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” 4 Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.

5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, 6 just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: 7 “ Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered; 8 Blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin.”

6. The “What then shall we say” of verse one is pointing back to the end of chapter 3.

6.1. 27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith.

6.1.1. What is a law?

6.1.2. If it were the law of works, then boasting would be acceptable.

6.2. 28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.

6.2.1. The deeds of the law here means keeping the rituals of the temple and other Jewish laws of diet etc.

6.3. 29 Or is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also,

6.3.1. God can mean an object of worship or one who possesses divine qualities.

6.3.2. There is literally only one God, regardless of what people think or say. When we say that this or that (money, food, sex etc) is someone’s god we don’t mean that it is imbued with divine power or authority.

6.4. 30 since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.

6.4.1. Generally, the Jews believed that Abraham was justified by his works, by keeping the law. The rabbis taught: "We find that Abraham our father had performed the whole Law before it was given" and "Abraham was perfect in all his deeds with the Lord"." The rabbis argued that Abraham kept the law perfectly, even before it was given - he kept it by intuition or anticipation. This is because the Rabbi’s had no concept of salvation by faith. Their entire paradigm was shaped by the Law and the keeping of that law.

6.5. 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.

6.5.1. Paul makes it clear by quoting from Genesis 15:6 that Abraham's righteousness did not come from his performance of good works, but from his belief in God; it was a righteousness obtained through faith

6.5.2. It does not say that Abraham was made righteous in all of his doings; but that God counted Abraham as righteous. Our justification is not God making us perfectly righteous but counting us as perfectly righteous. After we are counted righteous, then God begins making us truly righteous, culminating in our resurrection on the last day.

6.5.3. This is important because there are those teaching that once saved, you can become sinless or perfect. “Church of the Divine Man” and John Wesley’s “Entire Sanctification” (Wesley developed Methodism which is still the foundation of the Independent Methodist churches)

6.5.4. There were a group who were called the Judaizers. These were those who were teaching that the way to enter Christianity was to effectively become Jewish first and then to keep the Jewish rituals and customs as part of Christianity Galatians 2:3-5 Yet not even Titus who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised. 4 And this occurred because of false brethren secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage), Galatians 2:14-16 14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, [g]why do you compel Gentiles to live as [h]Jews? 15 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, 16 knowing that a man is not [i]justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.

6.5.5. The modern Judaizers are the Hebrew roots movement. The people who want to tell you that to be a good Christian, you need to adopt the Jewish customs and festivals, keep Kosher, call Jesus Yeshua and so on. These are confused people who nearly consider the Jews and Christians to be co-religionists.


8. Debt or Grace?

8.1. 4 Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.

8.1.1. I owed my employees after they worked

8.1.2. I’m considering hiring a contractor to renovate my deck. If I do, I will owe them for the work when they complete it.

8.1.3. If I paid someone who doesn’t have it coming, that is the same as grace. Unmerited favor.

8.2. 5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness,

8.3. The same way that Abraham’s was. The idea of grace is contradictory to the principle of works; grace has to do with receiving the freely given gift of God, works has to do with earning our merit before God.

8.4. So what is accounted for righteousness is faith. Now often people confuse faith with being a work.

8.4.1. Ephesians 2:8-9 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.

8.4.2. Now the idea here that we won’t be boasting in our works and that our works won’t be accomplishing anything is right on the money, the problem here is when people conflate faith with works. Faith is emphatically not a work. Faith is not something that you accomplish or complete or achieve, it is a state of mind or a state of being. It is simply the act of believing that something is true. Faith can be a verb or noun. In talking about faith Paul is using it as a noun, it is something that one possesses, not something one does in Paul’s vernacular.

8.5. 6 just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: 7 “ Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered; 8 Blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin.”

8.5.1. Paul is quoting from Psalm 32:1

8.5.2. Remember that David knew very well what it was like to be a guilty sinner; he knew the seriousness of sin and how good it is to be truly forgiven. He says here in the Psalm that “lawless deeds are forgiven” - “Sins are covered” and “The LORD shall not impute sin”. Does it sound like David was considering a works righteousness?

9. The importance of understanding Abraham’s righteousness

9.1. 9 Does this blessedness then come upon the circumcised only, or upon the uncircumcised also? For we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness. 10 How then was it accounted? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised.

9.1.1. Abraham’s righteousness was a product of his faith, not of anything he did. He had exercised faith prior to being circumcised. Abraham’s didn’t even have the law yet as it hadn’t been given to Moses yet.

9.2. 11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also, 12 and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised.

9.2.1. Paul is talking here about circumcision because the Jews took great pride in this following of the law. But he points out that receiving Circumcision as sign was because of Abraham’s faith. Abraham was counted righteous before he was circumcised; therefore he was not counted righteous because he was circumcised. The Jews of the Roman Church wanted to use circumcision to declare that they were the true decedents of Abraham; Paul insists that to have Abraham as your father, one must walk in the steps of faith which he walked in. So it is with us. It will not be because of anything we do.

9.2.2. The parallel in today’s church would be baptism. We are commanded to be baptized and we should be baptized if we are going to be obedient Jesus. However, it isn’t baptism that saves us. It’s an outward sign, a step of obedience for us, for the world and for the community of believers that we participate in. Faith precedes the Baptism.

9.2.3. Was Abraham saved by anything he did? Did he keep the law? Paul here makes the case that keeping the law had nothing whatsoever to do with Abraham’s righteousness

9.3. 13 For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.

9.3.1. Abraham being the father of many nations, the patriarch of the faith, had nothing at all to do with the law. There was no law yet. So, how could he be subject to it?

9.3.2. The same could be said for Noah. There was no law yet, but Noah believed God too and he is also considered by all theologians to be with God in heaven because of his faith. In other words for Noah, because he believed it was accounted to him for righteousness too.

10. Do we inherit righteousness by being “of the law”

10.1. 14 For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect 15 because the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression.

10.1.1. Those spoken of here in verse 14 when he says “of the law” are the Jews.

10.1.2. If you have it coming because of your Jewish heritage then “faith is made void”. What would it matter if you believed if you were going to inherit the promises of God without faith?

10.1.3. Now, what about this idea of there being no sin? No Transgression? Didn’t we say that there was such a thing as “natural law”? Yes, but this is different than a clear boundary. You can’t keep the letter of the law that has not been written. One might go about doing wrong things or committing sin and still not be in rebellion.

11. According to grace

11.1. Paul here begins something that he will expand on and continue in chapter 5 a discussion of the Grace of God.

11.2. 16 Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all 17 (as it is written, “I have made you a father of many nations”) in the presence of Him whom he believed—God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did; 18 who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, “So shall your descendants be.”

11.2.1. Abraham is father of “many nations” we really don’t know what other peoples are descended from him. The Israelites, the Edomites, The Ishmaelites, some say the Amalekites and that they were the predecessors of the Arab people.

11.2.2. While this may be true, what Paul is saying here is that this is not limited to those who are descended by blood. This is why he makes the distinction between “of the law” and “of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all”

11.2.3. in verse 17 Paul uses the phrase “calls those things which do not exist as though they did”. This verse has been much abused by the word of faith movement. They imply that since God calls those things that do not exist as though they did that this is something that you are supposed to do as a believer. If you’re sick, say that you are well. If you are poor, say that you are rich. In other words, go ahead and lie. There’s an important distinction here and that is that when God calls things that don’t exist as though they do, it is because he knows the future and knows what he is able to bring about. As Paul said in Chapter 3 and verse 4 “Let God be true and every man a liar”. When God does this he is not lying, when man does it, he is stating something he knows to be untrue. The word of faith movement also implies that this works in both positive and negative direction. If you are to admit that you’re sick, or poor, or needy of encouragement, these are “negative confessions”.

12. The faith of Abraham is a type of faith which is unwavering

12.1. 19 And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb.

12.1.1. Abraham was around 100 years old when Isaac was born. He and Sarah had long passed the time of parenting. When Paul says here “already dead” he is implying that Abraham had already given up on the idea of having progeny because of his age. In describing the “deadness of Sarah’s womb” what he is saying is that she was already past menopause.

12.1.2. My wife and I are grandparents of seven, we had our youngest child over 26 years ago, we can’t even imagine the idea of my wife getting pregnant at this stage of the game and if someone told us that she was going to be a very difficult proposition to believe.

12.1.3. Abraham didn’t consider the normal state of things to be any kind of an impediment to what God would do.

12.2. 20 He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, 21 and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. 22 And therefore “it was accounted to him for righteousness.”

12.2.1. Abraham “did not waver” because he was “fully convinced” that God was able to do this thing. It was this unwavering fully convinced belief that was accounted to him for righteousness

12.3. 23 Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, 24 but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25 who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.

12.3.1. God provided the example of Abraham for us along with Noah and David so that there would be continuity of the concept of our salvation by faith.

12.3.2. The same salvation that Abraham enjoyed and the same “righteousness” are available to us through faith.

12.3.3. Is imputed to us “who believe”. It is not imputed to those who keep the law or accomplish the deeds of the rituals. The righteousness is imputed through having faith

13. The writer of Hebrews in chapter 11 and verse six says the following:

13.1. Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.


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