Thursday, June 20, 2019

Romans Bible Study #9 "Exult In Hope" Romans 5:1-11 (Video and Lesson Notes)

To go to the beginning of the series on Romans, click here...

To go to the last study (#8), click here..
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Read Romans 5:1-11

The first word of this chapter is key. Remember that when you see a “therefore” you need to find out what it’s “there for.” It’s there because everything in chapter 5 is going to based on what we have learned in the latter part of chapter 3 and all of chapter 4. The last part of chapter 3 was the basic outline of salvation. How it is that we became justified before God. Chapter 4 describes what justification by faith is and what it is not by using Abraham as an illustration of one who walks by faith. Now we begin to look at the results of being justified by faith.

Paul, in verse 1, says that the first result of justification by faith is that we have peace with God...through our Lord Jesus Christ. The Greek word for peace (eirene) is akin to the Hebrew word for peace (shalom). Both mean .”to join together as a whole”...“wholeness”..

“The general meaning behind “shalom” is of completion and fulfillment - of entering into a state of wholeness and unity, a restored relationship...Shalom is the result of God’s activity in covenant and is the result of righteousness...Peace, in this case, means much more than mere absence of war...completeness, wholeness, harmony, fulfillment, are closer to the meaning. Implicit in shalom is the idea of unimpaired relationships with others and fulfillment in one’s undertaking…” (Theological Wordbook of the OT)

(It’s important to note that though Paul wrote in Greek, he thought in Hebrew. This definition works in both languages).

So the result of our justification by faith is that we now have peace with God...wholeness...unimpaired relationship with God…

This definition of “unimpaired relationship with God” leads us right into verse 2. Paul says that in addition to this peace, we also have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand. Many versions use the word “access” instead of introduction. Both are useful.

There was a barrier in the temple to a Jew having complete access into the Holiest of Holies...the innermost room in the temple where God dwelt…(in Hebrews we learn that it symbolizes heaven itself)...What was it? The veil of the temple. We know that at the crucifixion that veil was torn. This symbolized the fact that God’s people now have complete access to all of God and all that is in God. What about the Gentile? He was not allowed to get anywhere near the veil. There was “a middle wall of partition” that kept him out. It was a wall that separated the Gentiles from the Jews. On that wall was a sign that stated that Gentiles were not allowed to go any farther. Let’s look at what Paul says elsewhere about this wall…

Read Ephesians 2:14-18

So now, as Gentiles we also have complete access to all that there is in God...through our Lord Jesus Christ. One definition of the word translated “introduction” or “access” is “to have access (approach), with intimate (face-to-face) interaction…”... All three occasions of (this word in scripture) refer to "having audience (direct access) with God". The fact that it also means “introduction” tells us that this is just the starting point of our Christian life. And what is it that we have “access” or “introduction” to? It is Grace. Paul uses “Grace” here in a metaphorical sense. We have access into a vast domain called grace. Picture a king’s palace named “Undeserved Favor” or “Grace” which we now have access to. He says we stand in it. E.g. it is not a place to which we come and go as a visitor but a place in which we live. Grace is our new home. We don’t live in the do’s and don’ts of law, but in the unmerited favor of God. His grace is what we depend on every day. Not our merit but His. What is the result of this “standing in grace?” He says we exult in hope of the glory of God.

One very important item in determining a man’s power of... standing firm against whatever assaults may be hurled against him, is the sort of footing that he has. If you stand on slippery mud, or on the ice of a glacier, you will find it hard to stand firm; but if you plant your foot on the grace of God, then you will be able to ‘withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand.’ And how does a man plant his foot on the grace of God? simply by trusting in God, and not in himself. So that the secret of all steadfastness of life, and of all successful resistance to the whirling onrush of temptations and of difficulties, is to set your foot upon that rock, and then your ‘goings’ will be established. Alexander MacLaren

What does “exult” mean? The English word has an interesting meaning. It is from a Latin word which means “to leap show or feel elation or jubilation especially as the result of a success.” In this case, though, our jubilation is not in our success but in the success of our Savior.

The Greek word behind this is even more interesting It means living with "head up high," i.e. boasting from a particular vantage point by having the right base of operation to deal successfully with a matter...figuratively, it refers to living with God-given confidence.” This word is translated “boast in many other places in the NT. So we don’t boast in ourselves, but we boast in our God!

Paul says we boast in hope of the glory of God. We learned last week that Biblical hope is not a wish. It is earnestly expecting something to happen. We might say it means “we can bank on it.” John Stott calls it “a joyful and confident expectation which rests on the promises of God.” That’s what we glory in, what we boast in...what we exult in…

In verse 3, Paul takes a curious turn. Verses 3-5 remind me of when I was a small child and my father would take me into the pool or lake. I could stay in the kiddie pool by myself, but, not being able to swim, I couldn’t go into the deeper waters without an adult. My dad would put me on his shoulders and we would wade out into the deeper waters. That was fun...because I knew that my dad was carrying me there...but it wasn’t long before I’d be ready to go back into the kiddie pool...Later in Romans we will be going into some deeper theological waters...we will go from milk to meat...In these three verses we wade out into the deeper waters...on Daddy’s shoulders…

What is curious when we get into verse 3, at least it would be curious to a baby Christian, is that Paul makes the stunning statement that we also exult in our tribulations. Remember, exult means a feeling of jubilation...a leaping upward. How in the world are we to “exult in tribulations?” Aren’t tribulations bad?

Actually, when we look at the word translated “tribulations”, it is really bad...It actually means “pressure” (what constricts or rubs together), used of a narrow place that "hems someone in";...especially internal pressure that causes someone to feel confined (restricted, "without options"). [By contrast, (another Greek word most often translated as “distresses or difficulties”) focuses on the external pressure exerted by circumstances.] Now, none of that seems like something we would want for ourselves. Yet, Paul says we are elated...ecstatic and jubilant in our tribulations. How is that? It is because of what follows.

Paul says that we can rejoice in our tribulations because they bring about perseverance. Now, understand that it is not inevitable that they bring about these things. This is what is supposed to happen. It is what happens when we yield to God and “stand in His grace.” Now this word translated “perseverance” is also translated as “endurance”, “patient endurance”, and “steadfastness.” It’s root means “to remain under”. It is not a “gritting your teeth” endurance where you just gut it out but are a mess inside, but it is “patiently enduring” tribulations. How can we patiently endure tribulations? Through faith in God. By knowing that “nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus” (to jump ahead to chapter 8). By knowing that as a child of a king nothing will happen to us that God cannot and will not in time turn to something good. By knowing that we can trust His heart...that He has plans to prosper us and not to harm give us a hope and a future. (Jer. 29:11).

There is a natural progression to each of these things in Romans 5:3, 4. We could not know anything about perseverance or endurance unless we first have tribulations and troubles. And it takes perseverance to come to the next thing. In verse 4, it says tells us that perseverance leads to proven character. What do you think he meant by that?

The word translated “proven character” is “dokime” which means (the process or result of) trial, proving, approval. I came across some interesting background on this word…

"In the ancient world there was no banking system as we know it today, and no paper money. All money was made from metal, heated until liquid, poured into moulds and allowed to cool. When the coins were cooled, it was necessary to smooth off the uneven edges. The coins were comparatively soft, and of course many people shaved them closely. In one century, more than eighty laws were passed in Athens to stop the practice of whittling down the coins then in circulation. But some money-changers were men of integrity, who would accept no counterfeit money; they were men of honour who put only genuine, full-weight money into circulation. Such men were called dokimos, and this word is used here for the Christian as he is to be seen by the world." (Donald Grey Barnhouse, Romans: God's Glory, p. 18.)

So how do we get to be a “spiritual dokimos”, a person of absolute integrity...a man or woman of proven character? By persevering under tribulation. By remaining in a state of absolute trust and peace before God even in the tremendous pressures of life. And what is the result of the proven character that we develop? It is hope! Remember, we started with hope. Now we come around full circle to hope. So...have we gained anything? Absolutely yes! We have gone from a baby hope to a mature hope. Now we have a much greater, much more grounded hope. And what is our hope? It is of course in Christ.

Verse 5 says that this hope does not disappoint us? Have you ever had a hope in something that turned out to be groundless? I dare say all of us have at one time or another. Life is full of great disappointments...yet Paul assures us that this hope in God will never disappoint us. What evidence do we have for this? Paul gives us the evidence of the Holy Spirit. He tells us that it is because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which was given to us. Remember, one of the names of the Holy Spirit is “Comforter.” He comforts us by strengthening pouring out the love of God in our hearts. Now this “pouring out’ is not a trickle. It is literally a “gushing out.” The evidence that our hope is real is that the love of God gushes out from God into our hearts...and the Holy Spirit is the one doing this. BTW...this is the first time the Holy Spirit is mentioned in Romans.

John Stott:
‘Under the vivid metaphor of a cloudburst on a parched countryside’,what the Holy Spirit does is to make us deeply and refreshingly aware that God loves us.

This verse serves as a transition to verses 6-11. Now, he is, in effect, taking us back out of the deeper waters (we will be going back into them shortly!) of tribulations and perseverance into the wonderful truths about the love of God. Yet, whether we are new born Christians or mature Christians who have been in the faith for decades, these truths never get old. If someone is studying advanced trigonometry, do they not need the basics of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division? No, and we still need to go back to the truths of the basics of our faith. In verses 6-11, Paul tells us about the love of God. He wants us to get the full impact of what the love of God is...we need to go back and reflect on how much God really loves us.

Verse 6 says that Jesus Christ died at the right time. God chose a time...the perfect send his son to die for our sins. This was true in history, but it is also true in our experience. There is a perfect time that each of us comes to know that Jesus died for our sins...That time, is when we were helpless...when we came to the end of our strength. At that time, Jesus died for the ungodly...that’s you and me.

Then in verse 7, Paul makes the point that hardly anyone would die for a righteous man...that is, a man who was righteous according to the law. Paul at one time said that as a Pharisee he was righteous according to the law. Of course, he was also self-righteous. He goes on to say that for a good man, someone might be willing to die. That is...a man who was not only righteous in the externals but in the internals. Someone who truly loved God…

But then verse 8 makes the point that we were none of those. We weren’t righteous and we weren’t good. We were the ungodly. Let’s re-read this verse...I’m going to read this in the old King James just because I like it so well…

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Not when we were righteous. Not when we were good. When we were helpless. When we were ungodly. When we were sinners. When we were rebels against God. This is an astounding verse. It’s the essence of Christianity. Christ died for sinners. Christ died for us.

There is one curious thing about this verse that grabs my attention. When he said ‘Christ died for us”, what tense is that in? Past tense. It happened in the a given point in history...almost 2000 years ago. But when he says, “God commendeth His love to us” or “God demonstrates His love to us”, what tense is that in? Present tense. You see, though Jesus died at a given point in history, the application of the benefits of that death is an ongoing thing. It reminds me of the fact that when an animal was slain in the temple, it was at a given point in time. Yet the blood from the animal (and other animals) was then taken into the Holy Place where it was used continuously. This is a type of the continuing work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of believers.

Now let’s do another little word study. The word translated “demonstrate” means “to stand near”... referring to facts "lining up" with each other to support (commend) something. It is standing near to support a thing. KJV uses “commendeth.” We don’t use the word “commend” much, but we do use a similar word…”recommend.” When we recommend someone we are supporting them. What Paul is saying I think is that we never have to doubt the love of God, because He made the ultimate expression of His love to us in sending His son to die for us when we were completely helpless, without strength...even rebels against Him. It is an ongoing recommendation of His love. We should never doubt His love as long as we continually go back to the cross to see how much He loves us.

This leads directly into verse 9. Because we have now been justified, we now can be assured that we will ultimately be saved from the wrath of God through Jesus. Why is this? Verse 10 explains further. He died for us when we were enemies to God, and we were reconciled when we were rebels to Him through the death of His Son. Now that we have been reconciled, Paul says that we shall be saved by His life...that is, the life of Jesus. What does he mean by this? There is a verse in Hebrews that I believe sheds light on what this passage is about.

Hebrews 7:25 (NKJV)
25 Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

This verse is talking about the ongoing priesthood of Christ. After Jesus rose from the dead, He ascended to heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. What is He doing today in heaven? He is making intercession for those who come to God through Him. What is the result of this intercession? They are saved to the uttermost. (NASB says “forever”, but this word means more than only “for all time.” It also means “completely.” “perfectly”, “utterly”. This tells me that the work of salvation is ongoing. There is a sense in which we can say not that we were saved or are saved but that we are being saved. He is continually ministering in heaven on our behalf. We are being saved by His life...that is, by His living today. Our salvation will not be complete until He takes us home. Remember this scripture…?

being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; (Phil. 1:6 NKJV)

That good work in us is the work of salvation...of reconcilliation to God. We won’t be fully reconciled to Him until “the day of Jesus Christ.” When He comes back to get us. That day, all will be completed. That will be the day of our full salvation.

Let’s look at one more verse. Verse 11 flows out of verse 10. In verse 10, it says we WERE reconciled by the death of Jesus and that we SHALL BE saved by his life ultimately. In verse 11, it says we have NOW received the reconciliation. Now received. This is for now. Paul says that we exult in Christ (there is that word exult again!) because we presently have the reconciliation. Salvation is not just something in the past that we can look back on, nor something in the future that we can look forward to, but something that we presently possess. Why? Because He always lives to make intercession for us. That’s something we can exult in!

George Matheson suffered poor eyesight from birth, and at age 15 learned that he was going blind. Not one to be easily discouraged, he enrolled in the University of Glasgow and graduated at age 19. He then began theological studies, and it was while pursuing those that he became totally blind.
Matheson’s three sisters rose to the occasion and tutored him through his studies—even going so far as to learn Hebrew, Greek, and Latin to be able to help their brother. With their help he was able to complete his studies.
After graduation, he answered a call to serve as pastor of a church in Innellan, Argylshire, Scotland. He had a successful ministry there, and was later called to serve as pastor of the much larger (2000 member) St. Bernard’s Church in Edinburgh.
On the day that one of his sisters was married, Matheson wrote this hymn. He recorded this account of that experience in his journal:
My hymn was composed on the evening of June 6, 1882. I was at that time alone. It was the day of my sister’s marriage... Something had happened to me which was known only to myself, and which caused me the most severe mental suffering. The hymn was the fruit of that suffering. It was the quickest bit of work I ever did in my life. I had the impression of having it dictated to me by some inward voice than of working it out myself. I am quite sure that the whole work was completed in five minutes, and equally sure that it never received at my hands any retouching or correction...
Matheson obviously didn’t intend to tell us what caused his “most severe mental suffering,” but people who know his background strongly suspect that it had to do with a heartbreaking experience several years earlier. His fiancee had broken her engagement to him, telling him that she couldn’t see herself going through life married to a blind man. Matheson never married, and it seems likely that his sister’s wedding brought to memory the woman that he had loved and the wedding that he had never enjoyed.
At any rate, Matheson’s “severe mental suffering” inspired him to write this hymn, “O Love that Wilt Not Let Me Go.” The hymn celebrates the constancy of God’s love—”love that wilt not let me go”—”light that follow’st all my way”—”joy that seekest me through pain.” It concludes by celebrating “Life that shall endless be.”...
When I read the various accounts of Matheson’s writing this hymn, one sentence struck me as especially important. It was this—Matheson said, “The hymn was the fruit of that suffering.” There is an important lesson in that. All of us suffer some sort of heartbreak or disappointment or disability at some point in our lives. What makes all the difference is our response —whether we let the hardship stop us or inspire us to greater effort.
Matheson suffered two severe blows that could have stopped him—the loss of his eyesight and the loss of his beloved. In both cases, he made the best of a bad situation—and we are all the richer for it. As this hymn reveals, it was his faith in God that kept him going through the adversities that he suffered. He believed that God’s love would not let him go—and that God’s light would follow him all his way—and that God’s joy would seek him through his pain—and that faith made all the difference.
O Love that will not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.

O Light that foll’west all my way,
I yield my flick’ring torch to thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in thy sunshine’s blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be.

O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.
O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Romans Bible Study #8 "Father Of Us All"..Romans 4:13-25 (Video and Lesson Notes)

To go to the beginning of the series on Romans, click here...
To go to the last study (#7), click here..
To go to the next study (#9), click here..
To watch the entire series on YouTube, click here...

Review 4:1-12

Read 4:13-25

So in the section we’ve already covered, Paul explains to us that Abraham was not saved by his works, nor by circumcision, but by faith alone. In verses 13-15, he goes on to explain that Abraham was not saved by keeping the law.

I believe it would be beneficial to us to read from a similar teaching Paul had written to the churches in Galatia years before. Let’s read Gal. 3:16-19.

There are a lot of things we could talk about in this section, but I mainly wanted us to read this to note that Paul brings out to the Galatians what every good Jew would have already known...that the law was not given for many centuries after Abraham. Therefore, the idea that Abraham was justified by law keeping was untenable. We talked last week about how many Jewish teacher’s of Paul’s day believed that Abraham was justified by works. Paul refutes that argument in the first part of Romans 4. Many of them also believed (believe it or not!) that Abraham was justified by law keeping...even though the law would not be given for centuries!

Ancient passages from the rabbis say:
“We find that Abraham our father had performed the whole Law before it was given…” They argued that he kept the law long before it was intuition. Paul refutes this idea both in Galatians and in Romans 4.

In verse 13, Paul identifies God’s words to Abraham in Genesis 15 (which we read last week) as “the promise.” This promise was given to Abraham as he was told to look up at the stars and count them…”if you are able to count them,” God said. “So shall your descendants be.” In Romans 4, Paul describes this promise in all it’s vastness...that he should be the heir of the world. In a sense, this might be a restatement of what God had told Abraham years earlier that “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Gen. 12:3) In Psalm 37, David would tells us that “those who wait for the Lord will inherit the land (vs. 9) and “...those blessed by Him will inherit the land…” Jesus would rephrase this in Sermon on the Mount in saying “Blessed are the meek (or gentle), for they will inherit the earth.” (Matt. 5:5)

Paul in vs. 13 says that this promise was not through law but through “the righteousness of faith.” In vs. 14 he argues that if those who keep the law are the heirs of this promise, then “faith is made void and the promise is of no effect (KJV) or nullified.” The law of Moses and the promise God made to Abraham were at odds with each other. As we already read in Galatians, “For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise.” It is one or the can’t be both.

“”Law and promise belong to different categories of thought, which are incompatible. Law-language (‘you shall’) demands our obedience, but promise-language (‘I will’) demands our faith.What God said to Abraham was not ‘Obey this law and I will bless you’, but ‘I will bless you; believe my promise’.” John Stott

In verse 15, Paul gives a reason for this…”for the Law brings about wrath (or judgement), but where there is no law, there also is no violation (or transgression).” This is not saying that where there is no law, there is no sin. Remember, Paul has already brought out the point in chapter 3 that the law was to give knowledge of sin, not to save us from sin. This is saying that you can’t break a law that hasn’t been given yet. If there was no law that says you can’t murder someone, murderers would not be violators of the law, but that is hardly the same thing as saying that murder is not wrong.

We actually have had this sort of thing happen in our society often. Slavery was allowed in our country before the Civil War. There was no law against it in many southern states. It would have been impossible to arrest a slave-owner for owning slaves before a law was passed making this a crime. Does that mean that it was right to own slaves before then? Of course not! More recently, in the south segregation was practiced. Separate drinking fountains between blacks and whites, separate schools, even separate places on busses. No one could be arrested for this because there was no law against segregation. (In fact, the law was written for segregation!) Once a law was written, in was now “against the law.” Yet, there was always something wrong about it.

In verse 16, Paul begins to pull together everything from the previous 15 verses. (“For this reason” is usually translated “therefore.” I think this makes more sense.) The first part of this verse in Amplified Version reads:

Therefore, [inheriting] the promise depends entirely on faith [that is, confident trust in the unseen God], in order that it may be given as an act of grace [His unmerited favor and mercy],”

So the promise is given by grace and received by faith. “Grace gives and faith takes.” Paul would say much the same thing in Ephesians 2:8-9:

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. (NKJV)

Paul says that this salvation is the gift of God, not of works. In Romans 4:16, he says that this was so that it might be sure or guaranteed to all the seed, or all the descendants, not only the physical descendants of Abraham, but the spiritual descendants of Abraham, that is, those who have the same kind of faith that Abraham had. Abraham, he says, is the father of us all, not only Jews but Gentile believers as well! Paul is saying to us that when we believe God, we have a guaranteed promise from God that we will inherit all things, including eternal life. It is not based on lineage, not on pedigree, not on law-keeping, not on circumcision. It is based on God and His gracious provision. It is guaranteed because it is all based on God! This promise is as trustworthy as God Himself! When we simply receive this promise, we never have to doubt anymore. It is “sure to all the seed.” In the first part of verse 17, Paul bases this “father of us all statement” on the scripture in Genesis 17:5 where God said “A father of many nations have I made you.”

This verse really begins a turning point in Paul’s argument. From here on out, it seems that he is talking not only of Abraham’s initial faith in Gen. 15, where God gives him this promise, but now he is also bringing in Abraham’s more developed faith in Gen. 17, which occurs about 14 years later, when he is 99. Let’s go back and read this account.

Read Gen 17:1-7

So now, after 14 years, Abraham (who up until this time is actually called “Abram” or “Father”) has still yet to receive the promised seed, which was promised to him and Sarah first in Gen. 12 (when he was 75 and she was 65) and then in Gen. 15 (when he was 85 and she was 75). Let’s notice that in Gen. 12, all that Abraham was required to do is believe. Here is required to believe and obey. I think this is often overlooked. The promise was not conditional on Abraham’s obedience, but on his faith. Yet this certainly did not mean that God did not require obedience from Abraham. God absolutely expected obedience from Abraham. But it was not obedience to law, but it was obedience that was born out of faith. Because you believe me, God is saying to Abraham, “I expect that belief to produce a blameless walk before Me. Because of my relationship with you, Abraham, your seed will be multiplied exceedingly. My covenant is with you, and you will be the father of a multitude of nations.”

This is where God changes his name from “Abram” (father) to “Abraham” (father of many). It was at this time also that God gave Abraham and his seed the covenant of circumcision, which Paul has already said in Romans 4, was a seal of Abraham’s faith. In the same way, our obedience to God is what identifies us as bearers of Abraham’s faith. Obedience is the fruit of faith. When we see fruit on a tree or on a vine, we now know that life is there...and we even know what kind of life by the fruit. If it’s apples, it must be an apple tree!

Back in Romans 4:17, Paul identifies this God who made Abram into Abraham “father of many”as the God who “gives life to the dead” (resurrection) and “calls into being that which does not exist” (creation). Both of these things are not natural, but supernatural. Abraham believed in a God who would give him descendents supernaturally.

In verse 18, it says that Abraham “against hope believed in hope.” (KJV). In other words, when there was no human reason to hope that the promise would be fulfilled (he was, after all, 99 and Sarah was 89, right?), he still believed the promise. He “hoped against hope.”(actually, this phrase had its origin in this verse) This doesn’t mean that he had a mere wish.

To get the idea of what this hope involved, let’s go ahead and re-read 18-22.

Listen to what John Stott says about this section:

This firm conviction about the power of God was what enabled Abraham to believe, both against all hope and in hope at the same time, when God promised him that his descendants would be as many as the stars, although at that time he and Sarah did not have even a single child... It is not that he ran away from the realities of his situation into a world of fantasy. On the contrary, without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact, indeed the two painful, stubborn facts, that he could not beget a child and that Sarah could not conceive one. For the facts were that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead Yet out of that double death God brought a new life. It was at one and the same time an act of creation and of resurrection. For this is the kind of God Abraham believed in.

When you see the word “hope”, think “earnest expectation.” Abraham expected God to fulfill His promise, though there was no earthly reason to think for. His hope was grounded in his view of God, not in his view of man.

It is amazing to me that our text says that Abraham “did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith.” Did Paul not know what happened between chapters 15 and 17? Let me give you a hint...his name was Ishmael! Abraham took matters into his own hands, according to the custom of the day, and fathered a child by Sarah’s handmaid. God would explain to Abraham later in chapter 17 that the promised seed would not come through Ishmael but through another child yet to be born, not through Sarah’s handmaid but through Sarah herself...and God even told him what the son’s name was to be...Isaac. This tells me that we can make many mistakes and, in God’s eyes, still be considered strong in faith. Isn’t that comforting! You see, I believe that Abraham’s siring of Ishmael was a mistake. It was not God’s perfect will...but it was an honest mistake. I honestly believe that Abraham believed that he was carrying out God’s promise in producing Ishamel, but of course he was wrong. God actually told Abraham that he would bless Ishmael and would make him a great nation. If the covenant which God had made with Abraham was based on Abraham’s works, it would have been negated right there. No, it was based on God’s works and God’s faithfulness.

In the end, Abraham grew strong in faith, believing that what God had promised, he was able also to perform.

As we look at Abraham as “the father of us all”, his faith gives us a good idea about what real faith really is.

  1. Abraham did not just believe that God exists. Hebrews 11:6 says that “he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”
  2. Abraham believed the actual promise of God. His faith was not a dead faith but a living, active faith.
  3. Abraham’s faith was a continuing faith. It wasn’t a once-in-a-lifetime faith. The faith that is taught today is often built around a one-time confession. Some teach that once you make that confession, you’re in. If it’s not continuing faith, it’s really no faith at all.
  4. Abraham’s faith was a growing faith. He “grew strong in faith.”
  5. Abraham’s faith was an unwavering faith. “He did not waver in faith.” Though he made mistakes, he never doubted God’s promise.
  6. Abraham’s faith was an obedient faith. God told Abraham to walk before Him and to be blameless.
  7. Abraham’s faith was a tested faith. Even to the point, in the end, of being willing to offer up his son on the altar. (Gen. 21) Hebrews 11:17-19 tells us this…

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, “In Isaac your seed shall be called,” concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.

Abraham’s faith is the model for our faith. Abraham’s faith is true, saving faith.

It was there on Mt. Moriah that Abraham demonstrated the culmination of a lifetime of faith. There, even more than any other time in his life, he demonstrated his belief that “what God had promised, He was able also to perform. And it was there that we have a picture of one who was greater than Abraham. Abraham’s son Isaac was figurative raised from the dead. God’s only Son, Jesus Christ, was literally raised from the dead. God the Father slayed His only Son on the cross.

Let’s re-read the final three verses of Romans 4.

When we believe in Him who was delivered because of our transgressions, and raised because of our justification, when our faith in Jesus Christ is real like Abraham’s faith in God the father is real, our faith in credited to us as righteousness. That is real, abiding faith.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Romans Bible Study #7 "Righteousness Through Faith" - Romans 4:1-12 (Video and notes)

To go to the beginning of the series on Romans, click here...

To go to study #6, click here..
To watch the entire series on YouTube, click here...

Before we can move on, I feel we need to spend a few more minutes on this crucial section in chapter 3. We are right now at the very foundation of our faith...the very root. It will serve us well to make sure that we have this down. If we don’t, nothing else matters.

Any public building will from time to time have to be inspected to make sure it is safe to inhabit. We see this all the time, especially after some kind of natural disaster like a hurricane.  Inspectors will come in to make sure that it is safe to live in. Although they will certainly look at the whole building, they will especially be conscious of the foundation. If the foundation is not sturdy, there is no use even looking at the rest of the house.

Before we had our modular home moved to our property in 2003, we had a foundation put in place. I had the choice of two kinds of concrete blocks to build the foundation with. One was sturdier than the other, and of course more expensive. I was briefly tempted to go with the cheaper one, but I immediately thought…”this is the foundation. If you’re going to skimp on anything, it had better not be that!” I’ve never regretted that decision. We’ve had some pretty big storms move through, and I’ve never felt anything shift in the least when we’re inside.

Last week, we spent some time on definition of terms. We talked about what righteousness, justification, redemption, and propitiation mean. Let’s review these briefly…

Righteousness…(vs. 21, 22) Righteousness is being right before God...being approved by God. We’re going to be talking about this a lot more tonight...especially about how we get to be right before God.

(from last week)
Justification (vs. 24) a legal term meaning to secure a favorable verdict, to acquit, to vindicate, to declare righteous. “Just as if I’d never sinned…” We’ll be spending more time on this tonight as well

(from last week)
Redemption (vs. 24) is what Jesus accomplished on the cross. It means the price has been paid. “Tetelestai”.  It is finished! We have been purchased. We are now no longer slaves to unrighteousness but “slaves” to righteousness. Jesus Christ was “the lamb of God who took away the sin of the world.” The passover lamb was the type of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. As Israel was redeemed from Egypt in OT (Egypt is a type of the world and the world-system) by the blood of the passover lamb, so we are redeemed by the blood of Christ.

(from last week)
Propitiation (vs. 25) means to appease the wrath of God. Jesus Christ satisfied that righteous demands of a Holy God. God could never passover sin without a Passover sacrifice. Jesus was that sacrifice. It has often been pictured as the mercy seat, which was the golden covering over the ark of the covenant. It was there that the blood of the goat on the day of atonement was sprinkled. “Just as in the OT God met His people when the blood of the sin offering was sprinkled on the altar, so Christ’s death brings us into fellowship with God.”
Synonym is “atonement” - At-one-ment

I passed over one section in this latter part of chapter three I want us to pause over for just a bit.
The end of verse 25 says that in His forbearance He passed over the sins previously committed. This is talking about all the sins committed before Christ came. This does not mean that these sins were paid for. It also does not mean that they were ignored. It basically means that they were put off to a later date.  All the sacrifices of the OT period merely postponed the penalty for sin. These sins were atoned for on the cross, just as the sins of all of those who have trusted Christ since the cross have been atoned for.

That is what verse 26 is about. “At the present time” meaning after the cross, God demonstrated His righteousness before the cross by postponing their penalty. He demonstrated His righteousness after the cross by accepting the payment of sins that Jesus paid on the cross.
“That He might be just and the justifier of the one who had faith in Jesus.” Only through the cross could God be both just and justifier. It is truly “just-as-if-I’d never sinned!

Paul in verse 27 says, “Where is the boasting? It is excluded!”  There is nothing for us to boast about.

“The swimmer, when saved from drowning, does not brag because he trusted the lifeguard. What else could he do? When a believing sinner is justified by faith, he cannot boast of his faith, but he can boast in a wonderful Savior.” Warren Wiersbe

"Through the sin-bearing, substitutionary death of his Son, God has propitiated his own wrath in such a way as to redeem and justify us, and at the same time demonstrate his justice. We can only marvel at the wisdom, holiness, love and mercy of God, and fall down before him in humble worship. The cross should be enough to break the hardest heart, and melt the iciest." John Stott

Read 4:1-12

Paul does not want to leave this as theory. In the OT, it was by the mouth of two or three witnesses that a matter was to be confirmed. (Deut. 19:15). Paul brings forth two witnesses...Abraham and David. The Jews would certainly look at these two men as two of the most reliable witnesses in Jewish history. (While this chapter is directed at the Jews, it certainly has implications to Gentiles as well).

At the beginning of the chapter, Paul resumes the “diatribe” (question and answer) style. He hears someone asking the question, “What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found?”  i.e. “But what about Abraham?” He is hearing the Jews go back to Abraham in an effort to refute the idea of justification by faith.

Stott…”Abraham was held in the highest esteem by the Rabbis as the epitome of righteousness and even the special ‘friend’ of God.They took it for granted that he had been justified by works of righteousness. For instance, ‘Abraham was perfect in all his dealings with the Lord and gained favour by his righteousness throughout his life.’They quoted the Scriptures in which God promised to bless Abraham because he had obeyed him, without observing that these verses referred to Abraham’s life of obedience after his justification.”

So, here Paul is going to turn the Jews’ near-worship of Abraham on its head. In verse 2, he declares that Abraham was not justified by his works. In verse three, he quotes Genesis 15:6 “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.”  

Let’s go back and read Genesis 15:1-6

So Abraham was promised a child. He was at this time about 85 years old. Sarah was 75 years old. God had originally made this promise when he was 75.  It looked like the promise was not going to be fulfilled. Yet, God said it would be fulfilled just as He had said. Abraham, as a response, simply believes God, and the scripture tells us that this was credited to him (or reckoned to him) as righteousness.

The word translated in chapter 4 “credited” is an interesting one. The Greek word is “logizomai” and it appears eleven times in this chapter. It is translated as “credited”, “reckoned”, “imputed”, as well as “counted” in different version. (NASB mostly stays with “credited.”) It is actually a banking term, meaning to put something to one’s account.”

There are two ways that something can be credited to our account. One is, it can be credited to us as wages. We worked for it, we earned it. Therefore, it is owed to us. If you are working at a job and you get paid on Friday, you generally are not surprised to see that money show up in your account. You earned it. The company owed it to you, and they discharged their debt to you.
The other way that something can be credited to your account is as a gift. You didn’t earn it. It may have come completely as a surprise. It was only given to you as a gracious act by someone else. Which way does Paul tell us that righteousness is credited to our account?  Back in 3:24 he already told us we are “justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”

Verse 5 of chapter 4 says that like Abraham, righteousness is credited to us when we believe. He emphatically states that this is not a work. It is unearned. Like the swimmer who is rescued by the lifeguard, we would be foolish to boast in our faith in the lifeguard.  Nothing to boast in!

Warren Wiersbe makes this statement about the fifth verse:

Paul “makes the startling statement: God justifies the ungodly! The Law said, “I will not justify the wicked” (Ex. 23:7). The Old Testament judge was commanded to “justify the righteous, and condemn the wicked (Deut. 25:1). When Solomon dedicated the temple, he asked God to condemn the wicked and justify the righteous! (1 Kings 8:31-32) But God justifies the ungodly - because there are no godly for Him to justify! He put our sins on Christ’s account that He might put Christ’s righteousness on our account.”

In verse 6, David will turn to his second witness, David, before turning back to Abraham. David said in Psalm 32:1, “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds (or sins) have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account.” (NKJV “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin.”) It’s important to note that the phrase “will not take into account” or “shall not impute sin” is the same word “logizomai” that is translated “credited” in the rest of the text.

Let’s think about this. David says that the man whose sins have been forgive...have been a blessed man. This man is blessed because the Lord will not take into account his sin. So, in this case, God does not count sin against him.

When I was in college, I took an accounting course. We had a ledger that we would record credits and debits. You may have a checkbook that works the same way. I have a debit card in my pocket. When I use that, I charge my account to pay for something. It’s moved from one side of the ledger to the other. In this Psalm, God does not debit sin against the blessed man. He doesn’t charge him for the sin that he commits. Yet, we know that the sin must be charged to some account. God must be both “just” and “justifier.” How is He able to do this?  The answer is through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

However, let’s turn back to the case of Abraham. Here, we’re not dealing with “debits” but “credits”. By faith, Abraham is credited with righteousness. We are here not only talking about not having sins counted against us, but actually having righteousness counted for us!

Let’s imagine that you or I owe a tremendous debt that we know that we could absolutely never pay. Say $10 million. We get the notice that is due tomorrow. We can’t pay it and we have no hope of paying it, so we respond not by asking for more time (which would never help anyway), but we audaciously ask that the entire debt be forgiven us. Tomorrow morning, we get an email from the debtor. To our astonishment, we find out that the entire debt had been forgiven...It wasn’t charged to us. We then find out, that the debtor charged it to his only Son, who has graciously consented to pay for the entire amount. There is no reason for this. We are now out of debt completely!  Would you be happy? I guess!

Now, let’s take this a step further. You are out of debt. However, you are also still dead broke. You get another email from the same man, who was previously your debtor. This email astonishes you even more than the first one. This gracious man has decided not only to forgive you of all of your debt, but has decided to deposit into your account an amount of money that will cover everything you need for the rest of your life. When you have a need, all you need to do is draw it from your account. Now how happy would you be?  

I have news for you...something greater than this has happened to you. Not only have your sins been forgiven and you have not received what was coming to you (that is, eternal separation from God), but you have been given eternal life. You are in right standing with God now and forever. All you have to do is accept the gracious provision!
Stott…”Justification involves a double counting, crediting, or reckoning. On the one hand, negatively, God will never count our sins against us. On the other hand, positively, God credits our account with righteousness, as a free gift, by faith, altogether apart from our works….Paul writes in Romans 4 both of God not imputing sin to sinners, although it actually belongs to them, and of his imputing righteousness to us, although it does not belong to us.”

I believe this is the real reason behind these OT verses…

Comfort, comfort my people,
   says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
   and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed,
   that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
   double for all her sins. (Isaiah 40:1,2)

What good news is this!

Let’s look at one more passage about this “double counting.”

Read 2 Corinthians 5:17-21.

God did not count the sins of the world against them (and we are part of that world), but rather made His Son  sin on our behalf (that is, that he has forgiven our sins and charged them to His Son). Then Paul says that the reason for this is the “we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” So now, not only have we been forgiven, but when God looks at us He see righteousness. As a result, we are new creations in Christ Jesus, gifted with eternal life.

Stott says, “Christ became sin with our sins, in order that we might become righteous with God’s righteousness.”

Hesed (Hebrew word translated “mercy, lovingkindness): When the person from whom I have a right to expect nothing gives me everything.

In vs. 9 Paul asks the question “Is this blessing then on the circumcised, or on the uncircumcised also?”  The Pharisaic Jew would state emphatically that the blessing of righteousness was only for the Jew. However, in vs. 10, Paul asks another question, “Was this righteousness credited to Abraham when he was circumcised or when he was uncircumcised?” It was most certainly when he was uncircumcised. In fact, he would not receive circumcision for another fourteen years!

In Vs. 11 Paul calls circumcision both a sign and a seal. It is a sign of the covenant that God had made with Abraham and “a seal of the righteousness of the faith” which he had while he was still uncircumcised. This, Paul says, it so that he might be the father of all who believe, regardless of whether they are circumcised or not. Those who believe in Christ have righteousness credited to them too. Vs. 12 says, not only those who are circumcised, but for all those who follow in the steps of the faith of Abraham.  In other words, we are included! Remember what Paul said in 2:28-29?

28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. 29 But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.

So, whether you have Jewish heritage or not, if you have believed in Jesus, trusted in Him for your salvation, you are a Jew!  According to Paul, you and I are children of Abraham, who is “the father of all who believe.”

After all this, maybe it will make these lyrics to this old gospel song more meaningful to you and me:
  • What can wash away my sin?
    Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
    What can make me whole again?
    Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

    • Refrain:
      Oh! precious is the flow
      That makes me white as snow;
      No other fount I know,
      Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

  • For my pardon, this I see,
    Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
    For my cleansing this my plea,
    Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

  • Nothing can for sin atone,
    Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
    Naught of good that I have done,
    Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

  • This is all my hope and peace,
    Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
    This is all my righteousness,
    Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

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