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Chapter 4 Bible study

 

The How of Justification

 

Justification is Not By Works

 

In Paul’s time as now many Jews were seeking to be justified by obeying the law of Moses. Many non Jews set themselves on a similar course - trying to be justified by good works. Paul shows how the OT scriptures reveal to us that justification is by faith, not works.

 

4:1 What then shall we say that Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh, has discovered regarding this matter?

 

Abraham, the first ancestor of the Jewish nation, had been justified by God.

 

4:2 For if Abraham was declared righteous by the works of the law, he has something to boast about — but not before God.

 

If Abraham had been justified by works he would have something to boast about, for he would have succeeded in being accepted by God for his righteous life, or keeping of the law.

 

In fact, with regard to the law, as Paul points out in Galatians; Abraham had not even received it. The law was given some 450 years later. So it was not by keeping the law that Abraham was justified.

 

Was Abraham justified by good works? If he were, he might boast about it to other men, but not before God. For even if a man were justified by works, he would still owe any goodness that he has to the God who made him. Paul’s point is that Abraham was not justified by works but by  faith.

 

Justification is By Faith

 

4:3 For what does the scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited  to him as righteousness."

 

Genesis says “Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Righteousness was credited to Abraham rather than attained by him. God’s standard for any man to attain righteousness is one of absolute sinless perfection, and no man has ever attained that standard except the Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:22 Instead, Abraham trusted in God who then counted him as being a righteous man.

 

Justification is By Grace

 

4:4 Now to the one who works, his pay is not credited due to grace but due to obligation.

 

The justification of Abraham reveals God’s grace or unmerited favour. If a man works he expect to receive wages for he has earned them. If Abraham had attained righteousness by works then God would be obliged to accept him. As it was, the justification of Abraham was an act of God’s grace and brought Abraham’s gratitude and devotion.

 

4:5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in the one who declares the ungodly righteous, his faith is credited as righteousness.

 

The truth which the gospel message reveals is that God is willing to justify the ungodly. Abraham was a sinner like other men and so merits the title “ungodly” or ungodlike. For what is God like? Hab 1:13; Heb 7:26 Since we are so unlike Christ and so undeserving, anything that we receive from God is by his grace. Eph 2:8-9

 

Abraham did not strive to find acceptance with God by good works, but was accepted by him and counted as righteous because of his faith. God called him “Abraham my friend” ( Isa 41:8).

 

The What of Justification

 

Justification is Our Sin Removed by Christ

 

4:6-8 So even David himself speaks regarding the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:  "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the one against whom the Lord will never count sin."

 

In Psalm 32 David tells that here is a way for a man to have his sin forgiven and to be counted  righteous with God. This way was provided by God through his son Jesus Christ. God put our sin on Jesus’ account and he was punished for them on the cross. Since Christ has died for our sin, our sins are gone, never to be found or remembered (Isa. 38:17; Micah 7:19).

 

This is described as washing away our sins (Rev. 1:5) or taking our sins away (John 1:29).

 

Our sins were nailed with Christ to the cross. He removed our sins - they are no longer put to our account.

 

Justification is Christ’s righteousness Imputed to us

 

But justification means more than having our sin removed. It is having Christ’s righteousness credited to our account. He is our righteousness.

 

When God looks at us he sees us through his son Jesus Christ. We are accepted in the beloved hence verse 8 .

 

“By offering up his perfect Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins, God has in Christ, made us accepted and in a right relationship with himself - something which we never could be in ourselves.” (Vine & ANT)

 

The Who of Justification

 

Justification is for both Jew and Gentile

 

4:9-10 Is this blessedness then for the circumcision or also for the uncircumcision? For we say, "faith was credited to Abraham as righteousness." How then was it credited to him? Was he circumcised at the time, or not? No, he was not circumcised but uncircumcised!

 

Paul is once again eager to point out that God’s salvation is not restricted to His covenant people Israel. In choosing Abraham as an example of justification by faith, God chose an uncircumcised man. It is not the rite of circumcision which justifies, nor is it descent from Abraham into the Jewish nation that justifies, but the faith which Abraham had which justifies. Because Abraham was justified when uncircumcised, all who are uncircumcised may hope to be justified in the same way.

 

4:11-12 And he received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised, so that he would become the father of all those who believe but have never been circumcised, that they too could have righteousness credited to them. And he is also the father of the circumcised, who are not only circumcised, but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham possessed when he was still uncircumcised.

 

God gave Abraham the sign of circumcision as a witness to the fact that he had been declared righteous by God when he was uncircumcised. So we  see that the circumcised too will be justified if they share the same faith that Abraham had.

 

4:13 For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would inherit the world was not fulfilled through the law, but through the righteousness that comes by faith.

 

When God promised Abraham that he would be heir of the world (the promise of salvation) he did not add the condition that Abraham must be circumcised and keep the law. There were no strings attached to the promise. God in his grace gave Abraham this promise and Abraham by faith embraced this promise as true and appropriated it to himself.

 

4:14 For if they become heirs by the law, faith is empty and the promise is nullified.

 

If those who keep the law are entitled to what God promised Abraham then why bother making the promise? What was the use of Abraham believing a promise, if after all he had to work to earn his place in God’s kingdom?

 

In fact, man’s inability to keep God’s law would make the promise of no effect - since God would never have to fulfill his promise on those terms.

 

4:15 For the law brings wrath, because where there is no law there is no transgression either.

 

The law brought penalties for disobedience, the punishment of death and separation from God was proscribed. Yet God gave His promise freely to Abraham; with no condition other than the condition of faith; so Abraham could be sure of its fulfillment -since that fulfillment depended on God’s ability to keep his promise and not on Abraham’s ability to keep the law.

 

That is what Paul means when he says “where there is no law there is no transgression.”

 

4:16 For this reason it is by faith so that it may be by grace, with the result that the promise may be certain to all the descendants — not only to those who are under the law, but also to those who have the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all

 

If the promise were made through the law, then only the circumcised who keep the law would be eligible - Jews and proselytes. This was never God’s intention, as he made clear when he justified Abraham in uncircumcision. God ensured that his promise would be given by grace and not law and would be available for all who believe. These are regarded as Abraham’s children and heirs of the same promise with him, for those who believe are the children of Abraham.

 

4:17 (as it is written, "I have made you the father of many nations"). He is our father in the presence of God whom he believed — the God who makes the dead alive and summons the things that do not yet exist as though they already do.

 

Abraham’s father hood is often claimed by Jew, Moslem and Christian. It is not the natural children, but the spiritual children that share the divine promise with Abraham.

 

Of course, according to God’s word, Abraham is the father of many nations. Yet he shall have children from nations that he never fathered. For Abraham was descended from Shem - yet there will be those in heaven descended from Ham and Japheth (Rev. 5:9).

 

Justification is for Those with a Convinced Faith in Christ

 

4:18-21 Against hope Abraham believed in hope with the result that he became the father of many nations  according to the pronouncement, "so will your descendants be." Without being weak in faith, he considered his own body as dead (because he was about one hundred years old) and the deadness of Sarah's womb. He did not waver in unbelief about the promise of God but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God. He was fully convinced that what God promised he was also able to do.

 

What kind of faith did Abraham have? It was a convinced faith. When God promised Abraham that he would have a son, he was nearly 100 and Sarah was 90. God’s action of giving new life to Abraham and Sarah at their time of life was no less a miracle the creating of the world from nothing - for God was calling that which was dead into life and calling things that were not into being. Just as in the beginning God said let there be and their was. {Aside - Earth will end in a moment. Who says it did not begin in a moment}. Abraham was not weak in faith. So what if he and Sarah were past the age of Childbearing? What was that to God? It was of no consequence at all, since God had said it and that was enough for Abraham. He was fully convinced that God would do as he had said and gave thanks to God for it.

 

4:22 So indeed it was credited to Abraham as righteousness.

 

This is the kind of faith which Abraham had, and because of it God accepted him as righteous. So Abraham was justified by faith not works.

 

4:23-25 But the statement it was credited to him  was not written only for Abraham's sake, but also for our sake, to whom it will be credited, those who believe in the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was given over because of our transgressions and was raised for the sake of our justification.

 

Abraham’s justification was an example of how justification is available to all men through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Everyone who believes that Christ died for their sins and rose again is justified. For is not our faith itself that justifies, but the Lord Jesus Christ by his death and resurrection. We receive this justification from him by faith in him.

 

CONCLUSION

 

We have seen that Justification is an act of God through which He has removed our sins and credited us with the righteousness of Christ. This state of being right with God cannot be attained by good works, but is received by grace through a convinced faith in our Lord Jesus who died for us and rose again. This justification is available to everyone Jew or Gentile. It is available to you and me.

 

Have you received the Lord Jesus Christ by faith? Has he taken away your sin and clothed you with his righteousness? If not then trust him today. Look to him in faith and say “Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for taking my place and the punishment I deserve for my sin. Thank you that because of your death and resurrection, you can take away my sin and give me in its place your righteousness. I pray you will receive me as I come to you now. Forgive my sins and make me right with God for Jesus sake. Amen.”

 

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