Having sufficiently shown the condemnation of Jew and Gentile in chapters 1-3 and showing us the instrument of righteousness, that is faith, here in chapter 4 Paul primarily looks to Abraham, a major figure of the OT and patriarch to the faith, to prove that our right stating with God is by faith alone and not works or rituals.
So what do y’all know about Abraham?
Abraham was first known as Abram when he was called by God, at 75 years old, to leave home and go off to a faraway land that God promised to him. His full journey can be read in Genesis 12-25.
But for our purposes, we will only be focusing on 15-17. Chapter 15 is where God makes a covenant with Abram promising that he will have an heir and his heir be as numerous as the stars (Genesis 15:5) and Abram “believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
Why, of all the great saints of the OT, does Paul chiefly point to Abraham as an example of Sola Fide/Faith alone?
For starters, it says that Abram believed and was justified; so he is literally the best example for Paul to use.
However, Paul also points us to Abraham because the Jews held him up as the supreme example of a righteous man (John 8:39); the Pharisees thought that they could be “good enough” for God used Abraham and his work, as well as the other patriarchs of the OT, to try and support their works-righteousness narrative.
All this to say, Paul uses Abraham as a tactical spiritual gut punch to the Jew to teach them that salvation is by faith in God alone and not by any wages or works.
IE In the presence of God it is clearly seen that Abraham couldn’t do enough to gain anything from God.
Here, Paul quotes Genesis 15:6 one of the clearest statements in all of scripture about justification.
“counted” also translated ‘imputed’; meaning to take something that belongs to someone and credit to another’s account. It’s a one-sided transaction – Abraham did nothing to accumulate; God simply credited His own righteousness to him.
Why did God count Abraham as righteous?
Because Abraham believed.
Why is belief means by which God intervenes/works in our lives?
Belief is the means by which God works in our lives because belief is a full trust/reliance on God to do what He has promised. If one is still unbelieving then they are still relying on themselves and attempting to earn God’s blessing or their own salvation, and thus boasting in themselves and their own work and robbing God of His due glory.
Thus, Abraham believed, fully relied on God, to do as He said He would and God saw Him/counted Him as in right stating with Him.
We’ve talked a lot about this “gift of God’s grace” in our lives.
Let’s analyze the other side of that coin; what can we earn from God?
In our natural state we are in unbelief and relying on ourselves; therefore robbing God of His glory. And God is not one to share His glory with another. Thus we can earn, or store up, His anger/wrath for ourselves when we do rely on ourselves and not give Him the honor He is due.
I mention this because that’s what Paul is meaning here. If God could be appeased by our works for our salvation then He is just, but not gracious or merciful or loving; and then, is no more than another sinful human like us.
What is required for us to be righteous?
Belief in Him who justifies the ungodly.
The keen observer will see in this verse the restfulness of the believer and the working of God. “who justifies” it is God who makes us right with Him and we “[believe] in Him” that is we believe that it is He who is doing the work in us. We stop from out never-ending work in futility earning our right relationship with God and simply, comfortably rest in all that Christ has done for us; you need not do a thing for the good shepherd will not and never has lost one of His sheep, all who rest in Him rest comfortably and securely because it is *Him* who justifies.
So who’s David?
David was a shepherd-King of Israel in the OT. In this way, he was a type/shadow of the Christ, the great shepherd-king who shepherds His people to rest and salvation in Him and reigns over them the blessing of being made like Him in sanctification.
In what way is salvation a “blessing” as David and Paul put it?
For starters, we know God, we are forgiven by God, we have a true rest in Him, we delight in Him, we have a true lasting pleasure in Him.
Do y\’all know when David wrote this Psalm?
Paul is quoting Psalm 32:1-2 here. Along with Psalm 51, it is one of the confessional prayers of David after he slept with a married woman, Bethsheba, who bore David a son and conspired with his general to kill her husband who is also his best friend. David is a hope and example of the weak or backslid Christian; if anyone were more worthy of God’s wrath it would be David, BUT he received mercy none this less. (This story is in 2 Sam. 11-12).
This Psalm has been classified by the early church as one of the 7 penitential Psalms (Ps. 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 142)
Here, David teaches us the lesson of remembering the result of sin, confession, and forgiveness.
Look at 7 and 8, how does David describe the “blessed” man in each verse?
4:7 the blessed man is one who’s lawless deeds and sins are forgiven; almost like the due wrath and anger toward those sins are satisfied. IE propitiation.
4:8 the blessed man is the one who the Lord will not count/see his sin against God; almost like that sin is wiped away. IE expiation.
And how did David know this blessed forgiveness?
Very simply, he was forgiven; he experienced this great blessing firsthand.
So both Abraham and David were forgiven and righteous before God. How did this happen for them?
Very simple as well. Belief is trusting absolutely on God. God promised that there would be a messiah to come to bring all of God’s people to right standing with Him. Both Abraham and David trusted God’s promise in this and were, like us, justified by Christ’s work that was finished on the cross.
IE Abraham and David looked forward to their justification and we look back to it.
Here, Paul is stating that Scripture says Abraham was justified prior to his fulfillment of rituals; thus he was justified by faith and not rituals/works.
Let me take the essence of what Paul says here and rephrase it: Why, if we are saved by faith in Christ alone do we need the sacraments: baptism, eucharist, marriage?
They, like circumcision to the Jew, are signs of inward workings of God. They are there to confirm our faith but they themselves aren’t the faith.
In this case, the sign was an indicator of man’s need for spiritual, or inward, cleansing. and the seal is an outward demonstration of the righteousness God had given to him by faith.
What do y’all think Paul is saying here?
Paul is saying that we are Abraham’s legacy because we walk in the same faith that he walked in.
This has many implications but I will draw out just one of them for now.
Given that Abraham is our forefather in the faith and walked in the way we now walk we can learn about our faith and how we should live by looking to Abraham.
Moreover, because Abraham is our forefather when we walk well/walk tall we not only honor the Triune God but also Abraham and David and all the other forefathers as well. Just something to think about next time you\’re feeling like you’re walking in a low valley.
We will get to discuss what we can learn from Abraham and his faith in a moment.
IE Abraham isn’t justified by rite nor by keeping the law
IE If the promises of God aren’t given by faith but are earned via adherents to the law then it\’s based on works and wages and thus faith is rather pointless.
Moreover, if only those who perfectly keep the law, an impossibility, receive the promise than faith has no value because the promise is based on an impossibility thus nullifying the promise.
It is those with the same faith/belief as Abraham that are his true children.
The law shows us our sin. See chapter 2.
“guaranteed” How sure or unsure of your salvation? Please explain your answer.
[Let them answer. Ask follow up questions.]
What would you say to someone who was unsure of their salvation? What comfort, rebuke, reassurance would you bring them?
Here are just a few verses for your consideration:
“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds, we are healed”-Isaiah 53:5
\”I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”-Ezekiel 36:26
“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God- children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”-John 1:12-13
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life”-John 3:16
“In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who workout everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.”-Ephesians 1:11-12
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”-1 Peter 2:9
Tell me what exactly happened in your conversion?
As Paul put it\’s here, God gave life to you, the dead, and called into existence something that was nothing; IE spiritual life in you/faith.
Abraham experienced this when God gave him and his wife, Sarah who was 90 years old, a baby boy. God, in His power, called something, a baby, into existence that couldn’t have been there before His intervention.
“In hope he believed against hope…”
Let me ask y\’all this: Is faith blind? Why or why not?
No. Faith is not a blind leap. Faith is the most reasonable thing in this world. Let me explain:
If God is all that He says He is: Good, true, and just and it is impossible for God to lie (Hebrew 6:18) then trusting and then doing whatever God says to do is the most secure and trustworthy thing you could do.
Everyone you will ever speak to is capable of lying to you; God can not lie for it is against His very nature. Thus to act on His sure word is wise, reasonable and trustworthy.
With this said, what does it mean when Paul says “In hope he believed against hope”?
IE Paul is saying that Abraham believed God and His promises because God is faithful to Himself and will fulfill His promises despite all physical evidence to the contrary; that is Abraham and Sara’s age.
How do we ensure that our faith, like Abraham’s, doesn’t grow weak in testing?
A small, yet constant, drop of water can split even the strongest rocks; particularly in the winter when the water freezes.
Our faith is weakened when we begin to trust in/act on our own doubts rather than what God has said in His word.
The purpose of doubt in the faith is this: to strengthen your faith.
To continue our illusion of the water and the rock: To counter water of doubt we must remain in the warm, bright light of the Lord’s radiant love toward His children.
Keeping His love ever-present in your mind will quickly evaporate whatever water of doubt there may be in your mind and shall prevent any cold winter trails from taking hold of you and breaking you as well. The Lord’s great and eternal love for you is the cure for doubt.
So not only did Abraham not grow weak (negative) he also “grow strong in his faith”. What does that mean?
We remained true to God regardless of circumstances.
He actively chose to trust God over himself daily; thus we wish to grow strong in our faith we must do so as well; actively choosing to trust God and His promises to us daily.
“fully convinced” How does one become fully convinced of something?
They experience it. Thus, the more we experience God, and His love for us individually, in the midst of temptation and trail the more convinced of Him and His promises we’ll be.
IE He had genuine faith and thus it was indeed counted as righteous to him
For whom was the story of Abraham recorded?
For us as well as him.
All of scripture as an application to us and our lives. Abraham’s experience is no exception.
I don’t know what yall\’s experience with reading your bible has been thus far but all of this is for your benefit. Keep reading, and asking great questions because that’s what this was written for. It was written for you to grow up in God and delight in Him forever.
[Notice the connection that Paul is making with the “raised from the dead Jesus” and the God in whom Abraham believed, who gives life to the dead…” (4:17)]
“because of our justification”, the resurrection provided proof that God had accepted the sacrifice of His Son and would be able to be just and yet justify the ungodly through faith in Him.