Romans 4 – Abraham’s Faith (Bible study notes)

For video teaching click here:  Roman’s Bible study – week 6 – Abraham’s faith

  • Recap
  • Paul has shown us the condition of all mankind before the cross in chapters 1-3
  • We learned that the righteousness of God was revealed apart from the law – apart from any performance or self-effort on man’s part
    • And that it was only revealed through Jesus’ faith
  • We also learned in chapter 3 that ALL had sinned and fallen short of the glory of God
    • and that same ALL were justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption that is IN CHRIST
  • Romans 3:20 ended with For on the ground of obedience to Law no man living will be declared righteous before Him. Law simply brings a sure knowledge of sin.
    • Mankind (in chapters 1-3) was unable to become righteous through his own efforts, he was living under the bondage of sin and condemnation, with a sense of separation from God
    • But now…. tells us something changed;
    • But now…. throws mankind a life preserver of hope!

 

  • The Message Bible says of this “but now” v.21-24:  But in our time something new has been added. What Moses and the prophets witnessed to all those years has happened. The God-setting-things-right that we read about (In Old Testament Scriptures) has become Jesus-setting-things-right for us. And not only for us, but for everyone who believes in him (talking about Gentiles). For there is no difference between us and them in this……. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.
    • But in our time — Paul’s not talking about you and I
    • he’s talking about this transitional generation of Jews that lived on both sides of the Cross
    • the something new that has been added (being judged righteous through Jesus) was new for them
    • it has always been true for us who were born after the Cross

 

  • Romans 4 – intro

 

  • Now in Chapter 4, Paul introduces Abraham’s life to further show us that justification is by faith and not works.
    • In this chapter he makes it clear that it isn’t by anything we do that we were made righteous
    • It was through Jesus’ faith alone that God judged ALL mankind righteous at the cross.

 

  • Abraham justified by faith not works

 

Romans 4:1-5 (NKJV):  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,

 

  • Paul is asking these Jews… these sons of Abraham…  “so how do we fit what we know of Abraham, our first father in the faith, into this new way of looking at things?”
  • If Abraham, by what he did for God, got God to approve him, he could certainly have taken credit for it
  • When did God judge Abraham righteous?
    • Not when he left Ur of Chaldees, nor when he offered up Isaac as a sacrifice at Mt Moriah
    • God didn’t declare Abraham righteous because of his obedience
    • I love it in the Message translation…. the story we’re given is a God-story, not an Abraham-story.  Abraham entered into what God was doing for him, and that was the turning point.
  • He simply believed what God said about him and God judged him righteous
    • In essence Abraham simply said “Wow, thanks! I am who you say I am!”
    • The act of believing is that simple
  • In chapter 3 we read that ALL were justified by Jesus’ faith.
    • justified – means to be judged righteous
    • our being judged righteous wasn’t based on our faith — it was solely based on Jesus’ faith
  • But in order for us to experience it, believing is necessary.
    • v. 3 in the Mirror says: “Abraham believed what God believed about him and that concluded his righteousness.”
    • I love that!  Abraham simply believed what God believed about him
    • Believing is simply to believe (trust in) what God believes — what He knows to be true about you
    • It’s not when you decide to quit something, or pray more, give more, serve more, come to church more or any other act of trying to impress God  
    • It is just simply “Wow! Thanks! You said I’m justified, so I’m justified!”  “I’m righteous because you judged me righteous IN CHRIST at the Cross.”
  • The justified status was not given because anyone had gotten their hearts to a certain level of submission and worship or because they had “cleaned” themselves up.
    • ALL were justified while they were ungodly; while we were enemies of God (Romans 5:6,10)
      • ungodly is opposed to God; having no respect or honor for God
      • enemies is openly hostile; deep seated hatred; implies irreconcilable hostility proceeding out of a personal hatred bent on inflicting harm
    • That’s who the ALL were… both Jew and Gentile… ALL mankind (before the Cross)
    • It was in that state that we were judged righteous because of His love for us ALL (Rom 5:8)!!

 

  • David’s revelation
  1. 6-8: 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.”

 

  • Paul now quotes David’s words in Psalm 32
  • verse 6 says “just as David says” — David also knew and declared that righteousness is credited apart from works
    • He did not say the man who does not transgress, or the man who through obedience avoids sin is blessed.
    • He said “blessed is the man who’s weight of sin and guilt is removed, whose slate is wiped clean!  Who receives a receipt instead of an invoice for their sins.” (Mirror)
  • The word blessed, implies happy, enlarged, living in spiritual abundance, which brings blessings to the natural realm too; means to advance or make spiritual progress
  • David discovered, in God’s grace, that rightness with God only comes from God; it is all Him and none of our works.
    • David knew that his happiness was based upon the Lord’s goodness, not on his togetherness.
  • If you read the rest of this Psalm it talks about God’s heavy hand upon him so that he would turn to God and confess his sin asking for forgiveness
    • Remember this is Old Covenant — David lived before the Cross
    • Unlike David, we were born after the Cross and the Cross changed everything
    • We don’t have to live under the weight of sin and condemnation and then experience the joy of forgiveness each time like David did.
      • At the Cross Jesus took away the sin of the world; He was the single sacrifice for sin forever (Heb 10:12); He made us righteous, forgiven and free from the power of sin!
      • God’s heavy hand is not upon us because He doesn’t see sin when He looks at us, He sees us righteous and holy.
  • By understanding that I have been judged righteous at the Cross and not because of anything I’ve done, empowers me to live a happy, enlarged life in spiritual abundance which brings blessings to the natural realm too.
    • It causes me to advance and make spiritual progress…. because I’m no longer sin conscious, or weighed down by guilt and condemnation but rather see myself as God always has seen me.  
  • David was happy he was that the Lord was not keeping track of the sins he had committed.
    • Under the New Covenant Jesus Christ swallowed up the sins of all, and now, ALL manner of sin has been forgiven, and ALL have been made right with God.

 

  • Now Paul in the next few verses addresses the next most obvious question that would come up
    • What about the Gentiles; those who are not of Jewish decent, who are not born again (do not understand all are) and of the born again man, Jesus!
    • Is it just for those circumcised?

 

  • Circumcision a seal only

 

  1. 9-12: 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. 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.

 

  • When was Abraham declared righteous, before his circumcision or after his circumcision?
    • Most Jews in New Testament times were thoroughly convinced that circumcision was not only the unique mark that set them apart from all other men as God’s chosen people but was also the means by which they became acceptable to God.
    • Abraham was declared righteous at least 14 years before being circumcised.
    • v. 11 says that circumcision was the seal of the righteousness of faith he received while uncircumcised
  • The seal was not meant to be a distraction but rather a prophetic confirmation of righteousness by faith.
    • it was outward sign of an inward reality, of them being in fellowship with Father God.
    • So Abraham’s circumcision didn’t make him righteous, it only confirmed that he was righteous by being sealed in his flesh — a sign that he was part of the covenant family.
    • As for those born after him — circumcision was a response on their part to the declaration God made with Abraham.
      • they were already a part of the covenant by virtue of their birth in Abraham…. but there needed to be a response by them.  
      • So that the objective reality of their being a covenant partner becomes their subjective day to day experience.
      • same with all mankind…. we were justified at the Cross (objective reality) our belief in that makes it our subjective reality (experiencing the benefits daily)
  • Heir of the world

 

  1. 13-16: 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. 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.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

 

  • The promise was for ALL — not just the do gooders, the law keepers, the religious, or the church goers.
  • The law didn’t produce faith or righteousness it only brought about punishment because of failure to obey it all
    • but where there is no law there is no transgression — there is no breaking it.
    • the law system is bound to bring disappointment, regret and anger
    • no law = no contract to breach  
  • You can’t break what no longer exists
    • It no longer exists for the Jews — Col 2:14 – He nailed the law and it’s obligations to the Cross
    • It never was for the Gentiles (all who weren’t Jews) – Rom 2:14; Deut 4:4

 

  • Abraham’s name change

 

  1. 17-22:  (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.” 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. 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.”

 

  • God said to Abraham in Genesis 17 – “I have made you!”
    • Abraham’s identity, his name, was the echo of God’s faith and his bold confession in the face of contradiction to those words “I have made you a father of many nations”
    • He was childless — much less the father of many nations
  • God speaks His promises to men, always in the past tense because in His perspective, it has already taken place — as in ALL have been justified!
    • God lives in the eternal now — time doesn’t exist for Him
    • In God’s estimation it has already taken place and is already true of Abraham
    • At the Cross mankind’s name was changed from sinner, enemy, ungodly, etc to justified, righteous, holy, redeemed.
  • Abraham understood when God said, “I have made you a father, before Abraham had any children.
    • Abraham embraced it, and believed it even though the situation looked hopeless, physically.
    • He didn’t waver at the contradicting circumstances — the deadness of his body and Sarah’s womb
    • He just believed he was who God said he was
    • God said “NO LONGER shall your name be Abram”
      • No longer Abraham are you who you thought you were, or your family thought you were
      • You are who I say you are! — And He says the same thing to us
  • We need to believe we are who God says we are whether we feel like it or not, when we mess up, when we sin, when our body isn’t feeling healed, when our bank account isn’t saying prosperous, when everything in our life looks contrary to what God says about us
  • But before we can do that we have to know what He has said about us so we can agree with Him… that’s all confession means — to agree; to say the same thing — Amos 3:3 “how can two walk together unless they first agree”
  • If you’re going to walk with God victoriously, and not be led by your circumstances, you’re going to have to agree with God and say what He says regarding who you are!
  • So let’s look at what God says about us —

 

  • Romans 6:14 – You are not under the Law, but under grace.
  • Romans 8:9 – You are not in the flesh (Law), you are in the Spirit – (Life)!
  • Romans 8:2 – You are free from the law of sin and death
  • 1 Corinthians 1:5 – You are enriched by Him in all wisdom and knowledge.
  • 1 Corinthians 3:16 – You are the temple of God – Holy Spirit lives in you.  
  • 1 Corinthians 1:30 – You are righteous, holy and redeemed  
  • Col 2:10 — You are complete (perfect); the fullness of God dwells in you
  • Romans 5:17 – You have the gift of righteousness and reign in life
  • 1 Cor 2:16; Phil 2:5 – You have the mind of Christ
  • Romans 8:37 – You are more than a conqueror
  • Eph 2:5,6 — You are alive with Christ and co-seated with Him in heavenly places
  • Isaiah 54:14 – You are far from oppression, and fear does not come near me
  • 1 Jn 5:18 – You are born of God, and the evil one does not touch you
  • Eph 1:4; 1 Peter 1:16 – You are holy and without blame before Him in love
  • Phil 4:7 – You have the peace of God that passes all understanding
  • Romans 8:17 – You are a joint heir with Christ
  • Rev 12:11 – You are an overcomer
  • 1 Peter 2:9 – You are part of a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people
  • 2 Cor 5:21 – You are the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ
  • Romans 8:33; Col 3:12 – You are full of mercy, kindness, humility, and long-suffering
  • Col 2:7 – You are firmly rooted, built up, established in my faith and overflowing with gratitude
  • Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24 – You are healed
  • Rom 1:7; Eph 2:4; Col 3:12; 1 Thes 1:4 – You are loved by God
  • 2 Tim 1:7 – You don’t have a spirit of fear, but of love, power and a sound mind
  • Gal 2:20 – Christ lives in You
  • 1 Jn 4:17 – As He is so are You in this world!

 

  • That is only a portion of what God says about you!  
    • Study it for yourselves — find out who He says you are IN CHRIST
    • And then begin to declare who you are
    • My name is healed!  My name is dead to sin!  My name is righteous! My name is Who He is so am I!
  • Abraham’s hundred-year-old body and Sarah’s barren womb did not distract him in the least!
    • He knew that no contribution from their side could possibly assist God in fulfilling his promise!
    • No contribution on your part could possibly make you who God says you already are IN CHRIST!
  • Abraham didn’t waver
    • waver — This word implies a mental struggle.
    • let go of the mental struggle — repent — align your thoughts with God — think what He thinks about you and then say what He says!
  • While Abraham had every reason to doubt the promise, he did not hesitate for a moment but instead empowered by faith confidence, he continued to communicate God’s opinion.
    • His name was his confession
    • In the Hebrew language, “Abraham”was not a mere familiar sounding name, but a meaningful sentence, a confession of faith authority, against the odds.
    • He did not become embarrassed about his name; he did not change his name to “Abe” for short when there seemed to be no change in his circumstances.
    • Every time he introduced himself or someone called him by his name, it was a bold declaration and repetition of God’s promise, calling things that were not as though they were…. “Father of many nations”
    • Every time Sarah’s name was spoken, the promise was also spoken, “Mother of nations, kings shall come from you!”
  • He was fully persuaded
    • persuaded means to fully wear (as a garment)
    • Abraham’s belief and his confession (name) was his dress code — He fully wore the promise of God – He “put on” what God said about him
      • In Ephesians 4:24 we are told to “put on” the new man — created like God – righteous and holy
      • Col 3:10-11also tells us to put on the new man which is renewed in knowledge after the image of God……. (v. 11) where there is only Christ
      • “Putting on” is simply being persuaded about who I am IN CHRIST — of being aware of only Christ — of oneness in Him (Gal 2:20)
  • The Good News!
  1. 23-25: 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.

 

  • v. 23 is the good news of the Gospel — the recorded words “it was credited to him” were not written for his sake only!
    • Scripture was written with us in mind — with ALL gentiles who were outsiders of the covenant
  • His cross = our sins, his resurrection = our innocence!
    • His death brought closure to our fallen condition; his resurrection is proof of our redeemed righteousness.
    • The resurrection is the ultimate proof and trophy of righteousness by God’s faith.
    • The same ALL in chapter 3 that sinned and fell short of God’s glory are the same ALL that were justified
  • Hosea 6:2:  After two days, he will restore us to life, on the third day he will raise us up, and we will live in his presence.
    • In his resurrection on the third day, God co-quickened humankind and co-raised us together with him — Justified!

 

In Closing

  • For too long we’ve been thinking that we have to do something so that we can receive what God has done for us in Christ! — Thinking that our righteousness is based on what we do
    • “I’ve got to do this in order to be healed;” I’ve got to do this in order to prosper
      • Healing and prosperity are part of our salvation (sozo) – they belong to us because the Savior saved us – not because we do anything
    • or I’ve go to do this in order to please God — But what does please the Father?
  • Isaiah 53:10-11:  But the LORD was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand. 11 As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities.…
  • Col 1:19-22 For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through the blood of His cross 21Once you were alienated from God and were hostile in your minds because of your evil deeds. 22 But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy, unblemished, and blameless in His presence—
  • Gal 1:15-16: … it pleased the Father to reveal His Son in me
    • What pleases God is the finished work of Jesus resulting in ALL being reconciled to Him
    • The only thing you’ve got to do to please God is to believe that, what Jesus did was a finished, complete work and nothing else is required
    • Our righteousness is apart from works (from self efforts or performance – doing something)
  • All this talk about believing and faith like Abraham can get us quickly back into works mode
    • But our faith/believing is not our own… it’s the faith of Jesus NOT faith in Jesus
    • It’s His faith operating in us…just like His strength, His love, His obedience, His forgiveness, etc.
    • Even Abraham’s name change tells us it’s supernatural — not dependent on Abraham alone
      • One Hebrew letter was added to Abram to make Abraham — the letter “hei”
      • it is the 5th letter of the Hebrew aleph bet
      • Hei represents grace, goodness and favor; it speaks of light and revelation; it is also the wind or breath of Holy Spirit
      • it is the divine breath of God that was breathed into Adam releasing His life in Adam
      • adding “hei” to a noun (Abraham) empowers it to be fruitful or productive — it is the transforming power of the Spirit of Grace.
      • All of this was added to Abram when he finally became Abraham at the age of 99. God poured out on him… added to him... grace, goodness, favor, revelation, light and of course the transforming power of the Holy Spirit to be fruitful and productive.
      • Abram became Abraham – a man whose destiny was wrapped up in and made manifest through the work of God’s Spirit of Grace.
  • We also received a new identity IN CHRIST
    • Because of the indwelling Spirit of Grace, we are able to walk complete and whole, perfect and blameless before God…. in the completed, finished work of the Cross and Resurrection
    • The letter “hei” is all about GRACE…..the infusion of the very BREATH or LIFE of God within us.
  • Passion:  Jesus was handed over to be crucified for the forgiveness of our sins and was raised back to life to prove that he had made us right with God!
  • His resurrection reveals our complete, finished righteousness!

 

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