The Book of Romans
Justification by Faith Illustrated
Justification in both the Old Testament and the New Testament has always been by faith. No One has ever been justified by works or keeping the law. In the text we find two Old Testament characters, Abraham who was justified by faith before the Law and David, under the Law, sang of justification by faith. The text provides three important principles that illustrate that the spiritual experiences of Abraham and David was like that of the believer today.
I. Justified by Faith and not Works, Vs, 1-8
- V 1, Abraham our father shows the importance attached to Abraham because he was the beginning of the nation of Israel. Pertaining to the flesh, Abraham’s works according to the flesh did not produce boasting but produced shame and confusion. Abraham was a great man but he had nothing to boast of.
- V 3, Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. At the age of seventy-five God promised Abraham that he would be the father of a great nation. Genesis 12:2-3, And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. In Genesis 15:2 Abraham raised a question to God, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless. God confirmed His promise by assuring Abraham that his seed would be like the stars. Abraham simply took God’s Word at face value and believed what God had said. Abraham did the one thing that a man can do without doing anything, he believed God. Abraham believed in his heart that God had told the truth. Abraham faith was not an act, but an attitude. His heart was turned from himself to God and His promise. Faith was neither a praiseworthy act by Abraham, nor a change in character or nature in Abraham; he simply believed God would accomplish what He had promised. All the families of the earth would be blessed through Abraham.
- The words count, reckoned, and imputed mean to put to one’s account. When a man works, he earns a salary and the money is put to his account. Abraham did not work for his salvation; he simply trusted God’s Word. It was Jesus Christ who did the work on the cross, and the righteousness of Jesus was put on Abraham’s account.
- Vs 6-8, Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. Quoting from Psalm 32:1-2, one of David’s songs of confession of sin, Paul illustrates two important principles. 1) God forgives sins and imputes righteousness apart from works. 2) God does not impute our sins. In other words, once we are justified, our record contains Christ’s perfect righteousness and can never again contain our sins. Christians do sin, and these sins need to be forgiven if we are to have fellowship with God, but these sins are not held against us. God does keep a record of our good works, so that He might reward us when Jesus comes, but He is not keeping a record of our sins.
II. Justified by Grace and not the Law, Vs. 9-17
- V 11, And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised. Abraham was declared righteous some fourteen years before he was circumcised at the age of ninety-nine years old. Circumcision had nothing to do with Abraham’s justification. Circumcision as a sign was evidence that Abraham belonged to God and he believed God’s promises. Circumcision as a seal was a reminder to Abraham that God had given the promise and that God would keep His promise. Today the Holy Spirit seals believers. Ephesians 1:13, In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise. Believers also experience a spiritual circumcision of the heart. Colossians 2:11, In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Circumcision did not add to Abraham’s salvation, it merely provided evidences to Abraham’s salvation.
- V 13, For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. Abraham was also justified before the law was given. Abraham was justified because he believed God’s promises, not by obeying God’s law. Abraham was justified by God’s grace. Abraham did not earn or merit God’s grace he simply trusted God. Today, God justifies the unbeliever when they quit trusting in “good works” to earn salvation and trust in God’s promises. The law was not given to save people, but to show them that they need to be saved. V 15, Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression.
- V 16, Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all. The fact that Abraham was justified by grace and not the law proves that salvation is available to all. God’s promise is by faith, so that it may be guaranteed to all people who believe. If it were by keeping the law, no such guarantee would be possible.
III. Justified by Resurrection Power and not Human Effort, Vs. 18-25
- One reason God delayed in sending Abraham and Sarah a son was to permit all their natural strength to decline. It would seem impossible for a ninety-nine year man and an eighty-nine year old woman to have a child. From the reproductive point of view, both of them were dead. Abraham did not walk by sight but by faith. Abraham believed God’s promises. The application to salvation is that God must wait until the sinner is “dead” or not strong enough to do anything to please God for salvation. When Abraham admitted that he was “dead” then God’s power went to work in his body. It is when the lost sinner confesses that he is spiritually dead and unable to help himself that God can save him.
- V 25, Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. The gospel “is the power of God unto salvation because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Romans 1:16, For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. This means that the resurrection of Christ is the proof that God accepted the Son’s sacrifice, and that sinners can be justified without God violating His own law or contradicting His own nature. The Key to salvation is “if we believe.” V 24, But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead.
This story is told of Dr. Harry Ironside, who for eighteen years was pastor of the Moody Church in Chicago, while on vacation visiting a Sunday school class. “The teacher asked, “How were people saved in the Old Testament times?” After a pause one man replied, “By keeping the law.” That’s right,” said the teacher. But Dr. Ironside interrupted: “My Bible says that by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified.” The teacher was a bit embarrassed, so he said, “Well, does somebody else have an idea?’ Another student replied, “They were saved by bringing sacrifices to God.” “Yes, that’s right!” The teacher said, and tried to go on with the lesson. But Dr. Ironside interrupted, “My Bible says that the blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sin.” By this time the unprepared teacher was sure the visitor knew more about the Bible than he did, so he said, “Well you tell us how people were saved in the Old Testament!” And Dr. Ironside explained that they were saved by faith-the same way people are saved today!” (Wiersbe, 54)
The good news for the people of the world, all of whom are guilty before God because of their sins, is that God in His grace offered His Son as a sacrifice to pay the penalty of sin. Those who place their faith in Jesus Christ are counted as righteous and receive the gift of eternal life.
Wiersbe, Warren W., Be Right NT Commentary Romans. Colorado springs, Co: David C. Cook, 1977.
Created and Researched by Pastor Dennis Baker
Zion Baptist Church
3485 New Baumgartner Rd. - St. Louis, MO 63129 - Phone: 314-846-1867