March 6, 2011
Romans Chapter 4
3:21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;
Acts 16:21 And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans.
The Jews accused Paul and Silas of teaching unlawful things; that is, things contrary to the Jewish customs of the day.
So throughout Romans, Paul continually points out to the Jews that the doctrine he is teaching is not new, but had already been clearly taught in the Old Testament. The New Testament was new in the sense that this new covenant was put into effect and sealed with the blood of Christ.
I noticed that the preachers who draw a crowd use many homey illustrations to hold the attention of their hearers. Paul uses Old Testament illustrations. My favorite illustrations are also from the Old Testament.
In chapter 3, he used Old Testament illustrations to show that the law would not nor could not make one righteous before God.
Now Paul uses the most two of the most famous men of the Old Testament to make his point that justification comes not from the law but from faith. He uses Abraham and David to show that man has no part in obtaining God's righteousness. Everything comes from God.
Abraham is mentioned first. Abraham was greatly reverenced as the father of the Jewish nation, though he was not a Jew, nor was he even an Israelite. The name Israel was given to Abraham's grandson, Jacob. The term Jew was not used for Israel until 2 Kings 16:6, when Rezin, king of Syria, drave the Jews from Elath... Rezin reign ended about 731 BC.
However, Israel as a nation, and the Jews as a race ceased to exist in 70 AD.
Paul has already made the point that the Jews of his day were proud to be the descendants of Abraham. Though they considered Moses' law too difficult for them, They were confident that God would at least bless them because they were descendants of Abraham.
John 8:31 ¶ Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; 32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. 33 They answered him, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free? 34 Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. 35 And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. 36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. 37 I know that ye are Abraham's seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you.
Abraham had the promise of Genesis 12:1-4, which was confirmed and expanded on throughout Genesis, and they considered themselves to be the legitimate heirs to that promise through Jacob-Israel, simply because they were circumcised.
Observe: Ussher places Abraham's birth 1976 BC to 1801 BC. The Jews claim heirship to Abraham through Isaac and then Jacob. The followers of Mohammad claim heirship to Abraham through Abraham's first born, Ishmael. Paul claim heirship to Abraham through faith. That is, Christ is the total and complete fulfillment of the covenant God made with Abraham in Genesis 12, and throughout Genesis.
The problem: Many Christians reject Paul's words that heirship to Abraham is through faith in Christ, saying that the modern Jews are the legitimate heirs to the covenant.
Galatians 3:29 And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.
But when the truth of Paul's words are taught in the average Christian Church today, the speaker is treated as was Paul and Silas:
Acts 16:21 And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans.
In the first place, a man is not invited to speak if it is suspected he will not teach the accepted customs concerning the "Jews". Then the speaker is not invited back if he does not teach the prevailing custom concerning the "Jews".
Genesis 12:2 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: 3 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.
The prevailing custom says that "I will bless them that bless thee" means that God will bless those who bless the modern Jewish nation, and provide funds for them to kill their neighbors. In other words, many Christians have bought the lie that the modern "Jew" is somehow a continuation of the Jews of Christ's and Paul's day.
In doing so, they have cut themselves off from the truth that they are the true heirs to the promised blessings in Christ.
Their mistaken theology concerning the modern Jews leaves them open to the claims of the Mohammadins who also claim heirship to Abraham through their race. The Mohammadins are enforcing their claim with the sword, while the mistaken Christians are denying the Mohammadins' claim through Ishmael while saying that the true heirs are the modern Jews.
Note, therefore, that they reject one claim as false, which it is, as they tenaciously claim to another false claim when they accept the customary teaching that started in the early 1800s.
However, Paul destroys both physical claims. Neither the modern Jews nor the Mohammadins. Have any claim on Abraham promise of justification by faith.
They expect the Lord to prosper their false claim while suppressing the other false claim. The Lord seems to be cursing the Christian false claim by exalting the Muslim false claim.
V. 3, Paul could not make a stronger case; the claim on the Abrahamic covenate is by faith, not by any works Abraham did, nor by any works that any man since Abraham can do.
In other words, the misguided Christians of our day who believe the Old Testament Jews or the modern followers of the Jew's religion have any physical claim on Abraham's covenant have no grounds to condemn the Mohammadins for their physical claim on Abraham. They are both false claims.
Added note. We cannot even imagine that the rise of Mohammad and his followers caught God by surprise, for the Lord alone raiseth up the poor out of the dust. Psalms 113:7. Why has God exalted Mohammadism? Is it in judgment against Christian support of a murderous pagan nation, Israel? Only he knows that answer.
Vv. 1-3, the Jews were confident that being of the literal seed of Abraham, they had special privileges with God, though they ignored the requirements of Moses. However, they were confident that by following the customs delivered to them by the fathers, they would be in paradise.
Paul makes it clear that their idea was totally false, and would lead to everlasting destruction. Paul's words are just as real today as they were then. We are not blessed because our ancestors were blessed. Any blessing they had was because of their relationship to God through faith in Christ.
Our nation was blessed at one time because it was a genuine Christian nation that promoted the Christian faith. We mistook that "Christian" blessing as a blessing for hard work, and turned our back on the Christian faith. The blessing has pretty much run its course now, and that blessing has turned into a curse.
Abraham was not justified by his works, or he would have had something to boast about. Rather, he was justified by his obedient faith.
Hebrews 11:8-16 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. 9 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: 10 For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. 11 Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable. 13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14 For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. 15 And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. 16 But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.
It is anti-Christian to think of faith as some kind of mystical feeling or attitude. It is something that makes us take action, just as sure as Abraham took the action his faith called for. He left the security of his home in obedience to his faith in the word of God as revealed to him.
We might mention that archeology has shown that Ur of the Chaldees, from where Abraham left, was a very modern city. It had hot and cold running water, as well as many other things we consider modern conveniences. He left those conveniences for a life of living in tents, not know where he was going.
V. 3, Abraham believed God... The object of faith is not man, but the clear word of God. In Genesis chapters 15, 22 and 26, God promised Abraham that his heirs would be as the multitude of the stars of the heaven. It seemed impossible in chapter 15, for Abraham had no children, and it was humanly impossible for his wife to have children at her age.
But Abraham believed God would do what he said he would do, and God did it with no help from Abraham. Both his body and his wife's body were dead as far as having children. It was impossible for Abraham to help God fulfill his promise. He had to believe God, and God alone was glorified.
Vv. 5-8. Again, Paul reaches into the Old Testament to illustrate his point. David's 32nd Psalm is quoted as his proof text. So let us examine that Psalm:
Romans 4:6 Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, 7 Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. 8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.
Psalms 32:1 ¶ «A Psalm of David, Maschil.» Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. 2 Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile. 3 When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long.4 For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah. 5 I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah. 6 For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found: surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him. 7 ¶ Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Selah. 8 I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye. 9 Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee. 10 Many sorrows shall be to the wicked: but he that trusteth in the LORD, mercy shall compass him about. 11 Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart.
This Psalm probably follows the 51st, where David repented of and confessed his great sin. This Psalm expresses the great peace of sins forgiven, and renewed fellowship with God.
Psalms 51:13 Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.
Psalms 32 seems to be the fulfillment of David's words in 51:13.
David's mark of true repentance was that when he taught others to sin by his actions, he then teaches others how to repent of his sin after he finds forgiveness.
We have found forgiveness. Our goal now should be to help others find the peace with God that we have found.
The woman at the well used her repentace to draw others to Christ. Paul also recalled his terrible sins and repentance as he called others to repentance.
Martin Luther, when pressed for his favorite Psalm said,
"The 32nd, the 51st, the 130th, and the 143rd. For they all teach that the forgiveness of our sins comes, without the law and without works, to the man who believes, and therefore I call them Pauline Psalms; and David sings, There is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared,' this is just what Paul says, God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.' #Ro 11:32. Thus no man may boast of his own righteousness. That word, That thou mayest be feared,' dusts away all merit, and teaches us to uncover our heads before God, and confess gratia est, non meritum: remissio, non satisfactio; it is mere forgiveness, not merit at all."
Psalms 32 does indeed teach transgressors the ways of the Lord. The purpose of this Psalm is to instruct the convicted soul how to find peace with God.
The title, Maschil, means this is a Psalm of instruction. David here instructs us in the nature of true blessedness, and how to obtain that blessedness and happiness or joy.
This Psalm tells us that happiness or joy consists in the favour of God, not from keeping the law, not in wealth, power, physical beauty, honour, good health, nor even in favorablel circumstances.
True happiness or joy come from spiritual blessings, not from material blessings of this world.
David opens his sermon as Christ opened his Sermon on the Mount, blessed. God's blessings come from genuine repentance, confession and forgiveness of sin, followed by a clear conscience before God.
Paul said this to Timothy:
1 Timothy 1:18 ¶ This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare; 19 Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck:
2 Corinthians 10:4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)
In other words, one of our most effective weapons given us in our warfare is a good conscience, without which we will become a shipwreck.
Paul, in Romans 4:6-8, and David in Psalms 32 give us instructions how to carry on the Christian warfare by having a good conscience.
David then gives warning against trying to ignore or cover over our sin. Rather than God's blessing, the unpardoned sin results in all kinds of difficulties. The guilty conscience saps physical and spiritual strength. It results in all kinds of restlessness as well as physical ailments.
V. 2, no guil rather than no guilt. Guil means deceitful, false or slothful. In other words, the sinner's repentance and prayers are sincere. He does not repent in order to sin agin. Those who truly and honestly repent, "Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!" John 1:47.
V. 4, when David tried to ignore the sin, the hand of divine wrather was heavy upon his soul, and his anguish of spirit affected his whole body.
V. 5, confession and forsaking of sin results in forgiveness, and in the separation of sin from the sinner.
God is more ready to pardon sin upon our repentance, than we are ready to repent.
Blessed or true happiness and joy comes from knowing our sins are pardoned through Gods' mercy, and knowing we have true fellowship with the Father through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Blessedness is not for the diligent law keeper, but for the lawbreaker who had experienced the richness of God's grace in forgiveness. Unspeakable joy comes from knowing our sins are forgiven, and we are right with God according to his word.
Peace and joy can only come through the shed blood of Christ:
Colossians 1:20 And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.
V. 7, thou shalt preserve me from trouble.
When God pardons our sins, he does not leave us on our own. If he does not keep us, we would soon revert, and a dog returns to his vomit, or the hog to her mire.
Rather, his Spirit of Grace dwells within. God keeps his people from trouble by keeping them from sin.
Songs of deliverance... As a forgiven sinner, every where I look, I see occasion to rejoice and praise God.
V. 8 has two views.
1) David as a preacher. He has been forgiven, and now his goal is to help others find the same forgiveness and joy he has found.
(h) David promises to make the rest of God's children partakers of the benefits which he felt, and that he will diligently look and take care to direct them in the way of salvation.
2) Forgiveness and honesty, no guile, before God results in being easily instructed by the Spirit and easily led by the Spirit of God. The word of God instructs and teachers us his ways, and the Spirit prompts us to walk in his way.
Isaiah 30:21 And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.
My experience has been that conviction of sin leads to repentance and confession. The result is that I have been extra sensitive to that sin from then on.
V. 9 could be to the saint or to the sinner. The term used to hear is "mule headed".
no understanding... The horse and mule act according to their animal instincts, and need to be forcefully led in obedience or in safety to the individual.
God tells us to use the understanding he has given to us, and act accordingly. Paul told the Jews the same thing in Romans 1, ending with, so that they are without excuse.
But not only cannot sinners see the end result of their sins, but neither can many Christians, so they continue on to their own destruction.
We have known a widow lady in PA for some years. In fact, her two girls came down to Front Royal and spend a few days with Bettie for instruction in sewing.
The lady has a 15 year old son. She absolutely refuses to give the boy any freedom, continuing to treat him like a 9 or 10 year old. Everyone has warned her, even from Scripture, that what she is doing will lead the boy to total rebellion when he reaches 18 if she does not let him develop into a man. The sad thing is that she will readily admit that her actions will result in his rebellion, yet she is unable to do anything about it. So she continues to "sit on him", even though she admits what the results will be.
She is continuing on in her actions, though she understands that she is destroying her son.
Many sorrows shall be to the wicked... Unrepented of sin has many sorrows. Ignoring Godly instruction has many sorrows.
James 4:17 Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.
Mercy... Psalms 130 fits here.
Psalms 32: ... he that trusteth in the LORD, mercy shall compass him about. 11 Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart.
Those who have blessed by sins forgiven should respond by infecting others with the blessedness we have found.
March 13, 2011
Vv. 9 through the end of the chapter seems to be the end of Paul's introduction to the strong doctrine he is going to present in the rest of this letter.
He has been showing from the law and the prophets that God is no respecter of persons. Both Jews and Gentiles are natural born sinners, lost in their sins. Though the" Jews had the special place before God as the recipients of the law and were proud of their special place with God because of the law, the law and their customs could not save them.
The Gentilesthough they had not the law, they had the law of nature not only written in their nature, but in all the natural world around them. So they were without excuse.
Paul is writing to the saints at Rome. The tone of the book shows us that though they had been converted, but their past upbringing influenced them to cling to the Jewish customs and notions about God, and their special place in God's plan. They were also being greatly troubled by the Judaizers, who taught that they must continue in the Jewish customs.
Part of that custom was that in order for a non-Jew to be saved, he had to convert to Judiasm, and be circumcised. The contention over that question was so great that it had to be taken to the head church at Jerusalem, Acts 21:19ff
Also note that the Jews of our day have absolutely no connection with the Jews of Paul's day. In Paul's day, Judaism was a physical heritage. Today it is no more than a religion picked up by a group of people some years ago. They realized the great advantage they could gain over the church and nations by claiming to be the same as the Old Testament Jews.
In these first 4 chapters, Paul is proving that though the Jews were indeed a special called out people of God, they had no special claim on the blessedness of God.
V. 8, blessed, or happy, recipient of God's pleasure is the man...
Paul quoted David to show that the blessedness consisted of peace with the Father through confession of sin, and the resulting imputed righteousness apart from the law. And that righteousness was the result of faith.
Then in v. 9, commeth this blessedness on the Jews only, or is it available to all men? Again, the Jewish mind held that the blessings of God were unique to the Israelites who were circumcised. Yet they did not believe all the seed of Abraham were blessed, for they did not hold this for Ishmeal and Esau, nor the many son's of Abraham after the death of Sarah.
Paul reaches back to the original command to Abraham to circumcise all the males in his household, even those bought with money, and to continue that practice throughout time, Genesis 17.
Let me give a very short history lesson here to help put a time table on Paul's words to the Jews who trusted in Abraham and in Moses.
There are several kinds of covenants, or agreements, but we will only look at the one Paul deals with; that is, between God and Abraham.
Obviously, any lasting covenant between God and sinful man must be one sided on God's part. All the God-man covenants point to Christ, who was given for a covenant. Isaiah 42:6, 49:8.
Ephesians 2:12 That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: 13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. 14 ¶ For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; 15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; 16 And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: 17 And came and preached peace to you which were afar off and to them that were nigh. 18 For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. 19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; 21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: 22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.
1921 BC. Genesis 12 gives us the first covenant with Abraham. Abraham was probably 75 years old at this time when, by faith, he left Haran not knowing to where he was going. A famine caused Abram to go down into Egypt, where he lies about his wife.
The next year, 1920, Genesis 13, Abram leaves Egypt. Then he parts with his nephew, Lot, and Lot goes to Sodom.
Ten years after they left Haran, 1911, there was still no son, so Sarai gave Abram her servant Hagar to wife.
The next year, 1910, when Abraham was 86 years old when Hagar bore a son, and named him Ishmael.
12 years later, 1897, at 99 years old God promised Abraham a son to be born about a year later. He also changed Abram's name to Abraham, and Sarai's name to Sarah. God gave Abraham the sign of circumcision as a pledge that God's word was true.
At the age of 99, Abraham and all of his household, even those purchased with money, were circumcised. Ishmeal was 13 at this time.
During the next year, between 1897 and 1896, the angels visited Abraham and again gave the promise of the birth of Isaacthis time for Sarah's sake. They also informed Abraham that they were going to destroy Sodom. Abraham pleads for Sodom for his nephew's sake.
Abraham goes to a place later called Beersheba, where he lies about his 90 year old wife, telling Abimelech that she is his sister. Abimeleck seeks to take Sarah as his wife. But being warned in a dream, he quickly restores here to Abraham.
Also during this time, 1897 to 1891, Sodom and Gomorrah, and 3 other cities of the planes are destroyed. There location is the Dead Sea of our day.
Five years later, 1896 BC the promised son Isaac is born.
And then five years later, 1891, at the age of 5, Isaac is weaned. At the great feast, Sarah saw Ishmael mocking Isaac.
Ishmael, now probably 18 years old, and his mother were sent away. Hagar was promised God's blessings upon her son because he also was a son of Abraham.
Finally, it was now about 30 years after Abraham left Haran. Abraham's departure from Haran started the 430 year countdown of when his desendents would be led by Moses out of Egypt . The 400 year prophesied persecution of Israel started with the persecution of Isaac by Ishmael, and ended with the Exodus from Egypt.
(Ussher, The Third Age of the World.)
Enough history, but this gives the time line into which Romans 4 fits. Romans 4:9ff.
Abraham's house, which included hundreds of servants, was chosen as God's peculiar people. To separate Abraham's household from the rest of the world, circumcision was commanded.
Over the years, circumcision became the source of a false hope of paradise and of great pride, for it was to mark the chosen people of God.
Paul is pointing out to the Jews who were proud of their circumcision that circumcision does not bring blessednessjoy nor happiness. Paul used David to prove that blessedness is the result of the righteousness of faith, which is the result of confession and the remission of sins through faith.
James 4:1 From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?
Clearly, man's war against God results in his war against himself and with others. Vv. 9-12
Paul encourages the Gentiles and undercuts Jewish pride when he points out that it was Abraham's faith that was counted for righteous many years before his circumcision.
Circumcision, uncircumcision. The wording can become confusing, so let me just give the sum:
(Please see Romans #10 for a better understanding of 4:3, where we revisit v. 3 in introducing vv. 17ff.)
Though v. 3 is quoted from the promise of a child in Genesis 15:6 I believe that based upon
James 2:18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
we can apply v. 3 to Abraham's leaving Haran with no harm to v. 3. He left with the faith that God would supply and direct him to where God wanted him.
First, Abraham's faith motivated his action.
We see, therefore, that faith motivates action
Second, it was Abraham's active faith that he had 25 years before he was circumcised that brought God's blessedness upon him..
Third, Paul proves that righteousness or blessedness is not based upon circumcision, but upon the same active faith Abraham had. He quoted David to prove he is not presenting any new doctrine, but one well-established in the Old Testament.
In other words, don't tell me about your faith; show me. It is the dooers of the work who is blessed, James 1:19ff.
Fourth, the conclusion, therefore, is that blessedness is not conditioned upon keeping the law, nor works of any kind, nor upon circumcision that is, on being a Jew or decendent of Abraham, as was believed in Paul's day.
Fifth, blessedness, that is, forgiveness of sin and righteousness, results in active faith. Therefore, it is available to all through Christ, regardless of their status concerning circumcision.
James 1:22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.
Sixth, the innumerable seed promised to Abraham is identified as both those who were the physical descendants and those who have the faith of Abraham. God's promise to him said that he would be the father of many nations, and that his seed would number as the stars of heaven, and as the sand of the sea.
Seventh, v. 11, circumcision was a seal of the righteous of the faith which Abraham already had, though being uncircumcised. It was Abraham's circumcision that was a seal of the his faith that he already had. Circumcision of the flesh could not have been a seal of the faith of the rest of his household, for there were many circumcised whether or not they wanted to be. If this is not so, then what about Ishmael, whose actions proved he was faithless.
It was simply a sign of a faith Abraham already had. In other words, circumcision had no mystical value, any more than baptism has a mystical value today.
Human wisdom wishes to connect circumcision and baptism, but that is done with no scriptural support whatsoever. The connection is this is the way that seems right to me.
After Abraham, circumcision was neither a sign of faith nor a guarantee of acceptance into God's chosen people. Though circumcised, neither Ishmeal nor Esau were members of the chosen people. Moreover, Esau was hated by God. Romans 9:13
In addition, Abraham had many more sons by Keturah and his concubines, plural. Genesis 25. Obviously, they were all circumcised, but were not counted as part of the chosen people through Abraham.
Vv. 11, 12, Abraham is the father of all them that believe, whether circumcised or not.
The total argument by Paul here is that it is faith that counts one as a member of the covenant people, or Abraham's seed. It was and is not one's family heritage, social standing, feelings, nor even physical circumcision nor baptism, as many falsely claim today.
Of course, the padobaptist cling to circumcision being changed to baptism, which makes their infants heirs to the covenant of grace. Some even go as far as to believe in "presumptive regeneration"; that is, the baptized child is presumed to be regenerated unless the child shows differently.
But they fail to recognize the fact of Ishmeal, the children of Kertura and of Abraham's concubines, as well as Esau, who were all circumcised. Yet none were part of the covenant people.
Genesis 17:8 And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.
The promise here concerned his physical seed. They forfeited the land of Canaan because of their sin, and the Lord gave it back to the heathen; first to Assyria, and then to Babylon. The Lord had given it to Rome by the time of Christ.
V. 13, heir to the world is fulfilled in Matthew 5, the meek shall inherit the earth, and in 28:19. 20 where his people are told to convert the world to Christ.
Genesis 12:3 In thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.
V. 13, Paul continues to destroy the false hopes which the Jews had in Moses and in the Jewish father's traditions.
The promise to Abraham was that his seed would be heir to the world hundreds of years before Moses gave the law, so the promise could not be based upon the law.
V. 13, heirship can only be through Christ. That heirship is through the righteousness of faith, not by the law of circumcision. Abraham received the promise hundreds of years before Moses gave the law.
The heirship to Canaan was also based upon the active faith of Abraham. When that was active, obedient faith was lost, so was the land.
V. 15, continues Paul's destruction of all hope in the law, Paul points out that the law can only point out sin to the sinner, making him more aware of his rebellion and sin against God.
Observe: Where no law is, there is no transgression is the reason people seek out preachers who will not preach the law. They do not want their sin exposed before others and to themselves. forcing them to deal with that sin.
V. 16, blessedness based upon grace through faith opens the door to all who will believe, making all who believe sons of Abraham. But if heirship was by the law, faith is useless.
But no matter how you understand law, heirship to Abraham's promises was based upon the faith of Abraham, which resulted in action.
Everything is strongly linked with God who is the Object of the faith and the One who shows grace. To Abraham, God was personally present. Abraham believed Him, trusted Him and knew He could work where, as a man, he was powerless. To Abraham, God could raise the dead, just as He could create out of nothing. Look at creation! Psalms 33:9 says, "For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast." By believing in this way, Abraham was made by God "a father of many nations." Similarly to when Abraham believed God's words, you who know God in your life may hold Him to the promises He has given you in His Word. (M.G. de Koning)
March 27, 2011
The Absolute Certainty of Faith
In order to better develop vv. 17ff, let us look again at 4:3 Abraham believed God. Paul's quotes from,
Genesis 15:1 ¶ After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward. 2 ¶ And Abram said, Lord GOD, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus? 3 And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir. 4 And, behold, the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir. 5 And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. 6 And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.
God called Abraham out of his tent at night to have him look at the sky. There he could see countless stars. Then God said to him, "So shall your descendants be." Abraham believed what God said. He was about 100 years old at the time and Sarah was ten years younger. Abraham not blind to the fact that both he and Sarah were too old to have a child, yet he believed that God could and would do as he promised.
Romans 4:19 And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara's womb:
Thus we see that it was Abraham's faith that justified him as a believer, not his works. However, his faith resulted in works. His faith resulted in his obedience to God's revealed word.
Justification by works means that God is a debtor to those who work, and only the "workers" could be justified.
God does not pronounce the unholy to be holy ; he simply declares that the demands of justice have been satisfied in behalf of those who have no righteousness of their own. God, through Christ, declares that justice is satisfied in Christ's punishment. Man's moral character is not the grounds of God's declaration. But man's moral character is changed as a result of justification by faith. He becomes a new creation in Christ.
V. 3, Abraham believed God... The object of faith is not man, but the clear word of God. In Genesis chapters 15, 22 and 26, God promised Abraham that his heirs would be as the multitude of the stars of the heaven. It seemed impossible in chapter 15, for Abraham had no children, and it was humanly impossible for them to have children at their age.
First, if the greatest and best men of the old dispensation had to completely renounce dependence upon their works, and accept the favor of God as a free gift, then justification by works must be impossible for all men. Romans 4:2, 3.
Second, no man can glory or rejoice in his own goodness in the sight of God. V. 2
Third, works and free or sovereign grace can never be united. If of works, justification cannot be of grace. If of grace, it cannot be of works. The two cannot mix any more than fire and water can mix.
Fourth, justification of the ungodly cannot be of their own merit, but must be by imputation of another's righteousness.
Any self-righteous spirit must be renounced before the gospel can be accepted.
Fifth, vv. 9-11, the blessings of forgiveness of sin and the method of justification is suited for all men regardless of sectarian differences or ceremonial observances.
Sixth, v. 10, religious ceremonies of any kind become ruinous when they are turned into any ground of confidence. Paul assures the Jews that circumcision will not produce righteousness. He assures us today that neither baptism nor any other religious ritual can lead to nor produce regeneration.
Vv. 9-12, Nothing is more natural, and nothing is more common in the Christian church than the corruption of the means of free grace. Grace has been connected with circumcision, baptism, the Lord's supper, prayer, fasting, &c. But those connections result in the destruction of those who place their trust in those rituals.
Note: Do we depend on prayer, or is our praying a dependance on the free grace and mercy of God? If we depend on prayer in order to be right with God, are we any better than those who depend on circumcision or baptism? Are our prayers a good work from which we expect God's blessings?
Or are our prayers an exercise in faith that God hears and answers prayer?
Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
The Lord needs to search us and know our hearts:
Psalms 139:23 Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: 24 And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Seventh, vv. 11, 12, since Abraham is the father of all believers, then all believers are brethren, regardless of nationality or station in life.
Eighth, v. 13, the seed of Abraham are the true believers, and with Jesus Christ as their head, they are true heirs to the world.
Daniel 7:18 But the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever. 19 Then I would know the truth of the fourth beast, which was diverse from all the others, exceeding dreadful, whose teeth were of iron, and his nails of brass; which devoured, brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with his feet; 20 And of the ten horns that were in his head, and of the other which came up, and before whom three fell; even of that horn that had eyes, and a mouth that spake very great things, whose look was more stout than his fellows. 21 I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; 22 Until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom. 23 Thus he said, The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces. 24 And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise: and another shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings. 25 And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time. 26 But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end. 27 And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him. 28 Hitherto is the end of the matter. As for me Daniel, my cogitations much troubled me, and my countenance changed in me: but I kept the matter in my heart.
Ninth, v. 15, the law which condemns cannot justify. Paul has told us that the natural man knows that the law cannot justify. So the sinner's answer is to dismiss the law, so he can justify his evil deeds.
Tenth, v. 16, nothing is sure for the sinner except that which is freely given by God's grace. Promises based on conditions can never be sure, for obedience is not man's strong point.
Eleventh, v. 16, the freeness of the gospel makes it available to all ages and nations.
Twelfth, v. 17. the proper object of faith is the diving promise of God. He alone is able to determine and accomplish his word.
All things are known to God alone and are subject to him, and it is he who brings all things to pass.
Knowing who our God is, we should be strong in the faith, giving glory to him alone.
Vv. 16-25, Paul explains what took place in Genesis 15.
If salvation be in any form or to any degree dependent on the merit, the goodness, or the stability of man, it never can be sure, nay, it must be utterly unattainable. Unless we are saved by grace, we cannot be saved at all. To reject, therefore, a gratuitous salvation, is to reject the only method of salvation available for sinners. Salvation being of grace, suspended on the simple condition of faith, without regard to parentage, to national or ecclesiastical connection, it is available for all classes of men. (Hodge)
The apostle says that by salvation being by grace through faith, it is available to all, both those of the law, that is, natural born seed of Abraham, and those who are not of the law, that is, believing Gentiles.
Abraham is the father of all who have the like faith of Abraham.
We will see that Abraham looked ahead and believed that God could and would bring life out of death; we look back and see that God did bring life out of death when he raised Christ from the dead.
Paul will also deal with bring life out of death for those who were and are dead in trespasses and sin.
V. 17, father of many nations. Paul quotes from Genesis 17.
Genesis 17:1 ¶ And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. 2 And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly. 3 And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying, 4 ¶ As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. 5 Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. 6 And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.
Genesis 17 is 13 years after Ishmael was born. V. 1, the Lord's instruction to Abraham here was be thou perfect. That is, be a man of integrity, and do not be of a double mind, which is hypocrisy:
James 1:8 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.
James 4:8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.
God requires fidelity from those who have professed faith in him. God cannot lie, and he expects the same truthfulness from his people.
V. 17, calleth those things which be not as though they were, which only God can do.
Abraham is the father of us all before him whom he believed. That is, As soon as God spoke it, Abraham became the father of us all in the sight of God. God made the promise that he would bring about many nations from a childless old man and woman, and it was done, though it still had to be worked out in time.
Abraham believed that God could quicken, or give new life and energy, to a man and woman who were as good as dead.
Note: The devil can only kill and destroy, John 10:10.
10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
Only God can produce life where there is none.
Only God can call the dead to life, and Abraham believed that God could give life to a dead man, and produce numerous seed and many nations from him who had no children. His faith was counted to him for righteousness.
Paul's words here in this chapter can be confusing.
V 3, Paul quotes from Genesis 15, where Abraham's faith was counted as righteousness.
V. 18, Paul quotes from Genesis 17 where Abraham was given the promise of many nations.
After the promise in Genesis 15, Sarah tried to work it out on her own, and Ishmael was the result. But after the promise in Genesis 17, both Sarah and Abraham were "raised from the dead", and Isaac was the result.
In both cases, Abraham knew the promise was humanly impossible to fulfill, yet he believed that God would fulfill the promise. His faith was counted for righteousness in Genesis 15.
V. 18, Against all human hope or reasonable expectation, Abraham believed That he would become the father of many nations. He believed it because God had given his word that his seed would result in a great unimaginable multitudeas the stars of heaven, and make up many nations. The promised multitude was to include both Jews and Gentiles, and people from every nation under heaven.
Abraham understood that the promise spoke of Christ and his redemption:
John 8:56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.
He looked past the discouragement of deadness in v. 19, and trusted in the promise of life. We look back on the same Deliverer who died for our sins, and rose again for our justification, v. 25.
Hebrews 11:11 Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable.
Only God can bring life out of death.
Ephesians 2:1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;
The dead cannot will themselves alive any more than Abraham and Sarah could will a child. When they did try for a child on their own, the result was Ishmael, and many years of wars and fightings.
Vv. 20, 21
Abraham did not allow the contrary circumstances to discourage him. He did not dwell on the obstacles to God fulfilling his promise, or he would have staggered that is, he would have been overwhelmed with doubt.
Certainly, this does not mean that Abraham had no conflicting difficulties in his spirit. He was a sinner, as is all mankind. It only says he did not let his inner doubts and misgivings discourage him.
V. 20. The strength of Abraham's faith in the God of the promise is shown by his giving glory to God.
Our faith in the Lord is shown by our conduct. That is, we given glory to God by being fully persuaded that what he promises, he is able to perform.
Paul had talked of the blessedness of forgiven sin and redemption, vv. 8, 9.
Paul uses Abraham to prove that only by faith in God's promised Saviour that makes available to all the world the blessedness of redemption through faith in Christ.
Doubts concerning God's promise, or about his love, are not marks of humility. Rather, doubts dishonor him, for they questions his word.
The thing we must believe is that God accepts the unworthy, and for Christ's sake he justifies the unjust. How many find it harder to believe that God can love them regardless of their sinfulness, than it was for this hundred year old patriarch to belive he should be the father of many nations?
The sinner honors God by trusting in his grace and power as much as Abraham trusted in that same grace and power.
Abraham did not ignore the human impossibility of God's promise, but that impossibility did not discourage him. He was not weak in faith... His faith in the promise of God overcame his doubts. He looked past himself, and found his strength to believe the promise by looking to God in faith. He was fully assured that God was able to do what God had promised.
V. 22, Therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.
Faith... Paul uses Abraham's faith in the promise of God to explain righteousness apart from obedience to the law of God and the customs of men.
Abraham's faith was imputed to him for righteousness. He was accepted as righteous on account of his faith. Faith itself was not the ground of his righteousness, but it was the condition of his justification. He believed, and God accepted him as righteous. We believe, and we also are accepted as righteous. We are not accepted as righteous on account of any merit of our faith, but on the ground of the righteousness of Christ, which is imputed to us when we believe.
Application: It is not our faith or confidence that God will answer our prayers concerning whatever might be heavy on our hearts that is counted for righteousness before God. It is our faith in Christ that is counted for our righteousness.
However, James 1 does tell us that faith also contains confidence in the power of prayer. Prayer is not a blank check, according to James. Rather he does place come conditions on prayer in chapter 4. But it is faith alone, which is provided by God's sovereign grace, that results in righteousness.
Paul applies what he has been saying about Abraham in vv. 23-25.
Vv. 23, 24. His sake alone... The record of Abraham's faith and resulting imputed justification was not given with the simple intention of giving a correct history of the events in Abraham's life. Rather, the record presents Abraham as a representative for all sinners, to show us how true faith works which leads the sinner to forgiveness of sin, redemption and salvation. In Paul's words, blessedness.
To whom it shall be imputed... That is, to whom it is appointed to be imputed... Here we see the first hint of the doctrine of election which Paul will present in detail shortly.
Using Abraham, Paul explains how forgiveness, justification and redemption blessedness is given and will be given to the elect. All men are sinners, and everyone who shall be saved will be saved in the same manner, by God's grace through faith in Christ Jesus, whom God raised from the dead.
V. 25. Raised again... Salvation's cornerstone is Christ's resurrection from the dead.
God promised Abraham resurrection from the dead, and when Abraham believed that God would raise the dead, it was imputed unto him for righteousness.
In like manner, when the sinner believes that God did raise the dead, Christ, it is it is imputed unto him for righteousness.
God raised his son from the dead. Upon that faith, he raises those who are dead in trespasses and sins from the dead.
The imputation of righteous by faith to Abraham is written for our instruction, showing us that faith in Christ Jesus works.
God could not act as though we had not sinned, because he cannot over look sin.
Romans 5:8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
V. 25, Christ completely fulfilled all of God's holy demands, and God raised him from the dead. His work and resurrection provides the justification of his people.
God's righteous requirement for his people was fully satisfied in Christ, as Christ bore our sins on the cross.
Our sins were judged in him. His resurrection proved that the penalty for the sins of his people was totally paid.
First, true faith is strengthened in difficulties.
Second, Abraham's faith should serve as an example. He believed that a Savior would be born from his family when having a son seemed impossible. We are only called upon to believe that the Savior has been born, and that he suffered, died and rose from the dead.
Third, unbelief is a very great sin; it doubts the dependability and power of God.
Fourth, v. 23, what is written in Scripture is for our instruction; its promises, commands and even its threats as they apply to us, are for our instruction. Scripture addresses similar character and similar circumstances that apply for all time:
1 Corinthians 10:11 Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. (2 Timothy 3:16.)
Fifth, the gospel is that Christ died as the sacrifice for the sins of his people, and he rose again for our justification:
Romans 10:9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
Sixth, Paul ends this "introduction" with v. 25. Denial of the substitutionary death of Christ and his resurrection is a denial of the Gospel. It is a refusal to be saved according to the only method God as appointed to salvation.
Next, Paul will start dealing with the results of genuine faith, conversion, or justification. He will start developing the blessedness which is obtained by faith as promised in 4:7-9.