Romans 4

Romans 4:1-3 MKJV What then shall we say that our father Abraham has found, according to flesh? (2) For if Abraham was justified by works, he has a boast; but not before God. (3) For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness.”

There are a number of details that tie this chapter in with the previous chapter. For one thing, this is part of one long letter. Paul is still explaining the same subject. Now Paul is using another example straight from scripture, the story about Abraham. As usual, Paul knew just where to point us to review the story.

Genesis 15:1-10 MKJV After these things the Word of Jehovah came to Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram, I am your shield and your exceeding great reward. (2) And Abram said, Lord God, what will You give me, since I am going childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus? (3) And Abram said, Behold, You have given no seed to me. And behold, one born in my house is my heir. (4) And behold, the Word of Jehovah came to him saying, This one shall not be your heir. But he that shall come forth out of your own bowels shall be your heir. (5) And He brought him outside and said, Look now toward the heavens and count the stars, if you are able to count them. And He said to him, So shall your seed be. (6) And he believed in Jehovah. And He counted it to him for righteousness. (7) And He said to him, I am Jehovah that brought you out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give you this land to inherit it. (8) And he said, Lord God, by what shall I know that I shall inherit it? (9) And He said to him, Take Me a heifer of three years old, and a she-goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon. (10) And he took all these to himself, and divided them in the middle, and laid each piece against one another; but he did not divide the birds.

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There are more sides to this story than Abraham’s faith, and how God appreciated that faith. We see how Abraham had to rely on God for a son. That shows how God had a plan. It also shows how we have to be patient with God when it comes to His plan. This story also shows a two way conversation between God and Abraham. This showed how God is able to talk to people, and how God chose to communicate with Abraham. God gave Abraham a son, blessings, land, and more. If we looked at the entire story, we would see how Abraham agreed to change one little part of God’s plan, and how that turned out to be a major mistake. Abraham’s first son, Ismael was the father of a whole group of nations that plagued Israel for generations.

God told Abraham to perform a rather odd ceremony. That ceremony lead to a prophecy about Israel and how they were held as slaves in Egypt. Did Abraham understand anything about that prophecy? What if he understood that prophecy? What could Abraham have done to change it? Nothing. Abraham couldn’t get God’s promise right. What could Abraham do about a prophecy he didn’t understand? Not a whole lot. That’s a lesson we need to look at.

Too many people are stuck on prophecies. That is their life, and the only thing they know about religion. They follow self made, modern day prophets who seem to never be right, but that never seem to loose a single member. Being wrongs brings publicity and more members. Why that happens is beyond me. But it does happen. Those modern day prophets make themselves out to be wiser than Abraham, and all the other prophets combined. Isn’t that something David and Isaiah warned about when we looked at the scripture Paul sent us to in the second chapter in his letter?

God made Abraham a promise, and Abraham accepted that promise. Accepting that promise made Abraham righteous in God’s eyes. Is it that easy? Could it be that easy? How did Abraham’s attempt at changing that promise effect his righteousness? The main point is, that one on one conversation with God. That’s where Paul is telling us where we need to be.

Righteousness Without Works

Romans 4:4-8 MKJV But to him working, the reward is not reckoned according to grace, but according to debt. (5) But to him not working, but believing on Him justifying the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. (6) Even as David also says of the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness without works, (7) saying, “Blessed are those whose lawlessnesses are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; (8) blessed is the man to whom the Lord will in no way impute sin.”

There are a number of ways to look at Paul’s comment on reward, grace, and debt. Based on Abraham’s life, we can see the lesson showing us what happens when people do a little work on God’s plan. That indeed turned out to be a debt. That is one example. Paul linked the word work to grace. Once again we have to ask, is Paul tying the two together, or using them as a contrast? The word, not, tells us, works and grace are contrasts. The next question to ask is, how do they contrast one another, and what is the lesson?

We can go on for what seems to be forever trying to pin point the difference between works and grace. Grace is free, and works is a form of trying to pay your way into Heaven. Does that mean we put aside all form of works and do nothing but rely on grace? Is that what Paul was trying to explain? I’ve heard it put that way. “We are under grace.” People use that term to more or less reinforce other beliefs. Some people insist grace has canceled the law. As we’ve seen in the previous chapter where faith and the law were compared, faith requires a certain amount of work. Faith requires investigation to formulate a decision. That is a part of faith people tend to ignore, because they confuse faith with grace. Grace is free, and for lack of a better term, faith requires a certain amount of work.

Does grace require any work at all? Let’s take a look at the definition of the word grace.

Grace G5485 χάρις charis khar’-ece

From G5463; graciousness (as gratifying), of manner or act (abstract or concrete; literal, figurative or spiritual; especially the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life; including gratitude): – acceptable, benefit, favour, gift, grace (-ious), joy liberality, pleasure, thank (-s, -worthy).

G5463 χαίρω chairō khah’ee-ro

A primary verb; to be full of “cheer”, that is, calmly happy or well off; impersonal especially as a salutation (on meeting or parting), be well: – farewell, be glad, God speed, greeting, hail, joy (-fully), rejoice.

We can see that grace is a, “manner or act.” That has nothing to do with the common concept of accepting a gift of grace from Jesus and doing nothing. Grace is a, “divine influence up the heart.” And grace is a reflection upon one’s life. That is one of the definitions of communication with Jesus, and one of the major forms of communication used by the Holy Spirit. In a sense, grace is linked to faith by communication. In a sense, grace requires a certain amount of dedication, growth, and that is achieved with the right form of communication.

On the other hand, work means to labor or toil. Within the context Paul wrote, does work mean to worry, labor over decisions, over think the situation, second guess the information you have, and let the subject consume you? Let’s look at that a moment with the example Paul gave us to examine. Abraham was given a promise. He had no idea how God was going to give him a son. Abraham and Sara thought about the subject so much, they came up with their own solution. They over worked the situation and came up with their own solution. Is that what Paul is trying to teach about works?

On another level, works is often associated with keeping the laws and traditions to work or buy your way into Heaven. In modern Christianity that is so rare, that phase of works is hardly worth commenting on. I have never met a Christian who actually believes they can work their way into Heaven. But I can’t count the number of Christians who preach that side of the subject, leave it at that, and think the answers are covered.

Paul went back to quoting David. In this case, Paul sent us to a Psalm where David expressed his view of forgiveness. Paul is expanding his explanation on the plan of salvation.

Psalms 32:1-11 MKJV A Psalm of David. A Contemplation. Blessed is the man whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. (2) Blessed is the man to whom Jehovah does not charge iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile. (3) When I kept silence, my bones became old through my roaring all the day long. (4) For by day and by night Your hand was heavy on me; my sap is turned into the droughts of summer. Selah. (5) I confessed my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, I will confess my transgression to Jehovah; and You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah. (6) For this let every godly one pray to You, in a time when You may be found; surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come near him. (7) You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall circle me with songs of deliverance. Selah. (8) I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you, My eye shall be on you. (9) Be not like the horse, or like the mule, who have no understanding, whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, so that they do not come near you. (10) The wicked has many sorrows, but mercy embraces him who trusts in Jehovah. (11) Be glad in Jehovah, and rejoice, you righteous; and shout for joy, all you upright in heart.

David covered the all important part of confessing our sins. That is an important part we do not want to skip over, or take lightly. Is confession works? What roles does confession play in grace? A large role.

When we look at David, we see a man who made his share of mistakes, and knew a forgiving God. After David confessed his sins, he found peace, which is part of the definition of grace. David described that peace as a resting place, a place of refuge, a stronghold, a place where he felt protected. Coming from a guy with the military back ground David had, that was the ultimate compliment he could pay to God. When we look at the the definition of grace, we find that definition in David’s Psalm. There is no doubt, David never thought he could work his way into God’s presence, much less Heaven. David knew he had to ask for forgiveness to enter God’s presence and find that peace. That is the lesson we need to learn. How to ask to be forgiven, to be cleansed by the blood Jesus shed, so we can enter into His presence to learn.

Faith and Righteousness

Romans 4:9-15 MKJV Is this blessedness then on the circumcision only, or on the uncircumcision also? For we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. (10) How then was it reckoned? Being in circumcision or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. (11) And he received a sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith while still uncircumcised; so that he might be the father of all those believing through uncircumcision, for righteousness to be imputed to them also; (12) and a father of circumcision to those not of the circumcision only, but also to those walking by the steps of the faith of our father Abraham during uncircumcision. (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. (14) For if they of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is made of no effect; (15) because the Law works out wrath, for where no law is, there is no transgression.

Paul wants us to go back and review Abraham’s story. And we should.

And Abram continued, Look, You have given me no child; and [a servant] born in my house is my heir. And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, This man shall not be your heir, but he who shall come from your own body shall be your heir. (Genesis 15:3-4 AMP).

This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your posterity after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. And you shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be a token or sign of the covenant (the promise or pledge) between Me and you. (Genesis 17:10-11 AMP).

God gave Abraham the promise of a child in Genesis chapter 15. The covenant of circumcision was given in chapter 17. Abraham received the promise before he was circumcised. That made a point Paul took advantage of. God called and blessed Abraham before he was circumcised. A lesson the Jews in Rome had to learn.

When we go back to David, we see the lesson Paul is teaching about the law. How could David, or anyone confess sins without laws? That would be impossible. Without the law there could be no confession. Without confession, there would be no cleansing of the heart or soul. Without the cleansing, there would be no way to approach God’s throne, no refuge, no peace, joy, or safety. The law serves its purpose. Grace serves another purpose. Faith and righteousness serve their own purpose. The problem is, people try to bundle them all together and miss all the little details, the steps to the feet of Jesus.

Faith and Grace

Romans 4:16-25 MKJV Therefore it is of faith so that it might be according to grace; for the promise to be made sure to all the seed, not only to that which is of the Law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all (17) (as it has been written, “I have made you a father of many nations”) –before God, whom he believed, who makes the dead live, and calls the things which do not exist as though they do exist. (18) For he who beyond hope believed on hope for him to become the father of many nations (according to that which was spoken, “So your seed shall be”). (19) And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body already dead (being about a hundred years old) or the deadening of Sarah’s womb. (20) He did not stagger at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strong in faith, giving glory to God, (21) and being fully persuaded that what God had promised, He was also able to perform. (22) And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. (23) Now it was not written for him alone that it was imputed to him, (24) but for us also to whom it is to be imputed, to the ones believing on Him who has raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; (25) who was delivered because of our offenses and was raised for our justification.

I did something a little different here to help you follow along with the way I look at scripture. I made a few of the key words BOLD, and underlined what Paul quoted in scripture. Those are two of the most important Bible Study methods I follow. First the key words.

A lot of theologians and authors tend to group words like faith, grace, and righteousness together, giving them the same weight and meaning. We have seen how faith includes a great deal of research, looking to God, and relying on the Spirit for answers to of course, make a decision. What is grace?

GRACE G5485 χάρις charis khar’-ece

From G5463; graciousness (as gratifying), of manner or act (abstract or concrete; literal, figurative or spiritual; especially the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life; including gratitude): – acceptable, benefit, favour, gift, grace (-ious), joy liberality, pleasure, thank (-s, -worthy).

G5463 χαίρω chairō khah’ee-ro

A primary verb; to be full of “cheer”, that is, calmly happy or well off; impersonal especially as a salutation (on meeting or parting), be well: – farewell, be glad, God speed, greeting, hail, joy (-fully), rejoice.

What is righteousness?

RIGHTEOUSNESS G1343 δικαιοσύνη dikaiosunē dik-ah-yos-oo’-nay

From G1342; equity (of character or act); specifically (Christian) justification: – righteousness.

G1342 δίκαιος dikaios dik’-ah-yos

From G1349; equitable (in character or act); by implication innocent, holy (absolutely or relatively): – just, meet, right (-eous).

G1349 δίκηdikē dee’-kay

Probably from G1166; right (as self evident), that is, justice (the principle, a decision, or its execution): – judgment, punish, vengeance.

G1166 δεικνύω deiknuō dike-noo’-o

A prolonged form of an obsolete primary of the same meaning; to show (literally or figuratively): – shew.

When we look at grace, we see the easy, and most acceptable term used in the definition. Grace does include the concept of a free gift, which is how many people define grace, and stop at that point. Grace includes gratitude, joy, and happiness. Can we be joyful or happy with things we can’t see, or understand? Paul tied faith in with grace for a reason. Faith is the act of searching out the truth. Grace is more than a free gift. Grace is understanding that free gift to the degree, you are happy about it. You are so joyful, you can’t help but share that information. That is another Christian concept that is not poorly explained, and blurred by common Christian traditions.

What does the traditional Christian worship service consist of? Sitting in an audience, listing to someone preach, or teach. That basically covers the investigation process for a lot of Christians. Is that the type of faith, or investigation Paul was teaching about?

Are you happier when you see someone receive a gift, or when you receive a gift? You see, there are degrees of happiness. Marriage, seeing your new baby for the first time, winning the lottery, and a host of other events can bring a great deal of joy. The type of joy people can’t help but see on your face. On the other hand, there are a number of events, like a TV program, reading news in social media, seeing a driver stop their car to let you in, and other minor events that bring a small sense of joy. What level does grace reach in your life?

Can grace ever reach the highest level of joy when you receive the news from anyone else? You have to admit the fact, you feel something missing inside if you have not found that one on one connection with Christ where He explains what He has done for you. Not only on the cross, but during His ministry in Heaven. If a preacher tells you only about the cross, you are missing 99% of the news, and 99% of the joy.

What do we get when we look at righteousness? We see righteousness is equity. What is equity? The most common term for equity relates to a home. People gets a loan to buy a house, makes payments, and a small part of that payment builds equity in the home. Equity relates to value that is built in over time. Paul used Abraham as an example, because Abraham was a great example of a man who built a friendship with God. Abraham had to build up his trust in God, as well as his love for God. Abraham did that through real life events.

Not only did Abraham leave his homeland, Abraham went into Egypt, made a mistake, and came out a rich man. That mistake, lesson, and blessing were repeated. Those events showed how forgiving God was, and how gracious He can be. Each time God blessed Abraham, those blessings built trust, and respect. A process we need to pay attention to.

Genesis 17:1-8 RSVA When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram, and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. (2) And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly.” (3) Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, (4) “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. (5) No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. (6) I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come forth from you. (7) And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you. (8) And I will give to you, and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.”

We can see how loosely Paul quoted the story about Abraham. This shows how Paul sends people back to read the entire story about Abraham’s life. The good as well as the bad. Abraham’s story tells us about his relationship with God. We all make mistakes, and God will be with us during our mistakes. And, there is always a blessing on the other side of those mistakes. That is a part of God’s grace we don’t hear about everyday. No preacher in the world could stand up and make a list of all of your mistakes and how Jesus walked through them next to you. Of course, who would want a preacher telling them about all the mistakes they made? That is between you and Jesus.

Somehow, Abraham having a child at the ripe old age of 99 is supposed to be an example that can build our faith. In my opinion, that is something you need to sit down with Jesus and talk about. That is a personal issue. The birth of a son always brings joy, especially when you live as long as Abraham did and decided long ago to set aside all hope. Everyone has issues like that – giving up hope before seeing Jesus step in with an answer. That is part of the relationship with God no one can share in the classic worship service. We have to go beyond standardized worship services to find God.