Jack Graham - A Faith for the Ages
I am calling this message from Romans Chapter four "A Faith for the Ages". You might say that Abraham is the goat the greatest of all times. Regarding people of faith. Three Primary, or three major religions celebrate Abraham, Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. And it all began in the heart of God. When God spoke to one man and gave him a destiny to become the father of the multitudes. He was a man living in a place known as Ur of the Chaldees. He was a pagan unbeliever, a gentile. Abraham was not a Jew. He was a Gentile. He existed before the Jews existed. So he was a pagan idol worshiper. Worshiping the sun and the moon. And yet, by the call of God, he became the friend of God. He's called on multiple occasions in the Scripture, the friend of God.
That's always moved me. When I was a young man and read the words of Jesus and Luke John, chapter 15. It says, I no longer call you servant, but I call you friends. I would just take it with the whole idea that God, that Jesus could be my friend, that I could have a personal relationship with Him. Abraham is called the friend of God because he walked with God and God built a relationship with him. He's also called the Father of the faithful or the father of faith. So he is a towering giant. And for what reason? We're going to see today a giant of the faith, because here was a man who chose to believe God, a man who chose by faith to follow God.
So beginning in the first verse, Romans chapter one, we're going to read the first eight verses. 1 What then, shall we say, was gained by Abraham, our forefather, according to the flesh. Remember the Apostle Paul is teaching the great truth of salvation, justification by faith. How we are made right with God. And He's been telling us that this justification happens not by human effort or works, but by the decree, the declaration of God who credits us with righteousness at the cross in the Lord Jesus Christ.
So, Paul, now is illustrating this with a model, man of faith. So what about Abraham? To a Jewish audience now their ears are up. They're listening because Abraham was the man, the goat. And so what about Abraham? Was it it his works? Was it his great life? His good life, even his great faith that brought him to God? He said, so let's talk about Abraham, because the apostle Paul is always putting feet and flesh to faith. That's why the Bible has so many biographies in it, stories and lessons from the lives of people. Because I've said it many times, the Bible is not just a book to be learned, it is a book to be live. So we have living examples, footsteps of faith and through throughout the Scripture and and this is a man, Abraham.
So he says, All right, let's talk about Abraham, verse 2 "For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God". That is, he may be a good man, a self-righteous man, but he cannot boast before a holy God, and neither can wait for one. "For what does the Scripture say", here it is, underscore this, "Abraham believed God, and it was counter to him as righteousness". There it is, Abraham believed God. We’ll talk about what He believed in just a moment. Verse 4, "Now to the one who works. His wages are not counted as a gift, but his due". In other words, you do a job, you're paid to do a job. You work hard. You get your your money from the man. And you, you it's not a gift. You work for it. You earned it. So it's a very simple, forthright illustration. He says, now you work. The wages are not counted as a gift, but what you are do. Verse 5, "and to the one who does not work but believes in Him, who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness".
And then he moves from the patriarch to the monarch, the greatest monarch in Israel's history. And that's David. "Just as David also speaks of the blessings of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works". So this is David's testimony is the same testimony that Abraham's testimony was given. Verse 7, "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven and those who sins are covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not compute our count, our credit, his sin". The first three chapters of Romans, Paul is making the case for Christ and the Gospel. And the conclusion is that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. All our guilty because we have sinned before a Holy God. That's verse 23 of chapter three, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." And Christ is the only cure Jesus and Jesus only saves from sin.
We all have a problem. It's a big problem. It's an infection known as sin. And sin infects every person in the human race. And it is a deadly infection. The infection of sin is greater than COVID. The wages of sin is death. ROMANS Chapter six. The wages of said is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord. So how do we believe? What do we believe? What did Abraham believe? We learned the lessons of faith in the life of Abraham.
Number one, we are saved by faith, not works. We are saved by faith not works. And this is why Paul picked Abraham as the model of faith. Because Abraham was called and chosen by God in the sovereign purposes and will of God, not because of anything that He had done, but because God chose him. And God chose to give Him righteousness when this man believed. He was justified, according to the Scripture, and remember that word, justified. It means that the slate is wiped clean. That we are not only acquitted of our sins, but we are credited to righteousness. Acquitted and credited. And that is why he not only uses Abraham as an example in, that we are credited with righteousness when we come to faith in Christ and believe in Him, but we are also acquitted of all sin because David, describing his own sin here, recorded in Psalm 32, his great sin with Bathsheba, and when he talks about how his sin is covered. It means that we have been forgiven. And the word forgiven here means left behind.
So we are both acquitted of all of our sins that are left behind. Past, present and future. All of our sins are forgiven. And we are credited with the righteousness of Jesus Christ. How does that transaction happen? It happens by faith. Abraham believed God. Are you listening? Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness. The word believe there can actually be the word ameen or amen. To believe God is to say a men to God's promise. God gave Abraham a promise that He would make him a father of many nations. He took him out one night for a walk while he was still living in Ur of the Caldees, a pagan life, a pagan lifestyle. He took him out and he showed him all the stars and the universe. And he said, one day, Abraham, I'm going to make of you a nation, a multitude greater than the stars. And Abraham said, Amen, He believed it. He believed the promise of God. He believed this promise.
What did he believe? The promise that God through Him would birth a nation and through the nation, a Messiah would come, a savior would come, a deliverer would come. To bring salvation and deliverance and justification, how we can be right with God. And so when Abraham believes God, he's doing something very simple and yet very vital. And that is to believe what God has said. And to trust in the promises of God. Ultimately, Abraham, look beyond the years and by faith he saw the coming of Jesus. Jesus said in John chapter eight, Abraham saw my day, and he was glad. Abraham by faith, was able to look through the centuries and believe the promise of God that a Savior would come to make us righteous before God. Believing the promises of God. And that means we are then credited with righteousness.
The word reckoned or credited is used nine times in chapter 4 of Romans and it’s the word Logizomai in the Greek language. You can hear the word logic in logizomai. It’s a banking term. It's a bookkeeping term. Logizomai, that is credited. You could you could substitute the word computed or more theological term imputed. Credited. It is this is really a basic idea of bookkeeping. You get you have a credit card and you buy goods and services with that credit card throughout a month. And at the end of the month you get the charges sent to you. And with the charges come you know, the taxes and the fees and all the rest and and you have a credit and you pay the bill. And when you pay the bill it’s credited back to you that the account is zero. So the idea of logizomai of credited, or reckoned, when God says when you believe it is credited unto you, when you believe in Jesus Christ, the credit says that you owe nothing. T hat you are justified before God.
As I said in the last message, justified means it never happened, but rather you now have the righteousness of God. We stand in the righteousness of God. How does this happen? Because of the of the cross, because of the blood of Christ, the blood of Christ, God's sons cleanses us from every sin. And so what God does, he transfers our sin debt, got it? Say Amen. He transfers our sin debt. his is great theological truth that will save your life and your soul. God credits our sin to Jesus, who bore our sins on the cross and Jesus credits His righteousness to us. And so it's impossible, therefore, for us to be saved by works other than the finished work of Christ on the cross. What Christ has done, not what we have done. Abraham believe God, the promise. And it was credited to Him as righteousness. When we believe the promise, the promise of Jesus, the promise of salvation, we get credit for what Christ has done. We are now called the children of God because we have seen Christ and believe and trusted in Him by faith.
Now, what is this faith? What is faith? Well, faith is not a holy hunch. Or hoping against hope that something might happen. Hope faith is not positive. Thinking faith is not just believing things that down deep in your mind you think, well, I don't know if that's going to happen or not. It's not wishful thinking or positive thinking or optimism. Faith is not religion or religious practice. Faith is not having proof or seeing but it is believing. It is believing and trusting in Christ, not in works, not in what we do Ephesians 2 verses 8 and 9, "for by grace, are you saved through faith and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of words, lest anyone should boast". Faith.
Romans 5:1 says Therefore, since we have been justified by faith. We have peace with God. Through our Lord Jesus Christ. In the case of Abraham, he went out believing and trusting in God into a land he had never known. But Abraham, he believed, he followed, he trusted in spite of the circumstances or the consequences or the conditions or the contradictions. Even when he could see it, even when he couldn't understand it. He was called Abraham the father of father of nations. And and yet up unto his nineties, he had no children. Children of the promise. Look at verse 5 of Romans, chapter 4, "and to the one who does not work but believes in him, who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted. (There's that word again) as righteousness".
When God computes or imputes or reckons or credits us with righteousness, it doesn’t that happen on the installment plan? A little bit at a time. It doesn't happen in process. It happens instantaneously. When God declares you righteous in Jesus Christ, it doesn't happen when you work, but when you trust in His Word. Because he came and lived and died for the ungodly, he justifies the ungodly. You know why God justifies the ungodly? Because everybody's ungodly. You can't justify the godly, so he justifies, he makes right, the godly. Hebrews 11:1, We were talking about faith. "Faith is the assurance that things hope for in the convictions of things not seen".
So faith is not faith in faith. Not talking about faith and faith, just believing but faith is only as valid as the object of faith. Faith is substance. Faith is real. And is real because when we believe and trust in God through Jesus Christ, then that faith brings us to our relationship with God. Abraham left his old life behind. He left Ur of the Chaldees and the idolatry. He left his business. He left part of his family. He left his path. And by faith, he traveled on believing the promises of God. He was accepting that he was to be a father of a great nation when there was no sign or symbol that he was. But to him, who does not work but believes on him who justifies the ungodly. Jesus is the object of our faith. The cross is the reason for our faith. The resurrection is the power of our faith. We are not saved by works.
Now, let's amplify that with a second point, which is that we are saved or justified by the resurrection, not by rituals. We are saved by the resurrection not by rituals. If you grant scanned down to verse 24 of chapter four, it says, "but for ours also it will be counted to us who believe in him, who raised from the dead Jesus, our Lord, who has delivered us up from our trespasses and raised for our justification". Our relationship with God is a resurrection, is not ritual. So Paul leads the discussion here about religious rights and rituals, namely the Jewish rite of circumcision. Circumcision became the sign and the seal all of Abraham's faith. But he wasn't saved because he was circumcised. In fact, this is going to get your attention, he was circumcised 15 years after he left the Ur of the Caldees when he was at least 99 years of age or so. 15 years after he was called and believed in God.
Now, I don't even go there or think about this poor old man getting circumcised at this age. But it was a sign. It was a seal. I shouldn't call great Abraham a poor old man, but he he was circumcised after he believed. You see the point that Paul is making? You're saying it wasn't because he performed a religious exercise or right or ritual, that he was justified. His belief was long before his circumcision. It was long before the seal. The Bible often talks of being circumcised in the heart. The physical act of circumcision is an act of devotion to God and a symbol of the Jewish faith. But it is not salvation. Salvation comes from the heart, the circumcision of the heart, the changing of the heart, the cleansing of the heart.
Now we have signs and seals and symbols in the Christian faith. There are two primary ordinances. There is the Lord's table communion, the Last Supper, the Lord's Supper, which is the sign, the symbol of the cross. You do show the Lord's death until he comes. And then we have the sign of the symbol of baptism, which is the testimony of the resurrection. We are buried with Christ in baptism and raised to walk in newness of life. And so these signs, these symbols are representative of our genuine faith and trust in Christ. The Lord's table, baptism does not save. Nor does it add to salvation. It is a celebration. It is a dedication. It is a symbol and I say this today because many people have grown up thinking, even in their churches, that because somebody sprinkle a little water on their head when they were an infant, that they're good with God, that they're in the church. Or if you go to confessionals or if you sit at the supper or if you pray the rosary. Name your ritual.
So many people think today it is their church or their baptism that brings about their salvation. Every survey imaginable shows that at least half of the people who live in America, much less the world, believe that we are saved by some kind of good deed, some kind of work, some kind of human effort. So if you're sitting here this morning thinking, well, everybody knows that. No, not everybody knows that. Most people don't know that. Many of you don't know that. We had a lady who was here last week, a dear, sweet lady. She grew up in a church all of her life. And she said to one of our ministers, after the service, I preached about justification. I preached about perpetuation. Or atonement.
I preached about redemption. Remember those three words? Nod your head, please say yes. Redemption, protection and justification. And she said, I've been in church my whole life and I've never heard those three words. Because most people are in churches that don't preach the gospel. They preach a gospel of works, not a gospel of salvation. So it's not our confessionals, it's not infant baptism, it's not adult baptism that saves. It's not any kind of ritual. It's a resurrection and it's the power of Christ. Jesus said, I've come not for the righteous, but for those who need to be forgiven. We are saved not by any human or even holy right or ritual. We are saved by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ and the power of His Resurrection. We are justified not by works, but by faith, believing the promises of God. We are saved not by rituals or religious observance or moralism, trying to live a good life but we are saved or justified by the resurrection, by the power of Jesus Christ.
There's one last thing I want to say from this text. We are justified by grace, not the law. Justified by grace, not the law, not by keeping the commandments. Look in verse 14 of chapter 4. "For it is the adherents of the law who are to be the or if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs. Faith is null and the promise is void". In other words, if you can be justified, say by keeping the commandments of God, then it just makes grace and salvation justification faith null and void. But notice what verse 15 says, "For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law", there is no transgression. Which means the law the moral law of God, and even the mosaic laws of the Old Testament, which point to Christ, but also they point to our sin and therefore they bring wrath. The Ten Commandments, if we break even one of them, we're guilty of all according to the Scripture.
I was driving several years ago now and a little chip, a little rock hit my windshield. You've probably had this happen to you and the rock hits the windshield. It's just a little flick. It's just a little knick. So I don't pay much attention to it. The next day, after my car set out in the heat a little while, the entire window was cracked and ruined. Just that one little chip wrecked the whole window and I had to have it replaced. Get the idea? Just one sin ruins the entire life. You know, when you say you're a sinner, that means you're a sinner. It's like it's like you can't be a little bit pregnant. You either are or you aren't. And you can't be just a little bit a sinner. You are or you aren’t and the Bible says you are. And therefore, the law condemns us. The wrath of God because we've broken the law condemns us. The law cannot save because no one keeps the law perfectly. That's why we are saved by grace through faith.