Skip Heitzig - Romans 3-4
- Buy this sermon
Turn in your Bibles, if you wouldn't mind, to Romans chapter 3 tonight. The last couple of weeks we started going through this incredible book. And we pick it up in Romans chapter 3 in verse 1. It was Mark Twain who said, having spent a considerable amount of time with good people, I can understand why Jesus loved to be around tax collectors and sinners. I think those are the people that the apostle Paul had in mind when he wrote part of Romans, those who were self-satisfied, very, very religious good folks who looked to, and boasted in, and trusted in their own track record of good works, good deeds.
He definitely has that in mind in chapter 2. He speaks in chapter 1 to the pagan. He speaks to the Gentile unbeliever, what you might call the antagonist toward monotheism, things of God. And then after the antagonist, he speaks to the moralist, the person who has some kind of belief system higher than an unbeliever, maybe a Jew, maybe not necessarily but a moralist person who would look down upon the behaviors that Paul mentioned in chapter 1.
And then the third group is the religionist, the Jewish person. And he mentions those people by name in chapter 2. He says, indeed you call yourself a Jew. And that's a good thing. And you boast in certain things. But Paul, as we noted last week, and we kind of continue doing that until a certain point in our text tonight, Paul is making his case that the entire human race is in really bad shape before a holy God. And thus they need something they can never procure or produce on their own. And that is a right standing before God that is conferred upon them, that is given to them, that is a gift for them. It's nothing that they can produce on their own.
The theme of Romans is the gospel. He introduces that theme at the very beginning in chapter 1. And the gospel is all about how people can be made right before God. And the way they are made right before God is imputation. He gives or imputes something that is not yours but he puts it on your account. And because of that, he makes a declaration. That's called justification. He justifies. He makes a declaration that you are just, that you are righteous, that you are accepted the way you are. Now that is monumental. And it can never be overstated.
As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, it is the truth of Romans that revolutionized Martin Luther's whole life, because he thought that the righteousness of God was the place from which God judged the world. He was absolutely righteous, absolutely just, and therefore had every right to condemn unrighteous human beings. But he didn't understand the meaning of God in his righteousness is that he is willing to give or to impute, to freely place over your life the life of his son and look at you as if you had never sinned. And when Martin Luther discovered that, everything changed.
Well, he's been making his case in chapter 1 and chapter 2. And as he does, and as he writes to the antagonist, and the moralist, and the spiritualist, he anticipates especially from the religious Jew a list of objections. He imagines detractors who are listening to what he has to say and would pose some objections, pose some questions to Paul. And so Paul gives a list of these questions beginning in chapter 3 verse 1. They're rhetorical questions. It is a method that was familiar to the rabbis. The rabbis would often ask a question and then answer the question.
By the way, that is also the Socratic method, the method taught by Socrates or used by Socrates to pose a question and then, once the question is raised, to provide answers in order to take the student from ignorance to knowledge of the truth. Now I am thinking, my belief, it seems to me that the questions that Paul raises here were questions that Paul had heard when he went from town to town. And he would first go to the synagogue. And then he would go to the marketplace. It was to the Jew first and then also to the Greek.
So as he would go to the synagogue and preach Christ from the Old Testament as the fulfillment of messianic promise, he probably heard all sorts of questions, all sorts of objections, all sorts of rebuttals. And so he brings them up here in the letter. Not only that, but I'm guessing that they were objections Paul himself once had being a rabbinical Jew, being a Pharisee.
When Jesus got a hold of his life in Acts chapter 9, I'm sure he had a lot of yeah, but moments with God. Well, yeah, but what about and what about. And so he had reasoned through the Old Testament and the understanding of Judaism when he asks and answers these questions. And there'll be a few of them that are mentioned in chapter 3.
Now let me just give a little bit of a piggyback on that for those of you who are teachers, those of you who have some kind of a ministry, a Bible study class, some kind of a format or a forum in which to share truth, that what Paul does here you should do. We should all do. That is when you are preparing for a teaching, preparing for a message to be able to think through the objections of people who may be listening, the young Christian, the older seasoned believer, the skeptic and the unbeliever, the teenage girl, the business guy, the advance doctor. You want to think of all the different people who might be in your audience who would hear the words that you would have to say. And you reason through it that way. It helps in making the presentation.
So verse one. First question. What advantage then has the Jew or what prophet is there in circumcision? Paul, you've spent an entire chapter talking down circumcision, it would seem, disregarding the Jewish law it would seem. Now you are Jewish. You are a rabbi, Paul. And yet you say that the law isn't enough to save a person. So the question would be what advantage then has the Jew or what is the prophet of circumcision.
Here's the answer. Much, in every way, chiefly because to them we're committed the oracles of God. There are several advantages Paul would say to them of being Jewish, having that as your background. But of all of the advantages, he begins with the most obvious. The most obvious advantage is that you guys have a spiritual edge. God committed to you the oracles, the Revelation, the prophets, the law.
All of God's written Revelation was deposited in times past to the Jewish nation. So you guys were steeped in this stuff. You were raised in the synagogue. You were raised with the law. We don't have to convince you that there's a God. We don't have to convince you that the Bible is inerrant. You got that. You understand that.
So you have an edge, much like it's an advantage to be raised in a church, to be able to, I mean think of the incredible advantage we have of being able to every week go through chapter by chapter, verse by verse, and have a broad and deep understanding of God's will. An incredible advantage. But having the truth is not the same thing as heeding the truth. James will make that abundantly clear. It's not hearers of the word. It's those who do it. What advantage? Much in every way because to them were committed the oracles of God.
Next question. For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect? Certainly not. Let God be true but every man a liar as it is written that you may be justified in your words and may overcome when you are judged. The history of the Jewish nation was a history of abject failure. God made covenants with them, some of them unconditional, some of them very conditional. And they failed on all of their part to keep their conditions. So they went into captivity. They were chased by their enemies. They lost land. They lost lives. They cried out to God. God brought them back. We studied that in the book of Judges.
Their whole history is a history of failure from the golden calf when they first got delivered out of Egypt all the way through and especially when it came to the Messiah. Jesus wept over Jerusalem because his people did not understand the day of their visitation, the things that made for their peace, that they failed in all aspects but especially in the aspect of the identity of Christ.
So does that negate the promises that God made to the Jewish people and the Jewish nation? Not at all, because though we see a hardness and though we see a turning, that's just temporary. And Paul is going to make this abundantly clear when we get to chapter 9, 10, and 11 where he talks about the relationship of the Jewish nation to God and the promises that God has made to the nation.
And he will say in chapter 11, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery or wise in your own opinion. But hardness or blindness in part has happened unto Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles are come in. And then all Israel will be saved.
So what he is saying here is just because you have people who have largely pushed away the promises that God made and disbelieved in the Messiah, the fulfillment of all of the promises that God made to the Jewish nation is only on pause. It's just a not yet scenario. It's paused but not prevented. It is going to come. And Paul will make that clear as we get through.
And he is quoting in verse 4 that you may be justified in your words and may be overcome when you are judged. That's a quote out of Psalm 51. You know that when Paul wrote, he quoted a lot of the Old Testament. He should. I mean that's what he was raised with. Right. That's his frame of reference. And if he's writing to Jewish people, it would be their frame of reference.
It's interesting that this psalm, Psalm 51, was written by David after David sinned with Bathsheba. And he was eventually heartbroken because of it. And he wrote two psalms, Psalm 32 and Psalm 51. And in Psalm 51, he says "against you and you only have I sinned and committed this great wickedness in your sight" and then this verse, that you may be justified in your words and you may overcome when you are judged. In other words, you are right in your judgments.
Next question, verse 5. But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unjust who inflicts wrath? I speak as a man. Certainly not. Certainly not. As sometimes translated, God forbid. A better translation would be perish the thought or even nonsense. So certainly not. Nonsense. For then how will God judge the world? For if the truth of God has increased through my lie to his glory, why am I still judged as a sinner?
Follow the rebuttal. Think of the argument here. The objector might be thinking, wait a minute, Paul. If my badness makes God look good, then how can God judge me for my badness? I'm a bad person. You're saying we're all bad, but all we're doing is making God look really good.
So for God to judge us for our bad behavior is wrong. It's incongruent. It's sort of like a jeweler who pulls out the most beautiful diamonds. He'll show them to you not on a white background but a dark background. Dark velvet, man. You put out the black velvet. Then you put those diamonds on it like wow.
And the wow comes from not just the diamonds but the contrast, the brilliance of that sparkling diamond against the dark black background of that velvet. So my life, like black velvet, just makes God look really, really good. That's the argument. So is God unjust who inflicts wrath? Certainly not for how then will God judge the world?
In other words, if God condones sin, then he has no basis to judge at all. God has to be fair. God has to be consistent. So God has a standard by which he judges all mankind. And if God condones sin, and winks at sin, and says, yeah, you're right, your black background just makes me look good so I won't judge you because of it. After all, you're circumcised and you have the law of Moses as well, then how can God judge at all? He wouldn't have a right standard.
Continues in verse 8. And why not say let us do evil that good may come, as we are slanderously reported and as some have affirmed that we say their condemnation is just. So the next argument, if I'm bad in my badness makes God look good, the next question is, if my badness makes God look good, then I should be as bad as possible.
And this is where Paul says their condemnation is just. In other words, that's so stupid I'm not going to even answer that question. It's called argument ad absurdum or argumentum ad infinito or something like that. Reductio. That's it. You come to a place in trying to reason where it's like, OK, what you just said, Mr. Smart Guy is just really stupid. So he said their condemnation is just.
Now there are sometimes people who have this sort of thinking, believe it or not. They think, you know, if I really am a rotten sinner by the time I come to Christ, I'm going to have a really great testimony. The truth is you could choose a practice that gets you killed and you have no testimony.
I remember a young man who was very, very talented. His name was Johnny. He was a young kid when he came to Christ, a teenager. And it was in the height of the Jesus movement. And in those days, a lot of really raunchy people were saved, a lot of people with a drug past, human trafficking past, just all sorts of street thugs. And I knew a lot of them.
They were good friends of mine. Came to Christ. Radical transformation, radical conversion. And you hear their testimonies and you go, wow, that guy was bad. And sometimes people tell their testimony to make you think, wow, they were really bad. Yeah. I used to do this and that. And people go, man, you really were bad. And then Jesus saved me. But they spent 20 minutes talking about how bad they were and only one minute about the fact that Jesus saved them from all that crud.
So what that does, it gets young people like Johnny listening to that going I don't have that kind of testimony. Here's my testimony. I was raised in a Christian home by believing parents. And I never blew it. I never rebelled. And so I remember him distraught about that. He goes, I think I need to sow some wild oats, he said. I need to do some bad things so that I also have a good testimony. I said, Johnny, that's the stupidest thing I've ever heard, because right now you're one of the wisest young men I've ever met.
You have a better testimony than any of us. He goes, how so? I said the keeping power of Jesus. You were saved at a young age. You stayed true to his promises. And he has kept you all the way through without going off the deep end. Your testimony is much better than mine. He goes, well, I never thought of it that way. That's why Paul says to the group of slanderers their condemnation is just.
Then in verse 9, he says, what then, or what shall we conclude then? He's giving a summary statement of all that he has said up to this point. He has talked about the raunchy people. He's talked about the religious people. He's talked about the so-called righteous folks. He's talked about the self-righteous folks. What shall we conclude then? How shall we make a summary statement? Are we better than they? Not at all for we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin.
Now before we read on, I just want to give you a preview. Paul is going to lay down an indictment in the courtroom. He wants to prove once and for all that all groups are guilty before God. Before he gets to the grace of God, before he pulls out the diamond, he wants you to see how bad that black velvet really is.
So he pulls out several verses out of the Book of Psalms and Isaiah, quote, after quote, after quote, a 14 count indictment and then he rests his case. These indictments can be divided into three categories, what a person is, what a person says, and what a person does. So he's making his concluding argument to say the whole world is guilty before God.
Verse 10. As it is written, here comes the prosecutor. As it is written, there is none righteous, no, not one. There is none who understands. There is none who seeks after God. They have all gone out of the way. They have all together become unprofitable. There is none who does good, no, not one. Their throat is an open tomb. With their tongues, they have practiced deceit. The poison of asps is under their lips whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood. Destruction and misery are in their ways.
And the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes. It's not a pretty picture, but this is an X-ray of my heart. Oh, you say, this is not an X-ray of your heart. Oh, yes, it is and yours. Oh, you look beautiful on the outside. Don't get me wrong. But this is the true you, man. This is the real photograph, the X-ray of the human heart. And notice some repeated words, two in particular. Look at the word none. Verse 10. None righteous. Verse 11. None who understands. None who seek after God.
And then the other word is all. Verse 9. Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin. Verse 12. They have all gone out of the way. Verse 19. We didn't read that yet. Let's read it now. Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law that every mouth may be stopped and all the world may be guilty before God. OK. So we have a good picture here. Here's this point. How many people are righteous? None. How many people are sinners? All. That's his basic point in all of these scriptures piled up in this 14 count indictment.
Now we know, again verse 19, let's read verse 19 and 20. We know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law that every mouth may be stopped and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law, no flesh will be justified. One of the most important texts in scripture. By the deeds of the law shall no flesh, no person be made right before God, be justified in his sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. In verse 19, it's like Paul is saying at the end of his case. He rests his case. And he says, now ladies and gentlemen of the jury, where does this leave the defendant? And the answer is speechless. Can't say a word. I mean, it's such an open and shut case there's no word of defense.
I remember one time when I was a teenager, an unsaved teenager, a curious, naughty, unsaved teenager that I had done some things. And I was in pretty deep trouble that included the involvement of law enforcement and a court hearing. And I remember standing in front of my father who found out everything that had gone on and knew the full scoop.
And he sort of read me the riot act but very peacefully just said you've done this, and done this, and done this, and done that. Looked straight at me. I couldn't say a single word. I couldn't say yeah, but, because it was perfectly accurate. And I had absolutely no defense. Now I am just waiting for this sentence to come down. I'm just waiting for the gavel or the whip or something.
You know, sometimes people have said to me, you know, when I see God, I have a thing or two that I have to say to him. I have a bone to pick with the Almighty. And I'll maybe mention a thing or two that they have considered unjust and they want to bring up at the judgment bar of God. I always cringe when people say I've got a thing or two I'm going to tell God.
Friend, listen to my advice. Don't stand before God apart from Jesus Christ. You will have no rebuttal, nothing to say at all. You want to make sure he is your advocate, your lawyer, your defense attorney.
John called him that. We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And it helps when your attorney is the best in town and happens to be related to the judge. Therefore, by the deeds of all, no flesh will be justified in his sight for by the law is the knowledge of sin. The law reveals our needy condition. OK. So Paul has taken all of humanity, Jew and Gentile, into the interrogation room and stripped them naked.
Now he takes them into the throne room and clothes them in the righteousness and grace of God. But now. I've been waiting for that for three chapters. But now. The righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed being witnessed by the law and the prophets. This is one of the most pivotal verses in the book. It is a change in focus. Remember I said that Romans can be divided into four sections? The wrath of God, the grace of God, the plan of God, the will of God.
Chapter 1, 2, and 3 to verse 20 is all about the wrath of God. Beginning in chapter 3 verse 21 all the way to chapter 8 verse 39 brings us to the second section, the grace of God. That's the pivot. But now. Now what Paul is doing is returning to his theme. I just want you to see that theme. Since this is a Bible study, let's study the Bible. Go back to chapter 1, verse 17, verse 16. I'm not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ. It's the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes for the Jew first and also for the Greek for in it, that is in the Gospel, in the good news, the message about Christ, in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith. As it is written, the just shall live by faith. That's the theme, the righteousness of God.
But in verse 18, the very next verse, he plunges us into darkness until chapter 3 verse 21. It gets really, really dark. He pulls out the black velvet. It's like yep, raunchy. Yep, gnarly. Yep, speechless. Right? But now the window is open. Now the light comes flooding through. Now the day opens up.
And he says but now, chapter 3, verse 21, the righteousness of God, back to that theme, apart from the law is revealed being witnessed by the law and the prophets. In the language of Narnia, the long dark winter is over and Aslan is on the move.
But now, now the righteousness of God is revealed. And it's witnessed by the law and the prophets even the righteousness of God which is true faith in Jesus Christ to all and on all who believe for there is no difference for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus whom God set forth to be the propitiation by his blood through faith to demonstrate his righteousness, because, in his forbearance, God has passed over the sins that were previously committed.
Donald Gray Barnhouse, one of the greatest teachers and expositors of the last century, drew a heart by these verses in his Bible and said that these were, in his opinion, the most important verses in all of scripture. Leon Morris, a theologian that I've read and am familiar with, said he believes these are the most important verses in literature. It is an incredible section of scripture.
All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Now look in verse 24 and 25. There are three keywords I want to explain. You need to know them. Some of you do know them. If you've been raised in the church, you know them by heart. And this is just a refresher course. Some of you need to be introduced to these words.
They're good Bible words. You can take a modern translation and get rid of them and translate them in a different way. But I suggest you don't do that but you learn these words. One is in verse 24, justified or justification. Paul will use that a lot. The second word is also in verse 24. Redemption. So number one, justification. Number two, redemption. Number three, verse 25, is propitiation.
Let's go back to the first word, justified or justification. Paul uses the word 30 times, 30 times in the New Testament, 15, half of those, in the book of Romans alone. It is a legal term. It is a forensic term. Justified means to make a proclamation or a declaration. It means that God is willing to look at your sinful life and my sinful life and make a declaration that you are perfect and righteous.
If you believe in Jesus, God will declare you are right before me. You are right before me, and not only make the declaration and the proclamation, that fancy legal forensic term, but then to treat you based upon that proclamation and declaration. He'll treat you like you never sinned. So it has often been explained to be justified is where God treats you just if I'd never sinned. Just if I'd never sinned. Just as if I had never sinned. You are justified. That's the first term.
The second term is redemption and that's a term from the slave market. Slaves were set free when somebody paid a price. So the word redemption means to grant someone freedom by paying a price. Intrinsic in the word redemption is the thought of value. Somebody goes to the slave market and the guy with the money, the potential owner says, I'm going to set that guy free. I'm going to pay the price because I see value in him and I'm going to put money down and secure his freedom because of the value that I see in that life.
So keep that in mind when it comes to your salvation. God sees value in you. You are worth the price that he paid. Now that's staggering, right? That's astonishing. Because we know the price he paid, his own son sacrificed for us. But to God you're worth it.
You're the treasure in the field. You're worth it. He sees value. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son. Doesn't say for God so loathed the world that he sent his son to beat you up. No, he so loved you because he sees value in you. And the idea of redemption also comes in the Book of Ruth, we saw that whole kinsman redeemer played out in Boas.
The third word is the most difficult word, it's the least understood word, and it's the least used word by modern translations. It is the word propitiation. Now, it's a difficult word to understand, it's a difficult word to translate, it has an idea of appeasement. It is sometimes translated a number of different ways in modern translations including appeasement, including atonement or atoning sacrifice. It is a word that is used about four times in the New Testament.
But get this... The word the Greek word is hilasterion. I don't expect you to remember that or even to write that down. Forget that. Hilasterion. Now here's what's interesting about the word, if you were a Greek reader and you were reading the Old Testament you would have to read a translation known as The Septuagint. You wouldn't be reading the Hebrew, Masoretic, you'd be reading The Septuagint version because that's the language of the Hebrews translated into Greek.
In the Septuagint version, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the word hilasterion, propitiation appears 20 times. And it is used for a piece of furniture in the Tabernacle, called the mercy seat. The mercy seat was the lid on top of the box that was the Ark of the Covenant. It was gold, it had cherubim on top, and it covered the Ark of the Covenant.
Inside the Ark of the Covenant, remember there were three items, there was Aaron's rod that budded, there was a pot of manner, and there was the law the Ten Commandments that Israel had broken. So as long as those tablets were around it was a reminder that Israel had broken God's law over and over and they did from the very beginning. So God said I'll only meet with you one place. On the hilasterion, the mercy seat, the only time I will have fellowship with you is when you sprinkle blood atop that mercy seat and when you do I will meet with you there.
So Jesus Christ is God's meeting place. Mercy seat, God has mercy on us, His blood covers our brokenness. It's a very, very powerful term. That's why I say learn these words. Yes, you can get other translations, but propitiation is a rich term. Hilasterion, mercy seat. Bible says there is one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus. You want to meet with God you got to go to His mercy seat and His mercy seat is Jesus. The propitiation by His blood. To demonstrate at present time His righteousness that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Next question, where is boasting then? OK if justification and redemption and propitiation are all accomplished in Jesus, where do you come off bragging about anything? At all? Where is boasting then? It is excluded by what law? Of works? No. But by the law or literally the principle of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified, declared righteous and treated that way. Proclaimed right before God. Apart from the deeds of the law. Or is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also. Since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and uncircumcised through faith. Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not. Perish the thought, no way, Jose, however you want to translate it. On the contrary, we establish the law.
Now, understand Paul's thinking. Let me refresh, go back to verse 21 and notice what he says. But now the righteousness of God apart from the law, the law of Moses, is revealed, here's the phrase I want you to see now, being witnessed by the law and the prophets.
Now if you're a Jewish listener and you just hear the rabbi say, you know, God makes people right through faith and that's a principle that goes all the way back to the Torah. It goes all the way back to the law and the prophets. Your immediate question is oh really? Forgive me, Paul, but I didn't read that. Help me understand that, where exactly is that?
So, Paul brings two witnesses into the courtroom. One is Abraham, who is justified by faith before the law and one is David, King David. So the two great persons from the Old Testament that every Jewish person looks up to, Father Abraham, or as my tour guides in Israel like to call him grandpa. Bring in grandpa as the first witness, bring in David.
So we get on the witness stand Abraham in chapter 4 verse 1, what then shall we say that Abraham our Father has found according to the flesh, for if Abraham was justified by works he has something to boast of but not before God. For what does the scripture say? Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness.
Now to him who works, the wages aren't counted as grace but as debt. If you have an employer, you put in so many hours per week and he gives you a paycheck, you don't go, oh, you're so kind to give me that paycheck, thank you. What caused you to be so overwhelmingly sweet? Nothing. You earned it. You deserve it, that was the contract.
So to him who works, the wages aren't countered as grace but as debt, but to him who does not work but believes on him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.
What is Paul referring? To Paul is referring to an incident in Abraham's life. When one evening God took him stargazing. Abraham come outside, let's look at the stars together. Abraham was 86 at the time. So, it was one of those dry, warm Middle Eastern skies where he looked up and he saw the panoply of stars spread out like diamonds on velvet.
And he looked up, he said, Abraham, you see all the stars? Yep. That's what your family is going to be like, man. You're going to have a whole bunch of kids, offspring. Now when that happened, Abraham didn't go, oh, no. Come on, that's so ridiculous. I'm 86! Hello! That's a little bit impossible! He said, amen. That's the Hebrew. He believed God. He said, amen. He said, right on, amen. That's good, God. Amen, I agree with that, amen. And so God said, that's all I need. You believe that, you said amen to it. I'm going to count what you just did in your heart and said with your lips as being right before me.
God accounted that to Abraham as righteousness. Now the word accounted is a banking term like... It means to put to your account. So Abraham was bankrupt before God, is the thought, he believed God's promise, God said, I'm changing the books. Now I'm changing the books. So God says to you when you say, I believe that Jesus died on the cross for my sins, God says, I'm changing the books, you're not guilty. You are right before me, you are righteous but for me. It's a declaration God makes, He accounted it to him for righteousness.
God didn't say, Abraham, listen, I'm glad you said that but there's 36 things you need to do first and you need to be baptized and you need to go to church regularly and then, maybe then, I'll make you right with me. Just the amen, just the belief was enough. Do you realize how great this is? Especially if you have a religious background? This is so freeing. You mean I don't have to do anything? No, the whole point is is He did it for you. You agreed with what He did, you believed in your heart it was authentic. He takes you that way, that's the portal by which you enter. And you are made right before God.
Now let me give you a recommendation before we mosey on really quickly. Next time you are overwhelmed with your troubles, whatever they may be, I don't even have to give examples, you have your own. Next time you are feeling overwhelmed go outside and look up. OK, we live in the city, there's somewhat light pollution here, not as bad as where I'm from but it's still out there, but then take a drive somewhere, go to the mountains and look up. Park the car, lay out on the hood, look up at the sky and realize your God did that. The God who loves you, the God who promises things to you did that.
As Isaiah said, God measures the universe with the span of his hand, realize I'm looking up at the Milky Way galaxy, something that they say has 100 to 400 billion stars, that is between 10 and 100,000 light years across. So if you could travel at the speed of light at 186,000 miles per second to get from one end to the other end would take you 100,000 years.
God says, it's only about that big. It's very, very small. There are several others out there besides that one. Your God makes promises to you. Look up and say amen. Amen! Yes, Lord! And realize God loves you. Do that, it's a good exercise.
So, Abraham is the first man to the witness stand, the second one is David. Just as David also described the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works. Here's the quote, this is Psalm 32, blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven and whose sins are covered. Blessed, oh, how happy. Is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin.
After David sinned with Bathsheba and Nathan came and said, you're the dude, he penned Psalm 51 as I mentioned and Psalm 32. David is declaring the joy of God not holding his sin against him. And David believes that. So, in Paul's courtroom Abraham and David are what you would call prima facie evidence for justification by faith.
These men are examples of people, apart from the law of Moses, who simply believed God's promises and were held in right standing before God, Abraham and David. Now you say, well David, I don't know if that's a good example for Paul to bring into the courtroom. David's not a good guy to get on the stand because David was a good Jewish boy and he did get circumcised, he kept the law and he was circumcised.
So knowing that rebuttal, he circles back to Abraham, and he says this, does this blessedness then come upon this circumcised only? Or upon the uncircumcised also? For we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness. How then was that it accounted? While he was circumcised or uncircumcised? Not while he was circumcised but while uncircumcised.
And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised that He might be the Father of all those who believe. Though they are uncircumcised that the righteousness might be imputed to them also. And the Father of circumcision. To those who not only are the circumcision but also walking the steps of the faith which our Father Abraham had while still uncircumcised.
Genesis chapter 15, where God said, I'm counting you righteous before me, happened before there was a law. Before there was the ritual of circumcision. Before Moses was ever born. So before there was any kind of a standard whereby people were called on to do this ritual, God imputed a righteousness to Abraham. It precedes the law.
Now, if you think about it, Abraham was declared righteous before God while he was still a Gentile. Now this is interesting, it's a little bit of a quandary to the orthodox Jewish person. To call Abraham, the Father of Judaism, the first Jew, a Gentile. But he was, he came from Ur from the Chaldees. His father Terah was an idol worshipper, he had a pagan Gentile background. He was uncircumcised.
But he believed in God and that Gentile, also first Jew, was made right before God without any ritual, without any law, just by believing. It's an incredible case study.
Now, you need to know something, Abraham does get circumcised. When he's 99 years old. I'm just going to pass over that. There are so many implications but the point is he got circumcised and he took Ishmael and got him circumcised and then Isaac and it got carried on. Circumcision was introduced before the giving of the law, the law made it a mandate for every Jewish male to do.
But here's the point, the father of circumcision, Abraham, got circumcised not because it added to his faith but because it attested to his faith. It didn't make him right before God, it proved that he was right with God and he did it as an act of obedience, the outward sign to prove inward change. Like a baptism. It came subsequent, it came later to that.
For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. For of those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is made of no effect because the law brings about wrath. For where there is no law there is no transgression.
Now do you realize that there was a time in this country where there was no speed limit? I know some of you drive as if there's no speed limit now but there is. But there was a time when you could just get on an open road and do whatever you wanted to do. Just have a blast. No speed limit, no law. You can't break the law, there is no law. Doesn't exist. You can't break what doesn't exist.
If you travel to Europe, you can get on the Autobahn. I've done that. No speed limit. Now, they have a recommended speed. 80 miles an hour. That's recommended. Nobody really follows the recommendations. You can go 130 if you want, 140 if you want. And if you rent a car and drive the Autobahn and it's a rush. OK, enough of that.
You can't transgress a law if the law doesn't exist but once the law exists and you go over this speed limit or do whatever, the law now brings wrath. You get the point. Therefore it is a faith that it might be according to grace so that the promise might be sure to all the seed. Not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith. Of Abraham, who is the Father of us all.
As it is written, I have made you a Father of many nations in the presence of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives the life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did. Now, Paul is referring to a principle that he clearly, or I would say more clearly articulates in fewer words in the book of Ephesians.
In Ephesians chapter 2 verse 8, it says for by grace you have been saved through faith. For grace you have been saved through faith, not of yourselves lest anyone should boast. So it's all by faith, not of works lest anyone should boast. You are saved through faith. Abraham was simply the prototype of salvation by believing. Salvation by grace through faith. He didn't work for it, you and I don't work for it, all we do say amen to it. We receive it.
Verse 18, let's finish finishes out. Who contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the Father of many nations according to what was spoken so shall your descendants be. The promise in Genesis chapter 15, stars of the sky, and not being weak in faith he did not consider his own body already dead since he was about 100 years old and the deadness of Sarah's womb.
I sort of feel sorry for Abraham. You know his name was Abram, which means exalted Father, and that was his name while he had no children. And then God made him change his name, or God changed his name, to Abraham which means Father of a multitude, still no children. So you can just imagine the caravan coming through meeting him for the first time. What's your name, sir? Abram. Oh, Father, Exalted Father. How many kids you have? Nada. Zip, zilch, zero, none. OK. Weird name for that but nice to meet you. Abe, see you. Comes back a year later, hey Abram. No, name's changed now, Father of a multitude. Really? So you've had children? Nope, not yet. They're coming.
Now notice what he says here, we want to make that quick. Not being we can say he did not consider his own body already dead since he was about 100 years old. The reason Abram, Abraham could say amen to God's promise, so shall your descendants be, OK, I believe that I'm going to have kids. The reason he could do it is simple, he factored God into the equation. When you don't factor God into any equation, it's difficult, it's hard, it's improbable, it's impossible. But when you factor God into it, it's like OK. Amen. That's what we need to do. Factor God into life's problems.
Jesus said, with God nothing shall be impossible. We carry our limitations over under God, Sarah did when she heard the promise that she was going to have a child, she laughed. She was behind the curtain, she went: Shall I have pleasure at such an old age and shall my master Abraham have pleasure? No way.
And God said to Abraham, why did Sarah laugh? And she spoke now a little bit louder from behind the curtain, I didn't laugh. God said, you did laugh, Sarah. And then He said, is anything too hard for God? You see, that's the factoring God into the equation, is anything too hard for God? Well, you know the rest of the story.
Verse 20, he did not waver at the promise. He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief but was strengthened in faith giving glory to God and being fully convinced that what he had promised he was also able to perform. And therefore it was accounted to him for righteousness.
Now, to be honest, I read this, it says he didn't waver at the promise of God, and I kind of smile and I even kind of laugh a little bit and I think, God, you're being very generous with Abraham. Paul, you are certainly being very generous with grandpa saying he never wavered. The truth is, when God said so shall your descendants be, he said amen but then he goes, you know, he was having a tough time. I've only got this guy named Eleazar hanging around and how will I know.
And then later on, the very next chapter, he seemed to waver a lot when he took Sarah's advice and took Hagar, the handmaiden, and went into her and had a child named Ishmael. Because he sort of reasoned, well, maybe it's not going to really be a miracle, maybe what God really meant is simply it's going to be through natural means and Ishmael was born.
So it sort of seems like he wavered but let me answer that by saying this, doubt is not the same as unbelief. Everybody struggles with issues of faith. You should. It's OK to do that. If you have struggles, you should voice them. Doesn't make you a bad person. I have had my struggles and every struggle I've had, I've wrestled through it. And my faith has gotten stronger.
So, doubt isn't the same as unbelief and he's dressing unbelief here. Unbelief saying God can't do it, won't do it. That's unbelief, it's more of a position of the heart, a decision of the heart. Also, the fact that 99-year-old Abraham gets circumcised shows he's all in and he believes what God's going to do. He's attesting to his faith.
So enough said on that. Let's finish it out. It was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him but also for us, it shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead who has delivered up because of our offenses and He was raised up because of our justification. So, Abraham on the witness stand, evidence that he is saved and all of us are saved by that same principle. Faith. And God when you believe imputes to you a righteousness you cannot produce, you can merely receive and walk in.
And you are right before God, therefore God looks at you with the same purity that He would behold his own son. Hard to believe, hard to get your mind around that, heart around that. But it's the truth of scripture. And I love Abraham because Abraham didn't focus on his impotence but on God's omnipotence. He can do anything, I can't, but He can. And he believed God.
Father, thank you, we believe you. We believe you are good, we believe you are a rewarder to those who diligently seek you. We're so thankful that we too have an edge in that we are exposed to spiritual truth on a regular basis to our own private reading as well as teaching of the scripture. Thank you for this time and being able to take two whole chapters in an hour and go through them and understand them and apply them. Lord, I pray that our response to your promise would be a simple amen and that if we struggle and we are overwhelmed, that we would look up and see the stars. Think of Abraham, think nothing is impossible, but also as Jesus said, look up for your redemption draws nigh. We look forward to your return, until then may we follow you faithfully in Jesus' name. Amen.