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The Gospel According to Abraham

Romans 4:1-8


H. A. Ironside was traveling and dropped in on a s.s. class.  The unprepared teacher asked how OT saints were saved and somebody said, by keeping the law.  The teacher said, correct!  Ironside raised his hand and said, Rom. 3:28 says it's not by the law.  The teacher said, oh, that's right, sorry.  So how were OT saints saved?  Somebody else said, by making sacrifices.  Correct!  Ironside raised his hand and said, Hebrews says the blood of bulls and goats is not sufficient.  Oh yeah...why don't you just tell us how!  "The same way we are today, by faith!"


3:31 asked if the OT was void because of saving faith?  God forbid!  Now look at how he illustrates that saving faith is in the OT.


vv. 1-8

Paul spends a lot of time on justification because our nature tries to clothe ourselves with righteousness in the form of fig leaves, but we are not truly clothed with righteousness until God does the clothing.

ill.--Naaman the leper wanted to do something to be healed, not just trust.


Illustrations help us understand.  They are tools.  They are windows thru which truth can shine into our hearts.  They are tacks that help nail truths down solidly into our foundation.  Watch Paul illustrate Justification.


People in the OT were saved by faith just as we are.  They looked forward to the cross, and we look back to it.


Hebrews 11 uses the term 'by faith' 21 times in reference to how OT saints were saved.


Abraham and David are our illustrations now...

Abe was before the law, and David was under the law, and we are after the law, but in all 3 periods, God's requirement is faith.


Paul wants to make it very clear that this is not some strange new doctrine that will leave his Jewish friends adrift on the sea of life holding onto an anchor instead of a life vest.


To talk to Jews, you have to mention Abraham, their father of virtue.


Justified by grace thru faith.

v. 1 What did Abraham find?  Every Jew knew the answer:  Righteousness, an inheritance, a posterity.


v. 2  If it was by his own self effort he has bragging rights before man, but not before God.


v. 3  Notice where Paul gets the answer.  [first 5 words]  The Bible is our only and absolute authority, not what we heard or want to repeat. 


v. 3b        This is a quote.

Genesis 15:6
6 And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.

The word believed means 'amen'.  God said look at the're not just gonna have the one son you've been praying for, but multitudes of them, more than the stars in number...and Abe said, Amen!  In simple childlike trust and faith he believed God, and that's when he was saved.


v. 5  God 'COUNTED' it for righteousness - from the Greek, logizomai, which is used 11 times in Romans 4 - it is an accounting term.  God credits our account!


This is positional righteousness, not practical righteousness.

This is the one time event where God declared Abe to be righteous.  But did he always live righteously in a practical sense?  No, he got impatient and took Hagar and fathered Ishmael, father of Islam.  Then he treated Hagar shamefully.  And he lied about his wife Sarah twice...all of this was after God declared him righteous. 


When we become a Christian, we don't become perfect, just forgiven.  Does that mean we can live any way we want?  No.  Look...

vv. 6-8     Why does he leave Abraham and talk about David?  To have a second witness for starters.  Plus, he lived later, under the law.  He sinned willfully: adultery, murder, deceit...and yet he found forgiveness.  And it was by grace, thru faith, not by works or penance.


So, why is it that salvation has to come this way, by faith?


1.     v. 4  If there was anything we could do to save ourselves then God would be obligated to give it to us.  He would be in debt to us...duty bound to save us.  But God will not be in debt to any man. 


2.     Man is incapable of reaching God's standard of righteousness which is absolute perfection.


3.     No matter how good our works might be, they don't pay the sin debt, which the Bible says is death.  The wages of sin is not baptism, offerings, church membership or good is death!


4.     Christ's sacrifice on the cross would be in vain. If there is any other way to be saved, then God should have used that plan, and His Son died in vain.  It would have been foolish to come and die.  But He did because there was no other way.


5.     God's glory would be eclipsed by man's glory.


The primary purpose of the gospel is not for man's benefit, and to keep us out of hell.  That's a great purpose, but the primary purpose was to glorify God.


Oh, how man-centered our gospel presentation has become.  "Come to Jesus w/ your problems and let Him solve them."  "Feel empty, let Him fill you up."  "Let Jesus save you from hell."  All of these are true and very, very good, but we should be able to say to people - "You were created by God for His glory, you've turned from Him and need to be saved, and if you do, it will bring glory to Him as your creator and redeemer, and you should do it because it's the right thing to do, not just for you, but for Him who offers it to you!"

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