Gospel Credit (Rom 4:1-25)

Rom 4:1-25; 4:5

"But to the one who does not work, but believes on Him who declares the ungodly to be righteous, his faith is credited for righteousness" (Rom 4:5, HCSB). "However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness" (Rom 4:5, NIV).

Gospel Credit or Gospel Justification or Salvation is (Romans, by John Stott):
  1. Not by works (1-8).
  2. Not by circumcision (9-12).
  3. Not by law (13-17).
  4. By faith (18-22).
  5. For us (23-25).
I. Justification is Not By Works (1-8)
II. Justification is Not By Circumcision (9-12)
III. Justification is Not By Law (13-17)
IV. Justification is By Faith (18-22)
V. Justification is For Us (23-25)

Salvation or Justification is (Adapted from "The Message of Romans, Leader's Guide" by Tim Keller):
  1. A gift (1-8): Abraham was given, "credited," righteousness, so salvation is a gift, not earned. (How Abraham was saved.)
  2. For all (9-17): Abraham's righteousness came before circumcision and the law, so salvation is for all, not some. (When Abraham was saved.)
  3. For us (18-25): Abraham's faith is a case study for us, so we can truly be his "children." (Why Abraham was saved.)
I. Justification is A Gift (1-8): It is credited (the Greek word is repeated 14 times in 11 verses).

Why did Paul choose Abraham as his main example of justification by faith (Rom 4:1)? John Stott explains: "There seem to have been two reasons for Paul's choosing Abraham as his main example. The first is that he was the founding father of Israel, 'the rock from which [they] were cut', the favoured recipient of God's covenant and promises. The second reason is doubtless that Abraham was held in the highest esteem by the Rabbis as the epitome of righteousness and even the special 'friend' of God. They took it for granted that he had been justified by works of righteousness. For instance, 'Abraham was perfect in all his dealings with the Lord and gained favour by his righteousness throughout his life.' They quoted the Scriptures in which God promised to bless Abraham because he had obeyed him, without observing that these verses referred to Abraham's life of obedience after his justification. They even quoted Genesis 15:6 (Paul's text in this chapter, verse 3), in such a way as to represent Abraham's faith as meaning his fidelity or faithfulness, which was therefore meritorious. For example, 'was not Abraham found faithful in temptation, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness?'" John R. W. Stott,Romans: God's Good News for the World (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1994), 123.

Justification (righteousness, salvation) is credited (λογίζομαι [logizomai] {Rom 4:3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 22, 23, 24} is repeated 14 times in 11 verses. "Credit" is an accounting term meaning "to count as." To "credit" something is to confer a status that was not there before. The Jews of the time (including Christians without realizing it) thought that faith = obedience of the law. But Paul argues in several ways in Rom 2:2-4 why saving faith is not that:
  1. To say that faith is credited as righteousness means that faith in itself is not righteousness. Faith could not be an active accomplishment of good deeds. Faith is therefore something that is receptive. Faith is not a "work" that merits anything.
  2. If faith = obedience, then salvation is not a gift. And if it is not a gift, God would be obligated to save us (Rom 2:4). This runs counter to the whole tenor of the Bible.
  3. If faith = obedience, then we who are saved would be able to boast before God and others, for we are the real authors of our salvation. But that is antithetical to the spirit and character of the great patriarch Abraham (Rom 4:1). Paul argues in Rom 4:2. that if Abraham was justified by works, then he had something to boast about. But Paul expresses the impossibility of such a conclusion — but not before God! In other words, the clear falsity of the conclusion shows that the premise (that Abraham was justified by works) is wrong.
  4. If faith = obedience, then the actual object of faith is you yourself and your abilities. It leads to boasting and pride (or to despair and self-hatred). But if faith = trust God's promise to save, then the actual object of faith is God and his ability. That leads to humility and confidence.
Many Jewish commentators find Paul's definition of faith perplexing. One writes: "Faith becomes a zealous obedience in the matter of fulfilling the law… [Paul's position] of absolute opposition between faith, on the one hand, and the law, on the other… has always been unintelligible to the Jewish thinker." (H.J.Shoeps, Paul, London: 1962) This may also be true of Christians who functionally think of faith as obedience to the word of God, when to Paul salvation is by faith apart from obeying the law (Rom 3:28; 4:5).

Abraham wasn't saved by just believing in God. Rom 4:3 says, "Abraham believed God." This is not a general belief in God that saves, but it is believing God when he promises a way of salvation by grace. Saving faith is not faith in God in general. You can have lots and lots of strong faith that God exists, that he is loving, that he is holy. You can believe that the Bible is God's holy word. You can show great reverence for God. Yet all the while you can be seeking to be your own savior and justifier by trusting in our works, our performance in church/religion, performance in moral character, performance as a parent, performance in vocation, etc.

Rom 4:5 scares some Christians because they think that it means Christians don't have to do any work. They are afraid that it will remove all effort and motivation from the Christian life. This is a misunderstanding of what Paul meant. In contrast, to the model of faith = obedience of the law, Paul gives us a model of faith = trust of God's saving provision. In Rom 4:5, Paul says that saving faith consists in (1) the cessation of one kind of trust and (2) the commencement of another kind:
  1. A saved person does not work (Rom 4:5a). This cannot mean that a saved person does not obey the law (Rom 3:31; 6:1-2). It must therefore mean that the saved person no longer trusts in obedience as a way to be saved. A Christian is one who stops working to be saved, not one who stops working!
  2. A saved person trusts God who justifies the wicked (Rom 4:5b). This means a Christian is one who trusts in God as having a way to save apart from our efforts and our obedience to the law.
In Rom 4: 5 "justification" and "credited righteousness" are the same thing. To be "justified" is to receive "credited righteousness." This is what Martin Luther called "passive righteousness" and what theologians call "imputed righteousness."

II. Justification is For All (9-17)

III. Justification is For Us (18-25)

  1. Why Works Won't Work (Rom 3:27-4:12). Keith Krell.
  2. Study Guide for_Romans_4. David Guzik.
  3. Bible Study Questions on Romans. David E. Pratte.
  1. How does Paul's illustration of Abraham in chapter 4 follow chapter 3? Why do you think Paul chose Abraham as the prime illustration of justification by faith and not by works (Rom 4:1-5)?
  2. The word λογίζομαι (logizomai) is repeated 14 times in 11 verses in Romans 4 (Rom 4:3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 22, 23, 24). What does this teach about justification, righteousness and salvation? Explain how Abraham's righteousness is due to faith alone and not works (Rom 4:1-5).
  3. Was Abraham saved by believing in God (Rom 4:3)? Is this a general belief in a God that saves us? Why? Why not?
  4. What does Paul mean by saying a Christian is "one who does not work" (Rom 4:5; 3:28)? Does it mean to not obey the law (Rom 3:31; 6:1-2)? How does Paul's definition of faith differ from that of so many churchgoers and religious people?
    • If you were to die tonight and go before God, and he were to say to you, "'Why should I let you into my heaven?' what would you say?"
    • What do you think are the general requirements for admission into heaven? Who gets in and who doesn't?"
  5. Is how God dealing with sin in Rom 4:6-8 different from Rom 4:1-5? How is "God who justifies the wicked" (Rom 4:5) supported by David (Rom 4:6-8; Ps 32:1-2). Explain again "God credits righteousness apart from works." (Rom 4:6).
  6. How does Paul make his case in Rom 4:9-17 that salvation is not just for Jews, but for all?
  7. How Abraham (Rom 4:18-25) illustrate the difference between believing in God, and believing God (Rom 4:3)? How can his example help you strengthen your faith (Rom 4:19-20)? 


Gospel Apart From Law (Rom 3:27-31)

Romans 3:27-31; 3:28

"So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law" (Rom 3:28, NLT). "For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law" (Rom 3:28, NIV).

Only by faith in Christ. In 3:27-4:25, Paul expounds one key element of the great theological thesis of 3:21-26 by concentrating on the vital theme of Rom 3:22, NIV: "This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe." Paul uses a series of antithesis to explain the nature and implications of faith as the sole means of salvation/justification. Faith is contrasted with:
  • "works of the law" (Rom 3:28),
  • "works" (Rom 4:1-8),
  • circumcision (Rom 4:1-9),
  • the law (Rom 4:13-16), and
  • "sight" (Rom 4:17-22).
Paul expounds and enunciates what has become a hallmark of the Reformation (sola fide) that "faith alone" is the means by which a person can be brought into relationship with God.

In 3:27-31, Paul asks 4 questions, which can be addressed in 3 parts:
  1. Where is boasting (27-28)?
  2. Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too (29-30)?
  3. Do we nullify the law by this faith (31)?
From these questions, we discover how the gospel resolves these issues:
  1. The gospel removes pride from our national, cultural and religious superiority.
  2. The gospel promotes unity by removing racial distinctions and elitism.
  3. The gospel upholds, fulfills and establishes the law, not nullify or cancel it.
  1. What causes boasting (Phil 3:3)? With what results (1 Cor 1:12; 3:4; Gal 5:15)? What excludes boasting (Rom 3:27)? What could Paul boast about (Phil 3:4-6)? Why didn't he (Phil 3:7-8)? What did he boast about (Gal 6:14)?
  2. What does it mean that justification is by faith apart from the works of the law (Rom 3:28; 4:5)?
  3. Why is God the God of both Jews and Gentiles (Rom 3:29-30)?
  4. How does justification by faith uphold the law (Rom 3:21)? How does this refute the charge of antinomianism (Rom 6:1-2, 15)?


Persuasive Preaching

Persuasive Preaching: A Biblical and Practical Guide to the Effective Use of Persuasion by R. Larry Overstreet is a helpful book for preachers, pastors, and ministers of the gospel. It is not an easy read but more like a textbook with much interaction with the Greek. But I enjoyed reading it and found it useful and practical as a bivocational preacher. It prompted me to think seriously about persuasion, and to reassess how I am to preach and teach and communicate Scripture by using persuasion biblically. This book has 4 logical parts moving from issues, need for, theology of, and how to regarding persuasive preaching:
  1. Issues Facing Persuasive Preaching.
  2. Biblical Basis of Persuasive Preaching.
  3. Structuring Persuasive Messages.
  4. Pertinent Applications in Persuasive Preaching.
What is persuasion? "Persuasion aims at change. It may be change of belief, change of attitude, or change of behavior, but change is the goal." Overstreet makes a very strong case for the utmost importance of persuasion in preaching. Preaching that was geared toward some change was the norm in the past. But persuasion in preaching has been replaced by a more reflective and contemplative style of preaching where the congregation may simply feel informed but not feel challenged or motivated by the sermon. Overstreet encourages the return to persuasion in preaching that would lead to positive change in the congregation.


Preaching By Ear

I love this book! I highly recommend it to anyone who teaches or preaches.

As one who began preaching with some regularity only a few years ago I realized rather soon that preparing and writing out a sermon during one's private study in a room is quite different from preaching the sermon before a live audience. The written sermon should be primarily for reading and study, while the preached sermon is for the listening audience, which is live. The author, Dave McClellen, explained this important difference by exploring the art and science of orality from the ancient masters Augustine, Plato, Aristotle and Quintilian. McClellan also explained Preaching by Ear in two introductory videos on youtube: Preach By Ear - What's the problem (2 min) and Preach By Ear - Beginnings (5 min).

Having attended a church for over three decades where the sermon is always read from a written script, I subjectively sensed some limitation without knowing exactly how to explain why. A few years ago, I began experimenting with preaching extemporaneously, and found it to be far more fulfilling and organic for me. McClellan's book helped confirm my suspicions that extemporaneous preaching enables you to connect with your congregation in the moment with unlimited flexibility and vulnerability. On the other hand, reading a prepared script to a live audience is "safer," but more limiting and less able to connect with the audience in the ever changing moment. At least, this was my own experience when I preached by reading from a script with little or hardly any deviation from it.


Theme of Romans: Gospel, Righteousness, Grace

Structure of Romans based on Rom 1:16-17
  1. Theology (1-8): The gospel reveals the righteousness of God.
  2. History (9-11): First for the Jew, then for the Gentile.
  3. Application (12-16): The righteous by faith will live.
"What God has given to us" (1-11) gives way to "what we are to give to God." But what we are to give to God cannot be produced independently of God's continuing gracious provision. It is not simply a transition from "theology" to "practice." It is rather a focus more on the "indicative" side of the gospel to a focus on the "imperative" side of the gospel.
  1. The heart of the gospel (1-4): What the gospel is.
  2. The assurance of the gospel (5-8): What the gospel does.
  3. The spread of the gospel (9-11): Jew first, Gentile next is how the gospel grows.
  4. The transformation of the gospel (12-16): How the gospel works.


The Christmas Promise

The premise of The Christmas Promise is simple and clear: God keeps his promise. This core truth is repeatedly emphasized. This Christmas story begins with a promise. Long ago God made a promise and He kept His promise. We and our children need to know that God is trustworthy. God is worthy of our trust because He keeps His promises. This story illustrates how God can be trusted to keep His word.

The book also explains how God promised to provide a king, a new king, and a rescuing king, and a forever king, who was confirmed by God's special messengers. By following the messengers' instructions, their words always came true. As in Matthew's Gospel, men who followed a bright star on a long journey saw how the message was true. God indeed keeps His promises. We can always trust God, even today. Many pages were illustrated with sketches of kings, both old and modern from around the world: Chinese, English, a Pharaoh, a modern president. Kings have authority and leadership so that this newly born king is someone we can trust and follow without fear.


7 Objections About Christianity

In the first section of Reason for God, titled "The Leap of Doubt," Tim Keller answers seven common critiques and doubts about Christianity:
  1. There can't be just one true religion
  2. A good God could not allow suffering
  3. Christianity is a straitjacket
  4. The church is responsible for so much injustice
  5. A loving God would not send people to hell
  6. Science has disproved Christianity
  7. You can't take the Bible literally

In the second half of the book, titled "The Reasons for Faith," Keller gives seven reasons to believe in the claims of the Christian faith.

  1. The clues of God
  2. The knowledge of God
  3. The problem of sin
  4. Religion and the gospel
  5. The (true) story of the cross
  6. The reality of the resurrection
  7. The Dance of God


100 Pianos Tuned to the Same Fork

Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow.

So one hundred worshippers meeting together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be were they to become "unity" conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship.

Social religion is perfected when private religion is purified. The body becomes stronger as its members become healthier. The whole Church of God gains...


Faith by AW Tozer, The Pursuit of God

Faith is the least self-regarding of the virtues. It is by its very nature scarcely conscious of its own existence.

Like the eye which sees everything in front of it and never sees itself, faith is occupied with the Object upon which it rests and pays no attention to itself at all. While we are looking at God we do not see ourselves--blessed riddance.

The man who has struggled to purify himself and has had nothing but repeated failures will experience real relief when he stops tinkering with his soul and looks away to the perfect One. While he looks at Christ, the very things he has so long been trying to do will be getting done within him. It will be God working in him to will and to do.


Take One Year to Study Romans

Why study Romans. Should we take up to one year to study Romans slowly and prayerfully and with some depth and detail?
  • Martin Luther called Romans "really the chief part of the NT, and ...truly the purest gospel. It is worthy not only that every Christian should know it word for word, by heart, but also that he should occupy himself with it every day, as the daily bread of the soul."
  • John Stott says, "(Romans) is the fullest and grandest statement of the gospel in the NT...a timeless manifesto of freedom through Jesus Christ."
  • John Piper regards Romans as "the greatest letter ever written."
  • Ray Stedman calls Romans "the master key to Scripture." "If you had no other book of the Bible than this, you would find every Christian teaching at least mentioned here. If you really grasp the book of Romans in its total argument you will find yourself at home in any other part of the Scriptures."
  • Douglas Moo, NT scholar, says, "Romans is Paul's summary of the gospel that he preaches. The theme of the letter is the gospel."
  • Countless people have been changed (and changed the world) through Romans: Augustine (386), Martin Luther (1515), John Wesley (1703-91).
  • Martyn Lloyd-Jones preached on Romans for 13 years and John Piper preached through Romans in 8 years.