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4-1 Father Abraham, King David, and You

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MBC – 3/20/2005 – Pastor Doug Thompson

“Father Abraham, King David, and You”

Romans 4:1-8

Intro. and review: Sola Fide!

Last Lord’s Day, we saw what it means to be saved Sola Fide--through faith alone in Christ, rather than good works. We used the analogy of two chairs in the middle of an empty room. One is labeled “Do,” the other is labeled “Done.” Every person you meet is sitting in one or the other. Every one of you are sitting in one or the other this morning. If you are sitting in the “Do” chair, you believe that you have to make some contribution to your own salvation. You can’t just sit there, you must do something!

Every cult and false religion is in the do chair—

Ø      (Mormons): "There are some who have striven to obey all the divine commandments, who have accepted the testimony of Christ, obeyed ‘the laws and ordinances of the Gospel,’ and received the Holy Spirit; these are they who have overcome evil by godly works and who are therefore entitled to the highest glory" (page 83).

Ø      "Accepting the message of salvation and devoting ourselves to God through Christ and being baptized in water is only the beginning of our exercise of faith.  It is only the beginning of our obedience to God. It sets us on the way to everlasting life, but it does not mean our final salvation . . . salvation comes to the individual only through obedience","  This Means Everlasting Life, p. 181.")

But if you are sitting in the “Done” chair, you believe that everything that was necessary for your salvation was accomplished by Jesus Christ through His obedient life and substitutionary death. You have no contribution. Only those who are sitting in this chair have eternal life.

Sola Fide means that you renounce anything and everything within you and you trust in Christ alone to save you.  Faith isn’t something good we do that God rewards with salvation. Faith is simply the empty hand that reaches out and takes what Christ promises. Faith doesn’t save us, Christ saves us. Faith just links us to the Christ who saves. And we used the analogy of a bridge over a rushing, flooded stream. If you drove your car over that bridge it wasn’t your faith that held your car up—it was the bridge!

Another illustration came to mind that deals with water—

•     You all remember the story of Peter asking Jesus if he could walk on the water. He didn't examine his faith: "Do I have enough faith? And is my faith strong enough?--maybe I need to believe a little harder (grunt). What if my faith doesn't hold up? I need to read a good book on faith!" No, he just trusted Jesus, and as long as his eyes were fixed on His Master, he did the supernatural. When did Peter begin to sink? When he took his eyes off Christ, looked at the wind and the waves, and began questioning his own ability to walk on water. He was looking at his own faith; instead of looking at Jesus.

There's a huge difference between the faith by which you stand on the Rock and the Rock on which you stand. Faith isn't the Rock; Christ is the Rock. Look to Him. Trust Him! Remember His promises, and remind yourself of all that He is all that He has done, and all that He can do.

And if you are truly sitting in the “Done” chair, and truly trusting in Christ for your salvation, then you will have nothing to boast about, except for Christ and what He has done for you!

Well some of the Jews listening to this letter being read in church in Rome would have said to themselves, “How does all this jive with Father Abraham? Would he agree with Paul’s gospel? And what about King David? Would he buy this Sola Fide stuff”

Ø      ROM 4:1 What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found?

Ø      ROM 4:2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about; but not before God.

Ø      ROM 4:3 For what does the Scripture say? "And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness."

Ø      ROM 4:4 Now to the one who works, his wage is not reckoned as a favor, but as what is due.

Ø      ROM 4:5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness,

Ø      ROM 4:6 just as David also speaks of the blessing upon the man to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works:

Ø      ROM 4:7 "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, And whose sins have been covered.

Ø      ROM 4:8 "Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account."

Up to this point in Romans, Paul has been very theological, very doctrinal. He has been dealing with truth in the abstract, but here in ch.4 he gives 2 flesh and blood illustrations of what it means to be justified by grace through faith alone—Abraham and David.

I. Father Abraham and Sola Fide.

Abraham was an obvious choice: To every Jew, he was the supreme example of a godly, righteous man. He was the model of genuine faith and godliness. If Paul can show that Abraham was just before God by faith rather than works, then the argument is over.

But Paul knew that if he had asked the average Jewish person on the street in Rome, he would have said that Abraham was made right with God because of his own righteous character. God chose Abraham to be the father of His people Israel because Abraham was the most righteous man on earth during his time. And they interpreted Abe’s faith as faithfulness—and there is a huge difference between being saved by faith and being saved by faithfulness! Listen to what was written about Abraham—

Ø      1 Macc.2:51: “Was not Abraham found faithful in temptation and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness?”

Ø      From the Book of Jubilee: “Abraham was perfect in all his deeds with the Lord, and well-pleasing in rtnss. all the days of his life.”

Ø      Some rabbis even said that Abraham kept the whole law—600 years before it was given!—and was sinless.

*Now all of this is ridiculous hyperbole—Abraham was never on God’s “nice guy list.” He was a pagan Gentile when God called him. He worshiped the Chaldean moon goddess, Nanna, along with everyone else in Ur.

Ø      God didn’t choose Abe to be the father of the people of God because he was a good man. You can read in Genesis how Abe lied, on more than one occasion. Scripture gives us no clue as to why God selected this pagan from the millions of others in pagans in the world! He just chose Abram, out of free grace and mercy, to be the recipient of His blessings--that’s all we know.

And by the way, that’s all you and I know about why God chose pagans like you and I!

Abraham is not the prototype of the man God saves because of his inherent goodness. Abraham is the prototype of the man God saves in spite of his inherent sinfulness!

He truly was our forefather according to the flesh! He was a sinner, chosen unconditionally by grace of God, and justified through faith--just like you and I!

Ø      Paul throws out a big hypothetical “If:” V. 2 “For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about.” Yes, if a person could earn salvation through his good deeds and lawkeeping, he would have something to brag about—and so would Abe. But Paul has already shown that no one is justified by their good works: the standard is 100% perfection, and that is impossible, especially when you figure that we already have Adam’s in on the books.

Ø      And don’t forget the most important truth about salvation: it is first and foremost for the glory and praise of God! So God purposely devised a way of saving sinners that completely bypasses their efforts so there is no basis for boasting before men or God. It is not as the result of works, lest anyone should boast. As he said in 3:27—all boasting is excluded!

But look at what Paul is saying from the standpoint of the Judaism of his day: He was demolishing the very foundation of their religion? No wonder they tried so many times to kill him!

But Paul was speaking for God: He isn’t “dissing” Father Abraham! He really is holding him up as a model of a true believer—but not as one who was saved by his own goodness, but as one who was saved by faith alone--

Ø      ROM 4:3 For what does the Scripture say? "And Abraham obeyed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness." ? No, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.

Paul is quoting from Gen.15:6—one of the most important verses in your Bible. Let’s read it in context—

Ø      GEN 15:1 After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, "Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; Your reward shall be very great."

Ø      GEN 15:2 And Abram said, "O Lord God, what wilt Thou give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?"

Ø      GEN 15:3 And Abram said, "Since Thou hast given no offspring to me, one born in my house is my heir."

Ø      GEN 15:4 Then behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, "This man will not be your heir; but one who shall come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir."

Ø      GEN 15:5 And He took him outside and said, "Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them." And He said to him, "So shall your descendants be."

Ø      GEN 15:6 Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.

Did you know that the first time the word “faith” is mentioned in the Bible is Gen.15:6?

Abe simply trusted in what God had promised him, and God justified him. Now we’re going to look at Abe in a lot more detail in the rest of this chapter, and we’re going to see that he trusted God before this. He packed up his family and took them to a land he had never been to, just because God told him to! But something happened on that night when God took Abe out, showed him the stars, and said, “Abe, why don’t you count those stars.” “Count the stars, Lord? Are you kidding? Where do I start, how do I keep track? And I get the feeling that I can’t see them all—there are more than I can comprehend, let alone, count!” “Exactly. And so shall your descendants be!”

And you can imagine Abe shaking his head and thinking to himself, “I thought God’s plan was going to be big, but this is way beyond me. This boggles my brain! This is staggering! Only God could do this! All I can do is believe God.”

And God knew Abe’s heart, and said, “That’s just what I was looking for. Abe, you old pagan sinner, because you trust Me, I have accepted you. You’re my child now.”

Someone said this about Abe’s faith: “It was a psychological yielding under the weight of a divine goodness too massive to fit inside the cramped quarters of human calculation!” I wish I’d said that!

The point is, trusting God is saying to Him, “Uncle! I give up! I yield to You, Father!” Abe is called “the father of all who believe” (Rom.4:21) because every person in heaven will be there because they believed God the way Abe did—

Ø      GAL 3:6,7 Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham.

Think about it: If you trust God the way Abe did—you are of those stars that he couldn’t count!

But some of the Jews listening to this might have said, “We agree with you Paul—we know Genesis too! Father Abe’s faith earned him God’s favor.”

II. Working vs. Sponging. (vv.4-6)

They didn’t get it! There would have been room for boasting if faith earned God’s grace. So Paul switches to a financial metaphor to contrast salvation by works with salvation by faith:

Ø      ROM 4:4 Now to the one who works, his wage is not reckoned as a favor (grace), but as what is due.

Ø      ROM 4:5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness,

There are 2 ways to make it in life. Imagine 2 neighbors:

Ø      You are neighbor # 1: You go to work faithfully: M-F, 9-5. You do your job well, you do it by the sweat of your brow, and at the end of the pay period, you get what you have earned—your paycheck. You pay your bills with it, you buy groceries and gas for your car with it. You’re grateful for having a job, but you don’t praise your boss for being so gracious as to actually pay you! You earned it! You worked for it! If anyone deserves praise, it’s you.

Ø      You are neighbor #2: You don’t work. You’re a welfare bum. (Now I’m not saying everyone on welfare is a bum, but this is my story, and you’re a bum in my story!) You faked an injury, you’re lazy, you’re a parasite on society. And once a month, you get your check for the same amount as your neighbor! You pay your bills with it, you buy groceries and gas for your car with it—just like your neighbor next door. (And you are always at Wal-Mart . . .)

Now when it comes to work and money, I want my sons to be like neighbor #1. I want my daughters to marry a man who is like neighbor #1. But Paul is talking about salvation here, and if we apply this to the spiritual realm, who is the Christian? Neighbor #2!

You say, “I resent that! I’m no welfare bum, I pay my own way!” Well I hope you do when it comes to your bills, but when it comes to getting to heaven, I hope you aren’t working to get there. I hope you don’t see eternal life as a reward for a job well done, or even as the reward for your faith!

Ø      The only people who will see eternal life are spiritual welfare bums, those who refuse to work for their salvation. “Blessed are the poor is spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.” Jesus didn’t use the word for just being really poor here, He used the word for being reduced to begging—you must receive charity to survive.

Spiritual welfare bums need charity from God. They are flat busted, bankrupt. They need mercy. They know they have nothing to offer God for their sins against Him. They know they are underdressed for the Kingdom of heaven. All they can do is believe God for mercy and grace.

Ø      But if you are working your way to heaven, you need to understand that the best things you have done are like filthy rags before God. And God will pay you your wages on the Day of Judgment. The wages of your sin will be death—eternal separation from God.

Back to Paul’s argument here: If his Jewish listeners were following his logic, then Father Abraham is the supreme example of the spiritual welfare bum! He didn’t sit in the “Do” chair like most of the rabbis taught. He plopped down in the “Done” chair and accepted the mercy of God! He was Paul’s example of God justifying the un-godly.

Their heads must have been spinning. They were holding on to their chairs! This was a paradigm shift in their whole way of thinking about salvation. But it really shouldn’t have been, if it goes clear back to Genesis. Didn’t Paul say—

Ø      ROM 3:21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,

He would have said, “My brothers, this is nothing new! Let me give you another example of a spiritual welfare bum—are you ready? King David!”

III. King David and Sola Fide.

Ø      ROM 4:6 David also speaks of the blessing upon the man to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works:

Ø      ROM 4:7 "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, And whose sins have been covered.

Ø      ROM 4:8 "Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account."

Look at what he is saying: Is God’s blessing upon those who are sinless? No, those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven; their sins have been covered, and the Lord will not take them into account—they still sin, but God no longer writes them in His ledger. David knew that there was no hope of being right with God by being good enough, the only hope was God’s free, undeserved grace.

Ø      David would know: He didn’t just lust after a woman. He committed adultery with another man’s wife. And after he found out she was pregnant, he had her husband murdered. What was the prescribed Jewish sacrifice for adultery—and murder? What animal did you kill for those sins?

You didn’t kill an animal for those sins. You killed the person for those sins. If God acted according to the law, David should have been killed. Not only was he not killed, but Nathan the prophet told David that God had forgiven him.

God brought David to the same place that He brought Abe: the place of impossibility. The only thing he could do was trust God. He didn’t earn God’ forgiveness, he didn’t deserve it. He simply confessed his sinfulness, trusted in God for mercy, and God justified the ungodly. He said in Ps.51, after he finally confessed his sins:

Be gracious to me, O God, according to Thy lovingkindness,

According to the greatness of Thy compassion, blot out my transgressions.

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin,

For I know my transgressions and my sin is every before Thee. . .

Thou art not please with burnt offerings,

The sacrifices of God, are a broken spirit,

A broken and a contrite heart O God, Thou wilt not despise.

One day, God would kill a Man for David’s sins, and for Abraham’s sins, and for the sins of all who would ever trust in Him. That’s how God can be gracious and cover sins, and not take them into account. He is Just and the Justifier.

IV. Sola Fide and you.

 

Paul begins with a question:

What did Abraham find? Grace.

What did David find? Grace.

Have you found God’s grace?

When it comes right down to it, you either believe that God will justify the godly—and you will try and try to do your best to qualify. Or you see the utter impossibility of reaching God’s standard, and it clicks: “If God is going to justify anyone at all, He must justify the ungodly—like me! I qualify! All I can do is trust in Him and what He has done for sinners like me in His Son.

Illus. Of Mr. Coffeen . . . Janice asked E.E. question. . . .”Oh, I’ll just take my chances!” . . .You will go to hell! You don’t have a chance! You need to trust in Jesus Christ, not chance!” . . . . he died about a year later.

"Lay your deadly doing down,

Down at Jesus’ feet.

Stand in Him, in Him alone--

Gloriously complete."

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