WONDERFUL WORDS OF LIFE RADIO SERMON May 30, 1976
A CASE STUDY IN JUSTIFICATION
Romans 4:1 16
Let me give you an examination of your knowledge of the Bible. Who would you select as the most important
man in the Old Testament? Who would you pick to be the greatest king Israel ever had? If you selected
Abraham as the greatest man of the Old Testament, you would be in agreement with the people who gave us
the Old Testament. If you selected David to be the greatest king of Israel, you would be in agreement with
most students of the history of Israel. Since these two men lived in the Old Testament, how were they saved?
On what basis will they go to heaven?
This question is answered in our text. After presenting the essential things about justification by faith, the
Apostle provides us with a helpful case study in justification. He takes a step beyond the statement, to give us
an example. If there had been just one man in all of the Old Testament who might have had an inside track on
salvation, it would be Abraham. Every Hebrew man stood in awe of the great life of this man. He was called the
friend of God. He was so intimate with God, that God felt it necessary to consult with him before He destroyed
the cities of the Plains. The case study confirms the claim of Paul that God has never had but one way of
saving sinners. Even Abraham had to receive righteous¬ness from God as a gift. All of his friendship with God
grew out of the fact that God had given to him this wonderful gift. If you and I are ever justified by God, it will
be just like Abraham.
The basic truth that comes to front in this case study is that justification is by faith. This is the truth Paul has
been proclaiming. The experience of Abraham is a con¬firmation of the teaching of Paul. When the
justification of this man is studied carefully, it is evident that all this man did to receive the gift of righteousness
was believe God. He received it by faith instead of in the manner claimed by the Jewish critics of Paul. A re
study of this case study should help us to see that justification has always been and is now by faith.
JUSTIFICATION IS BY FAITH APART FROM WORKS
"What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?" "Pertaining to the
flesh" means the works of the flesh. What contribution did the flesh of Abraham make to his salvation? Or
better, what did Abraham acquire by the works of the flesh? Obviously the answer is nothing. "For if Abraham
were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God." If you assume that this good man was
justi¬fied by his works, you must admit that he has something to brag about. However, the truth is that he does
not have anything to brag about before Holy God. Nor does any man!
The Scriptures makes this clear. "For saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him
for righteousness". This statement found in Genesis 15:6 is the basic Old Testament reference as to how
Abraham found righteousness before God. A careful study of the details given concerning his life makes it
clear that Abraham, like the rest of us, was a sinner. His moral compromise with the truth and endangering his
wife is evi¬dence enough. His sacrifice offered to God is a clear indication of his personal awareness of his
sinfulness. Yet the witness of Scripture is that this man gained acceptance before God. How did he do it? The
answer is that he was counted by God to be righteous because he believed the promise that God gave.
This act of faith on the part of Abraham was not a work. "Now to him that worketh, the reward not reckoned of
grace, but of debt." If God's imparting righteousness to guilty men is because of the good works that they do,
then salvation is the reward men gain for their work. If it is the reward for work, it is not by grace. However the
case of Abraham illus¬trates that "But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly,
his faith is counted for righteousness." There is no reference in the record of Abraham's life that his works
were the basis of his justification. The only record we have is that God gave him righteousness when he
believed the promise God gave to him. His experience confirms the truth that God does not justify men who
are doing the best they can to earn salvation, but ungodly men who lean upon Him with all their trust.
This brings into focus a central truth in the Gospel. Who is a fit subject for God's justifying act? Would you
suggest a man who is doing his best, a man who has an accumulation of good works? God declares him to be
the ungodly man. This is man whose basic attitude toward God has been one of irreverence. The God of
salvation is the God who justifies the ungodly.
Another confirmation of this is found in the testimony of King David. David spoke of a blessedness that men
knew because God forgave their sin and did not impute their wrong deeds against them. Rather God imputed
unto them righteousness apart from works.
The basic truth then set forth clearly in the experience of Abraham is that God justifies sinners by faith apart
JUSTIFICATION IS BY FAITH APART FROM CIRCUMCISION
Abraham became a circumcised man. Was his justification the result of his circum-cision? The Jewish teachers
of the day of Paul were ready to make a causal connection between the two. It is the claim of Paul that a
careful study of the life of Abraham makes clear that his justification was by faith apart from circumcision.
Paul takes this up with a question, "cometh this blessedness then upon the circumci¬sion only, or upon the
uncircumcision also?" What about the experience of Abraham? "Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision, And
he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being
uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all that believe, though they be not circumcised; that
righteousness might be imputed unto them also: And the father of the circumcision to them who are not of the
circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet
uncircumcised." A little history will make the point of Paul clear. Abraham received a promise of the coming
Seed, and believed the promise in chapter 15 of Genesis. At the time of this faith, God imputed unto him
righteousness because of his faith. Some years later God renewed and expanded the covenant with Abraham,
and instituted circumcision as the sign of the covenant. He was saved in chapter 15 and circumcised in
chapter 17. Obviously the faith was the only essential for God to do His gracious justi¬fying work for Abraham.
This way he is established as the father of the believers, not just the father of the circumcised.
According to this, circumcision was the outward sign of the covenant not the basis upon which God justifies
men. While you may have not counted on circumcision as an essential for your salvation, have you been
adding something else to faith? So many want to add baptism just like the Hebrews wanted to add
circumcision. They see the steps to justification as being faith plus baptism. The record is that God justifies the
ungodly who believe not the ungodly who believe and are baptized.
Others want to add membership to some church or organization. Again it is faith alone. We must not add any
kind of religious rite or ordinance or organization to this. Justifi-cation is by faith that is by depending upon
the Lord Jesus Christ alone.
JUSTIFICATION IS BY FAITH APART FROM THE LAW
The third thing in which Hebrew people were inclined to trust was the law. The coming of the law to Israel and
their stewardship of the law was a tremendous basis of hope for them. Let us do a case study on Abraham at
this point. Did he receive the gift of right-eousness because of some response to or possession of the law?
Clearly the promise God gave to him did not come through the law. "For the promise, that he should be the
heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith."
In no way was the gracious promise God extended to Abraham and his seed through the law. "For if they
which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect." If you are depending
upon the law for justification, you are not re¬ceiving it by faith. It cannot be by keeping the law and by faith at
the same time. Further¬more, it is the claim of Paul that the law would cancel out the promise. If the promise is
dependent upon a man keeping the law obviously the promise is useless. Who could claim to have kept the
law good enough to lay claim to the substance of the promise? All that a man receives from the law is wrath.
If God were to promise justification to everyone who has perfectly kept the Ten Com-mandments, how many
would be justified? Or suppose he simplified it to say that He would justify everyone living perfectly by the
golden rule, how many would be justified? Could you take God up on the promise if that were the terms? None
of us could! All the law does is expose the fact that we are lawbreakers. It does not promise any
righteousness, but rather it assures us of wrath to come.
This is the reason that it is by faith and by faith alone! "Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the
end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of
the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all." Since God has made it by faith, it is possible for him to justify
all of the seed of Abraham. He can justify every Hebrew man and every Gentile man who comes to Him. Why?
Since it is by faith, it must be by grace. If all that men have to do is believe, to trust the provisions of God, to
commit themselves to God in reliance and confidence, then God extends the gift not on the basis of merit but
Abraham was justified before God ever gave the law and totally apart from the law. No man has ever received
the gift of divine righteousness on the basis of keeping the law. They must all receive it by faith.
What is the conclusion of the case study? It clearly demonstrates that salvation is by grace through faith. All
sinners receive salvation the same way—as a gift from a gracious God. They make no contribution to their
own salvation, but rather they receive it as a free gift. Have you received this gift? There will never be a better
time than now!