Post Series on Romans 4:1-25:
- Righteousness Comes by Faith (Romans 4:1-8)
- Why did God Seal the Blessing of Abraham with Circumcision? (Romans 4:9-12)
- Why Does God Extend Righteousness by Faith Alone? (Romans 4:13-25)
In Romans 4, Paul proves that righteousness comes by faith, and he explains that circumcision was a seal of the blessing of Abraham. But why does God structure salvation this way? Why does it please God to justify the ungodly through faith?
This isn’t an arbitrary decision on God’s part. Paul lays out three practical reasons why God is pleased to extend righteousness by faith alone.
To Magnify God’s Grace vs. our Guilt
13For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 14For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. 15For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.
16That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring–not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all… (Romans 4:13-16)
If righteousness were dependent upon our ability to keep the law, then none of us would obtain righteousness at all, “for the law brings wrath.”
But if, instead, God extends righteousness by faith, then God’s promise rests on his grace, not on our abilities. In this gospel, the beautiful mercy and love of God shines through magnificently. God loves us so much that, even though we had forsaken his just and holy laws, he is pleased to justify the ungodly through faith. We cannot contribute anything, but we simply receive God’s righteousness passively through the instrument of our faith.
To Magnify God’s Power vs. our Impotence
Paul goes on:
…17as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”–in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. 18In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” 19He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. 20No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21fully convinced that God was able to do what he has promised. 22That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” (Romans 4:17-22)
Reproductively speaking, Abraham’s body was as good as dead, and Sarah’s womb was barren. Yet, despite the powerlessness of Abraham and Sarah, Abraham did not waver in his faith concerning God’s promise. In continuing to believe God’s promise, Paul writes that Abraham “gave glory to God.”
When we live by faith alone, we are forced to reject our own plans, our own schemes, our own resources, and our own abilities. When we live by faith alone, we trust God to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.
And just as Abraham gave glory to God as he trusted God’s promise to give him a son, so we give glory to God by trusting him to make ungodly sinners like us righteous.
To Magnify the Person and Work of God’s Son Jesus Christ
Paul brings this section to a close by focusing exclusively on the Person and work of Jesus Christ:
23But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. (Romans 4:23-25)
Paul refers back to the text from Genesis 15:6, arguing that those words were written for our sake. Specifically, these words were written to teach us to believe in the One who not only brought a child from a barren woman and a good-as-dead man, but who also raised up our crucified Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus, Paul writes, was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. Jesus did it all to accomplish the perfect righteousness that we need for our salvation. And this righteousness we receive freely and graciously from God by faith alone in Christ alone.
Why extend righteousness by faith alone? To magnify Jesus Christ. If we could earn God’s righteousness, so that Jesus Christ were simply the consolation prize, Christ would have very little glory. But if Christ is our only hope and comfort in this life and the next, then he is worthy of all glory and praise.
Sola Fide! Solus Christus! Soli Deo Gloria!