Chapter 4: 1-13 (NKJV)
We, The Forgiven Lawbreakers
“What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ 4 Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. 5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, 6 just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works:
7 ‘Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
And whose sins are covered;
8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin.’
“9 Does this blessedness then come upon the circumcised only, or upon the uncircumcised also? For we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness. 10 How then was it accounted? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised. 11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also, 12 and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised. 13 For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.“
People are skeptical of free things. If you see a man in a van in a parking lot at a mall giving away free stuff, we assume that the things are stolen or at best there is a hook. He, we assume, is trying to lure you in to get something else. Many people approach the Gospel in the same way. They are wary of free. But God chose the Apostle Paul, a man who gauged his life by works from the time he was a youth to teach about grace and faith. In Philippians 3:2-6 (NKJV), Paul writes this,
“Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation! For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh, though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.”
Notice that this former Pharisee dives right in and states that he has no confidence in the flesh. No confidence in what he could do for himself or have another mere human do for him. In the case of circumcision, the child’s parents made that decision for him; he did not make it of his own free will. We see that today with infant baptism, there is no choice on the part of the child. Another makes the choice for him or her. But if anyone that walked the earth had a reason to boast in the flesh, it would have been Paul. If someone could have noted his human accomplishments and been accepted into Heaven, Paul would have been the guy. But Paul tells us in the verses that follow that he counted his human accomplishments as rubbish, and in another place as dung (Poop).
Once Paul came face to face with Jesus and saw His glory, his self-righteousness amounted to nothing. Zero. Nil. Nada. Now, he was ready to trust Jesus by faith, and his life was about the change forever. Paul understood that compared to Jesus, he was just a rotten, good for nothing sinner and all his righteousness was in fact dung. He was to simply put his faith in Jesus.
Acts 9:5-6 “And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.”
Jesus identifies himself, and Paul humbles himself: “Who are you Lord?” and then “What would you have me do?” Total submission from that day until the day of his death. Paul, a man full of pride and self-righteousness, was now a humble man who calls himself the chief sinner. This is how the true Gospel changes us and creates in us a right spirit. This is how we lawbreakers are forgiven, by faith in Jesus. We believe God, and it is accounted to us for righteousness just like it was accounted for Abraham, Paul, Moses, David and the countless billions who have believed Jesus in the past 2,000 years. It is the same way that thousands will be saved today.
- Forgiveness: verses 7-8
There is much talk today about the prosperity Gospel, which is not a Gospel but a lie. True blessing is to know for sure that your sins are forgiven. David writes this and calls us, including himself, lawless. But was this not a man after God’s own heart? Yes, but he was a man, and as such, subject to sins and sinning. He notes three stages of how God takes care of our sins:
- God forgives them – we are pardoned and our sting and stench of our sinfulness are removed.
- Then our sins are covered – this refers to the Mercy Seat in the Holy of Holies. Once a year the High Priest would go into the Holy of Holies and pour blood on top of the Ark of the Covenant. In the Ark was a copy of the Ten Commandments; the blood sat on top of the Mercy Seat and covered the Law, thus covering our sins.
- Lastly, our imputed sins are removed. The very list of sins we have done is removed from our accounts. The Psalmist put it this way in Psalm 103:12 (KJV), “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.”
The east and west never meet. No matter how far east you go, you cannot meet the west, and vice-versa. So, in these verses in Romans 4:7-8, we see that God completely removes all traces and records of our sins from us forever once we believe Him, and He gives us His righteousness. We become perfect in Jesus. Paul did not know what perfection was until he met Jesus; and, once he met Jesus and became perfect, he could see his own sinfulness for the very first time. Once I was blind but now I can see.
- Forgiveness for the Gentiles, 9-13
Abraham was justified before he was circumcised. Even so, we Gentiles who do not often get circumcised, are able to be saved as well. We do not need to keep the law to be saved, but anyone who at any point in History who put their faith in the risen Savior is saved. I am a Gentile who is saved. The vast majority of the NT church are Gentile peoples who were saved because Jewish men took the Gospel to them.
The Gospel was always for the Gentiles as well. But the Jews hoarded it and refused to share it in many cases. We need to be careful not to be like them. Let us share the Gospel. Let us get it out in any way that we can to the masses and give them the opportunity to repent and believe.
In Acts 16:30-31, we see these timeless words told to a Gentile warden: “And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.”
Believe on the Lord and be saved. Like Abraham, this jailer and his household believed God, and they were eternally changed forever. He and his household became perfect in Jesus and are no longer under the wrath of God.
All too often modern Christians, and I am sure Christians of all generations, change the simplicity of the Gospel.
Believe on the Lord Jesus and be saved. Believe that Jesus is the perfect God, the image of God in the flesh and believe in Him. Believe in His death, burial and resurrection and you will be saved.
Sean, you say, you sound like a broken record about this Gospel. Good! That is my intent. The Gospel has been altered, watered down and downright lied about. It is simple, plain and applicable to any who believe in Jesus. God made it this way. He made the Law complicated and burdensome, but He made the Gospel simple; and with it He removes burdens. He removes the burden of sin, the burden of judgment and the burden of fearing God’s wrath. I cannot say it any clearer, so let me leave you with the words, so simple and yet so powerful these nearly 2,000 years later:
“And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.”
God bless you,
Pastor Sean Gooding
Mississauga Missionary Baptist Church