Romans 4: Abraham Made Righteous by Faith :: By Dr. Donald Whitchard

Romans 4:1-4, Genesis 17:10, Isaiah 57:12, Galatians 2:16, Ephesians 2:8-9, Titus 3:4-5, Matthew 7:22-23

Summary: Paul reminds his fellow Jews that it was not the Law that made them righteous before God. Abraham did not have the Law but was a role model of a relationship with God through faith. The Law is a guide but does not provide salvation. Faith in the Lord is what redeems us.

Paul has been explaining to his fellow Jews (Chapters 2-3) that their lineage and heritage as God’s people was a blessing to the world and something for which to be thankful. They had been given the privilege and responsibility to teach other nations about the True God who created the world as an obvious sign of His existence and power, so that no one has any excuse for turning to idols or saying that they did not know about Him (1:18-20). The very fact that the Jewish people were still around in spite of retribution and exile showed the other nations that God was with them and would always have a place in His heart.

To teach that God is now through with the Jews and that the church is the sole recipient of God’s attention and blessing is a grievous error and has been a source of anti-Semitism throughout the history of Christianity.

While not every Jew (and few of us, for that matter) believes in God, it has never meant that He has decided to break His covenant with them as a nation. The very fact that the nation of Israel is in existence today is a testimony to that covenant, and that one day their remnant will see that their Messiah had been among them, yet they had been blinded to it due to their unbelief.

The Jewish nation had been blessed with the Law of God, namely, the Ten Commandments, honoring Him and showing mercy to one another as a people. They also showed Israel and all of us that they are God’s standards and that we cannot keep them in our own strength or effort. The Law was designed to be a schoolmaster to teach the Israelites and anyone else that they could not redeem us. Therefore, anyone who says that they live by and keep the Ten Commandments either does not know them or is trying, like the majority of the world, to justify and make themselves right before God apart from His divine intervention. The Law of God does not save anyone. It is faith in God that makes us righteous and that He is the One who justifies us.

Paul writes that the father of the nation, the patriarch Abraham, who came from a pagan background, was directed by God to leave his home in Ur of the Chaldees. He was to separate himself from all he knew in order to follow God and to receive the promise of being a great nation (Genesis 12:1-4) in a new land. God did not give Abraham any specifics when he left Ur, but only to trust and obey Him. While Abraham made his share of mistakes, such as going to Egypt and not trusting God to provide in the midst of a famine (Genesis 12:10-20), and listening to Sarah about having a son (ahead of God’s direction (Genesis 14), his life was a testimony of faith apart from the Law that was to come later.

The key verse that summarizes the covenant between Abraham and the LORD is from Genesis 15:6. It simply states that he believed God, and it is this act of faith that made him righteous before God. It is faith in God that brings redemption to anyone who calls upon Him for salvation. It is a simple act yet is blocked by our pride and self-centered thinking that our works, or “good deeds” or rituals, or whatever we believe will “do the trick” and let us enter the presence of God and His heaven. It doesn’t work that way. Throughout Scripture, God makes it clear that He is the source of saving grace and no one else (Psalm 27:1, 37:39, 62:2; Isaiah 12:2, 25:9; 1 Timothy 4:10; Revelation 19:1).

Paul hammers this point in verse 4, where he emphasizes that we are in a debt of sin and unrighteousness and that our works, noble or selfish, are and will never be sufficient to pay it off. Our wicked nature cannot cleanse itself. Nothing we do makes us righteous before a Holy God whose commandments plainly show that we cannot follow them in our own strength or effort.

We have to put aside our methods and beliefs, rebuke our pride, and come before the LORD, asking Him and Him alone to save us from the sin debt that we can never pay. The good news is that the Lord Jesus Christ, while on the cross, willingly and in love, took upon Himself that debt. He was the sinless, spotless Lamb of God, the perfect sacrifice that would once and for all remove our sins and bring life to our dead souls. It is Jesus Christ alone who can provide us the means by which to have saving faith in God. He opens our eyes to our need for mercy, grace, and salvation.

The world, the flesh, and the devil will do anything possible to prevent as many people as possible from turning to this free offer of rest and peace (Isaiah 53:6, 64:6; Matthew 11:28-30; John 14:6; Acts 4:12; Romans 10:9-10; Ephesians 2:8-9; 1 Timothy 1:15; Hebrews 7:25; 1 John 2:15-17).

If you have been attempting to make yourself “good,” or even if you have rejected the offer of salvation in Christ in the past, stop where you are and ask yourself if what you see around you is going to get any better. This world’s time is running out, and your life is temporal. When death hits you, whether you believe it or not, you will stand before God to face judgment (Luke 12:13-21; John 5:28-29; Hebrews 9:27). If you have not surrendered your life to Jesus Christ, then, my friend, as far as eternity goes, it will not end well for you (Matthew 25:41; Revelation 20:11-15). Laws, works, or anything else you might think will do the job for you is a fool’s dream. Please give your life to Jesus Christ today and walk with Him in the faith He graciously provided to Abraham.

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My book The Scope of Biblical Prophecy is now available at: It is a general look at the role and importance of Bible prophecy, the importance of correct interpretation of the Scriptures, the varied ways of how the last days events are to occur, and that in the end, Jesus wins.


Donald was born and reared in the authentic “Cajun Country” of southern Louisiana. He is a graduate of Louisiana College (B.A. in History Education/ Biblical Studies, 1984), New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (M.Div. In Christian Education, 1994), and Andersonville Baptist Seminary (Doctor of Ministry, Biblical Exposition, 2000). He has been in the Gospel ministry since 1986, serving as an evangelist, interim and supply pastor, hospital and rescue mission chaplain, high school and college teacher, and pastor in churches in Louisiana and Oklahoma.

In 2018, he began to devote his time to the rich field of internet and social media evangelism and outreach. In 2021 he became a member of the Oklahoma Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists, using his skills as a writer to contribute articles and sermons to websites such as Rapture Ready, Sermon Central, and Inspirational Christian Blogs. He also writes Bible studies and curricula for churches in southeast and central Asia and Africa, the locations of which are anonymous. He can be contacted at: for inquiries, information, and speaking/preaching engagements. A copy of his resume is also available upon request.