Romans 10-11

Introduction: Chapters 10-11 continue to take the reader deep into a discussion of how the sovereignty of God relates to the Jewish rejection of Jesus and Gentile inclusion in the church. These chapters contain some of the more difficult material in the letter, but also some of the most beautiful.

I. Paul’s Prayer for Israel (10:1-4)

A. Paul’s deep desire is to see Israel embrace the gospel of Jesus and be saved. His Jewish kinsmen are certainly zealous for God, but their enthusiasm is misguided (10:1-2).

B. They are ignorant of the way that God makes men righteous, and in trying to establish their own plan for righteousness, they rejected God’s way (10:3-4).

II. The Basis of Salvation is the Same for All (10:5-13)

A. If righteousness were ever to be attained by law-keeping alone, the requirement would be perfect obedience (10:5).

B. But righteousness that is based on faith does not require the impoosible, like bringing Jesus back to earth to finish any unfinished work. It simply trusts in what Jesus has already accomplished (10:6-10).

C. And this means of justification – faith, not merit – is the same for everyone. There is no distinction in this regard between Jew and Gentile (10:11-13).

III. Israel Has Squandered its Opportunities (10:14-21)

A. The gospel message has been made available through the sending of preachers, and the Jewish people have heard it, but they have not believed it (10:14-18).

B. Instead, the Gentiles have been the ones who have been more receptive, even though God’s benevolent hands remain open for the Jews (10:19-21).

IV. There is Still a Jewish Remnant (11:1-10)

A. Paul puts himself forward as “Exhibit A” that God has not completely abandoned the Jews. He is among the Jewish remnant who have embraced the gospel and justification by faith (11:1-6).

B. Israel, as a whole, “failed to obtain” the justification it was seeking (because they were seeking it through the law itself, not the one to whom the law pointed). Those who understood the gospel and didn’t stumble over Jesus obtained it (11:7-10).

V. The Grafting in of the Gentiles (11:11-32)

A. To illustrate the rejection of the Jews and the acceptance of the Gentiles, Paul uses a comparison that his readers would have been familiar with – the cutting off and grafting in of branches on an olive tree.

B. Paul’s hope in God’s inclusion of the Gentiles is that the Jews, in turn, would desire what the Gentiles had obtained in Christ, and eventually embrace the gospel, too (11:11-16).

C. Speaking to the Gentile Christians in Rome, Paul offers the following:

1. There were natural branches (Jews) who were broken off of the tree and wild branches (Gentiles) who were grafted in, or attached, to the tree (11:17).

2. But just because the Gentiles were grafted in, they should not show arrogance toward the Jews who had been cut off (11:18).

3. While it is true that the breaking off of the natural branches made it possible for the wild branches to be grafted in, that does not mean that the wild branches cannot be broken off, too (11:19-21).

4. God will cut off any branch that does not remain in his goodness and nourish any branch that does (11:22). The key is for each branch to keep living lives of faith.

5. What’s more, if the cut-off Jews cease their unbelief and place their trust in Jesus like the Gentiles did, they will be grafted back in (11:23-24).

6. In summary, Paul affirms many Jews hardened their hearts while many Gentiles opened theirs; but if the Jews want to be saved, it will be in the same manner that the Gentiles were saved – through “the deliverer” that came out of Zion, that is Jesus (11:25-27).

7. Though Jew and Gentile have, in a sense, switched places (from included to excluded), that doesn’t mean that it has to stay that way (11:28-32).

VI. Praise for God’s Wisdom (11:33-36)

A. After this lengthy and deep discussion of the sovereignty of God and how his plan to make men righteous has affected both Jew and Gentile, Paul erupts in words of praise for the God behind it all.

B. His wisdom and judgments are far beyond human ability to fully understand.

Romans 9

Introduction: Chapters 9-11 take the reader deep into a discussion of how the sovereignty of God relates to the Jewish rejection of Jesus and Gentile inclusion in the church. These chapters contain some of the more difficult material in the letter, but also some of the most beautiful. Chapter 9 finds Paul focusing primarily on the sovereignty (absolute authority) of God.

I. Paul’s Sorrow Over His People (9:1-3)

A. Bolstered by expressions of deep sincerity, Paul affirms that his heart breaks over the lost condition of his Jewish kinsmen (1-2).

B. He goes so far as to say – using hyperbole – that if his own condemnation would bring about Jewish salvation, he would let himself be condemned (3).

II. The Jewish Advantage (9:4-5)

A. When one considers which group – Jew or Gentile – was in the best position to embrace the gospel and enjoy its attendant blessings, there is no question that the Jews held the advantage.

B. To the Jews belonged adoption (God chose them), glory (God dwelled among them), covenants (with many of their patriarchal ancestors), the law (given at Sinai), the service (Levitical priests), the promises (relating to Jesus), and Jesus himself (4-5).

III. God is Sovereign (9:6-29)

A. If the Jews had such an advantage, then what happened? Why did most of them reject Jesus? Paul’s answer: it wasn’t that God’s word failed (6); there’s more to it than that.

B. The statement at the end of verse 6 – “Not all who have descended from Israel belong to Israel” – is the simple answer and takes us back to statements Paul previously made (2:28-29; 4:11-12, 16). Not everyone who is a physical descendant of Abraham is a spiritual descendent of Abraham.

C. To further explain, Paul will take the reader on a tour of some Jewish history (9:7-13).

1. God chose to establish the Messianic lineage through Isaac, not through any of Abraham’s other children. Isaac was the son of promise (9:7-9).

2. This Messianic lineage also went through Jacob instead of Esau (9:10-13). These choices were by the sovereign will of God and had nothing to do with rewarding or punishing past behavior (9:11).

D. Paul addresses a possible objection, and in so doing gives the key verse of this chapter: “Is there injustice with God?” Absolutely not (9:14).

1. God may choose whomever he wants to choose in order to fulfill his purposes (9:15-18).

2. But these choices have nothing to do with eternal destiny, only the purposes of God in fulfilling his will.

E. Another possible objection: “If God chooses whomever he wills to fulfill his purposes, then how can those who aren’t chosen still be held accountable?” (9:19).

1. Paul’s startling answer is, “Who are you to question God?” (9:20). God has the sovereign right to work out his will without having to explain himself to his creation (9:21).

2. This does not imply that God is doing anything that is against his nature. It is only an affirmation of truth – that God does not owe us an explanation for what he does.

F. Paul affirms, by the use of another rhetorical question, that in his dealings with Jew and Gentile through history, God has shown wrath, power, patience, mercy, and glory – all to bring about the calling of Christians, Jew and Gentile, into one body (9:22-26).

G. And it is not as though God has decided arbitrarily that no Jews will be saved (a topic to which he will return later). There has always been and will always be a faithful remnant (9:27-29).

IV. Why Israel is Lost (9:30-33)

A. The point of the discussion is this: Gentiles were more accepting of the gospel because they were pursuing justification as a matter of faith (9:30). Jews tended to reject the gospel because they preferred to pursue justification as a matter of merit (9:31-32).

B. But because Jesus did not bring a merit-based system of justification, the Jews “stumbled over” him. That is, they rejected him (9:32-33).

God Isn’t Finished With You Yet

For the conscientious Christian, weaknesses and failures can be particularly vexing. To put it bluntly and personally, I hate it when I fail to live up to God’s standard. It irritates me. I know that when it comes to sinners, the apostle Paul staked a claim to the moniker, “chief” (1 Tim. 1:15). But he died centuries ago, and I can make a compelling case that I now deserve chieftain status in the tribe of the sinful. Yet I know that I’m not alone. The world swells with folks who sin, and I suspect quite a few of them are as haunted by their shortcomings as I am by my own.

The Philippian church was acquainted with failure, too. It was a wonderful body of Christians, but not a perfect one. Lest they become discouraged and despondent in their efforts to improve, Paul encouraged them with these words:

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

Philippians 1:6

To any individual or church family striving to become more and more like Jesus, but keenly aware of their many stumbles, these are refreshing words. One of the characteristics of our God that boggles the mind is His wonderful and incredible patience. Indeed, He “is longsuffering toward us” (2 Pet. 3:9, NKJV) as He molds our character through our life events (Phil. 2:12-13). Through each experience, each decision made, each Bible verse read, each prayer uttered, each person served, each trial faced, each victory enjoyed, and each defeat endured, God is working on us. And He will continue to work on us until the day of Christ’s return.

When you discover personal sin, remind yourself that you are a work in progress. Don’t ever justify your sin on that basis. Deal with it and obtain forgiveness for it according to God’s will. Then thank Him for His amazing patience and forgive yourself.

Evaluate your sins. How could you have beaten the temptation? What could you do to avoid that temptation again? Committing this particular sin shows a weakness in what part of your character? How can you strengthen it?

God desires that you mature in the faith (2 Pet. 3:18) and that you become increasingly holy (1 Thess. 4:3). Through His amazing patience, He helps us not to be overcome by our weaknesses and sins, but gives us the necessary room to learn from them.

Romans 8

Introduction: In the previous chapter, Paul described the civil war being waged within his own heart and mind. There was a part of him that wanted to do right, but he often found himself doing wrong. Though God’s laws are good, his own weaknesses caused him to break those laws. He called his resulting condition “wretched” (7:24). In chapter 8, Paul will counter that wretched condition by describing the glorious state of those who are in Christ. What are the blessings of being a Christian?

I. The Indwelling Holy Spirit (8:1-17, 26-27)

A. Paul begins with a straightforward affirmation of the spiritual status of the person who is in Christ. That person stands under no condemnation (1).

B. This uncondemned state is because of what “law of the Spirit of life” – the law revealed by the Holy Spirit – accomplished. It has set the Christian free from “the law of sin and death” (2).

C. The Law of Moses could not do that because of the weakness of man. But God made it possible for the “righteous requirement of the law” to be fulfilled in us through the death of Jesus (3-4).

D. Those who have been set free are those who will focus their hearts on the things of the Holy Spirit, not the things of the flesh (5-8, 12-14). This is because the Christian is no longer “in the flesh but in the Spirit” (9).

E. As a result of this new relationship with God’s Spirit, we have spiritual life (10), the promise of a future resurrection (11), and a family relationship with God (15-17).

F. While on the topic of the Spirit, look ahead to 8:26-27 and note what Paul says regarding a special kind of help that we receive from the Spirit.

1. “Helps” translates a compound word in Greek and paints a picture of two people taking the opposite ends of a burden and lifting it together.

2. This passage teaches that when we have trouble knowing what to pray for – when we are so overwhelmed that our inner groanings cannot be put into words – the Spirit takes what is in our hearts and communicates it to the Father.

4. He “helps” me lift that burden.

II. Hope (8:18-25)

A. The statement of verse 18 introduces the rest of this difficult section. Whatever the meaning of verses 19-25 is, it must harmonize with verse 18 – that “the sufferings of this present time” do not compare “with the glory” that is to come.

B. The difficulty of this section is in identifying “the creation.” Is it the material creation? Is it the physical body? Is it the Christian?

1. I do not believe that it is the Christian. While the Christian is a “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17), that is not how Paul is using that term here. The Christian is mentioned in this section, but not until verse 23, and that by way of contrast with the “creation.”

2. I believe that Paul is personifying the material, physical world – the earth and everything in it (except the people). Mankind was not the only thing adversely affected by the entrance of sin. The entire physical world was. It, too, is awaiting the end when all wrongs will be righted.

C. Just like the world is anticipating the end, so are Christians – those who “have the firstfruits of the Spirit” (23). We anticipate the final redemption of our bodies in the resurrection (24-25).

1. There is confidence in our hope (Heb. 6:11, 19; 1 Pet. 1:3-5, 13).

2. There are responsibilities with our hope (1 John 3:3).

III. Providence (8:28-30)

A. The aforementioned redemption of the body, which will happen at the general resurrection of the dead, is all according to God’s plan and providence. He is working all of these things out for our good (28).

B. Christians are the ones predestined, called, justified, and glorified (29-30) – all of which are in harmony with both God’s sovereignty and man’s free will (cf. 2 Thess. 2:14).

IV. God’s Love (8:31-39)

A. In summary, Paul rhetorically asks, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (31). Since God refused to spare his own son from death “for us all,” why would he not give us all these other things (32)?

B. No one can sustain a guilty charge against God’s elect (Christians) because God is the one who justifies and Jesus is our intercessor (33-34). The only ones who could condemn us are the ones who have saved us!

C. Therefore, nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ (35-39). Though many things can try (tribulation, distress, etc.), “in all these things we are more than conquerors” (37).

Conclusion: There may not be a more encouraging and faith-building chapter in the New Testament than Romans 8. It gives all children of God a long list of reasons to be confident in their salvation, be strong in the face of difficulties, and be enthusiastic in their praise of God.

Romans 7

Introduction: Every sincere Christian knows exactly what Paul describes in Romans 7. Though he is describing his life under the Law of Moses, the general principles are the same for the Christian. There is a battle inside the minds and hearts of each person who is trying to live the way God wants him to live. There is one part of us that pulls in the direction of sin, and another part that pulls in the direction of righteousness. Our inability to be perfect, regardless of how hard we try, can be debilitating and discouraging.

I. Dead to the Law, Married to Christ (7:1-6)

A. Paul begins the chapter by introducing an example that will illustrate an important principle to understanding the means of justification. The law (any law) is only binding on a person while that person is alive (1).

B. A married woman, for example, is legally and lawfully bound to her husband as long as he is alive. If he dies, she is released from the law that had bound them together (2-3).

C. Paul applies that principle to the relationship of the Christian to the Law of Moses. The Christian (specifically, the Christian Jew) has become “dead” to the Law of Moses that he might be “married” to Christ (4; cf. Gal. 3:19-25).

D. Since this change has been made, and they are now free “from that which held [them] captive,” they can serve God in a completely new way (5-6).

II. The Civil War (7:7-25)

A. In this section, as he has done before, Paul raises possible objections or questions that some might have, and then he answers them.

B. “Is the Law sin?” (7)

1. In other words, if the Law of Moses has been cast aside because no one kept it perfectly, was the Law of Moses bad? Paul’s answer is, “By no means!”

2. The Law of Moses helped him to understand sin (7-8). But in pointing out the sinfulness of coveting, for example, Paul found himself tempted to covet. His desires found an opportunity through the law to entice him to violate it (cf. James 1:14-15).

3. There was a time when Paul was “alive apart from the law” (probably a reference to his infancy and childhood, before he became accountable). But when he became accountable, sin arose through his violations of the Law (9-11).

4. So the Law – in and of itself – is holy, righteous, and good. It is the weakness of the flesh that gets exploited by law (12).

C. “Did that which is good bring death to me?” (13)

1. No, sin brought death. But the existence of law is what offered the opportunity to sin. Therefore, through repeated violations of the Law of Moses, sin multiplied (13).

2. While the law itself is spiritual, we humans often give in to our carnal impulses and violate the law (14). This is what leads to the civil war in our minds and hearts.

3. Paul often found himself doing the things that he knew were wrong (because the Law said they were wrong) and not doing the things he knew were right (15-16).

4. It was as if sin had completely taken over his entire life. He had the desire to do what was right, but not the ability (17-20).

5. By way of summary, Paul states that even when he wants to do what’s right, evil is always close at hand (21). Though he loves God’s law and delights in obeying it, he is always fighting temptation and often loses those individual battles (22-23).

D. His conclusion: “Wretched man that I am!” (24). He knows that he cannot deliver himself from that wretched condition. So if he will be delivered at all, he will have to be delivered by someone stronger than himself. Who could that be? “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (25).

Conclusion: When we base our justification on the perfect keeping of laws, we will consistently find ourselves exclaiming with Paul, “Wretched man that I am!” We will not keep God’s commands perfectly, no matter how hard we try. So if we will ever be justified, we must look for another way. Thankfully, God has supplied that way through Jesus. In the next chapter, Paul will write of the many blessings of being set free from the law of sin and death.

Romans 6

Introduction: Paul concluded chapter five with a strong statement about the power of God’s grace. “Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (5:20). If that is true, some might try to make the case that we should actually sin more in order to obtain more grace. But Paul will counter that idea in chapter six and explain the relationship that should exist between a Christian and sin.

I. Dead to Sin (6:1-14)

A. Paul asks a question that may have been on the minds of some, “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” His answer is an emphatic negative. Those who have died to sin cannot continue to live in it (1-2).

B. Next he explains that when one is baptized, there is a death, a burial, and a resurrection that take place (3-4).

1. We die to the habitual practice of sin when we make up our minds that we are going to believe in, trust, and follow Jesus. We call that “repentance.” While we will still commit momentary, isolated sins, we will no longer live in sin. It will not dominate our lives like it once did (1 John 3:4-10).

2. Having died to the practice of sin, we are buried in water, and raised from the water into a new life (4). This marks the moment that our lives and our status before God change.

3. An important application point as it relates to baptism and salvation: just as Jesus was not raised to new life until he was first buried, it is the same with one who is baptized. The new life begins after the burial, not before.

C. Explaining further, Paul says that our “old man (self)” was, in a sense, crucified so that our sins would no longer enslave us (6-7; cf. Col. 3:9-10; Eph. 4:20-24).

D. Having been released from the enslaving power of sin, we can now live eternally with him (8-10). Therefore, the Christian should consider himself dead to the practice of sin, but very much alive in relation to God (11).

E. The practical application of the “dead to sin, alive to God” principle is that we are not to allow sin to rule us. We are to present ourselves as instruments of righteousness (12-14).

F. The bottom line is that when one decides to become a Christian, he is making a commitment to live differently. One cannot be joined to Christ in baptism and come up from the water content to live as he did before.

1. So if one is living in adultery, he cannot become a Christian and continue to live in adultery (Col. 3:5-7).

2. If one is a thief, he cannot become a Christian and continue to steal (Eph. 4:28).

3. The Corinthians are a great example of this: 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.

II. Slaves to Righteousness (6:15-23)

A. Just in case someone might try to contradict Paul’s teaching a different way, the apostle closes that door, too. The possible objection: “If we live under the grace of God, then it shouldn’t matter if we sin. Grace gives us license to live however we want, right?” Wrong (15).

B. Paul explains again, but in different words, what he explained earlier. Everyone serves either sin or righteousness (16). The Christians in Rome had been servants of sin, but when they obeyed the gospel they became servants of righteousness (17-18).

1. The “form” of doctrine refers to what Paul described in 6:3-4. “Form” means pattern. There was a pattern that they imitated when they became Christians.

2. Just as Jesus died FOR sin, was buried in the earth, and raised from that grave, we die TO sin, are buried in water, and raised again. This is how one “obeys the gospel” (1 Cor. 15:1-4; Rom. 10:16; 2 Thess. 1:8; 1 Pet. 4:17).

C. Paul admits to using a rudimentary comparison, but it serves his purpose to communicate the necessity of not being slaves to sin, but slaves to righteousness (19).

D. When they were living as slaves to sin, they were producing no fruit worthy of praise. Instead, they were producing things that bring shame and death (20-21). But now as slaves of God, they produce fruit that leads to holiness and eternal life (22).

E. Living in sin brings death. But God offers eternal life as a gift through Jesus Christ (23).

Conclusion: Grace is a blessing too valuable to adequately describe. It is impossible to out-sin the power of God’s grace (Rom. 5:20). But that does not mean that we have the right to try (Rom. 6:1-2). Our attitude toward sin should be, “Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of the evil. Avoid it; do not go on it; turn away from it and pass on” (Prov. 4:14-15).

Romans 5

Introduction: In the previous chapter, Paul used Abraham as an illustration of how one can be justified by faith apart from meritorious works in general and the Law of Moses in particular. In this chapter, he will first mention some of the results and blessings of justification, then he will explain that what humanity lost through Adam it can regain through Jesus.

I. Blessings of Justification (5:1-11)

A. The chapter begins with “therefore,” which is a clear indication that what he is about to write relates directly to what he previously wrote.

B. From 3:21 – 4:25, Paul explained and illustrated what it means to be justified, not by works of merit, but by faith in Jesus. To paraphrase verse one, “Since, then, we have been justified by faith, here are some of the results and blessings of that justification.”

1. We have peace with God (1). Sin creates hostility with and separation from God (James 4:4; Isa. 59:1-2). But through faith in Jesus, fellowship is restored and God turns his back on our sins (Psa. 51:9).

2. We have access into God’s grace (2). Grace is not unconditionally given. We access all of the benefits of his grace when we stop trusting in ourselves and start trusting him (Eph. 2:4-9).

3. We have reason to rejoice in hope and in our sufferings (2-5). It is easy to rejoice in good times, but not so easy to rejoice in bad times. But when we consider the benefits of difficulties, we can improve our outlook (James 1:2-4).

4. We have the indwelling of God’s Spirit (5). The Spirit of God is given when one becomes a child of God (Acts 2:38; 5:32; Gal. 4:6). He serves as a “seal” and an “earnest” of future reward (Eph. 1:13-14; 2 Cor. 1:22), and helps us in our growth and sanctification (Gal. 5:22-23; Eph. 3:16; Rom. 8:13).

5. We have protection from the wrath of God (9-10). One of the intriguing lessons to consider from this text is that when Jesus saves us, he is saving us from God (Heb. 10:31; 12:29).

6. We have been reconciled (11). Sin caused separation. Through the death of Jesus we can be brought back into fellowship with God (Col. 1:21-22; 2 Cor. 5:18-20).

C. The above blessings were made possible because Jesus died for weak, ungodly, sinful enemies (6-8). It is a love that defies description and understanding (1 John 4:9-10)!

II. What We Lost in Adam, We Gain in Christ (5:12-21)

A. This section contains some of the more difficult statements in Romans. But its primary message is clear: while Adam’s disobedience opened the door for sin to be committed, Jesus’ obedience opened the door for salvation to be received.

B. First, let’s consider what Paul writes about Adam and his sin:

1. Sin entered the world through him (12).

2. Death (physical and spiritual) entered the world because of his sin (12).

3. Sin existed prior to the Law of Moses, and death reigned over all who sinned, even though their sins may not have been exactly like Adam’s sin (13-14).

4. Adam is a “type” of Christ (14). Wayne Jackson, in his helpful book, Biblical Figures of Speech, defines a “type” this way, “A type is a real, exalted happening in history that was divinely ordained by the omniscient God to be a prophetic picture of the good things he purposed to bring to fruition through Christ Jesus” (p. 126).

C. Second, consider what Paul writes about Jesus and his obedience. Regarding Adam and Jesus, the comparison is more in how they are different than in how they are alike (15-19).

1. Through Adam, many died; through Jesus, grace abounded (15).

2. Through Adam came condemnation; through Jesus, justification (16).

3. Through Adam, death reigned; through Jesus, life reigns (17).

4. Through Adam came sin and condemnation; through Jesus, justification and righteousness (18-19).

D. The Law of Moses was given “to increase the trespass” – that is, to shine a bright light on the sinfulness of man (20; cf. 7:7, 13). This was to increase man’s awareness of how much he needs God’s grace in Jesus (21).

Conclusion: A great summary statement for this section is the last part of Romans 5:20, “Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.”

Romans 3:21 – 4:25

Introduction: Having established that everyone – Jew and Gentile – stands in need of salvation due to personal sin, Paul now turns his attention to explaining the basis of the salvation offered in Christ. We are not justified by merit. God justifies us because we trust him to save us.

I. The Basis of Justification is Grace, Appropriated by Faith (3:21-31)

A. The “righteousness of God” (i.e., the justification that comes from God) is possible apart from works of law in general, and the works of the Law of Moses in particular (3:21).

B. The basis of justification is the same for all, the grace of God made possible by Jesus Christ, who is the propitiation for our sins (3:22-25a).

C. God’s amazing plan for the redemption of man allows God to be both “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (3:25b-26).

D. Because we are declared righteous apart from meritorious works, we have no basis to boast (3:27-28).

E. God has decreed that both Jew and Gentile can be saved in the same way–on the basis of trusting, not earning (3:29-30). But this principle does no damage to the law. Rather, it harmonizes with it (3:31).

II. Abraham: and Example of Justification by Grace Through Faith (4:1-25)

A. Paul will explain in this chapter that the greatest hero of the Jews, Abraham, found justification through his trust in God, not any meritorious system of law.

B. Had Abraham been justified by merit, he would have plenty of reasons to boast. But the Scriptures are clear that what was put on his account as “righteousness” was his faith (Gen. 15:6), not meritorious works (4:1-8).

1. Paul explains the difference between grace and merit. When one works for pay, his wages are not counted as a gift (4:4).

2. But the one who doesn’t attempt to earn justification, but trusts in the one who can justify the ungodly, “his faith is counted as righteousness” (4:5-6).

C. Pious Jews placed inordinate value on circumcision, to the point that it was viewed meritoriously–that is, they believed that circumcision, in and of itself, obtained God’s approval (cf. Acts 15:1-5; Gal. 2:1-21; 5:6).

D. In 4:9-12, Paul reminds the Jewish Christians in Rome that Abraham was justified by faith long before he was ever circumcised.

1. The blessing of justification is not reserved for the circumcised only, and Abraham’s justification prior to circumcision proves that (4:9-10).

2. The fact that Abraham was counted as righteous because of his faith, and not because of his circumcision, is proof that he is the father of all who trust God for salvation, Jew or Gentile (4:11-12).

E. The promises that God made to Abraham regarding the blessings that would come through his descendants were made long before the Law of Moses ever came to be (4:13-15).

F. If the blessings promised through Abraham required perfect law-keeping, no one would enjoy them. That’s why those blessings are obtained through trusting God for them (4:16-17).

G. Abraham’s strong faith (4:18-21) was placed on his spiritual account as righteousness, not just for his sake alone, but for ours, too. If we follow in his steps, we will be justified in the same way he was (4:22-25).

III. Lessons

A. God blesses us, not because of who we are, but because of who he is (4:1-4; 1 John 4:19). God did not choose to bless Abraham because he owed Abraham.

B. There are four important terms used in this section that help us to understand our salvation:

1. Justification (3:24, 26, 28, 30) – a judicial term that denotes vindication, or receiving a favorable verdict. When we are justified, God drops the charges.

2. Redemption (3:24) – a financial term that denotes a payment of ransom. When we are redeemed, God pays for our release from captivity.

3. Propitiation (3:25) – a sacrificial term denoting the appeasement of righteous anger. Through the death of Jesus, the righteous demands of God’s nature are satisfied.

4. Accounting (4:11, 23-24) – another financial term that refers to a mathematical calculation that would be placed in a ledger. When we trust God for salvation, he places “righteousness” on our spiritual ledger.

Conclusion: Few Bible doctrines offer as much hope and peace as the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith. We would all be hopelessly doomed to eternal torment if our salvation were contingent on our personal perfection.