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Romans 4:1-8


Intro: Paul has just finished nailing shut the lid on the coffin of the Law. He has told us in no uncertain terms that the Law cannot save, and that salvation comes only through faith in the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. You and I believe this truth and we rejoice in it. In fact, I still haven't fully recovered from the message last Sunday evening. What a blessing it is to be able to deal with concepts like justification, redemption, propitiation, remission of sins, forgiveness of sins and the grace of God.

Unfortunately, not every one believes the cardinal doctrines of the faith. Many of the people who would read Paul's letter to the Romans would not accept these things as fact. Therefore, Paul calls a witness to the stand as he continues to defend his message of salvation by grace through faith.

Paul's witness is none other than Abraham, v. 1. This man is revered by over one-half the world's population. In our day, Abraham is held in high esteem by Jews, Muslims and Christians. In Paul's day, many people, but especially the Jews, considered Abraham almost worthy of their worship. So, if Paul were going to appeal to anyone person to support his case, it would be Abraham.

Since Paul felt lead to use Abraham as an example of a one who lived by faith, it is only appropriate that we take the time to consider this fact as well. Therefore, as we have the opportunity this evening, let's look into these eight verses and witness firsthand The Faith Of Abraham. As we do, check up on your own faith! Be sure that your's is a salvation that is based entirely in faith, because anything less is not salvation at all, but is at best deception and at worse damnation. Let's notice the Faith Of Abraham.


A. Note: The Jews Held Abraham up as the premier example of a man who had been saved by his works. They believed that he was the epitome of a life lived right. They believed that God accepted and justified Abraham because He had earned it.

B. Paul tells us here that if this is true, that is, if there is a note of truth to the rumor that Abraham had been made right by his works, then Abraham has the right to crow. He can stick his chest out just a little and say, "Look at me, look at what I have accomplished." And, if this were true, then we would have to respect that and hold Abraham up as the perfect example of righteousness. In other words, he would deserve all the acclaim that we could give him.

(Ill. The same is true in our day. There are denominations all around us this evening who, in one way or another, claim to be saved by their works. Be it the Catholic who thinks he has to go to Mass, or the Seventh Day Adventist who things he has to refrain from eating certain foods, or the person in the Church of Christ who thinks that salvation is a requirement for salvation, or maybe it's that person who believes that he is saved by faith, but that he has to keep himself saved by his good works. All of these people have the right to brag about their righteousness if they have earned it for themselves. Sadly, however, all of these people are wrong! When we come to faith God's way, there will be no boasting in the flesh and what we have done, there will only be boasting in Jesus and what He did for us, Eph. 2:8-9)

C. Notice the last phrase of this verse, "but not before God." What Paul is saying is that even if this were true and Abraham were somehow justified by his works, God is unimpressed! You see, we are conditioned to perform from the time we are small children. We learn that good deeds and good performance provides rewards and they give us a sense of accomplishment and self-assurance. While the good things we do may prosper us in the flesh and in the eyes of men, it will do nothing for us with the Lord. Why? Because God does not look on the outside, God looks at your heart, 1 Sam. 16:7.

(Ill. No matter what we do in this world, we are always judged by what we did last. Ask any football coach and he will tell you that no player is any better than his last game! That is why works won't work. Works won't work because works won't last! You have to do more and more and more and eventually you come to then end of what you can do. Then when you can't do anymore, what then? If I am saved by my good works, then I have got to keep doing good works and even better works every single minute of my life. If I don't then I am doomed. That, my friends, is a pressure that no human has to live under!)

(Ill. Think for a moment about Mohammed Ali. He is considered by many to be the greatest boxer who ever went into the ring. He will always be remembered for his great victories. However, he cannot do those things tonight! He lives in a body that is ravaged by the effects of Parkinson's disease and he simply cannot do the things he used to do. Does that change the fact that he was a great boxer? No! The reality of who Ali is does not hinge on what he is today. His worth has nothing to do with the fact that he "could float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.", but that tonight he shakes like a leaf on a tree and even has trouble speaking a coherent sentence. People will always remember him as a great fighter. However, if he crawled back into the ring tonight and tried to fight, he would be easily defeated and the world would remember his as a sad, old washed up has been. Ali doesn't have a thing to prove to humanity tonight. His fame doesn't depend on what he can do, it is all about who he is. That is a lesson that the church needs to learn tonight!)

(Ill. The bottom line is this: God is not impressed with your works or with mine. All that touches God is our faith. Faith is the only thing that will save the human soul!)

I. The Rumor Of Abraham's Faith


A. Now, Paul tells us the real basis of Abraham's salvation. Simply stated, Abraham believed God and God saved Abraham. When Abraham was an 85 year old man, a childless man by the way, the Lord came to him and told him that he would have children. In fact, God told him that his descendants would eventually outnumber the stars that Abraham could see over head, Gen. 15:1-6. If that sounds crazy to you, here is something even crazier - Abraham believed God! The Bible tells us that this faith in the word of God was consider the basis for Abraham's righteousness. In other words, because Abraham believed God, God saved his soul!

(Ill. Note the word "counted". This word means to "credit one's account and to treat them accordingly." Let me illustrate. If you went to the bank and tried to write a check on an overdrawn account they would treat you accordingly. However, if you went to the bank and deposited a million dollars in your account and them wrote a check, they would credit your account and treat you like a millionaire. Do you see the spiritual side of this truth? When we place our faith in Jesus Christ for salvation, God credits our accounts in the bank of Heaven with the righteousness of Christ and then He treats us just like He would treat Jesus. However, if we do not open our account in Heaven with the deposit of faith and we try to secure God's favor by substituting our own righteousness, then we will be treated just like we deserve to be treated and we will sent away to Hell.)

B. The whole point Paul is trying to make is summed up in verse 4-5. He tells us that is we are saved by good works, then God is just paying off His debt to man when He saves a sinners. (Ill. Imagine going to work one week and on pay day the boss comes by and hands you your check and says, "Here's your gift." Why, you would say, "Gift nothing! I earned that check by my work!" The same is true of salvation. If I am saved because I have earned it, then I can brag about my goodness.) If that is the case, then you are not saved by grace, but because God owes it to you for what you have done. This is a false view of salvation! You can count on the fact that God will never be indebted to anyone of us!

(Ill. Verse 5 goes on to tell us that even the ungodly person, who believes God by faith will be saved! Can you see it yet? It never has been nor will it ever be about works. It is all about faith. Folk, if there is anything attached to your salvation besides Jesus Christ, then you need to be saved, because your brand of salvation will not get you to Heaven. It is all about faith! (Ill. John 3:16; Acts 16:31; Acts 8:37. Faith is all that will save the soul of the sinner.)

(Ill. What blesses me as I read this is the fact that I don't have to get good before I can come to God. Notice the word "ungodly". God isn't sitting in Heaven saying, "I wish that boy would get his life on track and start living for me. I sure would like to save him." No! If that were the case, then we would all go to Hell. I am glad that Jesus told us how to come to Him when He called us to come just like we are, Matt. 11:28; Matt. 9:13.)

(Ill. The handkerchief. My right hand, under the cloth represents Jesus in His righteousness. My left hand is uncovered. It represents me in all my sins. That is how God sees me before I am saved. However, when I place my faith in Jesus, I am placed into Christ (move left hand under the handkerchief) and I am no longer seen. All that is seen is the righteousness of Jesus! )

(Ill. Many people are so close, but still so far away from understanding the truth of this matter. Notice this little story that I came across On page 5 of the Catholic Twin Circle dated Sunday, January 5, 1992, there is a fascinating interview entitled "A Century With God." Here are a few excerpts from that article:

At 108 years of age, Charlie Shebanek of Richmond, Calif., may be the oldest Catholic in the United States. But he has a busier prayer life that most Catholics half his age. . . . During the day . . . he says the rosaries on an ancient set of beads. He likes Our Lady. He also likes St. David and prays to him. . . . But when asked who St. David was, he said, "Gee, I'm darned if I know! But I've been praying to him for years."

Charlie's theology is simple and to the point. "The Catholic religion is the only religion worth a hill of beans."

(I am not offended in the least by that statement. In fact, I rather like it because I tend to like people who know what they believe. I think Charlie and I would get along just fine!)

He is trying to get in shape for that final meeting with his Creator. "It's taken me 106 years," he states, "but I've finally stopped using profanities. And I've never been drunk in my life--not once." . . .

"We are all born under the curse that Adam and Eve brought on us, so we have to work hard to go to heaven. That's the only purpose of our lives--not fame or fortune. I'm living in hope that when I die, I'll go to heaven, according to the laws of God." (p. 5)

As I read that story, I began to like Charlie Shebanek. He's obviously a crusty old bird--you have to be to live to be 108 years old. But he clearly has a sense of humor, he knows that he won't live forever, and he's getting ready to meet the Lord.

Why mention him in this context? Because he represents so many people in the world today. Did you notice what he said? "We are all born under the curse that Adam and Eve brought on us." That's true, and all Christians would agree with him. But next to that excellent statement is one that is tragically wrong: "We have to work hard to go to heaven." No, no, a thousand times no!

That's what Romans 4 is arguing against. You don't have to work hard to go to heaven.

Charlie's theology is so close . . . and yet so far from the truth. He's obviously sincere, but when it comes to salvation, sincerity isn't enough. I pray that before he dies, God will open his eyes to see that it's not how hard you work, but whether or not you trust Jesus Christ alone for your salvation.

I. The Rumor Of Abraham's Faith

II. The Reality Of Abraham's Faith


A. Because Abraham reacted in faith to the promises of God, there were certain results in his life that are worthy of our notice. Paul is going to illustrate the principles he has just mentioned regarding Abraham's faith, but he is going to use David to illustrate his point. He quotes David in his prayer from Psalm 32:2.

B. In these verses, Paul reveals three great results that become ours when we trust Jesus for salvation. These are definitely worth noticing.

1. Sins Are Forgiven - This word means "sent away". In a very real sense, when we receive Christ as our Savior, our sins are forever physically removed from our lives. (Ill. Psa. 103:12; Isa. 38:17; 43:25; Jer. 50:20; Micah 7:19; Col. 2:13-14; i John 1:7)

2. Sins Are Covered - This word means "covered so completely that they can never be uncovered." The blood of Jesus is so powerful that it covers ALL sins! Past present and future have all been covered if your faith is in Jesus Christ. By the way, that is why I believe I am saved forever. If my future sins can send me to Hell, them I am not really saved. It is either all or none and all means all!

3. Sins Are Not Counted Against You - The word "imputed" means "to credit to one's account and to treat accordingly." It is the same word that is used in verse 5. It means that once you trust Christ for salvation, your sins will never be credited to your account, because they have already been credited to His account, 2 Cor. 5:21.

C. In the final analysis, we have been forgiven, we have been covered and our sins are no longer charged to our account! That is a tremendous blessing! That is enough to make a Baptist want to shout!

Conc: As we think about what we have learned this evening about salvation, we need to try and bring it all together. So, just for a moment, think about it this way. Imagine that you owed a bank 1 million dollars and that you had agreed to repay this debt at the rate of 10 dollars per week. Then one week when you went to the bank and handed over you 10 dollars, the teller checked your account and informed you that Bill Gates had been there and had paid your account in full and had deposited 1 million dollars in your account. Not only are you not in debt any longer, but now you also have riches that you could not before have imagined.

I know this is a far-fetched illustration. However, that is exactly what Jesus did in salvation. He paid our debt and then He credited our account with His righteousness so that now we are the Sons of God and are right in the eyes of the Father in Heaven. What a standing is ours!

Now, let me make one final statement before we close. The emphasis of these verses is this: Faith and works are mutually exclusive. Works are fine, but they will never save your soul. It is faith and faith alone that makes us right with God. Anytime we try to mingle to two together, we create an abomination and our works always negates our faith. So, as we reach the end of these thoughts, which is it for you, faith or works? Let me remind you again of the words of Paul in Ephesians 2:8-9. Salvation is purely a work of faith. So, where is yours?

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