Sunday, May 31, 2009

Romans Message #50 May 31, 2009

Peace With God
Romans 5:1-2


On September 30, 1938 British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain met with Adolph Hitler and requested that he sign a peace treaty called the Munich Agreement, in which Hitler guaranteed he would not go to war with Great Britain. Upon returning to England, Chamberlain gave his famous speech in which he announced that the Munich Agreement guaranteed “Peace for our time”. Well, we all know that this peace was very short lived as Great Britain and Germany were at war in less than a year’s time.

Men cannot make lasting peace, keep it, or guarantee it. Even with the best of intentions and under the best of circumstances we are unable to live at peace with others all the time. Only God can create and keep and guarantee peace with His enemies and the Bible tells us that if we have been justified by faith then we are at peace with God and that this peace is a guaranteed peace that will never cease to be in effect.

Go with me to our text for this morning—Romans 5:1-2 where we will see that if a person has been justified by faith—that is declared righteous by God—that person is transferred from the position of being an enemy of God to a child of God and from a state of being at war with God to being at peace with God.

In Romans 5, Paul really focuses on the assurance of our salvation and he begins by talking about what we possess as those who have been justified by God, such as peace with God, the grace of God, and union with Christ, that all guarantee our salvation and thus our acceptability with God.

I think it is very interesting and important that Paul, in writing this letter to the young Christians in Rome, does not make the jump from justification and salvation in Romans 1-4 to sanctification in Romans 6 without first explaining why the believer can be fully assured of his salvation in Romans 5. You see, before we can truly grow in our Christian Faith we must be secure in it. We must have the assurance that we are OK with God and that in being justified by faith we have been truly reconciled to God.

And so, Paul begins this chapter on assurance by stating that as a result of being justified by faith we have peace with God. Now—if we, upon being justified or saved by God, have peace with God—it must be assumed that prior to our salvation we were not at peace with God. Paul makes this point down in Romans 5:10 where he tells us that before we were reconciled to God we were the enemies of God. Thus, we were in a state of hostility and enmity with God. And as a result of this state of hostility between God and us due to our active rebellion against Him and His authority over our lives—His wrath was being revealed against us. You see, God was angry at us for our sin and our sinfulness and counted us as His enemies. And God's anger toward us and our sin was our main problem in life whether we realized it or not. Furthermore, being the enemy of God and the rightful recipient of His anger and wrath was a terrifying position to be in—yet I’m not sure we all realized it then or even now.
The writer to the Hebrews makes it vividly clear that “it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God”.

Look at Hebrews 10:26-31. The writer is talking about people who had been under the preaching of the Gospel but who have refused to believe it and thus remain the enemies of God. In verse 31, he uses the Greek word, phoberos, which means: that which is horrifying and dreadful and which results in terror. In other words, what Hebrews 10:31 is saying is that to fall into the hands of the living God as His enemy will be far worse than anything you can ever imagine—it would completely horrify and terrify you. And unless we understand what it means to be the enemy of God we will not appreciate what it means to be at peace with God.

Have you ever considered the awesome power and might of God that is at His disposal to use in wrath against those who remain His enemies? Go with me to Psalm 33:6.
“By the Word of the LORD the heavens were made and by the breadth of His mouth all their host.” God’s power is absolutely greater than anything we can even begin to imagine. I mean, He didn’t have to lift a finger to create the heavens and all the stars they contain. And when you consider some of these stars and the galaxies in which they exist—you will be awed by His power and specifically the power of His Word and the power of his wrath. We also, just like Psalm 8 says, see how absolutely puny and small we are.

We are all familiar with our very own star the Sun, which is 93 million miles away from us and about a million times larger than earth. That is impressive to us but is relatively a minor thing in comparison to the rest of the universe God has created.
You see, the Sun is but a small star in a small solar system of our Milky Way Galaxy. In fact, if our solar system which contained our sun and the planets orbiting it were the size of a quarter—the Milky Way Galaxy would be the size of the whole North American continent and the sun and all its planets would be but a speck of microscopic dust on that quarter.

There is actually another star in our galaxy that is 427 light years away from the earth, which is so big it could easily fit 262 trillion earths inside of it. To give you some idea of its size in comparison to earth—if the earth were a golf ball—this star would be the size of six empire state buildings stacked up on top of each other, which would be a little over a mile high. Thus, if I took this golf ball and put it on the road outside the gate of the school and said it represented earth—Betelguese would extend from the gate all the way to my house.

And to give you some idea of how far 427 light years is—a light year is simply how far light travels in a year. So, since the speed of light is 186,000 miles per second—a light year is 5.88 trillion miles. And since Beetleguese is 427 light years from the earth that means if you were to multiply 5.88 trillion by 427 you’d find out how many miles from earth it is. My calculator doesn’t go that high. And by the way, please don't think I am smart enough to come up with all this stuff. I got this information originally from Louie Giglio and then confirmed it on NASA's official website.

But even greater than that is considered by many to be the largest star known to man—its called Canus Majores (Big Dog??). It is so big you could put seven quadrillion earths inside of it. That is the number seven with 15 zeros behind it. If the earth were the size of a golf ball—that would be enough golf balls to cover the entire State of Texas twenty-two inches deep. To take it a step further, if the earth were the size of a golf ball, this star would be the size of Mt. Everest, which is 29,002 ft. or about 5 and ¾ miles high. To help you envision this—if you set this golf ball down on the highway outside the gate to the school—Canus Majores would cover the distance from the gate to Dairy Queen on I-40.

This was all created by the Word of God. In other words, all of this was simply spoken by God into existence according to Psalm 33:6. And if such a great God, with all this and in fact infinitely more power that this was angry at us--Nothing could be worse!

I mean the prophet Isaiah quotes God as saying that He has measured the entire universe with His hand—thus, the very hands that the enemies of God will fall into are the hands that can span this universe we have been talking about.
Do you not see why it is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God?
And that was our situation before we were saved.

But because of our justification—our salvation—we who were in this terrible position have been placed in a position of being at peace with God. God is no longer angry with us. We are reconciled and as a result we are at peace with God.

You know, I have always wondered why God created the universe so that it appears infinite in size. I mean just to give you an example, the Whirlpool Galaxy is 31 million light years away from where you are sitting right now. That means, in the simplest terms possible, that it is so far away, that if there was a space ship that could travel at a speed of 186,000 miles per second—it would take you 31 million years to get there.

And the universe is bigger than that. So again, why such a huge, astronomical, incomprehensible, and infinitely appearing universe that just goes on and on and on?
Turn to Psalm 103:11. Now try Psalm 57:10. And finally, Psalm 36:5. The size of the universe is the illustration of the size of God’s heart of mercy and grace toward those who come to Him for salvation. In other words—as those who have been justified by faith--we have an infinite and eternal peace with God that is illustrated by the infinite appearance of the universe.

And it gets better than that.

You see, all the power that once potentially could have been used to demonstrate God's anger against us now is used by God to demonstrate His love and grace toward us—so that we will always be at peace with God. Look at Romans 5:2.

Our peace with God is a guaranteed peace that will last forever because we through Jesus Christ have entered into a sphere of grace which ensures and guarantees that this state of peace with God never fails. As those who have been justified by faith and as those who are at peace with God we have also entered into a new kind of life, which is characterized by grace. And the best way to describe this new kind of life and living that is characterized by grace is that as those who are justified by faith and at peace with God and are standing in grace, we do not and will never experience God’s great power toward us negatively as His adversaries.

Rather, we who are justified and at peace with God and standing in grace will always and forever experience His great power positively as His children. In fact, this is what Paul has in mind when he writes in Ephesians 3:20, Now to Him Who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us.

This living in grace as the positive recipients of God’s omnipotent sovereign grace is to live in the mighty sphere and influence and dominion of transforming, empowering, preserving grace in which God's infinite power is working in us and for us to accomplish what He has determined to accomplish in us. Thus, grace is a sphere and reign of God's infinite power working for us and not against us. Thus, the greatness of God’s power that set the universe in motion and keeps it in place is the same power that set us in motion as God’s children and which sustains us as God’s children in a continual state of peace with Him. And this grace is the guarantee of our future.

It's God's sovereign grace that guarantees our future glorification when we will be presented blameless before the throne of God. That is what we have entered into, according to Romans 5:2. That is where the justified people of God live. We live in the sphere and reign and power of omnipotent sovereign grace working on our behalf for our joy and God’s glory. That is where we stand. This is the sphere that we live in. We are completely enveloped by the grace of God so that we cannot fail to become who and what God has sovereignly determined we will be and that is “conformed to the image of Christ” (Romans 8:28). And if you’ll go to Romans 8:28-30, you’ll see the ultimate goal of this sovereign grace in which we are standing and living right now and that is our future glorification.

And this is why we are really commanded to rejoice and exult in the expectation of the glory of God at the end of verse 2. We who have come to God through Christ Jesus for salvation from our sins and His wrath have every reason to rejoice in our future expectation of heaven and seeing the glory of God because we are at peace with God and will always be at peace with God as those who are living and standing in the grace of God. A grace that is not only bigger than our sin but bigger than the universe itself because it is not the creation of God but rather an attribute of God and thus it is as infinite and eternal as God. Thus, your salvation and your peace with God is as infinite as God’s grace—in which you as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ are standing and will always stand.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Romans Message #49 May 24, 2009

The Gospel of God
Romans 4:23-25

Back in 2005, John Piper wrote a book entitled, God is The Gospel, which initially caused a stir among some Christian groups who thought the title was confusing and inappropriate in the sense that they had always identified the Gospel with Jesus Christ.

They thought a better title would be, “Jesus is The Gospel or the Good News” rather than “God is the Good News”.

Now, it wasn’t that they denied God the Father—they just did not equate or connect God the Father to our salvation to the degree that they did Jesus Christ, God the Son.

In their minds, the punishment of sin was God the Father’s idea and the providing of salvation from sin’s punishment was God the Son’s idea.

And they are not alone in their thinking. I have found over the years that many Christians have a similar concept or at least express a similar concept when talking about the Gospel.

They see God the Father as the offended deity and Jesus—God the Son, as the Saving, Merciful, Gracious, Patient, and Gentle Savior.

Well, the fact of the matter is that this kind of compartmentalizing of God the Father and God the Son is not biblical in any sense—thus it is not true.

In fact, the Bible makes very clear that God the Father is the One Who ordained the plan of salvation and the choosing of sinners to be saved before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4).

The Bible is also emphatically clear that it was God the Father who ordained and purposed that God the Son would go to the cross to pay the sin penalty of sinners (Acts 2:22-23).

And the Bible is just as clear that God the Father was pleased to crush His Son on the cross of Calvary so that He could be just in justifying sinners who would come to Him for salvation (Isaiah 53:10).

And it was God the Father Who publicly put forth and displayed Jesus as the only One Who could satisfy God’s wrath toward us for our sin (Romans 3:25).
In fact, in His prayer to God the Father in John 17, Jesus—God the Son—says in verse 4, “I have glorified you on the earth having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do.”

In other words, the work of going to the cross to die in the place of sinners who would believe in Him and thus be saved from their sins was the very work that God had sent Jesus to earth to accomplish.

And all of this can be summed up by John 3:16, which states that:

“God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

And we must never forget that the purpose of Christ’s sacrifice at Calvary and thus the Gospel is to reconcile sinners to God—so as to bring them to God—so that they can see Him and enjoy Him and thus glorify Him.

The Gospel is not a way to get people to heaven—it is the way to get people to God. God is the ultimate goal of the Gospel.

And quite frankly, if God is not who we consistently desire above all things…..we have not been converted by the Gospel.

I think Piper was right when he entitled his book, God is the Gospel or translated, God is the Good News.

Because God is the Good News that Jesus died to enable us to experience.

So, turn to Romans 4:23-25 where we will see God the Father’s role in our justification and thus our salvation.

1. The Gospel is God’s Good News Because God is The Object of Justifying and Saving Faith. (23-24a)

In most of the passages dealing with salvation, Jesus Christ is seen as the object of saving faith.

Over and over again in passages such as John 3:16, 36; 6:40; 11:25-26; Acts 16:31 to mention just a few, Jesus Christ is seen as the object of saving faith—the One we are to believe in to be saved.

Yet, here in Romans 4:24, Paul tells us that to be justified and thus saved, we must believe in God and he means God the Father.

So, Who is it we are to believe in if we are to be justified and thus saved from our sins and their due penalty—Jesus Christ or God the Father?

Both. You must believe in Jesus Who went to the cross to pay for our sins and you must believe in God Who sent Him there and then raised Him from the dead.

In fact, you cannot believe in one without the other, which was Jesus’ point in John 14:1 where He said to His disciples:

“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me.”

Now both usages of the verb “believe” in John 14:6 are in the same exact tense and mood. The two words are translated from the Greek word (pisteuete). It is a second person plural present tense imperative mood or indicative mood verb.

Now, if it is in the indicative mood, the verb is simply indicating that Jesus is stating the fact that to believe in God is to believe in Him. In essence if the verb is indicative in its mood the phrase would read this way:

You all believe in God…..you all believe in me also.

In other words, the indicative moods simply makes the point that to believe in and trust in God is to also believe in and trust in Christ.

On the other hand, if the verb is an imperative then the phrase would read:

You must all believe in God……you must all believe in me also.

In other words, the imperative mood would make the point that the command to believe in God is only fulfilled when you believe in Christ.

Either way you use the verb, as an indicative or as an imperative, it is telling us that to believe in God is to believe in Jesus and vice versa.

This last phrase in John 14:1 is actually in what is called chiastic structure which is equating God the Father and God the Son as the one object of belief that comforts troubled souls.

You see this same thought in John 12:44-45.

It is important to understand that Jesus’ point here is that to believe in Him is not to believe in Him alone but to also believe in God Who sent Him…….

Because the person who sees and believes in Jesus—sees and is believing in God the Father.

Thus, to place saving faith in Christ necessitates placing saving faith in God as well.

Look at John 5:18-24.

No one can honor Jesus by believing in Jesus apart from honoring the Father by believing in the Father because they are One and thus they are the One object of the faith that saves a person form their sins.

Again, you cannot simply believe in Jesus and not believe in God.

To put it another way—you cannot have God apart from having Jesus—in fact, you cannot see God apart from seeing Jesus.

Just as God the Father and God the Son are inseparable in their essence as God—they are inseparable in the Gospel as the object of saving faith as well.

Oh, just as they are different in their functions within the Trinity but the same in their essence as God—they have distinct and different functions concerning their roles in the plan of salvation and thus the Gospel—yet they remain inseparable in their essence as God and thus as the one inseparable object of saving faith.

For example, God the Father initiated the plan of salvation and thus the Gospel. He also is the driving force behind the Gospel in the sense that He is the One Who delivered God the Son over to be crucified and then punished sin in Jesus and then raised Jesus from the dead because sin was indeed paid for in and by Jesus.

Jesus was the member of the Godhead Who carried out the plan of salvation by going to the cross and paying for sin and rising from the dead.

Yet, both, inspite of their different functions in the gospel plan, are the object of saving faith.

And note, I did not say, “objects” as though they are two different objects of saving faith.

No, I said, “object”. And again what I mean by this is that a person cannot be saved by believing in Jesus apart from God the Father nor can he be saved by believing in God apart from Jesus Christ.
Both together are the object of saving faith.

You cannot believe in One without the other—and be saved.

So, with that in mind the Bible has no trouble speaking of both God and Jesus as the object of the faith that saves a person.


2. The Gospel is God’s Good News Because God is The One Who Raised Jesus From The Dead. (24b)

There are many people who think that they are Christians simply because they have a generic belief in God.

They believe that God exists and that God is the Creator and that one day God will judge the world.

These people sometimes live very moral lives and really do their best to obey parts of the Bible.

But they are not Christians because, they, while holding to a belief in the existence of God, have no concern or interest in His Gospel, which is summarized in the statement—that—“God raised Jesus our Lord from the dead”.

You see, believing in God in the sense that you believe He exists is not enough to save you.

It is not enough to save anyone.

To believe God exists is not to believe in Him.

It is simply to believe a fact of life that according to Romans 1:18-20, everyone, regardless of what they say to the contrary, believes innately.

No, to believe in God so as to be saved by God is to believe the Gospel of God.

So just as you cannot believe in God for salvation apart from believing in Christ—neither can you believe in God for salvation apart from knowing and believing the Gospel of God.

Salvation requires that one believe that not only does God exist but that He has provided a means and a way through Jesus Christ—God the Son—for a person to be saved from the due penalty of his or her sons—which is an eternity in hell.

And Paul goes on to explain and expand this statement that those who believe in God Who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead will be credited with righteousness and thus justified and saved in verse 25.


3. The Gospel is God’s Good News Because God is The One Who Delivered Jesus Over to Death Because of Our Sins. (25a)

If Jesus was indeed raised from the dead—He must have died.

And in verse 25, Paul makes the point that not only did Jesus die but that Jesus died for our sins—that is the sins of all of us who have placed saving faith in Him.

He died to pay the penalty for those sins so that we who believe in Him won’t have to.

And the interesting thing is that this was God the Father’s idea and plan.

Certainly, Jesus went to the cross willingly but it was the Father Who sent Him there and delivered Him over to death on the cross on account of and because of our sins.

And thus the good news of the Gospel is that God the Father deliberately and purposely sent God the Son—Jesus Christ—to the cross to pay the total and full penalty for our sins that we deserved to pay.

Furthermore, it was God the Father Who punished Jesus for our sins while He hung on that cross.

Look at Isaiah 53:4-10a.

And then look at the promise God gives in Isaiah 53:10b-12.

God promises Him that if He (The Savior—the Messiah—the Christ—Jesus the Son of God) will indeed offer Himself as the guilt offering for the sin of those sinners whom God sent Him to the cross to die for—those who would believe……..

That God would raise Him from the dead.

Now, look at the end of Romans 4:25.
4. The Gospel is God’s Good News Because God is The One Who Raised Jesus From the Dead Because Our Sins Were Indeed Paid For By Jesus On The Cross So That God Could Indeed Justify Us and Remain Just. (25b)

Interestingly enough, Paul uses the same Greek word  in the second part of the verse that he used in the first phrase of the verse.

It means: on account of or because.

Thus, God the Father raised God the Son from the dead because or on account of the fact that all the sins of all the people who would place faith in Christ for salvation were indeed paid for.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the proof that our sins—every single one of them—have been fully dealt with by God in Jesus Christ as He hung on the cross.

In other words…..when Jesus said…..”It is finished”…….it really is!

The sins of every single person who has placed their faith in Christ and thus in God to save them were exhaustively and completely and comprehensively judged, punished, and dealt with by God the Father as He poured out His wrath upon Jesus who while on the cross was bearing our sin.

And that is why—in Romans 5:1—we are told that the person who has been justified by faith….that is they have believed in God Who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead……that is they have believed with all their heart and are fully assured that God has taken care of their sin problem in Christ Jesus………

This person has peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Do you have peace with God concerning your sin?

Do you have the confidence that if you were to die right now that you would stand before God as one whose sins have been completely forgiven by Him?

Are you trusting in God alone through Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross alone for your salvation?

If you are then you are at peace with God….the war is over…..you have nothing to fear from Him.
CONCLUSION

Paul’s point in chapter four has been to show us that if we are to be saved from the wrath of God for our sin we must have a faith like Abraham’s.

A faith that moves beyond mere human hope that we can somehow—someway avoid God’s judgment for our sin through our own goodness and efforts—and rests in God’s work at the cross.

A faith that des not waver and is not staggered by the seeming impossibility of our situation when we look at our sinful pasts and our sinful struggles right now and wonder how can God forgive us.

A faith that is fully assured of God’s promise of salvation in spite of what we know to be true of ourselves and our own utter unworthiness before God.

A faith that looks to God, believes in God, trusts in God, and takes God completely at His Word and then rests in the promise that God will forgive and save the person, regardless of who they are and what they have done, who comes to Him through Jesus Christ alone for salvation.

Let’s pray.

Romans Message #48 May 17, 2009

The Characteristics of Faith Pt. 2
Romans 4:18-25

As we approach the end chapter four in Romans, Paul gives us a vivid picture of what saving faith looks like as he shows us what it looked like in the life of Abraham.

And the interesting thing about this picture of saving faith that Paul paints for us is that it looks just like the picture of sanctifying faith as well.

You see, the faith that saves us is the same faith that sanctifies us.

Therefore, there is no difference between saving faith and the faith by which we must live the Christian life.

The whole Christian life from start to finish is a walk of faith—that is believing God to the degree that we believe in God or trust God to have done what He says He has done and to do what He has promised to do.

So, as we consider this picture of true saving faith—don’t fall into the trap of thinking it only applies to your salvation and not your sanctification or the way you are to live your life as a Christian.

These characteristics of faith that we will look at this morning were the means of our salvation as well as are the means of living the Christian life successfully.

What this means is that the faith that saved you is the same faith that causes you to persevere and endure trials and intense suffering that you do not understand.

It is the same faith that believes God does have a plan and a purpose for you when everything in life seems to indicate just the opposite.

It is the same faith that causes you to not quit when you have failed the Lord.

It is the same faith that keeps you pursuing holiness when all you are seeing is your sin.

Saving faith is living faith—it is the faith by which we are to live if we are to persevere in and enjoy the Christian life despite the difficulties and even impossible situations that come our way.

So let’s turn to Romans 4:18-22 and look at the characteristics of true faith and see what this kind of faith does and why God deems it so very precious in His sight.

As you are turning, let me also remind you that this kind of faith is not natural to man.

We are not issued this kind of faith at birth.

Rather, it is a gift of God that God calls into existence in our lives so that we can believe in Him.

Thus, the faith we are considering today has nothing to do with the power of positive thinking or optimistic thinking—no—it is a divinely originated and living faith that is able to see that God does indeed exist and rewards those who seek Him by believing in Him and relying upon His promises even when they seem impossible.


1. True faith believes God will do what He has said He will do in spite of the odds. (18)

The phrase, “In hope against hope he believed” is literally rendered, “who beyond hope on hope believed”.

Probably the ancient preacher, Chrysostem, had the best explanation of this phrase saying that Abraham’s faith went far beyond human hope to rest upon divine hope.

You see, Abraham had every reason, from a human standpoint, to give up on the hope of having a son.

He was simply too old and Sarah was barren. From a human perspective there simply was no hope of God’s promise that they would have a son coming true.

So Abraham had to go beyond human hope and rest on another kind of hope—divine hope.

Abraham had to move beyond what he knew by way of human experience and beyond what he could see to rest in another kind of hope—the hope of relying upon God’s promise and God Himself.

And as a result of moving beyond human hope and believing God so as to rest upon the promise of God in spite of the fact that what God had promised was humanly impossible—Abraham did indeed become the father of many nations through his son Isaac and eventually the Messiah—Jesus Christ.

2. True faith realistically takes into account the impossibility of the situation and believes God anyway. (19-20a)

Now, in moving beyond human knowledge, experience, and hope Abraham did not, as some would say, “take a leap into the dark” without taking into account the impossibility of his situation.

No, Abraham’s faith took a realistic view of his situation and realized that from a human perspective—having a son was an impossibility given his and Sarah’s age and her inability to have children throughout their entire marriage of probably some 70 to 75 years.

Now for those of you with the KJV, I need to mention that the word “not” in the phrase: “he considered not his own body, now dead” in verse 19, was not part of the original Greek manuscript of Romans.

The word “not” was added sometime after 1516 and found its way into the Textus Receptus, which is the Greek translation of the New Testament from which the KJV came.

So, the correct rendering is: “he considered his own body, now dead”.

Thus, Abraham contemplated his own body and the deadness of Sarah’s womb and realized that what God was promising him was impossible from a human perspective.

And yet—he did not become “weak in faith”.

In other words, realistically taking stock of his impossible situation did not cause him to doubt God, God’s Word and specifically God’s promise concerning him.

Listen, realism and the hard cold facts do not diminish true biblical faith.

Some people see faith as being divorced from realism or from the facts of their situation and what they claim to be faith is nothing less than denial.

Others just don’t want to know how bad their situation is thinking that if they don’t know—it can’t hurt them or really affect them.

And so instead of exercising great faith to deal with great problems and impossible situations—they try to diminish their problems and their situations so as to diminish the degree of faith in God that will be required to get through these struggles.

And then there are others still who believe Christians simply don’t have problems or aren’t supposed to have problems or impossible life situations and so they try to deny them entirely rather than seeing them as opportunities to exercise faith.

But, real faith—true faith—biblical faith is not afraid of the facts—and neither is it hindered or paralyzed or weakened by the facts—it in taking account of the impossibility of the situation—believes God anyway.

As Paul says in the first part of verse 20, “yet with respect to the promise of God [Abraham] did not waver in unbelief . . .”

This does not mean that Abraham never had a doubt about God’s promise of a son—we know that he had doubts because the Bible tells us that he did.

What the phrase means is that Abraham, while having momentary doubts and hesitations regarding God’s promise, avoided an attitude of deep-seated disbelief, distrust, and consistent doubting of God’s promise, God’s ability, God’s kind intentions toward him and thus, God’s character.

And how he avoided this kind of disbelief toward God is revealed to us in the next part of verse 20.


3. True faith grows stronger as it focuses upon God and His glory rather than upon us and the impossibility of our situation. (20b-22)

Now the last phrase of verse 20 is very important for us to understand because it really teaches us what builds and strengthens our faith.

It says: “but [Abraham] grew strong in faith, giving glory to God.”

Now does this mean that as Abraham grew strong in his faith that this glorified God?

Well, I think it is true that when we grow in our faith and exercise our faith that God is certainly glorified but I don’t think this is what this phrase is specifically teaching.

You see, the phrase, “grew strong in faith” is better rendered “was made strong in faith”. It is an aorist indicative passive tense verb and so we must understand that the action is being done to Abraham’s faith rather than by his faith.

In other words, something is acting upon Abraham’s faith to strengthen it rather than Abraham’s faith making itself strong.

The other thing to note in the phrase is that the words “giving glory” come from the Greek word, (dous), which is an aorist active participle, which simply means that the action of giving glory to God is both preceding and contemporary to Abraham’s faith being made strong.

In other words, Abraham’s faith was strengthened after and as he continued to give glory to God.
The word “glory” is translated from the Greek word (doxan).

It’s basic meaning is to recognize a person or thing for what it is.

When used in reference to God, it means to not only recognize God for Who He is—it also means to think about God as He is and to give Him the honor and the praise that He deserves for Who He is and what He is like.

Finally, when used of seeing God as He is—as He has revealed Himself to be of necessity also means seeing everything else as it truly is in relation to God.

And thus, as Abraham was looking at God and recognizing who God is and reveling in who God is and marveling at God’s attributes……his impossible situation suddenly became possible because nothing is impossible with and to God if it is his will to do the impossible……..and thus Abraham’s faith was strengthened.

Have you ever wondered why the universe is so big?

I mean the crew on the space shuttle is overhauling the Hubble Telescope so we can continue to see into space and deeper into the universe so that, according to NASA scientists, we can see within 100 million years of the BIG BANG to understand better how it all began.

Well, I have news for those scientists…….they won’t get any closer to the BIG BANG because their was no such thing.

But what Hubble will reveal is that Space is even bigger, deeper, and more mysterious than they ever thought.

Which again begs the question, why did God make it so deep and so huge and so astronomically beyond our capability to comprehend?

I mean, our sun, which is our nearest star, is 93 million miles away. That's why the sun, which is a million times the size of the Earth, looks so small. At 500 mph it would take a jet 21 years to get there.

And when we leave our solar system, we find our sun and its planets are just one small part of the Milky Way galaxy, which is a huge city of stars, so big that even at the speed of light, it would take 100,000 years to travel across it.

And beyond our own galaxy lies a vast expanse of not thousands or millions but billions of more galaxies.

And with its outdated telescope and camera which has just been replaced by the space shuttle astronauts—Hubble actually detected a galaxy 78 sextillion miles from earth—that is 78 with 21 zeros behind it. That’s 13 billion light years from earth.

So again, why did God make the universe so vast and so big?

Well to answer that….let me ask you another question…..If God wanted to create something to show us that He is Big enough and powerful enough and creative enough to help us and to keep his promises to us…..how big would it have to be?

Listen, when we look at God and all that God is and all that God has done our faith will be strengthened but if all we look at is our impossible situation and our own inability……our faith will grow weak and we will waver in unbelief.

The word “waver”, by the way in verse 20, is used figuratively to refer to being at a cross roads and not knowing which way to go but not because you honestly don’t know which way to go but rather because you are wondering if believing God is the best way to go.

Literally, it means to be divided. Thus, the idea here is that when you look at your impossible situation rather than at the God of the impossible…..you will be divided or as James puts it, double-minded…….living in uncertainty and wondering if God’s way is the right and best and only way to go.

On the other hand, when you focus on God and see God as He is and thus glorify God, your faith in God and in His promises are strengthened and your impossible situation, which loomed large in your heart….is cut down to size.

And in Abraham’s case, this led to him being fully assured that what God had promised to do—God can do—and God will do!

And when he came to the point where he was fully assured of God’s promise and God’s capability to perform His promise and of God’s intent to fulfill His promise—so that he fully believed in God—God credited His own righteousness to Abraham’s account and saved him because of his faith.

CONCLUSION

Now, someone may ask…..why would God justify and save a person simply because he believed in Him?

Why is belief or faith in God more important and esteemed more highly and precious in God’s sight than religious works or sacrifices?

Well, the answer to that question comes back to that word, , which again means to see and think about God as He really is—to recognize Him for who and what He is.

You see, because of Who God is and What God is like—the greatest insult and offense to Him is to not trust Him and to not rely upon Him and to attempt to live your life independent of Him.

Given the character and majesty and sovereign authority and power of God—He is utterly and absolutely credible and trustworthy and therefore—He demands to be believed, trusted, relied upon, and embraced wholeheartedly as true to His Word.

And when a person consistently and ultimately fails to believe God and to trust God and to rely upon God—that person has offended and insulted and sinned against the All-glorious God in such a way as to deserve eternal punishment in hell for all of infinity.

Look at Romans 1:18-21.

Those who are under God’s wrath are those who knowing about God and understanding His basic attributes and divine nature through general revelation still refuse to honor him…..that is believe Him and trust in Him.

Listen, the first initial and appropriate response to God that glorifies Him is to believe Him simply and solely because He is God.

Believing God must precede loving God and even worshipping God for how can you love and worship who you do not believe to be what He claims to be?!

Thus, the reason why God, when He saw Abraham’s faith, credited His own righteousness to him so as to justify and save him.

The Bible tells us in 1 Peter 1:7 that it is the proof or the authenticity of our faith that is precious to God and in fact more precious than gold, which is perishable.

And the reason why it is so precious to God is because when it is exercised it brings God praise, glory, and honor.

Can you imagine moms and dads—being in a swimming pool and on the side of the pool is your little three year old child—who so badly wants to jump in but is afraid you won’t catch him.

So you promise him that you will catch him and that his head won’t go under the water.

And then you notice that this drama is being watched by other parents and children—all waiting to see if the little child is going to believe you and then trust in you to keep your promise.

Now—what must that child do if he is going to make you look good in front of all who are watching as well as enjoy the thrill of jumping into the pool?

He must jump.

You see, when we are fully persuaded that God is able and willing to catch us if we will simply trust in Him and jump—then He is praised, glorified, and honored and we get to experience the thrill and joy of seeing God work on our behalf.

He gets the glory and we get the joy!

Our salvation and our sanctification are both dependent upon faith in God and in His promises.

Romans Message #47 Romans 4:13-17

The Characteristics of Justifying Faith
Romans 4:13-17

Did you know that the largest scale model in the world encompasses an area of almost 10,000 square feet, includes 895,000 pieces, and was built by a team of 100 people in 1964.

It’s a model of New York City that is located in the Queens Museum of Art.

Updated in 1992, it includes every single building that was built before then in all five boroughs of New York City.

And while very much out of date, the model is billed as the cheapest and most effective way to get a bird’s eye panoramic view of New York City.

Well, in a sense this is what Romans 4 is for us when it comes to viewing our salvation from God’s perspective. Because you see, in Romans 4, Paul uses Abraham as the model of how God justifies people by grace through faith.
And it's a great choice because to the Jews Abraham was the model of justification and salvation by religious ceremonialism and works.
They said Abraham was saved because he was circumcised. And that he was saved because he kept the works of the law.
But, Paul says Contrary to what you've been taught and taught about Abraham, he was not justified and saved by religious ceremony or works—he was saved by grace through faith.
Now, if you want the Cliff Notes of Romans 4—Abraham as the model for all who have been and will be justified before God, reveals to us that salvation is not achieved by one’s good deeds, good works, good intentions, religious heritage, ability to keep the Law, be good, or by any human effort—rather salvation is by God’s grace alone and power alone through faith alone.
And specifically, in our section of verses for today, which is Romans 4:13-17we will learn three very important truths about faith from the model God provides us in Abraham.
In a nutshell, what we will learn today is that: Whereas, we are saved and receive God’s promise by faith alone, it is a faith that does not stand alone, but is dependent upon and in complete accord with the grace and sovereign purpose of God alone.
1. Faith is incompatible with works and law. (13-15)
This promise, Paul mentions in verse 13, is the Abrahamic covenant.
It was given to Abraham in Genesis 12, repeated in chapter 15, chapter 18, and again in chapter 22.
And in this promise, God essentially promises Abraham land, posterity, and blessing.
If you were to read those chapters in Genesis you would see that God promises Abraham that He is going to give him a great land and make out of Abraham a great nation and give him descendents that will be as numerous as the sand of the sea and the stars in the heavens. And that through Abraham all the families of the earth would be blessed.
And the really powerful thing about this promise—this covenant—is that all Abraham had to do to see it come to fruition was to believe God.
And that is exactly what Abraham did.
Look at Genesis 15. After reiterating the part of the promise originally given in Genesis 12 about Abraham having as many descendents as the stars in the heavens—Abraham, verse 16 tells us, “believed in the LORD and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.”
In other words, Abraham did not go out and find a knife and circumcise himself or run down to the local synagogue and dig up a copy of the Law to start obeying it so as to ensure he was worthy of receiving this promise.
First of all, as we saw last week, circumcision hadn’t even been invented yet and was still some 14 years in the future.
And secondly, the Law wouldn’t be given for another 430 years.
Listen, all Abraham did was believe God and God counted that belief—that faith in Him—as righteousness.
Now note how Romans 4:13, amplifies the promise to Abraham to say that he would become heir of the world. What does this mean?
Well the original promise given in Genesis 12:3 says: "In thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed."
Now, here we come to a very important point. Abraham is going to receive a land the land of Canaan. He is going to have a people really the people of Israel, the covenant people.
And then this huge statement about the whole world getting blessed. And he is even called “the father of many nations” in verse 17.
In other words, by virtue of the fact that Abraham is going to have physical and spiritual descendents that are too numerous to count so that he is called the “father of many nations” and because through Abraham every family of the earth shall be blessed—Abraham is the heir of the world.
And the reason why he will have so many descendents both physical and spiritual and the reason why he will be the father of many nations and the reason why through him every family on the earth will be blessed is because through Abraham the Redeemer or the Messiah would come.
Look at Galatians 3:16. Notice that Paul says that the “promises were spoken to Abraham and his seed . . . and the seed is Christ.”
In other words, the promise given to Abraham of inheriting the earth can only be realized through Christ Who is the seed or the descendent of Abraham through which God will fulfill the promise.
So, in essence, it is only in Christ that all the people of the earth and every family on the earth will be blessed.
Now look at Galatians 3:29. Note that if you belong to Christ, that is you are a believer in Christ then you by virtue of being united with Christ are Abraham’s seed as well and are also an heir of the world.
You see, when you put your faith in Christ who is the seed of Abraham, you become a child of faith and in that sense spiritually a son of Abraham who is the model of faith for anyone and everyone who will be saved.
And thus, you become a co-heir with Abraham of this promise to inherit the world.
Now if you have trouble with that, remember Romans chapter 8 where the Lord says that believers are heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ Who, again, is the seed.
So, as heirs of God we inherit what God grants... as joint heirs with Christ, we inherit what God grants to Christ and what does God grant to Christ?
Well in Daniel 7:13-14 Jesus Christ, The Son of Man, Who one day comes with the clouds is granted a “kingdom”, which encompasses all peoples, nations, and men of every language.
And then if you read just a little further in Daniel to Daniel 7:27 you see that this kingdom is given to “the saints” of the most high—that’s us—the saints are those who belong to Christ by virtue of having been redeemed and bought by His blood.
So, in Christ we do inherit the world and in fact, according to such passages as Revelation 5:9-10 will reign upon the earth.
In fact, its what the whole creation is waiting for according to Romans 8:19-23.
Listen as believers in Christ—you are one with Christ and thus, one with the seed that was to come through Abraham at just the right time in history to go to the cross as God incarnated as a man—so as to die in the place of everyone who will believe and thus, redeem them from their sins so as to be recipients of Abraham’s promise, which in part is the earth.
Look at Genesis 3:15.
The seed of Abraham who is Christ Jesus the Lord—is none other than the seed of the woman who God promised would crush Satan—who through his craftiness usurped the authority over the earth from man.
And one of the reasons Christ, who is the seed of the woman, crushes Satan is to restore to those people who have placed faith in him their original destiny of living upon and ruling over a restored earth in the Kingdom.
But again—please note in Romans 4:13 that this promise is not through the keeping of the Law but through faith alone.
In fact, according to verses 14 and 15, all the Law can do is bring God’s wrath to bear upon you—it cannot save you and never was meant to.
It was only meant to show us our need of a Savior and drive us to Him for salvation. Had there been no law—we would not have known we needed a Savior because we would not have known that we had offended God.
So, in these three verses we see that Saving faith is not compatible with the Law or with good works.
But if you will look at Romans 4:16 we’ll see what saving faith is compatible with. . . .

2. Faith is compatible with, in accordance with, and dependent upon God’s grace. (16)

Listen, it is important to understand that even though faith alone is what saves a person that faith does not ever operate alone in the sense that it is ever independent of God’s divine sovereign grace.

Were it not for God’s sovereign grace providing a way of salvation, no one’s faith would save them and in fact—no one would have or could have saving faith.

If faith operates independent of God’s grace then faith is nothing less than a meritorious work that we exercise to earn salvation.

The power of salvation is not found in your faith but in God’s grace.

Abraham’s faith, was not in itself righteousness. Rather, his faith was reckoned to him as righteousness on the basis of the fact that God would provide the person with saving faith the very righteousness of Christ Himself.

And this is what Paul is saying in verse 16.

And finally, not only is faith in accordance with and dependent upon God’s sovereign grace. . . .


3. Faith is called into being by God’s sovereign power. (17)

If Abraham is indeed the model of how all people will be saved—then all who are saved are saved by a faith, which is their own—

but which finds its source in God, Who finds great glory and joy in giving spiritual life to spiritually dead people as He calls into existence into their lives the very faith required for them to exercise so as to be saved.

That is what verse 17 is saying.

We are saved by faith, a faith that is our own, but a faith that is given to us by God.
Grace not only gives us what we do not deserve—it gives us what we cannot in and of ourselves even produce—the faith to believe and be saved!

Certainly, Romans 4:18 is true—Abraham did believe against all the odds—but only because God called into existence into his life the very faith he needed to believe.

In essence, a literal understanding of the last phrase in verse 17 would be: God speaks to non-existent things as though they existed and then they come into being and really do exist.

And since the whole context of this chapter is concerning “saving faith”—Paul’s point is that when you were saved—it was because God spoke into existence in your life the very faith you needed in order to believe in Jesus and when He did that, your faith came into existence and you believed and were saved.

In other words, even the faith required to be belief and be saved was a gift of God, which is exactly what Paul says in Ephesians 2:8-9.


CONCLUSION

So, our salvation is all of grace.

There is absolutely nothing we did or did not do to obtain it—even the faith to believe and thus be saved was given to us by God.

And if this was the kind of faith given to us by God—we really had no choice but to believe because within those whom God has called to salvation--He always calls into existence the very faith to believe and this faith does not ever fail to achieve the salvation God sends it to accomplish.

If you are a child of God by virtue of having placed saving faith in Jesus Christ alone to save you from your sins—it is only because of God’s wondrous grace in giving you this faith to see Christ and believe.

And this is why saving faith has nothing to do with our religious ceremonies and good works—it is all of grace.
And again, whereas, we are saved and receive God’s promise by faith alone, it is a faith that does not stand alone, but is dependent upon and in complete accord with the grace and sovereign purpose of God alone.

Romans Message #46 Romans 4:9-12

Circumcision & Religious Rites vrs. Faith
Romans 4:9-12

Have you ever wondered why people go to the lengths that they do in order to try to get rid of their guilt for their sin?

Why do people try to make up for their sin or pursue works in order to deal with the guilt of their sin and to try to make themselves acceptable to God?

I mean, why do many devout Muslims flagellate their backs with whips until their backs are nothing but a bloody pulp as a means of showing God that they are worthy of His forgiveness and thus His acceptance?

Why do many millions of faithful Hindus, every 12 years, go to the Festival of Maha Kumbh Mela, where they strip naked, sit on beds of upright nails, walk on broken glass, lay on red-hot coals, and then culminate the ceremony by taking a razor sharp knife or poker and either slicing or piercing their tongue so as to never speak clearly again—all in an attempt to show God they are worthy of His forgiveness and acceptance?

Why do some very remote and backward tribal groups continue to sacrifice children in their attempt to be free of their sins?

Why do Catholics continue to believe that all the grace of God in Christ’s death really does for us is give us the ability to perform the works that can make up for our sin and hopefully earn God’s forgiveness and acceptance?

And why do some groups in our own country insist that their people carry a certain kind of Bible, go to a certain kind of church, listen to a certain kind of music, wear and don’t wear certain kinds of clothing, keep their hair a certain length, never touch a drop of alcohol, and be in church every time the doors are open—so as to ensure that they earn God’s favor and continue to stay in His good graces so as to be acceptable to Him?

I mean why do people of all kinds of religious stripes feel this tremendous sense of having to do something-anything to get right with God and thus be forgiven and found acceptable to Him?

It is because they have never experienced the happiness that comes from having their sins forgiven and from knowing they are perfectly acceptable to God and indeed as accepted by God right now as they will ever or could ever possibly be.

Because, you see, once you have experienced the happiness and the peace of mind that comes with knowing your sins—all of them have already been dealt with and are removed from you and forgiven so that you are right with God and can now enjoy God instead of being afraid of God—you will do anything it takes to try and achieve that kind of happiness and relief.

Or you will, after having tried everything you know of to achieve it but failed—will simply retreat from God and everything that reminds you of God in an attempt to run and hide from God because you know you can’t please Him with all this sin on your back.

One of things we human beings all have in common is that whereas we enjoy sin—we hate the guilt that accompanies it.

Guilt wears us down. It steals our happiness, our ability to enjoy life, and eventually it robs us of our lives as we consume ourselves and fill our lives with empty activities or drown ourselves in alcohol or other drugs in an attempt to numb the guilt that is nagging us and continually reminding us that we are not right with God.

And this is why true Christians—true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ—people who have come to Him for the forgiveness of their sins and found Him to be gracious and gentle and loving and accepting and patient with them are so very happy.

They have finally been able to lay down their sin and their guilt and have it taken care of so that they can rest and come to enjoy the God they have been running from and hiding from all their lives.

Look with me at Matthew 11:28-30.

This rest that Jesus is promising to all who are tired and weary of their sin and their guilt and who will come to Him with it is the happiness of knowing your sins are forgiven and that you are now fully acceptable to God and accepted by God and able to finally enjoy God.

Listen—there is no happiness or joy or peace like that of knowing all is right and good between you and your creator.

And this is why Paul in Romans 4:6-8 quotes David, the man who had committed the great sin of forsaking God as his greatest treasure and pleasure in life by replacing God with lust, adultery, and finally murder—when he had finally come to God for forgiveness.

And look at what David found—the happiness that comes when you know for a fact and without a doubt that your sins are forgiven and that you are now acceptable to God.

Wow—what great happiness is available to those who come to God for the forgiveness of their sins—

But how do they need to come? And who can come?

I mean can anybody really come or is this happiness only for a certain few religious and churchy type of people who sing in the choir and have perfect kids and never cuss when they pound their thumb with a hammer and never pop open a beer and have been baptized and take communion regularly?

Well, you see, that is the question which Paul now addresses in Romans 4:9-16.

Because after telling people about the great and unbelievable happiness that is available to those whose sins are forgiven by God—the next most obvious question is—who are these people and what do they need to do or be doing to possess and enjoy this happiness?

It is the same question that was raised in Acts 15:1 by teachers in the early church who began teaching that unless a man was circumcised according to the custom of Moses—he could not be saved and thus he could not have this happiness of having his sins forgiven.

Now, In our day, circumcision is something parents choose to have done to their baby boys, more for health and cultural reasons than religious reasons.

In fact, if you were to go to Dr. Ma’s office here in Edgewood and ask parents who have chosen to have their little boys’ circumcised—if there was any religious significance to that decision, most, if not all, would say no.

Now, if the parents’ were orthodox Jews, it would be another matter altogether because then the act of circumcision does indeed have great religious and even ethnic significance.

You see, orthodox Jews see circumcision the same way as the Jews of the Old and New Testaments saw circumcision—as a prerequisite to be accepted by God.

The Jews of Jesus’ and Paul’s day saw circumcision as necessary for salvation because they believed it guaranteed one’s salvation from hell and thus certain happiness.

One Rabbi writing on circumcision sates: “No circumcised man will ever see hell.”

The Midrash Millim, a Jewish commentary on the Old Testament states that the Jews believed that “God swore to Abraham that no one who was circumcised should be sent to hell.”

And yet another, the Akedath Jizehak writes, “Abraham sits before the gate of hell and does not allow that any circumcised Israelite should enter there.”

Even the Jewish apocryphal Book of Jubilees states that the man who is not circumcised cannot prove “that he is Lord’s [and] is destined to be destroyed”, speaking of eternal destruction in hell.

In other words, this external religious rite of circumcision was in the Jewish mind not only the act that made one a Jew—it was the one act that secured a person’s salvation from hell as well because it was the one act that made a man acceptable to God.

Now interestingly enough, there was no such religious and national rite for women and this is significant because this fact in and of itself reveals that the Jews had misinterpreted the whole rite of circumcision from its inception.

You see, if circumcision was what made one acceptable to God and if only boys were circumcised—how did girls become acceptable to God?

Well, they couldn’t if this understanding of circumcision was held to.

And again this reveals that there was a misunderstanding of the meaning of circumcision from its very beginning.

You see, circumcision was not the sign or the seal that determined whether a person belonged to God and was accepted by God but rather a sign and a seal that pointed back to what was required to belong to God and be accepted by Him—which was and still is faith in Christ Jesus alone.

But because of this misunderstanding and because people thing that what makes them acceptable to God and thus will bring them the happiness and joy they desire is being religious and fulfilling religious ceremonies and traditions—

Paul, in Romans 4:9-12 makes two very important points about the happiness that God promises to all those who come to Him through Jesus Christ for forgiveness of their sins--


1. This happiness that results from being forgiven by God of all one’s sins is available to those who have been circumcised as well as those who have not been circumcised. (9)

In other words, whether you have been circumcised and are thus a Jew or in our context, “a good religious person” or whether you have not been circumcised and thus are not a Jew or in our context, “not a good religious person” has no bearing on this happiness—

Because whether you are a religious or nonreligious person has no bearing upon whether you can be forgiven of your sins.

And then in the last phrase of verse 9 Paul tells us what does matter and it is not circumcision or any other religious rite, ceremony, tradition, or practice—it is simply “Faith in God”.

In other words, people are not given the happiness of having their sins forgiven and knowing they are accepted by God and thus can now enjoy God through being religious but rather through believing God—the same way that Abraham did.

Remember that Jesus did not say in Matthew 11:28-10,

Come to me all you that are circumcised and religious and go to church every Sunday and have been baptized and read your Bibles everyday and don’t ever cuss when you hit your thumb with a hammer and I will give you rest . . . . or—

Come to me to be circumcised and made religious and I will give you rest.

No—Jesus said: “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden with your sin and your guilt because you are not right with Me and I will give you rest.”

And the person that simply believes that Jesus meant what he is saying here and does indeed come to Him to be forgiven of their sins and relieved of their guilt and made right with Him an thus God will find this rest—does!


The second thing Paul wants us to know in this passage is that

2. Abraham was made right with God and thus made acceptable to God so as to be saved from His wrath and thus given this great happiness while he was an uncircumcised and thus an unreligious man?
You see, Abraham was saved, that is declared righteous in God’s sight before he was ever circumcised, therefore the religious rite of circumcision had nothing to do with his salvation.

And if the greatest of all Jewish religious rites and ceremonies had nothing to do with Abraham’s salvation—no religious rite or ceremony has anything to do with anyone’s salvation.

Look at Romans 4:10-11.

Abraham was declared righteous by God when he placed his faith in God before he was circumcised.

In other words, he was for all practical purposes an uncircumcised, irreligious, heathen Gentile when God saved him.

And the fact of the matter is that since he was circumcised in Genesis 17 and was actually saved in Genesis 15:6—he was saved for at least 14 years before he was ever circumcised.

Thus circumcision’s purpose was never to save anyone but rather to act as a teaching tool that reminded people of God’s means of salvation and pointed them back to it.

That is essentially what verse 11 is saying. Abraham received the “sign” of circumcision—thus it was something that pointed people to something else other than itself.

And in the case of salvation, it pointed people back to the fact that Abraham was saved not by a religious rite but by faith in God.

Note too, that circumcision was a “seal”—that it acted as something that authenticated something else as real and genuine.

In the case of circumcision, it was what God used to authenticate to Abraham as an outward act what God had already accomplished in him in declaring him righteous and saving him.

In other words, circumcision was never intended to save anyone and in fact could not save anyone—it was merely intended to act as a sign that pointed people back to what could and would save them—simple faith in God.

Paul then goes on to teach that while Abraham is the physical father of all Jews, spiritually speaking, he is also the father of all who place saving faith in God, whether they be Jews—circumcised or Gentiles—uncircumcised.

CONCLUSION

Paul’s argument is clear in this passage. Circumcision or any other external religious rite or ceremony has no bearing upon a person’s salvation.

No one is more acceptable to God or belongs more intimately to God because he or she has been or not been circumcised. It simply has no bearing upon our relationship with God in any way.

Likewise, no one is more acceptable or belongs to God more intimately because they have been baptized, or baptized by a certain mode of baptism, or because they have taken communion, or fast, or pray five times a day or whatever the case may be.

Our acceptance with God is based upon faith in Jesus Christ alone for salvation from the penalty of our sins.

And even though most of us here have no problem believing this—we are still often tempted to think that if we just involve ourselves in this spiritual exercise or that churchy activity that God will find us even more acceptable.

Or we are sometimes tempted to think that we can make up for our sin by working harder and longer for the Lord and thus earn back our acceptance with Him.

Well, the message of Romans 4:9-12 is that we can’t do anything to make ourselves acceptable to God or more acceptable to God—all we can do is believe God and trust Him to make us as acceptable to Him as we can ever and will ever possibly be.

You see, the truth of the matter is that you as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ are as acceptable to God right now as you will ever be—you can never be less acceptable or more acceptable than you are right now—because you in Christ Jesus are as absolutely, perfectly, and completely acceptable to God as Jesus is.

Our faith in Christ needs nothing else to make it complete.

And for unbelievers here today—the message of Romans 4:9-12 is that if you want the happiness of knowing your sins are forgiven and that you are right with God—don’t come to religion—come to Jesus!

A Tribute To America's Military



For all those who went, who fought and who never made it back home

Pursuing the Glory of Christ as though He were the most important pursuit in all the world--Because He Is!

" Looking for the Blessed Hope and the appearing of The Glory of our Great God and Savior, Christ Jesus." Titus 2:13