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Justification Illustrated by Abraham’s Experience (2) – Romans 4:1-25

Pastor Heo, Romans: The Righteousness of God, Sermons

Justification Illustrated by Abraham’s Experience (2) – Romans 4:1-25

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Justification Illustrated by Abraham’s Experience (2)

Romans 4:1-25 (Pastor Heo)

Abraham Justified by Faith

1 What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, discovered in this matter? 2 If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. 3 What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. 5 However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness. 6 David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the one to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: 7 “Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. 8 Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against them.” 9 Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. 10 Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before! 11 And he received circumcision as a sign, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them. 12 And he is then also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also follow in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised. 13 It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. 14 For if those who depend on the law are heirs, faith means nothing and the promise is worthless, 15 because the law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression. 16 Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. 17 As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not. 18 Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. 20 Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21 being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. 22 This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” 23 The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.


We are not justified by works, but by the grace of God based on the power of God – through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

This chapter is the same justification illustrated through the experience of Abraham. In the matter of salvation and justification, Abraham and we are the same. (Same experience, same testimony).

Last time, we saw (negatively) by what Abraham was NOT saved.

  1. His character
  2. Circumcision (religious rituals – baptism, communion, local church membership)
  3. Observing the Law
  4. His own power

Today, let’s look at (positively) by what Abraham WAS justified.

#1: He was justified by Faith

v. 1-3

“1 What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, discovered in this matter? 2 If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. 3 What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” – (this is quoted from Genesis 15:6)

  • In Genesis 14, Abraham was involved in fighting to rescue his nephew Lot and possessions and many other people.
  • In Genesis 15, maybe Abraham might be in fear wondering if they might return to fight against him. It was then that God appeared to him and said,
    • “Abraham, do not be afraid. I am your great shield and very great reward.”
    • Abraham said, “Oh, Lord, what have you given me? I have no heir.”
    • God said, “No, not your servant, but your own son from your own body will be your heir. Look up at the heavens and count the stars – your children will be more numerous than all these or all the sand on the seashore.”
    • This promise is the one that Abraham believed and God honored his faith and said, “Your faith will be credited to you as righteousness.”

Thus, BY FAITH, he was declared righteous.

#2: He was justified by the Grace of God

v. 16

“16 Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. (are you included or excluded? if saved, you are included in the salvation / justification of God)

Literal meaning of “Abraham” = “Father of many nations”

This promise was given by Grace.

This means God was not under any duty or obligation to do this for Abraham. Abraham did NOTHING to earn this, nor to merit this promise. It was freely given. It was given totally by God’s will and grace. This is a gift without cause.

In Greek, there are two words for “promise”:

  1. huposchesis? = conditional, relative promise (like a contract or agreement by mutual consent – there are conditions that must be met)
    1. If you… then I’ll… – most promises between human beings are these.
    2. The word “Promise” in these verses is NOT this one.
  2. epangelia? = unconditional, absolute promise (this is to be fulfilled regardless of any factors) – Abraham’s age, character, etc did not matter.
    1. Thus, our salvation (likewise) is never to be lost nor changed.
    2. Once justified, it never changes.

If we are saved, justified, by our own works, then this salvation may be lose-able (think if you failed to live up to your previous works). But this promise is absolute and unconditional.

  1. by faith
  2. by grace

#3: He was justified by the power of Jesus Christ

v. 22-25

“22 This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” 23 The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”

Yes, Abraham was not justified by HIS own power. Now, imagine, when God gave this promise, “You will be the father of many nations…” Abraham was childless. He was 85 years old at that time. (That’s not young.) We can expect that God would give Abraham a child IMMEDIATELY after that promise, but…………………. 15 years later….

There are many reasons for this, but ONE reason why God delayed in giving them a son was to wait until their “natural” reproductive power reduced and disappeared completely.

When they were totally powerless, as good as dead from a reproductive point of view, THEN God (through the power of the resurrection of Jesus) began to work in their bodies.

This was an outward symbol of how they were justified.

Also, we have done nothing for our own salvation and justification, because we were spiritually dead when we were saved. Also, we need to do nothing for our salvation because our Lord Jesus Christ has done ALL for our salvation and justification.

In this chapter, Abraham is listed as the “father of faith” (not the father of character). This means, even today, we are saved by the same faith by which Abraham was saved and justified 4,000 years ago. By that same faith, we can learn and see what this saving faith is like.

Here are 3 things that saving faith is like.

Do you have saving faith?

  1. Basis = Word of God (covenant of God, promise of God – not our own thinking)
    1. Romans 10:17 “Faith comes from hearing the Word of God…”
  2. Object = Jesus Christ
    1. Even Abraham (from God’s perspective) was saved and justified by believing in Jesus Christ. “Before Abraham was born, I AM.”
    2. Jesus came in body 2,000 years ago, Abraham lived 4,000 years ago. “Before Abraham was born, I AM.” (not “had been”) “Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day.”
    3. Hebrews 12:2 “Fix your eyes on Christ, the author and perfector of our faith.”

2 key words / key points

If you get these points in your daily lives, you will be so blessed.

Before this, let us think about Abraham’s faith. We are also justified by this same faith.

On Abraham’s part, he had NOTHING to boast about his faith. But God honored Abraham’s faith and declared “you are righteous”. Also today, we need to honor his faith.

Under what circumstances did Abraham believe God’s promise (4,000 years ago)?

  1. He had no Bible, no written Word of God, no local churches, no fellowship with other believers. He was surrounded by unbelieving pagans (he was the only one at that time)
  2. He also was childless at age 85 – yet he believed God’s promise for “many children” and even up to 15 years later…. NO.

If you were Abraham in THAT situation, would you continue to believe God’s promise absolutely without doubting, shaking, wavering?

  • The visible circumstances are becoming worse and worse,
  • but Abraham’s faith is getting stronger and stronger.
  • THIS is saving faith.

v. 18-20

“18 Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. 20 Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, “

Without faith it is impossible to please God.

You must check your faith all the time. If (this is a serious sentence)…

  • If your faith is affected by circumstances….
  • – stronger when circumstances are favorable,
  • – weaker when circumstances are out of control
  • This is NOT saving faith.

That’s why, even Saving Faith is the Gift of God.

This is not given by our own payment, but by God’s grace.

2 keywords

  1. Credit (x10 repeated in this chapter)
    1. v. 3
    2. v. 4
    3. v. 5
    4. v. 6
    5. v. 9
    6. v. 10
    7. v. 11
    8. v. 22
    9. v. 23
    10. v. 24
    11. This short word = 10x
  2. Righteousness (x12)
    1. – sometimes “justified”
    2. – last word in this chapter = “justification” – this means “declared righteousness”

2 keywords:

  1. Credit (x10)
  2. Righteousness (x12)

At that time, “credit” = banking term.

Do you have a credit card? Probably most of you have more than one. Do you have your own bank book?

“Credit” = to deposit into one’s account (increase) – count, reckon

If someone puts $1 billion into my account, whose money will that be? Mine. It’s available for me – regardless of my character, weight, appearance, education, career, background, etc.

Credit = emphasized in Romans 4 to show us “this is TRUE!” – the moment I put my real trust (faith) in Jesus Christ – at that exact moment, all of my sins from first to last, are ALL transferred to the “bank account” of Jesus Christ. That’s why he is called the “Lamb of God” who takes away the sins for the whole world.

That’s why, at the cross, he was totally filled from head to toe with ALL the sins of the world – even Abraham’s sins, even my sins, even a man who lives to the end of the world’s sins.

Because of this, God abandoned him and Jesus cried out on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

Isaiah 56 “We all like sheep have gone astray, each has turned to his own way, and God has laid upon him the iniquity of us all.”

Then God transferred ALL those sins to Jesus and declares us righteous, because he also transfers Jesus’ righteousness to us.

“God made Christ who had no sin to become sin so that we might be justified and made righteous for everyone who believes.”

Cor 1:30 “Jesus Christ is our righteousness, sanctification.”

This is the imputation of unrighteousness and righteousness.

God bless you. This chapter starts with the story of Abraham, and ends with the story of Jesus Christ.

v. 25 “25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”

  • Jesus was delivered over to be a full Man from full God
  • delivered to this dirty earth from beautiful heaven for our sins
  • delivered over to all kinds of sins and temptations to experience what we experience
  • delivered over to the priests and Pharisees
  • delivered over to Pilate to be judged wrongly for our sins
  • delivered over to Roman soldiers to be powerless for our sins
  • delivered over to the cross, the place of the greatest humiliation and shame for our sins
  • delivered over to death and burial and hell for our sins and rose again from death from hell from all sins.

It is only Jesus Christ who defeats the last enemy. And now he is alive and interceding for us. He did this all for us, and all by his own choice (not by force) – he did this all because he loves us.

John 10:18 “No one takes my life from me, I lay my life down of my own accord. I have authority to lay my life down and to take it up again.”

God bless you.

Let’s pray.

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So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Listen
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