Romans 4:1 What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?
2 For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.
3 For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.
4 Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.
5 But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.
There is a news report of a first grade student in a school in Mississippi being disciplined for using the words “Jesus Christ” in school. The article does not explain itself right away, but it turns out the boy was cleaning up lego and dropped some pieces and the result of that was the use of the words “Jesus Christ.” Thus he was using those words in a derogatory manner. Apparently there were many complaints about the school’s response to this matter.
It is interesting that the school took disciplinary action against this student. Our educational system is so far gone that most schools would not care if a student would use Jesus’ name in vain. It is also interesting to note that the mother of this child and others who responded, disagreed with the school’s response to this situation. It speaks volumes of where those adults are at. It is no wonder that the U.S. has the current leadership it has. The leaders are a reflection of the people and I believe also a judgment from God.
In our text God directed the apostle Paul to continue to teach on the importance of true faith in His salvation. Abraham lived prior to the Mosaic law. However, it was well known that Abraham was the father of the nation of Israel. The Muslims have tried to erase that fact and claim Abraham as their father through Ishmael, which is true. However, Ishmael was not the son of promise. He was the son of adultery. He was born due to the sin of his father. Abraham chose to listen to his wife Sarah in the events leading up to the birth of Ishmael, rather than trusting in the promise of God. God promised Abraham and Sarah a son. They needed to learn to trust God and to wait for His fulfilment of that promise. Ishmael came into this world through no fault of his own, but he would be a wild man who would be trouble for the nation of Israel and the world.
In verse 2 God made an important point. If Abraham were justified by works, he would have something to glory about, however he would have nothing to glory about before God. Thus his glorying would have been in vain.
As we have already noted, Abraham’s works concerned him. He doubted God regarding the promised son. He interfered with God’s promise regarding His promised son. Thus he could not stand before God and claim to have obeyed God completely.
In verse 3 Paul was directed by God to take the Jews and us back to the Scripture. That is our only defence. That is the ground we must stand on. Everything we believe must be founded in Scripture. It cannot be built upon a distortion of Scripture. It must be built upon “rightly dividing the Word of Truth”. We see in verse 3 that Abraham was justified by faith, not by works. In Genesis 15 we read that Abraham believed God’s promise of a son and God saw the heart of Abraham and He knew this was not just a mental assent. God knew that Abraham believed in his heart that God was able to fulfil His promise to him. Thus God could count that faith to Abraham for righteousness.
As we have noted, Abraham’s faith faltered, but it could not be destroyed. He was punished for his sin, as are his descendants. God is able to save those of Ishmael’s descendants who will humble themselves and turn to Him and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for their salvation. The sad reality is that most of the descendants of Ishmael decided to pursue a false god – Allah, and they reject Jesus Christ as the Messiah. They are awaiting the next Imam to give them victory. That will never happen, but they are strongly convinced to believe that lie.
II Corinthians 4:3 But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:
4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
We addressed the matter of visions and dreams in previous devotionals. There are false reports which are claiming that many Muslims are turning to God because they are seeing visions of Jesus Christ. Those true Christians who are witnessing to Muslims should know better than to accept that false belief. We need to teach people the truth. Salvation is always by grace through faith. It is not by experience.
We already know that Muslims hate God and they hate Christians. They have been heavily indoctrinated to believe that Jews and Christians are infidels. They have also been taught to go after and kill those who would diminish what they believe about Mohammed. Muslims can be saved, but if they are saved it will be in the same manner as anyone else. There are professing Christians who have never believed Paul’s inspired words in II Timothy 1:7.
II Timothy 1:7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
I have heard of people who believe they are called to work among Muslims, but they have no testimony among them. They are afraid of offending them and have given in to the Muslim way of living rather than God’s way of living.
Those who are truly saved, need to walk by faith just as Abraham needed to. When we walk in the flesh we will have the same results that Abraham had. When we walk in the Spirit, we will be blessed along with faithful Abraham.
In verse 4 of our text we see that the person who claims righteousness through works is trying to pay off a debt. Grace is cancelled out by their attempt at “good” works. Jesus condemned the Pharisees for their worthless efforts at trying to work into God’s favour. Jesus Christ stopped Saul (Paul) on the road to Damascus for his worthless attempt at working for God’s favour. The same is true for all who attempt to impress God with their worthless self-effort.
The other side of that which is equally dangerous is those who acknowledge that they cannot be saved by works, but then they ignore their sins and claim that God will overlook those because they claim faith in Jesus Christ. They reject the fact that when a person is saved, he or she is fundamentally changed from the heart outward. They have been given the power to be called “sons of God.” They must trust in God to work in them that which is well pleasing in His sight. They must exemplify the righteousness of God in their heart and life. The true child of God is called to be holy even as God is holy.
In verse 5 we see that salvation is not of works. It is entirely by faith. It is God that alone can justify the ungodly. As we have mentioned, this fact does not mean that God ignores the sin of His child. Jesus Christ died to set us free from bondage to sin. Abraham was justified by his faith in God. His sin of lying to Pharaoh and to Abimilech regarding his relationship to Sarah was not acceptable to God. His sin with Hagar and against God and his wife Sarah was also not acceptable to God. God rebuked him for these things and as we have noted, there have been long standing consequences for those sins. Isaac learned to lie about his wife because his father lied. The Ishmaelites have been a major problem for the Jews and the world since the time of Ishmael.
We can be thankful that God is willing to forgive those who come to Him in repentance and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. We, those who are saved, can also be thankful that God is willing to forgive us when we sin against Him after we are saved. As we will see further on in this book, that forgiveness should never be understood as license to sin. The desire of the true child of God is to please his heavenly Father. God puts that desire into the heart of His child.