When contemplating the intricacies of the universe’s design and life within it, I cannot even begin to comprehend the Creator’s precision. There is a deliberate order whether we understand it or not. I marvel at how God prophetically revealed redemption using history as both a mechanism and proof to help willing humans enter this very specific way to be reconciled to Holy God. And, while the way is very prescriptive and often misunderstood, it is freely offered to all who will receive it. You might ask why does anyone need to believe in Jesus Christ to be (1) saved from eternal punishment due to sin, and (2) inherit a peaceful and joyful eternal life? Let me ask you a different question. How could Holy God (the unchanging Judge) forgive sinners while remaining righteous; and, how can a person’s soul be redeemed when prone to error? We might declare the answer to be “FAITH”; and while this is true, the response by itself seems to be too vague. Certainly, faith must be placed in something other than itself, or else “that type of faith” is “faith in your faith”. Can a faith that originates from within you save you? Or, does faith need to be placed in something outside of you that is completely perfect, reliable, and capable of redeeming you?
Scripture teaches there is only one righteous requirement for a full pardon from God:
- “… It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.” (Romans 4:24 to 25).“if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 9:10).
We know that from Scripture “… faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1). Let’s just do a brief word study. The word “substance” in this verse matches the Greek word “hypostasis” (Strong’s Number G5287) and means:
- “that” which has actual existence (a substance, a real being) in which one can have confidence. It includes the idea of coming under something concrete. The word is a compound of “hypo” or “under” (Strong’s G5259), and “hístēmi,” or “to stand” (Strong’s G2476).
So then, faith is the substance (standing under a guaranteed agreement or legal standing based on a legal authority) of things hoped for… What is the legal authority by which faith or the guaranteed agreement stands? Well, let us turn to Scripture for the word “substance” (G5287) again.
- “Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, [Strong’s G5287] and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;” (Hebrews 1:3).
How can your soul be redeemed? The eternally redeemed are through, in, by, and for CHRIST alone as ordained by Father God for God’s Glory. You see you cannot believe God while disbelieving what He has said or ordained. If you feel you do, then you are believing in a God of your own making. You may believe He exists (like Satan and demons) but mere acceptance of His actuality will not reconcile you to God. Saving faith must stand on something real and concrete; and, have a source of legitimate power. Redemption includes coming under Christ’s authority on which the body of Christ stands because when He purchased you, He bought you from the slave market of sin and delivered you to the kingdom of light.
Introduction and Outline
The reformation popularized the following “5 alones”: “Christ alone”; “grace alone”; “faith alone”; “Scripture alone”; and “to the glory of God alone”. I believe these principles are key to saving faith because they truly originate with the Godhead and are found throughout Holy Scripture. The Holy Spirit through Scripture solidifies these foundational concepts in believers’ hearts as we grow in the knowledge of Him who saved us by His grace (regardless of whether they have been studied under the neatly packaged doctrines of the church). The thief on the cross did not have time on this earth to learn all that God had done for Him, but based on Christ’s words to him, I can be confident He understands it now.
My study of Romans 4 takes me back to Genesis where the documented hope of redemption for all human beings first appears as spoken by God to Adam and Eve (refer to Genesis 3:14 to 15), and again to Abraham with more illumination. This is how God works with us. He draws us closer to Him through a deepening revelation (from faith to faith) and in relationship with Him over the time He has granted to us (while He accomplishes that which He desires). You see, it is all about our Triune LORD and we are simply beneficiaries of all that He is.
Romans 4 starts by immediately referring to Abraham and as such, this is where we will start. As we traverse historical accounts of people of faith, perhaps you will consider your walk of faith, as I did. When did God begin His work with you?
In Genesis it is written:
- “Then He, [the LORD], brought him, [Abraham], outside and said, “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” And he, [Abraham], believed in the LORD, [Yahweh], and He, [the LORD], accounted it to him , [Abraham], for righteousness.” (Genesis 15:5 to 6).
The New Testament explains it this way.
- “And the Scripture, (this word is “graphē”, Strong’s G1124), foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham. For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.” Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them.” Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. … But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” (These are various Scripture from Galatians 3:8 to 26).
- “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,” (Ephesians 2:8).
This gospel of justification through faith by God’s grace is defined in Scripture, or “graphē” in Greek, which is our highest authority because it is the written Word of God. We understand God’s will for daily living and eternal purposes through the Holy Spirit’s conviction in our hearts concerning the Scripture that we have consumed.
Now, if Scripture preached the Gospel to Abraham, who wrote that Scripture down and when? In the Greek version of the Old Testament (the Septuagint), this word “graphē” correlates with Exodus 32:16 which states ” Now the tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God engraved on the tablets”. Has your jaw dropped yet? I have so many questions because according to the book of Hebrews, the Scripture preached the Gospel to Abraham.
Have you ever contemplated how much of history is lost to us? But I can be sure of this: God will always ensure His Word will be preserved. Even the burning of scrolls by the various empires and regimes has not been able to eliminate His Word!
In the letter to the Romans, the Holy Spirit sent a message to all believers through Paul concerning the problem of sin (found in chapter 1); the righteous and impartial judgments of God (in chapter 2); and, the faithfulness of God toward humanity in the provision of one righteous way to redeem corrupted man (in chapter 3). So, the definition of the sin problem is well established in the first 3 chapters. In Romans chapter 4, the text moves into the understanding of faith because of God’s grace using history to help the reader understand the promise, the provision, and the character of God throughout time.
If you like outlines, here is how I have segmented my study after chewing on this chapter for a month:
- The Covenant Plan: Righteousness through Faith Before Christ’s Atonement. (In this section, we will review how Abraham and David were saved);
- The Covenant Fulfillment: Righteousness Through Faith in Christ’s Atonement, (In this section, we will realize (1) grace is bestowed before entering the covenant; and (2) grace cannot be earned or repaid);
- The Covenant Eternally Realized: Promises are Inherited by Faith In God’s Covenant Made through Christ (In this final section, we will be amazed at the eternality of God’s binding covenants and understand how to inherit the promises).
This is a lengthy study due to the history needed to solify what Paul taught. As such, we will only cover most of the first section in this blog, and post the remainder in a secondary blog after. Let’s jump right in and see our Sovereign LORD’s beautiful redemptive plan unfold! So very freeing and it explain so much about the steps of faith!
The Covenant Plan: Righteousness through Faith Before Christ’s Atonement
In the prior chapters of Romans, we learned that justification is having a right standing with God based on His pardon which is purely an act of His grace. For example, God said that Abel (not a Jew), Noah (also not a Jew), and Abraham (a descendant of Shem but not a Jew) were considered righteous before the Mosaic Covenant or the Law and these souls were not sinless. Refer to Genesis 4:4; Hebrews 11:4; Genesis 6:9; Genesis 18:23.
If one considers these examples, one might wonder why God doesn’t just pardon the majority of people who act decently. We might ask the following questions that Paul poses throughout Romans by asking “what shall we say then”:
- “… Is God unjust who inflicts wrath? …” (Romans 3:5).
- “… Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” (Romans 6:1).
- “… Is the law sin? Certainly not! …” (Romans 7:7).
- “… If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).
- “… Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! … (Romans 9:14).
- “ [Have] Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, … attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith?” (Romans 9: 30).
Paul commences this chapter focusing on Abraham because from Seth to Noah, and then from Noah down to Abraham we see the promise of a redemptive Seed for all people groups; and, with Abraham we see God initiating a covenant because of faith that led to a life of following God, and the calling of a people group who would bring forth the promise and document it. This calling predated and foresaw the Mosaic Law, and in fact, it foresaw Jesus Christ. So the Holy Spirit through Paul used Abraham’s journey of faith to explain that Abraham’s justification and covenant apply to all believers who “also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised” (refer to Romans 4:11 to 12). Oh, the grace of the Sovereign Lord!
Doesn’t this make you wonder about when the LORD first started to arrange the details of your life so that you could begin to walk in the steps of the faith?
Perhaps you’re just starting. I can tell you this: my faith did not originate with my decision to follow Him, much before any commitment I made. It started long before that, so I am forever grateful and full of wonder at His call, His openning of my ears.
At the time of this study, I happened upon a hymn by Tom and Sheila Pennington whom I know nothing about; yet when I read their words, they capture so well this study. And as such, I will refer to the words of “Our Sovereign God” throughout this study. May God bless the Penningtons for this hymn:
Our Sovereign God by His own word, Sustains this world and reigns as Lord.
No angel, demon, sinful man can change, His course, restrain His hand.
O sovereign God, we praise Your pow’r; Your wisdom, goodness we adore!
We bow our hearts before Your throne; Help us, O Lord, to trust You more, Help us, O Lord, to trust You more.
Now let’s read the end of Romans 3 and move into Romans 4:
- “Therefore, we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. … Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law. What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.” (Romans 3:28, and 31 through to Romans 4:4).
Abraham did not earn his salvation; it was an act of God’s sovereign favour. God chose and called Abraham with a promise before he obeyed. This is certainly counter-cultural. Regardless of the political, educational, or business framework we operate in, in our society benefits are given to a person based on the fulfillment of deeds required of us by the employer, educator, or government. This is not the case with God. God’s grace transcends our understanding of goodness.
When we examine Abraham’s life, the promised blessing of becoming the father of many nations was for the Jews and all who accept the promise of the Messiah through faith.
So, does God just call someone, and then that’s it? Does God expect His favour to result in changes or actions? Is it righteous for God to expect loyalty?
Let’s see what Scripture teaches us about Abraham’s journey to Yahweh, the self-Existent or Eternal God.
Grace in The Calling: Abraham’s Journey to Faith (Romans 4:1 to 4)
For simplicity, we will use the name Abraham in place of the pre-covenant name Abram unless it is quoted in a verse. In Genesis 11:31 to 32, Scripture states Abraham had settled in Haran until his father died, and as we continue to read on, we observe in Genesis 12 that God “had called” Abraham to start the adventure. In the New Testament, Stephen explained to the Sanhedrin that Abraham was disobedient to God initially. Let’s examine this from Acts 7:3 to 8:
- “And he said, “Brethren and fathers, listen: The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran,” (Notice the word “before”. Before he dwelt in Haran, he was in Mesopotamia, and this was when God first appeared to him. OK, let’s continue with verse 3), he “… said to him, ‘Get out of your country and from your relatives, and come to a land that I will show you.’ “Then he came out of the land of the Chaldeans and dwelt in Haran. And from there, when his father was dead, He moved him to this land in which you now dwell. “And God gave him no inheritance in it, not even enough to set his foot on. But even when Abraham had no child, He promised to give it to him for a possession, and to his descendants after him. “But God spoke in this way: that his descendants would dwell in a foreign land, and that they would bring them into bondage and oppress them four hundred years. ‘And the nation to whom they will be in bondage I will judge,’ said God, ‘and after that, they shall come out and serve Me in this place.’ “Then He gave him the covenant of circumcision; and so Abraham begot Isaac and circumcised him on the eighth day; and Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot the twelve patriarchs.”
As we study Abraham’s life, we learn that Abraham settled in Haran until Terah, his father, died at 205 years of age. I would like to highlight how Abraham responded to God’s call before his father’s death:
- (“And Terah took his son Abram and his grandson Lot, the son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram’s wife, and they went out with them from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan; and they came to Haran and dwelt there.” (Genesis 11:31).
Remember the call was to leave his father’s house and country to go to a place God would show him.
Notice that Abraham not only traveled with his father but under his father’s authority and with his father’s family. This is not obedience; it is a compromise. In God’s plan, Terah was not called to go with Abraham, but God was patient with the family and He would have foreseen these steps.
Now, let’s take a look at the next chapter for Abraham’s turning point from the land of Ur of the Chaldeans. Please note the ‘past perfect tense’ of the words “had” and “said” used together.
- “Now the LORD had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you, all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So Abram departed as the LORD had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.” (Genesis 12:1 to 4).
After Terah’s death, Abraham continued his walk imperfectly; he did obey the command to get out of the country although he still allowed his nephew to accompany him. In God’s foresight, God had a plan for Lot so God permitted Lot (who was not called to form a nation) to align himself with Abraham. As a side study, you may want to trace Lot’s family line because his descendants would bring forth Ruth who married Boaz (a kinsman redeemer), and Ruth (a Gentile bride) is in the line of Christ. (Refer to Genesis 19:36 and 37; Ruth chapter 1; Ruth 4:10 to 22; and Matthew 1:1 to 6). Very interesting, wouldn’t you agree? Praise God for the bride of Christ (neither Jew nor Gentile, but a new creation in Christ Jesus, Ephesians 2:14 to 16)!
Yes, God’s sovereign election and grace use the mistakes of life for His glory and our good when we repent and turn to serve the living God (Refer to Romans 8:28). He has already foreseen all of our days and has a glorious plan.
God’s grace was extended to Lot perhaps because of Abraham (evidenced by two rescues, refer to Genesis 14 and Genesis 19), but most certainly, because God chose to extend it. The covenant and its blessings were with Abraham because of God’s choosing, God’s calling, and Abraham’s faith in action. Please note that God started to bless Abraham in Haran.
God’s blessings are bestowed as He wills, when He wills, and how He wills.
If blessing Abraham would have prevented him from following God, God would likely have addressed Abraham’s wealth in some manner. We should not judge whether God’s favour rests upon someone based on earthly possessions. If we are blessed, it is to be a blessing to God and others.
- “Then Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people whom they had acquired in Haran, and they departed to go to the land of Canaan. So they came to the land of Canaan.” (Genesis 12:5).
As God’s grace continued to shine on Abraham, we notice Abraham started to call on the LORD.
When someone realizes the goodness, longsuffering, and forbearance of the Lord, they are drawn to Him.
(Refer to Romans 2:4).
- “Abram passed through the land to the place of Shechem, as far as the terebinth tree of Moreh. And the Canaanites were then in the land. Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” And there he built an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him. And he moved from there to the mountain east of Bethel, and he pitched his tent with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; there he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD.” (Genesis 12:6 to 8).
A famine came to the land so Abraham went to Egypt for provision where he told a half-truth to Pharoah (stating that Sarah was his sister) to avoid personal harm. Please note that a half-truth stated to deceive is a lie of omission. After returning from Egypt to Ai with much livestock and gold, Lot and Abraham had to separate due to strife between the two family’s herdsmen. Note, sometimes a great blessing can cause division between blessed individuals (and often because of other people within the circle of the blessing). While this is sad and does not need to be, it is a part of the fallen human nature.
To ensure peace, Abraham recommended that Lot select a direction to settle in; Lot chose territory near Sodom and Gomorrah. To me, this demonstrates a great deal of Abraham’s trust in God’s plan. You see, he didn’t seem to be concerned with having the first choice even though this call was for him, not a direct call of Lot.
He did not depend on his insights, wisdom, or negotiation skills. He trusted his destiny to God; not what he could see, nor what he could have supposed he was entitled to based on God’s cal
Before our birth He planned our days, Laid out our course, ordained our ways.
The moments of our lives He weaves, So all the glory He receives.
To those He loved before all time, To all He called, and grace renewed,
He cannot lie; His word is true,
He makes all things to work for good, He makes all things to work for good.
Oh friend, is He calling you to come to Him, or to follwer closer? Perhaps He is calling you to be more grateful!
In Genesis 19, we learn that Lot ended up taking on a role within the city of Sodom where he “sat in the gate” which usually meant having a role within the city council.
So, while Lot may have been grieved over the inhabitants’ wickedness, he was comfortable taking an active role in the city’s governance and they were either comfortable with his position on things, or his influence could not deter the city’s behaviour. I’m not sure if his role was a result of God’s favour on him, his endurance in a difficult place, or some compromise of sorts. But as far as Scripture is concerned, Lot is recorded as righteous (2nd Peter 2:7 to 9).
Doesn’t this teach us not to judge others based on what we see at a specific point in time?
This perhaps is a good reason to reflect on why Jesus said, “you will know them by their fruit” (in Matthew 7:15 to 20). The fruit inspection was intended for believers to determine what level of influence to permit in one’s life; not to determine God’s sovereign election.
Would you have judged correctly concerning Paul when he was persecuting the church? Probably not, but you would have known to stay away from him unless you were called by God to help him on his journey to faith (refer to Acts 9:10-19).
Getting back to Lot, perhaps he felt he could make a difference and remain unaffected by those who surrounded him. Unfortunately, he lost most of his family to the city’s demise. If we were contrasting Abraham and Lot, we would say, Abraham, walked by faith and not by sight. Here’s part of the account:
- “And Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere (before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah) like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt as you go toward Zoar. Then Lot chose for himself all the plain of Jordan, and Lot journeyed east. And they separated from each other. Abram dwelt in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelt in the cities of the plain and pitched his tent even as far as Sodom. But the men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinful against the LORD. And the LORD said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him: “Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are; northward, southward, eastward, and westward; “for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever. … Then Abram moved his tent, and went and dwelt by the terebinth trees of Mamre, which are in Hebron, and built an altar there to the LORD.” (Genesis 13:10 to 15, and 18).
Notice that the LORD spoke to Abraham after Lot had departed (Genesis 13:14). Just a note: There are times that the LORD will call you out of something to something else.
We have no reason to expect God to continue to talk to us until we are obedient. If He does it is only because of His grace. If we are unwilling to be obedient, the LORD may use our circumstances to navigate us to a place of obedience.
By Chapter 14 we see Abraham rescue Lot from captivity during a political uprising and return victorious from that military battle over the rebellious kings. It is in this chapter that the word “Hebrew” is first used in Scripture (more on this soon). Next, Abraham met Melchizedek, king of Salem (Genesis 14:18) and priest of the Highest God (verse 19) to whom Abraham paid tithe after the battle he fought to free Lot. Please note that ‘the order of Melchizedek’ is the order of the priesthood to which Christ belongs. This order existed before the Levites priesthood and the Aaronic High Priests.
- Melchizedek is made up of two words: “meleḵ” (Strong’s H4428) meaning king and is used of other earthly kings used in Genesis 14:1; and “ṣeḏeq” (Strong’s H6664) which means righteousness.
Since Melchizedek was a known ruler of a place called Salem, we know that this king was fully human although there is nothing else mentioned of his genealogy in Scripture. It is beautiful that our Sovereign God so arranged this encounter in the origins of His redemptive plan. Prophecy is not only predictive; it is a pattern. The picture being illustrated is of a person being called out of their past, out of their pattern of doing things, called to a place, and a time where he has an appointment with “a man who is a king and a priest to the Most High God”. Salem means peace and most Jewish commentators affirm that it is the same geographic location as Jerusalem.
It is written in Hebrews 7:1 to 10:
- “For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all, first being translated “king of righteousness,” and then also king of Salem, meaning “king of peace,” without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually. Now consider how great this man was, to whom even the patriarch Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils. And indeed those who are of the sons of Levi, who receive the priesthood, have a commandment to receive tithes from the people according to the law, that is, from their brethren, though they have come from the loins of Abraham; but he whose genealogy is not derived from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. Now beyond all contradiction, the lesser is blessed by the better. Here mortal men receive tithes, but there he receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives. Even Levi, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, so to speak, for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him.”
Now earlier I had mentioned the first mention of the word “Hebrew”. It means “one from beyond, from the other side, or one who has crossed over” which seems to be prophetic in that Abraham was called out into the promised land that Joshua led Abraham’s descendants across the Jordan.
God’s Scripture is so precise, so deep, so prophetic. Before we move on in this study, let us just reflect on the way God’s revelations unfold in time by considering select Scripture from Joshua 24:
- “Then Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem and called for the elders of Israel, for their heads, for their judges, and for their officers; and they presented themselves before God. And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘Your fathers, including Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, dwelt on the other side of the River in old times; and they served other gods. ‘Then I took your father Abraham from the other side of the River, led him throughout all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his descendants and gave him Isaac. ‘To Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau. To Esau I gave the mountains of Seir to possess, but Jacob and his children went down to Egypt. ‘Also I sent Moses and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt, according to what I did among them. Afterward I brought you out. ‘Then I brought your fathers out of Egypt, and you came to the sea; and the Egyptians pursued your fathers with chariots and horsemen to the Red Sea. ‘So they cried out to the LORD; and He put darkness between you and the Egyptians, brought the sea upon them, and covered them. And your eyes saw what I did in Egypt. Then you dwelt in the wilderness a long time. … ‘Then you went over the Jordan and came to Jericho. And the men of Jericho fought against you–also the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. But I delivered them into your hand. … ‘I have given you a land for which you did not labor, and cities which you did not build, and you dwell in them; you eat of the vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant.’ “Now therefore, fear the LORD, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD! “And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” So the people answered and said: “Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods;”
There is a time that the LORD will call you out of something; to be separate from prior habits, friends, and possibly some family, jobs, or dwellings. He will bring you to a point at which you will need to cross over and be fully committed to serving Him above all else, to worship Him in spirit and truth with a tremendous respect that is birthed by realizing with Whom you are in covenant with.
When were you drawn to leave your old ways of doing things? Have you come to an appointed time with Jesus Christ, the King, and Great High Priest that God sent to make a new covenant?
When the fullness of the time had come, God sent His own Beloved Son.
To keep God’s law, live in our place, To bear our sin, guilt and disgrace.
Dead in our sin, estranged from God, We fled as rebels from His love.
In sovereign grace He made us sons,
And saved us from the wrath to come, And saved us from the wrath to come.
And again, we have the beauty of the Holy Spirit’s pattern and poetry in inspiring David to write:
- “… The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” The LORD shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion. Rule in the midst of Your enemies! Your people shall be volunteers In the day of Your power; In the beauties of holiness, from the womb of the morning, You have the dew of Your youth. The LORD has sworn and will not relent, “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” The Lord is at Your right hand; He shall execute kings in the day of His wrath.” (Psalm 110:1 to 5).
In the New Covenant (or New Testament) it is written:
- “While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?” They said to Him, “The Son of David.” He said to them, “How then does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord,’ saying: ‘The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool” ‘? “If David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his Son?” And no one was able to answer Him a word, nor from that day on did anyone dare question Him anymore.” (Matthew 22:41 to 46).
- “And inasmuch as He was not made priest without an oath (for they have become priests without an oath, but He with an oath by Him who said to Him: “The LORD has sworn And will not relent, ‘You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek’ “), by so much more Jesus has become a surety of a better covenant. Also there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing. But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever.” (Hebrews 7:20 to 28).
When we see the pattern, similitude, or typology, we can see the beauty in King Melchizedek bringing out the bread (representing life, the bread of life, Christ’s body) and wine (representing the blood of the covenant). Only a Sovereign and Eternal God can arrange such details throughout thousands of years since Abraham’s meeting with Melchizedek was dated between 2084 and 2081 B.C.
Genesis 14 ends with Abraham’s rejection of riches offered to him for his heroics when he defeated the kings to rescue Lot. Abraham trusted in God’s covenant with him so he refused to allow any other person to get a portion of the glory due to his God.
Now we have come to a significant juncture in Abraham’s journey of faith. After so much has happened, one would think Abraham was in covenant with God already. But while Abraham was called, chosen, and predestined, he was not justified until Genesis 15.
When did God impute righteousness to Abraham? It was when Abraham believed God concerning his seed. He believed God could do the impossible so it was counted to him as righteousness. It is written:
- “Then He brought him outside and said, “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness. Then He said to him, “I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to inherit it.”” (Genesis 15:5 to 7).
Please note that the King James Version translates the word “descendants” (Strong’s H2233) used here in Genesis 15:5 as seed (221 times), child (2 times), and carnally (with H7902) (2 times).
- “just as Abraham “believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.” (Galatians 3:6 to 9).
- “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude; innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore.” (Hebrews 11:8 to 12).
Here is another significant observation. According to Genesis 17:1, Abraham was justified at age 99 which was 24 years after he responded to the call in Genesis 12; and, righteousness was imputed or accredited to him because he believed the promise of God in Genesis 15, before Abraham’s works of circumcision. In Genesis 17, Abraham was circumcised as the sign of the covenant after trying to bring about the promise his own way in chapter 16. And, to Paul’s point in Romans, all of this was before the law so no one can boast in their works, goodness, or worthiness to God.
- “When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless.” (Genesis 17:1 )
God’s expectation was Abraham to continually walk with the All-Sufficient One, All-Mighty One and exist in a place where Abraham was complete and at the end of himself. He was to be sound, wholesome, unimpaired, innocent way having integrity in God’s way because the standing God imparted to Him; blamesless, pardon in God’s eyes. We will work through this in part 2.
God’s covenant of grace would be sufficient for Abraham’s justification because Abraham believed God. I do not believe that the All-Seeing God expected Abraham to perform perfectly from this point on. But the LORD did expect Abraham to walk with Him and not go his own way.
- “Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.” (Romans 4:4)
God will not be in debt to anyone. He delights in His goodness. We too ought to delight in it since His goodness demonstrates His mercy, His grace, faithfulness, intervention and love. The series of events in Abraham’s journey to faith also demonstrates God’s election in that:
- “Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” (Romans 8:30).
You see, belief or faith in what God declares is the righteous requirement for God to pardon the guilty (or justify the sinner), and this saving faith that He initiates is what brings us into fellowship and obedience in increasing measure. He, not us, regenerates our hearts. Our part (like Abraham’s) is to respond in agreement with the author of salvation.
In addition, we can glean additional insights from Genesis 15 relative to what faith in God’s provision of justification brings. The following concepts are first introduced in God’s origination of a personal covenant with Him. Using the King James version of the Bible, here are the first mentions of:
- God visiting a person in a vision (verse 1);
- The word of the LORD coming to someone (verse 1);
- The comfort of peace with God, “fear not” (verse 1);
- The provision of the LORD’s protection, “the Lord as a shield” (verse 1);
- A person believing in God’s promise, stated as “believed in the Lord” (verse 6);
- Imputation, stated as “accounted” (verse 6); and,
- A person having righteousness as a position or standing (verse 6).
It is also interesting to digest that Abraham rejoiced in receiving the beginning of the promise (the seed) understanding that he would die before the full realization of the promise. God had told Abraham that his descendants would be enslaved for a specified time before they would be delivered.
We too easily forget that God is in control and knows the outcome well before we encounter any situation. As history records it, Abraham’s descendants were in In Egypt for 430 years and afflicted for 400 of those years. It was the fourth generation that was delivered (first Levi, followed by Gohath, then Amram, and finally Moses). Here’s the thing, Abraham’s descendants went into Egypt numbering 13 males: Jacob (or Israel) and his 12 sons. There they were protected by famine and multiplied into a sizable people who were kept together (intentionally) before their grand exodus.
Now some may say that Abraham did not understand the Gospel but according to Jesus, Abraham rejoiced over the revelation of the Saviour. Jesus said:
- “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” (John 8:56 to 58).
Isn’t that the way of human nature? We grow in knowledge and as we do, we tend to become proud of our limited understanding; and, frequently this esteem for our knowledge blinds us to things that children can easily receive by faith. Jesus said:
- “… “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3).
Paul’s mention to the Romans about Abraham in chapter 4 would remind the believers who were consuming the Old Testament Scriptures that faith in God’s remedy for human corruption was the only way to be saved. Can you imagine these early believers reviewing scrolls (perhaps in Hebrew, perhaps in Greek) and having discussions concerning Abraham’s justification? Do you think the early church understood that Abraham believed the promise so much so that he believed that if he killed Isaac (the child of promise) that God would have to raise him from the dead?
The letter to the Romans was written before the book of Matthew so at this point the church had the Old Testament and verbal accounts from the 12 disciples along with those who surrounded them. In Genesis, it is written:
- “And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” So the two of them went together.” (Genesis 22:8).
- “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, “In Isaac your seed shall be called,” concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.” (Hebrews 11:17 to 19).
Well, so far we have covered the history behind the first four verses of Romans 4 which explains God’s election, His calling by “God’s grace alone” before Abraham believed, and then Abraham’s justification by “faith alone”, and as such, we can see that God has not changed. He hasn’t even changed the message. He has shone more illumination on the message, but that message has always been that God would provide atonement for fallen humanity because of His love and grace through His gift, the Lamb of God.
If this is the message and Abraham was not saved by the law, why do we think we can earn our salvation, or even keep our justified standing by performance?
Yes, Romans 1, 2, and 3 teach us that sin results in death and separation from all goodness. Romans 4, verses 1 to 4 teaches us that if we have been justified, we will increasingly grow in obedience to the LORD from faith to faith just as Abraham did; and, that it will be because of God’s favour and it will be for God’s glory.
Anything other than that would be trying to collect a debt from God when the debt is truly ours and we cannot repay the value of Christ’s shed blood.
Please join me next time as we work our way through the rest of Romans 4 where we’ll see that even under the Mosaic Law, God’s sovereign election and grace did not hold sin against those who would trust in Him. What an amazing assurance we can have!
Here is that Hymn we have been referring to in this blog. I hope you grasp its meaning. I am so overwhelmed by my Sovereign God’s grace, love, will and plan and even for His discipline which teaches me when I fail to trust Him more.
If you have not placed your faith in Jesus Christ as your personal Redeemer and you sense a tugging at your heart, it’s probably the Holy Spirit beckoning you to meet Him. You can use your own words to tell the LORD you believe and ask Him to fill your heart with the knowledge of Him and the power to choose freedom over sin.
All Scripture in this blog is from the New King James Version unless otherwise specified.
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