A sermon I preached at Mid-Valley Community Church: John 1:35-46
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
Have you ever thought about this question?
This, I think could be the most fundamental and important of questions that a person can ask him or herself
Who am I?
When I strip away all the clutter in my life, all the expectations, all the ambitions, all the dreams, what lies at the root of my existence?
I have a friend who was asked this very question, and as he thought about it, as he looked down deep into his soul, after everything was stripped away, he answered, “I am a child of God”
I don’t know if my friend knew the significance of his statement at the time – I don’t know if he knew how fundamental this was – But I do know that he was clear on it – This was not a grey area in his life – This wasn’t something that he thought twice about – This was something he believed, something he owned, something he lived – And is still living today!
The apostle Paul is asking us the same question, “Who are you?”
In chapter 5 Paul is talking about the amazing power of God’s grace – The fact that sin can never out-do grace!
The grace of God is so powerful, so amazing, that it has the ability to cover any amount of sins that I commit
God’s grace can never be out-done!
And so now, he’s asking us the question, “Who do you think you are?”
The reason I ask this question is because our lives will always follow the perception that we have of ourselves
Think about a person with low self-esteem – What does a person like this do?
When they ask themselves the question, “Who am I?” What do they answer with?
It’s usually something like, “I’m a no good person, I have nothing good to say, I’m horrible”
Then what happens?
Their lives usually show what they have concluded in their hearts – Because when they continually tell themselves that they are “no good,” “have nothing good to say,” and “horrible” they actually begin to do those things
It’s what psychologists call the “self-fulfilling prophecy”
Listen to this definition:
In other words, a self-fulfilling prophecy is me having a false idea about myself, which leads me to act differently because I have implanted that false idea in my brain, which leads to the false idea coming true
I believed a lie, and now the lie has come true
Please don’t understand me, I am not talking about “positive/negative thinking” or “name it and claim it” type things – I am only talking about false perceptions that we have of ourselves
I am talking about truth and lies – There are truths that the Bible teaches, then there are lies that Satan continually bombards us with
Paul says, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? [LIE] 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? [TRUTH] 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” Romans 6:1-4
Paul is saying that if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you have died to sin – Just like Jesus died to sin
The Bible teaches that Jesus had temptations just like any of us, yet he did not give in to those temptations, but instead considered himself dead to them – In fact this is exactly why he came to earth – To die for sins – To pay the penalty for sins
Hebrews 4:15 says, “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” Hebrews 4:15
Jesus had a choice to sin, but every time he was faced with that choice he always chose not to indulge in it – He always chose the right thing because he knew who he was, and he knew what his mission was
When he asked himself the question, “Who am I?” the answer was, “I am the Son of God and I have come to take away the sin of the world”
And this is precisely what kept Jesus from sinning – Because he held on to the truth and rejected lies (think about the temptations in the wilderness. Matt. 4:1-11)
What did Satan say to Jesus? – “If you are the Son of God…”
Satan was tempting Jesus to sin based on how Jesus saw himself – There is no doubt that Jesus saw himself as the Son of God, but Satan was saying, “Prove it, prove that you are the one that you think you are”
Satan was trying to get Jesus to believe a lie (this is exactly what he did to Eve)
Well, Jesus knew who he was, and he wasn’t going to fall for Satan’s schemes
And this is what Paul is telling us in Romans 6 – He’s saying, “Wake up Christians, don’t you know who you are?” – “How can we who died to sin still live in it?”
Paul is telling us who we are in Christ – He is telling us what God did for us through his Son Jesus Christ
He’s saying that because Jesus has triumphed over sin, that is why God raised him from the dead, showing to the world who he is – And now when we live for him, we become identified with him – So, just like Jesus was raised from the dead, we too will be raised from the dead
3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. Romans 6:3-4
What Paul is saying is, “Because we have died with Christ, we now have new life just like Christ”
Well, what does all this mean?
6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, [lit. abolished] so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. Romans 6:6-7
What Paul is saying here is that those of us that have given our lives to Jesus, those of us that have accepted him into our hearts – Made him Lord and Savior – The moment we did that, we died to our old self – The old me died that day, and the new me was born
This is why Jesus said, “You must be born again” John 3:7
You see, the Bible teaches that the old self is corrupted, that’s why it’s so easy to sin – But this is exactly the reason why the old self must die, and a new self be born in its place
And Paul is telling us here that we have died, and we are now living a new life
We are no longer slaves to sin, because that was part of our old self – We have been delivered from that – Now, live the new you!
Well, what does this new life look like? What are some examples?
The new life looks like a man who has been addicted to pornography but has stopped indulging in it – But he didn’t stop because the temptations went away, rather, he stopped because he continually puts to death those temptations
The new life looks like a woman who all her life wanted to be like someone else, she always struggled with envy, always comparing what she has to what they have, and then hating them because she doesn’t have it – But now she suppresses those feelings knowing that they are destructive – Instead, she begins to praise God, thanking him for what she has, and praising him for his goodness to those around her – How He blesses those around her
The new life looks like a man who all his life struggled with greed and selfishness. He never gave when people asked of him, never helped out a friend – Instead he always found an excuse not to give or to lend to them. He only thought about himself and his own well-being – But now he recognizes that all that he has is because of God, so he suppresses his natural reasoning and does away with his excuses – He begins to give and not expect anything in return
You see, what Paul is telling us is that we are no longer slaves to sin, because we have died to sin – And now we live in the power of God that has overcome sin
This is what Jesus has done for us – He has given us new life in his Spirit and now he commands us to live the new life
Verse 10 says, “For the death he [Jesus] died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus”Romans 6:10-11
In other words, “Count, Think, Judge, Consider yourselves dead to sin – And alive to God” – “Do it, count on it, because this is the reality, this is the truth! – This is who you are!”
We have the power in Christ to overcome sin, because we have died to sin – We do not belong to sin anymore, we belong to God!
So, “Who are you?”
Are you living in the lie that says, “I can’t help it, it’s just who I am”
Or are you living in the truth that says, “I have all the power to overcome this sin – In fact, I have the same power that raised Jesus from the dead available to me, this is the power that lives in me, yet it’s not my power, but God’s power, and He has given it to me”
Will I believe the lie, making it true – Or will I believe the truth and live in victory?
In the last few weeks we have been discussing the fact that we are all sinners, we are all guilty – No matter who you are, where you come from, or what time you live – All are guilty before God
Paul makes this clear as he writes the first chapters of the letter to the Romans
He tells us that we have all broken God’s laws – And because we have broken them we are all guilty – But even though we are guilty, we have been “justified” (declared not guilty)
He says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift” Romans 3:23-24
And this gift is not a result of doing good things, but is only received through faith
He says it this way in 3:28, “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law” Romans 3:28
So, what Paul is saying is that the free gift of salvation is by faith and not by works (not by doing good things) – It was never by works, it was always by faith! – And if you were to argue with him, he would simply point you to the story of Abraham as found in the pages of Genesis
So, now, Paul wants to flush this out a little – He wants to communicate to his audience how this all came about – Why is it that all are guilty before God? And why is it that Jesus is the only way to be saved?
12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.
15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
What I want us to consider tonight is this
If we are all guilty then we need to know why, and if we have salvation in Jesus we need to know why as well
This is what Paul does in this passage
12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned. Romans 5:12
Well, before I get into this, I would like to ask, “Who is the one responsible for sin in the world?”
Yes, It’s Adam – Now, the next question is, “How is Adam’s sin responsible for the sin of the world?”
This is a harder question, isn’t it?
So, we know the “Who” but we don’t really know the “How”
In other words, “How is it that Adam’s sin affects me, that I become a sinner like him?”
Well, there are two views on this, and they both come from this verse, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” Romans 5:12
Now this may get a little academic but I think its important for us Christians to know these things – So, when people ask us about original sin we can tell them – When they ask, “How did sin enter the world? We can tell them
It’s also important because the whole world is asking this question – It doesn’t matter who you are, whether you’re a Muslim, a Hindu, a Buddhist, or an Atheist, everyone wants to know how sin entered the world – Where evil comes from – And whether they call it sin or something else, that doesn’t matter – What matters is that it is here and it destroys
In this view Adam is the representative for the entire human race – What Adam decided to do affects all of us, even though we were not there, even though we did not participate in it.
We may object to what Adam does, and if we were there we would never do as he did – But according to this view, this doesn’t matter, Adam is the “Head,” and we are not – So, what Adam does affects us, whether we like it or not
So, according to this view, we became sinners because Adam became a sinner
His actions affected us, even though we didn’t do anything
And you may be thinking, “Hey! That’s not fair, I didn’t vote for Adam!”
Well, according to this view, that doesn’t matter – Adam is still the “Head”
In this view Adam is not so much our representative as he is the first of many that would come after him – Adam is the first person of the human race, and we all come from him
So, this view says that when Adam sinned, we sinned too, because we were in Adam
And your thinking, “What? I wasn’t even there!”
Well, the logic is that even though we were not there in a physical body, we were there physically in “seminal” form – We were there in seed form in Adam
And if the entire human race comes from one man (which it does) that means we were all there with Adam (in seed form), we just did not have physical bodies yet
So, when Adam sinned, we sinned with him – This view says that we did participate in the first sin
And your thinking, “That’s kinda weird!”
Well, before you throw this view out, let me just say that there is biblical evidence for it, let’s read Romans 5:12 again, “12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” Romans 5:12
The last three words say, “because all sinned” – It’s written in the past tense, and its referring to us while at the same time referring to Adam
So, Paul is telling us that when Adam sinned, we sinned as well – It was one act – When Adam disobeyed God, we too were disobeying God (we did it together, all of us) – In this view we are not just passive observers but are participants in Adam’s sin
Another verse that could be quoted to support this is Hebrews 7:9-10, “9 One might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, 10 for he was still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him.” Hebrews 7:9-10
So, according to the Natural (Seminal) view we all disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden, it wasn’t just Adam, it was me, it was you
And because we sin, it just proves that we became sinners like Adam when Adam became a sinner
Well, whatever view you take, the fact of the matter is, we are all sinners
We sin because we are sinners, and we are sinners because we sin – This is who we are
We may never know the “How” question, but without a doubt what we do know is that we are sinners
Well, let’s find out
12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. Romans 5:12-14
What happens to 100% of the human race – What is it that we all have in common?
We die – Everyone dies, no matter who you are, where you live, how rich you are, how poor you are – We all die
Some of us will live longer than others, but eventually we all end up at the same place – We all end up in the ground
What Paul is saying here is that death is a result of sin – We all die, because we all sin – Sin is the primary cause of death
It’s not because we get old and our bodies wear down – It’s not because we live in a chaotic random world where freak accidents happen – It’s not even because there are diseases that kill our bodies – It’s because of sin
Yes, these things all happen, but the Bible teaches that they are a result of sin – If it weren’t for sin, they would not exist!
What did God say to Adam when He put him in the garden?
16 “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Genesis 2:16-17
God is not only talking about spiritual death here, He is talking about physical death as well
And we know from the narrative that both of these happen – Adam and Eve die spiritually, and then they die physically
Their spiritual death was instantaneous – It happened the moment they disobeyed, but the physical death took some time to mature (like it does in all of us)
Adam and Eve died, Abel died, Cain died, Abraham died, Moses died…
And so we can say that if it weren’t for sin, we would not die, we would live forever – We would never die
You see, this is why the resurrection of Jesus is so important
Because Jesus is the only man who never sinned, this is why death had no power over Him – This is how He conquered death – This is how He was raised from the dead
You might say, “But Jesus did die, and if death is a result of sin, then Jesus must have sinned”
No, what did Jesus say before he died?
In John 10:17 He says, 17 “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, [not even sin] but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” John 10:17-18
Jesus’ death is the only death that was not a result of sin, He laid it down of his “own accord” – He gave His life, so that those that don’t have life can have His
You see, if death is the result of sin, and Jesus did not sin, then death had no hold on Him – But the gospel message is that He laid down His life anyway – He laid it down for us – He died for us
And because He did this great act, He is able to rise from the dead and give us life in Him
Listen to what Jesus says to Martha, as she grieves the death of her brother Lazarus, 25 “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26
Here, the people are mourning the death of their friend Lazarus, the fact that sin has taken another person – But Jesus, wanting to demonstrate His power over death does His greatest miracle – One that will point to Him as well – He raises Lazarus from the dead!
And this is what Paul is telling us, he’s saying that there are only two kinds of people – There are those that belong to Adam, and there are those that belong to Christ
Unfortunately, even though we belong to Christ we still die, but this is only sin running its course – If we belong to Christ we “will never die” as Jesus says
We will be resurrected as He was resurrected!
We will live as He lives
What an awesome thought!
Paul says in 1Corinthians 15:21-22, “21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” 1Corinthians 15:21-22
What a great hope that we have! That even in death we will live once again – Death ultimately has no hold on us, just like it had no hold on Jesus
But Paul is saying that this is only for those that put their faith in Christ – This is only for those that have died to their own self already and are living for Jesus now! – That even though they die, they will live again!
In John 6 Jesus says, “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” John 6:40
What a wonderful hope that we have – To know that this life is not the end – To know that even though death reigns in this world, we do not belong to this world – To know that even though we die, we will not stay that way, but will be like (As Jesus says) “The angels in heaven” Matt. 22:30
Last time we met we talked about Abraham – We talked about the fact that he was called the “Father of faith” because he believed in what God had promised
He was also declared “righteous” (or justified) by God because he believed in Him
For the past few weeks we have been stressing the role of faith when it comes to God and ourselves
In Romans, the Apostle Paul zeros in on Abraham to tell us the importance of faith – The fact that Abraham was declared righteous (justified) not because of good things he had done, but because he believed in the Word of God
Abraham was declared righteous on the basis of his faith, and not on the basis of his works
What Paul is telling us is that, to be righteous before God, one has to believe in who God is, and what He has done for him/her
And this is not a New Testament concept, this is always the way it was – Abraham is a perfect example of this
So, now we come to chapter 5
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
If you knew that today was going to be your last day on earth, the last day you would spend on this side of eternity, what would go through your heart?
Would it be terror or would it be peace?
Do you have peace?
When you look at your life, when you survey all that you are, all that you have, all that you don’t have, all of your dreams, all of your concerns, all of your passions
Can you say, “I am in perfect peace?”
In a way, this is the most profound of questions – We all want peace! – No matter who you are, where you live, what your circumstance, what your religion
Everyone, every single person on the face of this earth, everyone who has lived and died, in all ages, in all times, from Adam until this day, wants peace
I’m not talking about a superficial peace – A peace that comes as a result of not being at war, or a peace that results in not fighting with my family, my spouse, or my kids – No! – The peace I’m referring to is the deep inner peace that is only a result of God
It’s a peace that transcends understanding, a peace that can only be the result of God’s work in my soul – It’s a supernatural peace, a heavenly peace
This is what I’m talking about, and this is what Paul is talking about in this passage
He says in verse 1, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” Romans 5:1
We have been talking a lot about faith – I find it very interesting that Paul links the word “faith” with the word “peace”
If “peace” is the ultimate longing of the human soul then we must ask, “How is it attainable?”
How does one get this peace? – How can I experience this supernatural peace, this peace that surpasses all understanding?
Well, Paul makes it quite clear right here in verse 1 – We have peace when we have faith – But not just any faith – This faith has to have it’s origin in “our Lord Jesus Christ”
What Paul is saying is, “When we have faith in the person and work of Christ, this is when we experience supernatural peace”
Why? – Why is it through Jesus and no other?
The reason is because Jesus is the One who obtained peace with the Father, He is the One who did what we could not do
Verse 6 says, “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” Romans 5:6
This word “weak” simply means “unable” or to be “morally weak”
In other words, we don’t have what it takes to obtain peace with God by ourselves – We are “unable,” we are “morally weak”
So, someone had to do it for us – And that someone is Jesus
This is why faith in Jesus is such a big deal – Because faith is believing in who He is and what He did for me
You see, the Bible teaches that there are only two kinds of people in this world – There are those that have faith in Christ, and those that don’t have faith in Christ
There are those that are of Adam, and then there are those that are of Christ (Romans 5:12-21) – We will talk more about this next time
And the ones that are of Adam stand in judgment, and the ones that are of Christ stand in mercy
Listen to what Paul says in verse 9 (speaking to those that have faith in Christ)
“Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his [Jesus’] blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God” Romans 5:9
What Paul is saying is, “Because we have been justified by his blood, we will be saved from the wrath of God”
In other words, “The wrath of God will be poured out on the entire world, and it will only be spared on the ones that have faith in Christ (those that belong to Christ)”
Because the Bible teaches that we are “enemies” of God
Verse 10 says, “While we were enemies”
Ephesians 2 says that we are “dead in [our] trespasses and sins” Ephesians 2:1
Colossians 1 says that we are “alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds” Colossians 1:21
You see, the Bible teaches that we are rebels, that we are enemies of the God who made us – He made us so that we would love Him, live for Him, worship Him – But we don’t
Instead, we do what the Psalmist says, and what Paul quoted in chapter 3, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” Romans 3:10 (Psalm 14:1-3, 53:1-3)
Also Isaiah says, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way” Isaiah 53:6
This is why we are enemies!
In Ephesians 2, we read that even though we were “dead,” God has made us “alive” (Ephesians 2:4-5)
In Colossians 1, we read that even though we were “alienated and hostile,” God has “reconciled” us, and has made us “holy and blameless” (Colossians 1:21-22)
This is what God does when someone turns from darkness to light – When someone begins to believe in Jesus Christ – When someone begins to align his/her heart with God’s heart
It’s called being “Born-again”
And this is the “good news” – This is the “gospel!”
And this is what Paul is talking about in Romans 5
Because we have gone from being “enemies” of God to “children” of God – From being “alienated” from God to being “reconciled” to God – From being “dead” to God to being “alive” in God!
And this is why Paul could say what he does in verses 2 through 5
He says, “We rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:2-5
You see, Paul, as he considers his own life – As he thinks about what he did before he gave his life to Christ and what God has made him to be, he can say with confidence…
“I rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, but not only that, I also rejoice in my sufferings, knowing that my suffering produces endurance, and my endurance produces character, and my character produces [godly] hope, and this [godly] hope will not put me to shame… Why?… because God’s love has been poured into my heart through the Holy Spirit who has been given to me”
Peace despite circumstance – This is the peace that every single person wants!
So, when your world is messed up, when it’s broken, when nothing is as you hoped it would be
What will you do?
No… Instead… despite our circumstances, (because of the great hope that we have), we ought to say like Paul, “I rejoice in my sufferings, because I have a hope that is far greater than anything this world can offer”
If we can do this, then we prove that we have the peace of God – The “Peace that surpasses all understanding” as Paul says in Philippians (Philippians 6:6-7)
Jesus spoke of this peace
What did He say when He encountered people – When He healed them, when He forgave their sins – When He saw their faith?
“Your faith has made you well; go in peace” Mark 5:34
“Your faith has saved you; go in peace” Luke 7:50
So, to answer the question, “How is this peace attainable?”
C.S. Lewis said, “God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing”
That is why we are without peace and restless until we come to Him
Only when we give up our lives on the altar of faith can we attain this deep inner peace that Jesus spoke of
Only when we let go of the things that don’t really matter, the things that we cannot change, and instead embrace the One who can change them, can we experience this deep, satisfying peace
Only when we live our lives with the eyes of faith, seeing things as they will be, instead of what they are now…
Only when we make Jesus “the prince of peace” our foundation, the One to whom all our life and devotion is owed… (Isaiah 9:6)
Only then, will we attain this peace
We have been looking at the topic of faith and what it means
How does faith correspond with law?
Are faith and law mutually exclusive? – Do they go together?
Are we to follow the law, or are we to follow faith?
They can’t help it, it’s who they are (it’s in their nature) – And it’s who we are as well (it’s in our nature as well)
So, what is the purpose of the law then?
If we are all lawbreakers and we can’t help it, then what is the purpose of it?
The purpose of the law is to give us knowledge of sin
It tells us that we are lawbreakers, that we are sinners
It acts as a mirror – It only reflects what is truly there
When I look into the mirror of the law, I do not see my own goodness, but my badness – The law shows me how far I have fallen short of it
Remember, God’s standard is perfection – We will not be judged based on our own standard, but by God’s standard – And God’s standard is perfection, as is seen in the law
So, because we all fall short of it, Paul says in Romans 3:20, 20 “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” Romans 3:20
So, the whole purpose of the law then, is to show us that we are broken – That we have fallen short of God’s standard
Paul says, “All have sinned [broken the law] and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23
So… what is the purpose of faith then?
The last time we met we talked about Abraham
We talked about the fact that he is called the “Father of faith”
Why is he called the “Father of faith?”
He is called this because when God told him something, he believed it – He trusted the words of God – He had faith in the promises of God
When God told him that he would be the father of nations he believed it
When God told him that he would have a son, he believed it
When God told him that he would be a blessing to the world, he believed it
When God told him to kill his son Isaac, the one who was to be the blessing, he believed it – He did not waver, but was about to do it
He was about to kill his own son!
Now this makes absolutely no sense! – Put yourself in the sandals of Abraham – God told him that He would bless him with a son, and that this son was going to have another son, and this son was going to have more sons – And this is how God would make Abraham the father of nations
It was through his son Isaac – But now God tells him to kill Isaac – Again, this makes absolutely no sense! – But Abraham proceeds to do it anyway – He believed God’s Word
And because he “believed,” the Scripture tells us that, “It was counted to him as righteousness” Genesis 15:6, Romans 4:3
So… the whole point of this, is to say what Paul says in Romans 3:20, “By works of the law, no human being will be justified [made righteous] in his [God’s] sight” Romans 3:20
And Abraham is a perfect example of this – He was declared righteous not based on his keeping of the law, but by his faith – And so it is with us
This is what we will discuss in this next passage
13 For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 14 For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. 15 For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.
16 That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, 17 as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. 18 In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. 20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” 23 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.
What I want us to consider tonight is this:
Why do we focus on faith so much? – Why do we say, “I’m keeping the faith!” or “He has come to faith!” or “He is a man of great faith!”
We say this because faith is a big deal, and it’s a big deal because God has made it a big deal
But let’s see what the text tells us
Verse 13 reads, 13 For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 14 For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. Romans 4:13-14
In other words, “Abraham did not receive this promise because he was a law keeper, but because he had faith”
What Paul is saying is, “If the promise given to Abraham (that he was to be the father of nations) was based on his law keeping, then why did God say it was by his faith?”
Then he adds, “If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, [then] faith is null [empty, has no power] and the promise is void [useless]” Romans 4:14
In other words, “If it is the law keepers who are to be blessed as Abraham was blessed, then the faith of Abraham and what God says about Abraham has no power and His promise to him is useless, it’s void”
You see, God’s promise is based on faith, and not on law keeping – If it were based on law keeping then faith would have no meaning and no power, it would be empty
But we know from the text that there is great power in faith – Abraham was given this glorious position because he was a man of faith – He is called the “Father of nations” because he was a man of faith
So, why wasn’t it by law keeping? – Why did God give the promise to Abraham by his faith and not his law keeping?
Well, the answer is… Because no one can keep the law fully (not even Abraham)
Look at verse 15, Paul simply says, “For the law brings wrath” Romans 5:15
Because no one can keep the law fully, it brings wrath – It brings God’s retributive justice
In other words, “If the law could have been kept fully, then perhaps, it could have been the way God’s promise was given to Abraham” – But it was not – Abraham was a sinner – He was a law breaker – Therefore God gave him the promise through his faith
Well, Paul goes on
16 That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham. Romans 4:16
What Paul is saying is, “The reason the promise doesn’t depend on law keeping is because if it was on law keeping then it would not be on grace”
In other words, “If I were a law keeper, then I could demand God’s promise” – Just like when I work my 40 hours I can demand 40 hours worth of pay
But Paul tells us that the promise does not depend on law keeping, but it depends on “grace”
“Grace” is simply God giving us things we don’t deserve – It’s His undeserved favor
And Paul is telling us that God’s grace is what is behind the promise, (Abraham does not deserve the promise, but it’s given to him anyway)
You see, God does not have to give the promise – No! – He doesn’t have to give anything – He is not obligated to do anything – But He chooses to – This comes from His grace
And because it’s from His grace, it is, “guaranteed to all his offspring”
What Paul is saying is, “If we have faith like Abraham, then we are Abraham’s offspring – And the promise that was given to Abraham will apply to us as well”
You see, this is how we Gentiles enter into the blessings of God – It is through our faith – Just like Abraham was blessed because of his faith – We too, will be blessed because of our faith
If faith is the way God blesses us, then how do we increase it? – How do we have faith when it’s hard to have faith?
Well, let’s keep looking at our example, Abraham
18 In hope he [Abraham] believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. Romans 4:18-19
I said earlier that “Abraham believes even when it makes no sense” – Paul says it a little more eloquently here, he says, “In hope he believed against hope” – Well, this is just another way of saying, “When it was hopeless, Abraham hoped anyway”
Verse 19 says, “He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead”
You know, it’s interesting to note that this word translated “weaken” literally means, “to be sick” – And the phrase “good as dead” literally means, “to put to death”
So, you could read it, “When Abraham looked at his own body, he was not sick in his faith, even though his body was about to be put to death”
He was an old man – He probably looked at his 99 year old body and said, “Praise God! He is going to give me a child even when I’m preparing for death! – Even when I am an old man!”
It’s also interesting to note what this word “barrenness” means – It’s the word “nekrosis,” and it literally means “deadness”
You see, Paul is trying to communicate to us the hoplessness of the situation, so he’s using this death imagery to do it
So, you could read this passage, “When it was hopeless, Abraham hoped anyway. When he looked at his own body and realized that it was about to be put to death, he did not get sick in his faith, or even when he looked at his wife and considered the deadness of her womb, he did not get sick in his faith”
20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” Romans 4:20-22
You see, Paul is telling us that great faith is a faith that is “fully convinced” – A faith that sees God as “able to do what he says” – A faith that gives “glory to God” even though the situation seems hopeless
This is what God is looking for, and this is why Abraham’s “faith was counted… as righteousness”
And faith is what Satan wants to destroy in us
You see, “faith” simply means, “trust”
God told Adam and Eve not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil – “Trust me, you don’t want to eat from it” He says, “If you do, you will die”
What did the serpent tell Eve, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”Genesis 3:4-5
You see, what the serpent is trying to do, is destroy the faith of Eve – He is trying to destroy the trust that Eve has in God – He says, “You will not surely die. For God knows…”
What he is telling her is, “God is holding out on you, He’s holding back on you, you can’t trust Him, He knows something that you don’t”
And what happens next? She begins to disbelieve God’s Word and begins to believe Satan’s word – And she eats the fruit
In this moment she has lost her faith in God – She has stopped trusting in God’s Word
But what God is doing (and we find this throughout the entire story of the Bible) is reclaiming that which was lost in the garden
Faith was lost in the garden – Now God is looking for people that have it and people that want it – And those that have it, He blesses, so that they can have more of it
That’s why we have the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11 – By faith Abraham… By faith Sarah… By faith Isaac… By faith Jacob…
The list goes on and on – God is looking for men and women of faith
Because without it we cannot please God, Hebrews 11:6 says, “6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” Hebrews 11:6
And those that draw near to Him – Those that have faith in Him – Just like Abraham’s faith “was counted to him as righteousness” Paul tells us that our faith will be counted to us as righteousness as well
Verse 23 says, 23 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord. Romans 4:23-24
This word “counted” is an accounting term – It’s like when someone puts money into my account – They put it there, and now it’s mine – And this is what the Bible teaches about righteousness
That when we believe, when we have faith in what Jesus Christ has done for us, God credits our account with righteousness – We didn’t earn it, we don’t deserve it, but there it is!
You see, salvation, or righteousness is a gift from God – It’s not earned through law keeping – It is given through faith – Abraham was declared righteous because of his faith – And we too are declared righteous because of our faith
So, faith is a big deal, because God has made it a big deal and it’s the only way to Him – From the very beginning this is how it was – Abraham’s faith was in God’s Word and our faith is in God’s Word
And this is the way it should always be
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”
(which means, God with us).
It’s that time of year again – Like it or not, here it is
Everywhere you turn, Christmas is being celebrated
The radio is playing Christmas carols, houses are covered in lights, we see Christmas trees in windows, shoppers at the malls, presents, Christmas cards etc. etc. etc.
Christmas is in full swing!
Like it or not, here it is, again!
If you ask me what I think about Christmas – I would say, I have mixed feelings about it
I say this because Christmas (to a large degree) has lost its meaning
It’s no longer about the celebration of Jesus’ birth, but something else
Jesus has been replaced by Santa Claus – The incarnation has been replaced by gifts, the nature of the Christmas story has been replaced by consumerism, by parties, and by food
So, I felt the need to talk about the real meaning of Christmas – Or more specifically, Jesus Christ Himself
The Bible says that He is our example, and that we ought to look to Him, to learn from Him, and to follow Him
So, what I want us to consider tonight is the incarnation – And if you’ve never heard this term, or perhaps heard it but never really knew what it means, let me tell you
The incarnation simply means: The divine, embodied in human form – It’s God becoming a human (a man)
We Christians believe that Jesus is God in the flesh – That He is “Immanuel” “God with us” Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23
“God with us” – When you think about it, this is a really bold statement
It’s saying that God is “with us,” not “above us,” or “around us,” or “near us,” but “with us” – God is with us – He is in our midst – He is here now
Did you know that this is unheard of in any other religion – Christianity is unique in this – It communicates to us that God is very close – He’s not “out there” somewhere, but, “with us” – He is close
And this is the Christmas story – This is the epitome of what Christmas is all about – The fact that God left heaven to come to earth – So that He could be called “Immanuel” “God with us”
I would like us to consider two questions tonight
These two questions are crucial to the Christian life, and questions that each of us need to have answered
So, let us consider the first
In Luke’s gospel we read, 26 “In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary.” Luke 1:26-27
So, we know from the story that Mary, a young women, a virgin, is chosen to carry the incarnate God – Out of all the young women of Israel of that day, why was Mary chosen and not someone else?
This is a good question, but before we answer it, I want us to consider the incarnation itself
Often times we don’t even consider the incarnation because the story has become so familiar to us – We just rattle it off – “The angel came and told Mary that she will bear a Son, and this Son will be conceived by the Holy Sprit and His name will be Immanuel”
And the whole time we don’t even think about the great significance of this!
Think about it – The eternal, all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present God, Creator of the universe is choosing to become a man
The Lord of lords and King of kings, the Almighty God, the Everlasting One, the Great ‘I AM’… is becoming a man, and His name will be Jesus
This is the Christmas story – This is the incarnation
God is choosing to enter into the world He created, and the way He chooses to enter it, is by being born just like we are born! This is amazing!
So, back to our question
Why did God choose whom He chose? – Why did He choose Mary and not someone else?
Was it just arbitrary? Was Mary just lucky? Did it really matter who brought the Messiah into the world?
Luke 1:28 says, 28 And he [The angel Gabriel] came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Luke 1:28-30
What I find interesting here is Mary’s response, the text tells us that, “she was greatly troubled at the saying” Luke 1:29
In other words, she’s surprised that an angel would visit her
Mary is a humble person – If she were not humble, then she would not be surprised
What are the marks of humility? – What do you look for, if you’re looking for humility?
For example, if there was an all expense paid trip to tour the world – You get to spend one whole year traveling the world, staying in the finest hotels, eating at the nicest restaurants, seeing the most beautiful sights, all for free – A once in a lifetime trip – And it was not something you could buy, it was only given
And after much discussion you were selected – Out of a million people you were the one chosen – How would you respond?
Would you respond with, “Yeah… I mean who else is worthy of this… clearly it’s me, I mean… I work hard, I deserve it, I pay my taxes”
Or would it be,”What?… Are you saying that I was chosen?… That from a million people you chose me?”
You see, the number one mark of humility is when a person does not think about him or herself too much, it’s when someone says, “No, not me, who am I, I’m nothing!”
You see, humility is a disposition that shows itself as putting others above oneself – It’s considering others higher then yourself
Listen to what Paul says in Philippians 2:3, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:3-4
This is the attitude Mary had when told she was to carry the Savior of the world
Her response of surprise proves that she was a humble person – She did not count herself worthy – But it was given to her anyway
A second reason she was chosen…
After being told the details of her pregnancy – The fact that the “Holy Spirit will come upon” her and the “Most High will overshadow” her, she responds with, 38 “I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Luke 1:38
Mary has great faith! – So much so, that when told that she will become pregnant (even though she is a virgin), she believes it – She doesn’t argue – She doesn’t reason – She doesn’t say, ‘choose someone else’ – She simply says, “Let it be to me according to your word”
You see, faith is just that – It’s believing someone’s word – It’s trusting what the person told you – And this is what Mary does
Hebrews 11:1 says, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” Hebrews 11:1
Faith means that I have an inner confidence that what I do not presently see, will come to pass – It will happen, it’s just a matter of time
The Apostle Paul, speaking about redemption says, “24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” Romans 8:24-25
You see, hope and faith are very similar – Faith is believing – Hope is expecting what is believed – They are intertwined and connected, and we need both
And Mary shows us that she has both, “Let it be to me according to your word” – She believes what the angel says, and she expects it to happen
So, God chooses Mary because she is a woman of humility, and a woman of great faith
What about our second question?
Here we are, it’s Christmas
This is the reason for the season – We are celebrating Christ’s birth – We are celebrating the incarnation of God – God coming to earth, becoming flesh
So, a good question to ask is, “How did this happen?” – “What was the means by which God chose to enter the world?”
Luke chapter 2 says, “In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered… 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” Luke 2:1-7
I find it fascinating that this is how it happened!
Of all the places to be born, God chooses to be born in a manger!
This word “manger” literally means, “feeding trough” – Jesus is born in a stable and then placed in a feeding trough
This is the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Almighty God, the Everlasting One, the Great ‘I AM’ – And He is born in a stable and placed in a feeding trough
This is not an accident – This is not just random chance – The events of Jesus’ birth happen precisely how God intends them to happen
In other words,
“Why?” you ask – “Why would God choose to be born in a stable?”
It’s because this is how He wants us to live – This is a part of God’s “upside-down kingdom program,” so to speak
In Jesus’s earthly ministry He kept talking about the “kingdom of God” – What heaven is like – What God is like – How God works
He said, “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:14
He said, “The last will be first, and the first last” Matthew 20:16
You see, God does not look for what the world looks for – The world looks for power, prestige, wealth, beauty – God looks for humility, character, faith, love
I am confident that God does not care about the things we care about – He doesn’t care what kind of job we have, and how much money we make, and what kind of house we live in, what kind of car we drive – What He cares about is people
While we’re preoccupied with stuff, God is working in people’s hearts
While we are striving for wealth, God is striving for humility
While we are trying to make a name for ourselves, God is looking for those that will believe in Him – Believe in Him as Mary did
God is looking for men, for women, for children of humility and faith
And He gives us a glimpse of this in the Christmas story – He shows us (in Mary) that he honors humility and that He honors faith
And He even shows us His own humility by choosing to be born in the way that He does
Paul tells us that this is how we should think, this is how we should live, this is how we should act
Philippians 2:5, says, “5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Philippians 2:5-8
Jesus, who is God, chose not to be equal with God, but “emptied himself” and took the role of a servant, and became like us – This is the Christmas story – This is what we should be remembering this Christmas!
So, how does this apply to us?
Here we are, we live in the 21st century – We have been celebrating Christmas for two thousand years
What should we consider this Christmas? – As we get together with family and friends, as we exchange gifts one to another, as we go through our family traditions and rituals – What should be the highlight, what should be the number one thing we do?
Well, let me encourage you to think about Jesus, let me encourage you to think about humility, about faith
When it comes time to eat, don’t be the first one in line
When it comes down to sitting at the table, don’t take the best seat
When it comes time to “catch-up” on things, don’t make yourself sound like someone you’re not
When it comes time to wash the dishes, be the one who does it
When it comes time to serve, be the one who volunteers
When it comes time to talk about life, be the one who encourages others
Think about Jesus, think about the incarnation
Think about the amazing truth that is the incarnation – The fact that God Himself did not count Himself equal with God, but emptied Himself and took the role of a servant and was born in a stable (of all places)
Paul tells us in Ephesians 5, he says, “15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15-16
What he is saying is, “Time is short, you only have one life, make it count, don’t get stuck in worthless pursuits, but live such lives that bring maximum glory to Jesus, just like Jesus lived His life to the maximum glory of His Father – Be humble, have faith”
Last time we met we considered the question, “Is it better to keep the law, or is it better to have faith?”
We discovered that if you think it is better to keep the law then you have a tall order to complete
We talked about God’s standard – The fact that His standard is perfection – God is holy, His heaven is holy, and only holy [perfect] people go there
We discovered that faith and law have different roles – The role of the law is like a mirror – It’s designed to reveal who we are – Faith, on the other hand is the vehicle by which we are justified [declared not guilty] before God
So, law is not the vehicle by which we are declared “not guilty” – In fact the law is the exact opposite of this – The law declares us “guilty” before God – That is its role – That is the purpose for which it was created
Paul says in Romans 3:20, “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in His [God’s] sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin”
So, the role of the law is to bring “knowledge of sin” – It is to make known what is really there – Just like a mirror does
And just like when we look into a mirror and see who we really are, we then know what we need to do
If I have mud on my face, the mirror will show it to be true – If my nose hair has breached its boundary, then the mirror will show it to be true – I don’t argue with the mirror, but instead take action – I take some water and wash my face – Or, I take some clippers and clean up my nose hair
It is the same with the law and with faith – The law shows me what I must do – And what I must do is accept the free gift of salvation by faith – By trusting God
So, now in chapter 4 Paul is going to build on these truths and communicate that this is always the way it was – Salvation was always by faith, it was never by the law – He will tell us that salvation by faith is not a New Testament concept, but the way it always was
What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:
7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
and whose sins are covered;
8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”
9 Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. 10 How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. 11 He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, 12 and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.
Tonight, I want us to consider an example of this truth
Just like we appreciate examples to help understand something, so it was in those days
Paul, is going to say, “Okay, you want to see an example of this truth – You want to see an example of righteousness by faith, let me show you, let me tell you about Abraham”
Well, Abraham is known to the Jews as “Father Abraham”
Why is this?
Because Abraham was the person God chose to make a nation out of – Every single Jew living today could say that Abraham is their father because the entire Jewish race comes from Abraham
In Genesis 12 God says to Abraham [Abram], “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing” Genesis 12:1-2
Now, something you should know about Abraham is that when he was called by God to leave his country and go to the Promised Land he was 75 years old!
I don’t about you, but if I were 75, I would not be expecting to be a new father!
But more than this I would not be expecting my wife who is 65 years old and barren to get pregnant either!
But God tells Abraham, “Go from your country… to the land I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation” Genesis 12:1-2
God is telling old Abraham that he will not only be a father, but that he will be the father of a nation – Wow!
It’s interesting to note here that before this happened Abraham’s name was “Abram” – “Abram” literally means “exalted father” or “high father”
But God changes his name from Abram to Abraham – “Abraham” means “father of a multitude”
Can you imagine Abraham’s response to this, “Uh… you want my name to be father of a multitude……? How about just one?”
Again, let’s not forget he is 75 years old, and his wife is 65
In Genesis 17:4 God says to Abraham [father of a multitude], “4 “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. 5 No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.” Genesis 17:4-5
In Genesis 15 God tells Abraham, “’Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be’” Genesis 15:5
So, what happens next?
Although God promises Abraham a son, it does not happen for another 25 years
What does Abraham do this whole time?
Well, the Bible tells us that he is faithful, no matter how unlikely the reality was that he would become a father at age 100, he believes it anyway – He believes it although it makes no sense
Genesis 15:6 says, “And he believed the Lord, and He [God] counted it to him as righteousness”
Abraham is known as the father of faith
Because he consistently believed what God said
Later, when, God fulfills His promise and Isaac is born, He tests Abraham and tells him to offer up Isaac as a sacrifice to Him
How does Abraham respond? – Does he argue with God? – Does he refuse to carry out His demands? – Nope. He proceeds to do exactly what God tells him to do – He doesn’t even argue
The text tells us that Abraham “rose early” the next “morning, saddled his donkey,” “cut the wood for the burnt offering” and “went to the place of which God told him” Genesis 22:3
Now this is faith! To do what God says even when it makes absolutely no sense
To highlight this great faith we read these words in verse 5, Abraham says to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you”
The “come again” here is written in the plural – Abraham is saying, “We will both return to you”
He doesn’t know how, he just knows that God is good, and would not ask him to do this for no reason.
In other words, he knows that God is for him, and not against him – He chooses to act on the basis of his faith and not his emotions, or his logic – He chooses to trust God even when it makes no sense
Abraham is called the “father of faith” because his faith was tested by God and was proven reliable – This is why Paul says (quoting Genesis) “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness” Romans 4:3
Okay, back to Romans
What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Romans 4:1-3
In other words, Paul is saying, “If you need proof that righteousness is not gained by doing good things but rather by simply believing God, just look at Abraham!”
Basically, what God is saying to Abraham here is, “Abraham, because you believe me, I am declaring you not guilty, you are righteous in my sight, you are justified!”
Again, to be justified simply means “to be declared not guilty” and to be made righteous basically means the same thing – You are made right in the eyes of God, because you have been justified
Well he goes on, 4 “Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness” Romans 4:4-5
In other words, “Those that do good works earn something – They are owed something, its their due, they’ve earned it, but the Bible teaches that salvation cannot be earned – It teaches that salvation is a gift – And gifts cannot be earned, they can only be received”
When we go to work, and do what we have to do for two weeks, at the end of that two weeks we all expect to be paid – We expect it because we’ve earned it – It’s our due
Our employer has to pay what he agreed to pay – If he doesn’t, he would be a thief
But the Bible teaches that God does not owe anyone anything – Anything He gives is based solely on his grace, it can’t be earned – “Grace” is God’s unearned favor
Hypothetically speaking, if we could make it to heaven based on our good works, we could say to God, “God, you have to let me into heaven, you owe me!” – We can demand salvation
Who is God in this example? Is it Him, or is it us? – We don’t get to tell God anything – He is the Creator, we are the created – He is the infinite, all knowing God, we are just people
So, salvation was, and will always be a free gift that is given by God to those that believe in Him – Those that have faith
To highlight this further, Paul goes on to talk about circumcision
9 Is this blessing [righteousness] then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. 10 How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? Romans 4:9-10
You see, the Jews believed that along with doing good works, you had to be circumcised if you hoped to get into heaven – Or another way to put it would be, “You have to keep the law, and the law says you have to be circumcised”
Well, Paul responds to this and says, “It was not after, but before he was circumcised. 11 He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised” Romans 4:10-11
In other words, “Abraham was declared righteous before he was circumcised – The circumcision he received was only a sign of the righteousness that God gave him”
You remember what God said when He called Abraham? – In Genesis 17:4 God said to him, “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations” Genesis 17:4
In calling Abraham, and declaring him righteous, God is also making a “covenant” with him – A “covenant” simply means to make an agreement with someone – God is making, and committing to an agreement with Abraham
Basically, it is God saying to Abraham, “Because you believe me, I am declaring you righteous, and because you are righteous, I am going to make an agreement with you, and this agreement will go forward to every single human being who has your kind of faith”
God is making a covenant with Abraham, based on his faith – And the sign of the covenant will be circumcision
But circumcision has no power in and of itself – It’s just a sign
It’s kind of like baptism – We know that baptism doesn’t save us – But is just a sign that points to the inward reality of our faith – It’s to show the world that “I believe in Jesus, and I am going to live the rest of my life for Him”
Okay, what is the purpose of all this?
Verse 11, “The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well” Romans 4:11
In other words, “The purpose was to show everyone that saving faith is not found in rituals, or doing good works, but by believing God, how Abraham believed God” – It’s an open invitation to all people to have faith in God and receive salvation, just like Abraham did
But this invitation is not only to the uncircumcised but to the circumcised as well – Not only to the Gentiles, but the Jews as well – It’s to everyone
Verse 12 says, “12 and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.” Romans 4:12
You see, Paul is saying that Abraham, the father of Judaism was not declared righteous because of what he did, but what he believed
What Paul is saying is, Old Testament faith was never built on the basis of good works, but was always built on faith – And Abraham (the founder) is the perfect example of this
You see, the Abrahamic Covenant was the precursor to the New Covenant
The New Covenant is what we live under today
The New Covenant is what Jesus has ushered in
We find this everywhere in the New Testament
16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life. John 3:36
24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. John 5:24
35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” John 6:35
40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. John 6:40
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this? John 11:25-26
I can go on and on – I only quoted from the Gospel of John, but you could find these kinds of references throughout the entire Bible
You see, the Bible teaches that the only way to God is by believing in what Jesus did – It never was, and never will be by doing good works
According to the Bible, the only way to please God is to live a life of faith – Hebrews tells us that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” and that “without faith it is impossible to please [God]” Hebrews 11:1, 6
And this is what Paul is telling us as well
So, my hope and prayer is that we live this way – That we wouldn’t be people who try and make it by our own merits – But people who rely solely on the grace that is offered us in the person of Jesus Christ