Romans Bible Study Lesson 11

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Righteousness apart from the Law

Romans 4:16—25


The person declared righteous by God is considered to be Abraham’s offspring because he was declared righteous by faith, not by any works of the Law. This includes anyone of any nationality.

Verse 16

A summary of verses 1—15 restating that is was Abraham’s faith before the Law was given that made him the father of all who believe including those under the Law (Israel) and those not under the Law (the Gentiles). Stam makes a point in his commentary on Romans that as Abraham is called our father, Sarah could be called the mother of us all since she is the woman of grace whereas Hagar is the woman of Law (Galatians 4:22—31).

There is a strong connection between Law and Works. The Law required works and spelled out what those works were to be. Individuals within Israel could not decide what works they would do to please God, but they needed to do the works exactly as spelled out in the Mosaic Law.

There is also a strong connection between Faith and Grace. It is because of God’s grace that we are saved because we have faith in Jesus Christ. We cannot obtain salvation through works or else it would be granted on the basis of a debt. (Ephesians 2:8—9).

Verse 17

Again the emphasis is on Abraham as the father of many nations (Genesis 17:5). This is not something Abraham worked at to receive it was given to him or bestowed upon him by God. God is all-powerful and able to take the deadness of Abraham and Sarah’s reproductive ability and produce a life. Abraham was 99 years old and Sarah was 90. God caused something that could not happen to happen. Physically this meant the birth of Isaac. Isaac would not have been born unless God made it happen. This also refers to those who come to God by faith. They could not have been “born” unless God did the work in the believer

Verses 18—21

Event though it was physically impossible for Abraham and Sarah to conceive a child, Abraham had the faith that God would work it out so that he would be the father of many nations. He believed God because he had faith in God. He held on to that promise for 25 years waiting for God to work and trusting that He would make happen what He promised. Even though Abraham took matters into his own hands when Ishmael was conceived, he seemingly never wavered in trusting that what God promised (that he would become a great nation) would come to pass.

Verses 22—25

Verses 18—21 explain exactly why Abraham was credited with righteousness. It was because of his faith—demonstrated by his works. If he said he had faith in God but did not do what God told him to do he really did not have faith. But yet, it was because of his faith and not his works that God imputed righteousness. If Abraham did the works God required of him to gain his faith then he would not have been declared righteous. We cannot earn God’s grace or righteousness. No one is ever declared righteous by works.

Abraham is an example as to how God works with Israel and with us. Israel could not please God through the works of the Law. They needed to come to Him in faith and then do the works of the Law to prove their faith. If they truly had the faith, they would do the works, however, doing the works did not prove they were doing them out of faith. Many in Israel were trying to obtain righteousness by doing works instead of doing works to demonstrate their faith.

James 2:20—26 20But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? 21Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? 22You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; 23and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS,” and he was called the friend of God. 24You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.

In this Dispensation of the Age of Grace the requirements for a demonstration of works has been eliminated. We no longer are under Law meaning we are not required to do the works of the Law. Neither are we required to do any other work to prove our faith. I believe our work is tied up in Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. We are to believe in the person of Jesus Christ and his work on the cross. Israel was to believe in the person of Jesus Christ (as Messiah) and then do the works of the Law as a demonstration of their faith. Any works we do are in service to the Lord but are not tied to our faith nor our imputed righteousness.

Romans 3:21—28 21But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, (The idea that righteousness comes about through faith and also looking at prophesy concerning Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection) 22even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. 27Where then is boasting? It is excluded By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. 28For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.

Scripture stating that Abraham was declared righteous because of his faith were not written for his benefit but for ours. Abraham was dead at the time these things were recorded so he could not be the main focus of the statement about his imputed righteousness. Paul clearly states it was written for our benefit. Those who have the same faith as Abraham will have the same imputed righteousness.

Our position in Christ is summarily explained in verse 25. First, Jesus Christ was given over to be put to death. The verb delivered is in the passive voice meaning the action was being performed upon Jesus by God. God the Father actually caused Jesus to be handed over to die so our sins could be eradicated.

Romans 8:32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?

However, Christ is also credited with giving up Himself for our sins.

Ephesians 5:2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.

In light of this we can see that the Father and the Son were in full agreement that Jesus needed to die for our sins. He went voluntarily.

Christ’s death on the cross took all sins away. They were once covered but now were done away with. This action is not just for those sins that were committed up to the death of Christ but all sins were forgiven; past, present and future.

The verb raised is also in the passive voice so God the Father was the one causing Jesus to be raised from the dead. This was done so we could be justified and therefore declared righteous. If Jesus did not rise from the dead then our position in Him would mean nothing. Our hope of eternal life rests is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We have been buried with Him and likewise are raised with Him. We are fully identified with Him.

1 Corinthians 15:17 17and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. 18Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.