Romans Chapter 4
Justifications in Scripture
Chapter 4, Verses
Rom. 4:1 "What shall we say then that Abraham our father,
as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? 2 For if Abraham were justified
by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. 3 For what saith
the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for
righteousness. 4 Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of
grace, but of debt. 5 But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him
that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. 6
Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God
imputeth righteousness without works, 7 Saying, Blessed are they whose
iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. 8 Blessed is the
man to whom the Lord will not impute sin."
The scriptures teach
three justifications: justification before God; justification in our
heart and mind, and justification before men. Justification before God
is by grace through the atoning blood of Christ: Rom. 3:24, "Being
justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ
Jesus." Justification in the heart and mind is by faith: Rom. 5:1
"Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our
Lord Jesus Christ." Justification before men is by works: James 2:21
"Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered
Isaac his son upon the altar?"
The problem that so
many people have with the subject of justification is that they do not
recognize there are three justifications taught in the scriptures. The
scriptures also teach three courtrooms. The first courtroom is the
courtroom of glory where God sits as judge. In this courtroom, we are
justified by the blood of Jesus and this justification is by grace. The
second courtroom is the courtroom of our heart and mind that was
described to us in the 2nd chapter of Romans. In this
courtroom, we are justified by faith in the covenant work of Jesus
Christ. The third courtroom is the courtroom of men's opinions. In
this courtroom, men view us as being truly the children of God by the
works that they see.
Our works and our
faith do not affect the outcome of the courtroom of glory. We are not
justified by our works or by our faith in the courtroom of glory. The
covenant blood of Jesus is what justified us in the courtroom of glory.
The fourth chapter
of Romans is dealing with the subject of justification by faith and the
courtroom affected is the courtroom of our heart and mind.
"What shall we say
then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?"
Notice that it is dealing with what Abraham has found and not what God
has found. The courtroom is the courtroom of the heart and mind
(pertaining to the flesh).
Courtroom in the
Heart and Mind
The courtroom of the
heart and mind is set up in the new or spiritual birth. In the new or
spiritual birth, God writes his laws in our heart and mind:
1. Rom. 2:14 "For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by
nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a
law unto themselves: 15 Which show the work of the law written in their
hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the
mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)"
2. 2 Cor. 3:3 "Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the
epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the
Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshly tables
of the heart."
3. Heb. 8:10 "For this is the covenant that I will make with the house
of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into
their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God,
and they shall be to me a people."
4. Heb. 10:16 "This is the covenant that I will make with them after
those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in
their minds will I write them."
5. Jer. 31:33 "But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the
house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in
their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God,
and they shall be my people."
One of the first
things that happens after that a person is born of the Spirit is not
justification, but conviction or condemnation. Isaiah tells us of his
experience in Is. 6:1 "In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the
Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the
temple. 2 Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with
twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with
twain he did fly. 3 And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy,
holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. 4 And
the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the
house was filled with smoke. 5 Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone;
because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people
of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts."
Isaiah, being born of the Spirit, was convicted of the fact that he was
a sinner and condemned before God.
The Lord spoke of
the publican who came to the temple to pray that he was in a blessed
state when he felt the condemnation of sin: Lk.18:13 "And the publican,
standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven,
but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. 14 I
tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the
other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that
humbleth himself shall be exalted." Likewise, a person must mourn over
his sins before he is comforted: Matt. 5:4 "Blessed are they that mourn:
for they shall be comforted."
Not Justified by Works
There are two
streams of thought about how a man is justified before God. Most follow
the false teachings of Judaism that man is justified by his works or
actions before God. The other true stream of thought is that
justification before God is by the covenant work of Jesus Christ through
his atoning blood and is all by grace. Paul was refuting the false idea
of justification before God by works and establishing that justification
before God is by grace. Paul uses the example of Abraham to show how
that Abraham was justified by the covenant work of God and how that
Abraham received that covenant work of God into the courtroom of his
heart and mind by faith and it brought forth peace into his heart.
"For if Abraham were
justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God." Paul
is setting forth the proposition that if Abraham believed that he was
justified by his works, then he would have whereof to glory. Abraham
would be able to glory in his works that he believed made him just
before God. This is exactly what those who believe that their works or
their activity of faith makes them just before God do. They glory in
their actions of obedience believing that it is their obedience that
finally makes them righteous before God. Today, they make such
statements as: "I accepted Jesus as my savior and that saved me from
sin; or "I believed on the Lord and was baptized and this saved me;" or
"I have lived a good life and I have believed on the Lord and this will
save me from sins." Notice the glory or boasting that man makes when he
believes his works save him.
However, works do
not save us before God. Only the atoning blood of Christ, which was
shed according to God's eternal covenant, saves us from our sins. There
is no room for boasting before God.
"For what saith the
scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for
righteousness." This statement carries us back to the Old Testament
scriptures concerning the interaction between God and Abraham. The
direct quote is from Gen. 15:3 "And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast
given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir. 4 And,
behold, the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, This shall not be
thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall
be thine heir. 5 And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now
toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and
he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. 6 And he believed in the LORD;
and he counted it to him for righteousness." This was not the first
time that God had made a promise to Abraham nor was it the first time
that Abraham had faithfully followed the Lord.
times God had made promises to Abraham concerning Abraham and his seed.
God had promised to Abraham that he would multiply the seed of Abraham
as the stars of heaven, as the sand upon the seashore, and as the dust
of the earth. Also, God had promised Abraham that in his seed should
all nations be blessed, and all kindreds or families would be blessed,
and that his seed should possess the gates of his enemies. God had
promised Abraham that he would be the father of a multitude and the
father of nations. Yet in the text above, Abraham was 85 years old and
he had no children, when God promised him that one would come forth from
his own bowel and from this one would his seed be multiplied. Here
Abraham believed in the promise of God and God counted this to Abraham
for righteousness. Notice Abraham's belief in the covenant promise of
God was counted to Abraham for righteousness. We make the following
1. God's promises were not dependent upon Abraham's obedience or upon
Abraham's faith. God was going to fulfill his promises even if Abraham
did not obey or did not believe. The promises were not conditional.
Rom. 3:3 "For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make
the faith of God without effect?" Man's unbelief does not alter the
covenant promises of God so as to make them ineffectual. Yet we
constantly hear from the erroneous teachers that Christ's atoning blood
is not effectual unless the sinner believes and accepts the Lord as his
personal Savior. God will fulfill his promises whether any men believe
2. Abraham's believing in the covenant promise of God had a great
effect upon Abraham. Abraham was sorely concerned that he had no child
and that Sarah was past childbearing age. However, when Abraham
believed his fears were assuaged and he had peace and comfort that God
would fulfill his promises.
3. Abraham's faith brought him to identify himself with those covenant
promises of God, thus in his heart and mind he saw himself justified or
righteous before God based on those covenant promises.
"Now to him that
worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. 5 But to him
that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his
faith is counted for righteousness." If Abraham's works justified him
before God, then the reward would be of debt. That is God would owe it
to him because he did what God told him to do. Grace is not involved
when we can earn something from God by works. Grace and works cannot be
mixed. If we do anything to merit it, then it is not by grace, but by
works. If we do nothing to merit it, then it is by grace and no works
Abraham did no works
to justify himself before God, but rather believed on God who justifieth
the ungodly. It is God and God alone who justifies the ungodly. God
justifies the ungodly according to the covenant he made before the world
began. It is through God's covenant work that the ungodly are
justified. Abraham believed on God and his covenant work and this
belief was imputed into Abraham's heart and mind for righteousness.
That is Abraham saw himself as being made righteous by the covenant work
"Even as David also
describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth
righteousness without works, 7 Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities
are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. 8 Blessed is the man to whom
the Lord will not impute sin." We are indeed in a blessed state to have
our iniquities forgiven, and our sins covered by the grace of God
through the covenant blood of Christ. Later Paul will ask the question
in Rom. 8:33 "Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It
is God that justifieth." There is no sin that can now be laid to the
charge of God's elect. We are justified by the blood of Christ.