Sermon Outline: Romans 4:1-12
Sometimes you hear statements like the following:
“The gospel of faith is new with Jesus, and the OT is about obedience to the law”
“The God of the OT is harsh and judgemental, but the God of the NT is a God of love and forgiveness”
“Does the OT have any relevance to Christians?”
We are learning about the answers to these questions, among others, in our study of the book of Romans.
In chapter 3, Paul has just introduced the gospel:
- The gospel is the righteousness of God, not the righteousness of people obeying a moral code
- People are justified, made right with God, by faith in Jesus
- And thus it applies equally to both Jew and Gentile
But Paul also addresses the relationship of the gospel to the OT.
- The gospel is witnessed to by the OT.
- Note that he doesn’t say the OT reveals the gospel.
- He says the gospel was attested to, or demonstrated by, the Law and the Prophets.
- Because people in the past also were saved by faith, not by works.
- Jesus’ public suffering was a demonstration that God is just in forgiving and justifying those who believe.
- God’s forgiveness is not arbitrary. Jesus’ atoning death satisfies justice.
- His judgement is not suspended without reason. The possibility of faith and justification is why judgement is suspended.
In today’s passage, Paul will show two examples of people experiencing this gospel. We will look at the example of Abraham, and also of King David.
2. Abraham and God
a. Faith brings acceptance which brings obedience
- Abraham is an important figure to Jews, Muslims and Christians, and is counted as the patriarch of their faiths.
- Abraham or Abram as he was called earlier appears 292 times in the bible. In addition to the story of his life in Genesis, he is mentioned an additional 45 times in the OT, and 76 times in the NT.
- 4:1-5 says Abraham was justified not by work but by faith: ‘Abraham believed God, and because of his faith God accepted him as righteous’.
- This is exactly what Paul said in 3:28 “For we conclude that a person is put right with God only through faith, and not by doing what the Law requires”.
- 4:10-11a makes the point that this was before Abraham entered into the covenant of circumcision.
- Circumcision was the obedience God requested of Abraham and his household.
- And so before Abraham received any Law, God accepted him.
- The religious work that Abraham did was a sign to show God accepted him because of his faith. The faith comes first, the sign comes afterward.
- The point Paul wants to make here what comes first, and what comes afterwards. What is cause and what is effect.
- Let me give an example: when it rains, the pavement gets wet. The rain comes first, and then the pavement gets wet. The rain is the cause, and the pavement is the effect. If you put water on the pavement, it doesn’t cause the rain to fall. If you try to make rain by putting water on the pavement, you are doing magic.
- Similarly, Abraham believes first, and God accepts him, and then a covenant is made. Abraham’s belief is the cause of God’s acceptance and then God reveals the covenant.
- When we believe in Christ, God will accept us because of our faith. Then our obedience to God is caused by God’s acceptance of us. If we expect God to accept us because of our obedience, we are doing magic. It’s like expecting a little water poured on the pavement to evaporate and cause floods of rain from heaven. It won’t happen.
b. Abraham’s life
- So that’s a quick summary. Now let’s look at Abraham’s experience.
- Slide & map
|Gen 12:4Left Haran
|‘Leave your home, and go where I will lead you’.‘From you will come a great nation, a blessing to the whole world’.
|Gen 15:6Belief counted as righteousness
|‘From your own body, a great nation …’‘Your descendants will receive Canaan after 400 years of enslavement’
God’s seals his promise of the land, with a curse of death on God (!!)
|Ishmael born to Abraham and Sarah’s maid
|Gen 17Prepare for Isaac
|‘Next year, your son will be born to your old barren wife Sarah’The covenant of circumcision for Abraham and his whole household.
Abraham acts as a priest, between God and Lot’s neighbours..
|Gen 22Call to sacrifice Isaac
|Abraham goes to sacrifice his ‘only son’, as God commands.But God provides a substitute.
‘Because you have not withheld your son, all nations will be blessed’
- Abraham was born around 2000 BC in the land of the Chaldees. His father was Terah, a polytheist. The whole family travelled to Haran (modern Turkey) and settled there.
- Gen 12:4 At 75, God told Abraham to leave Haran,
- To make him into a great nation
- And through him to bless all the nations of the earth
- And he did, traveling west from Babylonia to Turkey and then SE down to Canaan, where he settled in modern Israel
- Gen 15:6
- God repeats the promise, and adds
- the descendants would be biologically his, even though he was old.
- Abraham believed, and God counted to him as righteousness
- The descendants would receive the land (Canaan)
- the descendants would be biologically his, even though he was old.
- V8 But Abraham wanted assurance he would possess the land
- God used the formula of covenant, swearing upon himself if God failed to keep his own promise
- Further detail that Abraham’s descendants would be enslaved for 400 years somewhere else (Egypt) until the present inhabitants of Canaan – the Amorites etc had reached the point of judgement.
- One way. Abraham did not have to promise anything.
- But we wonder at this covenant, with God calling a curse down on himself. Can God be cursed?!! Can God die?!!
- Gen 16, 86 years old
- Sarah gets Abraham to have a son with Sarah’s maid
- Gen 17 Abram is 99, his wife 86.
- changes Abram’s name to Abraham
- Tells him more detail: that Sarai will be the mother of the promised son, and the son would be born in a year’s time
- Command him to be circumcised, and everyone in his household
- And then God reveals to him the approaching judgement on Sodom and Gomorrah, and Abraham negotiates with God
- Gen 22 A few decades later, Abraham is asked to sacrifice the promised son, Isaac. Abraham agrees without hesitation, but God provides an animal substitute at the last moment.
- God repeats the promise, and adds
- So, let’s summarize
- Abraham believed God’s promise of making his descendants through his old barren wife Sarah into a great nation and a blessing to all.
- Because Abraham believed, God declared him righteous.
- 13 years later, one year before the promised child was born, God commanded circumcision, for the whole household.
- So the child of the promise was born into this community dedicated to God.
- This is the start of a religious community, under a kind of religious Law.
- At this timing, Abraham performed his first work for God, like a priest, standing between God and the people of Sodom and Gomorrah
- So God is going to bless Abraham, something impossible for Abraham to do: have a son through a barren wife, when they are both in their old age.
- And God tells Abraham that before you have this son, you must put my mark on yourself. You must circumcise yourself.
- He and Sarah had tried to help God by using another Hagar
- But it is as if God is saying: in the part of your body you will use to bring forth your future, the future that I have promised, you must humble yourself before Me.
- Don’t try to do it yourself.
- You must give your future to my keeping.
- And in this weakness and humility before Me, you will find Me fulfilling My promise and the blessing.
3. David and God
- But now let’s turn to the example of David
- King David is also a famous guy, mentioned 974 times in the bible, including 54 times in the NT.
- 4:6-9a addresses David’s experience of God’s grace.
- David found that God counted him as acceptable, regardless of his deeds.
- Look at what he says (v7-8)
- Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered
- Blessed is the one whose sin the LORD does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit
- V7-8 is a quote from Psalm 32.
- David is confessing his sin before God.
- He says when I was silent about my sin, I felt your anger, and I wasted away
- But when David changed his mind and confessed his sin, God forgave him.
- And God became once again his refuge and shelter
- Then the Psalm switches from David speaking to God speaking. Look at what God says (v8-9):
8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
9 Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.
- What God says is:
- I, God, will teach you how to live
- I will show you what to do, because I love you.
- Don’t make me drag you around like a stupid beast. Come to me!
- David had been running and hiding his sin from God. And he suffered because of it. God was angry with him, and David wasted away.
- Don’t you see?
- We suffer when we run from God
- God wants to forgive and restore us.
- God is able to teach us how to live a good life.
- Our part is to confess our sin, and stop running from God
- So what do we learn from David?
- David did evil things. He would be thrown into prison if he did those things today.
- But God accepted him despite his deeds, because David humbled himself and came to God.
- And this flawed man who trusted in God received the promise that his descendant would be the Messiah, Jesus, who would rule the world forever.
4. Wait a minute!
Okay, so what have we seen so far?:
- Paul has shown that God accepts us because of our faith, not because of our obedience.
- Abraham believed God’s impossible promise of a son in his old age. And God accepted him as right because he believed.
- David committed terrible sins, but he confessed to God, and received forgiveness.
- Abraham humbled himself with circumcision, and received God’s promise.
- David abandoned his pride, and came back to God.
But wait a minute!
How could God say Abraham was righteous, just because of his belief that God would give him a son in his old age?
The Jews and the Muslims believe Abraham was great because of his obedience. That seems a lot more reasonable, doesn’t it!
But that’s what Paul says. But I think there may be more to it.
In Hebrews 11:19, we are told Abraham was willing to sacrifice the promised son Isaac, because he believed God could raise Isaac from the dead. Now where did he learn that from?
In John 8:56, Jesus said to the Jewish leaders “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”
That’s right, God gave Abraham in the OT a vision of 2000 years later, of Jesus and his work.
Abraham saw beyond his own promised son to his far descendant, the promised Messiah, Son of God.
And Abraham believed what God showed him, and it was counted to him as righteousness.
And what about David? How could God just forgive David? A man with blood on his hands; the blood of his enemies and of his friends as well!
But Paul has already told us: it is because Jesus paid for David’s sins, and our sins, by his sacrifice on the cross.
God is just to forgive David, because the penalty has been paid, by Jesus.
And God knows how to make David good.
So what have we learned?
- God desires to forgive us, and teach us how to live.
- God’s forgiveness and acceptance is always, has always been, because of Jesus’ sacrifice.
- It is faith and humility that brings the blessings of God.
- Like Abraham, we must put God’s mark on our hearts, and depend on him.
- Like David, we must humble ourselves and confess our sins.
- It is not up to us to make ourselves acceptable. It is an impossible task for even the best and bravest of us.
- Like sprinkling water on the ground, and expecting the rain to fall, it is an illusion.
- Instead, God will teach us and guide us.
- What we need to do is confess our sins to God, and not run away from Him.
- We need to look at Jesus.
< 32 > ダビデのマスキール
32:4 それは、御手が昼も夜も私の上に重くのしかかり、私の骨髄は、夏のひでりでかわききったからです。 セラ
32:7 あなたは私の隠れ場。あなたは苦しみから私を守り、救いの歓声で、私を取り囲まれます。 セラ