3 Then Abram said, “Look, You have given me no offspring; indeed one born in my house is my heir!” 4 And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir.” 5 Then He brought him outside and said, “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” 6 And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:3–6, NKJV).
God accounted Abraham’s faith to him for righteousness (v. 6). All who have the faith of Abraham are his seed and heirs (Rom. 4:16; Gal. 3:8-9, 29). The nature of Abraham’s faith has long been disputed. Was his faith “faith only?” No, for James said Abraham’s works (obedience) completed his faith (James 2:21-24). His obedient faith was accounted for righteousness, as is ours. Such faith does not earn or merit the blessing, for we are sinners saved by grace (Rom. 3:23-24; 4:1-5). The apostle Paul used Genesis 15:6 in Romans 4:22, where its context gives us valuable insight into the nature of Abraham’s faith (Rom. 4:18-22). Abraham believed “in hope,” trusting God’s promise of a son, even though he and Sarah were past the age of having children. Instead of doubting God’s word, Abraham “did not waver” but was “strengthened in faith,” assured God would fulfill His word. And He did. “Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age” (Gen. 21:2). Abraham’s unwavering, active, obedient faith was accounted for righteousness. Like Abraham, our trusting, obedient faith will be accounted to us for righteousness.
5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, 6 just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: 7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin” (Romans 4:5–8, NKJV).
Justification is acquittal from sin’s guilt; to render innocent and free from sin’s penalty of eternal death (Rom. 6:23). Today’s passage explains justification is synonymous with forgiven by God. When forgiven, our sins are “covered,” removed from God’s sight (remembered no more, v. 7; Heb. 8:12; 10:17; washed away to exist no more, Acts 22:16). This forgiveness occurs by faith, not by the works of law (v. 6; Rom. 1:16-17; 3:21-26; Rom. 5:1; Gal. 2:16). Note that the sinner’s faith is “accounted for righteousness” so that his sins are not imputed to him (v. 5, 8). Just as Abraham’s faith was imputed to him for righteousness, our faith is imputed to us for righteousness (Rom. 4:3). The “works” of Romans 4:7 are works of law, i.e., law-keeping. Righteousness by works (law-keeping) can only occur through sinlessness (which would remove the need for grace, Rom. 4:2, 4). But Abraham sinned and needed grace like us all (Rom. 3:23-24). Faith, not works, was reckoned to him for righteousness. (1) This passage does not say God imputes Christ’s righteousness to us. The sinner’s faith is imputed for righteousness (Rom. 4:5). (2) This passage does not say obedient faith attempts to merit salvation (Eph. 2:8-9). Obedient faith (like Abraham had) is the faith that justifies the ungodly (James 2:17-24; Rom. 4:5). Trust and obey Jesus, and your faith will be accounted for righteousness. You will be forgiven (Mark 16:15-16).
11 A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver. 12 Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold is a wise rebuker to an obedient ear. (Proverbs 25:11–12, NKJV)
Words can build up and pull down. God’s prophets did both when they spoke God’s words (Jer. 1:9-10). Words chosen wisely and spoken properly benefit the “obedient ear” (v. 12). A word fitly spoken is like the adornment of beautiful jewelry. The Lord expects us to give attention to our words (how, when, why, and what we say). He also expects us to give attention to how and why we listen to fitly spoken words (with an obedient ear). The words we utter should be suitable to the moment. They will “reprove, rebuke, and exhort” (as the need may be) to warn, convict, save, and strengthen souls (2 Tim. 4:2). A message fitly spoken is not rash but is thoughtful words seasoned with grace (Col. 4:6). Such words are “good for necessary edification” (Eph. 4:29). These words are not bitter, malicious, angry, self-justifying harangues (Eph. 4:31). Fitly spoken words proceed from kind hearts of love (Eph. 4:32). Obedient ears give attention to messages fitly spoken. The obedient ear is committed to personal improvement and spiritual growth. Therefore, it listens to the fitly spoken word and follows God’s truth it promotes. Let us choose our words carefully. They will do great good or great harm. Let us listen carefully to fitly spoken words and obey the truth they advance.
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. (Romans 1:8, NKJV)
Paul was thankful for the faith of the Roman saints. More specifically, he was grateful to God that their faith was favorably spoken of throughout the world. Here’s a simple question to ask as we ponder the meaning of faith. If faith is only mental assent or agreement, then how would people throughout the world know about their faith? When faith is uncoupled from the works of faith (obedience), it is profitless and cannot save a person (Jas. 2:14). When faith is not active it is dead, because it is alone (“by itself,” Jas. 2:17, 20). When faith has no corresponding action, it is unseen (Jas. 2:18). When faith is defined as nothing more than agreement with some truth, it is no more than what the demons possess (Jas. 2:19). Faith is more than mental assent or agreement with some statement of truth. The faith of the Roman saints was observable through their obedience to the gospel. The Scriptures confirm their obedient faith: “For your obedience has become known to all” (Rom. 16:19). Their faith was spoken of throughout the whole world because it was known through their obedience. Your faith is shown through your obedience to Christ (Jas. 2:18). Saving faith is an obedient faith (Jas. 2:14, 24-26). Commit yourselves to showing your faith by always obeying the Lord.
11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also, 12 and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised. (Romans 4:11–12, NKJV)
God commanded circumcision of Abraham as a “sign of the covenant” He made with him (Gen. 17:1-14, esp. 10-11). The apostle calls attention to that historic moment. Like a seal marking authenticity, Abraham’s circumcision served as a sign or indicator “of the righteousness of the faith which he had” while still uncircumcised. This distinction is notable and confirms the blessings of Abraham are offered to all (Jews and Gentiles). It also confirms that faith is the means of justification, not the works of the law of Moses (Rom. 4:13). Verse 12 says Abraham is the father of those who “walk in the steps of the faith” he had before circumcision. Walking is active. Thus, faith is active – it involves steps. Faith obeys God, just like father Abraham. He did not earn the blessings of the covenant through keeping law. He was sinner, saved “by grace, through faith” (Rom. 4:1-5). His (obedient) faith expressed his trust in God, and his faith was accounted to him for righteousness. Obedient faith is the only kind of faith that saves us (Jas. 2:17, 20-24).
Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. (Romans 5:9, NKJV)
To be justified means to be declared righteous, free of guilt and innocent of sin. The death of Jesus is the basis for our justification from sin. Without it we would have no way to be freed from the guilt of our sins and the wrath sin brings (Romans. 3:19; 6:23). The New Testament attributes the sinner’s justification to many things, including God’s grace (Romans 3:24), man’s faith (Galatians 2:16), and the works of faith (James 2:24). God’s love prompted the sacrificial death of His only begotten Son on Calvary’s cross (Romans 5:6-8). Although Christ died for every sinner, only those who have faith in Jesus are saved from wrath through Him (Romans 3:26; 5:9). Yet, sinners are not justified by “faith only” (James 2:24). Faith is dead without obedience to the word of God (James 2:17, 20). Do you have faith to do whatever Jesus commands of you? Or, is your faith merely an affirmation without obedience? Whoever “fears God and works righteousness” is acceptable to Him, not because they earn justification, but because they believe God justifies them by the blood of His Son when they obey His word (Acts 10:34-35). It should not surprise us that water baptism is the action of obedient faith by which sinners obtain justification by Christ’s death (Romans 6:4; Acts 22:16). The nature of your faith is crucial in assuring your justification by the blood of Jesus.
18 “Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool. 19 If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; 20 But if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword”; For the mouth of the Lord has spoken. (Isaiah 1:18–20, NKJV)
God “desires all men to be saved”, but He will not force His salvation on anyone. The freewill He gave us from creation must be exercised to come to Him with one’s whole heart. God would bless Judah and Jerusalem’s willing obedience with cleansing from their sins and the good abundance of their land. But, rebellious refusal to faithfully follow the Lord would bring their destruction. Jerusalem was eventually devoured by their enemies’ sword, a just punishment for her sins. The gospel of Christ calls every sinner to come to the Lord, to hear His words of mercy and call to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:36-41). Receive God’s word with a willing heart and obedient life. He will cleanse you of your sins and give you abundant, eternal life. If not, remember that judgment is certain against all who rebel against the Lord (Rom. 2:6-11).
42 Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. (John 12:42-43)
If sinners are saved by faith only, then we must safely conclude that these believers who loved “the praise of men more than the praise of God” will be saved without confessing Him. Who can believe such a thing? A doctrine that allows one to sin with impunity is false; it is error. Being ashamed of Jesus and His words now will certainly forfeit His acceptance of you when He returns – even if, like these rulers, you believe in Him: “Whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38). Saving faith is obedient, otherwise, it is not acceptable faith (Luke 6:46; Matthew 7:21). Be sure your faith pleases Jesus.
16 “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, 17 Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor; Defend the fatherless, Plead for the widow. 18 “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool. 19 If you are willing and obedient, You shall eat the good of the land; 20 But if you refuse and rebel, You shall be devoured by the sword”; For the mouth of the LORD has spoken. (Isaiah 1:16-20)
Israel was in rebellion against God due to her own choices of sin. Yet, the Lord desires her purity and assures her that every evil stain could be cleansed. But, Israel would have to make different choices. Choices of faith and repentance. Only then would cleansing come from the Lord. God set before Israel the choices of willing obedience resulting in blessedness, or rebellious refusal and with it, punishment by the sword. Even so today, God is ready to forgive your sins and cleanse you of every stain. But like Israel, you must make a choice of faith to “put away the evils of your doings from before” the eyes of God. Trust and obey; and God will forgive. Rebel, and His just punishment is certain. What will you choose today?