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Paul Proves the Gospel from the Old Testament - Part 2

Tom Pennington • Romans 4:1-8

  • 2016-10-02 AM
  • Romans
  • Sermons


In February of this year an interesting story appeared in several news outlets. Perhaps you saw it. It was a story about a Spanish government employee who decided to take a six-year break from work. He never showed up a single day for six years and yet for those six years he continued to receive his regular paycheck until his bosses finally discovered him. Joaquin Garcia, 69 years old, supervised the construction of a wastewater treatment plant just southwest of Seville there in Spain, the B.B.C. reports.

Now, the problem happened because the water company reportedly thought that the government officials were Garcia's bosses and vice versa. So, no one really knew who he worked far. And so, Garcia took advantage of this little misunderstanding and he started skipping work in the year 2004. And he never showed up a single day for six years. Deputy mayor of the city there finally caught him in 2010, you'll love this, because Garcia became eligible for a special plaque honoring his 20 years of service, the B.B.C. says. So, the deputy mayor says, "I called him up and asked him, 'What did you do yesterday? The month before? The month before that?' He didn't know what to say." So, as you can imagine, this didn't go over really well and so in January of this year, in a Spanish court, he was fined the maximum amount that Spanish law will allow, $30,000. But each one of those six years he collected a paycheck of $42,000. Garcia has reportedly retired. And in fact, his attorney says, the man has gone into hiding because of all the publicity.

Now, when we hear a story like that our first response is humor. Several of you chuckled along with me, there's a bit of humor to this story. But our other response, I'm afraid, is a little different. And that is, when we hear about someone who doesn't work and yet gets paid, it violates our most basic sense of fairness. And yet today we learn that that is exactly what has happened to every one of us who is in Christ. In exchange for our not working, we have received God's gift of righteousness. This is the heart of justification by faith alone.

Now, let me remind you of where we are, we're really in the first major section of Paul's letter. After the introduction, the first major section is the gospel explained; it begins in chapter 1 verse 18 and runs through the end of chapter 4. We specifically find ourselves in the last part of that section, chapter 4, which is, Paul's biblical defense of justification. We've just begun it, just last week, and so let me read for you again the first paragraph of this chapter, which really introduces us to Paul's defense, from the Old Testament, of justification by faith alone. Paul writes,

What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? 'Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.' Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:

"Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven,
And who sins have been covered.
"Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account."

Now Paul, in this letter, has already insisted that the gospel he preached is perfectly consistent with the Old Testament. In fact, back in chapter 3 verse 21 he says that both "the Law and the Prophets" bore witness to his gospel. So here in the fourth chapter Paul set out to prove the gospel of justification by faith alone from the Old Testament. And, of course, the Old Testament provides abundant proof that this message, the message of justification by faith alone, has always been the only way to be right with God. He uses two examples, Abraham, whose story, of course, comes from the Law and David, whose story comes from the Prophets. He's really going to concentrate on Abraham and David's story really just serves to support and supplement the lessons from the life of Abraham, but nevertheless, there are these two examples.

Chapter 4 really reads like an expository sermon that Paul probably preached often in the synagogues as evidence that his gospel was witnessed in both the Law and the Prophets. But this fourth chapter makes another profound point, really important to understand, and it's this, both Abraham and David were made right with God in exactly the same way as the first century believers in the Roman church and the same way we are. Abraham and David believed the very same gospel that Paul preached, just in a more basic and rudimentary form.

Now, as we unfold this foundational chapter that's really at the heart of Paul's gospel, let me give you an outline that we will follow as we walk our way through it. First of all, in the first eight verses of chapter 4, Paul answers the question, on what basis are we made right with God? On what basis? His answer will be, it is on the basis of God's grace alone and not by any human works.

The second question that he will answer in this chapter is found verses 9 to 12, and it's, who can be made right with God? And here he will argue and answer that question with this, it's not merely Jews, but it is both Jews and Gentiles, that whoever believes becomes Abraham's offspring, not his ethnic offspring, but his offspring spiritually, believing in the way that he believed.

And then the third question, and the bulk of this chapter really, he answers a third question, by what means are we made right with God, in verses 13 to 25, by what means? And his answer will be, it is by means of faith without any reference to law or to works. So, let's then begin to look at the first question, in the first eight verses of this chapter, on what basis are we made right with God?

Now, last time we began to study these verses and in verses 1 to 3 we see the basis of justification, the grounds of justification, identified. Paul begins his Old Testament defense of the gospel by asking a basic question in verse 1, regarding the central question of how a man is made right before God, what did our forefather Abraham discover? What did he find? Paul's answer to that question comes in two parts. First of all, he says the basis of our justification cannot be works, because that would allow us to boast before God. Look at verse 2, "For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about." If Abraham was justified in whole or in part by his own works, then he would be able to legitimately boast of his own accomplishments. Paul can't contemplate that. In fact, the second half of verse 2, Paul doesn't even get out a full sentence. It's like he is so bothered by that whole idea, it's so impossible, so unthinkable, he just blurts out, "but not before God." That can't be, that's impossible.

Now, the second part of Paul's answer to the question in verse 1, what did Abraham find in reference to justification, is this, the basis of our justification cannot be works because that is contrary to the Scripture. And this is where we come to verse 3, "For what does the Scripture say? 'Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.'" Paul quotes Genesis 15:6.

You cannot make too much of Genesis 15:6. It is the first time in the Bible that God explains how sinful fallen human men and women can be made right with Him. It's the first time we learn about justification by faith alone. Because it's such a foundational text, Paul really never leaves it in this chapter. In fact, Romans 4 is essentially an exposition, an expository sermon, on that text. Paul will either quote it or refer to it in every paragraph in this chapter.

Now, notice the text that he cites. Moses says this, in Genesis 15:6, verse 3, "'Abraham believed God.'" "'Abraham believed God.'" Now, the first and most important question is, what exactly did Abraham believe? Paul cannot mean that Abraham only believed the physical promises of the Abrahamic Covenant. In other words, God didn't credit righteousness to Abraham simply because Abraham believed that God was going to give him a son, God was going to give him descendants, God was going to give him a plot of land in the Middle East. All those things were true, but that wasn't where Abraham's hope was.

He was looking beyond that, at spiritual realities. If you doubt that, read Hebrews 11. In Hebrews 11 we're told he went out from his land to go to a land God promised and all of that, but listen to what Hebrews 11:10 says, "Abraham looked for a city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God." What fixated Abraham's mind wasn't the earthly physical aspects of the promise made to him, it was the eternal heavenly spiritual one. The same thing in Hebrews 11:16, speaking of all the patriarchs, including Abraham, "they desired a better country, that is, a heavenly one." He wasn't consumed with that plot of land in the Middle East. He was consumed with being right with God and being with God forever.

So, what did Abraham believe that led to his justification then? Now, as I pointed out last time, Abraham believed the gospel. Let me say that again. Abraham believed the gospel. This is so revolutionary to most Christians' thinking that I want to take you back to the text we looked at last week and I want to look at it again. Go to the Galatians 3. This is exactly what Paul says in Galatians 3, verse 6, he again here quotes Genesis 15:6,

Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned [or credited] to him as righteousness. Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham.

Now watch verse 8, "The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham." God preached the gospel to Abraham. You say, in what form? Well, notice the rest of verse 8, it was part of the Abrahamic Covenant, "'All the nations of earth are going to be blessed in you.'" That doesn't mean every nation or nations as nations, but individuals from all of the nations on earth are going to be blessed through you.

You say, how is that the gospel? Now think about this. God, a righteous holy God, cannot pronounce spiritual blessing on those who are His enemies, who are living in rebellion against Him, whose sins are not forgiven. So, when God said "People from all the nations of Earth are going to be blessed in you," implied in that spiritual blessing is salvation. Implied in that is reconciliation to God, just as Abraham had experienced. He believed the gospel.

If you're still not convinced go down to verse 16, "Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, 'And to seeds,' as referring to many, but rather to one." You say, wait a minute, you lost me, what's going on there. Okay, take the word seed, in both Hebrew and in English it can be used collectively, as in plural, seed meaning descendants plural. But the same word can be used to speak of seed, singular, one descendant.

Now, in the interest of time I thought about not doing this but, I want you to keep your finger here and go back to Genesis 22. Let me show you one example that Paul's talking about. Genesis 22 is, of course, the story of the offering of Isaac, the sacrifice of Isaac, or the near sacrifice of Isaac. In response to Abraham's obedience, verse 15 of Genesis 22, "Then the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven." Now, I think you understand that in the Old Testament when you run against this figure called "the angel of the Lord," that specific expression, it is a theophany. That is, it is an appearance of God. That becomes very clear in some of the texts, where he's called God. It's probably a Christophany, that is, a pre-incarnate appearance of the second member of the Trinity. "The angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven," and notice verse 16, what he said,

"By Myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed, [here, obviously, in the plural sense, your descendants,] as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore."

But now, in the second half of verse 17 he changes, from the collective plural sense of seed to the singular sense of seed, "and your seed," one descendant, "shall possess the gate." Notice that the New American Standard has a marginal note for the word their. Do you see what the marginal note is? The Hebrew literally says, "his enemies." So, he's gone from plural descendants to one descendant, who will possess the gate of his enemies and then he says in verse 18, it's in that one descendant, in that seed, that "all the nations of the earth shall be blessed."

Now go back to the Galatians 3 and it'll make perfect sense. He says, "the promises were spoken to Abraham and," at times not to seeds, meaning all of his descendants, but "to seed," meaning one of his descendants, that is, Messiah. That's what God promised Abraham. There is going to come one of your descendants who will bring spiritual blessing to the nations. (By the way, Peter quotes from Genesis 22, that passage we just looked at, he quotes from it in Acts 3:24-25, and he refers it to Christ.)

So, do you see what's going on here? Abraham believed the good news that through one of his descendants, the seed, singular, that is, Messiah, God would extend spiritual blessing and salvation to those who believe around the world, rather than the condemnation that they deserve. You say, did Abraham get it? Oh yeah, he got it. Jesus Himself said he got it. In John 8:56 Jesus says, "'Abraham rejoiced to see My day, he saw it and was glad.'" He understood one of his descendants was coming who would bring salvation and spiritual blessing to the nations.

Abraham didn't understand all that we understand about the Messiah and who He would be, didn't understand all that we understand about the gospel, but his faith and confidence was in the Messiah and in the gospel. His hope of justification was not in the physical aspects of the promises God made him, but in the spiritual aspect that through his seed, the Messiah, individuals in all the nations of the Earth would be saved and would come to enjoy spiritual blessing. "'Abraham believed God.'" That's what it means. That's what he believed.

Now, go back to Romans 4. When it says "'Abraham believed'" it's important for you to understand that Abraham's faith was not simply an intellectual assent to the truthfulness of God's promises in the gospel. Instead, Abraham's faith was whole-hearted trust in God. How do we know that? Well, look down in verse 5. Paul says, "it's the one who believes in [emphasis added] God." That's different than "believes God." "Believes in [emphasis added] God" is a way of saying you put your trust in Him. And, of course, later in this very letter Paul will explain that true saving faith, whether it's the faith of Abraham, or his faith, or my faith, your faith, true saving faith always includes confessing the Messiah to be Lord, Master, Sovereign, and Abraham exercised that kind of faith in God. "'Abraham believed God.'"

Notice how verse 3 continues, "'and it was credited to him as righteousness.'" God made Abraham a gracious promise of spiritual blessing and salvation through the Messiah. Abraham believed God's promise and, listen very carefully, in response to Abraham's faith, but not because of Abraham's faith, God credited righteousness to him. The key word here in the second half of verse 3 is the word credited, that word is absolutely foundational to the gospel and to justification. The Greek word that's translated credited occurs throughout the Scripture. But in the rest of Scripture, at the very most, it occurs three times in several chapters. But here in Romans 4 that Greek word occurs 11 times. And, in fact, in five of six verses, five times in six verses, verses 3 through 8. So, this is at the center of justification, this is at the center of the gospel.

What is this word, credited? Well, the word is a financial word. It's an accounting word. It's a bookkeeping term. Literally, it means to put something in someone's account, to put something in someone's account. Paul uses a similar Greek word in Philemon verse 18. He says to Philemon, "But if Onesimus has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge that to my account." That's the idea of this word.

Now, in the context of Romans 4, what was put into Abraham's account? Now be careful here, because at first glance it can be misleading, "'it was credited to him as righteousness.'" "'Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.'" If we are careless in our thinking, or in our exegesis, we might wrongly conclude that since Abraham had no righteousness, God decided to put faith in his account. We might conclude, wrongly, that God said I'm going to accept Abraham's faith instead of, or as a substitute for, real righteousness. That cannot be what Paul means because of the context. Go back to chapter 3 verse 22. When Paul is explaining justification, he says, here's what's put in your account in justification, "the righteousness of God" and that happens "through faith." It's not faith that's put in your account, it's righteousness that's put in your account.

Now, Paul confirms this down in verse 6, he says, "just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works." Notice that little expression, "David also speaks." That implies that the second half of verse 6 is a summary of both the quote from David and the quote from Genesis 15:6. And the point of both quotes then, is in the second half of verse 6, "God credits righteousness apart from works." So, Abraham believed God and in response God put righteousness into his account. And we are going to see that throughout chapter 4, I'm not going to belabor that.

But that raises a key question, on what ground or basis was righteousness credited to Abraham? Well, think about yourself for a moment. How can something be put in your account? There are only two ways that something can end up in your account. Either you earned it and it was put in your account or it was a gift given to you and you put it in your account. That's the only way something ends up in your account. So, in the case of Abraham, was the righteousness credited to his account because it was earned and deserved? In other words, was it the result of his works? That's what the rabbis said. Or was the righteousness that God credited to him completely unearned and undeserved? Paul argues that the ground of justification, both Abraham's and ours, is God's grace and not works.

So, let's look at verses 4 and 5, where we see the basis of justification explained. In verses 1 to 3 he's identified it, he says it can't be works, it's by faith, but there's another implication to be drawn out here. He's going to explain it in verses 4 and 5, and in these verses Paul compares and contrasts the two ways that righteousness could have been credited to Abraham. Let's look at option number one, the righteousness God credited to Abraham was earned and deserved. That's an option, not a good option, it's an option, but in verse 4 Paul uses a simple illustration from everyday life to show that this cannot be how Abraham was justified.

Look at verse 4, "Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due." This is obvious, right? Every day you go to work and when you work your employer credits, or he puts into your account, the wages that you have earned for your work that day. The money that he puts in your account, notice verse 4, "is not credited as a favor." That's huge, because the Greek word translated "favor" is charis. It is the normal New Testament word for grace. What you get paid for working isn't grace, Paul says. It's not grace. When your boss gives you your paycheck, he's not doing you a favor. Let me read verse 4 to you literally from the Greek text, "his wage is not credited according to grace, but rather according to debt," what he's owed. When you work, your employer owes you what he puts in your account. He's obligated to pay you for your work. That's obvious, okay?

Now, let's consider why Paul says this here. What are the spiritual implications of this basic illustration? Listen carefully, here's what he's saying. If Abraham was justified by his works, then when God credited righteousness to him it was not credited on the basis of grace, but on the basis of obligation. And that cannot be how Abraham was declared righteous. Why? Well, because it doesn't fit the experience of Abraham. As we discovered last week, when God found Abraham in Ur of the Chaldees, he was probably an idolater. But even if he wasn't an idolater, I can promise you this, he was a sinner. Remember, we've just walked through, several months ago now, we walked through Romans 3, and Romans 3:9-20, says all have sinned, "'There is none righteous, no not one.'" Abraham is included in that. So, he didn't earn anything from God, it doesn't fit his experience. It also doesn't fit Genesis 15:6. Look at verse 3 again. Abraham didn't work, he believed God, and God credited righteousness to him. So this first option cannot be the basis on which God credited righteousness to Abraham.

So, that brings us to option number two, the correct choice. The righteousness God credited to Abraham was unearned and undeserved. Verse 5, "But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness." Now, first of all, let me just say that clearly Paul doesn't mean here that true believers don't do good works. Elsewhere he clearly teaches that those who have already been justified, on the basis of God's grace alone, will do good works in response to that reality. Ephesians 2, we quote those wonderful verses, "by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it's the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast." What's the next verse? The next verse is, God created you "unto good works." So, you're not saved by works, but having been justified by grace, you will work. So that's not what he's saying. Here, Paul is talking about the ground or the basis on which we are made right with God, and that can never be our works or it ceases to be grace.

So then look at verse 5, that little expression "the one who does not work," that describes a person who does not work in an effort to gain a right standing before God, a person who doesn't try to make God his debtor, to credit righteousness he's earned, who has no right to righteousness from God because of his works and doesn't claim to have. So, look at verse 5, "But to the one who does not work, but believes." That is so important. Notice that Paul intentionally contrasts working and believing. In verse 4 you can work and have the righteousness you earned credited to your account. In verse 5 you can believe and have the righteousness you have not earned credited to your account as grace. Believing then, believing God, is not a work. In verse 5 it's the opposite of working, "he who doesn't work but believes."

You see, believing is the opposite of working. It is instead, trusting in the work of Christ. The whole idea of working and earning righteousness, it doesn't fit Abraham's experience, it doesn't fit Genesis 15:6. What does fit is that we, like Abraham, can contribute no work to our justification. Instead, we are justified as he was, as a favor. In other words, by grace, by grace alone. Look again at Genesis 15:6. Look at verse 3. It says nothing about any work Abraham had done serving as the basis, or the grounds, for his righteousness. All Abraham did was believe God. The main point of verses 4 and 5 is this, the ground of justification is not our works, but simply believing God's promise of spiritual blessing and salvation through the Messiah, just like Abraham did. That means, by the way, that the ground of our justification is what? It is God's grace alone. That's the gospel.

Now, look again at verse 5 and I want you to see specifically what Abraham believed about God, "But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly." That is a shocking statement, "God justifies the ungodly." Who are the ungodly? Well, the Greek word ungodly means, destitute of reverential awe toward God. It is those who have a fundamentally flawed view of God. Remember, back in Romans 1:18, "the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all ungodliness." In Romans 3:18, as he brings depravity to its ultimate foundation, he says, "'There is no fear of God before their eyes.'" That's ungodly.

Notice how he describes the ungodly in verse 6, they are those with no works. In verses 7 and 8, moreover, they are guilty of "'lawless deeds'" and "'sins.'" In fact, let me show you what this group of people called ungodly really are like. Turn over to 1 Timothy 1, 1 Timothy 1:9. Paul says, God's "law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious," here's our word, "for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane." What do godly people do? Well, they "kill their fathers and mothers, they're murderers, they're immoral, they're homosexuals, they're kidnappers, liars, perjurers, and all kinds of other things that are contrary to God's law," that's who the ungodly are.

Go over to 2 Peter, 2 Peter 2, and notice verse 5, God "did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly." All of those people that God destroyed and drowned in the flood, they were ungodly. Look at verse 6, "He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly lives there afterwards." The people God destroyed in the fires of Sodom and Gomorrah were ungodly. Turn over to chapter 3 verse 7. As he looks forward to the coming Day of the Lord, he says, "by God's Word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and the destruction of ungodly men." All of those human beings that God will rain down His wrath upon and cast into eternal hell, are ungodly.

Now, go back to Romans 4 and notice what Paul says. He says, Abraham and anyone else who's going to be justified, "believes in God who justifies the ungodly." That ought to shock you. God puts righteousness in the accounts, not only of those who have no righteousness, but He puts it in the accounts of those whose accounts are already filled with sin and lawless deeds and ungodliness. God justifies, or declares righteous, not those who are righteous, but the ungodly.

By the way, this proves that justification is not God making us inherently righteous and then declaring us to be righteous because we really are, that's sanctification. Rather, in justification God declares the person who is ungodly to be righteous. That's grace. Look at chapter 3 verse 24, "being justified as a gift by His grace." This is how it works. Verse 16 of chapter 4, "For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace." It's the only way. Look at chapter 11. He's talking, in verse 5, about election, God's gracious choice, and in verse 6 he says, "it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace stops being grace." If you contribute anything it's not grace any more, God's putting in your account what you've earned.

Now, the question is, how can God justify the ungodly? How can He declare to be right with Him, the ungodly, when He Himself says in Exodus 23:7, "'I will not justify the guilty.'" Is God breaking His own law? Is He violating His own character in justification? Absolutely not. The answer for how God can justify the ungodly, is Jesus Christ, the death of Jesus Christ. Go back to Romans 3:24, we are "being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus." Here's how He makes it possible to justify the ungodly, it's through the work of Christ.

Specifically, in verse 25, God "publicly displayed Christ as a propitiation," as the satisfaction of His justice through the death of Christ, and it's received "through faith." Look at chapter 4 verse 25, "Jesus our Lord was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification." Chapter 5 verse 6, here it is, I love this, "For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died [for whom?] the ungodly," "the ungodly."

So Paul says that, for the one who stops working as a means of being right with God, but believes in the God that has promised to justify the ungodly, look at chapter 4 verse 5 again, "his faith is credited as righteousness," or as it's put in verse 6, "God credits righteousness apart from works." God gave Abraham the gift of righteousness, or the gift of a right standing before Him, that was not earned and was not deserved. And that's exactly what God does for every repentant believing sinner.

So, whose righteousness was credited to Abraham and is credited to us? Look at chapter 5 verse 19. Paul makes it very clear. "For as through one man's disobedience," in context that's Adam, "through Adam's disobedience the many," really and again, in context, all of us, all humanity, "were made sinners," or constituted sinners, "even so through the obedience of the One," again, in context, Jesus Christ, verse 17, "through the obedience of Jesus Christ the many will be constituted as righteous."

This is really important. You see, God doesn't do in justification what He says He would never do, which is declare someone to be righteous where there's no righteousness anywhere to be found. That's not what God does in justification. Instead, in justification God declares us to be righteous because He has put real righteousness in our account. It's just not our righteousness. It's the righteousness of the One.

Do you understand what it means? We talk about, you know, I have the righteousness of Christ. What does that mean? When we say God credits Christ's righteousness to us, what does it mean? Here's what it means, it means two things. First of all, it means that God puts in my account what theologians call the active obedience of Jesus Christ. In other words, that 33 years Jesus lived on earth, when He never thought a sinful thought, He never spoke a sinful word, He never committed a sinful act, He lived in perfect conformity to God's law, He was perfect. God takes that life of perfection and He puts it in my account, as if I had lived it. And then He does something else, He credits, or puts in my account, what theologians call the passive obedience of Christ. That refers to His suffering on the cross. God takes the suffering that Jesus did for my sins and He credits it to my account as if I myself had suffered for my sins, but in fact, Christ suffered for them. That's justification.

According to Genesis 15:6 Paul says Abraham was ungodly, he had no works to offer God as the grounds for his acceptance with God, and Abraham was saved by God's grace alone through faith in God's saving promise of the seed, the Messiah. Here's how Lloyd Jones puts it, "Abraham was saved by faith in exactly the same way we are, without works, without any merit. He saw that his salvation lay entirely in the merits of the Son of God who was going to come and who after the flesh would be born of his seed."

So, what do you need to do to be right with God? Well, you need to do what Abraham did. Number one, you need to recognize the fact that you ungodly and unrighteous and that you deserve God's just wrath and anger and eternal death forever, and you need to turn in repentance toward God, turn from your sin, leave your rebellious ways and return to your Creator. Number two, like Abraham, you need to stop trusting in yourself and your own efforts to be right with God. And number three, you must believe in God who justifies the ungodly as a gift by His grace alone through the work of Jesus Christ alone. Abraham did nothing to make himself right with God, he simply believed what God promised to do through his seed, that is, through Jesus the Messiah. That was the gospel Abraham believed 4,000 years ago. That was the gospel David believe 3,000 years ago. That was the gospel Paul and the Roman Christians believed 2,000 years ago. And it's still the only gospel today. If you want to be right with God, this is your only hope.

And for those of you in Christ, do you see what this says to you? You can have confidence in the gospel. Jesus Himself said Abraham was in heaven. And here we're told how he got there. It was by the same gospel you have believed. You can trust God and the promises He's made you in the gospel. God saved Abraham through this gospel. God saved David through this gospel. God saved Paul and the Roman Christians through this gospel. And God will save us through the same gospel. "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness."

Let's pray together. Father, we are amazed by Your grace. Lord, we have nothing to offer You, we are ungodly, but we thank You for Your grace in the gospel. We thank You for the gracious promise that You would extend salvation and spiritual blessing to us through the Messiah, through our Lord Jesus Christ, through His perfect life and His substitutionary death, stamped with Your approval by His resurrection. Father, we thank You for the gospel. Lord, help us to live in light of it, help us to find confidence through the example that we've studied today, help us to be established in the gospel, as Paul prayed for the Roman Christians,

And Father, for those here this morning who are not in Christ, help them to see where they are and help them to see their only hope, that they will only be made right with You if they abandon all hope in themselves and put their confidence in You, the God who justifies the ungodly. May this be the day. We pray in Jesus' name, amen.