God Has A Plan To Justify The Ungodly
Abraham believed the promise God gave him concerning Isaac because Abraham trusted in the Lord to be faithful concerning His word. And so it was Abraham’s faith in the trustworthiness of God that lead him to believe. And by that faith, God was pleased to credit Abraham with righteousness.
Romans 4:3-5 (NKJV) **
3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” 4 Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. 5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness,
** All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.
This is the same process for anyone who is saved by the grace of God at any point in history. When a person receives a promise from God, and that person places faith (belief ) in God to fulfill that promise. They expect what has been promised will come to pass, and they put aside all doubt. The future promise of God is as certain as is the history of yesterday because we know the One Who promised is faithful to keep His word. As the writer of Hebrews says:
Hebrews 11:1-2 **
By Faith We Understand
11 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 2 For by it the elders obtained a good testimony.
This leads us to the second important theological point raised by this verse. What Hebrews does not say is, faith in Christ is what gained them a good testimony or approval.. It didn’t define faith in terms of a specific idea, like believing in Christ. Throughout history the object of a saving faith has never changed and the object of our faith is always the Person of God and His faithfulness to keep His promises. Once again, Hebrews says it best:
6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
So like Abraham, a Christian today has faith in God (Christ) to fulfill His promises to justify us and raise us from the dead. We place our trust in Him to keep that promise to us. And we base our trust in Him on the basis of the testimony and the power of God to keep His word concerning us. If you think about this cynically, you’ve probably said when you die everything is going to be fine and yet you can’t prove it to anyone. You can’t really even prove it to yourself although God testifies to us to the truth of what He said in our hearts. But in a more tangible way or in a secular sense, can you prove to anyone that you will be fine when you die? No, of course not. But we put all our eggs in that basket. Theoretically if we were wrong for example and we are not by the way Now, just talking in theory, if we are wrong, well we have no plan B. In fact, if someone has a plan B, they are not saved. If it is syncretism, such as you take a little of Jesus, take a little of Mohammad and let’s throw them together and maybe one of them will work. Sorry, that is not saving faith because you have not done what the Bible has asked of you. To believe in God’s promise to the exclusion of all else, which is the promise itself, requires that. So our faith is in a God who has made a promise and we believe He will keep it.
But while the object of our faith never changes, it is always in God, to keep a promise. The content of the promise has differed from age to age as God has worked to reveal more of His plan to humanity. So in the earliest times the Lord had revealed only the bare minimums of what His plan was to redeem mankind from sin. Men knew God was going to make a way to justify them, they knew they couldn’t do it on their own. That God was going to be merciful and provide some solution. But that didn’t mean they necessarily understood it all how God was going to bring it about. Noah, Abraham, David, and even the prophets only knew parts of this plan. So we could say the object of the faith is never different. But the content of what we believed in could vary over history. For example, Noah’s promise was if you will build a boat you will survive a flood. Abraham was told he would have son in his old age and David was told he would always have an Heir Who would rule on the throne of Israel. The prophets were told that God would give His people a new covenant, write His Law on their heart and bring them into a kingdom one day where a Messiah would rule. Each of those is an elaboration on the prior one. Each one of those is a building out of the plan in greater detail. , In each case the content of God’s promises differed, growing from generation to generation as God revealed more.
But in all cases the object of the faith remains the same. We remain convinced that God has a plan to justify the ungodly. Through some means even though we don’t understand the whole plan. Can any of us really say we understand the full plan of what God has for us? We know just enough to know who to put our trust in. Today, God has revealed all He intends to this side of Heaven. And now that the full plan of God has been revealed in the word of God. The content of our faith today and the object of our faith today are one of the same. So, that is why the Bible refers to all the time of history after Christ’s revealing as the last days. The Bible talks about living in the last days and in Hebrews we read:
God’s Supreme Revelation
1 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world;
Finally, the last point raised by verse 5 is that saving faith is a trusting in God to
justify the ungodly. The point there is that our faith in God begins with a recognition that we are unworthy. The Bible uses another term for that. The Bible uses the term repentance. In other words a precognition to believing in God into salvation is to recognize,we got a problem and He needs to solve it for us. We are not worth getting to Heaven on our own. We are in real trouble with a living God who will hold us accountable for our sin if we don’t admit that and submit to His plan of redemption in place of anything we got on our own. Then we will never have that mercy. It is a willingness to recognize He is the justifier of a people who need justification. That is what we mean when we say repentance. Repentance is sometimes miss-characterized in the way we talk about it. We tend to think of it as a litany of sins we have to say I’m sorry for and if we get through the whole list with God and we have said I’m sorry for everything we’ve done, that then leaves us open to salvation. But this thinking is ridiculous because first of all I probably couldn’t remember them all. Secondly, I’ve probably done things I don’t even know. Thirdly, that would take forever. That;s a work in a sense, isn’t it? Repentance unto salvation or repent and believe in other words is not a reciting of all you have done wrong and then saying you are sorry about it. That’s not at all what it means. It means in a more fundamental sense, this idea, that I turn from any thought of self-righteousness of earning my own way into Heaven or deserving it for any reason at all. Putting all that aside. Turning from that and turning to the God. That justifies the ungodly, leaning on Him.
4 Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?
Repentance is this personal awareness that I cannot get there on my own, so I am going to stop trying much like the prodigal son. And I am going to turn around and go back to the one that can get me there and appeal to His mercy for that solution. Trusting in God to justify the ungodly. So, Abraham was declared righteous because of His faith in God’s trustworthiness to keep His promises and to justify him, an undeserving and ungodly sinner. And because of that faith, God did the very thing He wanted, Crediting Abraham’s faith as righteousness. Notice, God did not make Abraham righteous. Rather God credited Abraham’s Heavenly account with righteousness. So that at the moment Abraham died and stood before God following that death he was acquitted at that point, because when God looked at the ledger He said you can come in, I see that you are righteous. Your account has been paid in full.
The rest of the story of Abraham reminds us that this man was not sinless. If you know the story of Abraham broadly speaking from Genesis 12 onward and especially as it follows chapter 15. 15 is where Abraham is declared righteous. What does he do after chapter 15? Well, there are some real high-profile sins that come out of his life even after that fact. And yet the Judge’s declaration of not guilty it’s in effect it doesn’t change, it’s never reversed. It can’t be reversed, because justification is not a description of his condition (i.e., it doesn’t declare Abraham to be sinless). It’s a declaration of God’s judgment (i.e., He sees Abraham as guiltless for his sin).See the difference? He’s not sinless, he is guiltless. And at one point in his life as we will all be one day, will be sinless. But for now it is a declaration of guiltlessness .
So Abraham’s proof is this, that salvation is never by doing works because of when Abraham lived, that is before the Law. And having lived before the Law, he proves the Law is not a part of a plan that can save someone. Because he got saved without it.
Secondly, Abraham’s example is proof of salvation without works because of how the Lord declared he was saved. He was credited, he didn’t earn it. So works have zero bearing on our righteousness. And if this is true prior to being justified, then it remains equally true after you are justified.
And maybe this is the point the church should hear most these days. If you were not saved by your works coming in, then works have no part of your salvation afterward either. And that works both ways. In other words you didn’t work your way into salvation. So you cannot sin your way out of salvation. Your works have no bearing on your standing before God. They were all bad to begin with. How much worse do you think you are going to be; than you were before you knew Him? Your works have nothing to do with this whatsoever, Your works are why you needed God to justify you. Because they were the problem to begin with. So, coming out of that moment, having been justified, there is no need now to start to add works to the formula or for that matter to abstain from sin just to stay saved. Now there are other reasons why you abstain from sin. Staying saved or being saved has nothing to do with works. It can’t because of Abraham’s example.
A Christian does not become more righteous because of good works after faith than he or she did before. Our righteousness has to come by other means Paul said. So, you might think Abraham’s example petty much shuts the door on any question about works as a part of your salvation. And it doesn’t which is why chapter 4 doesn’t end after the verse 5. If the chapter had ended here, what cold have developed in our theology? While some could argue that God changed the rules after Abraham’s day.They could agree with everything Paul just said and say, ‘yes‘, but later God decided He wanted it differently. They would point to things like the Law coming into practice after Abraham’s life. And the rules for salvation were updated to include now, the Law as a part of it. So following Moses now; now we have to follow the Law if we are to be saved. Before Moses it was different, but now with the Law we have to change. You may have heard some argue this point, even some who call themselves Christians and probably are in many cases, but somehow have been convinced that the Law in its arrival had some bearing on His plan of what He expected from His people in terms of salvation. Bottom line the Law only revealed man’s sin nature and faith freed man from the bonds of the Law, which is by faith alone we are saved.
So Paul needs to continue in dealing with this through another Old Testament proof. A brief mention of a second major Old Testament example. An example of David which we’ll pick up on the next post.
“The author’s biblical interpretations and conclusions presented in this document rely on original teaching used by permission of Verse By Verse Ministry International (VBVMI). The author’s views may not represent the views of VBVMI, it’s Directors or staff. Original VBVMI teaching may be found at http://www.vbvmi.org.”
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