"Justification is illustrated in the Old Testament" Page 6 of 6 (series: Lessons on Romans)
by John Lowe
21 And being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.
Abraham did not know how God would fulfill His word, but that was incidental. He knew God and he had every confidence that God was fully able to do what He had promised. In one way his was wonderful faith, but in another way it was the most reasonable thing to do, because God’s word is the surest thing in the universe, and for Abraham there was no risk in believing it! History teaches us that what God promises, He also performs.
It is told that one day Saint Theresa set out to build a convent having only twelve pence. Someone said to her, “Not even Saint Theresa can accomplish much with twelve pence.” “True,” she answered, “but Saint Theresa and twelve pence and God can do anything.”
22 And therefore “it was accounted to him for righteousness.”
This verse begins with and therefore which means that what is to be said is linked closely with what has just been said. Because Abraham had faith, because he believed God in the face of adverse circumstances, therefore, that faith was "accounted to him for righteousness.” All that Abraham had, his righteousness, his inheritance, and his posterity, he gained not by works, but by faith. God was pleased to find a man who took Him at His word; He always is. And so He credited righteousness to Abraham’s account. Where once there had been sin and guilt, now there was nothing but a righteous standing before God. His faith in the resurrection—life from the dead—is what God accepted from Abraham in lieu of his own righteousness, which he didn’t have. God declared Abraham righteous for his faith in the promise of God to raise up a son out of the tomb of death, that is, the womb of Sarah. Abraham had been delivered from condemnation and was justified by a holy God through faith. God promises eternal life to those who believe that He raised up His own Son from the tomb of Joseph of Arimathaea.
23 Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him,
The scriptures pertaining to Abraham’s justification by faith was not written for his sake alone. Scripture has universal application, and Abraham’s experience is no exception. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). The Bible was written for all of us (v. 24), and it is beneficial for us to read and study what it says. Because the Bible is the word of God, it is profitable for four reasons:
1. The Bible is profitable for doctrine, or teaching. It sets forth the mind of God with regard to such themes as the Trinity, angels, man, sin, salvation, sanctification, the church, and future events.
2. Again, it is profitable for reproof. As we read the Bible, it speaks to us pointedly concerning those things in our lives
which are displeasing to God. Also, it is profitable for refuting error and for answering the tempter.
3. Again, the word is profitable for correction. It not only points out what is wrong but sets forth the way in which it can be made right. For instance, the Scriptures not only say, “Let him who stole steal no longer,” but they add, “Rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give to him who has need.”
4. Finally, the Bible is profitable for instruction in righteousness. The grace of God teaches us to live godly lives, but the word of God traces out in detail the things which go to make up a godly life.
24 But also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead.
But the Holy Scriptures were also written for us. Our faith is reckoned for righteousness as well when we believe in God, who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead. The only difference is this: Abraham believed that God would give life to the dead (that is, to his weak body and Sarah’s barren womb). We believe that God has given life to the dead by raising the Lord Jesus Christ. C. H. Mackintosh explains: “Abraham was called to believe in a promise, whereas we are privileged to believe in an accomplished fact. He was called to look forward to something which was to be done; we look back on something that is done, even an accomplished redemption, attested to by the fact of a risen and glorified Savior at the right hand of the majesty in the heavens.”
25 Who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.
The Lord Jesus was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification. He was delivered up (to the cross of Calvary) not only because of our offenses, but in order to put them away. He was raised up for our justification—so that believing sinners might be justified. In the first instance, our offenses were the problem that needed to be dealt with. In the second instance, our justification is the result that is assured by Christ’s resurrection. The meaning of the resurrection for us today is that Christ Jesus died on account of our sins, and was raised from the dead in order to render us righteous in the eyes of God. The righteousness that Abraham had, and David had, and which we enjoy, is the righteousness of the risen Lord. There could have been no justification if Christ had remained in the tomb. But the fact that He rose tells us that the work is finished, the price has been paid, and God is infinitely satisfied with the sin-atoning work of the Savior.
What can we learn from this chapter? The application of Romans 4 is simple: faith imputes righteousness. There isn’t a thing anyone can do to become clothed with God’s righteousness, except have faith in Jesus Christ as his Savior from sin.