THE POWER OF THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST (5) – FAITH ACCOUNTED FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS
During the Sunday service Pastor (Mrs) Silvia Lia Leigh preached a sermon titled “Faith accounted for Righteousness”. Her main text was taken from the Books of Romans, James and Genesis 15. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” (Rom 1:16, 17) … “What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? 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 accounted to him for righteousness.” Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered; Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin” (Rom 4:1-8). And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God” (James 2:23)
THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD APART FROM THE LAW IS REVEALED
The Gospel is God’s Good News. It is totally God’s Word and God’s Work. It is God’s only method to save sinners. Christ is the only Savior. “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). The Gospel is the power of God! It can never fail! It is certain! It is sure! Faith in Christ Crucified will never be disappointed! This is the assurance of salvation! The Justification by Grace only, by Faith only, in Christ only, is the only method God uses to save sinners. Rejecting the Gospel means eternal condemnation. Justification by faith alone is the proclamation of God the Father, the Creator, and the Eternal Judge, that on behalf of the Merit of the Cross, the sinner who has faith in Christ Crucified, is justified freely. The sinner who has faith in Christ crucified becomes righteous before God and man. Grace comes from above, from God. Faith comes from the sinner, which is also a work of Grace. Once Grace and Faith meet, revelation is born. Salvation is by revelation, the peculiar work of the Holy Spirit. Without revelation, there is no Christianity.
Righteousness is being made right with God, to stand in His presence and have a relationship with Him. God insists on perfect Righteousness. None can obey God’s Law perfectly. Therefore, by the deeds of the law, no man is justified in God’s sight. Christ obeyed the Law perfectly, even unto death. By faith in Christ, believing that He became sin for you, and died as your Substitute, you receive His perfect robe of Righteousness. It is called the imputed Righteousness of Christ. The sinner is covered with the perfect Righteousness of Christ. The sinner believes that declaration. God now freely justifies him and accepts him as His child. So, justification, is by Grace, by faith in Christ alone, thru the Word of God, to the glory of God alone!
GOD JUSTIFIES THE UNGODLY (Rom 4:1-8)
The unbelieving Jews complained that the Gospel nullifies the Old Testament. To prove to them that the Bible is one, that God’s method of salvation is by grace and by faith only, Apostle Paul connects the Gospel with the two greatest heroes of the Jews: Abraham and King David.
They both believed the Gospel. Our Lord confronted the Jewish religious leaders and said to them “your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” (Jn 8:56). God gave Abraham the promise that he will be the father of nations. Abraham believed the promise. Against all hope, being an old man, he had hope that God will fulfill his promise. From afar, he saw the coming of Christ, the Desire of all nations. He saw in Isaac, the promised Messiah, who is the Hope of all glory! This faith God counted it as Righteousness. Like all men born of Adam, Abraham was a sinner, an ungodly man. But because of his faith in the promise of the Spirit, God justified him. God forgave him all his sins, covered him with the imputed Righteousness of Christ and accepted him as his son. This is how he became saved. Like Abraham, we too become saved by Grace and by faith! Praise the Lord!
Faith is always connected with Grace. The Law relates to works. To him who works, a salary is paid. The man who works does not exercise faith that he will receive a salary. The worker does not believe in grace. He knows that if he works, the boss will pay him for his labor. If not, he can sue him to court. The boss is not gracious and kind to pay him his salary. The salary is a debt the boss owes to the worker. This is the principle or law and works. But the realm of Grace is totally different! The key to open the door of the promises of Grace is always by faith. God does not ‘owe’ you any ‘salary’. God gives a promise. He expects you to trust Him, that He who promised is able and faithful to give you what He has promised. Grace expects man to have faith in the faithfulness of God. This faith is counted by God as righteousness. The word ‘Righteousness’ means right standing in God’s presence. It also means spiritual and natural prosperity in Christ!
“To him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness” (Rom 4:5). This is one of the most important verses in the Bible. It is the strongest statement of the doctrine of justification by grace, by faith only. Who is the man that God justifies? There are two things we are told about him: 1-he does not work, and 2-he is ungodly. This man cannot present a bill because he did not work. He needs faith in the God of all Grace! Abraham was a good man, but he too was a sinner saved by grace.
What is the lesson for us? We are born sinners. We are all ungodly, enemies of God. God justifies the ungodly as they are. God does not make a sinner godly before He justifies him. No! God justifies the ungodly man who has faith in Christ Crucified. After that, God makes him godly. Justification is a declaration of God, the Judge of Mankind. Thru this legal, court, forensic declaration God forgives His enemy, the sinner, and regards him as righteous. This Justification is based on the death of Christ, the Substitute of sinners. God the Father, the Judge, has accepted the sacrifice of Christ. On behalf of that, He is able to be just and merciful at the same time. Justification by faith is a matter of imputing, of paying to our debts. God imputes our sins on Christ, and He imputes Christ’ perfect righteousness to our account. That is why Christ died. God sees us now in Christ! Not that we are made righteous, but we are regarded as such by God! The words impute; to credit to account, accounted, reckoned, all mean the same thing! These are words used in the banking sector. Somebody pays money in your account. It is said that it was credited to your account.
Paul says that King David was saved in the same way, by Grace and by Faith. He had the same revelation. He says: ‘Blessed is the man that God does not impute sin to his account!’ That is free forgiveness! Forgiveness is only the first step to full reconciliation with God! It means that my sin has been drowned in the sea of God’s forgetfulness. God will never look again at my sin! God reckons now the righteousness of Christ to my account. This is the doctrine of justification by faith! This has always been God’s method in dealing with sinners. It is always a matter of reckoning and imputation.
This is the Doctrine: God does not reckon our sins to us!!! How does He do that? He has reckoned them to His Beloved Son! “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:19). Christ is our Substitute! God ‘manipulated’ the accounts! Glory to God! The Christian is the man who believes that! He knows he is a sinner. He knows he cannot justify himself. He repents. He believes. No works! Only pure faith! A Christian sees this and rests on this truth! Have you stopped trying to be saved? Salvation is the free gift to the ungodly. Do you believe now that Jesus died for you? If you feel that you need to do something more to be saved (to pray more, to pay tithes etc) you are not yet saved! If you do not see that you can become saved this very moment, by faith in the God of all Grace, you have not yet seen it! Come to Jesus!
FAITH ACCOUNTED FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS (Genesis 15)
THE FAITH OF THE FRIEND OF GOD
Abraham was afraid for his future. God says: Fear Not! God promises that He will protect and provide for Abraham! But he is afraid that God’s promises will fail! He has seen many miracles, but his heart’s desire is not yet fulfilled. He has no child! No son! Like Abraham, everything in your life seems great. But you miss something that your heart desires. Everything God does to men is purely by His Grace. He expects faith as a response from men. Faith honors Grace! Doubt dishonors Grace! Examine your heart! Allow your conscience to speak freely! Do not deceive yourself! Faith must be genuine to be approved by God as righteousness.
In the Old Testament, God gives promise upon promise. God speaks as Jehovah Adonai, the Master of slaves. He commands Abraham to fear not! He is His Protector and His Provider. God promises total protection to Abraham for as long as he lives. He will make Abraham stronger than all his enemies. He will weaken all his enemies. The victory is sure! Abraham believes! He had Faith in God’s Word, in His promises. God promised that Abraham will have many descendants, shining as the stars in the night. This was a mighty promise especially because Abraham was old and childless at that time. Sarah, his wife was also too old to have children. This is a great promise! Difficult to believe! But we are told that Abraham simply believed the Word of God! “And he (Abraham) believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness” (Gen 15:6). This is one of the greatest verses in the Bible. Paul quotes it five times and James quotes it once! In Hebrew, the word ‘believe’ means strength like a pillar that carries the house. It means to confirm or to be established. Abraham believed the promise of God, His Truth, and he rested on it. He was not worried that the promise will crack and that he will fall. Faith has knowledge of truth, embraces it, and trusts it! Faith Rests in the truth! Faith finds truth and searches no more!!! Saving faith has no other god! It has no ‘plan B’. This faith was counted as righteousness. God accepted it and approved it to become righteousness to Abraham.
God’s Word, the Truth, is ‘the wine’. Faith is not the drink. It is the straw. This is how you drink truth! Faith is powerful because it connects us with the eternal Truth, with the promises of God that can never fail! Have you found the glass of ancient wine? Do you have a straw to drink? Faith was reckoned; it was counted! This is doctrine of justification by faith alone. Abraham was declared righteousness before his circumcision and before his willingness to sacrifice Isaac, which can be counted as works of faith. If you trust in God’s promises, God will accept you! There is no boasting in salvation. Only humility and worship. You do not boast about yourself, but only what you have received freely from God! Many Christians struggle to believe the promises of God! They are distracted by many problems: sickness, old age, poverty… Can you trust God on His Word alone? That is the faith God is looking for!
God promises that Abraham will have many descendants. He also tells Abraham that his descendants will be the owners of the Promised Land. God reveals the future to Abraham. God is telling him that his many descendants will go to another land and stay there for four hundred years. After that, his descendants will come back here, to the Promised Land. They will drive away the present owners and take over their land. This promise is given to an old man who has no child at that time. To confirm the promise, God makes a covenant with Abraham. It is a covenant of Grace! God is the active party in this covenant. God does a strange ceremony. God tells Abraham to kill some animals. Then he should cut them into two. This is a blood sacrifice. God speaks, God directs, and God gives visible signs. The birds of prey attack the sacrifice. Abraham has faith in the covenant and drives the birds away. This is a good lesson: The devil attacks the faith in the God, the Covenant Maker and Keeper! Do spiritual warfare. Be jealous over your faith in the God of the Covenant!
Then, a deep sleep comes upon Abraham. It is like Adam, who God put to sleep to make Eve from his rib. God says that there is sad news before there is good news. God’s people, Abraham descendants, will be slaves and suffer before they will come and possess the land! At that time, Abraham has no child! The sin of the Amorites (the Canaanites in general) is not yet complete. As you can see, God judges not only individuals, but He judges nations. He will drive them so that Abraham’s descendants come and possess their land. God waited for four hundred years until the Canaanites’ cup of sin was full. All this time, God’s people will be in Egypt. As you can see, God makes no mistakes. God knows the end from the beginning. Not only that but creates ‘the end’. He is the God we can safely trust! This faith is vital in our relationship with God!
This is the next day. The previous night God showed him the stars. The next day, Abram had to prepare the sacrifice. In the evening, he fell into a supernatural sleep, like Adam’s sleep. A supernatural cloud of anxiety came over him. God was showing him the bigger picture of his future and destiny. Him and Sarah will have a son. But out of that son millions of descendants will be born. Thru this dream Abram saw the sufferings of Christ on the Cross when the cloud of darkness will cover the land. He also saw the glories to come. The Cross is before the Crown! Abram saw the Grace of God providing the Justification by Faith for him, and the price it took to save his soul. He saw that his descendants must go into slavery in Egypt. They will suffer terribly. But thru this suffering, they will multiply and become a nation, inside another nation. They will eventually come out. God has decreed the exodus already. They will come to the Promised Land and occupy it. God seals the Promise and the Covenant with His presence as Fire. This is the promise that can never fail! This faith is fear free! A miracle done by God and accepted by Him! God’s presence shall be with them always. There shall be fruitfulness. There shall be protection and provision. The victory is guaranteed! Jehovah Adonai speaks! Abram believes! Glory!
A flaming torch passes between the pieces of sacrifice. This is a symbol of God coming as fire. In the past, God came to the children of Israel as the cloud of fire in the night, as fire on top of the mountain, speaking to them. God seals the covenant with Fire! It is the same as on the Day of Pentecost. This is God’s unilateral Covenant of Grace. God does everything. He promises and He performs them! The only thing Abraham needs to do is to have faith in God! God takes full responsibility for the fulfillment of the promises. Covenant with God is a sober matter. God punishes the breaking of the Covenant. God invokes the curse of death upon Himself if He fails any of the promises given to Abraham. God says: ‘May I be cut into two and killed like these animals if I fail you! Trust Me! I can never fail!’ God stretches His hand to Abraham! The only thing Abraham needs to do is to stretch his hand and hold God’s hand! God is the covenant Keeper. We are the Covenant breaker. Even so, God alone will suffer the consequences for the breaking of the covenant! That is why Jesus became curse and died on the Cross! The life of faith is a life of waiting with God, hand in hand, heart to heart! Hold God’s hand, trust Him, wait, and walk with Him! What a mystery this our faith is!
God wants Abraham to trust him until they become friends. The relationship starts as Master and slave. Over the years, Abraham learns to trust his Master, Jehovah Adonai, until he becomes the friend of God. Humanly speaking a friend is someone close to you. You like his company. Your friend knows you well, your strength and weaknesses. Your friend helps you when you need help. Humanly speaking, two friends are free from sexual manipulations. Also, siblings are natural relations and not counted as friends. The husband and wife need to learn to trust each other for a long time before they can call themselves friends. A friend never betrays the other. God is seeking for friends, not just believers. It took three years for the disciples of Jesus to be called friends by Him. The friends of Jesus obey His commandments. They love and trust Him always. They love and trust one another. The joy of God’s friends is always full. They are fruitful to the glory of God! “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you” (Jn 15:11-15). Do you want to be a friend of God? There is no higher calling to any man in heaven or in earth!
As you can see, the story of Abraham is not just the story of a childness man who later had many children. It is the revelation of the God of Abraham, the God of Grace who loves him. He is the God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! The Blessings of Abraham are not only natural. They are spiritual. In the Faith of Abraham, we see the way we should respond to Grace poured from above. This is a picture of the doctrine of justification by faith alone! The way Abraham believed the promises of God, so we must believe that by faith in the Cross, we are now forgiven and made children of God! Glory to God! Worship the Lord!
Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bid’st me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come! I come!
Just as I am, and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot;
To Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!