The Blessedness of Justification
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.” (Romans 4:1-8)
The very best way to illustrate a New Testament truth is to go back to the Old Testament and find the places where that doctrine is first mentioned or clearly stated. This is what Paul did in Romans 4. He went all the way back to Abraham (the father of faith), and then on to David, the greatest king in Israel’s history, the one who God identified as a man after His own heart.
Can the doctrine of justification by faith be found in the history of Abraham? A resounding YES! Abraham was most certainly justified by faith in Genesis 15:1-6.
“And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.” (Genesis 15:6)
Chronologically, Abraham was justified by God before he was circumcised (Genesis 17), and before he did any of the great deeds of faith he is known for. He was justified by faith hundreds of years before the Law of Moses was given. What this means is that justification is apart from good deeds. One is not justified for what he does, but on the basis of whom and what he believes (John 14:6; Acts 4:12, Romans 10:9-10). If man were justified on the basis of what he does, then God would be in the position of being a debtor to man. Salvation would be owed to man, not given freely as a gift. Obviously, this is an untenable position; God will never owe anything to anyone (Romans 4:4-5; 11:35).
David’s example is a stunning illustration of God’s grace. As Paul refers to David, he quotes from Psalm 32. That particular psalm was written after David had been forgiven of adultery and murder (see 2 Samuel 11). About a year went by before David even confessed his sin; he’d kept it buried within. Yet upon his confession, the Lord forgave him completely. The Lord would not count his sin against him. It was just as though David had never sinned.
For Further Review
1. Peruse Genesis 15:1-6. What did Abraham do that prompted God to justify him?
2. According to Romans 4:4-5, what is the difference between trying to work for salvation and not working for it? How does your answer speak to the subject of the nature of God?
3. In your own words, describe the blessedness of being justified by God. Refer to David’s description in Psalm 32 as you answer. As you jot down your response, don’t forget to worship.