We are in the book of Romans, as you know, so I hope your Bible just naturally opens to the book of Romans. I’m going to start, just as the launching point, in Chapter 1, Verse 1, just to remind you of what this book is all about.
In Romans 1:1, Paul really tells us where he’s headed with the entire book of Romans. He says he’s been set apart for the Gospel of God. That is the big idea of the book of Romans, the Gospel of God, which means the good news of salvation that God has provided in his Son the Lord Jesus Christ, how sinful man can be made right with Holy God. And the cornerstone of this Gospel is the doctrine of justification, justification by faith. Everything else will build out from the doctrine of justification.
I want you to turn to Romans 4, and I want us to step back into the doctrine of justification. Paul has laid for us the doctrine of condemnation of the entire human race, who is under the wrath of God because of their ungodliness and unrighteousness. Beginning in Chapter 3 and verse 21 Paul begins to build his case for justification.
The word justification means that God credits to the account the perfect righteousness of his Son Jesus Christ to those who believe in him, that God imputes – reckons to the account of guilty, hell bound sinners, who have no righteousness of their own whatsoever, the perfect righteousness of Christ, and it is on the basis of faith.
As we come to Chapter 4, where we left off, we left off at verse 8, we’re going to pick up with verse 9. Romans 4 is really ground zero for justification by faith. This is where Paul presents his argument for justification by faith. And I want to just give you the flyover. I think it’s helpful to see the big picture of a chapter in the Bible without us being lost in the forest. I want us to see the big picture, and there’s four things that I want you to see by way of overview. The first three are negative; the fourth is positive.
Paul will begin this chapter by telling us how someone is not justified. Then he will tell us how someone is justified before God. So the first three are negative. In verses 1 through 8 we are not justified by good works. I am going to come back to all this, but I want you to get the skeleton of this chapter.
Then, in verses 9 through 12, we are not justified by ceremonial rites. And then in verses 13 through 15, we are not justified by law-keeping. And then, finally, he gets to the positive, and in verses 16 through 17 we are justified by faith alone.
This is the mark of a very good teacher: negative denial, positive assertion. There is no room for misunderstanding. There’s no wiggle room. There is nothing can slip through the cracks in anyone’s thinking. This is crystal clear. If someone says, “Oh, I just can’t understand the Bible,” that’s just a smoke excuse. That’s just a smokescreen. No. It may be hard for you to accept; it’s not hard for you to understand. A child can understand this and receive this.
I. NOT JUSTIFIED BY GOOD WORKS
So he begins in verses 1 through 8 – we’ve already covered this, so I’m not going to plow this back up, but to remind you we are not justified by good works. There is no amount of good works, small or large, that you can bring to the table and add to the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ that will in any way contribute anything to your salvation. In fact, if you are trusting in any amount of good works to what Christ has already done, you cannot believe in Jesus Christ. You’re still believing in yourself. You’re still trusting in yourself.
As I look at verses 1 through 8, it just leaps off the page. verse 2: “If Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.” verse 4: “Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor of what is due.” In verse 5: “But to the one who does not work…”
You remember when George Bush 41 said, “Read my lips. No new taxes”? All right. Paul could easily say, “Read my lips. No good works whatsoever.” All right. Say that with me. “No good works.”
We are saved by good works. It’s just not our good works. It’s by the finished works of Jesus Christ on our behalf. He is the one who fulfilled the law in our place. He is the one who bore the curse of the law in our place upon the cross. He is the one who interceded on our behalf as he was nailed to the cross and bore our sin. We are saved by works, but it’s not our works. It’s by the works of Jesus Christ in his sinless life and substitutionary death. So that’s number one. It’s not by good works. And he appeals to Abraham in verses 2 and 3. He appeals to David in verses 6 through 8. It’s as if Paul wants us to know the entire Bible speaks with one voice on this. This is unmistakable.
I think of Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace you have been saved, through faith – and that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God – not as a result of works lest any man should boast.”
II. NOT JUSTIFIED BY CEREMONIAL RITES
Second, justification is not only not by works, but we advance the argument with Paul. It is not by ceremonial rites. And Paul now pulls out the chief ceremonial rite under the old covenant, which was the rite of circumcision. When I say rite, I mean R-I-T-E. So notice in verse 9 – and Paul begins with a question; then he answers the question. He’s the master teacher. This is almost like a catechism.
In verse 9, he says, “Is this blessing then on the circumcised or on the uncircumcised also?” Now, when he says blessing, he is referring to verse 3, “the righteousness of God in Christ credited to those who believe,” and in verse 7, “the blessing is forgiveness of lawless deeds, our sins being covered,” and in verse 8, “our sin not being taken into account.” That’s the blessing he’s referring to in verse 9. “Is this blessing ” Is it on the circumcised or on the uncircumcised also,” and with this question Paul is pressing the issue of how this blessing comes to our lives.
He answers the question at the end of verse 9, “For we say” – when he says “we,” he again is putting his arms around all the biblical authors and all of the other apostles. There is no equivocation. No one is saying one thing and someone else saying something else. We all say this together. “For we say” – and he now quotes Genesis 15:6 – “Faith was credited to Abraham as righteousness.”
Now, you will note in verse 3 he’s just quoted the same verse slightly differently. He’s just transliterating it, and he now makes the emphasis in verse 9 on faith. Do you see how faith starts the quotation? “Faith was credited to Abraham as righteousness.” He is underscoring that it is not on the basis of being circumcised or not being circumcised. It is only on the basis of saving faith in Jesus Christ.
He follows up now with a second question: How then was it credited? While he was circumcised or uncircumcised? That’s the $1 million question. Abraham was circumcised. When was he justified? Was he justified when he was circumcised, or was he already justified before he was circumcised?
BACK TO GENESIS
Here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to go back to the book of Genesis right now. And if you have trouble finding it, it’s the first book. Turn back to Genesis 17. We’re going to do a little chronology on this just so that it is crystal clear in our thinking.
In Genesis 17: 23-26 – we’re going to start at the end and work backwards. In Genesis 17: 23, this is when Abraham was circumcised. So he says, “Then Abraham took Ishmael his son and all the servants who were born in his house and all who were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s household, and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the very same day, as God had said to him.” verse 24, “Abraham was 99 years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.” verse 25, “And Ishmael his son was 13 years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.” verse 26, “In the very same day Abraham was circumcised, and Ishmael his son.” So how old was Abraham when he was circumcised? He was 99 years old. How old was Ishmael? He was 13 years old.
All right. Now turn back to Genesis 16:16. So Abraham was 86 years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to him. Look earlier now in Genesis 16:4. “He” – Abraham – “went in
to Hagar, and she conceived.” So the chronology is crystal clear here. Abraham is 86 years old. He bears a son. Thirteen years later he, Ishmael, is circumcised, and Abraham is circumcised at age 99.
Turn back one chapter earlier. We’re reading the Bible backwards here, okay? This is the reversed standard version. And so Genesis 15:6 says: “Then he believed in the Lord ” – referring to Abraham – “and he reckoned it to him as righteousness.” That’s when Abraham was justified before God. That’s when Abraham was saved. Thirteen years at least, if not more, before he was circumcised, he was already justified before God. He already had the righteousness of God credited to his account 13 – 14 years earlier, before he was circumcised. How could anyone think that a ceremonial rite would bring about justification? He was already justified.
JUSTIFIED WHILE UNCIRSUMCISED
So come back now to Romans 4. This is the case that Paul is making: Was he justified when he was circumcised or when he was uncircumcised? The answer is clear. Look at verse 10. “How then was it credited? While he was circumcised or uncircumcised?” Paul answers the question: “Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised.”
Circumcision adds zero to anyone’s standing before God, just like any other ceremonial rite adds zero to salvation. And for us today, it would be water baptism. Water baptism washes away zero sin. Only the blood of Christ can wash away sin. No one is saved by being immersed in water or sprinkled in water. Has absolutely zero to do with anyone’s eternal standing before God. And Paul will go on to tell us, in just a little bit, it’s just simply a sign. It’s just a picture. It has zero redemptive reality to it. So Paul is really making this – concerning the Gospel – crystal clear to us.
So verse 11, “And he received the sign of circumcision.” Let me just pause there for a moment. It’s only a sign. A sign has no reality to it. Next week I’m driving to Memphis. I can go out here on Central Expressway and see the sign. That’s not going to get me to Memphis. That’s not even going to get me to downtown. The sign is merely pointing to the reality of I-75 and then I– 40 to take me to Memphis. The sign brings nothing to the table. The sign is, in reality, pointing away from itself to the reality. That’s what circumcision was. It was just a sign on the side of the road pointing to Jesus Christ.
“And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised.” It was just a seal. It was just like an official document that would be written up and then rolled up, and a piece of wax put on it, and a seal to seal it shut. It was the authentication that what was on the inside is real. The seal is nothing. What’s on the inside of the document is everything. Circumcision is nothing. It’s just a sign and a seal. So is water baptism. It is nothing. It’s just a sign and a seal of the reality that it pictures.
So look at verse 11. “He received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised.” And he makes the same point again. Abraham was already justified before he was ever circumcised. He had been right before God for 13 or 14 years. The circumcision was just an outward sign of the inward reality that had already taken place.
So let’s continue to read. verse 11: “so that he might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised.” And when he says “father” here, the idea is forerunner, the one out ahead of all who believe. There is no other way for anyone to be made right with God except they believe in Jesus Christ. Circumcision is nothing. Water baptism is nothing.
FAITH IN CHRIST IS EVERYTHING
The reality faith in Christ is everything. He says at the end of verse 11, “that righteousness might be credited to them.” And the “them” refers to those who believe, and only to those who believe. Again, this is a banking metaphor when he says “credited.” The account of those who would believe in Christ, they have no spiritual capital in their account whatsoever. In fact, they are in a negative standing before God. They are in debt to God. They owe a debt they cannot pay. And when they believe in Christ, the riches of the righteousness of Christ are credited to their account.
It would be like if someone handed you a check for $1 billion – and, as they say, that’s with a B – $1 billion, and you take your deposit slip and their check for $1 billion and go to the counter. That $1 billion is deposited into your account. You didn’t do anything to earn it, deserve it, work for it, or merit it. It was just given to you as a gift. It’s just your deposit slip and their riches into your account. That’s what Paul is saying, that the righteousness that you and I need to have to obtain a perfect standing before God with acceptance before God is deposited into our account simply by our faith in Jesus Christ. It is absolutely crystal clear. Nothing difficult to understand about this.
Now, verse 12: “And the father of circumcision” – and that’s referring to the Jews – “to those who not only are of the circumcision” – meaning he is the father not only of Jews who believe but who also follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham, which he had while uncircumcised. This is just simply saying the same thing. Whether someone is circumcised or not circumcised, all that matters is faith in Jesus Christ.
How is someone justified before God? verses 1 through 8 – it’s not by good works. verses 9 through 12, it is not by circumcision. We could say any ceremonial rite whatsoever. This obliterates the position of baptismal regeneration, that you have to be baptized in order to be saved. That’s a false gospel. You have no understanding of the purity of grace and how that operates.
III. NOT JUSTIFIED BY LAW-KEEPING
Now Paul will give the third negative in verse 13. It is not by law-keeping. So verse 13: “For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the law but through the righteousness of faith.” That means the righteousness that comes to us through faith.
The promise to Abraham here refers to the Abrahamic covenant and the promise that God made to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3, that there would be a nation and there would be a land and there would be blessing that would proceed from the loins of Abraham. But there is also another dimension, that through the loins of Abraham would come the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior and the Redeemer.
GALATIANS SAYS THE SAME
If we come to Galatians 3, the apostle Paul unfolds that for us in Galatians 3. In verse 16 he references this Abrahamic covenant to show that the pinnacle of the Abrahamic covenant was the promise of one who would be born of the lineage of Abraham, who would be a son of David, the Lord Jesus Christ.
In verse 16: “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed.” He does not say “and to seeds,” meaning plural, as referring to many, but rather to one – “And to your seed” – comma – that is comma – “Christ.” And so the promise that God made to Abraham was not just of the promised land, and not just of a nation that would live in the promised land, and not just of the salvation that would come to those of this nation who would believe and a salvation that would be made available to all the nations, but it spoke ultimately of the one who would secure this salvation, who would be born of a Jewish lineage, out of the loins of Abraham, the father of the Jewish people, namely Jesus Christ the Lord.
In Galatians 3, this entire chapter really revolves around the person and work of Jesus Christ. Verse 13: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law.” What is the curse of the law? Eternal damnation. The curse of the law is the second death. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us. He suffered our punishment as He hung upon that cross. As he bore our sins, he suffered the wrath of God in our place. Verse 14: “in order that in Christ the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles.”
Look at verse 22. “But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.” Verse 24: “Therefore, the law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ so that we may be justified by faith.” Verse 26: “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” Verse 27: “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ.” Verse 28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Verse 29: “And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.”
This is phenomenal that everything is in Christ. If you have Christ, you have everything. If you do not have Christ, you have nothing. And the only way to have Christ is not by circumcision, and not by water baptism, and not by church membership, and not by taking the Lord’s Supper. The only way to have Christ is to put your faith completely in the person and work of Christ, to have both feet in Christ and not straddle the fence and have one foot on your baptism or on good works or on keeping the law and another foot on Christ and, “I’ll just play all ends in the middle.” No, you haven’t come to Christ until you put both feet on the Lord Jesus Christ and you abandon all other hope and you trust exclusively in the perfect life and substitutionary death of Jesus Christ. That is the argument that Paul is making. And Christ, by his death upon the cross, has suffered the curse for us.
Now, as you’re in Galatians 3, flip over to Galatians 4 just for a moment. This flashes into my mind. In Galatians 4:4, he picks up Christ again. And this continues in the same vein of thought from Galatians 3. He comes now to Galatians 4:4: “But when the fullness of time came” – in other words, when the moment was ripe, when God had perfectly set the world stage for Christ to come into the world, everything was set up perfectly. The Roman Empire, the Greek language, the highway system, everything was set perfectly. In the fullness of time, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law. To be born under the law means that he would be accountable to obey the law, that he would be responsible to obey the law that you and I have broken again and again and again. Verse 5: “so that he might redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” We have broken the law. Christ perfectly kept the law. It was a part of Christ redeeming us out from under the curse of the law.
I’ve just said a lot in a short period of time. I hope that it’s clear what Paul is saying. So come back to Romans chapter 4.
THE PROMISE TO ABRAHAM
This was the promise to Abraham in verse 13. “For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants” – and the descendants here refer to his spiritual descendants –”that he would be heir of the world” – meaning he would inherit the fullness of all that God has intended for those who are his children – “not through the law” – meaning not through keeping the law. None of us can keep the law perfectly, and that is what God requires is perfect obedience to his law – “but through the righteousness of faith.”
Verse 14: “For if those who are of the law” – meaning if you’re trying to get to heaven by keeping the law – “for if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is void.” I mean faith and law-keeping are mutually exclusive, not mutually inclusive. It’s either/or, not both/and. You’re going to have to decide. It’s either exclusively by faith, or it’s exclusively by you keeping the law. You pick. But if it’s by keeping the law, you’ve already broken the law, and the curse of the law is your eternal damnation, forever, in hell.
So verse 14: “For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void.” You can’t have it both ways. You can’t have faith in Christ and trust in any good work. It’s either/ or, not both/and. And the promise is nullified. The promise of salvation is nullified if you have even one little pinky into the wading pool of good works, trusting in that to take you to heaven. It’s not until you cut the line and come all the way to faith along in Jesus Christ.
Verse 15: “For the law brings about wrath.” If you want to go to heaven by keeping the law, there is only the fury of divine wrath that is resting upon your head. But where there is no law, there is also no violation. So God has given the law that we might know of the violation, that the law might point us and be our tutor to take us to Christ who kept the law on our behalf.
So what has Paul said? We’re getting ready to shift to the positive now, but he said three negatives. A right standing before God is not by good works. It’s not by ceremonial rite. It is not by law-keeping. It’s not by being a good person. It’s not by honoring your father and mother. It’s not by not stealing. It is not by not telling a lie. Those are double negatives, I realize.
IV. JUSTIFIED BY FAITH ALONE
Now we come to the positive in verse 16. After Paul has just knocked the feet out from under every other argument, he now comes to set the cornerstone in place. It is by faith in Christ alone. Verse 16: “For this reason, it is by faith.” Please note there is no and after the word faith. It is not faith and good works. It is not faith and ceremonial rites. It is not faith and law-keeping. It is by faith “in order that it may be in accordance with grace.”
You see, faith and grace work together. “For by grace you have been saved through faith.” – Ephesians 2:8. Faith and grace can never be partners with law-keeping. Faith and grace can never be partners with circumcision or water baptism. Faith and grace can never work in partnership with good works in order to give us a right standing before God. Faith and grace are discriminatory. They will only work with each other. They work within the same economy of salvation – “so that” – in the middle of verse 16 – “the promise” – referring to the promise of salvation in Christ – “will be guaranteed to all the descendants.”
The descendants here refer to spiritual descendants, those who have faith in Christ, whether you’re Jew or Gentile, whether you’ve been circumcised or uncircumcised, whether you’re male or female, whether you’re civilized or uncivilized, and whether you’re barbarian or Greek. Not only to those who are of the law” – that refers to Jews – “but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham who is the father of us all.” And the word all includes even Gentiles, even Gentiles who believe in Christ.
ONLY ONE WAY OF SALVATION
What we have underscored again for us is the exclusivity of salvation in Jesus Christ alone. There’s not one way for a Jew to be saved and a different way for a Gentile to be saved. There’s not one way for someone to be saved in the Old Testament and another way for someone to be saved in the New Testament. There is only one way of salvation.
I remember back in the ’60s. That was the mantra – “One way.” On t-shirts and bumper stickers and buttons was just a fist with a finger up in the air, and it was a loud and clear message: one way of salvation. Well, that’s kinda been diluted over the last couple of decades in a spirit of tolerance, in that we’re told there are many roads that lead to heaven. No, there are many roads that lead to hell. There’s only one road that leads to heaven, and that is through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Verse 16 makes that abundantly clear.
We’ll wrap this up with verse 17: “As it is written” – and he now quotes Genesis 17:5 – “a father of many nations have I made you.” What that is saying is that there will be, out of the many nations of the world, those who will believe in Jesus Christ for salvation, and they will have credited to their account the righteousness of God in Christ, and they will have their sins forgiven. This is not just a message for Jews. It is a message for Gentiles, and not just for Gentiles in the Middle East or in Europe. “For Gentiles out of many nations” – meaning out of all the nations – “in the presence of him whom he believed.”
LIFE TO THE DEAD
At the end of verse 17: “Even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist” – now what does that mean? First of all, it refers to how Sarah was barren, and in the conception of Isaac, God created life in the dead womb of Sarah, and she miraculously conceived and gave birth to a son of promise. That’s the first fulfillment of this.
But there is a second fulfillment on a spiritual level: that everyone who believes in Jesus Christ, who were spiritually dead in their sins, that God is the one who gave life to the dead and called into being that which did not exist, which was their faith in Jesus Christ. Also, please note the order. Regeneration precedes faith. Regeneration produces faith. Dead sinners do not believe. Dead men do not walk. God must first give life. Then he calls into being the saving faith of the one who believes in Christ.
So this is Paul anchoring the Gospel in our understanding. And if you have believed in Jesus Christ, it is because God gave you life and God called faith into being in your spiritually dead soul. This is one more affirmation for the bondage of the will. This is one more log on the fire for the fact that no one can believe except God give life, and God gives saving faith, and God called that person to faith in Jesus Christ. It’s exclusively a work of sovereign grace. This is getting the Gospel right.
WHAT IS THE APPLICATION?
You remember I gave you the illustration of the professor who held up the sign, said he was gonna hold up a sign “so what”? What’s the “so what” here? What’s the application?
The first application is: have you believed in Jesus Christ? Have you put all your faith in Christ, because if you’re trusting in anything except Christ alone for salvation, your faith is void, and the promises are cancelled. It is only by coming all the way to Christ. And for those watching by live stream, and wherever you are when you might watch this later, you must come all the way to faith in Jesus Christ in order to have the salvation that he alone can give. That’s the first obvious “so what.”
The second is – and this should be a great encouragement to us – it doesn’t matter how old you are. You can be an old man. Abraham was in his 80s when he was converted. Some of you have lost parents. Some of you have lost older siblings. Some of you have lost grandparents, and you may think, “Well, they’re so far down the path, they’re never gonna be saved.” Well, we could’ve easily said that about Abraham. He was 80-something when he was saved. My father-in-law was saved on his deathbed two or three days before he passed away. Abraham should scream encouragement to us that someone who is advanced in age can still come to faith in Jesus Christ.
And we need to keep on witnessing. We need to keep on praying. We need to keep on reaching out to them. Until the day they are dead and in the grave, there is still the hope that they can come to faith in Christ.
And then the last thing that I would say is it doesn’t matter how far removed someone is from Christ. Abraham was an idolater. Abraham was a moon worshiper. Abraham couldn’t have been in any more darkness. He was living in Ur of Chaldees. That is spiritual nowhere land. You can’t even get there from here. And God called him out of that darkness to a place, an appointed place, at an appointed time that God had prescripted and that God had orchestrated, to bring him into the Promised Land, and it would be there that God would meet with Abraham. It would be there that God would preach the Gospel to Abraham. And it would be there that God would impart life to a spiritually dead soul. It would be there that God would give him saving faith and call into existence that which did not exist. No one is so far removed from Christ but that the grace of God cannot conquer their heart and bring them to faith in Jesus Christ.
If there was someone we would have said that would never be saved, it was the man who wrote this book. It was Saul of Tarsus who was public enemy No. 1 of the church. And in a split second, God brought him down by the power of the Gospel. And God can do the same, and God does do the same in this day and in this age.
So we ought to be encouraged by the mere fact that Paul is using Abraham, of all people, as the example, who grew up in a pagan land, who grew up with pagan parents, who grew up under a pagan religion, who lived a pagan lifestyle. He ends up being the one whom God saves and chooses to birth the whole nation, and it will be through his loins that the Messiah would come. God delights in taking those who are the furthest away from him and bringing them the closest to him and using them because he gets all the glory. And the hardest person to reach in the world is the person who’s the closest to the message of the Gospel but yet doesn’t know that they’re not converted to Christ. That’s the hardest person.
This is an extraordinary chapter. I need to stop, and I need to open this up for questions, thoughts, comments, feedback, affirmation. There can be no disagreement, okay? We will not accept that today.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWER
Tell me your thoughts. How does this strike you? And I realize, in many ways this is bringing ice cubes to Eskimos. This is bringing truth that you know to people – to you who already believe this. I’m preaching to the choir in some ways, but you never know. You just never know who is among us. Even Jesus had one among the 12 who had not yet come all the way to faith in Jesus Christ. And because Paul belabors this, we’re going to belabor this. Whatever Paul makes into a big mountain, we’re gonna climb that mountain and look at what he has to say. We’re gonna major on majors, and we’ve just majored on a major.
It takes me just a few minutes to kinda wind down. I’m putting the parachute out. The plane is skidding down the runway. The pilot’s standing on the brakes. There’s trees at the end of the runway.
Participant: Well, I think even all of us who believe– you can’t hear this enough – God’s work. Still, our fallenness – you still have a tendency to think you’re something, but just considering again what God did to Sarah and his miraculous work, and what he does in all of our hearts is just – I don’t thing we can hear it too much.
Amen. I agree. We can’t hear it enough that you can’t be trusting Christ and your good works to get you there. You haven’t come all the way to Christ yet.
Participant: And the more I think we hear it, the more I appreciate it. And I can’t appreciate it enough, right?
Participant: I want to keep enjoying it, appreciating it, thanking the Lord for it, and just – it’s coming back to the same sixes and sevens, you know, just the same thing. We gotta keep remembering. It’s the baseline.
Posture, grip, alignment. It’s the basics. Yeah. Hey, thanks Kent. Somebody else.
Participant: I feel like this would be a tremendous message to deliver to the Muslim group because of their like of Abraham. They love Abraham.
Participant: Yeah. That’s a good point.
Participant: Have you ever had an opportunity to present this to a group like that?
I was in Berlin and got in a taxi. I knew I was gonna end up having a Muslim taxi driver. Sure enough I did, and I knew, sure enough, he wanted to know why am I here and what it’s about. I think he circled Berlin 12 times just to keep the conversation going. Yeah. This was just very recently. Yeah. He kept asking me, “What do you think?” I thought, “This is divine appointment. I can’t lay up short of the creek. I’ve gotta fire for the pen. There’s no mulligans here.”
And so, yeah, I have, just even very recently. And I think there was more one person as well. I just need to think that through. But yes. This also speaks volumes, one, to Muslims – and I’ll say something interesting. Even Ishmael was circumcised, but Ishmael was never saved. So you can be circumcised; you can be baptized; you can be sanitized, you can be whatever-tized and not be right with God.
Participant: And he was blessed, too.
Yeah, with common grace, but not with redemptive grace. I mean, there’s a difference
This also speaks volumes to Roman Catholicism and the mass and the Virgin Mary, and the sale of indulgences, and the treasury of merit, and church membership, and baptism, and last rites, and and and, that no – and relics and pilgrimages – there is no salvation whatsoever, except by faith alone in Christ alone. And that just pares the onion down to the essential message of the Gospel. And man’s nature keeps wanting to add, add, add. Every generation has to just strip it all away and bring it down to the bare truth of the Gospel. By grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone – period, paragraph.
Yeah. Thank you, Bill. I’m gonna think of the other one, too, ’cause I just had another one. I thought, “Wow, being in Europe, this is everywhere.”
Participant: The Mormon church too.
Yeah, the Mormon church.
Participant: They baptize relatives to save the past. That’s that whole Ancestry.com. That whole thing is the Mormon church.
Yeah. It’s a false gospel. It leads to nowhere.
Kent just reminded me people are watching by way of our live stream. Please understand. The Bible is crystal clear. It is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Son of Man, God in human flesh, born of a virgin, who lived a sinless and perfect life, who went to the cross, who died in the place of sinners, shed his blood, made the only atonement for our sin, was buried, was raised from the dead on the third day, has ascended to the right hand of God the Father, and whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved – that Jesus, not another Jesus, not Jesus the prophet, not Jesus the good teacher, not Jesus the moral example – Jesus, God, very God, very man, the God man.
Participant: We got a question from online.
Yeah, Jonathan, fire away.
Participant: Ricardo Oliveras says, “Hi, Dr. Lawson. Is it possible that the ritual of circumcision is another type of foreshadowing of the work of Christ? And, if so, could you explain how? Thank you. Nice tie, by the way.”
[Laughs] See he’s a tie affectionato. Well, circumcision is the sign of being set apart. The cutting of the male foreskin was a sign that one’s heart must be cut and set apart to God and that – Deuteronomy 30:6: “that God must circumcise the heart,” and the physical circumcision is but a picture of the spiritual circumcision that must take place.
Deuteronomy 30, if I’m gonna reference it, I at least ought to read it, says, “Moreover, the Lord your God will circumcise your heart, and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, so that you may live.” It’s a metaphorical picture of even new birth and regeneration, God setting apart your heart to God.
Now, there are different other secondary parts of circumcision, but that’s what’s primary, that your heart must be circumcised. And except your heart be circumcise, you’re on the outside of the kingdom of God.
Participant: Well, I would think the Jewish would be receptive to this. Going back to Genesis 15:6, talking about when Abraham was justified while he was still uncircumcised. What’s their argument about that?
Yes, well, there’s obviously different parts of Judaism, from orthodox to Haddisian (??), to all different kinds: those who believe the Bible, those who don’t believe the Bible, those who are strict, those who are just by name only. And, obviously, it’s a sticking point. I mean, Dan, you wanna add anything to that?
Participant: I’m of Jewish faith. I came to know Christ when I was 13-ish. I mean, to me, growing up with family, it’s – I mean there’s truly a veil. There are scales over the eyes. So what’s so obvious – I mean it’s kinda like a parable. It’s obvious to the – we know what spiritual meaning is, but we don’t – but it’s confusing to those that don’t believe. So it’s kinda God-ordained. I mean you touched on it before. God calls us to faith. In our being, he calls us to faith. Then we fully – so that’s all of us, whether its Jew, Gentile, Muslim, Mormon. I mean it starts there, and then I think if it’s – I mean when we’re called, we’re called. When you believe, it’s just – to me, it’s just so obvious, but it’s just not to those that don’t believe. Doesn’t matter where. So that’s what I think.
Yeah. Thank you. That’s perfect, Dan. In Romans 11:8, it says, “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes to see naught, and ears to hear naught, down to this very day.” Who did this? God. Just like God hardened the heart of Pharaoh, so God has hardened the hearts of the Jewish people. And Paul wept over this. Paul said, “My heart’s desire is for their salvation. I’d be willing to be accursed for them if they could be saved.” So it’s not a clinical thing. And we plead for their salvation. We pray for their salvation.
At the end of the age all Israel will be saved, it says in Romans 11 later. It’s at the end of Romans 11. One of you can find it for me. I shouldn’t have even started. I’m staring at it, and God has blinded my eyes so that I will not see. Where is it?
Yeah, there it is. Yeah, so all Israel will be saved. I take that as physical Israel, and I take all to be in a hyperbolic sense. A large, vast number of physical Jews will be saved at the end of the age. And so God has hardened their hearts now, and God will circumcise their hearts at the end of the age, and there will be a great national revival among the Jew. I take that at face value for what it says.
Well, Jonathan, what’s our time look like down there?
Participant: We’re two till.
Two till, okay. Anything else?
Participant: Yeah. I could ask you that what’s with the Jew, but the same thing with the Catholic faith, and I think probably more so with the Jew, but tradition is such a snare.
Oh, it is.
Participant: You mentioned all those Catholic issues. So the Jews have even more traditions _____ _____.
I don’t know. I think Catholicism has run the table on tradition.
Participant: Well, I know I had a hard time being – yeah. That’s a good – you’re probably right, because I guess they probably apply more to a Christian perspective. That’s a good point.
Yeah. Absolutely. Well, I tell you what: when God converts someone out of Catholicism, they become phenomenal believers. I will say that. They have an inherent fear of God. They have an inherent respect for Scripture and for God, and once they finally get the truth, they make phenomenal believers. They usually start the thing with a full tank of gas.
Participant: Romans 9 – when I first accepted Christ, or left the church, I guess, is more correct – you have that same sense of – you want to just draw the Catholic ’cause you – you worship. You really do. You worship God. But I’ve seen where there is – yeah, you’re right. It’s probably more severe than the Jew. The Jews don’t –
Yeah. I think it is. I think it is, and they just keep adding layer upon layer upon layer. And that’s what the whole Reformation was about 500 years ago. It was coming back to the message in the New Testament – and the Old Testament, as far as that goes.
Well, I see that it’s 8:00. I would love to keep this going, but I know I need to respect your time and let you head to work. For those of you watching, please send us an e-mail at what’s underneath the screen. We’d love to hear from you. Let us know that you’re watching. It’s a great encouragement to know that you’re out there, so we wanna hear from you, even if it’s nothing more than just to let us know that you’ve been a part of this study today.
Let me close in a word of prayer. Father, thank you for your grace that has been lavished upon us and your son the Lord Jesus Christ. Thank you that we’re not having to climb a ladder to heaven and to pull ourselves up by the rope of our own self-righteousness. Thank you. You’ve come down all the way to us, and you’ve gotten in our skin in the person of your son, Christ. And he lived in our place. He died in our place that he might take us to your place, to heaven. And so continue to give us clarity of understanding in the truth of the Gospel, in Jesus’s name. Amen.
© 2019 Steven J. Lawson