This is going to be a great study. You are going to be glad that you are here. I’m glad that I am here. I think we need to begin in a word of prayer, so let us pray. Father, as we begin this time of study in Your word, we ask that Your Holy Spirit would be the Teacher. That He would guide and direct our every thought and that You would give us clarity of insight into Your word. And more than that, may we live out what we learn today. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.
All right your Bible is open to chapter four. We are going to be in verse 18. This is all about faith, true saving faith. Put a title on this lesson, it is “The Nature of True Saving Faith.” We are in the larger section on justification by faith. In chapter three of Romans we were looking at justification. Chapter four is how justification is applied to our lives, which is by faith. Romans chapter four is all about faith. When I say faith, I am specifically referring to saving faith – the moment of your entrance into the kingdom of heaven.
The big picture of this entire book, just to remind you, Romans 1:16-17 is the signature text and it is worth my repeating because what we are looking at today comes gushing out of this fountain. Romans 1:16-17, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes.” That is the same word as faith. It is just faith in a verb form. “To everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it” – referring to the gospel – “the righteousness of God is revealed” – now listen to this – “from faith to faith. Just as it is written, ‘The righteous man shall live by faith.’” So this whole book is about the gospel and justification, but it is made real in our life by faith.
A lot of people think that they have faith, when in reality they do not have faith. Faith is more than just an intellectual body of knowledge that you have. It is more than something you feel deeply about. True saving faith goes all the way to the will. True saving faith makes the decisive choice to commit one’s life to Jesus Christ. In Romans four, where we find ourselves, Paul is drilling down on this aspect of saving faith. This is so important. Remember in Mathew 7 Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” True saving faith is not passive, it is not just verbal, it is not just talking a good game, true saving faith puts you into the game and you step into the kingdom of heaven.
It is so important that Hebrews 11:6 says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God. He who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Without faith you are not even in the game. Without faith you are not even in the stadium. It is only by faith that we enter into the kingdom of heaven. What we are looking at here today is critically important. This is where the rubber meets the road. This is where the reality of sound doctrine gets into our skin, gets into our blood stream, and becomes reality. This is where salvation gets off the shelf and gets into our life. As we look at these verses, come with me to Romans 4:18, just so your eye can even see this focus on faith, “In hope against hope he believed.” That is the word faith in verb form.
Next verse, verse 19, “Without becoming weak in faith.” Verse 20, please note, “he grew strong in faith.” And then in verse 24, “But for our sake also to whom it will be credited as those who believe in Him.” That is the thread that is running through this tapestry in Romans four beginning in verse 18. Depending on how much time I have, I want to pull out of these verses some distinctive qualities of true saving faith. The first is in verses 18 and 19: saving faith is in God’s word. In verse 18 Paul starts off, “In hope against hope he believed.” Now when he says, “In hope against hope,” that is a seemingly paradoxical statement. Hope against hope. That is like hope lining up and playing against hope. Hope against hope. Actually, it is a collision that is going on here between hope and hope. The first hope is man’s hope. Kind of a wishful thinking. Kind of looking around and seeing what the situation is and just hoping that this will work out. The second hope is a God-centered hope that is rooted and grounded in the word of God. The first hope is our perspective in an impossible situation. The second hope is God-centered assurance that if we put our faith in God, God will come through and God will do what God says He will do.
I. SAVING FAITH IS IN GOD’S WORD
That is where Abraham finds himself. He finds himself at an intersection, a crisis. His natural eyes tell him one thing, his spiritual ears are telling him something else. Which way will he go? Verse 18, “In hope against hope he believed.” Rather than going by what common sense would say, going by what rationality would say, he looked away from the circumstances, and those are going to be in verse 19, we are going to look at this, and instead he went with the word of God. His eyes were telling him one thing but his spiritual ears were hearing something totally different. Saving faith goes with what God says in His word. Look at it again in verse 18, “In hope against hope he believed.” It is implied he believed in God and he believed what God said. The word “believe” here means to trust in. To commit one’s self to. To rely upon. To rest in.
That is where Abraham was and that is what Abraham did. It needs to be said that Paul is putting up Abraham here as the ultimate example of faith. He is setting forth a patriarch, Abraham, for saving faith. For us to learn what saving faith is. “In hope against hope he believed so that he might become a father of many nations according to that which had been spoken.” God said you are going to be the father of many nations. In verse 19 he looks at himself and he realizes, “I do not have much game left.” He looks at himself and realizes he is almost 100 years old. He is 99-years-old. He looks at himself and realizes Sarah is not getting any younger either, and Sarah is advanced in age. So Abraham is impotent, Sarah is barren, and as Abraham looks at himself in verse 19, it says that “he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead.” That is just another way of saying he is an old man, impotent and unable to sire an offspring or a descendant. Then he looks at his wife Sarah and he sees the deadness of her womb.
Yet God said if you will believe in Me, if you will put your trust in Me, if you will commit yourself to Me, you will be the father of many nations. You will have more than a descendant, you will have descendants upon descendants, upon descendants all around the world.
This was the crisis in which Abraham found himself. At this moment, he is unsaved. At this moment, he is unconverted. God has called him out of Ur of the Chaldeans. It has been a long circular route to come into the Promised Land. He is an idolater. He is a moon worshiper. He is a pagan. He is a heathen. He is separated from God. He is outside the kingdom of God. God comes to him and speaks this word to Abraham. A part of this lineage that will come out of Abraham, if he will believe in the word of God, out of this lineage will come the Savior, will come the Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ. Bound up in this promise is also the gospel itself. It is more than just a nation, it is more than just land, it is one whom God will send born of a woman in the fullness of time, born under the law, it would be none other than the Savior of sinners, the Lord Jesus Christ. We know from John eight that the gospel was preached to Abraham.
Abraham has to make a choice. He looks at himself, he looks at Sarah, and rightly concludes, impossible. He hears the gospel. He hears the word of God presented to him. Abraham looks away from himself. He looks away from how dead he is physically to bear a child, he looks away from the impossible circumstances, and he chooses to look to the word of God and to believe the word of God. Not based upon what his natural eyes tell him, but upon what his spiritual ears tell him. The spoken word of God that has come to Abraham. Abraham chose to believe God, and in that moment God credited righteousness to Abraham. That very defining moment, Abraham, as a true believer, was clothed in the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ and God reckoned the righteousness of God in Christ to Abraham. He becomes an incredible illustration for us of what true saving faith looks like. This is like Saul of Tarsus on the Damascus road. This is like Matthew getting up out of his tax booth and following Christ. This is exactly like the woman at the well who believed in the Savior and was saved. This is Abraham’s defining moment of faith.
I think each one of us needs to ask ourselves, have we had such a time, such a moment like this? Has there come that time in our life when we take the step of faith and enter through the narrow gate that enters into the kingdom of heaven? You may look at yourself and say there is no way God could save someone like me. There is no way that someone like me could be of any value. But the word of God says, “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” That is where Abraham was, and I trust that has happened in your life.
II. SAVING FAITH IS IN GOD’S PROMISE
Now the second thing that we see, not only is it in God’s word – and all saving faith is in God’s word. I need to circle back and just say this: Martyn Lloyd Jones says that saving faith is in the bare word and nothing else. It is in the bare, naked word of God. For us, it is recorded in Scripture. It is not Scripture and anything else. It is not believing Scripture and what your church says about your traditions. It is not what Scripture says and whatever your denomination has to say about anything. It is not what Scripture says and whatever some church hierarchy says, or your thoughts, or your whims, or your fancies. How you imagined your relationship to God to be and how you think it works out for you to enter in to the Kingdom. All of that does not amount to a hill of beans. All that matters is what God says, and what God has said is recorded in His word. Saving faith is exclusively in the bare, naked word of God.
Now second, as we look at verse 20, saving faith is in God’s promise. Promise here becomes a synonym for God’s word. God’s word is a promise. God has said what He will do. God has said what He requires. If we will respond to what God requires, God is a promise-keeping God. God will deliver what He has promised to do. In verse 20 Paul says, “Yet with respect to the promise of God…” Now this word ‘promise,’ I want you to see this in the larger context, has already been mentioned three times, in verse 13, verse 14, and in verse 16. It is a parallel term for the word of God. We see in verse 13, “For the promise to Abraham.” We see in verse 14, “The promise is nullified if one does not respond by faith.” And in verse 16, “So that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants.”
He picks this back up now in verse 20, “Yet with respect to the promise of God.” You see, God’s word is more than just objective facts. It is more than just data. It is more than just information for us to catalog and for us to bind up in a notebook. God’s word is a promise to us. God stipulates the terms of the promise. God guarantees to fulfill His part of the promise and God makes the requirement that is due from us for the promise to be fulfilled. The ball is severed into our court. The promise here is if Abraham will believe God, then God will deliver on His promise. God’s promise, first of all, is that Abraham will be credited righteousness. Second, he would have a son and his son of promise would have many descendants after him and would be a part of the messianic lineage that would flow through history until the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, who is the Messiah, the Mashua. Abraham must make the decision. Saving faith calls for action. If he will believe what God has said, then God will fulfill His promise. There has never been a promise that God has made, but that God will fulfill it, if man will act by faith.
In verse 20 look at it again, “Yet with respect to the promise of God.” You need to know this is intentionally at the beginning of the sentence. In fact, the promise of God is even before “yet with respect to.” It is the way they emphasize something in the original language, you frontload it and put it at the very beginning of the sentence. It is called the emphatic position. The promise of God is put at the very beginning of this sentence to draw our attention to it. “So yet with respect to the promise of God, he did not waiver in unbelief.” He heard what God said. He believed in his mind in what God said. He chose to believe in what God said. He did not wavier, he did not stutter, he did not trip. No one trips through the narrow gate. No one just wiggles their way through the narrow gate. It says, “He grew strong in faith, giving glory to God.” That he grew strong in faith means it was strong from the beginning and it grew stronger as time unfolded. Whenever we take God at His word, believe what God says in His word, and choose to act upon what God says in His word it brings glory to God. When we fail to believe and act upon what God says, we rob God of His glory.
That is how serious unbelief is. We are robbing God of His glory. We are bringing glory to ourselves because we are trusting in ourselves. We think we have a better plan. We think we have more strength in what we do and that we can pull this off. Faith actually gives glory to God because it looks to God. It takes God at His word. Faith is in God’s promise. We need to realize that everything that God stipulates in His word has His promise behind it, and God will execute it. God will come through in what He says He will do. When Abraham chose to believe God’s promise that he would be the father of many nations, did God come through? God came through big time. God came through in spades. God came through exponentially. God gave him a son when he was 99 years old, conceived when he was 99 years old. He got the son, I guess, when he was 100. Sarah may have been a bigger miracle. Sarah becomes pregnant and bares a son and lived through it. Then through Isaac, there came an entire nation and out of that nation would come even Gentile believers who would come into the kingdom of heaven. God did exceeding, abundantly, beyond what Abraham could have even dreamed at that moment. When you put your faith in God, you are giving glory to God. When you decisively act in faith and obey the word of God, it is the means by which you are magnifying the name of the Lord and you are honoring Him. Faith honors God and God honors faith.
III. SAVING FAITH IS IN GOD’S POWER
In verse 21 and 22, saving faith is not only in God’s word and in God’s promise, third it is in God’s power. Because faith believes that God has the power to do what God promises to do. In verse 21, “And being fully assured” – Let me stop there for a moment. Saving faith is fully assured. This verb is really a participle, ‘fully.’ ‘Assured’ means to be filled with certainty. It means to be fully persuaded. It means to be fully convinced. It is used later in Romans 14:5. I will just read it. Romans 14:5, “One person regards one day above another. Another regards one day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind.” It is the very same verb that is used there. Saving faith is fully convinced in one’s own mind. There is not equivocation, there is not hesitation, there is not doubt. One is fully assured that God will do what God says He will do in His word and that God has the power to bring it to pass.
In verse 21, “Being fully assured that what God had promised” – and there’s our word promise again – “he was able also to perform it.” I do not know about you but I love that. It is one thing to be Mr. Big Talk. It is one thing to make all these outlandish campaign promises. It is one thing to talk a good game. Every one of us around this table can talk a good game. God does more than talk. God backs it up and what God says in His word, that He will do. If we will believe in Him, there has never been a time in the history of the world that God has not come through and executed exactly to the full what He said He would do. Abraham was fully assured in that moment of faith when he committed his life to what God said. That God is able. That is a great word, ‘able.’ That God is able to perform it. Our God is able.
Verse 22 is kind of a conclusion, “Therefore it was also credited to him as righteousness.” Again, that is a quotation of Genesis 15:6. What I want you to see here in verse 22, this is the moment of his entrance into the kingdom of heaven. This is not Genesis 22, Abraham offering up Isaac – a later test of faith. This is saving faith, converting faith. This is the faith by which one enters into the kingdom of heaven. When one believes in Jesus Christ, it is with a faith that God has the power to do what God has said He will do. He has promised to wash away all of my sins. He has promised to clothe me with His perfect righteousness. He has promised to put His Holy Spirit within me. He has promised that I will be a new person in Christ and the old things passed away and new things have come. God has promised. As we believe in Christ, it is not with any waffling. We are fully assured that God is able to do what God says He will do.
Now in the time that remains, I want to give you some words that flush out what true saving faith is. For you guys who are note takers, you are going to want to jot down these words. I’ve got several. Next week we will look at verses 24 and 25, which are really the heart of the Christian faith.
Here we go, saving faith – and when I say saving faith I mean genuine, converting faith – number one is decisive. You cannot straddle the fence and come into the kingdom of heaven. You have got to cross the line. You step across the line. You step through the narrow gate. It is an all-out decision. When you come to the intersection, you are going to have to decide ‘Do I go left? Do I go right? Do I continue with the flow of this world, or do I step out of the world and decisively commit my life to Jesus Christ?’ Saving faith, number one, is decisive.
Number two is dynamic. It is never passive. It is always active. It is more than just emotional. It is more than just mental. It is volitional, in which you move out from where you are and from where you have been and you entrust your life to Christ. It is dynamic. It is active.
Third, it is personal. No one else can believe for you. You cannot hop in line with your youth group and everybody walk forward at the end of the service and everybody goes to the narrow gate together. It is personal. It is individual. There may be other people going through the narrow gate when you go through, but it is as though there is no one else in the entire world that is going through this narrow gate. It is you and you alone, and you own this decision. This is as personal as it can be and no one else can make this decision for you. Your parents cannot make this decision, your spouse cannot make this decision, your siblings cannot make this decision for you. Your pastor, your elder, the evangelist, no one else. You take a piece of chalk and draw a circle around yourself and everyone inside the circle is making this decision and that would be you.
Fourth, it is cognitive. There is a mental aspect to true saving faith. You have to know the truth of the gospel. You have to know the truth about God and about yourself and about Jesus Christ and what God requires. Saving faith never takes place in an empty intellectual vacuum. There is theological truth, doctrinal truth about the condition of your soul, the state of your soul before a holy God in heaven and the provision that He has provided in the person of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and what He requires in repentance and faith.
Fifth, it is repentant. True saving faith has repentance in it and it reroutes the direction of your life. You turn away from the direction that you have been traveling and you do a 180, and you pivot and go in a totally opposite direction – that is what repentance is. Romans 2:2-3 says that we were going according to the course of this world. Well what direction do you think that was? We all like sheep have gone astray. Each one of us has turned to his own way. It was a course going away from God. But with saving faith you no longer go according to the course of this world. You turn around and now you come towards God and now you follow Jesus Christ who is going in a totally contrary direction. You were once walking towards unholiness, you now are pursuing holiness. You were once going towards hell, you are now going towards heaven. It is a repentant faith, a complete turnaround.
Sixth, it is humble. True saving faith comes to Christ with empty hands. We have heard the hymn, “In my hands no price I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling.” You bring nothing to the table except the sin that was laid upon the Lord Jesus Christ. You come with a broken spirit. You come declaring spiritual bankruptcy. You come knowing that you have nothing to contribute to your own salvation, that God provides it all. There is a humility that is involved that comes with that. I have told you before no one struts through the narrow gate. No one is high fiving their way into the kingdom of heaven. We all come with a loneliness of heart and a broken spirit into the kingdom of heaven.
Seventh, it is a priority. Saving faith is the priority. It is the most important decision you will ever make in your life. If you are wrong here, it does not matter where else you are right. If you are right here, everything else will line up in your life one way or another in the right direction. It is the most important decision you will ever make and it towers over every other commitment you will ever make. It towers over who you will marry, where you will go to school, what kind of job you will have. Those things are admittedly important, but they are nothing compared to the importance of this priority decision in saving faith. It is the defining decision in your life.
Eighth it is irrevocable. True saving faith is a lifelong commitment. It is not a weekend journey. It is a long obedience in the same direction. You have burned your bridges behind you. There is no going back. A believer will never become an unbeliever. Just write that down. True saving faith will never become unbelief in the categorical sense. Your faith may grow weak at times, but it will never implode, it will never dissolve, it will never be eradicated, it is irrevocable. This is because God gives the gift of saving faith. God does not give you a crumby faith with which to believe. God does not give you a shallow faith for you to believe in the gospel. God gives you a dynamic, decisive faith in your spiritually dead heart in order for you to believe in Christ, and it is a faith that will keep on ticking. It will never run out of gas. It will never need to be renewed.
Ninth, and I just alluded to it, it is divinely wrought – it is authored by God Himself. He gives it to His elect. We have no faith in the gospel except God gives us that faith to believe. Faith is the gift of God. Hebrews 12:2, “looking at Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.” Philippians 1:29, “It is granted unto us not only to believe in His name but to suffer for it.” It must be given to us to believe. It is divinely wrought. It is a supernatural gift that God must give to us.
Number ten, it is life changing. Saving faith always changes the life. No one can believe in Jesus Christ and their life not change. If you tell me you have met Jesus and your life has not changed, I want to promise you that you have never met Jesus. Because Jesus is too full of grace, He is too powerful, He is too dynamic for you to meet Him but your life not change. We can put it this way: wherever saving faith is the root, a changed life will be the fruit. It is a packaged deal. Saving faith is never unaccompanied by a life that is unchanged.
Number eleven – I have two more – number eleven, it is obedient. Saving faith is obedient. We introduced that at the very outset of this book in Romans 1:5. Paul says, “To bring about the obedience of faith,” which means the obedience that faith produces. All saving faith is obedient faith. The gospel is a command – you either obey or you disobey. It is in the imperative verb – repent, believe, enter, come, eat, drink. Those are all verbs that are used in the gospels of what is synonymous with true saving faith. It is more than just an offer. It is more than just an invitation. It is that but it has more teeth in it than that. It is actually a command. In Acts 17:30-31, “God has commanded that all men everywhere repent.” If the gospel is a command, then to respond to it is obedience. To remain in unbelief is disobedience and defiance and it is rebellion against God. True saving faith is obedient. It obeys the imperative command to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The final thing I would give you, and I guess I could have kept this list going, but I want some guardrails around this. Saving faith is used so vaguely today. It is associated with so many things that are outside the boundaries of what true saving faith is. We need guard rails on the side of the road that keep us hemmed in to a focused, clear understanding of what saving faith is.
Number twelve, it is confident. True saving faith has assurance that God will receive sinners, that God will save sinners. That where sin has abounded, grace does much more abound. That God is able to take our sins and bury them in the sea of his forgetfulness. That God can take our sins and place them behind his back and see them no more. That God can remember our sins no more. That God can wash away all of our sins. That God can cloth us with the perfect righteousness of His Son, Jesus Christ. When a person responds to the gospel it is not an unbelieving belief. It is with confident faith that I know I am a sinner and I believe that Christ is a Savior and that if I will entrust my life to Him, He will openly receive me and make me His own. True saving faith that God grants as a gift has in it assurance and confidence that God will receive sinners. When I take that step of faith, I genuinely believe I have crossed the line and have entered into the kingdom of heaven.
These are the distinguishing marks of true saving faith. One more cross reference under confident – Hebrews 11:1, “Faith is the assurance” – did you hear that? – “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for. The conviction of things not seen.” True saving faith has assurance and conviction embedded in it. I think we did pretty good to get through all that. So we have a record amount of time left. I want us to be able to talk about this because this is a very important subject that we are talking about. This is who is in and who is out. This is a defining subject matter. I mean, we can define justification till we are blue in the face. We can be a theological encyclopedia and regurgitate the party line, but it becomes real in our life when we exercise true saving faith.
I want to open it up for discussion and I forgot to say at the very beginning that we will be having discussion and if anyone has any questions to let us hear from you. But let us start in the room and then Jonathan, you can tell me if anyone has any questions. What do you like about this? What do you not like? How does this hit you? How does this impact you? How does this affect your evangelism? How does this affect you talking to your kids? How does this affect your own life?
Audience Member: I had a guy call me wanting to come see me. He kept calling, calling, calling and he wanted me to use his tile company. So I finally said all right come on by. He comes in and has a yarmulke on his head, he’s an orthodox Jew about 30-35 and we end up speaking for an hour. I had been in Israel and we had seen orthodox Jews but what this guy does living in Dallas to try to be saved is unbelievable. Goes to the synagogue three times a day. He can only eat at seven or eight different restaurants because they have to be kosher. He went into all the details – he undid his shirt showed me what he was wearing underneath it. It is unbelievable. On Saturday he cannot drive his car. He has to be able to walk to synagogue. On and on and on and he said, “You will never convert me to Christianity.” And I said, “Maybe one day God will show you grace. I will not be able to convert you, but God can.” I’ve never met anybody that it was so incredibly visible how they were trying to work their way to heaven and they were headed to hell. It was just overwhelming to see his kids. What he was trying to do and as earnest as he was trying to be.
Dr. Lawson: That is a lot of hoops.
Audience Member: And he’s headed to hell. He knows the Old Testament, but yet he will not believe it. So here’s the point, I was convicted that this is true saving faith and how so many people are headed a different direction. At one level or another trying to work their way, good enough God will accept me. I’ve never seen anything like it.
Dr. Lawson: Well you are right God has to convert. God has to do it but it is incumbent upon us to do what you did and witness to him and tell him the truth. This is true faith.
Audience Member: And yet he’s looking at Abraham and he’s not seeing it. He’s not seeing it. You can sit there and have it right in front of you and you cannot see it and be going to hell.
Dr. Lawson: That is a great point. Thank you for sharing that. Somebody else.
Audience Member: What always impresses me about Abraham as he’s assessing himself is that promise that he believed – it was almost ten years before. So it wasn’t just the moment in time where he’s like “oh Sarah’s not going to have a kid.” He believed that for a decade before God blessed him with that next step. So he lived that faith for a long time.
Dr. Lawson: That is a great point which shows faith does not implode. It grows stronger and we press on. After we’ve come into the kingdom we continue to believe and trust God. Mark what were you getting ready to say?
Audience Member: Well you’ve always said “So what,” going back to seminary. So in verse 18, you said saving faith is in God’s word. You quoted Martyn Lloyd Jones, “Saving faith is in bare word.” It is Romans 10:17, “so faith comes from hearing and hearing by the word of Christ.” So the “so what” is what Paul told Timothy – preach the word. Unfortunately in much of the evangelical church today less and less time is given in every Sunday service on preaching the word, which is the very means by which God draws His people to Himself. So that is number one.
Number two, you kept banging on the point about saving faith, genuine faith, it is active faith, it is dynamic faith, it is obedient faith. Then you cited it, James builds on this in James 2, that the proof of Abraham’s faith is when he offered up Isaac on the alter. That was the fruit. As James calls it – was he not justified, declaring something, about his faith? Genuine faith, as you have said, has a different affection and a different direction. It results in something – a changed life. To the point you made earlier, much of the professing church, specifically where we are at, does not seem to have a changed life.
Dr. Lawson: Yes. And they make excuses to continue to live in this way by deluding the essence of what true faith is and negating repentance, obedience, things like that. They want to minimize what true faith is, but it is so minimized that it loses its genuineness, its authenticity. Thank you, Mark. That is a brilliant point. So what? There’s got to be a ‘so what’ to this. I think another ‘so what’ for us around this table, because I would assume that most of us in this room, and I say most not all because only God knows, I would say most of us have exercised saving faith. How thankful we should be to God that we are believers today because we would have never been believers if God had not wrought this gift in us. It is truly a work of grace, and I think another ‘so what’ is that we really should not be naïve, but be looking for fruit in other people’s lives. Because we really may need to be witnessing to them, even if they say they’re a believer. It does not mean they are a believer. There will be evidences of faith.
Online Audience Member: Can you show that you have faith without the works that come after?
Dr. Lawson: Can you show that you have faith without works? No. Faith without works is dead. It is not a true saving faith and that is quoting James 2. I mean, you can talk, but “not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” There will begin to be evidences of a changed life as you now begin to walk down the narrow path. There’s not a gap between the narrow gate and the narrow path. There is not like this chasm that separates the narrow gate and the narrow path. It’s not like you can come through the narrow gate and then for ten years nothing and then you finally get to the narrow path. I mean that is silly. They’re just budded right up to each other. There’s the narrow gate and it immediately leads down to the narrow path.
The first step, you are on the narrow path now. You are beginning to walk with new affection and a new direction. So there will begin to be some evidence even if it is initially in a humility of heart and a brokenness of spirit and a desire to glorify God and honor God and now walk with Christ. There will begin to be the evidence of this flushing out. It does not mean you end up in the mission field the next day. And it does not mean that you are this highly visible, dynamic Christian that the whole city knows about, but as the train pulls out of the station you are on a new track. You are headed in a new direction. Thank you for that question. Someone else, we’ve still got five more minutes here.
Audience Member: Dr. Lawson, one of your favorite axioms that I always hear when you preach is that high theology always equals high doxology. And with everything that has already been said here and the discussions in the past that we just covered, we see Paul’s utilization of Abraham as an example of saving faith. But every time we look at Scripture, I just think of ‘what this is telling about who God is,’ right, because it is going to fuel our walk of life.
I think if we understand the nature of His faithfulness to keeping the covenant – I mean we see Abraham, it takes us back to the Abrahamic covenant – and we see God’s covenant faithfulness. If we understand that God’s always faithful to His obligations to the covenant, versus man’s inability to keep his obligation to the covenant, that will bolster our confidence and the efficacy of God transforming our life and our confidence in God to keep the covenant. Then also that is going to motivate us to be more diligent in pursing the glory of God in our own life. Understanding that God is faithful, immutably faithful, to keep the covenant that He made, to enter into by His own prerogative. That ought to fuel us in our walk of life. It ought to give us confidence – His ability to change our life, to conform us to the image of Christ. I think that changes everything. We understand that the covenant-making and covenant-keeping God is our motivation and the source of the way that we live our life.
Dr. Lawson: Amen. That is so well spoken. For all us around this table and for those watching, whenever you teach a passage, one thing to always be looking for is where God is in this and who is God. James Montgomery Boice, who we all love in this room, preached a sermon on verses 18 through 22. I think it was on the attributes of God – what do we learn about God? Just like what you are saying. He is the God of truth as He makes this promise. He is omnipotent. He’s able to back up his promise. He is faithful, as you said. He is immutable. Boice walks through this passage and highlights the attributes of God. For those of us who teach Sunday School lessons or occasionally preach a sermon, that is one paradigm to always be looking into a passage, whether it is the sermon outline or whether it is just the application at the end like what we are saying here. It has been well said that in every narrative God is the principle actor. Whether He is seen or standing in the corner unseen, the object of the word of God is to reveal the God of the word. Thank you that is tremendous. One more.
Audience Member: One thing, this was about God’s promise, His grace and His mercy, but on the other side of that there’s a wrath. But that is a promise that we forget about. This is a sermon of great things and how to change and all the positives that come with being a Christ-follower. Well people are motivated really by two ways, fear or pull right? You need to know that God has a promise in the Scriptures that hell and damnation will follow. You have a choice.
When you do not receive the free gift, you are making the alternative choice. That is a promise as well. You said it here about life changing – I thought about that, no one can accept a free gift and their life not change. You haven’t accepted it. So you are choosing the alternative promise.
Dr. Lawson: That is so well put, Chris. I am so glad for you to say that because to not make a choice is to make a choice. If you do not commit your life to Christ, you’ve made a choice and God has a promise for you. If you die in unbelief, Romans 1:18 says, “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness and ungodliness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” God is a promise-keeping God either way. I think that is a great way for us to wrap up our study and we are so thankful that you have joined us for this Bible study.
You must believe upon Jesus Christ. You must commit your life to Him and if you will commit your life to Christ, He will forgive you of your sins and He will clothe you with His perfect righteousness. But if you die in unbelief, you will be the object of His eternal wrath forever and ever. There is a real place called hell where you will suffer throughout all the ages to come. So flee to Christ. Run to Christ. Today is the day in which He receives those who come to Him by faith.
Men, what a great study. The nature of true saving faith. Next time we will look at the last two verses, which are very important and we will meet next Wednesday. Please make every effort to be here because these last two verses are so good I just did not want to hydroplane over those. I want to dig down into this and it may even spill over a little bit into chapter 5.
Let’s close in a word of prayer. Father, thank You for the word that we have heard today in Romans four. I pray that everyone of us in this room has genuinely exercised true saving faith and have committed their life to Christ. If there are any here today who have not, Lord, may You win their heart over today and may You draw them to Yourself. For those who are watching, we pray the same. May the message of this lesson go out far and wide. We pray this in Jesus name Amen.
© 2019 Steven J. Lawson