Justification By Faith Illustrated

Romans 4:1-25

by Dennis Baker

Justification in both the Old and New Testaments has always been by faith and grace. No one has ever been justified by works or keeping the law. The text provides three principles illustrating the spiritual experience of believers today is similar to that of Old Testament believers Abraham and David.

Principle One, justification is by faith and not works, Vs. 1-8. “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness”, V. 3. At the age of seventy-five God promised Abraham that he would be the father of a great nation, Genesis 12:2-3. Later in life, Abraham raised a question to God concerning his promise, “what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless,” Genesis 15:2. God confirmed His promise by assuring Abraham that his seed would be like the stars. Abraham simply took God’s Word at face value and believed God. Abraham believed in his heart that God had told him the truth. Abraham’s faith was never something that he could boast about or for which he could receive praise, he simply believed God would accomplish what He had promised.

Quoting from Psalm 32:1-2 in verse 8, David’s song of confession of sin, Paul illustrates that God forgives sin and imputes righteousness without works. Today, believers can be assured that once they are justified by faith, our record contains Christ’s perfect righteous and our record can never again contain our sins. Christians do sin, and these sins need to be forgiven if we are to have fellowship with God, but these sins are not held against us. God does keep a record of our works, so that He might reward us when Jesus comes, but he is not keeping a record of our sins.

Principle Two, justification is by grace and not the law, Vs. 9-17. Abraham was declared righteous fourteen years before he was circumcised. Circumcision had nothing to do with God declaring Abraham justified. Circumcision, as a sign, was evidence that Abraham belonged to God because he believed God’s promises. Circumcision, as a seal was a reminder to Abraham that God had given the promise and that God would keep His promise. Today the believer experiences a spiritual circumcision of the heart and is sealed by the Holy Spirit, Ephesians 1:13. Circumcision did not add to Abraham’s faith, it merely provided evidences of Abraham’s faith. The fact that Abraham was justified by grace and not the law proves that salvation is available to all. God’s promise is by faith, so that it might be guaranteed to all people who believe. If we could be saved by keeping the law, and not grace, there would be no guarantee that salvation would be available to all who believe.

Principle Three, justification is by resurrection power and not human effort, Vs. 18-25. God’s delay in sending Abraham and Sarah a son was to permit their natural strength to decline. It would seem impossible for a ninety-nine-year-old man and an eighty-nine-year-old woman to have a child. From the reproductive point of view, both of them were dead. Abraham did not walk by sight but by faith. Abraham believed God’s promises. Application, God waits until the sinner is “dead” or not strong enough to do anything to please God for salvation. When Abraham admitted that he was “dead” God’s power went to work on the body. It is when the lost sinner confesses that he is spiritually dead and unable to help himself that God can save him. The Gospel “is the power of God unto salvation” because of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. The resurrection of Christ is proof that God accepted Christ’s sacrifice and we can be justified without God violating His own law or contradicting His own nature. The Key to salvation is “if we believe,” v. 24.


Dr. Harry Ironside, who for 18 years was pastor of the Moody Church in Chicago, was on vacation visiting a Sunday school class. The teacher asked, “How were people saved in the Old Testament times?” One man replied, “By keeping the law.” That’s right,” said the teacher. But Dr. Ironside interrupted: “My Bible says that by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified.” The teacher was

a bit embarrassed, so he said, “Well, does somebody else have an idea?” Another student replied, “They were saved by bringing sacrifices to God.” “Yes, that’s right!” The teacher said and tried to go on with the lesson. But Dr. Ironside interrupted, “My Bible says that the blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sin.” The unprepared teacher was sure the visitor knew more about the Bible than he did, so he said, “Well you tell us how people were saved in the Old Testament!” And Dr. Ironside explained that they were saved by faith-the same way people are saved today!”

The good news for the people of the world, all of whom are guilty before God because of their sin, is that God in His grace offered His Son as a sacrifice to pay the penalty of sin. Those who place their faith in Jesus Christ are counted as righteous and receive the gift of eternal life.

Bibliography: Wiersbe, Warren W., Be Right NT Commentary Romans. Colorado Springs, Co: David C. Cook, 1977.

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