Chapter 4, The Study
Justification by Faith Evidenced in Old Testament

J. Deering,


Romans 4
Justification by Faith Evidenced in Old Testament


KEY CONCEPT: I have this very precious thing – but it is not for sale – at any price – it just is not for sale.


Here's a little story that I hope will help you with understanding the meaning of salvation is by grace alone as we find it in Chapter four.

My story is called, “The man and the Grocer”


There was this man who wanted to buy some gold and he went down to the local grocer to buy some. We all know that a grocer sells vegetables, he may have some gold, but he sells vegetables. The man says to the grocer, "I want to buy some gold." The grocer says, "I'm very sorry, but I don't sell gold, I sell vegetables." The man, desiring to still buy some gold says, "that's just fine, here's what I'll do. I'll work for you for the gold." The grocer again states that he does not sell gold, he sells vegetables." The man says, "fine, but I'll still work for the gold." At the end of the week, the man comes to get his pay check and the grocer pays him in vegetables." Before the man can explain his desire to buy gold from the grocer, the grocer explains, "I don't sell gold."


The grocer sells vegetables, and he pays in vegetables, he is free to do with as he pleases with his gold – he can even give it away. But, He does not sell gold, he sells vegetables.


The story is about the gold the grocer has. Yes he has it, but it is not for sale at any price - but he can give it away if it pleases him to do so. Our man in the story never asked if he could have some of the grocer's gold, never asked if the grocer would give him some for that, he considered would be pitty. He only asked if he could buy it, but the grocer does not sell gold, he sells vegetables.

1What then

shall we say

that Abraham, our forefather (A) according to the flesh,

has found?


Although Paul often is addressing a Gentile audience, it is obvious that a number of the congregation has at least a Jewish background. Paul is asking about a physical lineage back to Abraham.

"What has Abraham found?" he asks, what is his experience? Abraham did many things. He was a Chaldean. He was of the ninth generation of Shem the son of Noah. Scholars divide up his spiritual life into four periods. The first, would be "His Call." Abram was about seventy years old when God called him and said, "go to a place I will show thee." Along the way, while he is in Canaan, God tells him a second time of His promise to him. Abram travels to Egyp and has many adventures there, he then returns to Canaan. Once there he finds that there is not enough land for himself and his nephew Lot and decides to willingly give the best land to Lot. There God, once again, tells Abram of His promise. Abram then rescues Lot from the difficulties he's in with the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and on his return meets the High Priest of Almighty God, from Jerusalem, Melchizedek. He blesses Abram in their parting. The second period of Abraham's life begins with a vision and solemn covenant by God. He was told, and he believed, that his seed should be as the stars of heaven, they would become a nation, and they would posses the land for four hundred years. At the end of the second period Abram has taken Hagar for the bearing of a son since Sarah remained barren.


Part three of Abraham's life he was ninety-nine years old, and God still favored him and changed his name from Abram to Abraham, renewed His covenant, and asked Abraham to follow in the right of circumcision. God assures him that Sarah will be the promised child's mother. Much happens in this third period including the birth of Isaac, the long awaited son. Abraham at one hundred years of age and Sarah at ninety-nine in B.C. 2061.


The fourth period was the period of Abraham's great trial. The asked for sacrifice of his only born son, Isaac. Abraham says at the foot of the mountain of sacrifice, "Stay here with the horses, for WE will be back," "The Lord Himself will provide the sacrifice."


When it came to the "salvation" of Abraham, we read that "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness."


if Abraham was justified by works,

he has something to boast about,

but (B) not before God.


So then the questions becomes, "How then does someone become justified?”


Abraham could not have been justified by being a keeper of the law. While the Law included the sacrifices that would cover (atone) Abraham’s sins, however there was no sacrifice in place for the covering (atoning) of Abraham’s sin of being a child of Adam and Eve. The sacrifices were for relationship sins, and then only unintentional sins at that – therefore Abraham could never be totally justified before God. God must PROCLAIM Abraham as justified based upon his belief.


Paul asks, "So where is the place for boasting if you can’t boast in front of God about it?"


Since God’s RIGHTEOUSNESS (Justification) is not on the market, not for sale, cannot be purchased – then what righteousness can you buy by working for it – your own righteousness or some kind of righteousness that is apart from Him and His righteousness. But, your own righteousness is of no value to God for it does not meet His standard. You cannot become the possessor of His righteousness by working for it because His righteousness is not for sale.


what does the Scripture say?



This is the key – ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD.


Please note: Abraham didn’t “believe IN God,” he “BELIEVED GOD.”


Thus Abraham becomes Justified based upon his BELIEF, not upon his PERFORMANCE – No one can become Justified based upon his performance, for we all fall short of the demands of a Holy and Righteous God.


God’s righteousness, which cannot be purchased at any price (remember our grocer?), is only available directly as a gift FROM GOD, and then, only on the basis of RELATIONSHIP (Belief).


One of our relationships with God is is our debt to Him for offenses committed. There are two kinds of debt and one kind is called sin, and the other is called sins. Our sin comes about just by being a child of Adam. From the curse of the garden down until now every human bears the burden for what Adam and Eve did in the garden. That is our sin - called "Original sin," or "our sin nature." The other kind, our sins, come directly from our hearts and our actions. We displease God all day, every day, through our selfish motives and actions. If He is not central to every thought and deed then we act according to self and not according to his expected will.


No matter how hard we struggle (work) to free ourselves from this debt - we only make it worse, because we struggle and work to free ourselves from the debt. When we do it, it becomes meaningless to God. It's not what He wants. He wants to free you from it, but you insist that you have to do it. Poor man, trapped by his own self-centeredness.


But what does God say about Abraham? Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness. Abraham's debt was cancelled out by the credit of righteousness that God made to his account, because HE BELIEVED GOD.


When you believe God, and again it is not "believe in God," but "believe God," believe in what He says, believe in what His word says, believe in the truth that God alone can offer, then He opens his accounting books, looks up your account, and credits you in the amount of eternal righteousness. That credit, being eternal, pays for sins past, present and future, it even pays for the sin of being a child of Adam. That credit places you into the very presence of God as acceptable to Him. You debt has been paid by God Himself.


How can he do that, on what basis can God grant you forgiveness for the total of all offenses. Whether it was Abraham or you, then or now, God can only righteously, justifiably grant to absolute forgiveness unless the debt was fully paid - and this is the completed work of Jesus Christ who died on that shameful cross at Calvary. Jesus said, just before His death, "It is finished." His work to free all those who would believe upon His name was finished there at the cross. Not matter who or how many would come to Him for that forgiveness the price was paid.


A good friend, many years ago now, used the illustration of what Christ has done is of an individual putting a million dollars into a bank account and then telling someone that if they went down to the bank, and identified themselves, the bank would give them the money - no questions asked. Who, you ask, wouldn't go right down to the bank and get that money. It seems like even a silly proposition to set forth. But God has placed the forgiveness of the world into the hands of Christ Jesus. His suffering and death at the cross paid the entire bill, but you have to put yourself aside and go and ask for it. "Hi, my name is Joe Schmoe, a guy put money in your bank, signed my name to it, here's my ID, and I want my money!" The bank just hands it over. God, through Jesus Christ, placed forgiveness for you sin and your sins into an account with your name on it. He then says, "believe that I have done this, believe upon my Son that He has done this, and come and identify yourself and ask for what is now rightfully yours!" Those who ask - receive! Those who do not ask, for whatever reason - don't receive.


On the basis of HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS I become JUSTIFIED in God’s RECKONING. Remember the old cowboy expression, "I reckon." "The man says that the horse down in the stall is now mine because he paid for it for me, so it's mine, "I reckon." In the mind of God it is right that His Son, Jesus, went to the cross in order to pay for sin and sins of those who would believe upon Him. He reckons our belief as righteousness for us. I believe according to His reckoning = I become righteous according to His reckoning. God counted Abraham righteous because Abraham believed God.

Differentiating between worked-for self-righteousness VS God Reckoned righteousness



to the one who (D) works,

his wage is not credited as a favor,

but as what is due.


This kind of work is not the “go to work every day” kind of work. Verse 5 defines work as the opposite of BELIEF. Paul says that if you work for someone the work you do is not counted as a favor to them. I worked many years for a single employer - they never said, or even put a note in my paycheck that said, "Thanks for the favor." Well, you do nothing in God's estimation when you work for your salvation. It is a gift that you can receive, but you can't pay for it, even by working for it.


I suppose there are even those who say, "I deserve your salvation!" But they would be gravely mistaken for we humans are all marred and dirty. We're earthen pots headed for the dump. There is nothing beautiful or desirous about us. All our works are as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).


No matter what you DO you can never DESERVE Justification Or Righteousness. The mere fact that you have to DO something or WORK for it means that you cannot attain Justification or Righteousness – You either are or your aren’t – but you can’t BUY IT. You can't WORK FOR IT.


to the one who does not work,

but (E) believes in Him who justifies the ungodly,

his faith is credited as righteousness,



6just as

David also speaks of the blessing on the man

to whom God credits righteousness

apart from works:



Why won't the Lord take this man's sin into account? Because this man has believed God and his lawless deeds have been forgiven.

9Is this blessing then

on (I) the circumcised,


on the uncircumcised also?


Paul's question asks whether this applies to the Jew or to all mankind. Paul has brought up Abraham and now David, perhaps he means the Jews - let's see whom he means.


(J) we say,



This question is not about who (Abraham) but it is about when, as we'll see next, "When was faith credited to Abraham as righteousness?"

  10How then was it credited?

While he was





 We again state that this is a question of when? Questions like, "When did Abram become Abraham?" "When did Abram become a Jew," "When did Abraham receive the sign of being a Jew? Paul's answer would have astounded the Jews listening to his teaching.

Not while circumcised,


while uncircumcised;


In Exodus 15 the Gentile man Abram, who was a friend of God, was told by God that he would have a son from his physical body and he would become the first of Abram's descendants that would be as numerous as the stars over his head. "Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness" (Genesis 15:6). At that time in the world there were no Jews, they would be the twelve tribes that came from his son Isaac's son, Jacob's children.

11and he (L) received the sign of circumcision,

(M) a seal of the righteousness of the faith

which he had while uncircumcised,


 When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to him and called him Abraham, made a covenant with him, and was circumcised as a sign of belonging to God (Genesis 17). For Abraham and those males who followed him in faith, the sign of that faith would be circumcision.

so that

he might be (N) the father of

(O) all who believe

without being circumcised,


 But, he was reckoned righteousness for his belief before circumcision was required.


Abram, Abraham, received the blessing, received the promises, received the reckoned righteousness – as a GENTILE in order that ABRAHAM might be the FATHER of ALL WHO BELIEVE whether CIRCUMCISED OR NOT (Jew or Gentile). 


righteousness might be credited to them,


All those who call upon the Lord for salvation are like Abraham. Choosing to be God's friend, choosing to live a life that would not displease God, choosing obedience instead of self, all become children after the likeness of Abraham's faith! It does not matter whether or not one is a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or un-cut! God reckons righteousness on the basis of Faith in Him.

12and the father of circumcision

to those who not only are of the circumcision,


who also follow in the steps of the faith

of our father Abraham

which he had while uncircumcised.


 So, therefore, all who call upon the Lord in-Faith, either circumcised or uncircumcised, do so on the same basis - Faith in God and that is reckoned as righteousness in the heart of the believer.

Abraham through Isaac, through Jacob, out of the Gentile world Abraham’s physical seed would come the nation of Israel, those who were under the covenant to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and under the rule of circumcision. Out of Abraham comes the principle of PHYSICAL DESCENDANTS – those who physically descend Abraham, and out of Abraham comes the principle of SPIRITUAL DESCENDANTS – those who do AS Abraham did – BELIEVE GOD, and to them belief was reckoned as righteousness.


(P) the promise

to Abraham


to his descendants

(Q) that he would be heir of the world

was not

through the Law,


through the righteousness of faith.


The Promise given to Abraham of heirship of Faith was TO THE WORLD, not to the Jew ONLY!


At the "End of TIME" – After the plan of God ON EARTH is done, after the Judgments and the sentencing, when only the elect are in the presence of God – THEN they receive the promised blessing – of THE HEIRSHIP OF GOD, and not just to the Jew, but to all those who placed their faith in God for their Salvation. That salvation would be based upon the finished work of the Son of God, Christ Jesus and applied through Faith. 


(R) if those who are of the Law are heirs,

faith is made void and the promise is nullified;


Paul states that if those who were under the law (Jews) could "through the law" attain to the promise (the covenant promises of God) then there would be no need for faith, in fact the promises themselves would become nullified and void. If you could work (do it yourself through your efforts) then there would be no promise of God doing it for you. If you could do it, and God had not promised it, then how could they even be heirs - those who work to receive it?


(S) the Law brings about wrath,


(T) where there is no law,

there also is no violation.


 Of course you could not work for blessings, they wouldn't be blessings if you could work for them. And under the law there was no blessing promised, instead under the law there was only penalty for non-performance of the law.


The police officer does not give you a reward for going the speed limit, does he? There is not reward in the law, only punishment for not doing right.

16For this reason

it is by faith,

in order that

it may be in accordance with (U) grace,

so that

the promise will be guaranteed

to (V) all the descendants,


 So it is that you can only be blessed by your relationship with God, not your performance. Here near the end of Paul's argument do we understand that the blessing of God is only by faith, not by works, and it is to all descendants of Abraham who are descendants by FAITH.

not only to those who are of the Law,


also to (W) those who are of the faith of Abraham,

who is (X) the father of us all,


So, if you are a Jew (under the Law) and have a heart relationship to The Lord, or a Gentile (not under the Law), who has a heart relationship to The Lord, your heart relationship, believing God, makes you an heir of the promises of God (the benefits of salvation).

17(as it is written,


 in the presence of Him whom he believed,

even God,

(Z) who gives life to the dead and

(AA) calls into being (AB) that which does not exist.

 18In hope against hope

he believed,


These words are all about Abraham when he took his only son and was willing to offer him up as a sacrifice to God - because God said to! Who was Abraham, he was the one who believed God, He believed that God could take his son's life as a sacrifice, and yet God "who gives life to the dead" could resurrect him to fulfill the promises God had made concerning him; and yet God "who calls into being that which does not exist" could provide from the realms of things that do no exist and provide the sacrifice necessary. It was Abraham who hoped - against all the worldly odds - knowing that God would provide and he and his son would, as he had said to his servant, "hold the donkey, we will return." He believed God! In the Presence of God – he believed God

            so that he might become (AC) a father of many nations

according to that which had been spoken,


19Without becoming weak in faith

he contemplated his own body,

now (AE) as good as dead

since (AF) he was about a hundred years old,

and (AG) the deadness of Sarah's womb;


When Isaac was born Abraham was 100 years old and Sarah was 99. What other man and woman would be having a baby at their ages? And yet Abraham and Sarah believed the promise of God more that their age or the deadness of her womb. Abraham, in the face of impossibilities – Abraham BELIEVED GOD, and not what he knew about himself and his wife. He knew God and believed Him.


with respect to the promise of God,

he did not waver in unbelief


grew strong in faith,

(AH) giving glory to God,  21and

(AI) being fully assured


(AJ) what God had promised,

He was able also to perform.


REGARDLESS of the CIRCUMSTANCES and the APPARENT nature of things around him – Abraham did not WAVER IN UNBELIEF, "and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform."





Abraham was fully assured in the promises of God, His word, taking Him at His word, THEREFORE it was credited to him as righteousness!



(AL) not for his sake only was it written

that it was credited to him,


for our sake also,

to whom it will be credited,

as those (AM) who believe in

Him who (AN) raised Jesus our Lord from the dead,

25He who was (AO) delivered over

because of our transgressions, and

was (AP) raised because of our justification.


This was not done for ABRAHAM alone, but for ALL WHO WOULD BELIEVE. Those who would believe that the Father who deliver His Son over to the cross, to be crucified, who raised Jesus from the dead in the glorious resurrection as a demonstration of the Power of God, in bringing about the our justification for the Glory of the Name of Jesus, and the Glory of God the Father.

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

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