Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THE THIRD WITNESS”

Romans 4.6-8 

The hearth fires have long since gone out on a cool, moonlit, night in Jerusalem. The quiet blanket of sleep covers the ancient city, except for the occasional donkey that brays and the odd rooster who doesn’t know what time it is. Grotesque shadows are cast by the moon that is high in the sky as the faintest of sounds whispers over the roof tops. What is that sound? Where does it come from?

Move closer to Mount Zion. Come nearer to the city of David. Hear it again? It’s the sound of weeping. Not the soprano crying of a woman or a child. It’s the baritone chest-heaving sobs of a grown man. Look through the window into the room where the man lay. Next to the man is a stringed instrument. Just a few feet away, next to the lamp that has gone out, is a scroll upon which poems and songs have been written. The wet quill and the still moist words reveal that a new poem has been added to the list.

Now the man stands up and wipes away his tears and smoothes his beard. We notice his ruddy complexion and his fine garments. As he moves to the balcony that overlooks the houses below and catches the moonlight on his face, we can see more clearly. It’s David, the sweet psalmist of Israel, the shepherd king, the anointed of God.

What was he crying about? Was he weeping over the death of his newborn son, born to his wife, Bathsheba? Was his heart broken over the stern rebuke he received from his intimate friend, the prophet Nathan? Perhaps he still aches from the grief and the guilt of betrayal at having committed adultery with Bathsheba and murdering her husband, the faithful mighty man Uriah.

But no, David is smiling. His countenance is bright. The full weight of what Nathan said to him earlier in the week has dawned on him, and with that realization, the floodgates of his heart burst open, not with grief and heartache, but with joy and release and freedom from guilt. What was it Nathan said as he rebuked David for the sin of adultery and the sin of murder? What statement was made along with the consequences of his sinful deeds that would be experienced by his family? In response to David’s admission, saying “I have sinned against the LORD,” Nathan said, “The LORD also hath put away thy sin.”[1]

With that statement, David was thus qualified to become the Apostle Paul’s third witness. Remember the Biblical requirement of having two, or better three, qualified witnesses to attest to truth? It’s a principle that is found in both Old and New Testaments.[2] With Paul himself being the first witness, and with Abraham being the second witness, David now becomes the third witness who is qualified to testify on the subject of the justification which is by faith. In Romans 4.6-8, the Apostle Paul reviews the testimony of this third witness. I invite you to find that passage and then stand with me for the reading of God’s Word: 

6  Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works,

7  Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.

8  Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. 

Concerning David, there are two things in connection with Israel’s greatest king that are important to us: 

NOTICE, FIRST, THE SUMMATION ABOUT DAVID 

Verse 6:

“Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works.” 

There are two things found in the Apostle Paul’s summation of David’s testimony and experience that we would do well to take note of:

First, take note of David’s agreement. Verse 6 begins with the words, 

“Even as David also....” 

If you engage your sanctified imagination, you might be able to hear the Jewish men disputing with Paul on those many occasions when they did just that. Standing outside a synagogue on a Saturday morning, just a few minutes after he has once more declared that Abraham was justified by faith apart from works of the Law, Paul is assailed yet again by a group of agitated men who are arguing that all that happened before the Law of Moses was given. “It’s no longer relevant,” they insist. Anticipating that such arguments from opponents who would dispute with his readers in Rome, Paul includes in his letter to the Romans the testimony and experience of yet another respected Biblical figure whose testimony he has come to rely on over the years, David, the king of Israel. David, you will remember, lived under the Law of Moses, not before the giving of the Law, as had Abraham. Therefore, his agreement that justification is by faith, apart from works of the Law even after the giving of the Law, is very important to Paul’s presentation of the truth in his letter to the Romans. And is there agreement between Abraham and David? Paul knows there is. For years he has relied on the agreement of David with Abraham when he explains the doctrine of justification by faith alone. Therefore, the opening phrase in Romans 4.6, which sets forth this agreement: 

“Even as David also....” 

Then, there is acknowledgment. Listen carefully to Paul’s summary statement of David’s words that are quoted in verses 7 and 8. This is Paul’s inspired interpretation of David’s comments. Paul writes that David 

“describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works.” 

What does Paul say David is acknowledging here? First, David is acknowledging what. The what is the blessedness of being justified by faith. Please understand, blessedness is not a feeling. Sometimes the blessed do not feel blessed. But they are blessed, nevertheless, if they have the righteousness which comes by faith. Therefore, it is far more important to be blessed without feeling than it is to feel blessed merely. Second, David is acknowledging who. Who is to account for the blessedness of the man in question? Who is to account for the smile on David’s face in the middle of the night after the heartache of such sin and suffering? Certainly not David. The key here is God. For a man to be blessed God must bless. And David acknowledges this to be true. Then, David is acknowledging how. How does God accomplish this event whereby a man is blessed? David’s experience is that “God imputeth righteousness without works.” This word “imputeth” is the same word as “counted” back in verse 3 and “reckoned” back in verse 4. It’s that accounting term. David’s spiritual ledger is credited with righteousness by God. David didn’t do anything to have a plus amount of righteousness. God did what needed to be done and then credited it to David’s account. That’s real blessedness. That’s what Paul says that David said. Now let’s read for ourselves and see what David said. 

WHICH BRINGS US, SECOND, TO THE QUOTATION OF DAVID 

Verses 7-8:

7  Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.

8  Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. 

These two verses are a direct quote of Psalm 32.1-2, one of the two penitential psalms that David wrote following his sin of adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband, his faithful servant Uriah. Notice what this choice servant of God, who had willfully and quite intentionally committed horrible sins, wrote under inspiration of the Holy Spirit:

First, with respect to people who are blessed, verse 7: 

Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.” 

There are two things of real importance in this verse:

First, blessed people are those whose “iniquities are forgiven.” What does it mean to have your iniquities forgiven? “Iniquities” translates a word that means lawlessnesses.[3] Not just someone who occasionally violates the law, but someone who willfully, who flagrantly, who maliciously, contravenes the restrictions of the law. This is the guy who spits in response to the “No Spitting” sign and who swears loudly in the library while standing next to the “Please Speak Quietly” sign. But worse, he cheats with another man’s wife and then kills the man to cover it all up. And the word “forgiven?” The word seems rather anemic in English, but in Greek, it refers to dispatching, to sending away, to running off, to dismissing, and to releasing someone from all legal and moral obligation.[4] This verse has no reference, then, to giving a nice guy a second chance. David is referring to forgiving the unlawful behavior of someone who violates the law willfully and flagrantly. When people do wrong, they do wrong because they want to do wrong. When a guy like that has his unlawful behavior forgiven, he is blessed, and undeservedly so.

Next, blessed people are those “whose sins are covered.” Again, what does it mean to have your sins covered? “Sins” translates a different Greek word than “iniquity.” Whereas “iniquity” has to do with violation of the law, “sins” have to do with failing to hit the mark, failure to be on target, failing to measure up.[5] And it’s not because you try to hit the mark and miss. You miss the mark because the target to strive for is here, but you intentionally aim over here. Why? It’s your nature. It’s my nature. “Covered” refers to having something veiled. This word is the opposite of the Bible word “revelation.” “Revelation” translates a word that means permanently unveiled or permanently unshrouded, while this word refers to something that is permanently shrouded and hidden from view.[6] David was of the inspired opinion that sinful men whose sinful behavior was permanently hidden from God’s view were men who were uniquely and wonderfully blessed of God.

But those were David’s comments about people, plural. What about the individual man who is a blessed person? Notice, as he moves from the general comment of verse 7, “Blessed are they,” to the specific comment of verse 8: 

“Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” 

Let’s state some things that we know to be true before we go any further. We know that this episode in David’s life occurred when he was a child of God. That event whereby he was justified by faith had occurred some years earlier. So we are examining a portion of Scripture that comments on the results of a justified person who sins very badly. What happens when someone who has been justified by faith commits a very serious sin or very serious sins? Two things are already known for sure:

First, when the justified man behaves unlawfully when he commits iniquities, those iniquities are forgiven. Keep in mind that there is no evidence in God’s Word that David asked God for forgiveness for the sin of adultery and the sin of murder. Not to say he was not sorry. Not to suggest he did not repent. Only to say that he did not ask for forgiveness. The biblical record shows that David simply acknowledged his wicked and unlawful behavior and Nathan informed him that God had “put away” his sins, had “forgiven” him.

Second, we know that when the believer commits “sins,” they are “covered.” That is, the behavior exhibited by the believer which falls short of the mark, which falls short of the glory of God, is shrouded from God’s view. But don’t think that God is being deceived in this respect. Remember, He is the One Who has done the covering.

Verse 8 is somewhat different than verse 7 in a way I have not yet pointed out. Verse 7 gives the impression of something having been done in David’s past that resulted in forgiveness and covering. Verse 8, however, definitely points to the future, using the phrase “will not.” Knowing that “blessed” is a description of the man who has been justified by faith, this verse tells us something about your future and mine, just as it tells us what David realized about his own future as a child of God. The blessed man is he “to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” This word “impute” is that accounting term again. The Lord will not mark down to the account of a believer any sin he has committed. Hold on a second. Isn’t that unjust? Not if it’s marked down to Someone else’s account instead. It’s only unjust if the ledgers don’t balance. But how they’re balanced is God’s business. Amen? 

Think about Paul’s third witness, David, and how his testimony differs from Paul’s second witness, Abraham. Remember, Paul provides testimony that verifies that justification is by faith, apart from works.

Abraham’s testimony, from Genesis 15.6, had to do with the occasion in time when his faith was counted to him for righteousness. To put it another way, Abraham’s testimony showed how a man without righteousness acquired righteousness by faith, without doing any works of the Law, or any other good deeds. He simply believed God. And his experience took place centuries before the Law of Moses was given.

David’s testimony, on the other hand, comes from a man who already had a relationship with God and who lived centuries after the Law had been given. He had already been justified. But his testimony differed from Abraham’s in this respect: Abraham’s experience showed that works have nothing to do with acquiring the righteousness which comes by faith. David’s experience showed that works have nothing to do with keeping the righteousness which is by faith.

Abraham shows those who believe that you come to be saved by works that they are wrong in their belief, that salvation is obtained by faith and not by works, plus nothing and minus nothing. David, on the other hand, shows those who believe that you can lose your salvation that they are wrong in their belief, that salvation, once obtained by faith without works, can never be lost by works, even horribly wicked works such as David’s adultery and cover-up murder.

This is quite a bit on your plate to say grace over, so to review in your mind, remember that in Romans 4.1-5 we are told by Paul of Abraham’s experience of being justified by faith apart from works of the Law to establish a saving relationship with God, while Romans 4.6-8 shows us the time in David’s life as a believer when his experience as a man already justified by faith apart from works of the Law was maintained by faith. In essence, that which you didn’t work to get you don’t work to keep either.

On that lonely night in Jerusalem, so many centuries ago, a man who had committed terrible, terrible sins against God, against a woman he had later come to love, and against a man who had shown him unparalleled loyalty and personal devotion, sat beside his bed and composed a poem. We know that poem as the 32nd Psalm. That Psalm shows us the dazzling beauty and glory of a precious stone set against the backdrop of the pitch dark horror of betrayal and selfish sin that David had committed.

Perhaps it is only against such a background that the beauty of God’s salvation could be properly displayed. But in its display, we see the one side of justification that the Apostle Paul wanted his readers and us to see. Certainly not intending to glorify David’s folly, God did use David’s experience to show that the righteousness which is by faith is such a marvel of God’s grace that not only can it not be acquired by works, it cannot be lost by works either.

My unsaved friend, you need that which you cannot get for yourself. You need the relationship with God which Christ died to provide for you. Without it, you perish in Hellfire. Consider sitting down with me so I can show you from God’s Word how this salvation in Christ can be yours.

And now I turn to you, my sinning brother or sister in Christ. Cry as David did and shed the kind of tears that coursed his cheeks. Rejoice in the realization that even the most horrible sin cannot separate you from the love of God which is in Christ.

__________

[1] 2 Samuel 12.13

[2] Numbers 35.30; Deuteronomy 17.6-7; Joshua 24.22; Ruth 4.9-11; Job 10.17; Isaiah 8.2; 43.9-12; 44.8-9; Jeremiah 32.10, 12, 25, 44; Matthew 18.15-20; Luke 24.46-48; Acts 1.8; 2.32; 3.15; 5.32; 10.39-40; 13.31; 2 Corinthians 13.1; 1 Thessalonians 2.10; 1 Timothy 5.19; 6.12; Hebrews 10.28; 1 John 4.1; 5.7-9; Revelation 1.1; 2.2

[3] Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 357.

[4] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), pages 156-157.

[5] Ibid., pages 50-51.

[6] Ibid., page 373.

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org