Calvary Road Baptist Church

“WHAT FAITH OBTAINS”

Romans 4.22-25 

The noted philosopher George Santayana penned one of the great truths about human history: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” His observation echoes a somewhat more cynical version written earlier by the German philosopher Friedrich Hegel: “The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history.”[1] These profound statements are repeated over and over again because human behavior seems to bear the statements out. We do not learn from history.

There was a time in the course of human events when a small group of highly educated and profoundly intelligent men led a group of immigrants to the New World to throw off the yoke of oppression placed upon them by a highly centralized government that saw itself having ultimate authority to rule in the lives of men. The same thing is developing again in our country, but we do not seem to be learning the lesson of history. We do not learn from history.

What teenager is not warned of the consequences of rebellion by a concerned Christian parent or pastor who seeks only to avoid for the child the same snare of sin that trapped him or her as a teen? But what do I see time and time and time again? I see the young person looking upon the concerns and steps taken by the parent or pastor as oppressive not protective, as interfering not interceding, as ignorant not informed, as intrusive not intelligent. The result? The teen, as likely as not, will commit the same kinds of sins as the parent or the pastor did twenty or thirty or forty years earlier. That teen, in the course of time, will then strive to keep his or her children from the pain and torment of sin as his or her parents before vainly attempted to do. Why? Because we do not learn from history.

Don’t get me wrong. We ought to learn from history. We just don’t most of the time. We can learn from history. We just don’t most of the time. In Romans 4.22-25 the Apostle Paul seeks to teach a lesson from history. I invite you to stand and read that passage with me: 

22 And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.

23 Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him;

24 But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead;

25 Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. 

What is the lesson from history that Paul would have his readers learn? The lesson is this: What is obtained from God is obtained by faith. What is worth obtaining is obtained by faith. What is obtained is obtained by faith. 

THIS WAS TRUE FORMERLY, AS THE EXAMPLE OF ABRAHAM HAS TAUGHT US 

Verse 22: “And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.”

“And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.” 

Notice, if you will, that Paul has written that “it” was imputed to him for righteousness. The “it” of verse 22 has to be, can only be, is shown by the context of the entire chapter to be, “faith.” Remember, Paul is using the patriarch of Israel as an historical proof that the readers cannot deny. This man’s faith was counted, by God, for righteousness.

But the real issue throughout Romans chapter 4 has been, “What is faith?” In Romans 4.2-8 we saw that faith is not works: 

2  For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.

3  For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.

4  Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.

5  But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.

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. 

James 2.17 reveals to us that genuine faith produces works, while Paul here shows us that the works themselves are not faith. In Romans 4.9-12 we saw that faith is not ceremonial religion: 

9  Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness.

10 How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision.

11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also:

12 And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised. 

Abraham’s circumcision was a religious ceremonial observance. However, his circumcision took place years after his faith was counted for righteousness, showing faith and circumcision are not one and the same. In Romans 4.13-15 we saw that faith is not legalistic obedience: 

13  For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.

14  For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect:

15  Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression. 

How can faith be legalistic obedience when the Law of Moses was given four centuries after Abraham was justified by faith? But faith is absolutely necessary to be justified, according to Romans 4.16: 

“Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all.” 

Faith is that which has God as its sole object, according to Romans 4.17: 

“(As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.” 

Faith is that which trusts God presently to bless in the future, according to Romans 4.18: 

“Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be.” 

Faith is that which is strengthened by God as physical circumstances are discounted in favor of God’s power and promises, according to Romans 4.19-21: 

19 And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara’s womb:

20 He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;

21 And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. 

When what you have isn’t what Paul says faith isn’t in Romans 4.2-15, and when what you have is what Paul says faith is in Romans 4.16-21, then you have genuine, Biblical, God-pleasing faith.

Because Abraham had genuine faith, because he trusted God, because he believed that God could be relied upon to keep His promise, “it was imputed to him for righteousness,” his faith was counted by God for righteousness. 

IT WAS NOT ONLY TRUE FORMERLY THAT FAITH WAS COUNTED FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS. IT IS ALSO TRUE PRESENTLY THAT FAITH IS COUNTED FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS. 

Let’s take a look at three statements that conclude Paul’s chapter-long proof that justification is by faith:

First, there is the reason for the record, 4.23-24a: 

23  Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him;

24  But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed. 

Let’s do a little house cleaning with some pronouns before we take a good look at this verse and a half. Notice, if you will, that the pronoun “it” is used three times in verse 23 and 24. Pronouns are used to take the place of persons, places, or things in a sentence, sometimes to state in a few words what would normally take more words.[2] And this is good as long as we keep straight in our minds what each “it” stands for. Get your red pen ready. You’ll remember that in verse 22 the word “it” was substituted for the word “faith.” 

“And therefore it [faith] was imputed to him for righteousness.” 

The first “it” in verse 23, however, does not substitute for “faith” but for “the history of Abraham’s experiences”: 

“Now it [this history of Abraham’s experiences] was not written for his sake alone.” 

The second “it” in verse 23 and the “it” in verse 24 substitutes yet another idea. In these two instances the word “it” replaces the idea of “righteousness.” I paraphrase: 

“Now [this history of Abraham’s experiences] was not written for his sake alone, that [righteousness] was imputed to him; but for us also, to whom [righteousness] shall be imputed.” 

What is Paul communicating to his readers? He is telling us that the written record of how Abraham’s faith was counted for righteousness was written for the benefit of Abraham, but not only Abraham. God recorded Abraham’s response to God and the promise of God so that we might learn from his example. Let’s hope we do learn from his example. Remember, people don’t usually learn from history, but they can and they ought to. Let us learn from the inspired Biblical account of history. Amen?

Next in our text, there is the requirement for reward. I use the word “reward” here because Paul uses the word “reward” when talking about these same things in Romans 4.4. We usually think of a reward as always being something earned, but it is not necessarily so in God’s Word, and certainly not so in connection with salvation. At any rate, what is required for reward? What is necessary for salvation? For our lesson in Biblical history to do us any good whatsoever, for you and me to receive the reward of the inheritance, for anyone to be justified in the sight of God, for anyone to be reckoned by God as righteous, something is required. And what’s required? 

“If we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead.” 

To whom will God impute righteousness? Those who believe on God that raised Jesus our Lord from all the others who died. Not surprising that Jesus Christ should die. People die all the time. Great men die and not so great men die every day. The surprise is that He was raised from the dead. If you are one of those who believes in God Who raised Jesus Christ from the dead, then you are one of those who, like Abraham, God will count that belief, that faith, for righteousness. Believing is required for the reward. And it has to be believing as believing is described in Romans chapter 4. It is not merely believing in a historical event, but believing in the One Who raised Jesus Christ from the dead.

Finally, in verse 25, we see the Redeemer for the respondent: 

“Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.” 

Here we have one of the most concise and beautiful statements about the atoning work of Jesus Christ for the believer found anywhere in the Bible. And notice, if you will, that the statement is made from the viewpoint of God the Father. The two words, “was delivered” and “was raised” are referred to by Bible scholars as divine passive verbs. The Lord Jesus was delivered and the Lord Jesus was raised, but Paul does not specifically tell us who delivered Him and who raised Him. And why does Paul phrase things in this way? Because the answer is so obvious. It had to be God the Father. The Father delivered Jesus Christ for our offences, that His Son might pay the ransom price for our sin. And the Father raised Him up again for our justification. Before your faith in God is known to be genuine, before your faith can be identified as the kind that Abraham had, there’s a test. Whereas Abraham’s faith was in God Who was going to fulfill a promise yet future, for our faith to be of the kind that Abraham had it has to be faith in God Who did something in history. And what He did was deliver His Son, Jesus Christ, for our offences and raise Him from the dead for our justification. 

What do you learn from history? You learn that most people do not learn from history. But there are some people who do learn from history. You are a rare individual, to be sure. There are not many who remember the lessons the past would teach those who would learn. But there are some.

And of those few who choose to learn from history, and of those few who are interested in learning the lessons the past would teach, you are one who would learn the most important lesson that history can teach. You learned from the distant past of a man named Abraham. You learned that Abraham on an occasion in his life believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness. Further, you realized that Abraham was really no different than any other man in the sight of God in this respect, and that if you will respond to the same God with the same faith that Abraham responded with, then the same result will occur in your life as occurred in his life.

My friend, learn a lesson from history. Learn that God has always dealt with men the same way He dealt with Abraham. He presents Himself and makes a claim. Believe God and He will count your faith for righteousness. Why should you? Because what is obtained from God is always and only obtained by faith.

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[1] https://www.ucg.org/beyond-today/blogs/the-only-thing-we-learn-from-history-is-that-we-learn-nothing-from-history 7/19/17

[2] Albert H. Marckwardt & Frederic G. Cassidy, Scribner Handbook Of English, Fourth Edition, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1967), page 203, 205-206, 266.

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