During the past two weeks I have been studying Romans 4:1-12 and it has been such a blessing to me. The Lord has been teaching me about what it means to be in a “right relationship” with Him. My study has led to some questions: How can we experience a “right relationship” with God? What needs to take place in order for this to happen? How does God’s Word differ from the predominant mindset of people in regards to being “right” with God? Those are important questions to answer. It’s a beautiful, overwhelming lesson to meditate on.
Before we take a look at our Scripture this morning I want to share a crazy idea I had this past week. It’s not so much an idea as it is a game that I think would be really cool if we had the power to pull it off. The game is called “Addition and Subtraction.” Think about this. What if each day you and I were given an opportunity to add one thing to our life and also to take one thing away? This game for the student might look like this: You go to class on Monday and find out that you made an “F” on a test from the previous week. According to the rules of the game you can use your subtraction card to remove the “F” from the teacher’s grade book. It is like you never made the “F.” Your “F” is not counted against you! How cool would that be! Or, let’s say you come to the end of the semester and you find out that you are just barely missing making a “B” in your Geometry class. Guess what? You haven’t used your addition card for the day so you tell the teacher, “Vanna, I would like to buy a vowel. How about adding an “A” to my test scores.” The addition of the “A” raises your grade from just under a “B” to a solid “B.” Awesome!
Or, for those of you who are married let’s say that you get home from work and things don’t go so well with your wife. You get into an argument and you end up saying something really stupid that hurts your wife’s feelings. You haven’t had to use your subtraction card all day long so what do you do? You’re getting it aren’t you! You pull out your subtraction card and the hurtful statement is erased from the memory of your wife. Oh, if this game were only true! On the other hand, let’s say that it’s your birthday and your wife forgets. She’s had a tough week, give her a break. No need, she can just pull out her addition card and “wallah!” the birthday gifts are on the table complete with a cake and a nice card full of appreciation for you.
It’s called, “Addition and Subtraction,” and you can use your one “addition” and one “subtraction” card any way you like, but you can only use one per day. You get pulled over by an officer for speeding and instead of him handing you a ticket, you hand him your subtraction card. It’s like you never broke the law. Your doctor tells you that you have an incurable disease; you tell her that you’ve not used your subtraction card. You leave her office as fit as a fiddle. You get a note from your bank letting you know that your check bounced like a Super Ball because of insufficient funds. You mail your bank your addition card and your bank account is automatically bursting at the seams with money. What an awesome game! If it were only true.
You may be wondering, “What does this silly game have to do with our Bible study?” That’s a great question and if you’ll stick with me for the next several minutes you will find out. When we come to Romans 4:1-12 we learn about something far more mind-boggling, far more glorious than the game that I’ve just created for us. Let’s take a look at our Scripture for today.
6 David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: 7 “Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. 8 Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.” 9 Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. 10 Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before! 11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them. 12 And he is also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised. (Romans 4:6-12 NIV)
If you will remember our Scripture from last week, we learned that Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:6) Abraham believed God and God made an addition to Abraham’s life—He counted Abraham as righteous, He made Abraham right with Himself. That’s an amazing addition, if you will, to Abraham’s life.
In our Scripture for today, we read about another giant of the Bible, the greatest King in the history of Israel, King David. Paul uses the example of David’s life to teach us the same truth, but he does so not by talking about addition, but subtraction. Take a look at Romans 4:6-8.
6 David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: 7 “Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. 8 Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.” (Romans 4:6-8 NIV)
Paul quotes David. Where does he get this quote? You are full of questions today aren’t you! Turn with me to Psalm 32 and we will see where Paul gets his information. Paul is quoting Psalm 32:1-2. I want us to read the first five verses of Psalm 32 so that we can get an even better picture of just how important this lesson of Paul’s is for our lives.
Of David. A maskil. 1 Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. 2 Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit. 3 When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. 4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Selah 5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”– and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah (Psalm 32:1-5 NIV)
This is a powerful page from the diary of King David. Something agonizing was going on in his life. This had to have had something to do with the deep, dark secret of his affair with Bathsheba and David having her husband killed. David was harboring a secret that he didn’t want anyone to know about, but it was killing him. David says, “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.” How did David find relief from what he had done? Was it because a buddy of his said, “Oh, don’t worry about it. You’re not the only guy who has ever had an affair.” That wouldn’t have done him a bit of good. As a matter of fact, it would have only made things worse. When did David find relief? He answers the question for us in Psalm 32:5.
5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”– and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah (Psalm 32:5 NIV)
David confessed. He acknowledged his sin to God. He stopped trying to cover up what he had done. God responded. When David confessed, in humble, sincere confession, God forgave the guilt of his sin. Wow!!
In Romans 4:7-8, where Paul quotes David, there are three important statements that we need to take time to really contemplate. First of all, Paul quotes David as saying, “Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven.” The Greek word used by Paul for “forgiven” means, “to send away” or “to let go.” The word is used in 1 John 1:9 where we read,
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9 NIV)
The more descriptive use of the word by Paul is found in 1 Corinthians 7:10-13 where Paul uses it three times. Paul is writing to husbands and wives when he uses the word. Read along with me.
10 To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. 11 But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife. 12 To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. 13 And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. (1 Corinthians 7:10-13 NIV)
When Paul says that husbands and wives shouldn’t “separate” or “divorce” he uses the same word. It means to “let go” or to “send away.” God tells us not to “let go” or “send away” our husband or wife. Isn’t it good to know that God does send away our sin! He lets our sin go. How different is God’s dealing with our sin than the way that others deal with our sin? Most people will never let you forget what you have done. Most people will use your past sins against you for the rest of your life whenever it is convenient or to their advantage. God isn’t this way. In Hebrews 9:27-28a we read,
27 Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; (Hebrews 9:27-28a NIV)
Jesus died so that your sins and my sins might be taken away. That is great news my friend–news that someone here this morning needs to hear. You don’t need to carry around your past sins if you have humbly, in brokenness, confessed them to the Father. He has taken them away. He has “subtracted” your sins from your life.
Second, Paul says, “Blessed are they whose sins are covered.” For the Jews, who were listening to the letter to the Romans, this word would have had to have taken them back to the Day of Atonement. The day in which the sins of God’s people were dealt with in the Holy of Holies as the High Priest sprinkled the blood of the sacrifice on the Mercy Seat, the covering of the Ark of the Covenant. The Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur, was the holiest day of the year for the Jews, and remains the holiest day for Jews in our day as well. Yet, we learn in Hebrews 9:13-14 that the blood of goats and bulls were only a shadow of the great Day of Atonement that came when Jesus’ blood was shed on Calvary’s cross to “cover” our sins and cleanse us, both inwardly and outwardly. Read along with me.
13 The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. 14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! (Hebrews 9:13-14 NIV)
The third statement that Paul quotes from David’s Psalm is this: “Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.” You might not think much about this statement if you were to just read through Romans 4, but I want us to put the brakes on for a minute. The word for “count” is the Greek word, “logizomai” and it means, “to reckon, count, to deliberate, to consider, or to determine.” Some say that the word is an accounting term. It sure can be used in that way, but there is more to the word than merely shifting numbers. Let me show you a few places where the word is used so that you can get a fuller understanding. In Romans 6:10-12 we read,
10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. (Romans 6:10-12 NIV)
You can see here in this passage that the word isn’t used in an accounting sense, not in a credits and debits sense. It has more to do with thinking, setting your mind, or considering yourself dead to sin. Let’s look at the next verse. In 1 Corinthians 13:4-5, the great “love” chapter that so many folks want read at their wedding, we read about the characteristics of love. Read along with me.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. (1 Corinthians 13:4-5 NIV)
Love keeps no record of wrongs. Now, this can sure be understood to be more of an accounting procedure, but is that really the way you manage your relationships? Do you keep a ledger or an Excel spreadsheet on all of your relationships? I don’t think so. What we do, those of us who want to model the forgiveness of God, is that we “let go” of those wrongs that are committed against us. We don’t hold them over the head of those who have wronged us.
Last of all, turn with me to Romans 8:18 and let’s read together one final use of the word, which in this passage is translated, “consider.”
18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18 NIV)
Paul is telling us that when he goes through tough, difficult situations in life he keeps in mind the future glory that is to come. By doing this his present sufferings don’t seem nearly as tough. I hope you can see the wide variety of ways that this powerful word is used in the Bible.
Now, I want to take you back to the quotation where Paul got this verse. Go back to Psalm 32:2 with me where David says, “Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.” The word that David uses in the Old Testament is the same root word that was used of Abraham in Genesis 15:6. The word that is translated, “count” in Hebrew is the word, “chashab” and it means, “to think, plan, esteem, calculate, or account.” The word used in both places, Genesis 15:6 and Psalm 32:2, is a verb. There is action taking place.
I don’t think it is any coincidence that Paul uses Abraham and David as the great examples of the biblical teaching of justification by grace through faith. In using David and Abraham, and in using the same Hebrew word, Paul shows us that God is doing something, God is up to something in the lives of those who will follow in the footsteps of these men. What is God doing?
In the life of Abraham we saw where God credited righteousness to Abraham—God made Abraham right with himself as Abraham placed his faith in God’s promises. In David’s life we saw where God did not hold David’s sin against him when David humbly confessed his sin to God. What a wonderful promise for you and me! David would put it this way, “Blessed is the man, blessed is the woman, whose sin is not counted against them.”
We hear people use the phrase, “I’m blessed” all the time. What does it mean to be blessed? Most people think about material blessings when they refer to the blessings of God, but Abraham and David have their sights set on something much, much different don’t they? David and Abraham are speaking about salvation—they are talking about being made right with God. We are blessed when we believe God, when we put our faith in His promises. We are blessed when we get honest with God, confess to Him our sin, and are reminded that He doesn’t hold our sin against us. God forgives us of our sin.
In verses 9-12, he goes back to speaking about Abraham once again. Paul asks the question, “Who are these blessings for? Are they only for the Jews? Are they for other people as well? If so, then which people are these blessings for?” Read along with me.
9 Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. 10 Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before! 11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them. 12 And he is also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised. (Romans 4:9-12 NIV)
When was Abraham counted as righteous by God? Was it before or after he received the sign and seal of circumcision? Was it before or after Moses was given the Law? Well, we read that Abraham was made right with God in Genesis 15:6 right? We don’t read about the sign of circumcision that God gave Abraham as a sign and seal of the covenant that God had made with him until Genesis 17:11. This took place at least 14 years after Abraham was made righteous by God, the rabbis say that it was 29 years. If that is the case then circumcision couldn’t have had anything to do with Abraham being made right with God.
Paul says that Abraham is the father, not just of the Jews, but of all that believe God. Abraham is the father of the Gentiles who, not by circumcision, but by faith follow in the footsteps of Abraham. Abraham is also the father of the Jews, those who have the sign and seal of circumcision, not as the basis of their relationship with God, but as a sign and seal of the covenant that God made with them. Both, Jew and Gentile, can call Abraham the father of their faith, not of their works.
I pray that this lesson today will be a model and a blessing to you. Abraham and David model for you and me the relationship that God desires to have with us. Abraham believed God and he followed God in faith. He lived a surrendered life according to God’s will. We too are called to believe God and to follow Him as we live a life that is surrendered to His will. I raised the question last week, “What are we to believe God about?” You and I need to believe God when He says that He loves us. John wrote,
9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:9-10 NIV)
Once you believe that God loves you then you can believe that God has provided a way for you to be made right with Him and it is through our receiving His Son Jesus as Lord and Savior of our lives. John wrote,
16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (John 3:16-18 NIV)
Can you believe God about these truths that He has set forth in His Word? Believe God. His love for you and me is unquestionable. His love for us has been proven through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son, our Savior. Believe God.
Secondly, we need to take notes of the life of David. David may have been the greatest King in the history of Israel, but he was also a sinner just like you and me. For the longest time, after I heard what David did in committing adultery, murder, and then lying to everyone, I wondered, “How can the Bible call David a ‘man after God’s own heart?’” (Acts 13:22) I now understand. Hopefully, after reading Psalm 32 you also understand. David was a sinner just like you and me, but he was far different than many of us when it comes to sin. David confessed his sin to God, he was broken over his sin. In Psalm 51, the great confessional Psalm of David, he wrote,
2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. (Psalm 51:2-4 NIV)
David agreed with God about his sin. For many of us, we try everything under the sun to justify our sin, rationalize our actions, and blame others for our sin. What does God desire from you and me? Let’s find out what God has to say. Turn with me to Isaiah 57:15.
15 For this is what the high and lofty One says– he who lives forever, whose name is holy: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite. (Isaiah 57:15 NIV)
God is holy. He is righteous. Yet God says that He spends His time, He dwells, with those who are contrite and humble. David understood this and that is why he wrote,
16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (Psalm 51:16-17 NIV)
God doesn’t desire burnt offerings or sacrifices. He desires something far more than your Sunday morning attendance at church—He desires your heart—a humble, contrite heart that desires to live for Him.
Before we leave here today I want to take you back to our game—Addition and Subtraction. That is a pretty cool game don’t you think? I think it would be awesome if we could pull it off, but the reality is that we can’t even pull off a little game like “Addition and Subtraction.” Don’t believe me then try it. We don’t have the power to change grades, get out of tickets, erase the minds of our mates, etc. If we don’t have the power to do simple things like these then how in the world could we ever hope to absolve ourselves of the sin that and guilt that we carry around us with. How could we ever hope to “make” ourselves right with God? Impossible. Or is it? Well, if the responsibility of accomplishing these monumental tasks are placed on our shoulders then I would say that they are impossible. On the other hand, if making the unholy holy and removing our guilt falls to God then that gives me great hope. God alone can cleanse you and me of our sin and make us right with Himself. Will you believe Him this morning and ask Jesus into your heart as your Lord and Savior?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
August 20, 2013