We learned a great deal about “Justification” in Chap. 3, we will learn more about it in Chap. 4, for again the subject is “Justification by faith.” The difference in the two chapters is that Chap. 3 tells us about the God who justifies, Chap. 4 tells us some things about the justified ones.
Two characters are brought before us, taken out of God’s great picture book, to illustrate justification. They are Abraham and David. We shall visit with Abraham first and learn what we can from his experience, then we will listen to David. The question that we shall seek to answer is this
Is Justification by Faith or by Works?
Have Works anything to do with Justification?
Was Abraham justified? Of course he was. “Abraham believed God and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” Rom. 4:3 and Gen. 15:6. We have learned from Rom. 3 that a justified man is one who has received God’s righteousness. Abraham did that. Abraham is the father of all who believe and the pattern man of faith. Let us ask the question then, “What part did works have in his experience? What did Abraham find as pertaining to the flesh?”
Well, if Abraham received anything because of his own works could he boast about it? Certainly not in the presence of God, for we learned in Chap. 3:27 that boasting is excluded there. “If Abraham were justified by works he hath whereof to glory but not before God.” Abraham “found” all that he needed in God, he did not work for what he received. When God offered to Abraham the blessing, Abraham simply held open his empty hands to receive what God had to give, and that is faith. How delighted children are to find gifts awaiting them on their birthdays, or on other occasions of presenting” gifts. They do not wait to earn them before taking.
“Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace but of debt, but to him that worketh not but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” vs. 4, 5.
You see, “work and wages” go together and “faith and grace,” and they are entirely different one from the other. If a man works for me and I pay him that is not grace, that is debt, I owe it to him. But suppose he leaves my employ and I continue to pay him, he has not earned that, that is a gift.
Many years ago Abraham stood upon the great plain of Mamre. He was alone and it was night. All around him the vast plain stretched out. Above him the heavens sparkled with millions of twinkling stars which were really great worlds about which he knew so little. Suddenly the silence of the night is broken, a voice is heard, it comes from the unknown world. “Look up,” it says to Abraham, “View those countless stars glittering there. So shall thy seed be.” What a promise! Abraham is filled with wonder at it, but very simply he takes God at His word and his faith is counted for righteousness. Gen. 15:1-5.
But if faith is very simple the work on which faith rests is very great and this is illustrated for us in the next scene with Abraham. Gen. 15:6-18. He is not looking at the starry sky now but on a scene of death. He has taken several animals, each one typifying Christ; an avenue of blood has been formed “dividing them in the midst and laying each piece one against the other.”
Abraham gazes on this scene, the earth at his feet is dyed with blood and great darkness falls upon him. Then again a voice reaches him and right down that bloody way someone comes to meet him. It is God Himself who comes to make a covenant with him, a covenant founded on the blood of the sacrifice. What a picture this is of Calvary where we see the earth stained with the precious blood of the Lord Jesus. All the riches of glory are ours because Jesus died there. God comes to meet us there when like Abraham we stand and gaze upon the bleeding sacrifice slain for us.
1. What two men illustrate justification for us?
2. Illustrate the difference between gift and wages.
3. Prove that Abraham was justified.
4. What mighty work makes it possible for God to bless?