(from a transcript of a sermon preached on 5/5/02 at Sovereign Redeemer Assembly)
Please turn in your Bibles to Romans 4. Let's read the entire chapter:
Romans 4: (1) What then shall we say our father Abraham to have found according to flesh? (2) For if Abraham was justified by works, he has a boast, but not with God. (3) For what does the Scripture say? "And Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness." (4) Now [to one] working, the reward is not counted according to grace, but according to debt. (5) But to the [one] not working, but believing on Him justifying the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. (6) Even as also David says of the blessedness of the man to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: (7) "Blessed [are those] whose lawlessnesses are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; (8) blessed [the] man to whom [the] Lord will in no way charge sin." (9) [Is] this blessedness then on the circumcision, or also on the uncircumcision? For we say the faith "was counted to Abraham for righteousness." (10) How then was it counted? Being in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision! (11) And he received a sign of circumcision [as] a seal of the righteousness of faith [while] in uncircumcision, for him to be a father of those believing through uncircumcision, for righteousness to be counted to them also, (12) and a father of circumcision to those not of circumcision only, but also to those walking in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham during uncircumcision. (13) For the promise [was] not through Law to Abraham, or to his seed, [for] him to be the heir of the world, but through a righteousness of faith. (14) For if those of Law [are] heirs, faith has been made of no effect, and the promise has been annulled. (15) For the Law works out wrath; for where no law is, neither [is] transgression. (16) On account of this, [it is] of faith, that [it be] according to grace, for the promise to be certain to all the seed, not to that of the Law only, but also to that of [the] faith of Abraham, who is father of us all, (17) according as it has been written, "I have appointed you a father of many nations;" before God, whom he believed, the [One] making the dead live, and calling the things that are not as [if] they were. (18) [He] against hope believed in hope, for him to become a father of many nations, according to what has been said, "So shall your seed be." (19) And being about a hundred years [old], not weakening in faith, he did not consider his body to have died already, nor yet the death of Sarah's womb, (20) and did not stagger by unbelief at the promise of God, but was empowered by faith, giving glory to God, (21) and being fully persuaded that what He has promised, He is also able to do. (22) Because of this, "it was also counted to him for righteousness." (23) But it was not written for him only, that it was counted to him, (24) but also on account of us, to whom it is about to be counted, to the ones believing on Him who has raised our Lord Jesus from [the] dead, (25) who was delivered because of our deviations, and was raised because of our justification.
Let's do a review of what we have seen in Romans 4. In the first paragraph, we saw that Abraham did not find acceptance before God by his circumcision and external privileges and works, because if he were justified by works, he would have a boast in himself, not in God. Back in Romans 3:27, Paul, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, concludes that salvation based on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ excludes boasting in self. No one who believes the gospel boasts in himself. Since Abraham believed the gospel, it was impossible for Abraham or any other believer to boast in himself. Abraham believed God's promise, and it was counted to him unto righteousness. If one's efforts are what recommend a person to God, then when God rewards someone, it is not according to GRACE but according to DEBT. Grace is giving something that is UNMERITED, NOT WORKED FOR. So if God rewards someone based on what the person does, then this person has WORKED FOR his reward, and God OWES him that reward. That's what all universal atonement advocates believe, whether they say it or not. Since they believe that Christ died for everyone without exception, then they MUST believe that their reward of heaven is based on THEIR OWN EFFORTS, since they DO NOT believe that it is the work of Christ ALONE that makes the difference between heaven and hell. They believe that God OWES them heaven based on what they did.
But to the one NOT WORKING, but BELIEVING on Him justifying the ungodly, HIS faith is counted unto righteousness. He has received the imputed righteousness of Christ by belief of the gospel. Believing on Him justifying the ungodly means believing what we went over in Romans 3:21-26, which is God's promise to save His people conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ alone, which shows God to be just and justifier.
As further proof that salvation is by the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ, David, in Psalm 32, speaks of the blessedness of the person to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works and whose lawlessnesses are forgiven and whose sins are covered. It is ALL GOD'S WORK. There is NO WORK for the sinner to do to obtain blessedness from God.
The second paragraph answers the question, "Does God bless only the circumcised, or does He also bless the uncircumcised?" As we can see from the example of Abraham, God also blesses the uncircumcised. Abraham was blessed a long time before he was circumcised. The blessing was not contingent upon Abraham's being circumcised. Circumcision was not a prerequisite to being blessed. It matters not whether or not someone is circumcised or baptized or anything else - what matters is this: has this person received the righteousness of Christ through God-given faith? Circumcision did have a purpose, as baptism does now - it is a symbol of God's covenant promise of salvation conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ alone. It is not the PHYSICAL seed of Abraham to whom the promise is made; it is the SPIRITUAL seed of Abraham. Those of faith, THESE are the sons of Abraham. Only those who believe the true gospel of salvation conditioned on the work of Christ alone are the true sons of Abraham. If those who try to work for their salvation are heirs to the promise, then faith has been made of no effect, and the promise has been annulled. Only those who are OF FAITH are heirs. It is of FAITH that it might be according to GRACE. If one believes that one's own efforts make the difference between heaven and hell, then it is not of FAITH, and thus it is not of GRACE.
In the third paragraph, we see the faith of Abraham, who was totally, absolutely CONVINCED that what God had promised, He would do. He believed that God's promise was SURE and CERTAIN. God, who makes the dead alive and who calls the things that have not yet happened as if they had already happened, was the one who made the promise. Abraham's faith in God's gospel promise was counted to him unto righteousness.
Now let's go to the final paragraph, which is all one sentence:
Romans 4: (23) But it was not written for him only, that it was counted to him, (24) but also on account of us, to whom it is about to be counted, to the ones believing on Him who has raised our Lord Jesus from [the] dead, (25) who was delivered because of our deviations, and was raised because of our justification.
The fact that Abraham received righteousness through belief in the promise of salvation conditioned on the work of Christ alone does not just apply to Abraham and was not written just for Abraham; instead, it applies to and was written for ALL those who believe. The phrase "about to be counted" means "to whom it shall be imputed," which the KJV says. And to whom will this righteousness be imputed? To everyone who believes. Notice again the connection between imputation and belief. Righteousness cannot be imputed without the God-given faith to receive that imputed righteousness. There are some out there, especially the Primitive Baptists, who say that God can regenerate a person and impute Christ's righteousness to that person YEARS before that person believes the gospel. God says differently. But why would these people say such a thing, even in the face of such clear biblical evidence to the contrary? It's because they want to speak peace to those who do not believe the gospel, and this is a very convenient way to do so. If not all regenerate persons believe the gospel, then there are some out there who believe a false gospel who are actually saved, so they can't judge anyone who believes a false gospel to be lost. They say their doctrine exalts God's sovereignty in salvation, but it's just a clever way to commit spiritual fornication with their brothers in Satan.
So what is it that believers believe? This passage says that they believe "on Him who has raised our Lord Jesus from the dead, who was delivered because of our deviations, and was raised because of our justification." Let's go over this in detail. First, they believe on HIM. Who is the "Him" here? It is God the Father. All believers believe in God the Father, who, by raising Jesus from the dead, showed that He was satisfied with the finished work of Christ. It also showed God's power to raise the dead, including dead believers. Let's turn to 1 Corinthians 6:14:
1 Corinthians 6: (14) And God both raised up the Lord, and [He] will raise us up through His power.
And 2 Corinthians 4:14:
2 Corinthians 4: (14) knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up through Jesus, and will present [us] with you.
See how the Scriptures connect the resurrection of the Lord and the resurrection of the saints? So if one believes in the God who raised Jesus from the dead, one automatically believes that God will raise us from the dead at the last day. If anyone denies the final resurrection, one denies the God who raised Jesus from the dead. Now am I making an illogical inference here? Is this a non sequitur? Well, let's check out 1 Corinthians 15. I'll read verses 12 through 19:
1 Corinthians 15: (12) But if Christ is proclaimed, that He was raised from [the] dead, how do some among you say that there is not a resurrection of the dead? (13) But if there is not a resurrection of the dead, neither has Christ been raised. (14) But if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation [is] worthless, and your faith is also worthless. (15) And also we are found [to be] false witnesses of God, because we witnessed as to God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if the dead ones are not raised. (16) For if [the] dead are not raised, Christ has not been raised. (17) But if Christ has not been raised, your faith [is] foolish; you are still in your sins. (18) And then those that fell asleep in Christ were lost. (19) If we only have hope in Christ in this life, we are of all men most miserable.
Now what about that inference that I made that if anyone denies the final resurrection, one denies the God who raised Jesus from the dead? We see that it is a totally logical inference. If you do not believe that the dead will be raised, then you do not believe that Christ was raised. Some would object, "No, I do believe that Christ was raised, but I just don't believe that the dead will be raised." God says that, no matter what you SAY you believe, what you actually believe is that Jesus Christ was not raised, and you are dead in your sins. This is related to those who deny the final judgment and those who deny the afterlife.
But let's go further in 1 Corinthians 15. What else does a belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ imply? Let's read verses 20 through 22:
1 Corinthians 15: (20) But now Christ has been raised from [the] dead; He became the firstfruit of those having fallen asleep. (21) For since death [is] through man, also through a Man [is] a resurrection of [the] dead; (22) for as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.
Believing in the resurrection of Christ also means that one believes that all whom Christ represents will be made alive. This is particularly talking about God's people who are raised unto everlasting life. Belief in Christ's resurrection means that all whom Christ represented will have eternal life. This excludes everyone who believes that Christ represented everyone without exception. They do not truly believe in the resurrection of Christ.
Let's turn back to Romans 4 and go over the last verse in that chapter. Remember, this is talking about what all true believers believe. This verse speaks of the work of Jesus Christ. Let's read it:
Romans 4: (25) who was delivered because of our deviations, and was raised because of our justification.
First, it says that Jesus Christ "was delivered because of our deviations." Let's first look at the word "delivered." The Greek word means "to give over" or "to turn over" or "to betray." Let's read some passages that use this word and show Christ's being delivered over:
Matthew 26: (45) Then He came to His disciples and said to them, Sleep on, and rest [for] what [time] remains. Behold, the hour draws near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into [the] hands of sinners. (46) Rise up, let us go. Behold, the [one] betraying Me draws near. (47) And [as] He was yet speaking, behold, Judas came, one of the Twelve. And with him was a numerous crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and elders of the people. (48) And the [one] betraying Him gave them a sign, saying, Whomever I may kiss, it is He; seize Him. (49) And coming up at once to Jesus, he said, Hail, Rabbi. And [he] ardently kissed Him. (50) But Jesus said to him, Friend, why are you here? Then coming up, they laid hands on Jesus and seized Him.
Matthew 27: (1) And early morning occurring, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel together against Jesus, so as to put Him to death. (2) And binding Him, they led [Him] away and delivered Him to Pontius Pilate the governor.
Matthew 27: (26) Then he released Barabbas to them. But having flogged Jesus, he delivered [Him] up that He might be crucified.
These passages show that Jesus Christ was delivered over to the Jews by Judas, was delivered over to Pontius Pilate by the Jews, and was delivered over to be tortured and crucified by Pontius Pilate upon the insistence of the Jews. So when we see in Romans 4:25 that Christ was delivered, it means that He was delivered up to suffer and to die. Why was Christ delivered up to suffer and to die? Was it because He had done anything wrong? No. Romans 4:25 says that Jesus Christ was delivered up to suffer and die BECAUSE or FOR our sins. The Greek word for "deviations" means "transgressions" or "trespasses" or "offenses." Jesus Christ was given over to suffer and die the death of a criminal IN THE PLACE OF His people. The sins of His people were imputed - or legally charged to His account - and He suffered, bled, and died as God poured out His wrath against the sins of His people. Isaiah 53:5 says, "But He was wounded for our transgressions; [He was] bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His wounds we ourselves are healed."
The last part of Romans 4:25 says that Jesus Christ was raised because of, or for, our justification. Let's read about Christ's burial and resurrection:
Matthew 27:57 to 28:9:
Matthew 27: (57) And evening having come, a rich man from Arimathea (Joseph by name) who also himself was discipled to Jesus, (58) coming up to Pilate, this one asked [for] the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be given. (59) And taking the body, Joseph wrapped it in clean linen, (60) and laid it in his new tomb, which he had cut out in the rock. And rolling a great stone to the door of the tomb, [he] departed. (61) And there was Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, sitting across from the grave. (62) And on the morrow, which is after the Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees were assembled to Pilate, (63) saying, Sir, we have recalled that that deceiver while living said, After three days I will rise. (64) Therefore, command that the grave be secured until the third day, that His disciples may not come by night and steal Him away, and may say to the people, He is raised from the dead. And the last deception will be worse than the first. (65) And Pilate said to them, You have a guard, go away, make [it as] secure as you know [how]. (66) And going along with the guard, they made the grave secure, sealing the stone. (28:1) But late in [the] sabbaths, at the dawning into [the] first of [the] sabbaths, Mary the Magdalene and the other Mary came to gaze upon the grave. (2) And, behold! A great earthquake occurred! For descending from Heaven and coming near, an angel of [the] Lord rolled away the stone from the door and [was] sitting on it. (3) And his face was as lightning and his clothing white as snow. (4) And those keeping guard were shaken from the fear of him, and they became as dead. (5) But answering, the angel said to the women, You must not fear, for I know that you seek Jesus who has been crucified. (6) He is not here, for He was raised, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord was lying. (7) And going quickly say to His disciples that He was raised from the dead. And behold! He goes before you into Galilee. You will see Him there. Behold! I told you. (8) And going away from the tomb quickly, with fear and great joy, they ran to report to His disciples. (9) But as they were going to report to His disciples, behold, Jesus also met them, saying, Hail! And coming near, they seized His feet and worshiped Him.
After Christ suffered God's wrath to the point of death, He was buried in a tomb. On the third day He was in the tomb, He came back to life. We've already gone into some of what the resurrection means, but let's focus on what Romans 4:25 says. It says that Christ was raised for our justification. Justification is being declared not guilty. Jesus Christ, as a representative of a particular people, died for the sins of these people and was raised for their being declared not guilty. The resurrection showed that Jesus actually accomplished what He set out to accomplish, that death was defeated, that His people would have eternal life, and that God was totally appeased. Had Jesus remained in the grave, God's people would not be given eternal life, and it would have shown that God's wrath was not appeased. But, praise God, Jesus Christ TOTALLY answered the demands of God's holy justice, and God, declaring that His justice was satisfied, raised Jesus from the dead. Isaiah 53:11 says, "He shall see [the fruit] of the travail of His soul; He shall be fully satisfied. By His knowledge the righteous One, My Servant, shall justify for many, and He shall bear their iniquities." Justification is tied to satisfaction. Had God not been satisfied, there would have been no justification.
Now think about this: Would God have been satisfied with a work that did not guarantee the salvation of all for whom Christ died? That would have been an unfinished work, a work that required some cooperation by the sinner. God would not have been satisfied with this. So here again, we see that any who hold to the heresy that Jesus died for everyone without exception does NOT truly believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Oh, they may believe the historical fact that Jesus was dead and rose again. But they do not believe what the resurrection MEANT or ACCOMPLISHED. And if you don't believe what the resurrection MEANT or what the death of Christ MEANT, then you do not believe the true essence of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.
There's something else to note from this paragraph, and it has to do with what Abraham believed. I've mentioned before the people who think that God's promise to Abraham was merely a promise of physical seed and that physical nations would spring from him. They think that there was nothing about Jesus Christ in this promise. And they think that when Abraham believed this promise of physical seed, this belief, totally apart from belief in Christ, was what was counted to him unto righteousness. They'll say that either this promise that didn't include Christ was the gospel at that time, or they'll say that one did not need to believe the gospel at that time. But God again clearly shows us the truth and exposes the lie. Look back at verses 23 and 24. "It was counted to him for righteousness" was not written for Abraham only, but for ALL who believe. Abraham received Christ's righteousness through believing, just as ALL believers receive Christ's righteousness through believing. And what does this passage show that Abraham and all believers believe? They "believe on Him who raised our Lord Jesus from the dead, who was delivered because of our deviations, and was raised because of our justification"! Do you see that? The fact that this was not for Abraham only ties our belief to Abraham's belief! Salvation has always been the same, and the content of faith has always been the same! Abraham believed that Christ would be delivered up to die for the trespasses of His people and would be raised for the justification of His people! He believed that God would be satisfied with the atoning work of Christ and that the atoning work of Christ would accomplish salvation for all whom He represented. Abraham believed in salvation conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ alone. He, and all the other Old Testament saints, looked to Christ as their only hope of salvation.
Is Christ YOUR only hope of salvation? Oh, a lot of people say that, but if they do not believe in the finished work of Christ, they are just lying to themselves. Do you believe that the work of Christ accomplished EVERYTHING for the salvation of EVERYONE whom He represented so they are GUARANTEED salvation? It's not enough just to believe the historical facts that there was a man named Jesus who lived a perfect life and who died on a cross and who came back to life. Those who have been truly regenerated believe much, much more than that. We believe that Jesus lived a perfect life as a representative of His people, that His perfect righteousness would be imputed to all of them without exception. We believe that Jesus died on the cross because the sins of His people were imputed to Him, and He suffered the just punishment that those sins deserved. We believe that Jesus was raised from the dead for the justification of all whom He represented, showing that God was totally satisfied with the effectual work of Jesus Christ that ensures the salvation of everyone whom He represented. This is the ONLY faith that receives Christ's righteousness. Praise God for His wonderful grace. Amen.