"BLESSED ARE THOSE WHOSE LAWLESS DEEDS HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN, AND WHOSE SINS HAVE BEEN COVERED.Romans 4:7(NASB)
Paul opens his letter to the Romans with a carefully constructed argument that all people are sinners, both Jew and Gentile alike, and all need a Saviour. He continues by presenting the doctrine of justification by faith in his third chapter, and then expands his reasoning in chapter 4, with examples of biblical characters who believed God's Word... and whose faith was credited as righteousness.
His main concern in chapter 4 were religious Jews, who were convinced that men are saved by obeying the Law. They refused to believe that one is not justified by works of the Law. They would not accept that we are saved by God's grace, through faith in His only begotten Son, and for this reason Paul used illustrations from the Old Testament to validate his line of reasoning.
Paul's first illustration is Abraham, the highly esteemed patriarch of Israel who believed God's Word when called out of Ur of the Chaldees. Paul quoted from the first book of Moses, Genesis, where we read, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness." Abraham was not justified by what he did but by what he believed.
Abraham was justified in the eyes of God hundreds of years before the Law was given to Israel, and Paul used Abraham to show that justification is not connected with keeping the Law. It was only through his faith that God reckoned him to be righteous.
The importance of this truth cannot be overstated. The wages a worker receives can never be described as a gift. Payment for work is not a gift, but something that is rightfully theirs. Similarly, to the one who does not work, but believes on Him Who declares the ungodly to be righteous - that man's faith is credited as righteousness.
Paul chose king David as his second illustration and used a quote from Psalms to continue his line of reasoning. "How blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven and whose sins are covered." Like Abraham, David did live under the Mosaic Law, but was justified in God's sight in the same way as his forefather - by faith - and not by keeping the Law.
Paul wants us all to see that a gift is not given as a reward for work - that would be a payment. God's blessing of salvation is not given because of works of the Law. God gives salvation freely - apart from works. It is unbiblical to teach that to gain salvation one has to keep the Law, or that one is justified by engaging in a religious ritual, or undertaking a good work. Such teaching is quite frankly - wrong. It is unscriptural. It is legalistic. It presents a false gospel. It removes the freedom we have in Christ and places people in bondage to sin.
By using Abraham and David as examples of justification by faith, Paul was able to show that the legalistic teaching that men are saved by obeying the Law, is false and unbiblical. One historian wrote the following "Whereas Abraham lived before the Mosaic Law, David lived under it. However, Abraham's story is in the Law section of the Hebrew Bible, while David's is in the Prophets section." Both Abraham and David were justified by faith and not by keeping the Law. It was because his sins were forgiven BY FAITH, that David wrote in Psalm 32, "How blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven and whose sins are covered."
Abraham was justified in Ur of the Chaldees, because he believed God and His faith was translated into action when he set out on his journey to the promised land. David trusted God as a young shepherd boy. David was a man after God's own heart because he believed God's Word... and we see his faith in action when he used his sling to protect the sheep from a lion and bear and when he defied Goliath.
David's hymn of praise is connected with Psalm 51, when he confessed his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband. No doubt the Holy Spirit had been convicting David of his sin for many months until he finally confessed, "against You and You only have I sinned and done this great evil." On that day David discovered that when a child of God confesses their sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. No wonder David cried out, "BLESSED ARE THOSE WHOSE LAWLESS DEEDS HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN AND WHOSE SINS HAVE BEEN COVERED."
It was not by works of the Law that David was declared righteous as a young man - he was justified by faith. He did not have to carry out some penance or legalistic action to atone for his sin - his sin (past, present and future) was forgiven because of his faith in God's sacrifice for sin - Jesus Christ the righteous... and when any post-salvation sin was confessed, David was restored into fellowship with the Lord.
The same blessing is available to for ALL who are justified by grace through faith in Him.
Heavenly Father, thank You for the truth in Romans that we are not justified by when we do, but in Whom we believe. Thank You that I am not justified by works of the Law but by faith in Christ. Thank You for what He did for me on the Cross, when He bore my sins and carried my iniquity on His sinless shoulders. Thank You that all my lawless deeds have been forgiven - past, present, and future, and that by faith in Him I am born anew and have been placed into eternal union with Christ Jesus my Saviour. Keep me from thinking that works of the Law are required for my initial salvation or my ongoing sanctification. I pray that I may work the works of God that You have prepared for me to do, in the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, and for your eternal praise and glory. This I ask in Jesus' name, AMEN.
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