His Faith Is Counted for Righteousness
February 24th, 1963 @ 7:30 PM
HIS FAITH IS COUNTED FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Romans 3:23 – 4:5
2-24-63 7:30 p.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the evening message. The title is also a text: His Faith Is Counted for Righteousness. In our Bible we turn to the Book of Romans, chapter 3. We are going to read the last part of the third chapter of the Book of Romans and the first part of the fourth chapter of the Book of Romans.
Now let us turn to Romans chapter 3, chapter 3. And we are going to read through the, through the fifth [verse] of chapter 4, through the fifth, I mean, the fifth verse of chapter 4. Now let us start reading at verse 23 of chapter 3; verse 23 of chapter 3, reading through verse 5 of chapter 4. Now all of us sharing our Bibles, and reading it out loud together. Romans 3:23 we begin:
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;
To declare, I say, at this time His righteousness: that He might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.
Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
Is He God of the Jews only? is He not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also:
Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.
Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.
What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?
For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.
For what saith the Scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.
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.
There’s a sermon in every syllable of that passage. And out of the multitude of its meaning, we take just one: “For what saith the Scripture, what saith the Scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” [Romans 4:3].
For the apostle is avowing to us that by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified; by keeping commandments and ordinances, by obeying injunctions and mandates, by doing good no man shall be justified. But we are saved by the grace of Jesus [Romans 3:24]. Our sins are atoned for in the blood of the Crucified One; and God mediates, He channels, He gives to us this marvelous gift by our acceptance, by our receiving, by our taking, by our having, by faith [Romans 3:25].
Then he used Abraham as an illustration of that incomparable gift of the salvation of God through His love and grace: “What about Abraham? If Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to boast and to glory” [Romans 4:2]. He could stand up before God and before angels and before men, and he could say, “I did it.” If he were justified by works, by something he achieved, he could boast, “Look what I did. I won heaven! Look what I got to: the pearly gates themselves! Look at me! Look at me! I achieved glory! I did it! If he were justified by his works, he hath whereof to boast.” But he couldn’t do it before God [Romans 4:2].
Why couldn’t he do it before God? Because God knew him. A man can boast before another man. Like Paul says here Abraham could; he could gather all of his tribesmen around him, and he could boast of his goodness, he’d gather all of his folks around him, and he could boast. But he couldn’t do it before God, because God knew him [Romans 4:2].
There were things in Abraham’s life that nobody knew. There were thoughts and visions and dreams in Abraham’s life that nobody knew. God knows them. I can take the finest, purest woman who belongs to this church, and put on a screen here all of the secret things of her life and let you look at them. And that pure, pristine, beautiful, darling, precious, marvelous woman will bow her head in shame and blush. Oh, she’d never look into your eyes again!
You’re all that way. We’re that way. We can boast of our goodness to one another, but you can’t boast of it before God. And even the dear Lord allowed some of the things of Abraham’s life to be written there in the sacred page. “For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God!” [Romans 4:2]. God knew him.
Down there in the land of Egypt he was afraid for his life, so he said to his wife Sarah—Sarai her name was then, “When they look upon you, and you are a beautiful woman, and they may desire you, and in order to have you, they may slay me. Now you tell them you are my sister, you are not my wife” [Genesis 12:11-13]. That’s Abraham.
And not only did he do that, not only did he do that in the land of Egypt [Genesis 12:11-13], but he did that again in the land of Gerar: Abimelech was the king of Gerar, and when he looked upon Sarah, Abram’s wife, and she was a beautiful woman, and he desired her, and he sent for her; and had it not been for the intervention of God, Abimelech would have added her to his harem [Genesis 20:2-9, 14]. Well how did that come to pass? Because Abraham did that same thing again: he said to Sarai, “Now when we go down there into the land of Gerar, if Abimelech looks upon you, I know exactly what is going to happen. And you say that you are my sister, or else Abimelech will slay me in order that he might have you” [Genesis 20:10-13]. Now wouldn’t that be a magnificent thing for a man to do? That’s Abraham. “For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God!” [Romans 4:2].
Another thing about Abraham, he didn’t have any child, so Sarai his wife came up to him and said, “We do not have any child in this household, and I now want you to take my maid; and I want you to be the father of a child by my maid” [Genesis 16:2]. What did Abraham do? Did he say, “Why woman, that’s the most impossible situation that a mind could conjure up. No!” Did he do that? Well, he did not do that.
He did do that [Genesis 16:2-4]. Now I don’t think a man ought to be damned for listening to his wife; but he better watch sometimes what she suggests and what she says. He ought to run it through the mill. He ought to ask God about it. Well, Abraham didn’t. He just followed after Sarai just right on. And when she suggested that they don’t have any child, “Now you take my maid, and let us have a child by my maid, and you father the child with her,” well, Abraham acquiesced in the suggestion of his wife [Genesis 16:2-4].
And that’s where the Arabs came from. That’s where Ishmael came from [Genesis 16:15]. And every time you read in the paper of that violence over there in the Middle East; that came from Abraham fathering a child by Hagar an Egyptian slave woman [Genesis 16:3-4, 15]. That’s Abraham, “For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to boast; but not before God” [Romans 4:2]. God knows him, just like us. We can boast before one another and parade our goodnesses to one another. We can look down on one another from superior heights of moral excellence; but you can’t before God! God knows us, and we’re all vile and wicked alike [Romans 3:10, 23].
Well then how was Abraham justified? “What saith the Scripture?” [Romans 4:3]. Isn’t that a remarkable way that Paul has? What does the Bible say? What does God say? “What saith the Scripture?” The way Abraham was saved, the way God declared him righteous and accepted him, the way he was converted: “Abraham believed God! Abraham trusted God, and his faith was counted for righteousness” [Romans 4:3; Genesis 15:6; Galatians 3:6]. God took his faith, and took his trust, and took his committal, and took his belief, and God said, “This is My kind of righteousness,” and justified him on account of his faith.
Now in the little moments that remain, I want to follow that through in the life of Abraham. God called him to go out of his country, and to leave his people, and to sojourn in a land that he should afterward receive for an inheritance. “And Abraham left, and he went out, not knowing whither he was going” [Genesis 12:1; Hebrews 11:8]. And he came into that Promised Land, and the only part of it he ever inherited was a cave that he might bury his dead out of his sight [Genesis 23:8-20]. And he lived in that land of promise as a stranger and as a pilgrim, “looking for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and whose maker is God [Hebrews 11:10, 13]. Wherefore God was not ashamed to be called his God; for he prepared for Abraham and his people that city [Hebrews 11:16]…Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness” [Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:3].
Again, Abraham in that land had a striving between his herdsmen and the herdsmen of his nephew Lot. And when the strife became bitter, Abraham called Lot his nephew and said, “The land is before you. Look at it. And you choose the part you desire, and I will take what is left.” And Lot looked upon the well-watered plain of the Jordan that looked like the garden of Eden, and Lot chose for himself the beautiful plain, and he left the rocky hills and the mountains to Abraham. And so Abraham gave to Lot all of the beautiful well-watered plain of the Jordan, and he stayed in the rocky heights of the mountains above [Genesis 13:1-12]. And when that happened, God took Abraham and said, “You look and walk up and down the length and the breadth of the land, from the east to the west, the north and the south, all of it I give to you” [Genesis 13:14-17]. And Abraham believed God and the promise of God; and God reckoned it unto Abraham for righteousness [Genesis 15:6].
And now again, “And the Lord said, You shall have a son of your own body, and of the body of Sarai” [Genesis 17:16-19]. And the days passed, and the prophet, the patriarch went before the Lord, and said, “Lord, the years multiply, and the inheritor in my household is this Eliezer, this steward from Damascus; for no son has been given me” [Genesis 15:2-3]. And the Lord God took Abraham out at the nighttime, and said, “You look up to the heavens. Can you count the stars? So shall your seed be. And Abraham believed God, and God counted it unto him for righteousness” [Genesis 15:4-6].
And the years passed, and the days multiplied, and Abraham was a hundred years old, and Sarai was ninety years old [Genesis 17:17]; and God came to visit Abram, and God said to Abram, “Abram, I am going to change your name from Abram to Abraham; for a father of many nations shall you be [Genesis 17:5]. And I am going to change the name of Sarai to Sarah, for a mother of many princes and kings and nations shall she be” [Genesis 17:15-16].
And Abraham said, “Lord, I don’t see, and I don’t understand. I’m a dead tree, I’m a dry limb, a hundred years old; and Sarai ninety years of age has passed the years of being a mother” [Genesis 17:17]. But God said to Abraham, “I am faithful that promised [Genesis 17:19; Hebrews 11:11]. And Abraham believed God, and the Lord reckoned it unto him for righteousness” [Genesis 15:6; Galatians 3:6; James 2:23].
And in the providence of God, when Abraham was a hundred years old, and when Sarah was ninety years old, in the providence of God, the Lord visited Sarah according to the time of life, and she became the mother of a little boy, whom they called, in our language, “Laughter, Gladness, Joy, Light and Sunshine, Glory and Answered Prayer,” and in their language they called him “Isaac” [Genesis 21:1-3]. And the little boy grew up and he grew up.
And when he was about twelve or thirteen years of age, the idol, the love of that father and that mother, the Lord visited Abraham again, and said, “Abraham, Abraham, take this child, take this child, and go to the land of Moriah. And there on a mountain I will show thee, offer him up as a living sacrifice, slain now and dead unto Me” [Genesis 22:1-2]. And nothing doubting, Abraham took his little boy, and on the third days’ journey they saw that Mt. Moriah [Genesis 22:4], afterward the place where the high altar was built, where the sacrifices were made in the temple of Solomon, on that mount they built an altar out of uncut, unhewn, rough stones.
And when the boy saw what Abraham his father was to do, he said, “Father, here is the wood, and here’s the fire, and now the altar, but where is the lamb? Where’s the lamb?” [Genesis 22:6-7]. And Abraham replied,
Son, I do not understand, I do not know, I cannot see; but God will provide Himself the lamb. And binding that boy he placed him on the altar, and he lifted up his hand to take his life, accounting that God was able to raise him up from the dead! Abraham believed God, and God reckoned it unto him for righteousness.
[Genesis 22:8-10; Hebrews 11:17-19; Genesis 15:6]
How is a man saved? By the boasting of his life? By the conceit and arrogance of his works? By the superiority by which he might glory in himself? No, a man is saved by looking to God, by trusting in the wisdom, and the grace, and the goodness, and the mercy of the Lord [Psalm 86:5; Ephesians 2:8; Titus 3:5].
I may not understand it all, but He does, and I trust Him for it [Acts 16:30-31]. I may not have all the answers, He does, and I’ll look to Him for them. I may not see the end of the way, but He sees the end from the beginning, and I’ll trust Him for it. And the providences of life are sometimes so harsh and so cruel, and I don’t understand; but He said, “They all work together for good, to them who place their trust in Jesus” [Romans 8:28].
And my soul, oh at what lies ahead; the day of death, and the night that follows, and the grave and the judgment of Almighty God, and how much I do not know and understand, and against which I tremble in weakness and in fear; “But Lord, I trust Thee for it. As Thou hast remembered in days passed, may God remember in days future. And I commit, O God, this soul, this life, and this destiny to Thy keeping care” [Romans 10:9-13]. And when I do, I’m saved. I’m saved. “For what saith the Scripture? Abraham trusted God, and his faith was counted for righteousness” [Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:3]. God accepted him, God received him, God saved him. That’s what it is to be a Christian, to lean upon God, to look to Jesus [John 3:14-16; Acts 16:30-31].
And that’s our precious and prayerful, blessed, O Holy Spirit of God, that’s our invitation to your heart tonight. “Preacher, tonight, this blessed hour, I will give my soul and my life, my day now and forever, I will give myself into the care and keeping of God. I will trust Him, I will believe Him; and here I am, here I come.” While we sing this song of appeal and invitation, in this balcony round, somebody you, the throng on this lower floor one somebody you, into the aisle, down to the front, “Pastor, I give you my hand; I give my heart to the blessed Lord Jesus” [Ephesians 2:8]. Or as the Spirit shall lead in His speaking to your soul, somebody to give your life in a special committed service in the kingdom and patience of Jesus, you come. Just trust in God for it. “I don’t see the way, I don’t understand, I don’t have all the answers, but I trust God for it, and here I am.” Putting your life in the ministry of Christ with us in this precious place, a couple you, a family you, or just one somebody you, if the Lord calls and the Spirit bids, make it tonight, make it tonight, while we stand and while we sing.
HIS FAITH COUNTED FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. The apostle is avowing that by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified; but we are saved by the grace of Jesus
B. Abraham an illustration of the gift of salvation
1. If he were justified by works he could boast(Romans 4:2)
2. But he could not boast before God – God knew him
C. There were things in Abraham’s life nobody but God knew
1. Twice he said his wife was his sister to protect himself(Genesis 12:12-13, 20:2-3)
2. When Sarai gave him her maid to father a child, he did(Genesis 16:2)
D. How was Abraham justified?
1. Abraham believed God(Romans 4:3, Genesis 15:6, Galatians 3:6)II. The faith of Abraham
B. A promised land(Genesis 13:14-15, 15:1-6)
C. The promise of a child (Genesis 12:7, 17:15-16, 21:1-3)
D. The offering of Isaac as a sacrifice(Genesis 22:1-18, Hebrews 11:17-19)
E. A man is saved by looking to God, and trusting in Him(Romans 4:3, 8:28)