Romans 4: Justified for God’s Purpose
We are saved not only
for our sake, but for
God’s sake as well
In Romans 4, Paul begins his discussion of how Abraham was justified by asking:
What does the Scripture say?
— Romans 4:3a
I appreciate this so much! The topic of justification has been the subject of controversy throughout the centuries, with debates involving church teaching, tradition, human concepts, and different theologies all clouding the picture. It seems the Holy Spirit, foreseeing this, had Paul remind us from the very beginning that our only authority for dealing with this matter must be the Scripture itself, the word of God.
And when we do consider what the Scripture says about justification we find that, in the previous chapter, Paul had already given us a very clear and wonderful teaching on justification by faith. He summed it up there by stating:
We conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.
— Romans 3:28
There is, however, still more for us to see about justification, so now in Romans 4 he goes on to give us the example of one who was justified by faith, namely, Abraham. Paul quotes from the book of Genesis to make his point:
Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.
— Romans 4:3b; cf. Genesis 15:6
Yet, as we know Genesis, the promise Abraham believed was, not that his sins would be forgiven, but that he would have a son.
Have you ever considered this? Since the topic is justification, we would expect that God had promised to forgive Abraham’s sins, and that Abraham therefore believed God would forgive him. Instead, God promised to give him a son, Abraham believed that he would have one, and as a result he was counted as being righteous before God.
Why on earth would Abraham’s justification be based on a promise such as this?
In the teaching in Romans 3, Paul showed how our sins are forgiven through faith in Christ and His shed blood. This meets our need, and thank the Lord for that.
In Romans 4, however, in speaking of the experience, Paul wants to show us that justification is not only for our need, but for God’s need as well. And that is why he uses the example he does.
We need to dwell a little on this point, because it is so crucial, and so many Christians simply don’t have any concept that God has something He needs.
Yes, Abraham surely did need to have a son to continue his lineage, but God also had a need. That is, He desired to carry out His purpose on the earth, and for that to happen according to what He had ordained, God needed Abraham to have that son.
No doubt, God desired to forgive Abraham’s sins, but if Abraham only had forgiveness, it would not have been sufficient to carry out God’s purpose. In that case, Abraham could not have become the father of the nation of Israel, nor could he have been the forebear of Christ Himself. Only by having a son according to God’s promise could Abraham fulfill what God desired to carry out through him.
This truly is a picture of our own experience.
As Christians, we always tend to focus on how we needed to be saved from the Lake of Fire. Then, when we preach the gospel, we share to others how they need to be saved from the Lake of Fire. And surely, we should thank God for saving us from such a fate through the justification we have in Christ Jesus!
But, we must not be satisfied merely to be justified for our own sake.
Do you truly realize that you were saved for so much more than that? You were not only saved from Hell; you were saved into God’s eternal purpose (Eph. 3:11).
Some Christian teachers like to proclaim, “God has a purpose for your life!,” but we are not talking here about that. Rather, we are speaking now of how God has a purpose for Himself. He has something that He is seeking to carry out in the universe, namely He is working to deal with His enemy, Satan, and bring in His kingdom to the earth.
From God’s standpoint, that is why you, like Abraham, were forgiven of your sins and justified before Him; He desires that you would take part in this great purpose. And now, through His salvation, He calls you to enter into this purpose with Him, just as He called Abraham to have a part in it.
So, tell the Lord that you do want to take part in His purpose, and ask Him to bring you into it in a very practical way.
We will see a little of how this takes place in our next Note in this series, as we continue to consider Romans 4.
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— 8 March 2022 —