Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 3 * PART 2 * BOOK 21
THE IMPUTED RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD
ROMANS 4 – 5:5
Let’s pick up again in Romans Chapter 4, and we will still be dealing with justification by faith + nothing. As I said in the last lesson, we will be taking our time because few people have a real understanding of what Paul is trying to teach in these chapters. Now of course justification goes all the way into Chapter 5, and then when we get into Chapter 6, we’ll be taking a good hard look at old Adam. And again, that’s a part of our Salvation experience I think very few people are aware of. Remember as I have told you before, “We’re not sinners because we have broken the Law, but rather we break the Law because we’re sinners.” And we’re sinners by virtue of being born from Adam, but we’ll deal with that in Chapter 6.
Now let’s begin with verse 5 of Chapter 4. Every time I read verse 5, I think of a situation when we were still teaching up north. A gentlemen came to our class one night; he was the last man I would have ever dreamed would have come to a Bible class, and especially to one of mine. In fact I was so unbelieving that when he rang the door bell, and we were just about ready to begin our teaching, I didn’t even think about inviting him in, I thought he had come for some other reason. So we talked on the front porch for a minute or two, and he finally said, “Well, don’t you have a class here tonight?” And I said, “Yeah, you mean you came for the Bible class?” And he said, “That’s why I’m here.” I just felt like two cents, but anyway we happened to be in verse 5 in our study, and that’s why I always think of that incident every time I teach Romans 4:5.
That evening is just as vivid as if it were last night. There was only one chair left in our living room and it was right next to my right. So we began our study and I asked the gentlemen to read verse 5. Now I have never done that, never in all my teachings have I asked somebody to read a verse. And here I ask a poor guy that I had heard was down at the very bottom, he had hit the skids, and was running with the totally wrong crowd, to read this verse. You talk about stupid – in fact that night I lost sleep over that. How could I have done that? But you see God overrules, and so the poor guy read the verse for us, and then I made another big stupid error. I asked him to comment further on the verse. Now let’s read the verse, and I’ll show you how stupid I really was.
“But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”
So after he read the verse I asked him, “What kind of people does God justify?” Imagine asking someone who had never been approached with these things before, and put him on the spot. But the gentlemen answered right, he said, “The ungodly.” And of course he knew that was what he was. The reason it left such an impact on me was that he came back for the next three Saturday nights. And I think it was after the third Saturday night in the middle of the week that he called early one morning. He called so early that he was afraid he may have gotten me out of bed. He hadn’t as I was already drinking my first cup of coffee. He said, “Les, you had to be the first to know because at three o’clock this morning I woke up and realized I’m losing everything, so I just cried out, “God, my life is a mess.” So I slipped out on my knees and asked God to save me, and now it’s just like a load has been taken off my shoulders.”
Now that Salvation was genuine because that young man just immediately made a complete turn-around in his life. He became concerned about other lost people so much that he even had us move our class to his home for three or four Saturday nights and he went to every length including baking pies and making homemade ice cream for refreshments, because these ungodly friends had promised him that they would attend our Bible study if we would meet in his home. And the poor guy even asked us to delay starting the class that evening to give his friends extra time to get there. He would walk to the window and I almost cried with him as he said, “Les, they promised that they’d be here tonight.” But they didn’t come, so he asked if he could have it again next week. And for the next several Saturday nights it was the same story. He went to every extreme to get the refreshments ready and his house ready, and our class people cooperated, but he would look down the road in vain. And it just broke his heart. Simply because he wanted them to have his new found faith.
As I was thinking about sharing this incident with you last night the thought came to mind that just one verse of Scripture was what impacted the man. The Holy Spirit used my stupidity to do something that I’ve never done before or since; to not only ask him to read the verse but to also make a comment on it. But you know he told me, “Les, that verse just plagued me day after day after day.”
“But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly,…” And he told me that there was no doubt that was exactly what he was.
Many things we just can’t figure out. It wasn’t too long after that, that we moved to Oklahoma, and then we heard that The Lord had taken him home as he had been involved in a terrible automobile accident. But he had left his testimony, because everyone that called to tell us about his going home told us, “Les, he’s in glory!” And I have no doubt, because he had such a confirmed faith that this verse meant what it says. That God justifies the ungodly the moment we believe the Gospel. He didn’t join something, nor did he go through a prescribed ritual. He just simply believed for his Salvation that Christ died for him, and rose from the dead.
And then the Apostle Paul, by inspiration as I pointed out in our last lesson, goes back again to the Old Testament and even goes as far as King David. How even David was a man of faith, and we know that he wasn’t exactly a perfect man was he? He had his failures, and downfalls, but still God could count him righteous because of his faith. Then you come down to verse 9 and Paul is going to pick up again with Abraham.
“Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only (Jews), or upon the uncircumcision (Gentiles) also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness.”
And now verse 10. Oh, I love the way the Scripture does this. In fact, I’ve always told people that when they start talking to others, use The Lord’s format. How did The Lord invariably open a conversation? With a question. And if they would ask Him a question then He would return with a question. Now the Scripture does the same thing. The Holy Spirit says:
“How was it then reckoned (how did the man receive this righteousness?)? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision.”
Now don’t forget, back for the first 2000 years there was no hint of circumcision. There’s been no hint of the Mosaic Law. And so Abraham comes out of Ur of the Chaldees, he’s a Syrian by birth, and so he comes out of it as a non-Jew, because the Nation of Israel isn’t on the scene. So this is what the Holy Spirit us pointing out, Abraham didn’t come into this faith by virtue of his Covenant relationship, but rather God dealt with him when he was still in Ur of the Chaldees. He was in the midst of idolatry, and it was on that basis that God said, “Leave and go to a place that I will show you.” And by faith, what did Abraham do? He left. Not after circumcision was implemented, but before. Now why? Because you see that’s where we fit into the picture. We’re not part of the circumcision covenant, we are uncircumcised so far as relationship in Scripture is concerned. Now verse 11:
“And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised (so Abraham came into this justification position before circumcision was even mentioned to him): that he might be the father of all them that believed, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also (oh, so now in verse 11 God has just tied Abraham to us. Can you see that?): And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.”
Now turn with me to Galatians Chapter 3, and maybe I can bring the point home. I hope so, because I’ve had so many people come into my class over the years that say, “Well our preacher preached that we become Jews when we become a Christian.” Horrors! Salvation is a miracle, but it doesn’t make a Jew out of us. I mean after all, that’s based on genetics, chromosomes and what have you; that’s a blood line, and God does not change our blood. He does not make a Gentile a Jew! But the Scripture teaches that there is a relationship between us as Gentiles and the man Abraham.
“Even as Abraham believed God,…
Do you see how the Scripture keeps repeating. Remember when I first started these lessons, I told you that I tried to teach on the same format as a famous mathematics teacher here in Oklahoma. I think he was written up in Readers Digest several years ago, because his system of teaching mathematics was raising the grade level of all of his students. It was just so obvious that he had a system that surpassed anyone else in the country. And do you know what it was? Repetition. In other words, instead of just simply teaching one part of mathematics and then when he thought the students had it, moving on to the next one, he would always review from the beginning. Just keep repeating and repeating, he would add something new but kept on repeating. Well, that’s the way I like to teach Scripture and that’s what Scripture does. It’s a constant matter of repetition to get it to soak in. These things don’t come overnight. It takes time and many of you know that. This is one of the reasons that many times I have to slow down. I know I unload so much, and then I have to remind myself that there’s no way you can remember all of that. Now verse 6 again:
“Even as Abraham, believed God, and it (the believing) was accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore that they which are of faith (or the faith way, as opposed to some other way), the same are the children of Abraham.”
Well, that’s where some people get the idea that when we are saved we become Jews. No we don’t become a Jew, but we have a spiritual connection to the man like we have with no other character in history other than The Lord Jesus Himself. So how and why are we connected to Abraham?
“And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen (or non-Jew) through (or by) faith, preached before the gospel (before there was any inkling of the great plan of redemption as we know it) unto Abraham, saying, `In thee shall all nations be blessed.'”
I’ve had people tell me they feel that Abraham understood The Gospel according to the way we know it, that Christ would die, would be buried and be raised from the dead. But I disagree with that completely. Abraham had no idea of a Roman Crucifixion; nobody back here knew what a crucifixion was. So it’s all a matter of where you place your emphasis, onjustify or The Gospel. If you put the emphasis on the Gospel, then you get the idea that Christ preached the Gospel unto Abraham. He couldn’t have, because then I would have to feel that somewhere between Abraham and Paul, The Gospel would have popped up. There would have been some sort of a reference to the death, burial, and Resurrection as a means of Salvation way back there somewhere. But it isn’t, and as I have pointed out in these lessons, you search the Four Gospels and you can’t find that they would be saved by believing that Jesus died for the sins of the world, that he was buried, and rose the third day, because it’s not in there. And we have no right to put it in there. Just leave everything exactly where it is. But now Paul will say, for example in Ephesians Chapter 2:
“But now (things have changed) in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.” That tells us that it hasn’t always been that way. Now looking at Galatians 3:8 again:
“And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, `In thee shall all nations be blessed.'”
We also saw that back in Genesis 12:3 didn’t we? That it would be through the Covenant promises to Abraham that the whole human race would enter into a Salvation experience. Why? Because through the promise to Abraham came the Christ. And even though the Covenant people, Israel, rejected Him and nailed Him by virtue of the Roman army, to a Cross, what did He become? He became the Saviour of not Israel alone, but the whole human race. And this is what we’re trying to show here, that Abraham entered in by faith and faith alone based on what God said to him, and that was what? Leave Ur. It’s just that simple. “Leave Ur, and I’ll show you a place that I want you to go.” Now that’s faith. Now there’s a lot of people that will say, “Yeah but it was his works that saved him when he left Ur.” Oh no, because Abraham was a believer before he even got out of town. He was already declared righteous before he left the city wall. Why? Because he believed God.
Now it’s the same way with us, a lot of things follow our Salvation experience, absolutely they do. Most of you who know me know that I will not just run and tell someone that I led so and so to The Lord until I see that changed life. Then I’ll gladly share it, but you see when there’s a genuine Salvation, there’s going to be a change in lifestyle, there’s going to be a change in heart attitude. And Abraham experienced that the moment he believed just like others that we have dealt with. The moment they believe, it’s just like the one I just shared with you. At three o’clock in the morning he asked The Lord to save him, and by five o’clock he was able to tell me what had happened. Why? It was instantaneous, he didn’t have to grow into it. It wasn’t a evolutionary process.
All right, why and how are we tied to Abraham. Well maybe I can clarify it. Abraham entered in by faith + nothing. Now as soon as Abraham goes beyond the rite of circumcision, 500 years later here comes Moses and the Law. Now even these good Jews back here are going to be saved based on their faith, but by faith alone? In other words could a Jew during the Temple period say, “Now Lord I know I’ve sinned, I know that I’ve broken the Law, but I’m not going to bring a sacrifice.” Would that have worked? Never! He was now tied to a faith + works. You get to Christ’s earthly ministry, now they are still under the Law, and I can prove that very easy. The one that came to Jesus in the Book of Matthew:
“And behold one came and said unto him, `Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?’ and he said unto him, `Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.’ He said unto him, `Which?’ Jesus said, `Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shall not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.'”
So Jesus told him to keep the law, but as John the Baptist began to preach along with the keeping of Law, and with the bringing of the prescribed sacrifices for Salvation experience, now what did they have to do? Repent and be baptized. That was John’s message. But remember that was for the Nation of Israel, and their national sins, they were to repent of them, and they were to show their repentance with water baptism, absolutely they were. But that was part of faith + sacrifice, works, and whatever you want to add in there.
But then here comes the Apostle Paul and he says it’s faith + nothing so what does that tie us to? To the only other man that God dealt with on that basis. Do you see it? That’s how we’re tied to Abraham, he was saved by faith + nothing, and we’re saved the same way, but everybody in between were saved with faith + works. Oh don’t lose that, and once you can separate the two, then it’s easy to understand. Yes, Abraham had the promises of a spiritual seed in the heavenlies, because they were going to come in by faith + nothing. But his physical relationship was with the Nation of Israel, the earthly people of God, the dust of the earth. Now come back to Romans Chapter 4, but we are still going to be dealing with Abraham, he is the epitome of an example of faith.
“For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law (that came first, and the whole nation of Israel was put under it at Mount Sinai, and remember the Law was severe, a burden, a yoke of bondage that Israel couldn’t bear), but through the righteousness of faith.”
“For if they which are of the law be heirs (in other words just the children of Israel through their law-keeping then), faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect:”
We cancel it. Another scripture comes to mind along these lines. Turn to Galatians Chapter 4, and remember this little letter was written specifically to the Churches of Galatia, that they were not under Law, but rather Grace. Remember the Judaisers were trying to put them under Law. So this is why this letter was written, to prove to these Gentile believers that they were not under Law, but under Grace. Here Paul has used the analogy of Isaac and Ishmael. Ishmael was of the flesh, he was earthly, and not of the spiritual seed, not of the promises that Isaac was. Let’s begin with verse 30:
“Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son (Hagar and Ishmael, they stood for the Law, the flesh): for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman (they could have no interrelationship). So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.”
“STAND fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised(and you can put in there anything that man can do to merit Salvation. If you have to add anything, and in this case Paul is naming circumcision then), Christ shall profit you nothing.”
Now that’s scary. The first time I saw that verse it just shook me to my boots. To think that any person who tries to add something to the Gospel of Grace, faith + nothing, he then cancels the work of the Cross for himself. Now that’s enough to scare anybody, because multitudes of church people are doing that. Yeah, they say but I can’t be saved unless I do this or do that. We have to believe that when Christ died and rose from the dead that He did every thing that a Holy God could demand of us. And all that Holy God asks is believe it, and if we won’t believe it then we stand under the anathema of a Holy God who is angered by the simple fact that we will not believe Him. And that’s what faith is all about, that we can honestly look at the Scripture, and recognize the fact that God has said it, and I with all my heart say, “God, I believe it.”