Romans 4

Romans 4: The Word of the Lord

The verse that got my attention early on in this study of Paul’s letter to the Romans is Romans 4:3a: “ What does the Scripture say…” We will return to finish this statement, but first let us realize what truth Paul has presented here. Paul is saying his basis for truth is what the Bible says.This is our final authority. In regard to interpretation, we are to let the Bible be our commentary on the Bible.  Later in Romans 15, Paul would explain these things were written for our example. As a student of the Bible we must realize the Word of God has a lot to say about the Word of God. Paul is telling us that new knowledge is built on old knowledge. You cannot learn to read and write until you learn the alphabet. You cannot learn arithmetic until you learn your numbers. You cannot learn to multiply until you learn to add. Jesus said He did not come to do away with the law, but to fulfill it every jot and tittle.  Hebrews 10 tells us- ‘He sets aside the first to establish the second.’ How did Jesus set aside the first, the Old Testament? By fulfilling it. This had to be done in order to build upon it the New Testament.

Let us consider what the Word of God says about Itself: “ All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for: doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete and thoroughly equipped for every good work.”( 2 Tim. 3)

“Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God.” ( Deut 8 and Matthew 4)  “ The Lord gives wisdom, from His Mouth comes knowledge and understanding.” ( Proverbs 2)  However James tells us- we must not be hearers only but doers.  In other words, here is a *key principle- understanding comes from obedience. Obedience to God’s word is the cornerstone to Christian living and fellowship with God. We are to obey Him and leave all the consequences to Him. ( Proverbs 3: 4-6) You cannot learn how to swim, unless you get in the water – you cannot learn how to use a computer by reading instructions only, you must do what the instructions tell you to do.  Follow the prompts the computer gives you and you will learn how by doing. *Follow the prompts of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit will always tell you to do what the instructions of the Word of God tells you to do.  Simply ask:  What does the Scripture Say?

Jesus said : “ if you continue in My Word, you are my disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth and the truth will set you free. And if the Son sets you free, you are free indeed.” ( John 8:31,32, 36) Are you continuing in His Word?  Do you daily meditate upon it? Obey it?

When we are confronted by the truth of Gods’ Word, we can do one of two things-obey it or refuse to obey it.  If we obey it we will be rewarded plus more importantly we will be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Failure to do so,will result in being conformed to this world.

Now let us go back to Romans 3 for a moment to reconnect with some truths Paul has revealed and we will see why Paul has chosen to use Abraham and David as examples of being saved by grace through faith, rather than works.

Paul quotes from several O.T. sources to underscore that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. In Romans 3: 11,12- Paul says ‘no one understands, no one seek God; All have turned away , they have together become worthless ( unprofitable, KJV).  Remember what Paul wrote about the Word of God is 2 Tim. 3 –‘The Word of God is profitable…’

So from Old Testament knowledge, Paul will build New Testament knowledge. Paul will use the Old Testament to show how Abraham and David were not justified by works of the law but by faith, apart from works.  The Bible is always the best commentary on the Bible.

Paul then asks the question :  What shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh?  For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. (Romans 4: 1,2)

Now Paul is  a masterful teacher. He knows illustrations are important.  He also knows that new knowledge builds on old knowledge.  Two of the most revered leaders and heroes of the faith were Abraham, considered their founding father and King David, their most famous king.

The problem Paul was facing and he understood it full well, having overcome the same problem was that God’s Grace, which had always been there had become obscured. It was lost in a work-based religion of the works of the flesh. Keeping the law to obtain the righteousness of God was the full time pursuit of the religious establishment and the burden placed on the people that Jesus came to relieve.  In their attempt to keep the law and thereby obtain this moral perfection, the Jewish leaders had added man-made laws to God’s law so that they might measure their accomplishments.  The idea was they would build a system of credits that God owed them which when weighed on God’s scale would outweigh any of their debits. In other words, their net worth which is in accounting terms is: assets minus liabilities ( good works minus sins) would entitle them to salvation and eternal life, God owed them. This they falsely believed and taught would tip the scale in their favor and one could obtain righteousness and salvation would be theirs.

Their philosophy which is still present today in the life of many is : God helps those- who help themselves. This is a lie.  I once read an interview with Jesse Ventura, former Navy Seal, professional wrestler, Governor of Minnesota, in which the interviewer asked Jesse what he thought of Christianity and religion in general.  His reply: “ Religion is for the weak.” Many people who read this were incensed. But as I thought about it- Paul’s revelation came to me when Jesus said – my strength is made perfect in weakness.  Paul got it and said from then on – he would rejoice in weakness because when he was weak he was strong. Jesse was right- it is for the weak. And I rejoice in my weakness that led me to the Lord, who is my strength.

This teaching of salvation and obtaining God’s righteousness without working for it was alien to these religious leaders, the Pharisees were like the elder brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son.  The elder brother was upset that he had worked so hard all these years, worked like a servant always keeping his commandments and now this prodigal son comes home and gets a ‘free ride’with party, feast, robe, a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.

When Christianity came, these religious leaders taught Christianity was a continuation of Judaism and in order to obtain salvation and the righteousness of God you needed Jesus plus keeping the law, doing good works.  Man’s accounting does not take into account- God’s  accounting method.  God’s accounting does not say one is saved by grace through faith plus works. Gods’ accounting says:  a person is justified by grace through faith, and that not of ourselves, it is a gift of God, not of works lest any person should boast.( Ephesians 2) {Now to make sure you are not looking for loopholes- Paul and James both agree a true saving faith will result in good works that God has ordained for one to walk in.}

Paul to illustrate this truth will turn to two of the most revered men of Israel’s history- Abraham and King David.  Paul directs them to the Scriptures: ‘ What saith the Scriptures? ( Romans 4:3,KJV)  Ever listen to Billy Graham’s preaching?  If you have, you will hear him say over and The Word of God says….

The Word of God is our final authority.

Let’s go back to Genesis , where Paul would take his readers 2000 years ago and where he still points us to today in 2012 to the life of Abraham. He will show them and remind all of us just what the Word of God says.

To understand how God works in one’s life we study the life of Abraham, a man who just happens to be revered by the three world religions- Muslim, Jewish, and Christianity. He is in fact the father of many nations. God had called Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia. Let’s break down the call of the Lord upon Abraham’s life in Genesis 12: God called Abraham to separate himself from his country, his people, his father and go to a land He, God would show Abraham. The first call of God on ones’ life is a call of separation. This separation is a time of preparation. Obedience is rewarded. God told Abraham his obedience will be rewarded by making Abraham into a great nation; a great name; and through Abraham, God would bless all the peoples on earth.  When the Lord Jesus called the disciples following his 40 days in the wilderness, his call was a call of separation- follow me; and He offered a reward to these fishermen- ‘ I will make you fisher of men.’ A call of separation coupled with a reward for obedience.   His initial call on your life to salvation is a call to separate yourself and leave your old life.

Second, notice God called Abraham on a mission without a map.  God simply said- I will show you. Hebrews 11 tells us- Abraham went out , not knowing where he was going. Specifics are not given. That is the beginning of the walk of faith. The walk of faith begins when we believe Gods’ word and act upon it. Trust is a learned response that comes from experiencing the trustworthiness of the one who made the promise.

Then God provides Abraham with a covenant without compromise. God has a plan for each of us when we begin the walk of faith and as we study the lives of people who followed God, we realize the destination was not often reached without hardship, toils, and dangers. There seems to always be a desert or wilderness experience for each of us.

In Genesis 15, where Paul will take the reader of this letter, Paul offers proof of how one is justified by faith, not works.

“ After this the WORD OF THE LORD CAME TO ABRAHAM….” The Word of the Lord came to him.  Have you experienced this wonder of God’s words coming to you?  Do you believe the Bible is the Word of God? Can you put your name in this verse:  The Word of the Lord came to _____________ ( your name).  The Word of God is alive and powerful. It life giving, life changing and life sustaining.  Man cannot live by bread alone but by every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God.


God is about to give Abraham a pledge. His Word. His promise to Abraham. A contractual covenant. May I remind you of who you are?  “ If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” ( Galatians 3)

Listen to this pledge from God to Abraham and then based on the fact of Gods’ Word that you are Abraham’s seed according to the promise and thus this pledge is you as a believer:

“ Do not be afraid, Abraham. I am your shield, your very great reward.” ( Genesis 15:1) This is the Word of the Lord that came to Abraham- has this Word of the Lord come to you?  Or are you living in fear of circumstances, the future, and uncertainty? Notice what the Word of God is able to do?  This is the amazing ability of the Word of God has- it can take away your fears and worries. What a balm , what a source of peace better than any tranquilizer.


This is what I like about Abraham, he is just like you and me.  Abraham had his doubts, even his moments of unbelief. Like the man who brought his son to Jesus to be healed, said he believed, help his unbelief.  What I call an honest doubter. We all have those moments when like this man we say Lord, I believe, help my unbelief. Remember the Word of God is powerful and alive and sharper than a two-edged sword able to divide asunder belief from unbelief, truth from lies.  Mary was an honest doubter when Gabriel the angel told her she would be with child- how can this be Lord? Nicodemus was puzzled- how can I be born again?  Abraham recognizes who God is:  “ O Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus? You have given me no children, so a servant in my household will be my heir.” ( Genesis 15;2-3) Abraham could not see God’s plan.



“Then the WORD OF THE LORD CAME TO HIM:  “ This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir. He took him outside and said,’ Look up at the heavens and count the stars- if indeed you can count them. The He said to him: “ So shall your offspring be.” Abraham believed the Lord and He credited Abraham with righteousness.”

Paul turns them to the Old Testament, to the very words we read in Genesis 15: 6:” Ánd he(Abraham) believed in the Lord; and He counted ( reckoned) it to him(Abraham) for righteousness.” In just a few verses later, Paul will show Abraham had not been circumcised yet.

It was right there in clear sight, in black and white: Abraham believed in the Lord and the Lord reckoned , counted it to him for righteousness. The Lord entered a credit of righteousness in Abraham’s account that paid all charges due ever. He stamped it: Paid in Full.  Jesus paid it all. It was the righteousness of Christ that was credited to Abraham’s account and it is the same for each of us who believed in the Lord and He counted it to you and me for righteousness.  That is why we sing:  Jesus Paid it all, all to  Him I owe.

Now Paul continues with this lesson in Accounting 101 which is really easy to understand as Paul illustrates: Now to him who works, the reward is not of grace but of debt. ( Romans 4:4) In other words a man works all week and at the end of the week the hours he worked are added up and the employer puts into his account the money owed, for it is a debt the employer owes to the worker for he has earned it. But Paul is saying- Abraham did nothing to earn his salvation. He simply trusted in God, in God’s Word . It was Jesus Christ who did the work on the cross, and it was His Righteousness that was put not only in Abraham’s account but in all who believed. This offer is still good. We still live in an age of Grace, where the gift of God is available to all who believe. Jesus summarized this truth in this simple statement to the woman at the well in John 4:  “ If you knew the gift of God and Who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” The water of life is the Holy Spirit, for one is born of water and the Spirit.( John 3) The one who controls this water of life is the Lord Jesus and you receive it by asking Him and He gives it freely to all who believe.

Grace-God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.

The thief on the cross never did a single thing in his whole life, except at the last moment believe in Him whom God had sent.  “What must we do to work the works of God? Jesus answered: This is the work of God, that you believe on Him Whom He hath sent.: ( John 6)

The Word of the Lord came to Abraham and he believed in the Word of the Lord. He believed His promise, His pledge to Him  because He believed in the One who made the Promise.

Next Paul quotes King David from Psalms 32:

“ Blessed are they ( put your name here)

Whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.

Blessed is the man whose sin does not count against him – to whom God does not impute( put on his account) sin, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.” ( no deceit- honest with God.)

Notice the repetition David used – transgressions forgiven, sins are covered; sin does not count against him; and finally he tells us God will not put any more sin on our accounts- they were all paid in full. Past, present, and future.   Doesn’t mean you can sin without consequences, but that your sins are covered, forgiven and not held against  you.

Now Paul will use the Word of God as the final authority to prove man is justified by faith just as Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. Not circumcision- for he had not yet been circumcised. Not keeping the law, for the law was not given to Moses until centuries later.


Is the Word of God the final authority in your life?

Has the Word of the Lord come to you?

‘The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. He came unto His own, and His own receive Him not. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name. ‘ ( John1)

Has the One who is called the Word of God come to you?  Have you received and believed Him?

“ The Lord has promised good to me. His Word my hope secures. He will my shield and portion be as long as life endures.’( Amazing Grace)

Has your hope been secured? It will be when the Word of the Lord comes to you and you believe and receive it by faith. For by grace through faith are you saved. That is how we received Him and that is how we shall finish. “ So then just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, overflowing with thankfulness.” ( Colossians 2)

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like the wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against the house, yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24,25, the Lord Jesus speaking.)

‘How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, is laid for your faith in His excellent Word! What more can He say than to you He hath said, To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?’( How Firm a Foundation, John F. Wade, 1751)

Copyright © 2010 Linda Benthal
Last modified: 08/12/14