Bible Study: Romans 4:1-17

Read Romans 4:1-17

This year, 2017, is the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.  On October 31st 1517 Martin Luther nailed his “95 theses” to the door of Wittenberg Church, these were 95 problems that Luther had with the Roman Catholic Church (RCC), which sparked a revolution that formed the Protestant Church.  The Protestant Reformation hinged on 5 key doctrines, Sola scriptura (By Scripture Alone), Sola Fide (By Faith Alone), Sola Gratia (By Grace Alone), Solus Christus (Through Christ Alone), Soli Deo Gloria (To God Be the Glory Alone).  Today we are looking at the key doctrine of Sola Fide, by Faith alone.

This doctrine of justification by faith alone, is one of the core doctrines which the Bible teaches us.  In Romans chapter 4 we see this taught clearly.  Now before we jump head long into this we must define a few terms.  The first term is “justification.” In previous weeks we defined justification as transforming our relationship with God, making our relationship with God one that is not antagonistic to one another but one of love.  Justification makes our relationship as if it was, “just as if I never sinned”.  We also need to understand what the word “Works” and “Faith” are.  Works are something that you do, it is something that you are not given in any way but done through your own ambition.  Faith on the other hand is something that you are given, trusting in the works of God and not relying on your own works.  Now that we understand the terms, let’s dig into the text.

In Romans 4:1-5 Paul shows that some people are saying that there are two ways that you can attain justification, either by works or by faith.  Paul explains to his readers the truth by using the example of Abraham.  He shows us that the Jews of the time were teaching that a person could attain justification by following the law of Mosses (the 10 commandments and all other laws given to us by God).  That by following the law they were gaining righteousness before God, and gaining their justification.  They were trying to teach this by saying that Abraham was justified by his works, that he was justified by being circumcised.  Paul then proceeds to completely dismantle this teaching, showing it not only to be false but completely unfounded.  Paul teaches us the correct understanding of justification.  That we can only be justified before God, one who demands holiness, for He is holy, by being given justification as a gift received by faith alone.  Only faith in God can bring us justification.

This doctrine is so important for us to understand because if we believe in any way that we can be justified by our works, than what was the point of Jesus’s death.  Jesus torture, crucifixion, and death, all the bold that was split by Him was for our justification.  If we could be justified by our works we are saying that Jesus was tortured, crucified, and died for no purpose.  If we do not believe this than we are cheapening Jesus death, we are making the gift that God has given us like a worthless piece of trash.  This is why Paul shows us from the example of Abraham that it is by faith alone that we are justified. 

Paul further teaches us this in verses 6-8 that God justifies us apart from works.  That there is no amount of works that we can accomplish that are enough to grant us justification.  Even if we could do enough then that would negate justification as a gift from God.  That would mean that we are not in need of God that we can save ourselves.  That would mean that Jesus died in vain.  This could not be further from the truth.  Because God sent Jesus as a gift, fulfilling his promise to us in Genesis 3:15 anyone who repents and believes in Jesus as their savior will be justified, they will be forgiven.

This is why it is so important for us to know how bad we are, and the consequence of our sin, to see how good God has been to us.  That while we were still sinners Christ died for us.  Before we can do anything good we must be justified.  This is so important for us to understand for without the love of God we would we alone, scared, and be destined for hell, everyone without and hope of escape.

The best part about this doctrine is revealed in verses 16-17, that justification is a onetime action.  Once you have been justified you can never lose it.  This is contrary to what the RCC teaches that you can lose your salvation.  But this doctrine of justification by faith alone, shown to us in Romans 4 teaches us beyond the shadow of a doubt that once we have been justified by the blood of Christ that we are fully forgiven, and no matter what we do from this point onward we can never go back to being what we once were.  Because of Jesus death, which only needed to happen once, of salvation is secure and the promises that God gave to us in the Bible, all of them, will be kept.  For God does not break His promises, he can’t for He is perfect, holy, and pure and never takes back His word, meaning all that he says he will do, from justification, to sanctification, from provision to peace, everything that God says He will do will or has been fulfilled.  Therefore when we read Romans four which is as deep as the ocean we must see who God is and the love that He has for His people, and the cost of that love as well as our need to respond to His love.

What is justification?  Why is it so important?  How is Jesus sacrifice related to justification?  Why is Jesus sacrifice so important?  How can you use this knowledge of justification to help in your own walk with the LORD?  How can you use this understanding of justification in sharing the gospel with others?

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