How Can I Be Justified?

Romans 4:13-16

Tom Pennington  •  November 13, 2016
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Turn with me again this morning to Romans and specifically to Romans 4. Paul is, here in Romans, answering what is really the question of the ages. It's the question of how can a man be right with God? How can you and I, who are sinners, be right with God our creator? This is a question that has always been asked by human beings. Go back as far as the period of the patriarchs, go back to the time of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and you'll find those people who are described in the Book of Job (Job, by the way, was a contemporary of the patriarchs, 4,000 years ago.), you find some of the key characters in Job asking this kind of question. Of course, the key question of the book of Job is, why do the righteous suffer? What's the relationship between sovereignty and suffering?

But this other question just keeps coming up. Here are a few examples. Job 14:4, Job says, "'Who can make the clean out of the unclean?'" And he answers, "'No one!'" If someone is unclean, no human being can change that reality. Job 25:4, "'How then can a man be just with God, or how can he be clean who is born of a woman?'" That's all of us. How in the world can we who are born in sin ever be clean? How can we be just with God? Job 15:14, "'What is man that he should be pure, or he who is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?'" This is the age old question. Because of our sinfulness, the sinfulness that is deeply embedded in our hearts, it is impossible for us to be right with a righteous holy God, our creator.

And that's the reason we need what Paul calls the gift of righteousness in the book of Romans. We need to be justified. That is, we need to be declared right with God, somehow outside of ourselves. In Romans 3:24, here's how Paul describes it, he says, the gospel that he preached preaches a justification, freely, as a gift, "through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus." That's the heart of Paul's gospel and that's what he explains in Romans 3, he explains justification by faith.

But we're examining chapter 4 and in chapter 4, having explained justification by faith alone, Paul now mounts a biblical defense of that gospel, of justification by faith alone. And Paul uses, in chapter 4, primarily one Old Testament text, and that is Genesis 15:6. He uses that text to show us that the Old Testament teaches the same truth that was at the heart of his gospel, the truth that a man can be right with God by grace alone by faith alone through the work of Christ alone. Specifically, Paul uses Genesis 15:6, the text about Abraham's justification, to answer several key questions about our justification. He uses it as a pattern, a model.

So far, we've dealt with two of these questions. First of all, in verses 1 to 8, Paul asks the question, on what basis are we made right with God? And as we discovered, Paul's answer is this, justification, we can be right with God, not by human works, but solely by God's grace. It's God's goodness to those who deserve exactly the opposite; that's our only hope. In verses 9 through 12, we saw last week that Paul deals with the question of who can be right with God? Who can be justified? And Paul's answer, as we discovered, is that justification is not for the Jews only, but for the Jews and the Gentiles. In other words, justification, this way to be right with God, is the universal solution to man's sin problem.

Now today we come to a third question that Paul wanted to answer about justification, using the example of Abraham, and it's this, by what means are we made right with God? By what means? What is the mechanism, what is the instrumentality, through which we are made right with God? And really the rest of chapter 4 is Paul's answer to that question, beginning in verse 13 and running down through verse 25. And this is his answer in a nutshell, justification is not by law but it's by faith and faith alone. He's going to illustrate this using Abraham.

Now today I want to examine just verses 13 to 16, the first part of his answer to this question, by what means are we made right with God? Let's read it together, Romans 4, beginning in verse 13.

For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if those who are of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is nullified; for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, there also is no violation. For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all,

I'm going to stop there because while there is not a break in the sentence, I think, as I can illustrate to you, there is a change in Paul's thought beginning with verse 17. We'll see that next week. So what is the theme, what is the, sort of, proposition that Paul is setting forth in this paragraph that we've just read together? It is simply this, what happened to Abraham proves that the only means by which any one of us can be justified before God is not by law-keeping, but by faith alone.

Now, he develops it this way, in verse 13 he simply states it, he makes an assertion, an affirmation, in verses 14 to 16 he presents his arguments, why this is true, and then beginning in verse 17 and running down through verse 22, he illustrates it using Abraham's faith. And then in verses 23 to 25 he applies it, he says, this wasn't just for Abraham, this was for us. So let's watch Paul then develop this basic proposition that what happened to Abraham proves that the only means of being right before God is by faith alone in God's promise alone.

So let's begin then with justification by faith alone stated. We see this in verse 13. Paul simply sets forth his affirmation, a direct declaration of the truth. Notice verse 13, "For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith." Now the word for here marks just a subtle change in the flow of Paul's argument. In verses 1 through 8 he has proven that justification is not by human works, it's not by any kind of human effort, period. Then, as we saw last week, in verses 9 through 12 he proved that it's not by, specifically, circumcision. It's not by your ethnic identity, it's not by a ritual, it's not by your Jewishness.

Now, in verses 13 to 15, Paul sets out to prove that justification is not even by keeping God's law, by living in obedience to God's law, it's not accomplished in that way. Notice how he begins in verse 13. He speaks of "the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world." Now, simply put, Paul says God made a promise to Abraham and to his descendants.

Now, that prompts two questions right off the bat, off the beginning here, what exactly is this promise? Well, the expression that Paul uses in verse 13, that Abraham "would be heir of the world," that is a unique expression. In fact, nowhere in the Old Testament do we find that exact language. Under the inspiration of the Spirit, Paul is simply summarizing, he is interpreting, several of the promises that God made to Abraham. And he summarizes it this way, "the promise that he would be heir of the world."

What does Paul mean? In what sense is Abraham an heir of the world? Well, don't misunderstand, he's not saying that somehow Abraham is going to be the preeminent figure at some point in world history or in the future. Instead he's saying this, and I'll show you, I'll show this to you in the Scripture in just a moment, but let me give you the, sort of, overarching statement, he's saying that Abraham will inherit the world through one of his descendants, that is, the Messiah.

Turn back to Genesis 22. I showed this text to you several weeks ago. It is foundational, fundamental in our understanding of what it was at the heart of the promises made to Abraham, the spiritual aspect of the promise made to Abraham. Genesis 22, of course, is the sacrifice of Isaac, or the willingness to sacrifice Isaac. On the heels of that, verse 15 says, "the angel of the Lord spoke to Abraham."

Now, if you're familiar with Old Testament history, you know this is not an angel. When it says "the angel of the Lord" in this way, often it is speaking of one specific individual; this is a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ. If I had time I could show you how this person speaks as God and is worshiped as God. So this is the second member of the Trinity speaking to Abraham and He says in verse 16,

"By Myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore"

Here he's talking about seed in a plural sense, all of your descendants, there are going to be so many it's going to be like the sand on the shore. But notice in the middle of verse 17 He stops talking about the many and He uses the word seed in a singular sense of one seed, that is, one descendant. He says, "and your seed shall possess the gate," and notice the marginal note, the Hebrew actually says, "your seed shall possess the gate of His enemies." Now we're talking about one, one descendant, and that is, of course, the Messiah. And in that seed, verse 18, "all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice."

God promised, our Lord Himself promised Abraham that through the seed, the one most important descendant of Abraham, the Messiah, "all the nations of earth would be spiritually blessed." We're sitting here this morning as evidence of that. But he says, notice at the end of verse 17, that that seed, that person, the Messiah, would "possess the gate of his enemies." That is a promise that one day He will reign over this planet, that one descendant, the main seed, would reign, the Messiah.

Now, this shouldn't surprise us because in many places throughout the Scripture we're told that Messiah will inherit this planet, that He will reign. Psalm 2:8 for example, God says, to the Son, "'Ask of me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Your possession.'" Turn over to Daniel, look at Daniel 7. You see this promise reiterated. Verse 13, "'I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days.'" So here's "'One like a Son of Man'" who comes to God the Father, "'was presented before Him, and to this One was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples and nations and men of every language might serve Him. And His dominion,'" His rule, "'is everlasting, it will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed.'" Again, we're talking about Messiah, talking about our Lord Jesus Christ. Go over to verse 27. At the end, "'"the sovereignty, the dominion and the greatness of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be given to the people of the saints of the Highest One;"'" that's us, "'"His Kingdom,"'" that's the Messiah, the seed, "'"will be an everlasting kingdom and all the dominions will serve and obey Him."'"

So understand then that the promise to Abraham that he would be heir of the world, was that he would receive the spiritual blessing of justification and forgiveness and through that be able to be an heir to the world to come when Messiah reigned, to live in Messiah's kingdom forever. It was really a promise of ultimate salvation, of eternal life, and of dwelling in Messiah's kingdom forever. That's what it means to be heir of the world.

And by the way, this is what Abraham really was looking for; it wasn't just that piece of land over there in the Middle East. If you've been there, you know, it's a nice piece of land, but it's, you know, nothing to write home about. This is what Abraham looked for, listen to Hebrews 11:10, "he was looking for a city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God." In other words, he wasn't all about that piece of dirt over there in the Middle East, he was about the heavenly future. Hebrews 11:16, speaking of all the patriarchs, says, "they desired a better country, a heavenly one," that's where their hope was.

So the promise that he would be heir of the world was a promise that he would be in Messiah's kingdom, that he would experience the spiritual blessing of forgiveness, of justification and thereby be qualified to be in Messiah's kingdom, to be the heir of the world through his greatest descendant, the Messiah. John Murray writes, "The promise to Abraham that he should be heir of the world can hardly involve anything less than the worldwide dominion promised to Christ and to the spiritual seed of Abraham in Him. It is a promise that receives its ultimate fulfillment in the consummated order of the new heavens and the new earth." Heir of the world to come.

Now, I want you to go back to Romans 4 and in verse 13 I want you to notice that God not only made this promise to Abraham, but notice, he also made it "to his descendants," literally, to his seed. Now, this brings up a second question to help us interpret this passage and that is, who are these descendants? Some commentators argue that Paul intends to use this collective noun seed in the singular sense that it's used in Galatians 3:16, for example, where the seed is the Christ, the Messiah. In other words, they say here that Paul is saying God made this promise to Abraham and to Messiah, to the seed, one. And that's possible. I don't think that's what Paul intends though, because, notice, that Paul uses this word seed in this same paragraph down in verse 16 of a group of people. So I think it's far more likely that in verse 13 he intended to use it the same way.

In other words, here's what Paul is saying. God made this promise not only to Abraham but to all of Abraham's spiritual descendants as well. Now that's extraordinary, do you understand what that means? If you're here this morning and you are a believer in Jesus Christ, if your trust is in the Messiah in the same way Abraham's trust, 4,000 years ago, was in the Messiah, if your hope is in His work, in what He would accomplish, then that means God not only promised Abraham that he would inherit the world to come, that he would live in Messiah's kingdom, but He promised it to you as well.

The key question, though, is how? How did Abraham come to receive this amazing promise and how do we, as his spiritual children, come to receive this promise that really is the promise of forgiveness and justification, eternal life, living in the Messiah's kingdom forever, how do you come to receive that promise? Verse 13, "for the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith." The promise to Abraham that he would inherit the world to come did not come through or by means of the law.

Now, what do we mean by the law? Well, we've seen this already a lot in Romans so I won't take a lot of time here, but let me just make sure if you've just joined us that you understand what Paul means by the law. He uses this word law in a number of senses, but primarily he uses it in two ways. He uses it of the substance of what God expects and demands of every person, that is written on every heart. Romans 2:14, he says, there is, on every human heart, even those who've never seen a copy of the Scripture, a basic understanding of God's requirements. That's why every culture prizes fidelity, every culture prizes, to some extent, truthfulness, there is a premium on those things. Why? Because God has written the substance of His law on the human heart. He means that, but He also means the written law, the law given to Moses at Sinai. But even larger than that, the whole of the Scriptures, what God demands and requires. That's the law.

So the promise to Abraham did not come through law. He didn't earn the promise of forgiveness and justification by keeping God's law. Instead, he received the benefits of God's promise, that is, a righteous standing before God, through, or by means of, his faith in that promise.

Now, Paul doesn't develop it here, but in Galatians he argues, this is just a matter of the chronology of history. I mean, think about it. Abraham received this promise and it was more than 600 years later that Moses got the law at Sinai. And so, just do the math, he couldn't have been made right with God by keeping the law. You say, well, yes but what about the law written on the heart? Maybe he just lived by his conscience? Paul says no. Paul's point here is that Abraham didn't receive God's promise because he kept the law. Instead, he was justified and received the promise that he would be heir of the world, by faith alone. It was all grace. It was completely a matter of God's gracious unconditional promise.

So there's Paul statement. He just says it. Understand that Abraham and all of his spiritual descendants receive the promise of justification, the promise of forgiveness, the promise of eternal life, the promise of the world and living in Messiah's kingdom, by faith. So, there's justification by faith alone stated.

Now that brings us to verses 14 to 16 where we see, secondly, justification by faith alone argued. Having stated his proposition in verse 13, in verses 14 to 16 Paul presents several arguments. In fact, in verses 14 and 15 he presents the negative argument, why justification cannot be by law. And then in verse 16 he presents the positive argument, why justification must be by faith alone. So let's follow his line of argument here. First of all, he makes the point that justification cannot be by law. And he establishes this point with four brief arguments. Let's look at them together.

Argument number one, justification cannot be by law because the law makes faith unnecessary. Verse 14, "For if those who are of the Law are heirs, faith is made void." Now, "those who are of the law" in this verse has to refer to those who are seeking to be justified by keeping God's law, either the law written on the heart, or the written law, the Scripture. If you are basing your hope of inheriting the world to come on your keeping God's law, on your obedience, either to your conscience or to the Scripture, there's a terrible consequence of that. Notice what Paul says, "faith is made void." Now that is a powerful statement.

You know what Paul is saying? He is saying that faith and law are two antithetical ways of being right with God. They're like oil in water. They're like black and white. They're like light and darkness. They are opposites. They cannot coexist. Law demands obedience. A promise demands only our faith. If you believe that your own efforts to obey God's law will save you, ultimately you are relying on yourself.

Now let me just say, I understand that most people here this morning, in fact I think I can say universally I don't think anyone here this morning thinks they are going to get to heaven solely based on their works. Instead, the temptation is much more subtle. We understand, of course I need faith, of course I need grace, but, to some extent, my journey to heaven, my acceptance before God, is based on what I do. As Spurgeon said, "The human heart is so deceptive that even though we can't earn our way to heaven, we just want to have a small part in the last mile."

Paul says no. He says, if you're seeking to be right with God by your own efforts, you are relying on yourself and what that means is, faith has no value. Because Faith, think about this, faith is relying for salvation, not on yourself, but on God and His promise. To be justified by your obedience makes faith entirely unnecessary. Justification cannot be by law because it makes faith unnecessary, and yet clearly the Scripture says it's by faith.

Secondly, justification cannot be by law because law nullifies God's promise. Look at verse 14 again, "For if those who are of the law are heirs," if you're saved by your works, by your obedience to God, then notice, "the promise is nullified." Like Paul says in Galatians 3:18, "if the inheritance is based on law, it's no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise." Here's what he's saying, if a right standing with God can only be achieved through my keeping of God's law, then God's promise is absolutely worthless, it's worthless. Why? Because if God's promise is conditioned on His law then no one will ever receive the promise.

Think about it this way. Let's say that I had ten million dollars to give away. I don't, by the way, but let's just say for the sake of argument that I had ten million dollars, I just was, it was burning a hole in my pocket, I wanted to be gracious, I wanted to give it, and I said here this morning, listen, I really want someone in this congregation to have ten million dollars, I want you to have ten million dollars, and there's only one condition. You have to survive entirely without food for a year. Now, what's your immediate response to that? What a worthless promise. He knows nobody can do that, he's not really making a genuine offer.

That's exactly what Paul is saying. If God conditions our acceptance with Him on our obedience, if He makes a promise that is conditioned on our obedience to His law, then it is a worthless promise, because nobody will ever meet the condition. James 2:10 says, "whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all." Think about that verse for a moment. God says, if you could live your entire life, let's say he gave you 80 years, if you could live for 80 years in perfect obedience to God, every thought, every word, every action, you lived your entire life, but you got to 80 and within hours before your death you had one sinful thought, James says you're guilty of breaking the entire law. Why? Well, because what is the essence of the law? God's law requires perfect love for Him and perfect love for others. If I ever fail one moment then I haven't perfectly loved God and I haven't perfectly loved others.

By the way, the context of James 2 is not some terrible sin, it's not talking about some gross sin as we think of it, it is a sin but it's not typically at the top of our list, it should be higher, but it's the sin of prejudice, it's the sin of looking at external factors and judging a person on that basis. And he says, all you have to do is exercise that sin one time and you have broken the whole law. And so, it's impossible. Lloyd Jones writes, "If God made the promise to Abraham on condition that he observed or kept the law, that immediately and automatically means that the promise never could have been and never can be fulfilled, because nobody has ever been found who is capable of keeping the law."

Thirdly, justification cannot be by law because law produces only wrath. Verse 15, "for the law brings about wrath." Not only can keeping God's law not gain justification, it actually produces wrath. Why? Because the law demands perfection, perfect obedience, but what do we do? We break it. And when we break it we invite the wrath of God against our sin.

You know, a lot of people don't like to talk about or think about the concept of God being angry with sinners, but that's exactly what the Scripture says. The Psalmist says, "God is angry with the wicked every day." Not a day goes by, of the person who is living in rebellion against God, that God isn't angry. Why? It's not a capricious kind of anger. It's because it's rebellion. It's rebellion against God as your creator and sustainer, the one who gives you all things.

Turn over to Galatians 3, Galatians 3, and notice verse 10. Paul says, "For as many as are of the works of the Law," that is, whoever relies on their obedience to the law as their way to be right with God, if that's you, if any part of your being right with God rests on what you do, your obedience, Paul says you're under a curse. Why? "For it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who does not abide,'" notice this, "'by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.'"

If you want to be right with God by your obedience to God's law, here's the standard, perfection. That's it. And, therefore, you're cursed, you're under God's curse, God has damned you, is what it says. Verse 11, "Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, 'the righteous man shall live by faith.'" This is what the Scriptures taught, not law but faith, "However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, 'He who practices them shall live by them.'" It's obedience, that's the only standard.

But I love verse 13, even though we were under the curse, because we hadn't kept all the commands, "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us – for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.'" He took my curse. We sang it this morning in one of the songs. He became the curse for us and, therefore, we're no longer cursed. In fact, verse 14, "in Christ Jesus the spiritual blessing promised to Abraham" comes to us. Instead of curse we get blessing. The promise produces an inheritance, it produces joy and life and glory and eternity, but the law produces only wrath and punishment and suffering; it cannot justify.

Another reason that justification cannot be by law, a fourth reason, is because law only increases our guilt. Notice how he ends verse 15, "but where there is no law, there also is no violation." Now, don't misunderstand Paul, Paul isn't saying that if a person doesn't know or have God's law, sin isn't really sin, that's not what he's saying. In fact, look at chapter 2 of Romans and verse 12, he says, "For all who have sinned without having the written Law will perish without the Law." They're still going to be judged, they're still going to die, so it's still sin, even though they don't have the written law, because they have the law written on the conscience.

So, what is Paul saying then? He's saying that when we understand God's law, sin becomes even more serious. Notice the word violation, that isn't the basic New Testament word for sin, but rather it's the word that is usually translated as transgression. What is transgression? Well, transgression is a special kind of sin. It's a kind of sin when you have a clearly defined law and you willingly, defiantly, choose to disobey it, you choose to break it, that's a transgression. And it makes our sin worse.

Think about it this way, imagine, hypothetically, that you are traveling to work tomorrow and you go a new way, a route you don't ordinarily take, and you accidentally fly through a school zone, somehow you miss the signs and all that's there, and you fly through a 20 mile an hour schools zone doing 45 miles an hour. And, you look in the rearview and there it is, there's the light, he was there, the policeman saw you, pulls you over, and he comes to the window and you try to explain what happened. Officer, I'm sorry, I, you know, I don't normally, ordinarily come this way, or maybe, I'm new to this area and I didn't know this was a school zone, I know, somehow I missed the signs. And you explain that to him.

Now, understand this, you still broke the law, and that officer would be absolutely just to give you a ticket, and in real life probably would. But what if that officer just gave you a warning? What if he was feeling very sympathetic that day and he believed your story, and for whatever reason it made sense to him and he gave you a warning? But then the next morning, Tuesday morning, you're on your way to work, you go that same new route and he pulls you over for going 55 miles an hour in the same school zone. And he recognizes you. Now, you broke the law both times. But the second time it was much more serious. Why? Because you did it with full knowledge. In fact, it really was a deliberate act of defiance and rebellion.

That's exactly how it is with God's law. You can sin without knowing God's law, but once we know God's law, our sin is so much worse because it is an act of rebellion and defiance. Can I just speak to those of you here this morning who may not be in Christ, that's my concern for you. You are not ignorant, you can't claim ignorance, and if you continue to live in your rebellion against God your creator, your sin is much, much worse than somebody who never heard.

Knowledge increases our guilt. It increases the just anger of the one whose laws we choose to break. John Calvin put it this way, "He who is not instructed by the written law, when he sins, is not guilty of so great a transgression as he is who knowingly breaks and transgresses the law of God." So Paul says, listen, keeping God's law can't justify us. In fact, it only heightens our guilt and condemnation when we don't. Look at Romans 3:19,

For we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of our sin.

So there is Paul's negative argument, justification cannot be by law for those four reasons.

Now, in verse 16 he presents a positive argument and his positive argument is this, justification must be by faith alone. Number one, so that justification can be by grace. It has to be by faith alone so it can be by grace. Look at verse 16, "For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace." What does he mean, it, "it is by faith"? You'll notice that's added by the translators. Well, in context here Paul is clearly talking about the promise, the promise of salvation, the promise of forgiveness, the promise of justification, and here is the reason God had to save us, had to justify us, by faith alone. Notice what he says, "in order that it may be in accordance with grace." It's what Paul says in chapter 11 verse 6, "if salvation is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace."

What he's saying is this, salvation by grace and salvation by works are mutually exclusive. It can't be both. Grace, by definition, is God's unmerited favor. It is God's goodness to those who deserve exactly the opposite. In grace there is no merit, there's nothing earned, there's nothing deserved, in fact, you deserve exactly the opposite. But law and works, on the other hand, by definition, always include merit and desert and something I've done.

So grace and works simply cannot co-exist. It's like, you can put a lion in a cage or you can put a lamb in that same cage at a different time, alone, but if you put both the lion and the lamb in the same cage, only the lion survives. The same is true with grace and works. You can either be saved by grace alone, completely unearned, undeserved, or you can be saved by, or try to be saved by, works alone. But you cannot be saved by some grace combined with some works. They are antithetical to each other. That's illogical; it can't both be deserved and undeserved.

Faith, on the other hand, can co-exist with grace. Because faith is not a matter of receiving what you've earned, but faith is hoping for what God in His Grace has promised. By the way, it is only when we understand that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone that God gets all the glory alone. Because if you believe that you contribute the smallest amount to your salvation, if you believe you do contribute the little bit of the last mile, then you get glory, you get credit, and you are stealing the glory of God. It's all His.

Now, a second reason justification has to be by faith alone, Paul argues here in verse 16, is so that justification can be for everyone. Notice what he says in verse 16, "For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that," here's another purpose, "so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all." Now, Paul is making the same parallel here as he does back in verses 11 and 12. He's referring to believing Jews on the one hand, those who are Jewish who believe in the Messiah and Gentiles who come to believe in the Messiah, two different groups.

Notice, first of all, in verse 16, he refers to all the spiritual descendants of Abraham and then he breaks them down into two basic categories, "those who are of Law," here meaning believing Jews, those who had the advantage of having God's written law but have come to walk in the faith of Abraham, verse 12. And then the other group, at the end of verse 16, "those who are of the faith of Abraham." This refers to believing Gentiles. So understand then, Abraham the believer becomes "the father of us all."

Now, do you follow Paul's logic here? He's saying the only way that justification could be available to both Jews and Gentiles was if it was received apart from the law. Why? Because the Gentiles didn't have the law. So the only way for God to accomplish this was without the law. When God chose not to tie justification to the keeping of law, He made it available to everyone, Jews and Gentiles.

Now what's the practical application of that for us? You can share the gospel with everyone. There's nobody that you will ever encounter for whom this message is not appropriate. It doesn't matter, their background, their ethnicity, their circumstances, their level of sin; they may be externally moral and upstanding and appear to be religious or they may be the worst and the lowest of sinners. It's for everyone. Because it's without the law. It doesn't come on the basis of law-keeping, it comes on the basis of believing the gracious promise of God.

A third reason justification had to be by faith alone, and I love this, you probably saw I skipped part of verse 16, it's so that justification can be guaranteed to us. Notice what Paul says, "For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants." The word guaranteed was used in the first century of something that was legally guaranteed, something that was legally secured, something to which you held that the deed.

So why does the fact that our justification is by grace through faith, guarantee justification for us? How does that fit? Because it means, if it's by grace through faith, it means my salvation is entirely of God, and not of myself at all. It doesn't depend on me. It doesn't depend on my work, my effort, my righteousness. It's all of God and His grace, and His promise, and His work, and that guarantees it. Because it means my ultimate salvation is based not on me but on the character of God Himself and on His Amazing Grace.

Do you understand how wonderful this is? Listen, if our salvation, our ultimate salvation, depended in any way on ourselves, on our works, on our loyalty to God, on our faithfulness to Him, on our obedience to His word, not one of us here this morning would ever be saved. Not one. But our hope doesn't depend upon ourselves. Our salvation rests on God and He cannot fail. My confidence is not in my faith, it's not in my works, it's not in my effort, it's not in my righteousness, it's in His grace. My security is based not on my hold of God but on His mighty hold of me. I love that song we sing, He Will Hold Me Fast.

Notice verse 16 again, "For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants." If you believe the Messiah as Abraham believed the Messiah, then the promise that you will inherit the world to come, that you will experience forgiveness, that you will be made right with God through the work of the Messiah, the promise is guaranteed. Let's pray together.

Father, thank You for Your amazing grace. O God, we are so grateful that our salvation, our justification does not depend on us or on law-keeping. Lord, it would be hopeless. We thank You it depends entirely on You, on Your grace, on Your promise, on the Messiah and His work, on our Lord Jesus Christ, on His life and on His death. Father, we thank You that we stand in grace. Lord, make these truths precious to us. Don't let them ever become pedestrian. Help us to live in light of them.

And Father, I pray for those here this morning who are still on the treadmill of law and works, trying to earn their way into Your favor. O God, strip that away, help them to see how impossible that is. To be guilty of one is to be "guilty of all." And may they throw themselves on Your mercy in Jesus Christ, in His perfect life, lived in their place, and in His substitutionary death in which He suffered Your wrath against the sin of everyone who will ever believe in Him. Father, may this be the day. We pray in Jesus' name, amen.