Romans: The Beginnings of Justification

Sermon & Small Group Resources

This is the seventh sermon in our Romans series looking at the first eight chapters of the book. Preacher: The Rev'd Adam Lowe. Bible Reading: Romans 4. 

Download the Small Group Questions, Going Deeper, and Sermon Transcript (PDF).

Next Steps this Week

BIBLE READING: ROMANS 4

What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” 

Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness. David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the one to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: 

    “Blessed are those
        whose transgressions are forgiven,
        whose sins are covered. 
    Blessed is the one
        whose sin the Lord will never count against them.” 

Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before! And he received circumcision as a sign, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them. And he is then also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also follow in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised. 

It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. For if those who depend on the law are heirs, faith means nothing and the promise is worthless, because the law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression.

Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.

SMALL GROUP QUESTIONS

Download in PDF format.

WARM-UP Questions

  1. What do you think are the common misunderstandings of what it means to ‘have faith in God’?

READ Romans 4:1-3

  1. What is Paul hoping to achieve by referring to Abraham as an example of ‘justification by faith’?
  2. What part of Scripture is Paul quoting in verse 3? What does he mean by ‘credited to him as righteousness’? How is that true for us?

READ Romans 4:4-15

  1. What are the three possible sources of justification that Paul rules out? Can you give his reasoning and logic for each of them, one-by-one?
  2. In what way does believing in God involve a transfer of trust away from ourselves and to God? Are there any areas in your life, or times, in which you have found this particularly challenging?

READ Romans 4:16-25

  1. How was it evident to Abraham (and Sarah) that they were helpless without God? How is that true for all of us in some way?
  2. Why do you think it is often in the most trying of times that we grow in our faith? Can you think of an example in which this was true? How did you grow?
  3. What are the dangers of thinking that we can contribute to our own salvation even in the smallest of ways? How can we be on guard against this as individuals and as a church?
  4. Did the quality of Abraham’s trust in God ever waver? Why was Abraham’s (and our) justification not dependent on the quality of our trust but the one in whom we trust?
  5. In what way was Abraham ‘fully persuaded’ that God could and would do all that he promised? How can we share the same assurance of God’s promises?
  6. What are the rhythms of our life that can help us to be reminded and grow in our confidence of God?
  7. Who can we made righteous by faith? How is our faith like Abraham’s? How is it different?
  8. How can we be actually even more confident than Abraham was?
  9. When it comes to justification, how does it matter that Jesus was raised from the dead?

APPLY (this week): Choose a verse from Romans 3 or 4 to memorise and meditate on this week. Focusing on it word-by-word and create a prayer based on that sentence. 

PRAYER

Gracious God, thank you for the good news that we are saved not by trusting in ourselves but by trusting in you. Please help us to increase our trust by growing in our confidence of who you are, what you’ve done, and the goodness of your promises. Please help us to walk by faith. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

GOING DEEPER

WITH CHILDREN

A video with kids explaining faith - a great tool for starting discussion with your children about what they understand faith to be.