Romans 4:4-12 / Righteousness is not by Rite (Sermon – Notes and Audio)

Posted on July 28, 2013


This is the nineteenth in a series of verse-by-verse expositions of the book of Romans. This message was delivered at Hillcrest Baptist Church on the morning of July 28, 2013. This message deals with the issue of salvation by grace, and not by works. Specifically, ritualistic religious ceremonies or acts don’t earn righteousness. This contains an audio recording of my message, along with my sermon notes and a study outline. Please note that the sermon notes are not a full transcript.

AUDIO – Listen Now:


Rom 4_4-12


Rom 4_4-12 Outline


Romans 4:4-12

There is no grace imputed on the basis of one’s work. Grace does not work that way.

If righteousness were the wage which we earn by our works, then salvation would not be a matter of God’s grace.

If salvation were based upon our works, then it would be something that God owes us.

It would mean that God is indebted to all who do good works.

The simple truth is, God owes us nothing! We owe God everything!

God will never be indebted to us. Salvation is always a gift of God’s grace.

Romans 3:24

If you trust in your own works, you are the one who is building up debt.

Under works, everything depends on the sinner.

Under grace, everything depends on the savior.

Under works, God gives a fair trial.

Under grace, God gives a free pardon.

One must first plead guilty.

One who pleads not guilty can only hope for a fair trial, and in that trial you will be found guilty.

Through faith, God will justify the ungodly, and that shows just how far grace goes beyond any human notions of justice.

Where God is both Judge and Savior, the ungodly have an opportunity denied to them by man’s ideals.

Not only does God justify people apart from works but he does so contrary to what they deserve.

However, only those who relinquish all claims to goodness and acknowledge they are ungodly are candidates for justification.

Luke 5:32

When one accepts Christ in faith, that faith is counted as righteousness.

Here Paul uses a Scriptural example by David, to support his argument.

In Abraham, Paul shows a saint who is saved by faith, not works.

In David, Paul shows a sinner who is not excluded, but saved by faith.

He states plainly that God imputes righteousness apart from works.

Paul is quoting Psalm 32:1-2

This is a psalm of repentance, which was written by David after his adultery with Bathsheba, and the murder of her husband.

In verse six, Paul uses this Psalm as an example of how God imputes righteousness apart from works.

How exactly does Paul relate this Psalm to that notion?

In spite of the enormity of his sin and the complete absence of any personal merit, David knew the blessing of imputed righteousness.

God certainly didn’t impute righteousness to David because of anything that he had done to earn it.

God’s gift of righteousness to David was a complete gift of grace, based on David’s faith.

Since justification is by faith, does it only apply to the circumcised, or to the uncircumcised also?

History and significance of circumcision:

After God had made a covenant with Abraham (Gen. 15) He commanded that, as a token of the covenant, every male should be circumcised.

Not just the children and bodily descendants of Abraham, but also those born in his house and purchased slaves.

In the case of children it would occur on the eighth day after birth.

Lev. 12:3

Circumcision was formally enacted as a legal institute by Moses (John 7:22- 23)

and was made to apply not only to one’s own children, but to slaves, home- born or purchased, and to foreigners before they could partake of the Passover or become Jewish citizens (Ex. 12:48-49)

As a rite of the church it ceased when the New Testament times began.

Galatians 6:15

Colossians 3:11

Circumcision has never been anything but a sign of God’s covenant with the Jews. . . just as a rainbow is a sign of God’s covenant.

Circumcision has never made anyone righteous, any more than a rainbow makes someone righteous.

Circumcision was simply an outward expression of one’s faith.

Paul actually makes this point very clear.

1 Corinthians 7:18

He again uses the example of Abraham to prove the point.

There is an issue that Paul raises here. . . time.

The issue is the time in which God declared Abraham to be righteous, in relation to the time of his circumcision.

Abraham was 86 when Ishmael was born (Genesis 16:16), and was 99 when he was circumcised.

Genesis 17:1-2, 10-11

God had declared Abraham righteous before Ishmael was even conceived.

Genesis 15:6

Genesis 16:2-4

Therefore, Abraham was uncircumcised when God declared him righteous.

For the purpose of justification, Abraham was like one of the gentiles.

This opens the door to justification of uncircumcised gentiles.

Since Abraham was not circumcised until fourteen years after being pronounced righteous, circumcision was really just a testament of his faith.

The bottom line is that Paul is chastising of some of the Jews for their pride and exclusiveness.

Once again, righteousness does not come through any act or ritual on our part, but solely through faith in Christ.

Ceremonies and rituals serve as reminders of our faith as well as to instruct new or young believers, but we should not think that they give us any special merit before God.

They are outward signs and seals that demonstrate inner belief and trust.

The focus of our faith should be on Christ and his saving work, not on our own actions.

Because acceptance by God is dependent only upon faith, and not any ritualistic acts, all have equal access to God if they choose.

Those who come by faith in Christ will be adopted into God’s family, which unites all Christians, regardless of race, social, economic or any other factors.

As Paul alludes to here, all who are believers become spiritually related.

No one has any exclusive claim to God’s saving grace, and we’d all better be glad of that.

Posted in: Sermons