Introduction: After we learned last week that keeping the
law has nothing to do with our salvation, Paul announced
that this did not “nullify the law.” Instead, we read that
by this doctrine “we uphold the law.”( Romans 3:31) On the
face of it, that seems completely wrong. If the law has
nothing to do with salvation, how does that uphold it? A
mother says, “Son, your father had nothing to do with your
birth or your upbringing.” If you were the father would you
think that “upheld” you? Of course not! Yet Paul teaches
us that grace upholds the law. Let’s dive into our study
of Romans to see if we can follow Paul’s continuing line of
argument about grace and law!
- The Abraham Example
- Read Romans 4:1-3. Of all of the heroes of the Old
Testament, who would you think the greatest?
- Who do you think the Jews of Jesus’ time
would consider to be the greatest? (Abraham
was considered to be the father of the Jewish
race. We say “Be like Jesus.” They no doubt
said, “Be like Abraham.”)
- Does Paul leave open the possibility that
Abraham was justified by his works? (Yes.
Paul says “If … Abraham was justified by
- Let’s consider Abraham’s life a minute. The
first time we see Abraham is when God calls
him to leave his home and family and go
somewhere. Abraham does it. Genesis 12:1-4;
Hebrews 11:8. Later God tells Abraham to
kill his son and Abraham obeys. Genesis 22.
Is Abraham’s life an example of faith, or is
it just plain old obedience?
- Look again at Romans 4:3. Was it the strength of
Abraham’s faith that merited his righteousness?
- Is faith another kind of works?
- For example, 1 Maccabees 2:52 says “Was
not Abraham found faithful in
temptation, and it was imputed unto him
for righteousness?” (KJV) Have we been
focusing on the wrong kinds of works? Is
Paul teaching us that the work of faith
is most important? (Maybe this is why
most Bibles do not include Maccabees.)
- What does Paul mean in Romans 4:2 when he says
Abraham had nothing to boast about before God?
(Abraham might be a lot more righteous than I am,
but he was not as good as God.)
- Do we have to be as good as God? (Recall our
lesson two weeks ago when we learned from
Romans 3:10-18 that we are all rotten. Paul
is arguing that whatever the standard is,
even a great saint like Abraham cannot meet
it. No human can meet God’s perfect
- What does this suggest about the idea of
faith being another type of works? (Whatever
the type of work that might be required of
us, no one can meet the perfect standard –
not even Abraham.)
- Read Romans 4:4-8. What does this suggest about
the idea of our level of faith meriting our
salvation? (Paul writes about the man “who trusts
God” and says that he is the opposite of the man
who earns his wages. This seems to eliminate the
idea that faith is some sort of accomplishment.
The phrase “whose sins are covered” suggests a
person who needs help, not one who has merited
- Friend, would you like your sins covered?
- Faith and Law
- For just a little bit, let’s turn to another
letter from Paul. Read Galatians 3:21-22. Can the
law give us life? (No.)
- What does the law make us? (Prisoners of
- Read Galatians 3:23-25. If Paul is right that the
law has not been nullified, that it is upheld by
faith, what role does the law have? (It leads us
- How do you explain this?
- While I was writing the prior section of this
lesson, a member of the faculty talked to me
about my reports about how I drive my car. He
told me that my stories showed that I was not
“turning the other cheek” in the way I drive.
He confronted me and I was convicted of my
sins! This is the role of the law.
- Look again at Galatians 3:25. If the role of
the law is to confront us, what does Paul
mean when he says “we are no longer under the
supervision of the law?” (A supervisor
rewards or punished those under him. For
believers, the law does not determine the
penalty for our sins. We have a way to cover
our sins and have them forgiven outside of
the law. That way is through faith in
- Faith Before Sinai
- Read Romans 4:13-15. When were the Ten
Commandments given? (Exodus 19 and 20 show us that
they were given during the Exodus from Egypt at
- When did Abraham live? (Hundreds of years
before the Exodus.)
- Read Genesis 12:1-3. Did the Ten Commandments
exist at this time? (No.)
- What is Paul’s point about the timing of the
Ten Commandments and God’s promise to
Abraham? (God’s promise to Abraham was not
dependent upon Abraham keeping the Ten
Commandments. God’s promise was simply that –
a promise. Abraham believed God’s promise.)
- This is fine for Abraham. But, we live after
the Ten Commandments have been given. Does
God promise us salvation whether or not we
keep the Ten Commandments?
- Read Romans 4:16-17. Are we Abraham’s offspring?
(Yes. We might say in some sense we are the “law”
generation, although Paul was referring to Jews as
being Abraham’s descendants in the law.)
- What impact does that have on us regarding
grace? (The promise of God came to Abraham by
faith and it comes to us, Abraham’s children,
the same way. The fact that we live after the
Ten Commandments were given does not alter
the fact that we are saved by faith.)
- Read Romans 4:18-21. Would you say that Abraham
did not weaken in his faith about the promise of a
son? (Review Genesis 17:15-18. Paul gives a more
positive spin to Abraham’s faith that I would
based on the Genesis account.)
- Read Romans 4:22-25. What does Paul say that
Abraham’s experience has to teach us?
(Righteousness comes to us just as it came to
Abraham – by faith. If we believe that God raised
Jesus from the dead, and that Jesus died for our
sins, then we are righteous.)
- What should we conclude about the cracks that
we see in Abraham’s faith? (What a blessing
that is. If God views my wavering faith with
the same optimistic view as Abraham’s faith,
I am blessed!)
- Friend, the law condemns us. The law gives us
death. Jesus died because of what the law would
require of us. Thus, the great thing about the law
is that it drives us to God. The great gulf
between what the law requires and my sinful self
convicts me that my only hope is grace. If you,
too, are convicted, why not repent of your sins
right now and ask Jesus to give you grace?
- Next week: Expounding the Faith.