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!

  1. The Abraham Example

    1. Read Romans 4:1-3. Of all of the heroes of the Old
      Testament, who would you think the greatest?

      1. 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.”)

      2. Does Paul leave open the possibility that
        Abraham was justified by his works? (Yes.
        Paul says “If … Abraham was justified by

      3. 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?

    2. Look again at Romans 4:3. Was it the strength of
      Abraham’s faith that merited his righteousness?

      1. Is faith another kind of works?

        1. 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.)

    1. 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.)

      1. 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

      2. 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.)

    2. 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

      1. Friend, would you like your sins covered?

  1. Faith and Law

    1. 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.)

      1. What does the law make us? (Prisoners of

    2. 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
      to Jesus.)

      1. How do you explain this?

      1. 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.

      2. 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

  1. Faith Before Sinai

    1. 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
      Mount Sinai.)

      1. When did Abraham live? (Hundreds of years
        before the Exodus.)

      2. Read Genesis 12:1-3. Did the Ten Commandments
        exist at this time? (No.)

      3. 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.)

      4. 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?

    2. 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.)

      1. 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.)

    1. 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.)

    2. 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.)

      1. 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!)

    3. 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?

  1. Next week: Expounding the Faith.