Justification is by Faith: 3:21-31. People cannot take any credit for their salvation. There is no world view or religious system through which we can meet the righteous standards of the Law. But Jesus Christ has made it possible to have a right standing before all for all those who believe in Christ (3:22) The word faith or believe occurs several times in this chapter. The argument of this chapter is “Without faith it is impossible to please God”. God justifies all who believe in Jesus Christ and declare them righteous apart from the works of the law (3:28). Justification means to “declare and treat someone as righteous”. Justification is more than forgiveness. Forgiveness means “send away”. The priest had to offer sacrifice to make an atonement to forgive sin (Leviticus 4:35). Without shedding of blood there is no remission of sin (Heb 9:22; 10:18). Believers are forgiven upon their confession of sin but always on the ground of Christ’s sacrifice (1 John 1:6-9; 2:2). God's righteousness requires that justice to be carried out by paying the the penalty. Christ paid the penalty of our sin by dying on the cross. Atonement in the Old Testament means “To cover sin" (Leviticus 16:14). Propitiation expresses the idea of covering sin by satisfying the God's justice and holiness (1 John 4:10). So God can forgive our sins while declaring us righteous (3:24-26). Forgiveness is the negative aspect of justification. Forgiveness removes our guilt and penalty of sins (Rom 5:9; Ephesians 1:7). Forgiveness is free and full in Christ (Rom 8:1; Psalms 103:12; Isaiah 44:22; 38:17; Micah 7:19; Heb 8:12). It is according to the riches of His grace. The justification is legal term which means "To legally pronounce and treat as righteous". It is more then forgiveness. It does not mean we are practically made righteous. Sanctification does that. The justification is associated with the resurrection of Christ (Rom 4:25). By believing in Christ we become righteous by imputation. (Rom 10:10; 2 Cor 5:21). We cannot take any credit for our redemption from sin. Christ perfected the work of redemption and we receive it by faith (3:30). The work of Jesus did not eliminate the Old Testament but rather brings it to fulfillment (3:31). Our salvation leaves no room for boasting but calls for praise and worship to God our Savior who was willing to give his life in order to save us.
Abraham Justified by Faith: 4:1-12. Paul gives two historical examples to prove that justification is by faith and not by works. Abraham and David found eternal favor in God's sight by believing God's promises. Abraham is the father of Jews. He believed that justification does not come by the deeds of the law. Paul asks, “Was Abraham saved by works or was it by faith”? Paul says “For what does the scripture say”? Whenever we seek spiritual answer, we should ask what the Scriptures say about it. Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness (Gen 15:6). Despite Abraham's many weaknesses and sin, the gift of righteousness covered all his sins (4:7). The word counted or imputed means “To put to one’s account”. There are two ways we might be declared righteous. If we earn it by work, salvation would not be a gift. Abraham was justified apart from works. Paul also introduces the testimony of King David to support this argument. Paul introduces the testimony of two to strengthen his argument (Deut 19:15). They believed in God's promises to find favor in his sight. David describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes the righteousness without works (Psalm 32:1, 2). Abraham lived before the law and David lived under the law. Both of them were justified by faith apart from works. In the Old Testament only sins were covered but they are taken away at the cross of Jesus Christ (John 1:29). Now believer’s sins are not reckoned against them because they have been reckoned against Christ on the cross (1 Pet 2:24, 2 Cor 5:21). Abraham was justified by faith before he was circumcised (Gen 15:6). Abraham was circumcised 14 years after he was declared righteous (Gen 17:25, 26). Circumcision was a sign of covenant relationship between God and His chosen people (Gen 17:9-14). Abraham is the father of all those who believe (4:11). So justification is by faith alone apart from works.
Abraham Received his Inheritance by Faith: 4:13-16. Abraham shows how to respond to the promises of God. The promise was made to Abraham that he would become the heir to the world. He inherited that promise by faith apart from works. If God would offer this inheritance through the law, then this promise would fail because no one ever kept the law completely. In Galatians 3:16, we see that this promise was made to Abraham and his seed. This promise will be fulfilled when the seed of Abraham, Jesus Christ, sits on the throne of David during the Millennium (Rev 19:16). Only Jesus has ever been able to keep the law entirely. Failure to keep the law brings penalty. Where there is no law, there is no penalty. The law declares the moral standards of God and conformity to it. But the law does not give us power to obey it. So God’s promise must be received on the principle of grace through faith. Those who possess the faith of Abraham are the spiritual seed of Abraham. God’s promise is given as a free gift. It can’t fail because God cannot fail. Abraham is the father of all who believe in the promises of God whether we are Jews or Gentiles. Faith, promise and grace are bundled together. Faith is the humble trust in Christ to approach God. Promise is God's invitation to have faith in Christ. Grace is God's gift of forgiveness and his desire to give new life in Christ. In order to experience the gift of grace , we must have faith in the promises that are offered to us in Christ. Pray that God would make you a person of faith in the promises given in his Word.
Abraham is the Father of many Nations by Faith: 4:17-25. When God said to Abraham “I have made you a father of many nations”, he was childless (Gen 17:5). How did he get this promise? Abraham believed God who brings the dead back into life (Rom 4:17). Abraham believed God's promise and because of this he was declared righteous in God's sight (Rom 4:22). God calls into existence the things that do not exist (4:15). When Abraham considered the barrenness of Sara’s womb, he believed against hope that God has made him the father of many nations. Out of faith comes hope. Faith is the humble trust in God. Abraham believed in spite of his adverse circumstances. He believed and never wavered in the promises of God. Promises are God's invitation to have faith in him. How can we reconcile this with his laughter in Genesis 17:17? Scholars suggest that it was laughter of joy and wonder. Abraham was strong in the faith and brought glory to God. He was absolutely convinced that God is able to do what he promised (4:21). Abraham’s faith in a way was in the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus said to the unbelieving Jews “Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it and was glad” (John 8:56). Here the joy of Abraham refers to the birth of Isaac. He saw in Isaac the promise of Messiah afar off (Heb 11:13). Abraham's faith foreshadows the faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ (Heb 11:19). Christ died on account of our sins and was raised from the dead for our justification. Salvation is always by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Grace is God's unmerited favor towards lost sinners. Without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb 11:6).