Romans 4:4-12

Thursday Evening Bible Study

June 5, 2008


Paul has been building his case that every human being is facing condemnation as a sinner.

The Gentiles who don’t have God’s Word are accountable because they have all of creation around them telling them there is a Creator God (Rom. 1).

The Jews have God’s Word, the Law, which doesn’t prove that they’re better than anyone else, the Law only proves that they too are sinners.

From that point, Paul told us that Jesus Christ is the answer to man’s problem. Man couldn’t take care of his own sin, but Jesus Christ came and died for us, paying for our sins.

Two key words we’ve been tracking:

“Righteous”, also translated “justified” and “just”.

“Impute”, also translated “reckon” or “accounts”.

The current issue is, what is the process that brings this forgiveness and eternal life?

Paul has been building his case that we are made righteous through the exercise of our faith.

Last week we looked at Paul using Abraham to build his argument that we are made righteous when we exercise our faith.  Paul used Genesis 15:6:

(Rom 4:3 NKJV)  For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness."

:4 Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.

wagesmisthos – dues paid for work; reward

gracecharis – grace; an undeserved favor

debtopheilema – that which is justly or legally due, a debt

If you are working to earn your salvation, then you don’t think of being saved out of God’s grace or out of God’s love for you. Instead you feel that your salvation is something you have worked hard for, something you earned, something owed to you.

:5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness,

justifiesdikaioo – yup, our word again

ungodlyasebes – destitute of reverential awe towards God, condemning God, impious

Remember that Paul has already made a big point that we are all sinners. Nobody seeks after God. Nobody does the right thing (Romans 3).

So if you are a person who has come to the conclusion that you are unable to be a godly person and you are unable to live a righteous life on your own, and you come to the conclusion that you are going to trust and count on God to make you righteous – that kind of faith is what allows God to enter “righteous” in your bank account in heaven.

Romans 4:4-5 (The Message) If you’re a hard worker and do a good job, you deserve your pay; we don’t call your wages a gift. But if you see that the job is too big for you, that it’s something only God can do, and you trust him to do it—you could never do it for yourself no matter how hard and long you worked—well, that trusting-him-to-do-it is what gets you set right with God, by God. Sheer gift.

4:6-8 David taught faith

:6 just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works:

blessednessmakarismos – declaration of blessedness; from makarios – blessed, happy

imputeslogizomai – the “accounting”, “logical” word.

Paul is going to quote a psalm about a person who is a sinner being forgiven. This isn’t a person who has “earned” righteousness. This is a person who is a sinner who has been graciously forgiven.

:7 "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered;

:8 Blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin."

imputelogizomai – the accounting word.

Paul is quoting Psalm 32.  But before we look at Psalm 32, let’s do the “back story” to the passage.

(2 Sam 11 NKJV)  It happened in the spring of the year, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the people of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.

David is going to get into trouble.  It’s probably relevant to note that he wasn’t where he should have been.  He should have been at the battle but instead decided he needed a vacation.  Perhaps that was his first mistake.

{2} Then it happened one evening that David arose from his bed and walked on the roof of the king's house. And from the roof he saw a woman bathing, and the woman was very beautiful to behold.

We know that the original city of David was built on the hillside.  David’s house would have been toward the top of the hill, allowing him to look down on the neighboring houses.

{3} So David sent and inquired about the woman. And someone said, "Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?"

Eliam was one of David’s mighty men.  He was the son of Ahithophel, the close friend and counselor of David that would eventually betray David and help Absalom revolt against David.
Uriah the Hittite, the husband was another of David’s mighty men.
Bathsheba was very much connected to three men who were close to David.  This is no stranger.  This is going to hurt a lot of people close to David.
We don’t often think of how our sin is going to affect the lives of those around us.
How will this affect my family?  How will this affect my friends?

{4} Then David sent messengers, and took her; and she came to him, and he lay with her, for she was cleansed from her impurity; and she returned to her house. {5} And the woman conceived; so she sent and told David, and said, "I am with child."

David now has a bigger problem.
The Bible says,
(Num 32:23 NKJV)  …be sure your sin will find you out.

{6} Then David sent to Joab, saying, "Send me Uriah the Hittite." And Joab sent Uriah to David. {7} When Uriah had come to him, David asked how Joab was doing, and how the people were doing, and how the war prospered. {8} And David said to Uriah, "Go down to your house and wash your feet." So Uriah departed from the king's house, and a gift of food from the king followed him.

David is hoping that Uriah will go home, have sex with his wife, and when Uriah finds out his wife if pregnant, he’ll think it was his baby.

{9} But Uriah slept at the door of the king's house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house. {10} So when they told David, saying, "Uriah did not go down to his house," David said to Uriah, "Did you not come from a journey? Why did you not go down to your house?" {11} And Uriah said to David, "The ark and Israel and Judah are dwelling in tents, and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are encamped in the open fields. Shall I then go to my house to eat and drink, and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing."

It looks to me that Uriah is a better man than David.
This was the kind of thing that David used to say.  It used to be that David was the one with a conscience.  When David was running from King Saul and he had a chance to kill Saul in the cave, David’s conscience bothered him so much he couldn’t bring himself to do it.
It seems that David’s mighty men had learned to have a noble conscience just like David.
And now David has backslidden.

{12} Then David said to Uriah, "Wait here today also, and tomorrow I will let you depart." So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next. {13} Now when David called him, he ate and drank before him; and he made him drunk. And at evening he went out to lie on his bed with the servants of his lord, but he did not go down to his house.

David tries again to get Uriah to go home and Uriah continues to act nobly.

{14} In the morning it happened that David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it by the hand of Uriah. {15} And he wrote in the letter, saying, "Set Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retreat from him, that he may be struck down and die."

David has now changed his plan and has decided to have Uriah killed.  He’s using “death by Ammonite” as his choice of weapon.  And he’s getting Joab involved in his plans.
Joab will follow David’s orders and Uriah will be killed in the battle… skip down to …

{26} When the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she mourned for her husband. {27} And when her mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD.

David might have kept most people from knowing what he had done, but God knew.
I think this is one of the issues concerning doing the right thing.
We make the mistake of either forgetting that God sees everything, or we have simply concluded that God doesn’t care.

(Ezek 8:12 NKJV)  Then He said to me, "Son of man, have you seen what the elders of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the room of his idols? For they say, 'The LORD does not see us, the LORD has forsaken the land.'"

But the truth is, God does see.  God is not pleased.

(2 Sam 12:1-14 NKJV)  Then the LORD sent Nathan to David. And he came to him, and said to him: "There were two men in one city, one rich and the other poor. {2} "The rich man had exceedingly many flocks and herds. {3} "But the poor man had nothing, except one little ewe lamb which he had bought and nourished; and it grew up together with him and with his children. It ate of his own food and drank from his own cup and lay in his bosom; and it was like a daughter to him. {4} "And a traveler came to the rich man, who refused to take from his own flock and from his own herd to prepare one for the wayfaring man who had come to him; but he took the poor man's lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him." {5} So David's anger was greatly aroused against the man, and he said to Nathan, "As the LORD lives, the man who has done this shall surely die! {6} "And he shall restore fourfold for the lamb, because he did this thing and because he had no pity."

I wonder if David thought the fellow should be put to death before or after he restored fourfold what he had taken.  J
You know that Nathan is really telling David about his own sin.
When we take our sin and put it on someone else, it doesn’t look so harmless.  It looks pretty ugly.

{7} Then Nathan said to David, "You are the man! Thus says the LORD God of Israel: 'I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. {8} 'I gave you your master's house and your master's wives into your keeping, and gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if that had been too little, I also would have given you much more! {9} 'Why have you despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in His sight? You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword; you have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the people of Ammon. {10} 'Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.' {11} "Thus says the LORD: 'Behold, I will raise up adversity against you from your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. {12} 'For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, before the sun.'"

Sin has a consequence.
It may not be immediately, but there will be consequence.

Even when your sin is forgiven by God, there may still be earthly consequences.

Some people think that if God forgives them that they don’t have to face earthly consequences.  That’s not true.


Michael Mohr, 51, recently confessed to the murder of Myrna Gonzales, resolving a 3-year-old cold case. Mohr might have gotten away with the slaying, but after a religious conversion, he realized Jesus wanted him to do the right thing. Mohr immediately walked into the local precinct and announced he had strangled a woman to death in 2004, and that Jesus Christ wanted him to turn himself in.

"We wish Jesus would solve more of these," one law enforcement source said. "He [Mohr] was relieved. He was a little emotional. He was just glad to get it off his chest."

Laura Italiano, "'Jesus' Cracks Cold Case," (6-9-07); submitted by Van Morris, Mount Washington, Kentucky

We know that these things will happen with David’s own son, Absalom.  Absalom will revolt against David and end up having sex with ten of David’s concubines in a tent set up on the roof of David’s house.

{13} So David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the LORD." And Nathan said to David, "The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die. {14} "However, because by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also who is born to you shall surely die."

Because David was a leader, his sin was even worse.  He was giving the enemies of God a change to mock God.
This first child with Bathsheba would get sick and eventually die.

When we read that David said “I have sinned”, there was actually a bit more words to it than that.  David wrote a song of confession.

(Psa 51 NKJV)  Have mercy upon me, O God, According to Your lovingkindness; According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, Blot out my transgressions. {2} Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin. {3} For I acknowledge my transgressions, And my sin is always before me. {4} Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight; That You may be found just when You speak, And blameless when You judge.

It seems to me that David is accepting the penalty for his sin – he’s confessing his sin to show that God is blameless in bringing judgment on David.

{5} Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me. {6} Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.

God desires that we be honest from the inside out.  It’s not healthy to be trying to cover up the truth about your sin.
Global warming seems to be on everyone’s mind. Scientists are running tests in their laboratories. Political candidates are dreaming up their own “green” policies for upcoming elections. The heavyweights of Hollywood are filming public service announcements and organizing benefit concerts. Now even you can do your part in fighting the good fight. Have you heard about the “carbon footprints” we all supposedly leave behind us? Stop by the site and you’ll learn that they are “a measure of the impact human activities have on the environment in terms of the amount of green house gases produced.” In other words, by the fuel we burn on the way to work and the hair products we use, we each leave a “footprint” in the wide, growing path of global destruction. At the aforementioned site, you can even take the time to figure out just how big your personal carbon footprint is. Simply fill out the interactive on-line form—which asks for estimates of natural gas usage, wattage settings and even the mileage of your car over the past year—and you’re well on your way to figuring out just how much “damage” you are doing throughout your day. Take heart, though—there’s hope offered on the other side of the bad news. The site goes on to offer a litany of suggestions for lifestyle change.
This is all very interesting (and controversial, no less), but it really gets one to thinking about a more inconvenient truth—sin.
For every act of rebellion—every vicious word, every selfish act, every unhealthy state of mind—we further impress our own personal footprint in the wide, growing path of spiritual destruction. By just one misstep, these are the wages: the world will never quite be the same again—and not for the better. It’s enough to turn you green, but in an entirely different way.
The good news, of course, is that we can leave another print of an entirely different kind. With every act of redemption—every kind word, every selfless act, every healthy state of mind—we can further impress the personal footprint of the One who walked before us, ushering in his new kingdom alongside him. By just one sure step, the world will never quite be the same again—and for the better indeed.
Brian Lowery, Associate Editor,

{7} Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. {8} Make me hear joy and gladness, That the bones You have broken may rejoice.

Note the mention of “bones” being broken.

{9} Hide Your face from my sins, And blot out all my iniquities. {10} Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. {11} Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. {12} Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.

Note the word “joy”

{13} Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, And sinners shall be converted to You. {14} Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, The God of my salvation, And my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness. {15} O Lord, open my lips, And my mouth shall show forth Your praise. {16} For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. {17} The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart; These, O God, You will not despise. {18} Do good in Your good pleasure to Zion; Build the walls of Jerusalem. {19} Then You shall be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, With burnt offering and whole burnt offering; Then they shall offer bulls on Your altar.

It is thought that after David went through this process of confessing his sin, that he wrote another song, the one that Paul is now quoting in Romans.

(Psa 32:1-5 NKJV) Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered. {2} Blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit.

The word “blessed” in vs. 1&2 means “happy”.  It’s plural in both spots carrying the idea of a LOT of happiness.  Remember David’s cry in Ps. 51:12, “restore to me the “joy” of Your salvation”.

{3} When I kept silent, my bones grew old Through my groaning all the day long.

Remember the “bones” that God had broken in Ps. 51:8.
We don’t want to face our sin.  We are afraid of the pain.
All of us tend to avoid pain. Sometimes, though, avoiding pain can lead to much greater suffering.
Consider the story of William "the Refrigerator" Perry. Perry was a colorful defensive lineman for the Chicago Bears when they won the Super Bowl back in 1985. His nickname fit him well, because he was big and wide. Perry was also a friendly man with a wide grin.
Unfortunately for his grin, though he was a mammoth man playing in the tough world of the football trenches, he apparently was afraid of the dentist, just like most of us. He was so afraid that he didn't go to the dentist for 20 years! He didn't go to the dentist even though his teeth and gums hurt terribly, even though his teeth began falling out. Eventually he had lost half of his teeth—some he pulled out himself!—and his gums suffered chronic infection. He was suffering!
Finally, as he neared age 45, he went to a dentist. The dentist had to pull out all of his remaining teeth. He had to insert screws in Perry's jaw and implant new teeth—all of which would have cost Perry $60,000 except the dentist donated the procedure (apparently for the free publicity).
Now there's a story every mother will tell her son when she tells him he has to go to the dentist or brush his teeth. But this is also a story for all who avoid emotional and spiritual pain of any sort, for the body teaches you things about your soul. There are lots of things that can cause pain to the soul but actually bring health, things like asking for help, hard work, repentance, looking honestly into our own souls, going to church, dealing with our problems, humbling ourselves, reading the Bible and listening to sermons, facing the truth. This list goes on. It takes courage to face pain. But as William Perry said of his new teeth, "It's unbelievable. And I love them….I got tired of my mouth hurting all the time."
Craig Brian Larson, editor of; source: "A Story with some teeth: Fridge gets a new smile," Chicago Tribune (12-20-07) section 4, p. 2

{4} For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was turned into the drought of summer. Selah {5} I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD," And You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah

David learned that there was forgiveness if he would simply confess his sin to God.

The Bible says,

(1 John 1:9 NKJV)  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Paul’s point

Remember that Paul is trying to demonstrate from the Scriptures that a person is not made righteous by doing good works, but by having faith.

David’s psalm is not coming from the heart of a person who considers that he is a perfect person. David’s song is coming from the point of a person who is a sinner and who has found forgiveness.

If you paid attention to the back story, you realize that David didn’t do anything to deserve God’s forgiveness.  He received forgiveness because of his broken spirit, not because of his sacrifices.

David was made righteous because of his faith, not his works.


Find forgiveness.

It’s been my experience that even people who have been Christians for years will go through times when they have a hard time receiving forgiveness.  It’s hard to not slip into the feeling that if I could just do enough good things, that God would take me back.  But the truth is that it all boils down to me simply choosing to take God at His word that if I simply confess my sins (1John 1:9), then He will forgive me.  It’s another step of “faith”.
Learning to be open like this to God, confessing our sins, is what brings forgiveness.
The film Amazing Grace chronicles William Wilberforce (Ioan Gruffedd) as he endeavors to end the British transatlantic slave trade in the nineteenth century.
Wilberforce has made an earlier visit to his old pastor and friend John Newton (Albert Finney). Newton himself was a former captain of a slave ship prior to his conversion to Christ and Wilberforce was hopeful that Newton would give an account of his slave-ship days. Newton, however, refused to do so, because the experience and the “20,000 ghosts” haunted him too greatly.
Now, near success in ending the slave trade, Wilberforce visits Newton and discovers that he has recorded his account. His eyesight now gone, Newton says to Wilberforce, “You must use it. Names, records, ship records, ports, people—everything I remember is in here. Although my memory is fading, I remember two things very clearly: I’m a great sinner, and Christ is a great Savior.”

4:9-12 Abraham was justified before circumcision

:9 Does this blessedness then come upon the circumcised only, or upon the uncircumcised also? For we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness.

:10 How then was it accounted? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised.

Now Paul is going to go in for the kill and take the very sign of Jewish-ness (circumcision) and see if this righteousness is given only to those who are circumcised.

Abraham was declared righteous in Genesis 15:6 when he was about 86 years old.

He wasn’t circumcised until Genesis 17:24, when he was 99 years old.

He was declared righteous by faith BEFORE he was circumcised.

He received the righteousness first, the circumcision came later.

:11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also,

signsemeion – a sign, mark, token

Circumcision was intended to be a “sign” of something. It was to be a sign that this person was choosing to follow God instead of their flesh.

sealsphragis – a seal; that by which anything is confirmed, proved, authenticated

Circumcision was a “seal”, meant to authenticate that his faith had been certified.

Meat used to have a “USDA” seal stamped on it, showing it was inspected and approved.


Trust the right thing.

Circumcision was the seal of authenticity on Abraham’s righteousness.  It wasn’t what made him righteous, it was the proof that he was already righteous.
Baptism is that for the Christian. Baptism doesn’t make you a Christian.  It is supposed to be the seal that your Christianity is authentic.  But sadly we’ve got some people who have it backward, thinking that the ritual of baptism is going to save them.
Imagine that going to heaven is like going to a movie theater.  When you receive salvation from the Lord, He gives you the tickets to get into the theater. The tickets are like the “righteousness” that is required to get into heaven.  When you are baptized, it’s like God wraps up the tickets by putting them in an envelope and seals it for you.  The envelope is your baptism. Trying to get into heaven by baptism (or circumcision) is like trying to get into the movie theater with an empty envelope.  The envelope doesn’t get you in, the tickets do.

:12 and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised.

walkstoicheo – to proceed in a row as the march of a soldier, go in order; to walk

stepsichnos – a footprint, track, footstep

Abraham is an example to both the Jew and the Gentile.

There are some examples about Abraham that we are to follow, especially examples of faith.

We’ll get into the example Paul has in mind in the next passage.