“The Old, Old Story”
April 2, 2017
Every child loves a good story. It was not uncommon that when the girls were still living at home — even when they were in high school — they would ask at the dinner table, “Daddy, tell us a story.” And with a little prompting about the kind of story they wanted, I’d try to come up with something.
In fact, it’s not just children that love a good story, is it? We all love a good story and good storyteller. And we dislike it when someone gets the story wrong, or tells it poorly.
This week I was surprised when a prominent pastor and theologian blogged about a new Santa Claus storybook that will be released this fall. It’s not the kind of thing he typically blogs about. The eternal sonship of Christ and Trinitarian relationships? Yes. Santa Clause? Nope. And then I read the article and the link he provided. It seems HarperCollins is releasing on Daniel Kibblesmith’s book, Santa’s Husband on October 10. The book “tells the story of a black Santa Claus and his white husband who both live in the North Pole. Santa’s spouse frequently fills in for his husband at malls, according to a description of the book…” As I said, no one likes a good story to be rewritten or told poorly, so the first tweeted response to Kibblesmith’s announcement about the book was, “Quit rewriting history.”
The same thing might be a summary of Paul’s defense of justification in Romans 4 — he is refuting those who assert that salvation might be of works by saying, “Quit rewriting history. Salvation has always been by grace alone through faith alone.”
The oldest and best story is the story of the gospel of salvation and how sinners can come to be right with God. And we (rightly) connect that story to Christ. But as Paul demonstrates in Romans 4, the story of justification is an old, old story that is connected to some of the oldest stories in the Old Testament. Justification by faith is not a new story or a new idea. It’s an old story with a contemporary relevance. And that’s what Paul will tells us in Romans 4 as he recounts the story of Abraham and how Abraham came to be justified.
What does Paul say in these verses? He teaches that:
The Old Testament testifies to justification by faith alone.
Is that truth significant for us? It is most significant. It is, in fact, essential. It is essential:
- It is essential if we want to know and experience salvation from God’s wrath.
- It is essential if we want to know how to tell others how to experience salvation from God’s wrath.
If we are going to tell the story of the gospel rightly, we must know the process of justification accurately.
And Paul helps us with that in Romans 4.
In chapter three, Paul has explained justification by faith, and now in chapter four he defends justification by faith alone by using the illustration of Abraham. If Abraham, the father of Israel, was justified by faith, then certainly all men will likewise need justification by faith.
Let’s look at these opening verses in chapter 4 by asking three questions:
1. What if Justification Was By Works? (vv. 1-3)
- There would be boasting for man (vv. 1-2)
- It would be contrary to Scripture (v. 3)2
2. What is the Nature of Justification? (vv. 4-5)
- It is by merit through works (v. 4)
- Or, it is by grace alone through faith alone (v. 5)
3. What are Some Blessings of Justification by Faith? (vv. 6-8)
Download the rest of this sermon from Romans 4:1-8.
The audio will be posted on the GBC website later today.