God’s Immeasurable Grace

God’s Immeasurable Grace

Last week, I shared that I was recently interviewed by Covenant Spotlight Magazine on the issue of grace.  Below is part of the interview that will appear in their upcoming publication.

Many people believe that it’s possible to earn grace.  The Roman Catholic Church has built an entire system of belief upon this idea.  If you examine the Roman Catholic Church closely, you will see that they add works and the traditions of the Church to the grace of God.  However, when we look at the Scriptures, we see that grace is a gift of God and as dead sinners who are brought to life by the power of God – who are we to boast?

Do we receive grace because of our act of repentance? Or do we repent because of the grace granted by God? Could you elaborate?

Buice: Tragically, in many evangelical circles, grace has been reduced to three easy steps at the end of a church service. The fact is, we don’t earn grace or cooperate with God to receive grace. By its very definition provided in holy Scripture, that would nullify grace. Grace is granted to fallen sinners by His mercy alone, not by foreseen favor or merit in sinful man. In Ephesians 2:8-9, we read Paul’s explanation and I can’t provide a better explanation in my own words. He writes, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, [9] not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (ESV).

Much debate has ensued over these two verses. Is faith or grace God’s gift? It could be argued that faith is God’s gift because that’s what Paul seems to suggest as he speaks about repentance as being a gift of God in another letter to Timothy (2 Tim. 2:25). We would readily admit that grace – the salvation of our soul and the forgiveness of sins is indeed a gift of God, but what about faith? Is faith something we have at our disposal and is it something that is capable of being employed by our human will? According to God’s Word, the fall of man had devastating results upon humanity. Human depravity has affected the totality of humanity. Not only do we have the stain of sin upon our soul, but we have its effects upon our mind, will, and body. We have no ability to raise our spiritually dead soul from its spiritual grave (Eph. 2:1-10). That is a work of God. We are born from above – not from the power of our will or because of the dignity of our works (John 1:11-13). Therefore, I would argue that the totality of grace – faith, repentance, and grace are all gifts from God.

Now that we know the answer, how should this affect the way we view non-Christians?

Buice: First of all, we can’t expect non-Christians to behave like children of God. The Bible, in vivid detail, portrays unbelievers as sons of disobedience (Eph. 2:2), children of wrath (Eph. 2:3), lovers of darkness (John 3:19), filled with unrighteousness, covetousness, malicious intent, full of envy, murderous desires, filled with strife, gossiping tongues, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, inventers of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, and ruthless (Rom. 1:28-32).

While we can be involved in politics and accomplish many good things as William Wilberforce and others from church history have taught us, we must be fully committed to gospel ministry that targets the hearts of God-hating rebels. It’s only through the power of the gospel that rogue sinners will be changed from lovers of darkness to children of light (Eph. 5:8; 1 Thess. 5:5).

Secondly, we must not show hatred toward non-Christians. Our default position should be love and a desire to see them come to faith in Jesus Christ. I’m not worried that the agenda of “tolerance” will plague the church as much as I fear the church tolerating a lack of commitment for missions. The Great Commission should lead us to pray for unbelievers. Through prayer, God will break our hearts for people who need to be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. According to JoshuaProject.net, out of 7.2 billion people on planet earth, approximately 42% of the world is unreached with the gospel. God has saved us and commissioned us with the message of reconciliation. We must go and share this message – from the neighborhoods to the nations.

Can We Earn Grace?

Can We Earn Grace?

The grace of God is truly amazing.  To think about the fact that God – infinitely holy, wise, righteous, and just – would mastermind a rescue mission for fallen, wretched, and guilty sinners before the foundations of the earth were laid is beyond comprehension.  Who is man that our God is mindful of him?

Sadly, too much of our modern day evangelicalism is filled with superficial talk about cooperating with God to earn grace.  If your ears are tuned in properly, you will hear language such as “baptized into Christ” to receive the Holy Spirit.  Some people believe that we’re saved in the waters of baptism as we cooperate with God in the process of salvation.  Still others try to impress God with their work and service as if God will look upon them on the day of judgment and give them a free pass because they served.

Grace, as Jerry Bridges rightly describes, is “God’s free and unmerited favor shown to guilty sinners who deserve only judgment.  It is the love of God shown to the unlovely. It is God reaching downward to people who are in rebellion against Him.” [1]  To put it bluntly, if we earn it – it’s not grace.  A proper view of grace changes the heart of worship and Christian service.

I was recently interviewed by Covenant Spotlight Magazine on the issue of grace.  Below is part of the interview that will appear in their upcoming publication.

Do we receive grace because of our act of repentance? Or do we repent because of the grace granted by God? Could you elaborate?

Buice: Tragically, in many evangelical circles, grace has been reduced to three easy steps at the end of a church service. The fact is, we don’t earn grace or cooperate with God to receive grace. By its very definition provided in holy Scripture, that would nullify grace. Grace is granted to fallen sinners by His mercy alone, not by foreseen favor or merit in sinful man. In Ephesians 2:8-9, we read Paul’s explanation and I can’t provide a better explanation in my own words. He writes, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, [9] not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (ESV).

Much debate has ensued over these two verses. Is faith or grace God’s gift? It could be argued that faith is God’s gift because that’s what Paul seems to suggest as he speaks about repentance as being a gift of God in another letter to Timothy (2 Tim. 2:25). We would readily admit that grace – the salvation of our soul and the forgiveness of sins is indeed a gift of God, but what about faith? Is faith something we have at our disposal and is it something that is capable of being employed by our human will? According to God’s Word, the fall of man had devastating results upon humanity. Human depravity has affected the totality of humanity. Not only do we have the stain of sin upon our soul, but we have its effects upon our mind, will, and body. We have no ability to raise our spiritually dead soul from its spiritual grave (Eph. 2:1-10). That is a work of God. We are born from above – not from the power of our will or because of the dignity of our works (John 1:11-13). Therefore, I would argue that the totality of grace – faith, repentance, and grace are all gifts from God.

In the words of John Newton, grace is amazing.  He penned the words to the famous hymn from a heart that had truly experienced the unmerited favor of God’s grace.

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.


1.  Transforming Grace, NavPress, 21-22.

Sin and Salvation – Simultenously

As I began a three week Easter celebration preaching series this past Sunday titled, We Have a Reason to Celebrate I preached on the subject, The Gospel Before Time, from Acts 2:22-41.  In that passage of Scripture, we see Peter standing up in the faces of the self righteous Jews and preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.  As we examine that passage of Scripture, we see several things that had to occur before time in order to bring about the salvation of our souls.I.  The Savior’s Plan of Redemption (Vs. 22-23)In this section of Scripture, we see how Peter explained who Jesus was.  He was more than a man.  He was more than the son of a carpenter.  He was more than Jesus of Nazareth.  This man that the Jews had killed was actually the anointed One of God.  Peter points that out and claims that all of the signs, wonders and miracles were done in order to prove that Jesus was the very Christ.Peter goes further and explains a very weighty doctrine to these unconverted religious Jews.  How often do you hear an evangelist stand before a group of lost people and deliver a message with deep doctrine like Peter did here?  He explained that the plan of the cross was before time.  Peter used two specific words to describe this truth.1.  Determinate Counsel:  This is the “definite plan” or the “predetermined plan” of God.  This word is often described as2.  Foreknowledge of God: The subject is further intensified when the word “foreknowledge” is used.  This is the word, “prognosis” in the Greek.  It can be translated, “to choose,” “to love beforehand,” “knew,” “predestined,” or “purpose.”  It does not take long to note that the word here is not referring to a “knowledge” beforehand.  This is not prescience.  This word is not a reference to the omniscience of God.  Yes, God can see the future, but a clear defining of the word, a clear reading of the context, and an honest effort of interpretation will lead one to see that “foreknowledge” used in Acts 2:23 or 1 Peter 1:2 is not a picture of God looking through time, but a reference to the divine plan and action of God to bring about His perfect will on the basis of His good pleasure alone.As we examine this passage, Peter is preaching to Jews about the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.  Jesus was not merely murdered by the Jews.  Jesus was delivered over by the predetermined plan of God (before time) into the lawless Jews’ hands.  While this may seem strange, it was both sinful and satisfying to God for His Son to be crucified.  As each of the Romans nailed Jesus to the cross under the request of the Jews, it was a sin!  However, at the very same time, it was the plan of God for the redemption of “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord.”  We must be extremely careful not to make God the author of sin in this case.  That is not at all what Peter was trying to accomplish in his sermon.  Peter simply defends the sovereignty of God and allows these lawless Jews to realize that they were not in control – God is the One who is in control.  For the lawless Jew – that would have literally pierced their heart.II.  The Spirit’s Book of Redemption (Vs. 24-32)Not only did God predestine His Son to the cross of Calvary, He also planned the Word of God before time.  In this section of Peter’s sermon, we see that Peter references the writings of King David.  From Psalm 16, Peter quotes the famous prophecy of the resurrection.  It becomes evident to these lawless Jews that the plan of God for the cross was long before time, and it also became obvious that He moved upon men like David to write down prophecies that would ultimately come to fulfillment in the very One they had crucified.The Word of God is His plan to spread the divine message of redemption to the nations.  The gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16).  As we see Paul’s testimony of Scripture in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 – it is the very Book of God.  Therefore, if God planned to inform the world about His Son through a Book – the Bible – it becomes obvious that this plan was in effect before time.  Just as Jesus was slain before time, the Book would also be planned before time as well.III.  The Sovereign Person of Redemption (Vs. 33-36)The sovereign person of redemption is Jesus Christ – the Son of God.  Peter continues his sermon in a climax that builds toward Jesus Christ.  He presents Him as the One who is exalted and who is the Christ.  These two titles speak of His position of power and His title of power.  He is exalted because all power is given unto Him in Heaven and in earth (Matthew 28:18-20).  He is exalted because He is sitting at the right hand of God.  Jesus is also called the Christ, which is a reference to the anointed One of God – the fulfillment of the promised Messiah of the Old Testament prophets.The point that Peter was making is simple.  Peter wanted these Jews to understand that salvation comes only in one single person – Jesus the Christ of God.  They had killed Him.  However, if they will turn to Him, they will be saved and spared from the wrath of God.  Jesus is the only way of salvation (Acts 4:12; John 14:6).  Jesus is the sovereign person that is the fulfillment of all lambs who were slain in Jewish history.  As John the Baptist called Him – “The lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world (John 1:29).IV.  The Saving Message of Redemption (Vs. 37-42)It has been said before that God will always have a man to preach His message.  That has been true all through history and remains so today.  The preaching of the cross is the plan of God – through men – to the world.  God could have chosen angels to fly through the skies and do it.  But, instead, He chose men to do it.The conclusion of the sermon by Peter centers on repentance.  These guilty Jews were consumed with the truth of their guilt and sin.  The text actually says they were “pricked in their heart.”  This is a Greek word that actually describes the ground that has been stomped by a horse.  They were under severe distress and desperation because of their soul’s condition of sin and condemnation.They turned to Peter and asked how they could be saved.  Peter informs them that they must repent (turn from their sin and to the Savior Jesus Christ for forgiveness).  Following their salvation, they must be baptized as a follower of Jesus Christ.  It should be noted that this is not a reference to baptism in the name of Jesus only or baptismal regeneration.1.  Jesus Only Baptism:  The reason that Peter informs these Jews to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ as opposed to the typical “God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit (Trinitarian and Scriptural method) was due to the fact that they had no respect at all for Jesus of Nazareth.  They claimed He was not the Messiah – not the Christ – and that He must be killed for blasphemy.  Therefore, in an effort to demonstrate true allegiance to Christ as their Savior, Peter instructed them to be baptized in His name alone.2.  Baptismal Regeneration: Some people claim that this text references the fact that faith in Jesus plus baptism is necessary for salvation (forgiveness of sin).  It must be noted that the Greek preposition in the text eis can be rendered “on the basis or foundation of.”  And this seems to be the most literal rendering of the text from the Greek manuscripts.  “Repent and be baptized on the basis and foundation of your forgiveness of sin.”  Furthermore, it should be pointed out that baptism alone is a work.  We are not saved by any works of the flesh.  Salvation is not a combination effort between Jesus and us in hopes that we will get baptized.  And, finally, it should be noted that the thief on the cross next to Jesus was never baptized, but he went to Heaven when he died.The wonderful ending of this sermon demonstrates the power of God that comes upon the people through the preaching of the Word.  Peter did not give them a self-help message or a pop-psychology feel good sermon.  He preached about sin, about salvation, and he accented it with weighty doctrinal truths in a masterful way.  At the end – we see that God blessed and three thousand souls were saved!Life Lessons:1.  The sovereignty of God over all events of life.  While it was a sin for these Jews to crucify Jesus, it was at the very same time the overarching plan of God.2.  The responsibility and freedom of man.  Man is not a robot.  Man is a free moral agent.  Therefore, man willfully chose to kill Jesus and God used it to accomplish His divine purpose.  This is often difficult to grasp and understand how the sovereignty of God and the responsibility and freedom of man come together without contradiction.  This truth can be best described through the Old Testament truth of Joseph.  While his brothers intended it for evil (Joseph being sold into slavery and his false death all planned by his jealous brothers) – God intended it for good.3.  The gospel is the plan of God – even before time.  Our God is a planner who rules without being limited to the choices of His creation.  He plans out His divine purposes long before He created the world (Titus 1:1-2).4.  The power of the preached Word.  Our God planned to use the means of preaching to save them that believe (1 Corinthians 1:21).  What seems like a foolish thing to the lost world is something beautiful to God.  God, long before time, planned to raise up prophets and preachers to proclaim the message of the gospel.  Therefore, like Peter, we should have a renewed confidence in the Word of God.  It is sufficient.  It is powerful.  We should make sure it is the foundation and cornerstone of our ministries as opposed to events and other things that often seem more attractive to people.For the glory of God – Who deserves our praise!Josh Buice

Great Love – Great God

Often our lives are so busy that we fail to realize the greatness of our God. When the ball games are going, we fail to remember. When parties are happening, we fail to remember. When business is booming, we fail to remember. But, it would do us good spiritually to recall to our minds and hearts how great the Father’s love is to us. When we stop to consider that we were wretched and vile sinners who deserved the wrath of God, it will amaze us, excite us, and possibly overwhelm us to understand that we are part of the family of God!Paul reminded his readers of that exact point in Ephesians 2:1-10. Consider how these verses are constructed for the purpose of both remembrance and rejoicing! True revival comes to our hearts when we recall where we have been saved from. Consider these marvelous verses:

Eph. 2:1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;Eph. 2:2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:Eph. 2:3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.Eph. 2:4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,Eph. 2:5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)Eph. 2:6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:Eph. 2:7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.Eph. 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:Eph. 2:9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.Eph. 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
In these verses we see some wonderful things! Below is a simple outline that I have memorized for the purpose of categorizing these ten verses:I. A Statement of Man’s Wickedness (Vs. 1-3)II. A Statement of God’s Love (Vs. 4-7)III. A Statement of God’s Plan of Salvation (Vs. 8-10)Years ago a marvelous hymn was written titled, The Love of God. Although the hymn was written by F. M. Lehman, the third stanza was from a poem that was written in the year 1050. The third stanza is my favorite stanza because of the eloquence of the description of God’s love for sinners!Could we with ink the ocean fill,And were the skies of parchment made;Were ev’ry stalk on earth a quill,And ev’ry man a scribe by trade;To write the love of God, aboveWould drain the ocean dry;Nor could the scroll contain the whole,Tho’ stretched from sky to sky.May we recall the wonder of God’s marvelous and measureless love in order to experience a revival in our hearts!For the Glory of GodRev. Josh Buice

Delivered By Grace

Everyone who is a true Christian has a testimony to share with the world about their personal experience of deliverance. For the Apostle Paul, his story of deliverance can be found in Acts chapter 9. Since this is the first post on this site, I want to take time to tell everyone how God delivered me by His Grace.I grew up in a small town in Georgia (Douglasville). I was part of a divorced home at an early age in life, and during that period of time, I was confused about many things. My Grandparents were faithful during this time of turmoil to take me to church on Sundays with them. It was during this period of time that I can remember hearing about God and learning my first Bible verse (Genesis 1:1). Although the details are a bit fuzzy, I do recall during the invitation at the end of a service walking down the aisle and talking to the preacher. I do not recall many other details regarding that event in my life.After a custody battle that led to more confusion, my sister and I went to live with my Father. After the dust settled on this transition, we joined a church in Douglasville that my family had been apart of for many years – Pray’s Mill Baptist Church. During our counseling time prior to joining the church, I told them that I was saved earlier at another church, and I needed to be baptized. Therefore, I was baptized into the church body at age seven upon my profession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

I was at church every time the doors were opened. My Dad had made a promise to God to keep us in church, and he was faithful to that promise. I was always involved with choirs, R.A.’s, youth functions, and Sunday School through my early years. When I went to High School I began to take a left turn in life. I did not go as far as many of my friends did, but I did start drinking alcohol on a social basis with friends. I would always be in church on Wednesday and Sunday, but I had no true desire to be there since I was having “fun” doing other things in my own personal life.Through a series of events in my life, it became clear that obedience to my parents and doing the “right” thing was easier than the other way of life. Therefore, I started being very faithful to all church events and getting myself more involved as opposed to being on the outskirts of the youth group. This lasted for over a year until Graduation in 1996. After Graduation, I went off to college near my hometown, and it was during this time in my life that I became more and more faithful to church events such as evangelism ministry, choir, and I even started teaching a youth Sunday School class. It was in 1998 that I went with a group of people from my church to Zimbabwe Africa on a mission trip to share the gospel. Everything in my life seemed stable and my faithfulness to church was more committed than ever before.

From 1998 – 2002, my life was full of church, church events, and service opportunities. Inwardly, I experienced a great turmoil on several occasions regarding my personal salvation. Each time I would consider the possibility that I was not a Christian, I always passed it off as “spiritual warfare” rather than genuine conviction. On February 2nd 2002, I felt that God had called me into the gospel ministry. I made this known to my church publicly. On June 12th 2002, I preached my first sermon before my home church on a Wednesday night. Although it may have seemed to the rest of my family and friends that things were great, inwardly I was struggling with my salvation. There were key moments in my life where I can recall great turmoil and grief over the subject.

While sitting at my desk at work on June 24th 2002, I was listening to an audio sermon. It became clear at that moment that I was not a Christian. Although I had been to church practically all of my life, I had walked down to the front and prayed a prayer, and I was baptized when I joined Pray’s Mill, I was not a true Christian. At that moment at 25 years of age, I realized that I was a sinner who deserved the wrath of God. I also knew that Christ was the only means of salvation and true deliverance from the wrath of God (John 14:6). I called upon the Lord for salvation, and I was converted. It was a wonderful moment in my life. It was the greatest single moment in my life. At that moment, for the very first time, I knew that I was a child of God.Immediately I called my family and told them what had occurred. I also called Kari (who was my girlfriend at the time) to let her know. I then went down the hall and made my way into my boss’ office (Ron Mooney). I told him what had occurred as well, and he was very grateful. We shared tears of joy together in his office. At that time, my boss was a fairly new Christian who was trying to run his printing company according to biblical standards. Business was not good and he was a bit confused about things, but I think during those moments together he saw God working in his company and that brought confirmation to his heart that he was going in the right direction.

Following my salvation, I was baptized in obedience to Scripture. I immediately began to pray and ask God for clarification regarding my “call” to the ministry. I went through a brief time of confusion regarding whether or not I was truly called into the ministry to preach the gospel since I had felt this “call” on my life prior to my salvation. I surrendered my entire life to God and was willing to go work in the business world and be a layperson in the church if that was His will for my life. It did not take long before God confirmed that He had called me to preach, and there was nothing else that I could do in life that would fulfill that calling. I recall reading Jeremiah chapter one during my morning devotion one day and God profoundly convinced me that His calling on my life was prior to my life on earth. That time of devotion in my personal life was a key moment of confirmation. God’s call is not something that was planned the day the individual senses the calling. It is something that God plans out even before the foundation of the world.

After marriage, my wife and I started praying about Seminary. We visited The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY in June of 2003. We had also planned to visit Southeastern and Southwestern prior to making a decision, but God confirmed in our hearts on our first visit to the campus in June that He wanted us to attend Southern. In January of 2004, we moved our possessions from Douglasville, Ga to Louisville, Ky in a U-Haul. It was only 4 months later that I was called to pastor Van Buren Baptist Church.Today, we are continuing to serve at Van Buren Baptist Church. Although life has changed much over these four years, it has been a wonderful time of growth, education, sanctification, maturity, and marital bonding. My wife and I have experienced the birth of our first child in June of 2005, and we are awaiting the arrival of our next child in March of 2008. I am currently scheduled to graduate in December and I also have plans to continue my education here at Southern in the Doctoral program.

This is my life’s story of how God has delivered me by His Grace and blessed me as I have continued to serve Him. There are times when we need to stop and remember how God has delivered us from the curse of sin and the wrath of God! He did it based upon His own good pleasure and for His glory.

To God be the glory – great things He has done!

Pastor Josh Buice

Ephesians 2:1-10

Father Abraham’s Faith – Works Vs. Grace

Romans 4:9-17Paul cuts to the heart of Judaism and works theology in Romans chapter four. Paul, like a masterful attorney, examines the evidence for a works based justification and then proceeds to disprove it by smashing the very foundation of works based theology. Many Jews believed that specific types of works would get them into heaven. Paul takes two of those works and one very famous man and unleashes a severe attack upon the works based righteousness belief system of his day. Paul examines the faith of the great Patriarch – Abraham. In his examination, Paul evaluated whether or not Abraham was justified by his works or through the Grace of God. In the end of the passage, Paul provides the answer with clear and pointed precision.

Was Abraham Justified By Circumcision? (Vs. 9-12)

The Jewish Apocryphal Book of Jubilees says,

“The law is for all generations for ever, and there is no circumcision of the time, and no passing over one day out of the eight days; for it is an eternal ordinance, ordained and written on the heavenly tables. And every one that is born, the flesh of whose foreskin is not circumcised on the eighth day, belongs not to the children of the covenant which the Lord made with Abraham, for he belongs to the children of destruction; nor is there moreover any sign on him that he is the Lord’s but (he is destined) to be destroyed and slain from the earth (15:25ff).” 

In his first step to disproving a works based justification, Paul asks if Abraham was justified by Circumcision. For many Jews, Abraham was the one to mask their lives and faith after – and whatever Abraham did – that is what they would want to do as well. Therefore, with this understanding of Abraham’s influence, Paul uses him as an object lesson for justification. Paul then answers his own question by claiming that Abraham was justified while in uncircumcision. For the strict follower of the Jewish law – this must have been very troubling!Abraham’s History:Warren Wiersbe says,

“Abraham was declared righteous when he was in the state of uncircumcision. From the Jewish point of view, Abraham was a Gentile. Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised (Gen. 17:23-27). This was more than fourteen years after the events in Genesis 15. The conclusion is obvious: circumcision had nothing to do with his justification (The Bible Exposition Commentary Vol. 1, 525).” 

John MacArthur says,

“Abraham was called in Ur of the Chaldeans, he was an idolatrous pagan. Before God’s covenant with Abraham, there were no Jews and therefore no Gentiles, strictly speaking. But Paul’s point here is that God reckoned Abraham’s faith as righteousness before any such distinctions were made (The MacArthur New Testament Commentary – Romans 1-8, 258).” 

Therefore, it is abundantly clear why Paul used Abraham as an example to disprove works righteousness. Abraham was not justified by his works, his goodness, or any other fleshly factor. It is abundantly clear that God chose Abraham based upon His will and nothing more! Since Abraham was justified fourteen years before his circumcision, Paul proves that circumcision is not the basis of justification.

Was Abraham Justified By Keeping The Law? (Vs. 13-15)

It is clear that Abraham believed (had faith in God) and God counted it as righteousness. For Paul, that was not an issue. However, for some Jews it was a very big issue. Many believed that Abraham kept the law and that his keeping of the law was one of the deciding factors in his justification. Paul rightly points out the weakness of the “law” theory as he successfully disproves it in his argument.Faith Is Void If Justification Is Through The LawAs the account of Abraham’s justification is unfolded in Old Testament literature (Genesis) – it is very clear that Abraham believed God. Nowhere in the Old Testament do we find a passage that claims that Abraham was made right before God due to his circumcision or keeping of the law. Paul rightly demonstrates that if the law saves – it nullifies faith.Promises Of God Are Void If Justification Is Through The LawAbraham’s covenant with God involved four distinct promises. God promised Abraham a land, a people, a blessing, and a Redeemer. Paul points back to that promise from God and claims that it is null and void if the law saves. What need is there for a Redeemer if the law has power to save? Paul makes his case crystal clear!The Law Provides Wrath Not JustificationPaul brings to light that the law brings the wrath of God upon the sinfulness of man rather than justification. Paul understood that the law was the school master which points to the inability and weakness of the flesh to live up to the perfect law of God! Therefore, the law points to Christ – the need for the Redeemer that God promised Abraham. Again, Paul continues to make his case very clear.

Was Abraham Justified By God’s Grace? (Vs. 16-17)

Yes! Paul points to the fact that Abraham’s justification was of the Grace of God. Abraham received it through faith in God and His promises. This completely destroys the system of religion for many Jews in Paul’s day.If Salvation is by GRACE – It is Received By Faith. (16a)GRACE is a gift! It is not earned through the works of the flesh. It is merely accepted by faith. In order to make his point loud and clear – he starts off with circumcision and moves to the law. Then at the end of this section he deals with the fact that GRACE is given through faith – as a gift. Paul was making it clear that God gives GRACE as a gift apart from works.If Salvation is by GRACE – It is Available to All People Groups. (16b-17)When Abraham was called of God in Ur of the Chaldeans – Abraham was like us all prior to salvation – pagans! Abraham was declared righteous through his faith in God prior to Jews and Gentiles – therefore – no distinctions existed according to the flesh. It would be through Abraham that God’s covenant would encompass both Jew and Gentile in the ages to come. This truth provided at the end of this passage should excite us Gentiles – and it should also strengthen the fact that Jewish law and circumcision are not the means of justification!Conclusion:Today, we have many people who have based their justification upon works – much like the people that Paul was dealing with in his day. The Catholic Church and many other protestant denominations hold to a baptismal regeneration heresy. Baptismal regeneration beliefs are much like the circumcision beliefs of Paul’s day. It is important that we examine our faith to make sure we are trusting in the blood of Jesus Christ alone for the remission of our sin.

Jonathan Edwards said,

“I do not now pretend to define justifying faith, or to determine precisely how much is contained in it, but only to determine thus much concerning it, viz. That it is that by which the soul, which before was separate and alienated from Christ, unites itself to him, or ceases to be any longer in that state of alienation, and comes into that forementioned union or relation to him, or, to use the scripture phrase, it is that by which the soul comes to Christ, and receives him. This is evident by the Scriptures using these very expressions to signify faith. John 6:35-39, “He that cometh to me, shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me, shall never thirst. But I said unto you, that ye also have seen me and believe not. All that the Father giveth me, shall come to me; and him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.” Verse 40, “And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up the last day.” — John 5:38-40, “Whom he hath sent, him ye believe not. Search the Scriptures, for — they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life.” Verse 43, 44, “I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. How can ye believe, which receive honor one of another?” — John 1:12, “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” If it be said that these are obscure figures of speech, which however they might be well understood of old among those who commonly used such metaphors, are with difficulty understood now. I allow, that the expressions of receiving Christ and coming to Christ, are metaphorical expressions. If I should allow them to be obscure metaphors, yet this much at least is certainly plain in them, viz. that faith is that by which those who before were separated, and at a distance from Christ (that is to say, were not so related and united to him as his people are), cease to be any longer at such a distance, and come into that relation and nearness, unless they are so unintelligible, that nothing at all can be understood by them (http://biblebb.com/files/edwards/justification.htm).” 

All for the glory of God!

Pastor Josh Buice