Full text of Derek Prince’s teaching on the book of Romans (Romans 4:1 – 4:25)): Justified by Faith
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Derek Prince – Bible teacher
We’re beginning now, stage 5, in this pilgrimage that we’re making, of which the destination is Romans chapter 8. We’ve covered a lot of ground, but we have a lot of rather difficult countries still to cover before we get into our destination.
In the previous session, we looked at God’s provision for man’s problems. That was at the end of chapter 3. Up to that point, Paul had simply been unfolding the problems and the problems had been intensifying.
But in the latter part of Romans chapter 3, beginning with verse 20 and onwards, he unfolds God’s final total, all-sufficient sacrifice, which is through faith in the atoning death and the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now, in this session and the next, we’ll be dealing with Romans chapter 4. And in essence, in Romans chapter 4, Paul looks to two of the great fathers of Israel, Abraham and David. And he proves from Scripture that each of them was not justified by works, but by faith. He focuses mainly on Abraham, who is the father of all who believe. But he also quotes from a Psalm of David.
So we’ll look now and start reading. In chapter 4, we read verses one through five.
‘What shall we say then that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found?’ Now this is a very important question for all of us, for Jews and Gentiles, how did Abraham achieve righteousness with God?
‘For if Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scriptures say? And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. Now, to the one who works, his wage is not reckoned as a favor or as grace, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness.’
Now, here’s one of the most important passages from the Old Testament, Genesis chapter 15, verse 6. Because of its importance, we need to turn there and look briefly at it.
Abraham has been having a conversation with the Lord about the fact that the Lord has made great promises to him, all dependent upon his having an heir, and he has no heir. And there follows this conversation between the Lord and Abraham.
In Genesis 15:6: ‘He, (the LORD) took him (Abraham) outside and said, ‘now look toward the heaven and count the stars.’ Obviously, it must have been at night. ‘If you are able to count them, and He said to him, (that’s God said to Abraham), so shall your descendants be.’ That was the promise.
And then the comment is, ‘Then he, (Abraham), believed in the LORD, and He (the LORD) reckoned it to him, (Abraham) as righteous.’
Abraham at that point did absolutely nothing but believe. And Paul and also James and his Epistle points out that was how Abraham achieved righteousness, he didn’t earn it. It was not on the basis of what he had done, but it was credited to his faith.
And Paul says, going back to Romans, chapter 4, verse five: ‘But to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness.’
That’s a very powerful verse, because it points out that if you want to receive righteousness by faith from God in the same way as Abraham, and there’s no other way, what’s the first thing you have to do? Look for a moment at verse five.
What’s the first thing you have to do? Stop doing anything, that’s right; to him who does not work. You’ve got to come to the end of all that you can do to earn God’s favor, and you have to do nothing but believe.
This is the pattern and example of Abraham.
Now, at this point, Abraham’s faith was counted to him for righteousness. Does that mean that Abraham never made any mistakes after that? I’m glad it doesn’t, because that would put us in a difficult position.
We find if we go on in the ensuing chapters, that Abraham made some serious mistakes. In chapter (Genesis) 16, we read how he and Sarah took the initiative out of God’s hand, decided they better get a child by Hagar.
I want to point out to you, in the life of faith, we never take the initiative. This is a basic principle. The initiative must always come from God. This is the pattern of Jesus. He said, ‘The Son doesn’t do anything except what He sees the Father doing’.
The only safe basis for living the life of faith is invariably letting God take the initiative. Each time we do what Abraham did and take the initiative out of God’s hands, we end up in trouble.
And then in chapter 20 further on, Abraham told a lie about Sarah and permitted her to be taken into a gentile king’s harem, which was not good behavior. How many of you wives would agree that isn’t the way a husband ought to behave?
We are told that Sarah was a model wife. She didn’t demur. She submitted. That’s remarkable. She submitted in faith and God intervened.
Now, what I want to point out is God did not approve those two aspects of Abraham’s conduct, but his righteousness, his faith was still reckoned to him as righteousness.
This is tremendously important for you and me, because the moment we truly put our faith in the atoning death of Jesus on our behalf and believe that on that basis, righteousness is reckoned to us, we are reckoned righteous. That does not mean that we’ll never make mistakes.
How many of you would agree with that? That’s right.
Thank God that isn’t what the Scripture says, that we’ll be perfect from then on. But what it says is our faith will still be reckoned to us as righteousness as long as we go on believing. The real danger is that we give up our faith.
And I want to turn to a passage in Luke, chapter 22 which to me is very significant. This is the scene at the Last Supper and the Lord Jesus has been warning His disciples that they are going to betray Him, flee from Him and desert Him. And Simon Peter in particular. But all of them say this could never happen, Lord.
And in verses 31 and 32…
Luke 22:31-32: Jesus says this to Peter, ‘Simon, Simon! Behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat.’
That’s a remarkable statement. Apparently Satan went to God and said let me get at those apostles. And the ‘you’ there is plural. You can’t tell that in the English, but it’s clear in the Greek: ‘Sift you [apostles] like wheat.’
Then He says specifically to Peter, ‘But I have prayed for you.’ And it’s singular: ‘I’ve prayed for you, Peter, that your faith may not fail and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.’