Romans 4:19 

“He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb.”

Abraham’s faith didn’t weaken when he considered how old his own body was.  It was as good as dead.  He was about one hundred years old.  And Sarah had the same problem, just a few years younger!

Abraham knew this truth: faith can’t be built on circumstances.  It can’t be built on feelings.  Both fluctuate.  Both change regularly.  

Faith can only be built on God’s promises.  They never change.  They come from a God who never changes like the wind or shadows of life.  His compassion is steadfast.

So Abraham clung to God’s promises.  He refused to examine his feelings or circumstances.

As you contemplate God’s promises in your life, is this you?


Romans 4:18

“In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, ‘So shall your offspring be.’”

God had promised that Abraham would not only have a son and become the father of many nations, but that through this son all the nations of the earth would be blessed.  From a natural perspective, these promises seemed crazy.  Abraham and Sarah were beyond the child-bearing years. 

But Abraham not only believed these promises were true, he hoped they were true.  He hoped against hope they were true.  That’s what God had said.  “So shall your offspring be.”  If God had said it, the promise must be true.  So Abraham believed it to be true.

How is your hope meter today?  Is it low or high?  If you want to follow Abraham’s example, it needs to be high.  No matter how bad his circumstances seemed, he hoped against all hope that God’s promise would come true.

Is this you today?


Romans 4:16 

“That is why it depends on faith, in order that he promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all,…”

The “it” to which Paul refers here is a person’s eternal salvation.  It must depend on faith.  The promise Abraham received, and the promises which God  gives to us, must all be by faith through grace.  Faith means trusting explicitly in another person.  Grace means trusting in unmerited favor received from another person.

Therefore, salvation is trusting in God, the giver of everything.  Plus, everything we receive is a gift not earned by works but solely received by his divine favor.  The Jewish “adherent” may receive this gift, as can anyone, anywhere throughout the entire world—as long as they receive it with Abraham’s faith.  That makes him the father of all who believe!

Living solely by grace through faith is God’s way to live.  Does this describe your life today?


Romans 4:15

“For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.”

Here is Paul’s argument: by trying to be righteous by works or the law, you are only inviting God’s wrath.  If you think you are righteous by keeping the law, that means you must keep every iota of the law.  That’s impossible.  That means you fall under God’s judgment and wrath.  Without the law, no one would ever know he’s committed heinous transgressions against God.  There would be no way to discern a need for a Savior.

Paul is also saying that the Jews will be held even more accountable for this truth.  They have the law.  They know how righteous it is.  However, they would also easily know how impossible it is for anyone to keep it.  Above all people, they should know the need for a Savior. 

Being saved by grace through faith should be a freeing piece of good news for us all.  God has done the work for us in Christ.  His wrath was poured out on his Son instead of us.  We are saved!  We are forgiven!

Praise him!


Romans 4:14

“For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.”

Paul continues making his very simple but profound argument.  If the inheritance of eternal life can be attained by works, then it can’t similarly be attained by faith.  They two ideas are diametrically opposed to one another.  They are contrary to one another.  You either have been forgiven by God and declared righteous in his sight by works of the law or by grace through faith.  It can’t be both.  It’s either/or.  One of the other.

By trying to be righteous by works of the law, you are only inviting God’s wrath.  If you think you are righteous by keeping the law, that means you must keep every iota of the law.  That’s impossible.  That means you fall under God’s judgment and wrath.  Without the law, no one would ever know he’s committed heinous transgressions against God.  There would be no way to discern a need for a Savior.

Being saved by grace through faith should be a freeing piece of good news for us all.  God has done the work for us in Christ.  We are saved!  We are forgiven!

Praise him!


Romans 4:13

“For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he wold be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith.”

God gave Abraham several extraordinary promises.  He promised a land of Canaan.  He promised a son in his and Sarah’s barrenness.  He promised that through this son the whole world would be blessed. 

How were these promises given to Abraham?  Would they be received by works of the law or simply by believing them to be true?  The answer is obvious.  There was nothing Abraham could do to earn these promises.  They were gifts.  All Abraham was asked to do by God was simply believe God is faithful and will accomplish what he promised to do.

All God’s promises to his children can only be accomplished by grace through faith.  If we could work to achieve them, why does God even need to give them to us?

Faith is the key.  How is your faith today?  Are you clinging to God’s promises no matter what your feelings or circumstances are saying to you?



Romans 4:12

“…and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk int he footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.”

Abraham was the father of the circumcised, the Jews.  But circumcision was never intended by God to be the most important part of his relationship with his people.  It was merely a sign and seal of the promise given to Abraham that he would be his God and he wanted Abraham to be his chosen person and to live by faith, not sight. 

God desired all Jews to walk in Abraham’s faith.  He would then be the father of their faith more than anything else in life.

Father Abraham’s faith is not only something to be followed by the Jews, the circumcised.  But it’s also an example for the Gentiles.  His great faith, believing in God’s promise when everything around him seemed to suggest impossibility, is the kind of faith God wants for all people everywhere.

Is Abraham’s faith your faith today?


Romans 4:11

“He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised.  The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well,…”

Paul never wanted to say that circumcision was unimportant.  Though it was not necessary for righteousness, it was the sign and seal of Abraham’s righteousness before God.  Though Abraham enjoyed God’s approval and righteousness before being circumcised, circumcision did ratified the promise God had given to him.

Circumcision was an outward sign of the inward reality of God’s forgiveness.  For us, we can have something like a photo of our baptism.  Or a Bible verse we carry in our wallets.  Or a cross we may wear around our neck.  These outward signs aren’t unimportant.

But they are only signs and seals of what should have happened in our hearts: a radical surgery of the old being cut away and a new life of inward grace consuming those who have received God’s righteous gift of forgiveness though Jesus.


Romans 4:10

“How then was it counted to him?  Was it before or after he had been circumcised?  It was not after, but before he was circumcised.”

Paul continues to make his point that Abraham was declared righteous by faith in Genesis 15, then circumcision was given to him as a sign of that relationship in Genesis 17.  Therefore, from the Hebrew Scripture, we clearly see that forgiveness of sins and being declared righteous in God’s sight does not demand any work to be complete, including circumcision. 

Salvation must be solely achieved by grace through faith.  If anyone adds anything to the completed work of Jesus on the cross, it can’t be grace through faith by which this work is accomplished.  Grace plus anything means it’s not grace! 

How deep and wide is the Father’s love for us all!


Romans 4:9 

“Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised?  For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness.”

Paul is asking now if this gift of forgiveness is only for those who have been circumcised?  That was a Jewish argument.  But Paul counters that this is implausible thinking.  When God declared Abraham as “righteous” simply because of his faith in Genesis 15:6, that was before God gave him circumcision as the sign of his covenant.  Circumcision didn’t occur until Genesis 17!   

Therefore, not only is circumcision unnecessary in order to receive God’s gift of righteousness but the gift of forgiveness from God is for everyone throughout the world, Jew and Gentile alike!

How great is the Father’s love for all people everywhere!


Romans 4:8 

“…blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”

Paul is trying to show that God’s gift of forgiveness cannot be by works.  Who could ever do enough to earn God’s favor?  It’s impossible.

Therefore, he uses one of Israel’s most revered characters to prove his point: King David.  After his adultery and murder, he goes to God and asks for forgiveness.  In Romans 4:7-8, Paul quotes from Psalm 32:1-2.  In this psalm, David is crying out to God for forgiveness for his sins.  He says how blessed are those who know their sins are forgiven and the Lord no longer counts his sins against him. 

Here’s Paul’s point: David experienced forgiveness not from any work of the law but simply by crying out to God.  Forgiveness is a free gift from God!  King David knew it.  Now Paul appeals to his readers to know this same truth about forgiveness through Jesus.

It can’t be earned by works.  It must be a free gift given by God through Jesus Christ.


Romans 4:7

“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.” 

Paul is using the life of King David to prove his point that people can only be justified before God by faith, not works.  He quotes from Psalm 32:1 to make his point.   

David had committed adultery and murder.  Then he realized God’s great forgiveness.  His “lawless deeds” had been forgiven.  His “sins are covered.” He knew God’s grace.

How can someone receive forgiveness from sins, especially grossly heinous ones, except as a gift from the one offended?  If God’s perfect standard for forgiveness is perfectly obeying the moral standards of the law, who can be forgiven?

The answer is obvious.  No one can.  We need a Savior.

For Christians, this Savior is named Jesus, the one who gives us eternal life, who makes us righteous before God the Father, by grace through faith. 

Have you received this gift today?


Romans 4:6 

“…just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:” 

Paul now turns from Abraham, the father of the Jews, to a second example of being righteous by faith: King David.  Paul chooses another hero from Jewish tradition to make his point.  King David was called “a man after God’s own heart.”

In the next verses, Paul will quote from Psalm 32:1,2.  This psalm was written by David in response to his gross sin of adultery and murder.  He claims God’s forgiveness.

Here will be Paul’s point: can forgiveness be given by God to a sinner by works or faith?  How can anyone ever work hard enough to earn God’s forgiveness, especially with such heinous sins as adultery and murder?  No one could ever pay off this debt.

Forgiveness can only come by a gift from God received by faith.

That’s Paul’s point through King David’s example.


Romans 4:5

“And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,…” 

With the gospel of Jesus Christ, everyone who does not live up to God’s perfect standard of keeping the law, they are considered ungodly.  There is no hope for salvation.

But the one who believes in and receives Jesus’ free gift of eternal life, this person is righteous before God.  The gospel of Jesus Christ is all about believing, not working.   

Good works come as the result of the gift of salvation.  They are done in response to the gift of eternal life.  They are not done to earn eternal life.

The difference between the two perspectives is essential to understand the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Do you understand this difference?



Romans 4:4 

“Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due.”

In this verse, Paul uses an example all of us should understand.  He takes us into the workplace.  If we work hard, we receive fair wages.  These wages are not a gift from our employer but paid in recompense for our work.

That should be God’s perspective if we receive salvation by works.  We work hard.  God rewards us with eternal life.  However, as Paul previously pointed out, if the standard for wages to be paid is perfect work, no one of us will ever be paid. 

Therefore, salvation must be a gift given, not wages earned.  And that’s the essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  He died in our place, taking our sins upon him, so we could receive the gift of eternal life by grace through faith.

Have you received this gift today?


Romans 4:3

“For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.’”

According to verse 2, Abraham has no reason to be able to boast before God.  In fact, Abraham was declared righteous before God by God solely because he believed (Genesis 15:6).  This verse clearly proves Paul’s point.

Abraham, the father of the Jews, is the perfect example of being declared righteous before God by faith, not works. 

When you think about standing before God one day, do you arrogantly think you’ll be approved by God because of your works? 

Or do you use Abraham as your example and know the only way you can stand before God is through your works?



Romans 4:2 

“For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.”

Paul continues his argument about justification by faith for salvation, using Abraham as an example.  If Abraham was justified by works, that means he could boast about it.  He could brag to all about how righteous he is.

But he could not boast before God.  To be able to boast to God that would mean he was perfectly righteous.  That would mean he had perfectly obeyed everything God required of him.  But his didn’t.  The example of Hagar is proof enough.

Therefore, according to Paul, the question remains: how are we righteous before God?  By works or by faith?

There can only be one answer; by faith.


The Final Four has been determined.  For the next week, it’ll be non-stop news.  Everyone will be asking: “Can someone beat Kentucky?  Might they be the greatest team of all time?  Since Notre Dame came really close, could someone possibly upset them?”

We won’t know the answers to these questions until next Monday night around 11:30 pm (unless there’s overtime!).

But here’s one question I’d like to answer, one that’s regularly asked me by sports enthusiasts who are also people of faith: "Can a Christian be ambitious and competitive?”

It’s a great and difficult question.  It’s a great question because a lot of people struggle with it.  It’s a difficult one because it’s terribly nuanced.

Here’s what I would say.  Yes, a Christian can be competitive and ambitious. There’s a good side to competition.  It allows you to see how good you really are.  It allows you to notice areas where you can get better.  It allows you to learn from losing.  Similarly, ambition allows you to press through trials.  It can teach perseverance like nothing else.

But here’s the nuanced downside of competition and ambition.  They can create pride.  Pride is naturally comparative.  When you win, you feel superior.  You think you’re better than another.  You find your identity in not just competing, but beating the competition.  This feeling of superiority is the source of Satan’s rebellion.  He wasn’t content being a great archangel.  He had to be God.  Selfish ambition then becomes the desire to spend your life competing and being better than another.

James 3:16 says that where there is selfish ambition, there is every evil thing.  Selfish ambition invites practically every demonic agency into a situation.  

Did you note that the term James uses is not mere ambition but “selfish ambition.”  Ambition isn’t wrong.  I’m personally ambitious to be the best minister/preacher/person I can be.  I am ambitious to take the gospel to as many places as possible in the world before I die. 

But here’s the key: I’m not doing it to be selfishly uplifted in the eyes of others. I’m not doing it to find my identity for living.   I’m not doing it for my own personal glory.

Ambition to be the best you can be is not wrong.  But to be ambitious solely to be better than others and/or for your own personal glory is destructive.

Therefore, Christians, compete!  Do your best.  Learn from competition.  That’s all good.  Just don’t compete so you can feel superior to other people.  That’s poison to your eternal soul.

Similarly, be ambitious.  Work hard to use all of God’s gifts he’s given you.  Just don’t make it selfish ambition.  You’ll never give God the glory for anything.  That’s also destructive to your eternal soul.  

And enjoy the Final Four!  Can Kentucky really do it?

AuthorStacey Martin

Romans 4:1

“What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh?”

In the previous chapters, Paul has been arguing that justification before God can only happen by faith, not works.  No one is able to obey perfectly all the righteous requirements of the law.  It’s impossible.  The only other option is that God has done for us what we can’t do for ourselves.  He has made us righteous by the cross of Jesus.  Therefore, that righteousness is received by grace through faith.

In chapter 4, Paul now appeals to Abraham as a test case for justification by faith.  The father of the Jews is therefore crucial to Paul’s argument. 

Throughout this chapter, Abraham’s life will be examined.  It will be clearly seen that his justification before God will be merited by faith, as the greatest miracle and promise ever given to him: his son, Isaac. 

Examine your faith today.  How strong is it?  Is it sufficient for your salvation.  Is it a large enough faith to believe in God’s miraculous power for you today?


Romans 3:31

“Do we then overthrow the law by this faith?  By no means!  On the contrary, we uphold the law.”

Paul argues that the law’s inability to save does not nullify its significance by actually establishes it.  The law points to the human reality that no one can keep it.  No one can ever do enough to be saved in the presence of a holy God. 

If someone really knows Jesus’ salvation through grace, he will desire to obey the law even more.  The demands of the moral, holy law will become a want to, by grace, and not a have to, by law.  That’s why Jesus said that a Christian’s righteousness should exceed the righteousness of Pharisees.  The Christian’s motivation is a response to grace.  That’s the greatest motivator of all, Paul argues. 

Do you know the extraordinary grace of God today?  If so, your life should be the most moral and holy of anyone around you who is not a follower of Jesus.