Writings on Christianity

Our Souls’ Rest

(The following is the sermon outline for Romans 4:13-22, preached at Cross of Christ Fellowship)

“OUR SOULS’ REST” Romans 4:13-22

Intro: God has given many promises to His people. He has promised forgiveness of sin; being rescued from the darkness and brought into the light; adoption into the family of God; living forever in a restored relationship with God and His people. These promises are wonderful and many. And today, we must see this glorious truth together: The promises of God rest on the grace of God. When I say “rest” upon the grace of God, I mean that it is God’s grace that brought them about and will bring them to completion. The fulfillment of these promises do not depend at all on us, but on God’s grace. Seeing this gives our souls REST.

We see this precious truth in Rom 4:13-22. This passage is found in a portion of Romans where Paul is unpacking the doctrine of justification by faith alone. Although all of us are sinners, and this sin makes us estranged from God, God has acted in love and grace toward us: Jesus Christ, God the Son, came and died on a cross for our sins; he rose again; all who place their faith in Christ are saved and made right with God again. None of our works or religious obedience makes us right with God, we are justified by faith alone. This means there is no room boasting. We also have been shown that this doctrine of justification by faith alone is rooted in the OT and experienced by Abraham and David. All who place their faith in Jesus are the spiritual children of Abraham. Here in Romans 4:13-22, Paul is adding another layer to his argument about justification by faith alone. Paul shows WHY we are justified by faith and not by anything we do: it is so that the promises of God would rest on God’s grace.

WHY DOES THIS MATTER? Because our souls will not find rest if God’s promises to us depend even the slightest degree upon how well we obey God’s law. We will experience a turmoil and Unrest. We will never know if we have done enough to earn the promises. But God wants us to receive His promises and know they rest on His grace. This gives our souls REST. 

Let’s see how Paul takes us here. First, he addresses the question of whether the promise that God made to Abraham and his people came through keeping of the Law or by faith; then he shows us why the promise of God depends on faith; and finally, we are reminded of the faith of Abraham.

The BIG TAKEWAY this morning is that the promises of God REST on the grace of God. May this truth sink into our hearts and lead to a greater REST for our own souls.

1. How did the promise come to Abraham? By faith or Abraham’s Law-keeping? (13-15)
-God Made a Promise to Abraham and his offspring (13a): he would be heir of the world
-Paul is summarizes the promises God gave to Abraham in Genesis 12, 15, 17
                    -his descendants would be as numerous as the stars; he would be the father of many nations;
                    -all the Earth would be blessed through him.   
-HOW did this PROMISE COME ABOUT? (13b)
        –NOT through the law
= Through obedience to the Law.
                                -In Gal 3 Paul speaks about how Law came 430 years later!
        Through the righteousness of faith
                    -Another way of saying it came through faith.
-Two Reasons it did not come through the Law (14-15)
        1. It would make faith “NULL” and the promise “VOID” (14)
        2. It would actually lead to more wrath (15)
                    -Knowledge of the Law leads to a greater accountability where there is no law there is no transgression.
(Example from a commentator: You’re guilty when go another person’s property; even more guilty when you see the signs)
-Because of sin, knowledge of the Law leads to wrath from God. law brings wrath
-Efforts to obey often end in sin, which leads to God’s just anger toward SIN (Wrath)

SUMMARY: The promise God made to Abraham did not come through law-keeping, but through faith.
        -This would have been shocking to a Jew in Paul’s day, who held up obedience to the Law
        -This is shocking to the religious person who thinks attending church or being moral gets them into heaven.
                    –Should be shocking to us: sounds too good to be true! But it is true.

2. Why Did God Make the Promise Come through Faith? (16-17)
Here is the CRUCIAL point of the paragraph as Paul explains why God justifies us by faith and by keeping of the Law.   
-ANSWER: “This is why it depends on faith in order that the promise may rest on grace”  (16a)
-The promise “RESTS” on grace, means it depends or it comes about by God’s grace.
                    -God’s grace is His kindness toward sinners who deserve His wrath.                                -This the KEY insight to see in our paragraph. God’s SOVEREIGN GRACE, brings about His promises!

-This makes promise far more secure, because it depends on God and not us: “be guaranteed to all his offspring”
VISUAL: I once had a backpack with a lifetime guarantee. Valid until the company might get bought out or close down. Here, we have a guarantee GREATER than any earthly guarantee: the promises rest of God are guaranteed by God because they rest on God’s grace!

 -The promise is for all who believe in the LORDnot only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all 17 as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”–
-All who believe in Jesus share the faith of Abraham, and can enjoy the promises of God
                    -We are part of the family of God, made up of OT and NT saints. Abraham is kind of spiritual father to us!
        – gives life to the dead
-God did this in a sense to Sarah’s womb and Abraham’s body
                    -Jesus rose Lazarus
                    -God will raise everyone of us from the dead on the Last Day
                    -Anyone who becomes a Christian is someone who has gone from spiritual death to spiritual life.
        -and calls into existence the things that do not exist.
-The peoples and nations who would one day believe in the LORD
                    -Creation itself. “Creation ex nihilio (out of nothing)”
                                -GOD is amazing. It is our joy to know and treasure Him, now and into eternity.
APPLICATION: It is really great news that God’s promises do not depend us and how well we adhere to the Law of God. We can trust in God; the promise of eternal life rests upon God’s grace, not our obedience. The promises are guaranteed by God!
        –PREACH this to yourself this week after you sin.
        –PREACH this to each other when you are discouraged or proud. Seeing this actually leads to more obedience not less!
        -PREACH this to non-Christians, that they might marvel at God’s grace and place their faith in Christ
                    –YESTERDAY: Former Muslim, now an atheist. Always struggling obey the laws of Islam.

3. Abraham is model of faith we can learn from (18-22)
In many ways, we are like Abraham: we are trusting in God, even as we cannot fully understand or see. We trust God through trials, through hardships, through perplexities, through sickness, through poverty, through loneliness, through mental health battles, through estrangement with family members or friends, through misunderstanding. We put our faith in Christ and rest in the promises of God. -The Faith of Abraham (18-22)
        –In hope he believed against hope,
(he put his hope in God, even all earthly hope of success seems against him)
                    -Believed this: he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.”
-He was fully aware of how utterly impossible his situation was (READ 19)
-He knew it was humanly impossible for him and Sarah to have a baby.
*IMPORTANT: Faith does not look away from how unlikely and impossible a thing is from a human vantage point.
                                –FAITH sees what seems what is impossible from Earthly viewpoint, but trusts God still.
-Abraham’s faith remained strong (20-21)
-Unbelief did not make him waiver (20a).
MOO: “When Paul says that Abraham did not “doubt…because of unbelief,” he means not that Abraham never had momentary hesitations, but that he avoided a deep-seated and permanent attitude of distrust and inconsistency in relationship to God and his promises…Paul is not denying the presence of some degree of doubt in Abraham’s faith (for, after all, he was a sinful human) but is focusing on the heart attitude of Abraham toward God’s promise”
                    –He grew strong in his faith (20b)
                    –He gave glory to God (20c)
                    –His knowledge of God supported his faith (21)
APPLICATION: When you are doubting God, fill your mind and heart with the knowledge of Him, which is given to us in the Bible. Turn off your phone, go to a coffee shop, and prayerfully read through one of the Gospels. Plead with God to help with you with your temptation of unbelief. (Mark 9:24: I believe; help my unbelief!”)
         -My own battles with unbelief. When I first moved to Scotland; Several years ago.
 -Abraham’s faith was genuine and thus: his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.”
-YET ANOTHER reminder that this is how we are right with God: through faith in Jesus Christ.

The promises of God rest on the grace of God. May our souls find rest in this today and all this week.

By Tom Schmidt

Christian, husband of Rach, Church Planter,musician,

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