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"Justified by Faith" (posted November 5, 2001)
Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. Romans 3:28
Does this invalidate or ignore the law? Not at all. The law condemned the breaker of it and demanded vengeance. This Christ has borne, so the majesty of the law is upheld, yet sinners are saved.
In Romans chapter four the apostle proceeds to show, by means of Abraham and David, how all this is witnessed by the law and the prophets. Abraham is taken from the Pentateuch, the books of the law; David from the Psalms, which are linked with the Prophets.
What then do we see in Abraham? Was he justified before God by his works? If so, he had this to boast in, that he had righteously deserved the divine approval. But what does the Scripture say? In Genesis 15:6 we are told that "Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness."
To earn salvation by works would be to put God in man's debt. He would owe it to the successful worker to save him. This is the very opposite of grace, which is mercy shown "to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly" (Romans 4:5). It is his faith that is counted for righteousness. To this then Abraham bears testimony.
And David too is heard singing the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness without works, when he cries in Psalm 32: "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin" (quoted in Romans 4:7-8). In the psalm the Hebrew word for "covered" means "atoned for." This is the gospel. Atonement has been made. Therefore God does not impute sin to the believer in His Son, but imputes righteousness instead.
This blessedness was not -- is not -- for a chosen few only, but is freely offered to all. Faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness before the covenant sign of circumcision was placed upon his flesh. It [circumcision] was really a seal of what was already true, as in the case of Christian baptism; because he was justified, he was commanded to be circumcised. Abraham is called "the father of circumcision," for through him the ordinance began. But he is father not only to them who are of the circumcision literally, but to all who have no confidence in the flesh, who have judged it as weak and unprofitable, and who, like him, trust in the living God.
H. A. Ironside