• Download

The Sources of Righteousness (Romans 4:1-12)

First Baptist Church https://fbcbartow.org

“The Sources of Righteousness”

(Romans 4:1-12)

Series: Romans – United in the Gospel [on screen]

Rev. Matthew C. McCraw, EdD

First Baptist Church, Bartow, Florida

March 13, 2022

Introductory Comments:

When I was fourteen years old, I got my first real job. I was a busboy at the Red Barn Steak House in Lakeland. It was hard work, but somebody had to do it! As I worked, I received a paycheck at $5.15/hour, which just so happened to be minimum wage at the time. You see, when I worked a certain number of hours, there was a reward that was credited to me; it was what I earned.

Most of us understand how paychecks work, right? However, what about a gift? It’s different, isn’t it? One of my favorite gifts that I have ever received is a genuine Marine Corp KaBar knife, given to me by my father-in-law. Can you imagine if I tried to pay for that knife or if I tried to earn that knife? It wouldn’t be a gift, would it?

Well, in today’s passage, Paul is going to come back to the discussion about how followers of God become righteous in God’s eyes. We’re picking up our study of the book of Romans in Romans 4:1-12. Today’s sermon is entitled, “The Sources of Righteousness.”[on screen]

Before we go any further, join me in prayer as we begin our study of this wonderful passage. 


It’s been a few weeks since we’ve been in Romans, so let’s catch up: Paul has made it very clear that everyone who has ever lived on this planet (except for Jesus) stands guilty before God because of their sin. However, Paul has also said that all people (Jewish and non-Jewish are made right with God by the power of Jesus. 

Paul has just said in Romans 3:22 – “The righteousness of God is through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe, since there is no distinction.” [on screen]

He also said in Romans 3:28 – “For we conclude that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.” [on screen]

However, as Paul often does, he anticipates a rejection of his teaching from some of his readers, particularly those who are Jewish. So, Paul uses a monumental example of a person to prove his point. Paul wants to take a look at Abraham, Father Abraham, to examine to see if someone is made right with God by their own effort or by the grace of God. 

Remember, Abraham is the father of all Jews. Abraham was chosen and blessed by God and it was his descendants who would become the people of Israel, the Jewish people. 

Paul is masterful at proving his point, so let’s pay attention. 

Paul will show that Abraham obtained the righteousness of God, and we can also. So, let’s see how it’s possible.

First, we obtain . . .

I. Righteousness through belief (1-5) [on screen]

Let’s look at what Paul says in verses 1-5:

1 What then will we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? 2 If Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about—but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness. 4 Now to the one who works, pay is not credited as a gift, but as something owed. 5 But to the one who does not work, but believes on him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited for righteousness.

So, Paul is speaking to the Jewish crowd at this point. Well, how do we know that? Because he refers to Abraham as “our forefather according to the flesh.” Abraham is the physical forefather of Jewish people; he is their forefather “according to the flesh.” 

Paul points out to them that if Abraham earned his justification on his own then he has a right to boast about it, or brag about it. Abraham could say, “I worked for this; I earned this! Check out what I’ve done!” If Abraham earned his justification, it would be like getting a paycheck rather than a gift. 

However, Paul is making a point that Abraham did not earn his justification before God. Paul points his readers to a source that we should look to as well, the Word of God. Paul says, “What does the Scripture say?” 

Church, that’s always a good question to ask, “What does the Bible say?”

Paul points to Genesis 15:6, which says, “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” [on screen]

So the righteousness of God was made available to Abraham (then Abram) because he believed God, not because Abraham worked for God’s righteousness. 

Paul goes on to point out the obvious in verses 4 and 5. He basically says that a gift is not a gift if you have to work for it. 

However, when we don’t work for something, but we simply put our belief and trust in the giver, then it is received as a gift. Abraham had access to the righteousness of God because he believed that God is a God of grace and He would fulfill His promises to Abraham. 

So, first, righteousness comes through belief.

Second, we receive . . .

II. Righteousness through forgiveness (6-8) [on screen]

First of all, look back at verse 5. Paul says, “But to the one who does not work, but believes on him who justifies the ungodly . . . ”

So, we must understand that God did not choose Abraham out of the land of Ur and make a great nation and people through him because Abraham was wonderful and godly. 

No! Paul says God justifies the ungodly, referring to Abraham (and us, by the way). 

However, Paul uses another famous Jewish figure to make his point. Look at verses 6-8:

6 Likewise, David also speaks of the blessing of the person to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:

7 Blessed are those whose lawless acts are forgivenand whose sins are covered.

8 Blessed is the personthe Lord will never charge with sin.

Paul detours away from Abraham for just a moment to speak about David, the greatest human king Israel ever had. 

David speaks about forgiveness. Now, don’t forget, David knew something about forgiveness.

David sinned terribly against the Lord. Yet, God mercifully and graciously forgave David. 

David is basically saying in Psalm 32:1-2, “My lawless acts were forgiven by God; my sins are covered. Blessed are those who, like me, have their sins forgiven by God because God will not charge us with sin.”

So, if we want access to the righteousness of God, we must come to Him through the forgiveness of our sins which is made possible through Jesus. You don’t have to be a faithful Jewish person; you don’t have to be a good church person; you have to come through Jesus! Be blessed by coming to God as a lawless sinner who is saved by a loving Savior!

Experience the righteousness of God through forgiveness. 

Finally, experience . . .

III. Righteousness through faith (9-12) [on screen]

In these last few verses, Paul ties up nicely his argument concerning Abraham’s righteousness. Look at verses 9-12:

9 Is this blessing only for the circumcised, then? Or is it also for the uncircumcised? For we say, Faith was credited to Abraham for righteousness. 10 In what way, then, was it credited—while he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? It was not while he was circumcised, but uncircumcised. 11 And he received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while still uncircumcised. This was to make him the father of all who believe but are not circumcised, so that righteousness may be credited to them also. 12 And he became the father of the circumcised, who are not only circumcised but who also follow in the footsteps of the faith our father Abraham had while he was still uncircumcised.

Paul asks if the blessing of God (God’s righteousness) is only for the circumcised. That is, is it only for Jewish people?

Paul gives all the evidence we need to answer his question. This is so powerful! In verse 10, Paul asks if Abraham was credited as righteous before or after he was circumcised. 

Now, some of you might wonder why that matters at all. Why does it matter if Abraham was circumcised when he received the righteousness of God? Here’s why it matters: circumcision was a marker of the Jewish people, specifically the Jewish men. So, if Abraham was credited with righteousness before he was circumcised, that would mean he was considered right with God before he was even in the Jewish family. 

In fact, this moment that Paul is speaking about was at least thirteen years (perhaps more) before Abraham was ever circumcised. You see, Abraham was a Gentile at the point. He was called as a godless man out of the land of Ur and then he was credited as righteous before God while he was an uncircumcised Gentile. This is huge for the Jewish understanding of what it means to be made right before God!

Later, Abraham was circumcised because he already had faith in God. He had the faith before he had the circumcision, which is probably a good thing. I’m not sure that he would have ever had the circumcision without the faith. 

Paul says through circumcision, Abraham’s faith was solidified and Abraham’s standing as the father of the Jewish people was sealed, as all Jewish males would be sealed after him through circumcision as well. 

However, because Abraham had faith first, Abraham can not only be the physical father of all the Jewish people, he can be the spiritual father of all who have faith in God. As Paul says in verses 11-12, “This was to make him the father of all who believe but are not circumcised, so that righteousness may be credited to them also. 12 And he became the father of the circumcised, who are not only circumcised but who also follow in the footsteps of the faith our father Abraham had while he was still uncircumcised.”

Abraham is not so much the father of all who are circumcised; he is the father of all who have faith and belief in God. So, it’s not Judaism or the observations of the Old Testament that give you access to the righteousness of God; it’s belief, forgiveness, and faith. 

Concluding Thoughts:

Paul started off the book of Romans by speaking about the righteousness of God. He said in Romans 1:16-17, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith.” [on screen]

Now, Paul wants to make sure that we understand, all who come to God do so through belief, forgiveness, and faith; even Father Abraham; even King David.

Let this bottom line summarize the truth of this passage this morning:

Bottom Line: All have access to the righteousness of God by coming through faith in God. [on screen]


Belief is what it takes to have God’s righteousness credited to your account!

Don’t you wish that you could just believe right now and money would be credited in your bank account? That would really help with gas prices right now, wouldn’t it? That’s not how it works with money, is it? You have to work for it (or someone else has to work for it). 

However, if we put our faith and belief in God, we can be credited with the righteousness of God. It’s that easy! Praise God, the righteousness of God is so much more valuable than money!

For some, this free gift of God’s goodness shown to us may seem too good to be true. You know why it seems too good to be true? Because it’s impossible for us to do on our own. Something supernatural has to happen. God did something supernatural through the work of Jesus on the cross!

Let this passage continue to work in your life this week through these weekly challenges:

Weekly Challenge: [on screen]

1. Determine the source of your righteousness. [on screen]

What makes you right before God? What makes you a good person? What is your only hope in this life?

Take some time this week to determine the source of your righteousness. 

2. Follow in the footsteps of faith. [on screen]

Paul concluded this passage by saying of Abraham, in verse 12 that he, “ . . . became the father of the circumcised, who are not only circumcised but who also follow in the footsteps of the faith our father Abraham had . . .”

So, let us follow in the footsteps of faith. Let us follow God with belief, in forgiveness, and full of great faith!


Have you received the righteousness of God? Are you walking in faith?

If so, live powerfully! If not, come to God today through belief, in forgiveness, and full of faith!

(Gospel presentation)

(closing prayer)

COPYRIGHT DISCLAIMER: The text contained in this sermon is solely owned by its author. The reproduction, or distribution of this message, or any portion of it, should include the author’s name. The author intends to provide free resources in order to inspire believers and to assist preachers and teachers in Kingdom work.