There are three prominent lessons set forth in Chapter Three:
1. There is absolutely no justification for Jew or Gentile before God by the works of the Law (Rom. 3:20).
2. There is the righteousness of Christ by which believers are completely justified and sanctified in the sight of God without our obedience to the Law. This is free, full, and forever in Christ (Rom. 3:21-22).
3. This perfect righteousness not only justifies the sinner but also honors the Law and God's justice, thus enabling God to be just and justifier! (Rom. 3:26).
Paul proceeds in Chapter Four to illustrate these truths, using two men held in the highest esteem by the JewsDavid and Abraham.
(Vs. 1) In this chapter Abraham is referred to (in a spiritual sense) as the father of all believers, but this verse speaks of his relationship to the Jews (according to the natural descent) being the first of the circumcision. What did he find as pertaining to the flesh? Circumcision and the Law? Did he find the way of life, righteousness, and salvation by his services and performances? There is no answer given; but by what follows the answer is, "no!"
(Vs. 2) If Abraham were justified by his works, either moral or ceremonial, then, contrary to what Paul had taught, he had something in which to boast, but certainly NOT BEFORE GOD, Who saw the sins of his heart and Who was aware of ali his failings (Luke 16:15).
(Vs. 3) Having denied that Abraham (or any man) is justified by works, Paul appeals to the Scriptures. This is our foundation of faith, the rule of faith and practice, and the source of ali information about God, sin, salvation, and eternal lifeTHE SCRIPTURES! (Gen. 15:6; Gal. 3:6; Rom. 4:20-22.)
But does not James say that Abraham was justified by works? (James 2:21.) Paul and James are not speaking of the same thing. Paul speaks of the justification of THE PERSON before God. James speaks of the justification of THE PERSON'S FAITH (or claim of it) before men. Paul condemns our works as A CAUSE of justification before God. James praises works as THE EVIDENCE of our Justification before God. Paul was writing to those WHO TRUSTED in their works to save. James was writing to those WHO NEGLECTED or denied the necessity of obedience.
(Vs. 4) To the laborer, what he merits or earns can never be called a gift, a favor, or mercy; but rather it is an obligation owed to him. If work is involved at ali (regardless of the degree of work), it is a debt and not grace at ail! (Rom. 1]:5-6.)
(Vs. 5) It is not that the believer does no good works, but that he does not work in order to obtain life and salvation (Eph. 2:8-10; James 1:20). We work because we love Christ, not in order to be justified (II Cor. 5:14-15). The elect believe God, Who justifies the ungodly (Rom. 5:6-8), even Abraham, who in his state of unregeneracy was ungodly. His faith (not the act of faith but THE OBJECT OF FAITH, WHO WAS CHRIST) is imputed to him for righteousness. Works mean nothing regarding justification, for even our best works are full of sin (Isa. 64:6). But true faith will produce works of faith and labors of love.
(Vs. 6-8) David, the chosen king, the man after God's own heart, is quoted on the subject of the blessedness of the man who believes God and seeks acceptance and righteousness in Christ, not in his works! (Psalm 32:1-2.)
(1) "Blessed is the man whose iniquities are forgiven." They are removed
from us as far as the east is from the west; they are cast behind God's back; they are cast into the depths of the sea; they are remembered no more.
(2) "Whose sins are covered." They are covered from divine justice and shall never be seen again or brought into judgment (Rom. 8:33-34).
(3) "Happy is the man to whom God will not reckon or charge sin." We shall appear before Him without fault or blame and shall be unreproveable. We are justified and acquitted (Col. 1:22; Jude 24).