His Belief Was Counted as Righteousness
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His Belief was Counted as Righteousness
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
Dear ones, would you turn and look at Romans 4:23. You see it reads like this, “But the words, ‘It was reckoned to him,’ were written not for his sake alone,” and then the rest of the sentence at the beginning of 24, “But for ours also.” And do you see that the words, “It was reckoned to him,” are in quotes, so that obviously means that they were used before somewhere and that Paul is actually quoting what was said elsewhere.
Now you’ll find the original moment when those words were used if you turn to Genesis 15:6. There the words were spoken for the first time and that’s why they are in quotes back there in Romans. Genesis 15:6, “And he believed the Lord,” that was a man called Abraham, “And he reckoned it to him as righteousness.” Now that’s the original time that those words were used. “He reckoned it to him as righteousness.”
Now why did he do that? Well, Abraham had no children and God gave him a promise in Genesis 15:5, “And he,” God, “Brought him outside and said, ‘Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.’ Then he said to them, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ And he believed the Lord; and he reckoned it to him as righteousness.” And so it was because Abraham believed what God said that God regarded him as right with himself. And that was back in the year 2000 BC.
Now do you see that it was spoken at that time in the year 2000 BC and yet it was spoken also in the year 57 AD? Romans 3:28 is another occasion when another man said the same thing is true. Really, 2,050 years later, Romans 3:28, “For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law.” So the whole world, even the religious world says, “You make yourself right with the deity behind the universe by being good or by entering into a special kind of knowledge that this deity will give you.” But for 2,050 years at least the God whom Jesus regarded as his Father has kept on saying, “If you believe me, I’ll look upon that as righteousness. If you just trust me I’ll regard that as righteousness; I’ll make you right with myself.”
Now do you see that that’s one of the greatest strengths of Christianity: that we’re not listening to Jesus over a period of three years of ministry? But that the things that he has said, this God who is his father has been saying for thousands of years to thousands of different people down through the centuries, and that this God has remained consistent right down through the years. He has kept on saying, however much we men and woman have tried to change the basis of our ‘getting right with him’ to morality, or to some kind of special Gnostic knowledge, yet this God has kept on saying, “No, I tell you if you believe what I say, and I’m saying that my Son has died for the things you’ve done against me, then as far as I’m concerned you’re right with me.”
Now, do you see that for thousands of years, brothers and sisters, God has been saying the same thing? This is one of the reasons why so many of us trust the revelation of the Creator that has come through Jesus, because it’s a revelation that has remained consistent over thousands, and thousands of years. Now, do you see that in the last 30 years of our century there will spring up all kinds of antichrists? There will come all kinds of gurus, and all kinds of mystic prophets who will try to tell you that their particular vision of the Creator of the universe is the right one. And do you see that you have to weigh one man’s personal insight against the historical events of thousands of years in order to say that this man is right and this Jesus is wrong?
It’s like me saying to you, “I had a vision last night, a dream, and I really believe that God will treat you as being his child and as being right with him if you’ll only believe what he says. If you’ll believe what he says, he’ll make you right with himself.” Now do you see that your immediate response should be, “How do I know that you’re right? How do I know that your vision is right? How do I know your dream is right? How do I know that you’re not having illusions? How do I know that your personal experience is trust worthy?” And the answer is really, you don’t.
Any man who comes to you and says, “No, I supersede Christ. I am the new prophet. I am Christ returned. I am the one who will bring the world to peace and to complete joy and love.” You can tell one thing that that is one of the antichrists that Jesus said would come and would try to disillusion us all and would try to deceive us all. But actually, all they’d ask us to do was believe in their personal experience.
Brothers and sisters it’s so different when you bring thousands of years of historical events where this Creator has dealt consistently over centuries and centuries with different people, you’re dealing with a completely different situation. And that’s really what you deal with you see, in the Bible. If you look at Genesis 15:5, you get the dealing that God did with Abraham and 2,000 years later he’s still dealing the same way with a man like Paul. Genesis 15:5, “And he brought him outside and said, ‘Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ And he believed the Lord; and he reckoned it to him as righteousness.”
Now any one could say he was having a dream, it didn’t really happen. But then you look at Genesis 21:2-3. Genesis 21:2-3, “And Sarah conceived, and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the time of which God had spoken to him. Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore him, Isaac.” And then look at the completion of Abraham’s life in Genesis 25:7-9. Genesis 25:7, “These are the days of the years of Abraham’s life, a hundred and seventy-five years. Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people.” And it’s very difficult to say that Abraham really was having a hallucination when he thought that God made that promise to him, because the historical events back up the promise. And then you need to add to that thousands of years and thousands of other people’s experiences that reinforce the same revelation that God is like this. That he treats any of us as right with himself if we really believe him, if we just put our trust in him. If we believe that what he says is true, if we believe that Jesus really died for us, then God regards that as right and righteousness. And really that’s one of the biggest reasons why so many of us believe that the God revealed by Jesus is the real God.
Now the amazing thing is brothers and sisters that you don’t only have to depend on historical events to back it up. The Bible is not only invaluable to us because it tells us of actual historical events that prove that what God said he would do he actually did. But the Bible is invaluable to us because it actually tells us what God himself is thinking.
Now that’s right, if you look at Genesis 15:5, you’ll see that. Genesis 15:5, “And he,” that is God, “Brought him outside and said, ‘Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ And he believed the Lord; and he reckoned it to him as righteousness.” Who? Well, God. So we read not only what God said to Abraham, but what God was actually thinking. And the Bible is invaluable to us not only because it’s a history book of what God did but it’s also a record of what God himself was thinking at different moments in history.
Now how did he know it? Well, God told it to Abraham. God said that to Abraham, “Look, I regard your belief in me as righteousness.” Then Abraham told it to his children, then they told it to their children, and then they told it to Moses. And Moses decided, “I’ll try this out. I’ll act on it myself. I’ll try to prove that this is true.” And so he tried it in his own life and you see it in Exodus 3:10. Exodus 3:10, and God spoke you see, to Moses, “Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring forth my people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt.”
Now that was an incredible and really an impossible task if you think of the situation. Moses, a shepherd on the backside of some mountain looking after sheep and the Egyptians, the most powerful race in the world and God says, “Come, I’m going to use you to bring my people out of Egypt.” And then look at Exodus 12:51, “And on that very day the Lord brought the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their hosts.”
If I give you some personal visions that I’ve had all you have to do is get me into St. Peters [Reference to the insane asylum in St. Peter, Minnesota, USA], or give me some basket work and you only have to knock down one person to disprove my view of God. But you do see brothers and sisters, to contradict the revelation of our Creator that we have received through Jesus, you have to rewrite thousands of years of history. And not only of Israelite history but the Egyptian history makes no sense if the Exodus did not take place. Moreover, the elements in the Jewish religion that originated in that time make no sense. We have lots of effects without any cause if this is not true.
Now this is why the revelation that we get of the Creator through Jesus is so hard to contradict, because it does not depend on one man’s vision but the experiences of hundreds and thousands of men over hundreds and thousands of years. And so it goes on, you know, right through the Bible. And in the Bible you have not only an event you see, but you have really God’s thought about the event. Down through the years many religious authorities have taken historical events like the Second World War and have tried to make some religious significance out of them.
They’ve tried to tell us what the god was really thinking who allowed those things to come to past. And all that has resulted from that kind of personal interpretation of events is a bundle of contradictory gods such as we have in Hinduism, or a group of contradictory deities such as we have among the Romans and Greeks. But we have nothing like a consistent God who is the same century after century. Now this is why God has not only recorded the events in the Bible but he has recorded his own thoughts about them. He tells us what he is actually thinking at the time. The theologians say that the revelation is not only factual but propositional and tells us not only the events but it tells us the significance of the events.
Now, why has all of this taken place? Well you get the answer in Romans 4:23. Romans 4:23, God had gone to this kind of trouble for one purpose and it’s in 4:23, “But the words, ‘it was reckoned to him,’ were written not for his sake alone, but for ours also.” And that’s the purpose of history.
God enabled a man like Abraham to experience that for your sake. He enabled a man like Paul to experience it for your sake and mine. See, a lot of us I think, are under this deception that the way to get right with the Creator of the world is to be as good as we can. And so you know, we wear ourselves out. We wear ourselves out trying to please all our families, all our relatives, all the authorities in our lives, our professors, our teachers, all of our peer group, and especially all people connected with churches. And so we’ve come into the deception that Christianity is really
just being moral.
Now, do you see that God had a man who thought like that at one time and then he discovered that that wasn’t true? That he could be made right with God just by believing that God’s Son Jesus had made things right between himself and his Father. And this man’s experience was recorded for your sake and mine.
Now you’ll find somebody like yourself who was concerned with grades if you look at Philippians 3. And old Paul really was one of those conscientious people such as so many of us are. In Philippians 3:4 he describes his own attitude to things, “Though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If any other man thinks he has reason for the confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eight day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law a Pharisee.” You see A’s right across the board, “As to zeal a persecutor of the church, as to righteousness under the law blameless.” And then he says, “But whatever gain I had,” because none of these things made me sense that I was right with God, “I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” And Paul believed what we have said, that if he trusted what God said about Jesus he would be right with God.
Is there any proof that he was right with God? Yeah, if you look at his experience in Acts 28 you’ll see it there. There’s incredible proof that he was not just involved in some kind of deception in Acts 28:1, “After we had escaped, we then learned that the island was called Malta. And the natives showed us unusual kindness…” and this was Luke writing this, you remember, he was traveling with Paul, “For they kindled a fire and welcomed us all, because it had begun to rain and was cold. Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and put them on the fire, when a viper came out because of the heat and fastened on his hand. When the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, ‘No doubt this man is a murderer. Though he has escaped from the sea, justice has not allowed him to live.’ He, however, shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. They waited, expecting him to swell up or suddenly fall down dead; but when they had waited a long time and saw no misfortune come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god.” And Jesus said that that kind of thing would happen. He said, “Listen, you’ll be made right with my Father if you believe in me and you’ll even walk on scorpions and they will not touch you.” And that was written for your sake and mine.
I don’t know if you’re still lying under that business of trying to prove that you’re as good as anybody else or if you’re still trying to make yourself right with God by being moral and being successful. But do you see that here’s a historical experience that shows that God will treat you as right with himself if you’ll just believe in his son Jesus.
Some of us, you know, are in the position where we think, “Yeah, well that’s okay, but I really think I’m almost too low for God to have anything to do with me. All these people in this theater must be at least a little better than me and in some way surely you have to prove yourself worthy of Jesus dying for you? Surely you have to improve your life a little bit for God to make you right with himself?” And I think many of us think this way. We listen Sunday after Sunday to this kind of talk but really in our own hearts we think, “Yeah, but I have to improve a little better and a little better and someday I’ll be able to believe in Jesus and God will be able to make me right with himself.” But brothers and sisters, God can do it this very morning, you see, because he did it with someone like you, someone at least as bad as you, and probably worse.
Now, would you look at that lady, her story really is in John 8:3-11? And you remember the RSV Bible tries to indicate where some manuscripts do not contain some of the text and so that’s why they put this into the small print at the bottom of the page there. John 8:3, it just indicates really that the manuscript that they were following didn’t have it in it but that the other big ones Spatacanous and Alexandrinus had, “The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, ‘Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such. What do you say about her?’ This they said to test him that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, ‘Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.’ And once more he bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.”
This was a woman you see, that presumably was even caught in bed I suppose, caught in the actual act of adultery really. “Jesus looked up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you.’” And then he did say the important part about repentance you see, “Go, and do not sin again.”
But loved ones that was written for our sakes, because Jesus will have the same attitude to you this morning as he had to that woman. And do you see there’s none of us here this morning that are too low that God is not willing to deal with us in his son Jesus? There is no one here this morning that God will not show the same forgiveness to as he showed that lady. And so it is right through the Bible. In the Bible we have a series of historical events that show beyond all doubt the kind of God that we’re dealing with and that he is the Father of Jesus Christ. And the reason for all that historical detail is so that we will in no way, in these last days, be led away by those who have personal visions of their own, but that we will know what God is like and most of all that we will be prepared to deal with him ourselves.
So dear ones if you ever feel, “Oh no, I’m too low, or I demand too much scientific detail for God ever to deal with me.” All you have to do is look at that woman or look at the man Thomas who said, “Unless I put my finger into the holes in his hands I will not believe.” And then you can be sure that if God showed himself and came through in some way to a man as demanding and skeptical as Thomas, then he’ll come through to you, too. He can deal with you and he can deal with me also. And so it is with every difficulty we feel and many of us feel, “Oh no, I’ve listened to this Sunday after Sunday and I’ve tried to get through to God. I’ve tried, and I’ve tried and I cannot, and I cannot get through. There must be some reason for it.” There is.
There was a young man who came to Jesus and said, “Listen, I’ve done everything. I’ve obeyed all the laws. I’m absolutely obedient and yet somehow I can’t find God real to me.” And then Jesus picked the one thing that he had never looked at himself and said, “Listen, you’re very rich. Would you give away all that you have? And then God will be real to you.” And so it is with us who claim we’ve tried everything, we’ve done everything, we’ve obeyed every law we can, yet when you go to Jesus and say, “Lord, will ‘you’ show me why God cannot be real to me?” Jesus will be faithful to you as he was with that man. And he’ll pick out the one thing that is preventing God showing himself to you.
And really the reason for all these things is for us. It was reckoned to him it was written not for his sake but for ours this morning, because this God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and he’ll deal with you in just the same way. And he’ll be as faithful to you this moment as he has
been with these people. And that’s why he recorded all this for us.
So when you begin the question could God possibly come through to you, will you have a look at what he did in the past and ask yourself, “Well, is he the same today? If he is then he’ll deal with me.” And he will really. He will.