HOW GOD SPELLS GRACE: ACCEPTANCE (2 of 2)
God’s Invitation to Grace ❧ Part 22
Romans 4:13-16 ❧ Pastor, Dr. John Denney
One of the conversations I seem to have more than any other lately is around the growing
expectancy of Christ’s soon return. And for good reason. God gives us a number of signs in His
Word of what the world will be like before Christ returns and we’re seeing many of those signs take
place with incredible speed and astonishing accuracy.
Shortly before Jesus was crucified, His disciples asked Him a significant question: What sign will
signal your return and the end of the world? (Matthew 24:3, NLT). Jesus did not give them one sign,
but many. He said you will hear of wars and rumors of wars (v.6). Nation will go to war against nation
and kingdom against kingdom (v.7). There will be famines and earthquakes (v.7). Persecution and
hatred of Christians (v.9). Many will turn away from the Lord and betray and hate each other –
widespread apostacy (v.10). Sin will be rampant and the love of many will grow cold (v.12). But
there was one sign, and only one, Jesus repeated three times – the rise of false Christs and cultic
groups and they will deceive many. Three times Jesus warns many will come claiming they are the
Messiah, deceiving many (Vv. 5,11, 24). For false messiahs and false prophets will rise up and
perform great signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even God’s chosen ones (Matthew
There have always been cultic groups within Christianity who deny the deity of Christ and proclaim
a false gospel of works. But according to respected prophecy expert, Dr. David Reagan, an
explosion of cults took place in America around the middle of the nineteenth century when the world’s
largest cult, the Mormons, was founded. Since that time, he says, Christianity has been afflicted with
literally hundreds of cultic groups (David Reagan, The Lamplighter, July-August 2006). Another sign
has also exploded so to speak in America and around the world. Jesus warns of it in His group of
signs; many will turn away from the Lord (Matt. 24:10). Paul calls this the great rebellion (ἀποστασία)
in 2 Thessalonians 2:3. We get the word apostacy from it. This is a revolt, a departure from the truth
God has revealed in His Word among those who say they are Christians. In 1 Timothy 4:1 Paul also
warns, Now the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some will turn away from the true faith;
they will follow deceptive spirits and teachings that come from demons (1 Timothy 4:1). The rise of
false Christ’s, the explosion of cults, apostacy, deception. There is little doubt we are clearly and
What does this have to do with Romans? Romans is a crisp and clear reminder of Who Jesus is
and what His Gospel is. It is a needed anchor in today’s storm ridden world that holds us fast to God’s
promise the we are made right with Him through our faith in His Son Jesus Christ alone.
Today we’re going to wrap up a message we started last week: How God Spells Grace:
Acceptance. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law (Romans
3:28). The number one temptation many struggle with is thinking they somehow have to earn God’s
forgiveness. It is impossible. It is only by our faith, our complete trust in Jesus Christ can we gain
We began last week looking at a two Common Ways We Seek God’s Acceptance. The first
was performance, and the second was approval.
I. Through performance (Romans 4:1-8).
A. The lie we believe: I must meet certain standards for God to accept me. Paul points to two of
the greatest patriarchs in the whole OT – Abraham and David and reminds us neither of these men
were perfect. In fact, they were far from it. Abraham was a serial liar who struggled with doubt and
fear. On more than one occasion he lied about his wife to save his skin. David was a murderer and an
adulterer. Despite their track record of failure, both men were fully pleasing and fully pleasing to God.
How? Not by their works, but by their faith in God. Paul’s point is simply that if God accepted them by
their faith, He will do the same for us. In fact, He promises He will. V. 5 people are counted as
righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners (Rom.
4:5). The only standard you have to meet to gain God’s acceptance is trusting His Son for His
B. The truth God wants us to know: Justification – Because of my faith in Christ, I am now
fully pleasing to God. For the Scriptures tell us, “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as
righteous because of his faith.” (Romans 4:3, NLT).
I want to be very transparent with you. I grew up in a home where I longed for my father’s
approval, yet somehow, I always seemed to fall short knowing gaining it. It was a painful mystery to
me. For years I could hear his voice of disapproval in my head. Years later, while I was going to Bible
college, I was working on an assignment for Dr. Al Baylis. Dr. Baylis was tough professor known to
have very high demands of his students. It was while I was pouring over one of his demanding
assignments one day that the Lord literally stopped me in my tracks. Suddenly, and completely
unexpectedly, God spoke to my heart and telling me I did not need the approval of my father. “You
have My approval. I will be your Father. You don’t need to carry the weight of his disapproval
anymore.” Suddenly, I was free. The joy of God’s approval filled my heart in a way I’d never known.
A long the way I have met so many people who hunger for their parents acceptance, either their
father or their mother. Listen to what God is saying in His Word to you. You don’t need your father’s
acceptance. If you have placed your trust in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you can relax.
You have God’s approval. A second way we looked at to gain God’s acceptance is through approval.
II. Through approval (Romans 4:9-12).
A. The lie we believe: I must be approved by certain others to be accepted by God. The
standard that Paul addresses in verse 9 -12 is circumcision. Paul anticipates the question that the
Jews would have: If Abraham was justified by faith alone, then why did Abraham have to be
circumcised? Didn’t he do it because he had to gain God’s approval? So Paul asks in verse 10 when
did God say that He accepted Abraham? Was it before or after he was circumcised? It was not after,
B. The truth God want us to know: Reconciliation – I no longer fear rejection because God
has said He will always accept me. Circumcision was a sign that Abraham already had faith and
that God had already accepted him and declared him to be righteous—even before he was
Circumcision was a standard for the Jews. But there are other standards we try to impose on
others to be accepted by God. One of that I have seen a lot over the years is which day we go to
church. Is Saturday or Sunday? A lot of people struggle with unnecessary fear and guilt thinking they
they have to go to church on Saturday or on Sunday. The truth is, God tells us either day or another
is fine with Him. Later in Romans Paul tells us, some think one day is more holy than another day,
while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you
choose is acceptable (Romans 14:5, NLT). In Colossians, he tells us, don’t let anyone condemn you
for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new moon ceremonies or
Sabbaths. For these rules are only shadows of the reality yet to come. And Christ himself is that
reality (Colossians 2:16-17). It’d be nice if the list stopped there, but it doesn’t. When I was a kid I
went to a church where I was told unless you wear a tie, you’re out. I only went there with my friend
because he told me there was good food there. Needless to say, the food wasn’t worth going there.
Two ways we try to gain God’s acceptance is through performance and approval. Neither
work. But there is a third way.
III. Through punishment (Romans 4:13-16).
A. The lie we believe: If I fail, I am unworthy of love and deserve to be punished. We are
good at coming up with our self-induced methods of punishing ourselves, usually through painful self-
denial and taking long guilt trips.
Paul addresses this in the form of the Mosaic Law. The Jews rigorously kept the Laws 613 Laws of
Moses and more that were riddled with self-denial. The more stringent the self-denial the more
satisfying because they believed this would please God more. Kind of like bitter medicine. The more
bitter it is, the better. That’s why Jesus told His disciples, unless your righteousness (keeping the
Laws) exceeds that of the Pharisees, you will not enter Heaven. One, the Jews completely
misunderstood the purpose of the Law. It was never a standard they could keep because the Law
reflects God’s perfect holiness. The Law, Paul said in Romans 3:20 wasn’t given to redeem, but to
reveal. For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law
simply shows us how sinful we are.
B. The truth God wants us to know: Atonement – I am deeply loved and completely
forgiven by God. If God’s promise is only for those who obey the law, then faith is not necessary and
the promise is pointless. For the law always brings punishment on those who try to obey it. (The only
way to avoid breaking the law is to have no law to break!) (Romans 4:14-15).
Why does Paul use Abraham as an example of someone who was saved without keeping the
Law? Because everyone knew Abraham lived more than 430 years BEFORE the Ten
Commandments were ever given! How could Abraham be saved by keeping the Jewish Law before it
was given? You can’t get around Paul’s point: Those of you who think you’re going to make it
Heaven by keeping all of the rules of the Bible, don’t you realize Abraham had God’s forgiveness
before the Law was given! The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could
be made right with God through faith (Galatians 3:24).
I read about two monks who were on a long pilgrimage. Along the way, they found a girl that
needed to cross the river but couldn’t. So, one of them put her on his back and carried her safely to
the other side. Then they quietly went on their way. After about an hour or so, the other monk began
complaining, “You know it is against the commandments to have any close contact with a woman.
How could you go against the rules of the monks?” The other monk walked along silently, and then
he finally remarked, “I set her down by the river an hour ago, why are you still trying to carry her?”
Some of you are still punishing yourselves for sins God forgave you long ago. You’re forgiven.
IV. Why only by faith? So the promise is received by faith. It is given as a free gift. And we are all
certain to receive it, whether or not we live according to the law of Moses, if we have faith like
Abraham’s. For Abraham is the father of all who believe (Romans 4:16). Why do we have God’s
acceptance by faith alone? To demonstrate His grace. Grace does not depend on your performance,
your approval from others, or the amount of self-denial you inflict on yourself. Someone put it, …man
is incurably addicted to doing something for his own salvation, and, therefore it is most difficult for him
to accept the doctrine of pure grace.
The Bible is a photo album fille with pictures of God’s amazing grace. Whether Abraham,
David, Moses, Peter, Paul… the list goes on. Each one failed and knew their failures. The Bible
doesn’t paint a pretty picture of some of them. It tells us how they really were. And the picture is not
becoming. But each one experienced and understood God’s forgiveness by faith alone in Him.
Jesus clearly warns us there will be a rise of false Christs, an increase in cults, apostacy,
deception. The reason the Jews missed Jesus first coming is because they deviated from God’s
In John 5, Jesus is talking to the unbelieving Jews and He tells them: You search the
Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! … If you really
believed Moses, you would believe me, because he wrote about me (John 5:39, 46). Had the Jews
anchored their faith in God’s Word alone and kept free from empty traditions of men, they would have
recognized Jesus in a moment. They failed to recognize Him because their understanding of
Scripture was overshadowed by all the things they’d added to God’s Word. Jesus warns us the
deceptions of the enemy will be so clever they will deceive even the elect if possible (Matthew 24:24).
There are many believers today who are truly saved but are not truly free. Jesus said He came that
believers may have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10). Will you put to rest the burdens of
performance, approval, punishment once and for all by resting in what Christ has done for you on the
cross? Will you believe you are fully pleasing and accepted by God? Will take God at His word
knowing if you know Christ you have your Father’s approval. You don’t need any other. Will you stop
beating yourself up for sins God forgave you long ago?