With Dale Ratzlaff
We continue our study in Romans 4:6-8.
Just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: “BLESSED ARE THOSE WHOSE LAWLESS DEEDS HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN, AND WHOSE SINS HAVE BEEN COVERED. “BLESSED IS THE MAN WHOSE SIN THE LORD WILL NOT TAKE INTO ACCOUNT.”
In the previous verses Paul has shown that Abraham’s faith in what God declared about his posterity was counted as righteousness. It was easy for the Jews, and us as well, to grasp this truth. Abraham, except for a few shortcomings, is seen in Scripture as a righteous person. David, however, is at the other end of the spectrum for personal righteousness. His record shows: pride, lust, adultery, deception, and murder. This passage declares that not only can a mostly righteous person be justified by faith alone, but also the worst sinner who repents justified the same way. And herein is the good news of the gospel. We do not have to proclaim, “Clean up your act and God will accept you.” Rather, as in the case with Abraham, no matter how good we may see ourselves, we can never bring these good works as evidence that we are worthy of God’s righteousness. It is by faith alone. David’s life shows that in the very midst of sin, pre-meditated sin of the worst kind, when forgiven, the sin is “covered” and will not be “taken into account”. Notice again Paul’s insistence that God’s righteousness is credited “apart from works”. Paul lists three key blessings of justification. In Romans 5 Paul will add to the results of justification; but here are three that apply to us all.
- Blessed are those who lawless deeds have been forgiven.
- Blessed are those whose sins which have been covered.
- Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account.
These three blessings all relate to the act of justification which has the dual meaning of being declared righteous with the righteousness of God and being totally forgiven of all sin. Read carefully the bullet points above. Too often we ask for forgiveness and then continue to feel guilty for what we did wrong. We may “beat ourselves up”, as the saying goes. The word translated “blessed” has the following meanings: “blessed, fortunate, happy—usually in the sense of a privileged recipient of divine favor.” This is not only the gospel teaching of Paul but also the very experience of David recorded in Psalm 32. He sinned big time, but after recognizing and repenting of his sin, he is now forgiven. His sins have been “covered”. They can no longer be seen! More than that, the Lord will not even take them into account. This Psalm is worthy of a careful read. The sections in brackets are my commentary.
How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered! How blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit! [Note that David is not camping in his guilt, but rejoicing in his new relationship with God.] When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away Through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. Selah. I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I did not hide; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”; And You forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah. Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to You [Now David does not see himself as a sinner any more, but he includes himself with the “godly”] in a time when You may be found; Surely in a flood of great waters they will not reach him. You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble; You surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah. [Note the optimism David now expresses for the future.]
The Psalm makes a sharp break here, David has been relating his experience with God, now under the guidance of the Spirit we hear from God.
• “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go.” Here is a promise we can all receive, no matter how big a sin we have committed, even pre-meditated sin. When we repent and receive God’s forgiveness, fellowship and personal guidance is restored. This is pure grace.
• “I will counsel you with My eye upon you”. What a wonderful promise! I often feel I would like to talk to someone who has all the answers about many situations and problems of life. To know that God is truly guiding me is wonderful assurance.
• “Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding, Whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check, Otherwise they will not come near to you.” When we reject God’s guidance and run from Him we break fellowship with Him, and then we no longer hear His voice and we have “no understanding” of God’s will. Perhaps that is at the root of our problems.
• “Many are the sorrows of the wicked, But he who trusts in the LORD, lovingkindness shall surround him.” When we see people begging on the street corner—dirty, shabby cloths, unkept hair, and often smelling vile, we think “there is a story behind this person”. Yes, “many are the sorrows of the wicked.” Yet these are the very people who need the gospel. When they trust Christ then the loving kindness of the Lord will surround them.
• “Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous ones; And shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart” (Ps. 32:1-11). Here we see the change the gospel can make. It happened for David, it can happen to us. Yes, it can happen to the beggar on the street corner. The gospel of grace can be proclaimed. It is good news indeed.
Father, keep us from spiritual pride; convict us of sin, hidden and pre-meditated; give us repentance. We accept the good news that salvation is by faith alone, in Christ alone, and by grace alone. May we accept your free grace and realize that we are fully forgiven. Help us know that our sin is covered and is out of sight for good. My we understand, in the depths of our souls, that no matter what we have done, we can rejoice in our new fellowship.