“And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: ‘Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.'” Romans 4:5-8
At first glance, Paul/David is merely reiterating how greatly blessed we are when we are forgiven by our Holy God – that we are forgiven, forgiven, forgiven.
But, as I looked deeper into this passage, I studied the three ways in which we are specifically forgiven. Blessed are those whose lawless deeds/sins are:
(not) COUNTED – logizomai – reckoned, counted, imputed, numbered among, to account (as in Romans 4:3 – “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.”)
These are three specific ways our sins are forgiven us in Christ.
Christ takes our sin away from us – casting it away, separating it from us – like our record of sin being thrown away into an out-of-sight trash bin. Like Psalm 103:12 “As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”
Christ covers over our sin by His blood, hiding our record of sin from the sight of the Father.
Christ takes our sin off our account, placing it onto His own, imputing onto our account His righteousness, in place of our own sinfulness.
How is it, specifically, according to David in Psalm 32, that we receive this abundant tri-fold forgiveness? Without question this is by faith, by believing God, by following Jesus in the obedience of faith, like Abraham rather than by any good work because as sinful people we are unable to deserve, merit or earn righteousness. This is evident from Romans 3:20.
Yet, true faith will include what David writes in Psalm 32:5:
I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,”
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.”
The way I see it is this is not merely a situation of us not being forgiven if we sin, but don’t confess it. Rather, as David also wrote in Psalm 66:18, “If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” We must not hold deceit in our spirit, being like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle as David continues in Psalm 32.
By faith we turn to Christ, agreeing with Him of the gravity of our sin, casting these burdens on Him and by faith trusting Him to forgive our sin, covering it by His blood and imputing Christ’s righteousness onto our account. Thank You, Jesus, for forgiving me and justifying me by your grace as a gift. I’m not worthy, but YOU ARE!
This is an excerpt from a talk my dear friend (Diane Drees) and I shared on our church’s ONE THING retreat this fall. You can listen to the complete audio from the talk here:
When we finished our study of Hosea this spring, I was led to study next the book of Jeremiah. They are very similar books, really. Both Hosea and Jeremiah were warning the people (Hosea to the nation of Israel and Jeremiah to the nation of Judah) to return to the one true God from chasing after idols.
Look with me at Jeremiah chapter 2:1-2 and verses 11-13
The word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem, Thus says the LORD, “I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown. …
Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods? But my people have changed their glory for that which does not profit. Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the LORD, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.
God’s people had forgotten the devotion of their youth and their love as a bride.
They had committed two evils: (1) they had forsaken God – they had left Him, abandoned Him, deserted Him, turned their back on Him and they had (2) dug their own broken cisterns.
Basically, a cistern is a way to hold water of any kind to accumulate and store water for future use. It could be used to catch rainwater or water from a well or stream. Ancient cisterns could be huge and used for a whole community, or small for a household. God’s people were getting their water from cisterns of their own creation, and turning their back on God, rather than going to Him, the living well, the eternal spring.
Which reminds me of the word picture of a tabletop waterfall fountain that I described on the spring retreat. We are only able to love others as we are filled up to overflowing with God’s love. We love others because He first loved us.
And what was God’s encouragement to his people in Jeremiah 3:22a “Return, O faithless sons; I will heal your faithlessness.”
God had been warning His people in the Old Testament, over 500 years before Christ’s time on earth, but what about after Christ’s coming, did His people still turn their backs on Him?
In the book of Revelation, the final book of the Bible, the apostle John was inspired by God to write letters to seven different churches. The first letter he wrote was to the church in Ephesus which is found in Revelation, chapter 2. Here John writes a nice “grace sandwich” to this church, beginning with verses 2 and 3, “I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake and you have not grown weary.” I believe that those words might be spoken of our church today.
But John follows that encouragement with some hard-to-hear words in verses 4-5, “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. (Sounds like Jeremiah 2:2, doesn’t it?) Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.” And I’m afraid that these words might be spoken of us as well.
What did God have against this church? They had abandoned the love that they had at first.
And now what do they need to do:
Remember – They needed to remember where they used to be. They needed to remember their FIRST love, Jesus, and the love that they once had for Him.
Repent – They needed to turn away from their sin, turn away from the things that have held them captive, turn away from the idols and distractions of life and turn toward God. They needed to do an about face.
Return – They needed to return to their first love and to those works that they did at first.
Let me add one little aside here, the prefix RE- means AGAIN, it indicates repetition, going back to something. RE-member, RE-pent, RE-turn all these words indicate going back to something you once had and doing it again – thinking of it again, turning away from where you were and going back the other way, turning again to where you once were. You can only RE-turn to something if you had it at first. You cannot RETURN to a place you’ve never been; you can’t RETURN a book you never checked out in the first place. If God has never been your first love, you cannot RETURN to Him.
God invites you even now to come to Him as your first love, the well of living water, your Savior, Deliverer and the Lord of your life.
Remember your first love. Repent of your wayward heart. Return to your God.