Romans 4

Life Verse

Romans 4

Something you live by--a Scripture passage, axiom, or principle--is your life verse. Abraham had one, and this week we look at should be a life verse for us.

Catch Phrase

  • Do you have a “life verse” or catchphrase you have used in your life?
  • I will give you a couple of examples…
  • Like…a Bible verse - Like Jeremiah 29:11 
  • This was a verse that was huge for me when I graduated from college…of what God wanted to do

No Pain, No Gain 

  • Another example…A non-Bible kind of saying that was/is pretty popular: No pain, no gain
  • I remember needing this motivation when I was getting crushed in football practice… to push through the pain to get to the reward
  • This saying is a little 90’s-esque, a similar idea that is a little more current, is the Kelly Clarkson version:  What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger

Boat So Small 

    • A life verse of president John F. Kennedy came from a Breton fisherman's prayer. “O God, thy sea is so great and my boat is so small”
    • This phrase was inscribed on a plaque that sat of Kennedy’s desk in his presidential office…it was a gift from Admiral Hyman Rickover
    • He gave it to his captains, and as a special gift to Kennedy.
    • This prayer speaks of how God in his providence will make a way for me even in the greatness of the sea before me. 

What would be a “life verse” like this for you? 


Abraham’s Life Verse

  • Today we are continuing our series in the book of Romans in chapter 4, and in particular, we will be talking verse 3; which says this: 
  • Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness
  • The quote actually comes from Genesis 15:6, as a description of Abraham’s response to receiving these incredible covenant promises of God to him
  • Paul picks up on the truth of this phrase to capture, so profoundly, where Abraham was and how God was working…
  • This phrase is a “life verse” of sorts that the apostle Paul gives to Abraham as to describe the distinct life of faith that Abraham lived. 

Staying Power 

  • Now…The reason that we remember a life verse/catch phrase/saying of this kind…the reason it has some staying power…for Abraham or for us…
  • The reason we remember and utilize such sayings in our lives is that they capture a truth that is constant, that is powerful and helpful, and needed…even if perhaps only for a season
  • And how incredibly true this is for Abraham’s life verse 
  • Which is so profound that the principle it represents is actually the foundation for not only the life of this great patriarch, Abraham, but it is the backbone of the entire New Testament, 
  • What is the transcendent truth that this life verse of Abraham captures?  
  • That is what I want to talk about today
  • I want to look at this life verse in 2 parts
  • Beginning with the first half…Abraham believed God

Believed God

By Faith 

  • In Romans 4, Paul is making the case that our redemption through Christ is BY FAITH, not BY WORKS… 
  • Paul then gives this powerful example of what faith looks like in the life of Abraham …
  • Let’s read this example, Romans 4:18

Abraham Laughs 

  • The background for this story is that God says to Abraham that I'm going to make my covenant between me and you and your offspring
  • And God goes on to clarify when I say your offspring Abraham I'm talking about a child that will come from your wife Sarah 
  • And to this pronouncement from God Abraham laughs at God
  • The reason he laughs is he considered the Barrenness of Sarah’s womb…you know, Sarah, his wife for so many, didn’t have a child and that's gonna all of a sudden change?  
  • He says you’re going to make this old man and this old woman, and we're going to have a child? 
  • And so Abraham goes on to tell God about his plan of Ishmael, you know, the son that Abraham fathered with his servant Hagar

Abraham Believes 

  • What God does, is completely waves off this attempt by Abraham saying no Abraham that's not how it's going to go.
  • Then God gets very specific…listen to Genesis 17:19
  • God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac…I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year.”
  • After God says this to Abraham Romans 4 testifies Abraham believed God 
  • This was the turning point there was this gift of faith given to abraham… in this supernatural revelation of his plan for Abraham 
  • And because of this Abraham believed God 


  • It’s like when you have a moment of of clarity…like a light bulb moment - In the cartoons you would see a lightbulb appear in that little thought bubble above the character’s head
  • It’s like an epiphany

Game Changer 

  • Where there is this faith that you have that you didn't have before that is this this work of God in you 
  • And it completely changes the course of your life, the hope that you have, the way that you live it is a an absolute game changer
  • So much so, that for Abraham it says: 
  • No unbelief made him waver…fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.

Flip the Switch

  • This is how faith works… 
  • I want that for you today! I want you to experience this great God who has shown his word for me, and I believe…
  • I believe God wants to show his great work in your life through Christ
  • That whatever place, situation, heartache, or question…to know the word of God for you, today, and believe 
  • Fully convinced that God is able to do what he has promised


  • I want you to be encouraged, specifically with this faith of Abraham
  • Because Abraham’s story of faith idealized a perfect picture that you probably think of for someone like the patriarch Abraham
  • Consider his journey here…in Genesis 15…where this life verse we’re talking about first appears, God says he was going to make a covenant with Abraham, and make his descendants likened to stars in the heavens
  • But this is so crazy that when he sees the covenant God makes, he believes God. He didn’t know how it was going to happen, but he believed God was going to accomplish his purposes, and so he and Sarah worked this out in his mind that he would sleep with her maidservant, Hagar, and then they would have Ishmael
  • God had an even bigger and better plan that Abraham didn't know about
  • He didn't really honestly see any possible way God could do it, and then we get to round three in the life journey of Abraham, where he finally gets this word from God, who says I am going to send you a son with your wife, Sarah 

Encouraging for Us

  • I think that is so encouraging for us, of how we operate in this life with such limited knowledge, such limited information, that we’re trying to follow God and be faithful to his calling…or even, just begin to follow God in some way…
  • And yet we make mistakes, we make wrong decisions, places we’ve fallen, it’s so much so that it makes me feel like I can track with Abraham’s story… can't you?


    • Because this is like my story. I have so many missteps, so many things that I thought this was the thing, and it wasn't 
    • Why does God do it this way? I don’t know all the reasons why but it does encourage me to be able to look at Abraham‘s life and say this is how God is working, that even in the misunderstandings in the mistakes, I make and the missteps I have taken, still God is working, still God is leading me, and still God is faithful to fulfill his promise in my life.
    • That’s just so encouraging to me
    • Think about it. How many missteps, mistakes, have you made? They could have such a paralyzing effect on us. You feel like you don’t know what God is doing and what you’re supposed to do next, And to even use these missteps for his glory in your life


Leap of Faith? 

  • But this is where I just want you to take heart from Abraham’s story that the heart of God for you is that he is saying to you trust me I am faithful I will lead you trust me and it’s like this step of faith 
  • A popular analogy for faith, which I’m not a big fan of, but is popular, is stepping off a cliff. 
  • The proverbial “leap of faith”
  • Which I feel like we we don’t fully comprehend how integral faith is to living life for anybody, much less for those people who want to follow God and honor God with their lives it’s like faith is so integral to how we step out and walk with God into these good things that he has for us
  • We have this incredibly safe place to step out in faith, because it is faith in our father God, THE Good shepherd of the sheep.  Our God is faithful, even when we are faithless, even in our missteps, HE is faithful, and HE is the one we trust, in whom we put our faith to lead us, and save us and provide all things for us. 
  • But in this Romans 4 Abraham believed God – what feels like, and so many times actually is, us stepping off a cliff – is  that our feet are still on the rock, our steps are in his care
  • Because he is a God of steadfast love and mercy… He is our safe place

Counted as Righteousness

Second Half

  • Let’s talk about the 2nd half of this life verse for Abraham 
  • Look at vs. 5
  • Paul says: to one who does not work, but instead believes…this is the first half of this LIFE VERSE of Abraham we are talking about…but look at where his faith is taking him: his faith is counted as righteousness

Not What We Expect to Hear

  • This is NOT how we expect this verse to end.  
  • When we hear this idea of believing God, we think: believe god = get stuff…whatever we believe for
  • Abraham believed God and he received his firstborn son, Isaac
  • Abraham believed God and he inherited the promise land
  • you know he believed God and he got the stuff 
  • That’s how we think of this kind of axiom of faith 
  • But that’s not what this life verse of Abraham says. it says he believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness 

Gospel Truth 

  • What this is saying is Abraham is RECEIVING righteousness…from God
  • This righteousness that is spoken of is NOT Abraham’s own righteousness.
  • This righteousness is not what you might think of, like Abraham did a good deed, and God is going to pat Abraham on the head like he is a little boy…good job Abraham…here is a treat 


  • No…the righteousness spoken of here is the righteousness of God given to Abraham
  • Romans 4, verse 5 describes God as: he who justifies the ungodly
  • This is what Jesus did for us on the cross…he took the wrath of God for OUR sin, the punishment WE deserved, Christ took it for us on the cross…that we could be JUSTIFIED before God
  • Verse 7: blessed is the man whose sins are covered, whom the lord will not count his sins against him…
  • This work of justification means our sins are covered, we are forgiven, because those sins were put on Christ at the cross
  • THIS is what Rom 4:3 is talking about: the great exchange that took place there: Christ received our sin, and we received his righteousness
  • Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness

Friend of God

  • And, here is what he did…I want to give you a visual of this from another New Testament author, James, who picks up this same verse…this is a powerful visual of the incredible impact of this work of God giving, us his righteousness 
  • James 2:6 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God.
  • BECAUSE of Christ, because of his great work to forgive and heal and reconcile that he did for you on the cross…your relationship has completely changed, that you would be like Abraham…you are welcomed, as a friend of God 
  • That’s what you want. That’s the constant. You could take any storyline you want: missteps, mistakes, lost years; it doesn't matter.  In your life journey he's your friend…He was with Abraham, and he is with you because of Christ



  • Cathy 
    • We’ve been talking about this story of faith in the life of Abraham – I want to give you a present-day story of this great work of God…from an unlikely source, a comic strip from years ago that CJ Mahaney recounted, called Cathy. 
    • Cathy appears to be a single woman in her thirties. In this particular cartoon she's sitting at home, alone with her thoughts…she thinks about all the things she should have done or that she regrets doing.
    • Her look of depression deepens as she continues to think about things she should have done for others, including people she's never even met.
    • In the final frame, Cathy summarizes her plight. "Even when I'm not going anywhere, I have three hundred pounds of luggage with me."
  • I am ashamed to say how much I can relate to Cathy here…You ever had this kind of downward spiral, that almost feels out of control?  Why is it when you’re hurting and broken that your heart goes to this point that is so irrational that it looks like this downward spiral? 


  • What Jesus has done for you at the cross - Not only has he done this work to give you his righteousness, his work in your life is that you would look more like him, that your your decisions, your steps, would be ordered by him more and more progressively as he is changing your heart. He's doing that, that's part of this right
  • But also in giving us his righteousness, it's discovering that we are forgiven before God because he has looked on Christ and Christ's righteousness and forgiven us and welcomed us as his own son
  • He has taken that luggage as far as the east is from the west he is taking this weight of sinfulness, the mistakes you’ve made, the missteps you’ve taken, and he has removed them, that you would know the forgiveness of God, the relationship with your father in heaven
  • That you would be the FRIEND of GOD

What We Need

  • And...this righteousness, that is from God, received by faith...this is what we need 
  • More than those tangible physical actual promises that God is fulfilling…
    • of giving you a son 
    • of bringing you to the promised land 
    • of providing for your financial need
  • Anything that you might think about as faith–getting the stuff. That's true. God did it for Abraham, and he's doing it for you, but that's not the life verse of Abraham, and that's not your life verse, either. It is that he believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness. He was forgiven. He was reconciled to God through Christ

New Life Verse 

  • Today I have for you what I pray is a new life verse
  • That you would take Romans 4:3, and in your Bible, cross out that name Abraham and put your name. “Mark” believed God. It was counted to him as righteousness. That's my story, that is the testimony of the grace of God in my life, and do you know what this has done for you and for me today? It has made us the friend of God
  • I am forgiven
  • I am accepted, as a son or daughter of God
  • All my luggage has been taken away
  • If you have never put faith in Christ, receiving his righteousness for you, let God do this work in you today, that you would have that experience of faith
  • Or if you have been a believer, but life has taken you on some turns that make you so tired that you are just not wanting to keep going…you need faith for the journey
  • Whatever the place you are in your life journey, whatever mistakes or missteps, through Christ, you have become the friend of God