Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 3 * PART 3 * BOOK 66
BUT GOD! (Faith Plus Nothing!) – Part 3
Acts 13:30, Rom. 3:21, Rom. 4:5, Rom. 5:8
It’s good to see everybody back again. You’ve all had your coffee, and there’s enough food over there for a holiday dinner. But, anyway, for those of you out in television, again we want to thank you for all your cards and letters, for your financial help and all your encouragement. We just can’t put it into words. Again, don’t be too concerned about my voice. I had an all day seminar, and we just over did it. So, I have plain old laryngitis, but we were up against it, so far as programming. We had to get this done, if at all possible. So, we trust you’ll bear with me. By next taping we should be back to normal.
Okay, we’re on the “But Now’s” and “But God’s” and “But When’s” and so forth. We’re going to jump up to Romans chapter 4 and verse 5, where it says, “But to him.” But, like on every other occasion, we’re going to go back and see what brought us up to this “But Now.” That makes an interesting study even on your own. As you’re reading along through Scripture and you see one of these “but’s,” just stop and say, now wait a minute, what’s gone ahead of this? What’s comes in behind it? And you’ll have 4000 Bible studies, because I think there are 4000 and some “but’s” in Scripture.
Okay, Romans chapter 4, of course Paul is dealing with faith coming out of chapter 3, and one of the primary examples of Faith Plus Nothing was Abraham. I always stop and think that Abraham had nothing going for him except his faith. The Law hadn’t been given yet. He hadn’t been given the rite of circumcision. He has come fresh out of idolatry. And all that Abraham did was believe God.
“What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?” In other words, he qualifies that Abraham is his father genetically, because Paul is a Jew. Now verse 2.
“For if Abraham were justified by works, he has whereof to glory; (or brag) but not before God. (No human being can ever say to God, “Look what I have done.” It just won’t work and even Abraham could never do that.) 3. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed…” Repented and was baptized? Isn’t it amazing? It doesn’t say that. Abraham kept the Law. Doesn’t say that. Abraham brought sacrifices. Doesn’t say that. All it says is Abraham what?
“…believed God,…” Now, the other word for believing is faith. Abraham placed his faith in God.
Now, you remember many, many, many moons ago I put it on the board, the vast difference between believing God and believing in God. Do you remember those? It doesn’t seem like much difference, but it’s all the difference in the world and eternity, because most of the world believes in God, if not the true God, a false god. But they believe in some god. But you see, when you believe God, you exercise faith. That’s what we have here. It doesn’t say that Abraham believed in God. He knew all about the gods of paganism. But that’s not what we’re talking about. “He believed God!” He, by faith, responded to what God said. Now, maybe this is a good time to jump up to Romans chapter 10, and let’s drop down to verse 13. This is a verse that most everybody knows or has heard of.
“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. 14. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not (What?) believed?” So, there we start right out on the basis of faith. “How can they call without having faith?“
“…and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” In other words, that’s why every believer is to be an ambassador for Christ. That’s our job. It is to let people know what God’s Word says. All right, verse 15.
“And how shall they preach, (or proclaim, is a better word) except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that proclaim the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! 16. But they have not all obeyed the gospel. (or God’s Word.) For Isaiah saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? (Now, here’s the verse I wanted you to see.) 17. So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” Now, the way I always put it is this. God never expects any person in the human race to believe something that He has not spoken. Now chew on that for a while. You can’t believe something that God has not spoken, and He didn’t speak all of this in ages past.
Now go back with me to Deuteronomy 29:29. Most of you know what it is without even looking it up, but I always have to remember that we’ve got new listeners coming in every day. Now, this isn’t my idea. This is what the Book says. A lot of people have a hard time swallowing it, but nevertheless, this is what the Word says.
“The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed (have been spoken) belong unto us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” All right, but what about the things He hasn’t spoken? God doesn’t expect anybody to believe that. He can’t expect you to believe something that He has not spoken. Now, this whole concept of being saved by faith alone through this death, burial, and resurrection was unknown, totally unknown, until it was revealed to the Apostle Paul.
That’s why Paul had to be the extension of everything else. The Twelve knew nothing of this Gospel of Salvation, and what little bit they understood, they got from Paul down the road. All right, come back to Romans 4, and we have to constantly remember that God does not expect anybody to believe something that He has not revealed through one of His instruments.
Now you know, someone jumped all over me one time for using Paul’s words instead of Jesus’ in the four Gospels. Well, I quickly wrote back, “Where in the world do you suppose Paul’s words come from?” Well, they come from Jesus Himself. Paul says it directly in the Book of Acts, “but I heard Him say unto me.” Who? Jesus Christ. All right, in Galatians chapter 1 he makes it so plain that “all of Paul’s writings came by revelation from the ascended Lord.” So, don’t let anybody ever put you down when you show them Paul’s epistles and they say, well, that’s just one man’s opinion. This is the Word of God.
Now, let me take you to II Peter. I was going to do it sooner or later anyway, so it’ll be sooner. I wrote this just the other day to an inquiring Muslim. He was wondering where I got the idea that Paul had some kind of authority. Well, I gave him various Scripture references. I said, if that’s not enough for you then look and see what Peter said. II Peter chapter 3:15 -16. Again, most of you probably know them from memory. We’ve used them so often. But why can’t people get this through their head? Peter is writing by the same inspiration. He is just as much Scripture as Paul but look what Peter says.
II Peter 3:15
“And account (understand) that the longsuffering (the patience) of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;” Now, what’s he, in so many words, telling his Jewish readers? If you want salvation, you go to Paul’s epistles. He doesn’t say go to John’s Gospel. He doesn’t say go back and see what Jesus said. He said, you go to Paul’s epistles. All right, then read the next verse, and I think he’s making reference to the Book of Hebrews, but now verse 16.
II Peter 3:16
“As also in all his epistles, (Romans through Philemon) speaking in them of these things; (What things? Salvation. How to maintain a Christian life. How to gain eternal life. All right, even Peter recognizes that.) in which are some things hard to be understood, and which they who are unlearned and unstable twist, as they do also the other scriptures,…” Now, what does that word other indicate? That Paul is Scripture just as much as Genesis or Matthew or John or anything else. It’s all the Word of God.
So, if anybody ever casts doubt on what Paul writes, you remind them of that. Every word that Paul writes is Scripture. It’s from the Lord Jesus in glory, instead of on the dusty roads of the land of Israel. All right, so back to Romans chapter 4. Paul is using Abraham as the epitome of faith alone.
“For what saith the scripture? (The Word of God.) Abraham believed God, (He took God at His Word. He wasn’t just believing in Him and making recognition that He’s out there someplace. He believed what He said.) and it (His believing, his faith – plus nothing) was counted unto him for righteousness.” Now, I think I told you at the last taping, I’ve had people come right back at me, even in my same audience and say to the audience, “No, it’s not by faith alone. James says it’s faith plus works.” Okay, let’s go back and see what they’re looking at. They say it with such authority. I say it’s with such ignorance.
Now, that’s not an unkind word. I’m not making any reflection on their mental ability. I’m making a reflection on what they’ve been taught. That’s ignorance, when you haven’t been taught something, you’re ignorant. I’m ready to admit I’m ignorant of a lot of things in this world. Look at the light above us. I’m ignorant of electricity. I’m ignorant of a lot of things. That’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s just that I haven’t been taught.
All right, now it is the same way when people say that Abraham was saved by his works. They are ignorant due to the very fact that they haven’t been taught. Now, look what James says in James chapter 2 verse 21. I have to smile when I read it. I can’t help it.
“Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?” Now, wait a minute. Think. Think! Is that when Abraham got his salvation, when he offered Isaac? No! His salvation took place back at Ur. Isaac is already what? Seventeen, eighteen years old? Abraham became a believer a long time before even Ishmael was born. He was a believer more than eighteen years before he offered Isaac. Now, how can James say that this was an indication of Abraham’s “works salvation?” Well, the very next verse 22, the first word tells it all. What is it? “Seest.”
Seest – with your eyes. All right, now let’s look a minute. When Abraham believed God and he left Ur, did the general population see his saving faith? No. But when they were told, or had witnessed, that he was ready to give his son Isaac because of his faith, now what where they seeing? His works. Did I get that across? God looks on the heart. He doesn’t need a work to see our faith. But our fellow-mankind, yes, they have to see a work, a result of our salvation, to know that we’re saved.
That’s where James is coming in. James is a legalist. James is still under the Law and so he’s a faith/works writer. So, that’s his emphasis. “Don’t you SEE what Abraham did?” Then you come down, well, let’s just read it, this is interesting.
“Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? 22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? 23. And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. 24. You see then (Now what does he mean by that word see? With the eyes. By understanding, we can see that his works were a manifestation of his faith.
Now, let’s again be commonsensical. Do you think the man Abraham would have ever offered that 18-year old son upon an altar if he was not a man of faith? Never. But how did he manifest his faith? Oh, let’s see if I can find it. I didn’t prepare for this, so bear with me as I look. I think it’s got to be Genesis 22. Now, if this doesn’t show the man’s faith, which had already been operating for 18 or 20 years, I don’t know what does. Genesis 22 and let’s see, we’re going to drop down to verse 5. Oh, this is interesting! I hope you’re having as much fun with this as I am.
“And Abraham said unto his young men,…” That were traveling with them. Now, you want to remember the background. They were down in southern Israel, which now is the Negev, down in Beersheba. They’re making their way up to Mount Moriah, which is probably the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. All right, so he and Isaac have some helpmeet men with them to carry the wood and so on and so forth.
And Abraham said unto his young men, (his servants) Abide ye here with the ass; (the donkey) and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you. (Now that shows his faith that both would return) 6. And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together. 7. And Isaac spoke unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for the burnt-offering?” Boy, you talk about innocence. Right? The poor lad had no idea what the father was intending to do. All right, now verse 8.
“And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt-offering: so they went both of them together.” Now, what did Abraham know? That even if he did kill the lad, God would resurrect him in time to walk back to those servants waiting by the donkey. He knew that. How did he know? By faith! And that’s why Abraham is such an epitome of faith in Scripture. That’s why Paul uses him. He knew that he wouldn’t have to leave Isaac behind, dead. So, he had no compunction about raising the knife.
All right, now come back to Romans chapter 4, if you will. We’ll keep moving on. Now verse 4, we’re still leading up to the ‘but’ that’s the crux of our lesson.
“Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.” Or works. Now, have you got that? To him who works, the reward isn’t by God’s Grace. It isn’t poured out in God’s mercy. He’s going to get to the place where he can say, “God, you owe it to me. You’ve got to let me into your heaven, because I’ve worked my way.” Foolishness, isn’t it? As ridiculous as you can get, and yet that’s the mass of Christendom.
The only temper they put on it is, well, maybe if I haven’t done enough, I’ll go the other direction. But, they don’t really believe that’s going to happen. They still think they’re going to get to the pearly gates and God’s going to let them in. No, He won’t. All right, now we come to our verse,
“But to him that worketh not, (That’s a tough pill to swallow, isn’t it?) but believeth on him that justifieth (What kind of people?) the ungodly,…” Now, even in Christ’s earthly ministry, did the righteous ever come to salvation? No. He gave the example: “Do healthy people need a doctor?” No. We like to stay as far away from those guys as we can. But when we’re sick, yes, we need one. Okay, now we’ve used this not too many weeks ago, but I love this one so much, I’ve got to use it again. Luke 15, the hundred sheep and the lost lamb. As soon as I read it, I think your memory will be shaken up. If you have a red-letter edition, it’s in red. It’s the Lord speaking. He spoke this parable saying:
“What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness,…” Not in the fold, the way the hymn writer put it. Do you remember that old hymn? There were ninety-and-nine that safely lay in the shelter of the fold. They’re not in the fold. They’re out in the desert.
And you have to be there, I guess my best picture of the desert is when we went from Amman Jordan to Petra. Who was along to Petra? Anybody in here? Rocky you were. You remember that? That long bus ride from Amman to Petra, just as flat as this floor and nothing on it but sand and gravel and camels. Now, what those camels ate, I’ll never know. But that was the desert as we have pictured in Scripture. That’s the wilderness.
All right, so he leaves the ninety-and-nine sheep, and with all the sparse little pieces of grass they just keep moving. They keep moving. I think most of you have read enough about sheep, they’re as dumb as the rock under their feet, so what did they do? They just go out all ninety-nine different directions. And in short order every one of them are what? They’re lost. They don’t know where they are.
But anyway, the parable doesn’t deal with that part, it’s dealing with the one who knows he’s lost! He’s caught someplace, maybe in a thicket, and he’s just bleating his little head off. And so the shepherd–
“…and go after that which is lost, until he find it? 5. And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbors, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.” The one and only. Now, let’s pick up the ninety-nine in the next verse.
“I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, who need no repentance.” So, what were those ninety-and-nine? Lost! Lost, why? Because they saw no need. There’s nothing wrong with me. I’m okay. Hard to take, isn’t it? But that’s the human race today. They see no need for salvation. I’m all right. I’m not any worse than the next guy. I’m just as good as my neighbor. That’s what they compare themselves to. But listen, they’re as lost as these ninety-nine sheep that were self-righteous – they had no need for repentance.
All right, now come back to Romans chapter 4, this is the total opposite of that scenario.
“But to him who worketh not, but believeth (or places his faith) on him (or on the Word of the One) who justifieth the ungodly,…” See, God can’t save the righteous person, because the righteous person says, I don’t need salvation. I’m okay. Do you see that? So, as I’ve said over the years I’ve been teaching, you can’t step into salvation until you know that you’re lost. That’s the first step and then that lost person can suddenly realize, yes, He, Christ, did it all. There’s nothing I can do.
“…but believeth on him who justifieth the ungodly, (consequently) his faith is counted for (What?) righteousness.” Now again, I say it over and over. I can’t comprehend all that. I don’t think any human being can. How the Creator God of the universe can look at that ungodly individual and save him the moment he puts his faith in the Gospel of Salvation, but that’s what the Bible teaches. But we also have to realize that when that ungodly person becomes a believer, he’s going to be a changed individual. He’s not going to continue in his ways of the world. He’s now a member of the Body of Christ.