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Romans 4:6-8

The Apostle Paul writes to the world-renowned believers in Rome, the center of the world at that time, in order to answer a slanderous charge made to them against Paul and his message. Paul’s detractors claim his emphasis on faith overturns the law. Paul says that ” just living by the law” does not achieve personal justice before God, while “just living by faith” does. Paul then demonstrates what a just life looks like: harmonious living with Jesus as the leader. Paul also makes clear the choice a believer has: to walk in faith and the power of the resurrection and experience resurrection life, or walk in sin and unnecessarily experience the negative consequences.


Paul expands the defense of his gospel against slanderous charges from competing Jewish “authorities” to now include the biblical and Jewish heroes: Abraham and King David. Paul demonstrates that the Bible teaches both Abraham and David were justified before God by faith, and that is the only way any human can be justified before God.


It is God’s blessing to us that God considers believers righteous before him without considering their sins. By faith in God, our sin is covered and cannot prevent us from being in God’s family.

Since the Apostle Paul is demolishing the argument of competing Jewish “authorities,” who claim to be experts in Jewish law, meaning they claim to base their attack against Paul’s gospel message to the Gentiles based on scriptural arguments, it makes sense that Paul would fight fire with fire, and use scriptural arguments himself. That is exactly what Paul has done so far. In addition to arguing that the great founding biblical figure, Abraham, demonstrates that faith is the only means by which we are justified before God, now Paul turns to the greatest King of Israel, David. What does David have to say about having faith versus being a keeper of laws?

Paul now turns to a Psalm written by David relevant to the subject. In introducing the Psalm, Paul tells us what this Psalm of David says: it is a blessing that God considers any person righteous before Him without in any way considering our deeds.

In this and the following verse, Paul quotes Psalm 32:1-2. The introduction to Psalm 32 says “A Psalm of David, a contemplation.” This Psalm includes an admission by David that he is sinful, so it is also consistent with Romans 4:5, that God justifies the ungodly based on faith; David recognizes that he is ungodly. He does not compare himself with others; instead, David begins his contemplation with the wonderful reflection that it is a fantastic blessing that God is ready and willing to forgive.

The root of the Greek word translated “forgiven” in this verse occurs in Matthew 3:15 and is translated “let it be” as well as “consented.” When God forgives, He does not forget, for God’s knowledge has no limit. God consents to “let it be” without the consequence of separating us from belonging to His family as children.

The companion description to God forgiving our sin is that our sins are “covered.” The first occurrence of the root Greek word kalypto translated “covered” speaks of the waves covering the boat while Jesus slept. The waves subsumed the boat to the point that the disciples woke Jesus with the news they were about to die. God covers our sins to the point that they perish from standing between us and God. When we believe on Jesus, we are restored to full membership in God’s family, and God covers that sin. It does not go away, it just loses its power under the waves of God’s saving grace.

Nowhere in these two verses from King David’s Psalm is there any indication that God’s forgiveness is attached to any sort of rule following. There is no mention of circumcision, of keeping ceremonial laws, sacrifice, or tithes. There is only an assertion that humans are really blessed if God forgives them. So now in addition to demonstrating that God “counted” Abraham to be righteous, not because Abraham did anything that obligated God, but simply because Abraham believed (verse 3), now Paul has demonstrated from the Bible that King David understood that forgiveness is solely a matter of God’s grace. There is no act, no words, and no ceremony we can do, say, or perform that invokes upon God any sort of obligation. God has simply promised that if we will believe, He will forgive.

This is the core of Paul’s message to the Gentiles. In a Roman world where the power over every person’s life was vested in one man, Caesar, who could pronounce death over whoever he chose, there came the God-man to set free every human from the power of death itself. And this power is unleashed through faith in God’s promise. The competing Jewish “authorities” came to Rome to dispute this message and undermine Paul’s influence in the world, and their claim is that we must do certain things for God and achieve righteousness before God through certain acts, such as circumcision. As is typically the case, there is also perfect alignment between the privilege and importance of the Jewish “authorities” and the position they advocate for. By insisting that the Gentiles be circumcised and follow Jewish custom, they are also promoting their own importance as the primary authorities over Jewish custom and religious practice. Unlike the competing Jewish “authorities,” Paul seeks to follow Jesus’ example and serve the best interest of the Gentiles, at his own expense.

Biblical Text

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.”