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(Romans 4:7-8) Forgiven . . . Forgotten

(Romans 4:7-8) Forgiven . . . Forgotten

Ref: Romans 4:7–8

Have you considered recently the amazing truth that even though God knows everything about you, He still loves you? No matter how many times you fail Him, He never fails you. No matter how many times you prove that you deserve hell, He offers you Heaven. These are just a few of the profound truths that Paul reveals to us in Romans chapter 4.


Forgiven . . . Forgotten

Romans 4:7-8

Throughout the history of humanity, a thousand different ways have been invented to deal with sin and guilt.

One merely has to pick up a history book and begin reading.  A history book that is more concerned with retelling true history than it is in denigrating European civilization and you discover a remarkable effort by man to pay the penalty for his sins.

Indian tribes in this country had ancient practices of animal and human sacrifice.  The Aztecs who, in recent years have been touted as some all wise, spirit saturated people, literally sacrificed thousands of human beings every single year in accordance with their complex ritual calendar.  Chinese and Celtic history alike included the religious practices of child sacrifice.

Ancient Greece engaged in one form of child sacrifice called foundation sacrifices; the children were buried alive in the foundations of temples and other buildings to ensure the gods were satisfied and the buildings would remain standing over time.

Go to India and you’ll see a highly developed system of animal sacrifice.  You’ll also discover a history where India’s royalty sacrificed human beings as substitutes for their own imperfections and mortality.

The Bible records the practice of child sacrifice and God promises the death penalty for any of His people engaging in such practices.  In spite of that warning, several of Israel’s kings practiced it – King Ahaz in 2 Kings 16 is condemned for burning his son alive; the prophet Jeremiah condemns the rebellious, pagan Israelites for burning their sons and daughters (Jeremiah 7:31; 19:3-6; 32:35)

Above illustrations adapted from The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 4 (Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids, MI) 1986, p. 259 and “Sacrifice,” posted on

In the Middle East, the practice of offering children to the god Molech was a cruel and gruesome practice. Molech was represented by a bronze statue on top of a low furnace.  It had a human form and an ox’s head.  It was hollow on the inside and heated by the fire below until it became terribly hot.   The infant or the child would be put into the hollow middle of this statue and burned to death while drums drowned out their screams.

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 3 (Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids, MI) 1986, p. 401

Up through the last century, children have been thrown into rivers such as the Nile River in order to appease the gods.

Throughout the history of man, sacrifices have been offered to gods for sunshine, rain, harvest, victory in war, the barren womb, diseases, prosperity, and, most often, the appeasement of the angry gods over sin.

Making satisfaction before the gods is a fulfillment of what Paul wrote about in Romans chapter 2 where he said that unbelievers act out intuitive understanding of the law of God.  Even without having a copy of the Bible, people around the world intuitively know they have sinned against some sort of god and they need to create a way to satisfy that god.

The Greek Orthodox church and the Roman Catholic church teaches a form of appeasement called the doctrine of purgatory. Purgatory comes from the Latin verb that means, “to cleanse.”  The word never appears in the Bible but appears once in the fictitious Apocryphal book called 2 Maccabees.

These churches basically teach millions of followers that purgatory is a place where imperfect people go in order to make amends for their sins. You can’t go directly to heaven unless you’re perfect and since nobody’s perfect, everybody for the most part spends some time in the tormenting fires of purgatory.  You might stay there a few hours or a few thousand years, depending on how much sin must be burned away in the cleansing, purifying fire.

The only hope you have of having your time in purgatory shortened is through the prayers of priests still living and masses provided by relatives or friends in behalf of the deceased.

Every practicing Roman Catholic was offered an incredible opportunity during the year 2000 when the Pope declared the year 2000 a Jubilee year and offered several cathedrals around Europe as special sites where any faithful churchgoer who participated in the mass at one of those places was guaranteed they would never spend any time in purgatory.

The doctrine of purgatory which was reaffirmed at the Council of Trent in 1545 was rejected by the leaders of the Reformation who went directly to the New Testament Epistles and taught from the scriptures that people are free from the penalty of sin through faith in Jesus Christ and go straight to heaven upon their death.

There is no intermediate place of tormenting purification.

The Apostle Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:8, “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”

The point remains, millions of people around the world, in all sorts of religions are basically attempting to appease their god and make atonement for their sin and to somehow earn their way to heaven.

That somehow God could be paid off by a few prayers and a few coins and any other puny effort on our part!

Can you imagine after the service today pulling out of your parking space, racing through the parking lot, attempting to get to the restaurants before the Presbyterians do and accidentally smashing into the side of somebody’s parked car . . . worse yet, somebody’s pick-up truck.  A light blue Chevy pick-up truck.  That’s just recently been washed!  And I just happen to be walking out there to get in and drive away.  What if you got out and said, “Stephen, I’m so sorry for doing that – it’s all my fault – those Presbyterians made me do it – I’ll give you everything I’ve got on me – well, all I have is one dollar – here take it, it’s all I’ve got.”  Would I be satisfied?  A dollar isn’t gonna cut it.  A life of servitude maybe . . . but not a dollar.

Imagine breaking the commandment of God while He stood there watching . . . and then saying, “God, I’m sorry about that – look I’ll burn a candle for you . . . I’ll give you some money – I’ll promise I’ll go to church faithfully.”

Do you realize that, over the course of a lifetime, the average person will spend 3 years in meetings, 19 years sleeping, 6 years eating and 5 years waiting in line or in traffic.

And if that same person never missed a Sunday morning worship service their entire life, they would have spent 5 1/2 months in church.

That’s right.  5 years waiting in line. . .5 months in church.

Isn’t God impressed?!

Never miss a church service and you still spent 18 more years than that, sleeping!

The question remains – how do you satisfy God regarding sin?  Is it sacrifices and self-abasement . . . is it, penances and purgatory?  

What does the Bible say brings justification to man and satisfaction to God?!

That’s the question Paul has begun to answer.

In Romans chapter 3 he described the doctrine of justification.

Here in Romans chapter 4 he illustrates the doctrine of justification by faith alone. 

In Romans 3 it is proposition . . . in Romans 4 it is personality.

In other words, Paul will show us what justification by faith alone looks like, in the life of a sinner!

In our last study we looked at the history of David’s sinful life.  David lived a life of outward obedience to the laws of God, but a hidden life that included coveting his neighbor’s wife, adultery, deception, murder, lying and hypocrisy.

And he covered it all up!

Paul will use David in Romans chapter 4 as an illustration of undeserved, unmerited grace and forgiveness because David’s case was hopeless.

David didn’t deserve to be forgiven by God. 

In Romans 4 verse 7 Paul quotes from Psalm 32, a Psalm David penned after

confessing his sin concerning adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her

husband Uriah. 

David’s opening lines of that poem shout with great shout of joy, “Blessed are

those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, And whose sins have been

covered  8.  “Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take

into account.

There are three key words to describe the depths of our justification and God’s satisfaction in these 2 verses.  I recommend you underline them.  The first is the word, “forgiven” in the middle of verse 7.  The word “covered” at the end of that same verseand third, the word account – or imputed at the end of verse 8.

First of all, David says, “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven.” (Romans 4:7a)

The word “forgiven” is from the Greek verb aphiemi which means “to send away, or, to take away.”

This was John the Baptist’s message when he introduced Jesus Christ as “the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29).

He bears it away. 

David was no doubt thinking of the practices of the Old Testament atonement for sin.

Once a year the High priest, according to Leviticus 16, would bring two goats before the altar.  One would be put to death and his blood shed.  The High Priest would place his hands on the other goat and, Moses writes, “confess over it all the iniquities of the sons of Israel, and all their transgressions in regard to all their sins; and he shall lay them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness…(Leviticus 16:20-22)

It was William Tyndale who invented the word “scapegoat” for this goat which bore the sin of the people.  He put it in his 16thcentury translation of the Old Testament here in Leviticus 16.

And to this day when we talk about a “scapegoat”, we’re talking about somebody who took the blame for something somebody else did.

“He was the scapegoat for that business failure. . . she was the scapegoat for that crime.”

It means they were innocent, but they took the penalty for it.

Peter wrote, “He Himself, bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live unto righteousness.” (1Peter 2:24)

This was the prophecy of Isaiah concerning Christ,  4. “Surely our griefs He

Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried . . . He was pierced

through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities;  the

chastening for our well-being fell upon Him . . .the Lord has caused the

iniquity of us all to fall on Him.”  (Isaiah 53:4-6)

In other words, Jesus Christ is the ultimate and final scapegoat of atoning law.  He carried our blame for us, even though we are the guilty ones and He was innocent.

So David is not simply writing, “Blessed is the one who has had his sins taken away.”  He is actually saying, “Blessed is the one who has had the blame for his sins placed on the scapegoat and he himself, though guilty, is allowed to go free.”

Another illustration of cleansing from guilt was in regards to the lepers.  We often think of leprosy as being a very contagious disease and yet, it is not.  There are many kinds of leprosy.  I have found at least 3 different kinds of leprosy in my studies.  Perhaps you’ve read in the Bible the account of a leper was white with leprosy.  When Miriam rebelled against Moses, she was turned white with it.  That kind of leprosy began as small scales on the flesh.  But they would grow and spread until the person was covered with white scales. 

In other words, Miriam was given in one moment from God, an advanced, terminal case of leprosy.

Throughout the Old Testament, leprosy was considered an act of God’s judgment, and it indeed was one of the things God used to discipline His sinful, unrepentant people.

Unfortunately, the church in the early centuries, failed to distinguish Israel from the New Testament church and therefore applied much of the Old Covenant with Israel to the New Testament believer.

One of the more tragic results of that form of interpretation, popularized today as Covenant theology, was in relation to lepers.  The church just assumed that leprosy was still the sign of God’s judgment. 

In fact, in the middle ages, the church would have a burial service for one with leprosy.  The priest would walk into the sanctuary, holding a crucifix and wearing a stole.  Behind him would come the leper, dressed in black.  And he would follow the priest up to the altar and the priest would read over him the burial rights.  He was living and yet, he was considered dead. 

The church would cut a little slat into the wall of their sanctuary, called the “leper’s squint.”  And the lepers would come and peer in through the leper’s squint and be forced to try and worship God from their vantage point of isolation.

In the Old Testament, the leper who decided to repent and offer sacrifice for his sin that was the root of his disease, the Book of Leviticus prescribed that he bring two birds to the High Priest.  The Priest would kill one bird and they would shed his blood in a little basin.  They would sprinkle blood from that bird onto the leper to signify that the innocent animal had died on behalf of the leper’s sin.  Then they would take the living bird and sprinkle blood on it and then let that bird go free  . . . that bird signified the carrying away of the leper’s guilt.

Here’s the point.  We are all covered with the leprosy of sin.  And we all have a terminal case.  But Jesus Christ, not only died on behalf of our sin, but carried the guilt away.

Donald Grey Barnhouse said, “Just as that free flying bird flew into the heavens, so Christ ascending into the heavens signified that our guilt was carried away.”

Adapted from Donald G. Barnhouse, Romans Vol. 2; Eerdmans  p.251

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is unearned freedom . . . this is undeserved spiritual health; this is unmerited grace; it is received with great joy!

The second key word in David’s song is the word “covered.” The last part of verse 7b; “Blessed are those whose sins have been covered.”

Again, this is an Old Testament concept dealing with the Day of Atonement.  The High Priest took the blood of that bull and sprinkled it on the mercy seat inside the Holy of Holies.  It covered, so to speak, the contents of that ark – that wooden box over laden with gold.  Inside that box were the tablets of stone upon which God had inscribed the 10 commandments.  The people of Israel had broken every one of those laws.  But now, blood was covering as it were, the broken law and thus, God saw the broken law as atoned for – for God looked at His tablets of law through the blood that had been shed on behalf of His people.

By the way, every year this was done simply looked forward to that coming sacrifice which would, once and for all, do away with sin (Hebrews 10:10-12)

For the Old Testament believer, his sin was covered temporarily, until Christ paid for it finally.  David’s ticket to heaven would be paid for in the future.  Your ticket to heaven was paid for in the past.

Every sin David committed was paid for in Christ.  That means that every sin you committed was also paid for in Christ.  Which means that your sins of the future have already been paid for by Christ in the past.

You know what that means?  That means that God knew what sin you would commit tomorrow – Christ died for it 2,000 years ago.  Every sin you will commit has already been paid for by Christ.

You know what that means? That means our God who had His son pay the penalty for you sins in the past, who calls us to live holy lives, yet knew we wouldn’t and, in fact, knew the exact sins we would commit, not only placed those sins on Christ but He doesn’t strike us dead!

In other words, God the Father knows the sins we will commit, and placed on his Son those sins, and He paid the penalty for those sins, then He watches us commit that sin, knowing the agony His son went through because of it . . . and He still loves us in spite of it!

You better believe it, “How blessed is the man whose sins have been covered by Christ.”

What an incredibly gracious God!

The third word David uses is the word that Paul spends a lot of time on and we will see it appear throughout chapter 4.

Let me touch on it briefly here; Paul writes in Romans 4:8, “Blessed is man whose sin the Lord will not take into account.”

You see, each one of these phrases has a different nuance.

This phrase, “take into account” is one Greek word from logizomai.  It’s an accounting word – you could render it, “He doesn’t put it into His ledger.”

We have a phrase that comes from this word: we talk about someone having a “clean slate.”

That’s the idea here.  The ledger has been wiped clean of any debt of sin.

This same word appeared in verse 3 in a positive way – “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.”  In other words, Abraham’s ledger had written into it righteousness.  It was reckoned. 

That word “reckoned” will appear several times in chapter 4. Paul “reckoned” this and reckoned that . . .  this tells us that Paul was originally from North Carolina.  He reckoned.

The word is used positively in verse 3 and negatively in verse 8.  Nothing of sin was reckoned to the account of David’s ledger. 

In other words, the believer’s ledger of life has had every sin erased and righteousness embossed on each page.  You cannot remove it – it’s permanent.

Your record is clean.

It is amazing to me to hear and read of things people do in order to “clear their name.”

I read just last week that Jay Leno, the host of the Tonight Show, recently spent an incredible amount of money to have his record cleaned up.  If you can believe it, when he was in High School, 30 years ago, he was suspended for burning rubber in the school parking lot.  Apparently 30 years ago, that kind of action resulted in suspension.  And Jay Leno was suspended from school for 3 days.  It seems Jay wanted that incident stricken from his High School records.  He recently donated 250,000 dollars worth of computer equipment to his High School in exchange for having that black mark removed from his school records.  250,000 dollars for a clean slate.

Steve May, The Story File (Hendrickson Publishers) 2000, p. 131

That’s nothing!

There will come a day when every human being would give everything he owned – everything he had – everything he wanted to have – in exchange for his slate being cleansed of sin.

How blessed is the man or woman who has trusted the work of Christ on their behalf; those who will one day stand before a holy God and hear Him say, “I have already forgiven you of your wickedness and will remember your sins no more (Jeremiah 31:34). 

“Oh, you, ‘As far as the east is from the west, so far have I already removed your transgressions from you.’”  (Psalm 103:12)

In other words, God will say to you, “I distinctly remember forgetting your sin . . . they are forgiven and forgotten.

What hope did David have?  His case was hopeless!

What hope do you have before a holy God?  Your case, and mine is equally hopeless.

You and I have a horrible record of sin . . . there isn’t a single person among us who hasn’t done many things you aren’t ashamed of – not one of us! 

Only you know the depths of the battle you fight over the memories of your sin; only you know the current struggle you face daily against the filth of your flesh.

Adapted from Charles R. Swindoll, Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life (Multnomah Press, Portland, OR) 1983, p. 253

None of us could ever merit or earn or deserve the grace of God.

We have simply by faith, handed our filthy ledgers to God, believing God’s redemptive work on our behalf through Christ alone and God has handed them back to us, eternally wiped clean.

How magnificent is the grace of God.

One author wrote, “The files of heaven are filled  with stories of redeemed rebels.”

And “how blessed is the one whose sins have been forgiven . . . and forgotten.

Is this declaration of joy that David wrote, reflected in the poem of another songwriter who wrote:

My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought;

            My sin, not in part, but the whole;

            Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more,

(no other religion can sing that – my sin is nailed to the

cross and I bear it no more!)

            Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord, oh my soul.

Sins forgiven . . . sins forgotten . . . forever!

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