Romans 4:3, 17-22
Abraham, before the Law was added and before the Covenant of Circumcision (Rom. 4:9-12), was a Gentile and an ungodly idolater (Josh. 24:2-3). He was said to be a Syrian and ready to perish (Deut. 26:5).
God had promised Abraham a son when both he and Saran were ell past the age of childbearing. Abraham and Sarah were sexually dead (Rom. 4:19) – he was 100 years old and Sarah was 90 (Gen. 17:17); but Abraham believed God with a faith that was contrary to reason, nature, and science (Rom. 4:17-22) – all of which would have rendered the possibility of having an heir hopeless.
Abraham did not fulfill God’s “promise” by works. A promise cannot be received by works but it is by belief. Abraham “believed God” apart from works, ceremony, ritual, or Law.
His faith believed in the existence of something when there was no basis for hope (Rom. 4:18). He believed God before there was anything in logic, science, or nature that would suggest its substance.
Abraham’s faith rested solely on the word of the everlasting God of creation and life. He was forever proven to be justified or declared righteous before God entirely on the principle of faith alone (Rom. 4:3). This establishes forever an example and illustration for all that justification before God is available “if we believe on Him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification (Rom. 4:24-25). Let it be told far and wide and let all men hear that God declares the guilty, but believing sinner, to be absolutely righteous entirely on the principle of faith.
ABRAHAM’S FAITH WAS IN GOD
Faith must always emphasize the object of trust rather than the act of believing. It is the object of faith that saves us, not simply faith in itself. Abraham believed God for what God would do; today we are to believe God for what God has done.
This passage begins with a quotation from the Abrahamic Covenant:
“Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee” (Gen. 17:5; cf., 12:1-3; 15:5-6).
Here God promised Abraham that He would make him the father of a great “multitude” (Gen. 16:10; 28:3; 32:12; 48:4, 16, 19). Evidence for this is found in Abraham’s name change from Abram (Father of high and windy places) to Abraham (Father of a great multitude).
Abraham believed God and His promises and became an example to us of both saving grace and living faith (Vs. 23). Abraham had previously estimated himself and Sarah to be sexually dead, but God made a promise, and faith in God’s promise says thre is no problem in life too great for God to solve. We, like Abraham, often estimate certain situations in life too great for God to solve.
ABRAHAM’S FAITH WAS IN THE POWER OF GOD
Here the power of God is demonstrated over two impossible things: death and creation out of nothing.
The “dead” here represent the impossibility of Abraham and Sarah’s inability to procreate and is a type of spiritual death. God
quickeneth” represents the power of God to give Abraham and Saran sexual life and is a type of regeneration (Eph. 2:1-5), and resurrection’s transformation (1 Cor. 15:51-52; Phil. 3:21). This is creation. God calls things into being that are non-existent. Just as God called light out of darkness, so God called sexual productivity out of Abraham and Sarah’s sexual death. Likewise, He calls the sinner out of spiritual death into life. This is omnipotence.
ABRAHAM’S FAITH WAS IN THE REALM OF HOPE
Abraham believed in the realm of hope (Rom. 8:24). This promise of God to Abraham, concerning becoming the “father of many nations,” is the “hope of Israel,” just as Church-Age believers have the “hope of the Mystery’s calling” (Eph. 1:18 in context). Abraham believed in the realm of hope in order to be made righteous and sexually alive. Abraham was “not weak in faith.” He, through faith, considered now his 100-year-old body and Sarah’s 90-year-old body not dead! It was on this basis of faith that God told Abraham, “so shall thy seed be” (Gen. 15:5).
ABRAHAM’S FAITH WAS TRIUMPHANT
Triumphant faith not only resulted in happiness (“laughter”) but glorified God. The birth of Isaac glorified God. And, so our happiness depends upon knowing and believing God’s Word (promises for us in the Church Age—2 Cor. 5:7). This glorifies God!
ABRAHAM’S FAITH BROUGHT RIGHTEOUSNESS
The conclusion of Abraham’s faith was that God credited to his account the sum total of all that God approves or demands. Righteousness comes not by “works,” for “to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of works” (vss. 2-3). Works only puts the anxious sinner deeper into debt! Here is the wonderful surprise of God’s grace: “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” (vs. 5). Furthermore the righteousness that the sinner needs is not to be found in religious ceremony, ritual (vss. 10-12), or Law keeping (vss. 13-14). If this is true, then there can be only one conclusion of the matter: God’s righteousness comes only by grace through faith (vs. 16).
ABRAHAM’S FAITH IS OUR EXAMPLE
It is interesting to note that here we (like Abraham) are to believe in God the Father for salvation. In the context, Paul the Apostle, is laboring to convince those who have trusted in the flesh., the Law, the ceremonies, the sacrifices, etc. for righteousness, to believe God the Father’s Word concerning the finished work of Christ on their behalf. The work is finished, the Law is ended, the ceremonies are past, and righteousness is obtainable on the same corridors of time and brings powerful and clear illustration of what man must do today in order to be saved. We must “believe” –
- not behave,
- or be baptized,
- or work,
- or struggle with the Ten Commandments,
- or follow the Sermon the Mount, in order to be saved.
Note, it says, “If we believe…” (vs. 24).
Free from the Law, O happy condition,
Jesus hath bled, and there is remission;
Cursed by the Law and bruised by the fall,
Grace hath redeemed us once for all!