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The Promise Comes By Faith (4:13-25)

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When God created man, He not only made him in His own likeness, He also gave him free will. We humans have the right to choose whether we will live according to God’s standards or not. Unfortunately, we have all chosen to do our will rather than God’s will. We have sinned and our sin has separated us from our Creator. However, God still loves us. He wishes to heal the breach that is between us because of our sin. How can God do this? By what principle can God declare us righteous without allowing our sin to go unpunished?

Many would say that they can become righteous through observing the Law of Moses or something similar. However, the Apostle Paul writes that this is not the case. In his inspired letter to the church at Rome, he cites the example of why God credited righteousness to Abraham. In chapter 4, verses 13 through 25 he writes, “For the promise to Abraham and to his seed that he should be heir of the world wasn’t through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void, and the promise is made of no effect. For the law works wrath, for where there is no law, neither is there disobedience. For this cause it is of faith, that it may be according to grace, to the end that the promise may be sure to all the seed, not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all. As it is written, “I have made you a father of many nations.” This is in the presence of him whom he believed: God, who gives life to the dead, and calls the things that are not, as though they were. Who in hope believed against hope, to the end that he might become a father of many nations, according to that which had been spoken, “So will your seed be.” Without being weakened in faith, he didn’t consider his own body, already having been worn out, (he being about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. Yet, looking to the promise of God, he didn’t waver through unbelief, but grew strong through faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what he had promised, he was also able to perform. Therefore it also was “reckoned to him for righteousness.” Now it was not written that it was accounted to him for his sake alone, but for our sake also, to whom it will be accounted, who believe in him who raised Jesus, our Lord, from the dead, who was delivered up for our trespasses, and was raised for our justification.”

From Abraham’s example, we see two problems with the idea that we can be justified in God’s sight by law. The first problem is that we have already broken God’ standards. We cannot repair having broken the law by adding another law to what we ought to do. Once we become sinners, we have to pay the penalty for sin. Adding another law does not do away with the penalty. It merely increases our trespass and exposes us to more of God’s wrath.

Paul uses the concept of a will to illustrate his point. Obtaining an inheritance depends upon satisfying the conditions specified in the will. If an heir violates the conditions, he will not receive the inheritance. If God’s promise to Abraham and his descendants was conditioned upon their keeping a law, the promise would have been useless because no one has been able to meet God’s standards.

The other problem with law, is that not everyone has it. Abraham lived before God gave the Law of Moses to the Israelites. Therefore, Abraham could not be declared righteous on the basis of the Law. On the other hand, Paul points out that where there is no law, there also cannot be any law breaking. Even though Abraham did not sin by breaking the Law, he still was a sinner.

If Abraham and his descendants are not declared righteous on the basis of the Law, then how was he declared righteous? It was because of his faith. Abraham believed what God promised him. Because he believed, God extended grace to him. God’s grace makes up for our imperfection. God’s grace also gives us the power to live righteous lives. In another place Paul writes, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,” (Titus 2:11-12 NIV)

How strong was Abraham’s faith? It was so strong that he had no doubt that God would do the impossible for him. God had promised Abraham children. But Abraham’s wife, Sarah, was barren. Abraham, himself, was well past the age when he could father a child. Yet, Abraham did not doubt God’s word. He knew that God had the power to do what He promised. Abraham believed, not just what God said, but in God, Himself. It was because of Abraham’s unwavering confidence in the character of God that God credited righteousness to him.

Abraham’s faith was not misplaced. Not only did his faith result in God crediting righteousness to him, it also enabled him to become a father. Physically, even though Abraham’s body was as good as dead, he became the father of Isaac. Metaphorically, Abraham became the father of all those who have the same kind of faith. In this way God fulfilled His promise to Abraham that he would become the father of many nations.

Abraham’s example provides us with the answer to how righteousness can be credited to us also. Just as God credited righteousness to Abraham because of Abraham’s faith, God will credit righteousness to us if our faith is like that of Abraham.

What was Abraham’s faith like? Abraham had faith both in God and what God promised. Like Abraham, we also must have faith in God. In another place Scripture says, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6 NIV)

Like Abraham, we also must believe in God’s promise. God promised Abraham that he would be a father. What is it that God has promised us? He has promised us Jesus. Specifically, God has promised us that Jesus’ death will pay the penalty for our sin. If we truly believe that Jesus died for our sin and rose again from the grave, God will credit righteousness to us just as He credited it to Abraham.

What are the results of having righteousness credited to us? If you would like to know, be sure to listen to our next program.