Abraham, The Man of Faith

Last time we met we considered the question, “Is it better to keep the law, or is it better to have faith?”

We discovered that if you think it is better to keep the law then you have a tall order to complete

We talked about God’s standard – The fact that His standard is perfection – God is holy, His heaven is holy, and only holy [perfect] people go there

We discovered that faith and law have different roles – The role of the law is like a mirror – It’s designed to reveal who we are – Faith, on the other hand is the vehicle by which we are justified [declared not guilty] before God

reflection

So, law is not the vehicle by which we are declared “not guilty” – In fact the law is the exact opposite of this – The law declares us “guilty” before God – That is its role – That is the purpose for which it was created

Paul says in Romans 3:20, “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in His [God’s] sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin”

So, the role of the law is to bring “knowledge of sin” – It is to make known what is really there – Just like a mirror does

And just like when we look into a mirror and see who we really are, we then know what we need to do

If I have mud on my face, the mirror will show it to be true – If my nose hair has breached its boundary, then the mirror will show it to be true – I don’t argue with the mirror, but instead take action – I take some water and wash my face – Or, I take some clippers and clean up my nose hair

It is the same with the law and with faith – The law shows me what I must do – And what I must do is accept the free gift of salvation by faith – By trusting God

So, now in chapter 4 Paul is going to build on these truths and communicate that this is always the way it was – Salvation was always by faith, it was never by the law – He will tell us that salvation by faith is not a New Testament concept, but the way it always was

Romans 4:1-12

What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: 

“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, 

and whose sins are covered; 

blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.” 

Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. 10 How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. 11 He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, 12 and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised. 

Tonight, I want us to consider an example of this truth

Just like we appreciate examples to help understand something, so it was in those days

Paul, is going to say, “Okay, you want to see an example of this truth – You want to see an example of righteousness by faith, let me show you, let me tell you about Abraham”

First of all, who is Abraham?

Well, Abraham is known to the Jews as “Father Abraham”

Why is this?

Because Abraham was the person God chose to make a nation out of – Every single Jew living today could say that Abraham is their father because the entire Jewish race comes from Abraham

In Genesis 12 God says to Abraham [Abram], “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing” Genesis 12:1-2

Now, something you should know about Abraham is that when he was called by God to leave his country and go to the Promised Land he was 75 years old!

I don’t about you, but if I were 75, I would not be expecting to be a new father!

But more than this I would not be expecting my wife who is 65 years old and barren to get pregnant either!

But God tells Abraham, “Go from your country… to the land I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation Genesis 12:1-2

God is telling old Abraham that he will not only be a father, but that he will be the father of a nation – Wow!

It’s interesting to note here that before this happened Abraham’s name was “Abram” – “Abram” literally means “exalted father” or “high father”

But God changes his name from Abram to Abraham – “Abraham” means “father of a multitude”

Can you imagine Abraham’s response to this, “Uh… you want my name to be father of a multitude……? How about just one?”

Again, let’s not forget he is 75 years old, and his wife is 65

In Genesis 17:4 God says to Abraham [father of a multitude], “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.” Genesis 17:4-5

In Genesis 15 God tells Abraham, “’Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be’” Genesis 15:5

So, what happens next?

Although God promises Abraham a son, it does not happen for another 25 years

What does Abraham do this whole time?

Well, the Bible tells us that he is faithful, no matter how unlikely the reality was that he would become a father at age 100, he believes it anyway – He believes it although it makes no sense

Genesis 15:6 says, “And he believed the Lord, and He [God] counted it to him as righteousness”

Abraham is known as the father of faith

Why?

Because he consistently believed what God said

Later, when, God fulfills His promise and Isaac is born, He tests Abraham and tells him to offer up Isaac as a sacrifice to Him

How does Abraham respond? – Does he argue with God? – Does he refuse to carry out His demands? – Nope. He proceeds to do exactly what God tells him to do – He doesn’t even argue

The text tells us that Abraham “rose early” the next “morning, saddled his donkey,” “cut the wood for the burnt offering” and “went to the place of which God told him” Genesis 22:3

Now this is faith! To do what God says even when it makes absolutely no sense

To highlight this great faith we read these words in verse 5, Abraham says to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you”

The “come again” here is written in the plural – Abraham is saying, “We will both return to you”

He doesn’t know how, he just knows that God is good, and would not ask him to do this for no reason.

In other words, he knows that God is for him, and not against him – He chooses to act on the basis of his faith and not his emotions, or his logic – He chooses to trust God even when it makes no sense

Abraham is called the “father of faith” because his faith was tested by God and was proven reliable – This is why Paul says (quoting Genesis) “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness” Romans 4:3

Okay, back to Romans

What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Romans 4:1-3

In other words, Paul is saying, “If you need proof that righteousness is not gained by doing good things but rather by simply believing God, just look at Abraham!”

Abraham was declared righteous not on the basis of his good works, but on the basis of faith

Basically, what God is saying to Abraham here is, “Abraham, because you believe me, I am declaring you not guilty, you are righteous in my sight, you are justified!”

Again, to be justified simply means “to be declared not guilty” and to be made righteous basically means the same thing – You are made right in the eyes of God, because you have been justified

Well he goes on, Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness” Romans 4:4-5

In other words, “Those that do good works earn something – They are owed something, its their due, they’ve earned it, but the Bible teaches that salvation cannot be earned – It teaches that salvation is a gift – And gifts cannot be earned, they can only be received”

When we go to work, and do what we have to do for two weeks, at the end of that two weeks we all expect to be paid – We expect it because we’ve earned it – It’s our due

Our employer has to pay what he agreed to pay – If he doesn’t, he would be a thief

But the Bible teaches that God does not owe anyone anything – Anything He gives is based solely on his grace, it can’t be earned – “Grace” is God’s unearned favor

Hypothetically speaking, if we could make it to heaven based on our good works, we could say to God, “God, you have to let me into heaven, you owe me!” – We can demand salvation

God forbid!

Who is God in this example? Is it Him, or is it us? – We don’t get to tell God anything – He is the Creator, we are the created – He is the infinite, all knowing God, we are just people

So, salvation was, and will always be a free gift that is given by God to those that believe in Him – Those that have faith

To highlight this further, Paul goes on to talk about circumcision

Is this blessing [righteousness] then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. 10 How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? Romans 4:9-10

You see, the Jews believed that along with doing good works, you had to be circumcised if you hoped to get into heaven – Or another way to put it would be, “You have to keep the law, and the law says you have to be circumcised”

Well, Paul responds to this and says, “It was not after, but before he was circumcised. 11 He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised” Romans 4:10-11

In other words, “Abraham was declared righteous before he was circumcised – The circumcision he received was only a sign of the righteousness that God gave him”

You remember what God said when He called Abraham? – In Genesis 17:4 God said to him, “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations” Genesis 17:4

In calling Abraham, and declaring him righteous, God is also making a “covenant” with him – A “covenant” simply means to make an agreement with someone – God is making, and committing to an agreement with Abraham

Basically, it is God saying to Abraham, “Because you believe me, I am declaring you righteous, and because you are righteous, I am going to make an agreement with you, and this agreement will go forward to every single human being who has your kind of faith”

God is making a covenant with Abraham, based on his faith – And the sign of the covenant will be circumcision

But circumcision has no power in and of itself – It’s just a sign

It’s kind of like baptism – We know that baptism doesn’t save us – But is just a sign that points to the inward reality of our faith – It’s to show the world that “I believe in Jesus, and I am going to live the rest of my life for Him”

Okay, what is the purpose of all this?

Verse 11, “The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well” Romans 4:11

In other words, “The purpose was to show everyone that saving faith is not found in rituals, or doing good works, but by believing God, how Abraham believed God” – It’s an open invitation to all people to have faith in God and receive salvation, just like Abraham did

But this invitation is not only to the uncircumcised but to the circumcised as well – Not only to the Gentiles, but the Jews as well – It’s to everyone

Verse 12 says, 12 and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.” Romans 4:12

You see, Paul is saying that Abraham, the father of Judaism was not declared righteous because of what he did, but what he believed

What Paul is saying is, Old Testament faith was never built on the basis of good works, but was always built on faith – And Abraham (the founder) is the perfect example of this

You see, the Abrahamic Covenant was the precursor to the New Covenant

The New Covenant is what we live under today

The New Covenant is what Jesus has ushered in

And the New Covenant is built on the same foundation as the Abrahamic Covenant – That is faith, or belief

We find this everywhere in the New Testament

16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life. John 3:36

24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. John 5:24

35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” John 6:35

40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. John 6:40

2Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this? John 11:25-26

I can go on and on – I only quoted from the Gospel of John, but you could find these kinds of references throughout the entire Bible

You see, the Bible teaches that the only way to God is by believing in what Jesus did – It never was, and never will be by doing good works

According to the Bible, the only way to please God is to live a life of faith – Hebrews tells us that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” and that “without faith it is impossible to please [God]” Hebrews 11:1, 6

And this is what Paul is telling us as well

So, my hope and prayer is that we live this way – That we wouldn’t be people who try and make it by our own merits – But people who rely solely on the grace that is offered us in the person of Jesus Christ

Link to Translations

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2 responses to “Abraham, The Man of Faith

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