We have been looking at the topic of faith and what it means
How does faith correspond with law?
Are faith and law mutually exclusive? – Do they go together?
Are we to follow the law, or are we to follow faith?
They can’t help it, it’s who they are (it’s in their nature) – And it’s who we are as well (it’s in our nature as well)
So, what is the purpose of the law then?
If we are all lawbreakers and we can’t help it, then what is the purpose of it?
The purpose of the law is to give us knowledge of sin
It tells us that we are lawbreakers, that we are sinners
It acts as a mirror – It only reflects what is truly there
When I look into the mirror of the law, I do not see my own goodness, but my badness – The law shows me how far I have fallen short of it
Remember, God’s standard is perfection – We will not be judged based on our own standard, but by God’s standard – And God’s standard is perfection, as is seen in the law
So, because we all fall short of it, Paul says in Romans 3:20, 20 “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” Romans 3:20
So, the whole purpose of the law then, is to show us that we are broken – That we have fallen short of God’s standard
Paul says, “All have sinned [broken the law] and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23
So… what is the purpose of faith then?
The last time we met we talked about Abraham
We talked about the fact that he is called the “Father of faith”
Why is he called the “Father of faith?”
He is called this because when God told him something, he believed it – He trusted the words of God – He had faith in the promises of God
When God told him that he would be the father of nations he believed it
When God told him that he would have a son, he believed it
When God told him that he would be a blessing to the world, he believed it
When God told him to kill his son Isaac, the one who was to be the blessing, he believed it – He did not waver, but was about to do it
He was about to kill his own son!
Now this makes absolutely no sense! – Put yourself in the sandals of Abraham – God told him that He would bless him with a son, and that this son was going to have another son, and this son was going to have more sons – And this is how God would make Abraham the father of nations
It was through his son Isaac – But now God tells him to kill Isaac – Again, this makes absolutely no sense! – But Abraham proceeds to do it anyway – He believed God’s Word
And because he “believed,” the Scripture tells us that, “It was counted to him as righteousness” Genesis 15:6, Romans 4:3
So… the whole point of this, is to say what Paul says in Romans 3:20, “By works of the law, no human being will be justified [made righteous] in his [God’s] sight” Romans 3:20
And Abraham is a perfect example of this – He was declared righteous not based on his keeping of the law, but by his faith – And so it is with us
This is what we will discuss in this next passage
13 For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 14 For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. 15 For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.
16 That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, 17 as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. 18 In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. 20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” 23 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.
What I want us to consider tonight is this:
“Why is faith such a big deal?”
Why do we focus on faith so much? – Why do we say, “I’m keeping the faith!” or “He has come to faith!” or “He is a man of great faith!”
We say this because faith is a big deal, and it’s a big deal because God has made it a big deal
But let’s see what the text tells us
Verse 13 reads, 13 For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 14 For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. Romans 4:13-14
In other words, “Abraham did not receive this promise because he was a law keeper, but because he had faith”
What Paul is saying is, “If the promise given to Abraham (that he was to be the father of nations) was based on his law keeping, then why did God say it was by his faith?”
Then he adds, “If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, [then] faith is null [empty, has no power] and the promise is void [useless]” Romans 4:14
In other words, “If it is the law keepers who are to be blessed as Abraham was blessed, then the faith of Abraham and what God says about Abraham has no power and His promise to him is useless, it’s void”
You see, God’s promise is based on faith, and not on law keeping – If it were based on law keeping then faith would have no meaning and no power, it would be empty
But we know from the text that there is great power in faith – Abraham was given this glorious position because he was a man of faith – He is called the “Father of nations” because he was a man of faith
So, why wasn’t it by law keeping? – Why did God give the promise to Abraham by his faith and not his law keeping?
Well, the answer is… Because no one can keep the law fully (not even Abraham)
Look at verse 15, Paul simply says, “For the law brings wrath” Romans 5:15
Because no one can keep the law fully, it brings wrath – It brings God’s retributive justice
In other words, “If the law could have been kept fully, then perhaps, it could have been the way God’s promise was given to Abraham” – But it was not – Abraham was a sinner – He was a law breaker – Therefore God gave him the promise through his faith
So, faith is a big deal, because God has made it a big deal
Well, Paul goes on
16 That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham. Romans 4:16
What Paul is saying is, “The reason the promise doesn’t depend on law keeping is because if it was on law keeping then it would not be on grace”
In other words, “If I were a law keeper, then I could demand God’s promise” – Just like when I work my 40 hours I can demand 40 hours worth of pay
But Paul tells us that the promise does not depend on law keeping, but it depends on “grace”
“Grace” is simply God giving us things we don’t deserve – It’s His undeserved favor
And Paul is telling us that God’s grace is what is behind the promise, (Abraham does not deserve the promise, but it’s given to him anyway)
You see, God does not have to give the promise – No! – He doesn’t have to give anything – He is not obligated to do anything – But He chooses to – This comes from His grace
And because it’s from His grace, it is, “guaranteed to all his offspring”
What Paul is saying is, “If we have faith like Abraham, then we are Abraham’s offspring – And the promise that was given to Abraham will apply to us as well”
You see, this is how we Gentiles enter into the blessings of God – It is through our faith – Just like Abraham was blessed because of his faith – We too, will be blessed because of our faith
So, how do we increase our faith?
If faith is the way God blesses us, then how do we increase it? – How do we have faith when it’s hard to have faith?
Well, let’s keep looking at our example, Abraham
18 In hope he [Abraham] believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. Romans 4:18-19
I said earlier that “Abraham believes even when it makes no sense” – Paul says it a little more eloquently here, he says, “In hope he believed against hope” – Well, this is just another way of saying, “When it was hopeless, Abraham hoped anyway”
Verse 19 says, “He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead”
You know, it’s interesting to note that this word translated “weaken” literally means, “to be sick” – And the phrase “good as dead” literally means, “to put to death”
So, you could read it, “When Abraham looked at his own body, he was not sick in his faith, even though his body was about to be put to death”
He was an old man – He probably looked at his 99 year old body and said, “Praise God! He is going to give me a child even when I’m preparing for death! – Even when I am an old man!”
It’s also interesting to note what this word “barrenness” means – It’s the word “nekrosis,” and it literally means “deadness”
You see, Paul is trying to communicate to us the hoplessness of the situation, so he’s using this death imagery to do it
So, you could read this passage, “When it was hopeless, Abraham hoped anyway. When he looked at his own body and realized that it was about to be put to death, he did not get sick in his faith, or even when he looked at his wife and considered the deadness of her womb, he did not get sick in his faith”
20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” Romans 4:20-22
You see, Paul is telling us that great faith is a faith that is “fully convinced” – A faith that sees God as “able to do what he says” – A faith that gives “glory to God” even though the situation seems hopeless
This is what God is looking for, and this is why Abraham’s “faith was counted… as righteousness”
The reason that God makes a big deal about faith is because faith is what was lost in the garden
And faith is what Satan wants to destroy in us
You see, “faith” simply means, “trust”
God told Adam and Eve not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil – “Trust me, you don’t want to eat from it” He says, “If you do, you will die”
What did the serpent tell Eve, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”Genesis 3:4-5
You see, what the serpent is trying to do, is destroy the faith of Eve – He is trying to destroy the trust that Eve has in God – He says, “You will not surely die. For God knows…”
What he is telling her is, “God is holding out on you, He’s holding back on you, you can’t trust Him, He knows something that you don’t”
And what happens next? She begins to disbelieve God’s Word and begins to believe Satan’s word – And she eats the fruit
In this moment she has lost her faith in God – She has stopped trusting in God’s Word
But what God is doing (and we find this throughout the entire story of the Bible) is reclaiming that which was lost in the garden
Faith was lost in the garden – Now God is looking for people that have it and people that want it – And those that have it, He blesses, so that they can have more of it
That’s why we have the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11 – By faith Abraham… By faith Sarah… By faith Isaac… By faith Jacob…
The list goes on and on – God is looking for men and women of faith
So, why is faith so important?
Because without it we cannot please God, Hebrews 11:6 says, “6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” Hebrews 11:6
And those that draw near to Him – Those that have faith in Him – Just like Abraham’s faith “was counted to him as righteousness” Paul tells us that our faith will be counted to us as righteousness as well
Verse 23 says, 23 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord. Romans 4:23-24
This word “counted” is an accounting term – It’s like when someone puts money into my account – They put it there, and now it’s mine – And this is what the Bible teaches about righteousness
That when we believe, when we have faith in what Jesus Christ has done for us, God credits our account with righteousness – We didn’t earn it, we don’t deserve it, but there it is!
You see, salvation, or righteousness is a gift from God – It’s not earned through law keeping – It is given through faith – Abraham was declared righteous because of his faith – And we too are declared righteous because of our faith
So, faith is a big deal, because God has made it a big deal and it’s the only way to Him – From the very beginning this is how it was – Abraham’s faith was in God’s Word and our faith is in God’s Word
And this is the way it should always be