Tag Archives: faith

Faith

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?

In chapters 1 and 2 Paul says that everyone is guilty – Jews and Gentiles alike – Because they have all have broken the law – They are all lawbreakers, all sinners

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

Romans 4:13-25

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”

What is…

 

“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. 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, 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

Link to Translations

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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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