For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed 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 made of no effect, because the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression.
Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us.
Father, as we look into Your word, we thank You as we just sang, that there is no other name, “neither is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” Thank You Jesus, that You have come and made the way open for us to approach Your throne of grace. You have made it open so that we could stand in Your presence, and we thank You that You are here in this place, by Your Spirit, now; for You inhabit the praises of Your people, and You are where two or more are gathered in Your name. So God, minister by Your grace this morning, and teach us by Your word, for we ask this in Jesus’ name. And all God’s people agreed saying, “Amen.”
You can be seated.
We have seen, as Paul has masterfully shown, that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Romans, chapter 3, verse 10 says “there is none righteous, no, not one. There is none who understand, there are none who seek after God. They are all gone away; they have together become unprofitable; there is none that does good, no, not one.” And in chapter 1 of Romans, Paul made it very clear that the hedonist is lost; the person who openly practices sin in rebellion against God’s commands, both those written and those written upon the heart, in the form of the conscience. And then in chapter 2, we saw that the moralist is also guilty before God, because, although they look out at the hedonist and say, “Boy, those people, they sure are worthy of sin.” They practice the same sin. And then we looked also at the religionist, the person who follows a codified set of rules and ethic, and they too are guilty before God. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” Romans, chapter 3, verse 23. That’s Paul’s concluding remark. And then he knows, because of his heritage, because of his background as a Pharisee, that is, a lawyer, a Jewish lawyer; he knows the objection. He knows that someone would say, when Paul says, “There is none righteous, no, not one,” someone would say, “Well what about Abraham?” The Bible says Abraham is righteous. And so they’d say, “So clearly you have a problem Paul, because there’s none righteous, and Abraham’s righteous. And of course his descendants they are righteous too. Right?” And so the nation of Israel, they counted themselves as righteous because they were descendants of Abraham, and they had the Law of Moses, and they had the Temple, and they had the priesthood; and so, “Of course Paul, you’ve got a problem. Abraham was righteous, and therefore his descendants are righteous.” And so Paul, here in chapter 4, has come to that very thing. And we saw last week, in chapter 4, verse 1 he says, “Well, what shall we say then about Abraham our father? What did he find pertaining to the flesh? Well let’s see what he found.” And so in the first 12 verses we saw, Paul makes it very, very clear that Abraham was not justified, or made righteous because of anything he did. “It’s not of works, lest anyone should boast.” And so there’s no boasting for even Abraham.
And now he continues, and he zeroes in on the promise here in verses 13 through 25. This whole section of chapter 4 could be summed up in the promise. Because, you see, God gave a promise to Abraham; many times did He rehearse this, or reiterate this promise to Abraham in the book of Genesis. We find it in Genesis 12, at Abraham’s first calling. We find it again in Genesis 15, and then in chapter 17, and then again in chapter 22, God is constantly reaffirming His promise to Abraham, and ultimately, not just to Abraham, but to all those who would come from Abraham. Because part of the promise was that he would become a great nation, he would become the father of many nations, and that he would be a blessing to the whole world. And so, the nation of Israel, those who descended from Abraham, they look back at that and they say, “See, we have inherited this promise through Abraham, because Abraham was righteous.”
And so Paul says, “For the promise,” verse 13, “that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.” So see, in this section, as we’re going to see, in these verses in chapter 4, Paul is going to show very clearly in verses 13 through 15, that the promise is secured, not by works of righteousness according to the law, but the promise is, and was secured by faith. Then he goes on in verses 16 through 17 to show that because the promise was secured by faith, through Abraham, the promise is therefore available to all who believe. The promise is accessible to everyone who has like faith with Abraham, because he becomes the father of the faithful, those who have faith.
Then he goes on in verses 18 through 21 to show the nature of promise-securing faith. What does that kind of faith look like? A faith that lays hold of the promise of God. So we see in the first section that Abraham was justified, or made righteous, or given the promise, not by works, but by faith. Then that promise is accessible or available to all by faith. What is the nature of that faith that secures the promise, in verses 18 through 21. And then in verse 22, we’ll see the result of faith. And then finally an application here in this passage.
And so as we considered last week, as we were looking at the life of Abraham, as it is given to us in the book of Genesis; and I did say last week, and I think it’s important to recognize that when we’re talking about Abraham, we’re not talking about Lincoln. Although he is in the news quite a bit these days, with the movie about him coming out this last year. And so, you know, there are many people who are thinking about him. But the Abraham we’re talking about here is not Abraham Lincoln; although this Abraham also is famous; he lived about 4,000 years ago, was called of God, and was the first to follow God by faith. When he was 75 years old, he went out from all that he had previously known, and he apprehended a promise that was spoken to him by God; and he apprehended that promise, not because he did anything great, but because he believed in God who promised.
And so his departure was an act of faith. When he began to follow God, it was following God on a mere word. God says, “You follow Me, and I will make you…” and then God gives a great promise to him. So the promise had nothing to do with anything great in Abraham, other than the fact that he heard God’s promise and said, “Okay, I’m going to follow You based on that. And so he did so, by faith. He had no assurance other than God’s word; and he put all his confidence upon that word that God spoke to him. Now that’s pretty awesome, considering that if you or I heard a voice calling us to go and do something, we might be a little bit concerned, don’t you think? [laughs] I hope. And yet God spoke to him and somehow God reveals Himself to Abraham, and Abraham, in that revelation, he begins to follow. And not just he, but his wife Sarah; they trusted in the faithfulness of God. Hebrews, chapter 11, The Hall of Faith in the scriptures, in verse 11, tells us that’s what they trusted in. They trusted that God was faithful, that He would make good on what He said. And so they laid hold of the promise. What promise? Well, it’s rehearsed, as I said, many times in Genesis. God says, in chapter 12 of Genesis, “I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Then again in chapter 15, verse 5, “Then He brought him outside and said, ‘Look toward heaven,’” God did, spoke to Abraham, “’Look toward heaven, count the stars if you’re able to number them.’ He said, ‘So shall your descendants be.’”
Then in chapter 17, verse 2, “’I will make a covenant between Me and you, and I will multiply you exceedingly.’” Verse 6, “’I will make you exceedingly fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you.’” Verse 8, “’I will give you and to your descendants this land on which you stand as a stranger.’” So God gives multitudes of promises.
Now along the way, God tests Abraham’s faith. Any of you ever been tested in your faith? God tests his faith; and He tests his faith in a very awesome way. You see God had promised Abraham, when he was 75 years old, although Abraham and his wife, they were childless, his wife barren; He says, “I’m going to give to you a child.” Ultimately He rehearses that promise again and says, “You’re going to have a son, you’re going to name him Isaac.” And so he has a son, he names him Isaac, and then about 20 years or more pass, and God comes to Abraham one day, and He says, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, and get thee into the land of Moriah, and offer him as a sacrifice on one of the mountains that I will tell thee of.” Everything that God had promised to Abraham was bound up in that son. And God says, “I want you to lay him down, I want you to take his life. I want you to sacrifice him.”
And so Abraham, he rose early the next morning; he got everything ready; he prepared wood for a burnt offering. And he took Isaac and two of his servants, and they traveled on a three-day journey to Mt. Moriah; ultimately Mt. Moriah is the city called Jerusalem. And he takes him there on the top of that mountain, which just so happens to be at 777 meters above sea level; kind of interesting. There’s no coincidence, right? And so he takes him up there; he’s ready to put his son, his only son, Isaac, to death, because God commanded him to do so. And there in the midst of it, God says, “Withhold your hand. Now I know that you withhold nothing from Me.” And so God rehearses His promise to him once again. And He provides a sacrifice there, a ram that they offer to the Lord.
Now, it’s interesting, awesomely interesting, that it’s at that exact same place that Jesus, the true sacrifice, was crucified. So, Abraham is a type, his son Isaac a type, an illustration, a foreshadowing of what would come. “The only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth,” crucified there on that same mountaintop. And so God promised time and time again that He would bless Abraham, and make is a blessing, because ultimately, through Abraham would come the Messiah, Jesus; the One that we worship today, He comes through Abraham. He promised descendants, and land, and impact, and significance.
And Paul interprets that promise from God here in verse 13 of Romans, chapter 4, as a promise that he would inherit the world. Now God never explicitly says that in His promises in Genesis, but this is how Paul interprets it, that “you’re going to inherit the world.” And so did this promise come to Abraham and his descendants. But did it come by the law? Well, Paul says here, in this passage, that, “no, it did not come through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.” It came through faith. But it’s interesting that he says, “through the righteousness of faith.” What exactly is meant by the righteousness of faith? You see righteousness, or maybe we can better define it as a right standing with God; a right standing with God is key to receiving the inheritance. It’s key to receiving the promise. So, you must be in right standing with God, to be able to receive the promise, to be able to be worthy of, if you will, the inheritance that God is desiring to give. Now that right standing with God, which Abraham had, Paul has already rehearsed that. In Genesis chapter 15, verse 6, it says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted unto him as righteousness.” So, God gave to Abraham a right standing, He looked upon him, although he is and was a sinner like us all, He looks upon him and He says, “I am now declaring that you have a right standing with Me.” And God is in the position to be able to say whether or not a person has a right standing with Him or not. And so He looks upon Abraham and says, “You have a right standing with Me.”
Now Paul has said, Romans, chapter 3, verse 10: “There are none righteous.”
And the objection would be, “Well, Abraham was righteous.”
And Paul says, “You’re absolutely right, but that was not according to his works.” That’s not because he did anything spectacular to earn a right standing with God. But a right standing with God is essential; it is a must if you are to receive the promise, if you are to receive the inheritance. God can only bestow the inheritance upon a person who has a right standing with Him. But Romans, chapter 3, verse 20 says this, you can look just back a few verses; Romans 3:20: “Therefore by the deeds of the law,” by the works of the law, “no flesh shall be justified in God’s sight.” The New Living Translation says this: “No one can ever be made right with God by the doing of what the law commands.” “No one can ever be made right with God by the doing of what the law commands. The law simply shows us that we’re sinful.” “By the law comes the knowledge of sin.” We are able to see our sinful condition with, or before God, by His law. Because, you see, the law, it reveals righteousness. That is the purpose of the law; it reveals righteousness. And when we see what righteousness is, we very quickly deduce that we are not that. We don’t measure up. And so Abraham, he secured the promise; but he did so, Paul says, by faith, which brought him into a right standing with God. So his faith in God, his trust, his confidence in God brought him into a right standing with God. “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted unto him as righteousness;” he gained a right standing with God. And this made him eligible, it qualified him to inherit the promise.
So Paul continues, verse 14, Romans, chapter 4: “For if…”
Now, I’ve told you before that growing up I struggled with dyslexia. God is faithful, and He has marvelously been faithful to me in this area, with dyslexia. But one of the things that I still retain, as a part of dyslexia, I have this rare thing, really weird thing, where I just miss words. When I’m reading, I just skip words. They’re not there to me; I don’t see them. And so sometimes I’ll read something, and it makes no sense to me, theologically, because I’m going, “No, that just doesn’t fit with my theological understanding.” And so I have to go back, and I have to read word by word by word. I skipped this word “if” like a dozen times this week while I was reading through this, and the verse just made no sense to my theological understanding. I’m going, “Does it…” So would you just circle it, in a big way, in your Bible, for me. And you can just write next to it, “For Miles,” just circle the word “If;” “If.”
“For if those who are of the law are heirs…” If you take the if out of there, you got problems with your theology. So, “If those who are of the law are heirs, then faith is made void and the promise is made of no effect, because the law brings about wrath.” And actually, it would be a better translation to remove the word because there, and input the word for; it’s the Greek word gar; “for the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression.”
So if it were in fact true, that Abraham and his descendants were recipients of the promise by keeping the law, then righteousness, a right standing with God by faith, as described in Genesis, chapter 15, verse 6, it would be nullified. Another way of saying it, New Living Translation: “If God’s promise is only for those who obey the law, then faith is not necessary and the promise is pointless.”
If salvation is by works, it is to no purpose for God to promise it; because, if it’s by works, then you’re receiving it as payment. You say, “Hey listen, I did these works, You gave me a list of things to do, I kept those, 10 of them, I kept them, therefore You owe me this righteousness. You said, ‘Do it.’ I did it.”
Now there were people in Paul’s day, in Jesus’ day, who accounted themselves as righteous, as blameless before God because their keeping of the law. Paul, before he became a follower of Jesus Christ, he was a Pharisee, that is, he was part of a religious sect there in Israel, in the nation of Israel, under the Jewish law; he believed himself to be blameless, righteous before God. That’s a heavy thing. In the book of Philippians, chapter 3, he says, “According to the law, I was blameless,” blameless, righteous.
But it wasn’t until he started to recognize that the law speaks more than just to someone’s physical actions. And so even he recognized that by the law comes the knowledge of sin, and as we’re going to see when we get into Romans, chapter 7, he’s going to say, “Listen, I would not have known covetousness had the law not said, ‘Thou shall not covet.’”
And so see, the law deals with internal heart motives, and not just external actions. So we meet a lot of people, don’t we, when we say, “Hey, if you died tonight, would you go to heaven?”
They say, “Yeah, I’m a pretty good person.”
You say, “Oh really, how are you doing with the law.”
They say, “Listen, I’ve never murdered anybody; I’ve never committed adultery.”
“Yeah, those are the easy ones. Everybody says that.”
Until Jesus says this: “You’ve heard that it has been said of them of old time, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you if you look upon a woman to lust after her you’ve committed adultery in your heart.” Okay, I guess we know where we’re at with that one.
“You’ve heard that it has been said of old time, ‘You shall not murder.’ But I say to you if you’re angry at someone without cause you are guilty of murder.” Anybody guilty of that this last week? [laughs]
So, “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”
So in verse 13, Paul shows that the promise is by faith and not by the law; in verse 14 he says, “If it was by the law, then it wouldn’t be a promise and it wouldn’t be by grace or through faith, but it would be a payment rendered for service.” You did this, and you get this. So in verse 15 he says, “But the law, it doesn’t bring about anything other than wrath.” The law cannot make you righteous. It’s not that the law is bad. We’re going to see in Romans, chapter 7 that the law is holy, it is just, and it is good. So it’s not bad. The law is exceedingly good, and it reveals to us how exceedingly not good we are; because it upholds righteousness, and it reveals to us that we are unrighteous. And so as we saw previously in Romans, chapter 3, verse 20, it’s by the law that comes the knowledge of sin. Romans 7:7, “I would not have known sin except through the law,” Paul says. So the law reveals to me, it exposes sin by revealing righteousness. This is why the law is so important. The law is not important as a way by which you can make yourself righteous; the law is important in that it shows you what is righteous, and shows you that you’re not. It shows you your lostness; it prepares you for grace. It reveals your need for the gospel of Jesus Christ. If you are trying to live by the law today, you’re missing the point of the law. The purpose of the law is to show you that you cannot do it. And if you, in your mind, are thinking, “If I just keep this, if I just do this, God is gonna be really happy.” No!! He’s not!! It’s just going to show you that you are completely fallen, and desperately in need of His grace. And so, might I encourage you with this: you will never be able to keep the law. Now, that does not mean that we should not seek to glorify God in living in righteousness, but we walk in righteousness because He has clothed us in His righteousness. And He, by His enabling power, gives us the grace to continue to glorify Him in righteousness. But you’re not saved or made better with God based on your lineage or your keeping of the law.
So, “where there is no law there is no transgression.”
Notice that it does not say where there is no law there is no sin. For while all transgression is sin, not all sin is transgression. What do I mean by that? Well, a transgression is a conscious violation of God’s law. It is a willful disregarding of His commandments. So, if there is no posted law, if He has not given forth His law, you cannot willfully disregard it. But that does not mean that you cannot trespass, or sin. The idea is this: If you’re driving down the 15 Freeway at 90 miles per hour, and the CHP pull you over, and you say, “I just didn’t know that the speed limit was 65.”
And the CHP, he says, “Did you happen to not see that giant sign that says, ’65?’” Therefore, you are willfully disregarding the posted law. It’s there.
If however, you are out hiking in one of our many places to hike around here in San Diego County, and you come around the bend, and there’s a guy standing there, and he’s got a shotgun, and he says, “You’re on private property; you better get out of here.”
You say, “I’m really sorry. I didn’t know; I didn’t see any posted signs.”
“You’re right, it’s not posted, but you’re still on private property, you better get out of here.”
“I’m sorry I trespassed. I didn’t realize this was private property. I’m gonna leave.” You didn’t know; but you still are where you ought not to be. You’ve trespassed.
So there is a difference between a transgression, a willful disregard for God’s law, and a trespass, where there is no law where it has not been explicitly laid out that this is right and this is wrong. Then you may, unknowingly, commit a trespass; you may unknowingly sin. And this is the awesome thing about our God: Exodus, chapter 34, when God reveals His nature, He says, “I forgive iniquity, transgression, and sin.” There’s different meanings to those words; and God forgives all.
So, Abraham, in Genesis, chapter 3, verse 17, I believe it is, we’re told; I’m sorry, Galatians 3:17, Paul tells us that Abraham, he lived and was counted righteous by God, through faith, 430 years before the law came. You see, the law was not given to the nation of Israel, that is, Abraham’s descendants, until they came before Mt. Sinai, as led there by Moses, the great lawgiver. He went up on the mountain: he received the Law; he brought it down to them; they’d already broken it. Now, in their breaking of it, they had not yet seen God’s posted law. He had not come down the mountain yet with the law. But they were still in sin. It may not have been transgression, because they did not know what it was that they were doing was against God’s character, although it was against their conscience, and so there was at least some understanding that, “what we’ve doing, it just doesn’t feel quite right. We shouldn’t be doing this.”
But then all of a sudden, Moses comes down, and they’re able to see very clearly that what they have done is in, at odds with God’s law. And so the law causes, Romans 5:20, you can look it up later, Romans 5:20, “the law causes trespass to abound.” Because, you see, the law reveals righteousness, and therefore shows what is unrighteous, and then start to see “oh my goodness, there’s a lot of sin.”
I’m sure that every one of you who have been a follower of God of any length of time, you’ve come to this realization. As you start to follow God, you start reading through His word, the longer you read through God’s word, you come upon passages of scripture and you go, “I didn’t know that was sin!!”
Anybody ever had that happen? “I’ve been doing that… I didn’t know!”
Well, it’s there, now you know. And so it causes the trespass to abound; you go, “Oh my gosh, I did that there, and there, and… Oh my… Oh goodness; I’ve got a problem.”
Yes you do. You’re a sinner. I’m a sinner. We’ve all fallen short of God’s glory. You see, when the law comes in, it reveals the abundance of sin; it shows sin for what sin really is. And then we all recognize just how lost we are. And this is why the law is so effective with someone who is just absolutely convinced that they are righteous; and we all have friends and family members who are convinced of their own righteousness. The best thing that you can do for them is just kind of, “Hey, I’d love to read this passage of scripture from Deuteronomy for you.”
And people go, “Wow! I just didn’t realize that what we were doing was wrong.”
Now, there is a way in which the law almost excites us to transgress it. What do I mean? Many of us have probably experienced this situation, if not exactly, in some way: the sign says, WET PAINT, DON’T TOUCH; and we are instantly, in our fallen nature, excited to transgress it. Right? I don’t need any other illustrations, ‘cause you can just carry that along in your mind pretty easily. Now, the law doesn’t cause sin, but because we’re so sinful, the righteous standard of the law sometimes excites us to transgress it.
“I wonder what He’s keeping us back from?”
If He says, “Thou shall not do that,” clearly there’s something great on the other side. [laughs]
No, actually, the soul that sins shall die. The wages of sin is death! The result of sin is death! So, it’s not that God is the cosmic killjoy, saying, “I just don’t want you to have any fun.” Not at all.
So the promise is by faith, not by the law, and if it were by the law, then it would not be by grace. But the law does not, and cannot bring about the promise; because the law ultimately brings about wrath. It exposes unrighteousness by showing us righteousness. And since God, the law is an expression of His character, understand that – the law is an expression of God’s character. And so since unrighteousness is a transgression against the character of God, that means He will judge all sin.
Verse 16, Romans 4: “Therefore it is of faith.” What is of faith? The promise is of faith. “…that it might be according to grace.” So it’s not earned by our works, it’s a free gift of grace. “…so that the promise might be sure to all the seed.
So, in verses 13 through 15, Paul has shown that the promise comes by faith and not by the law, now he says, since the promise comes by faith and not by the law, he says, “it available to all who believe.” So he says, “the promise might be sure,” steadfast, assured, “to all the seed.” Well, who is the seed? Well, not only those who are of the law, that is, descendants of Abraham, the Jewish nation, not only to them, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. Those who have like faith as Abraham, he therefore becomes the father of us all. “(As it is written),” Paul quotes again, Genesis 17:5, “(‘I have made you a father of many nations’) in the presence of him who believed – God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did.”
So Abraham had faith, and not just faith for the sake of faith, you know, people tell us, “You gotta have faith. You just gotta believe.”
“Believe in what?”
“Just believe, everything’ll be okay. Just gotta have faith.”
But as we saw last week, your faith has to be seated in something that’s worthy of your confident trust. And so he says, Paul says, “Abraham believed in the God who gives life to the dead and calls those things that do not exist as though they did.” What does that mean that He calls those things that do not exist as though they did?
He says to Abraham, who has no children, his wife is barren, he’s 99 years old, He says, “You’re gonna be a father of many nations. So I’m changing your name from Abram, father of many, to Abraham, father of many nations.”
“What kind of cruel joke is that?!”
He says, “No, I’m going to make you, I’m calling you a father of many nations, even though you’re not yet. I’m going to call you Abraham; you are father of many nations, because I’m calling that which does not exist as though it existed because it’s gonna happen.”
And so we see the surety of God’s promise. It’s a done deal. This is why Paul uses words in Romans and in 1 Corinthians, he says, “Listen, you put your faith in Jesus Christ, you are saved.”
You are saved. The surety of God’s promise is not based on me or you, it’s based on what God has done for us, so you are saved, even if there’s a morning you wake up and done feel so saved. Ever had one of those? Like every Monday. So, you are saved. “Abraham, you are a father of many nations. You ain’t got no kids. You’re Abraham, father of many nations.” You are saved Christian.
And so now continuing on, so there he says, this promise is available to all who have faith like Abraham, because Abraham laid hold of the promise by faith, not by his works, so now that promise is available to everyone who believe, like Abraham. But what does Abraham’s faith look like? What’s the nature of that faith? Verse 18: Abraham, “who contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations.”
God says, “You are the father of many nations, Abraham. You ain’t got no kids,” but Abraham believed, contrary to hope, just doesn’t make sense. He believed, and then he became what God had promised; “according to what was spoken, ‘So shall your descendants be.’”
So, against all odds, Abraham, contrary to all hope, he had confidence in God. So the nature of this promise-securing faith is that it still confidently believes when there is no apparent reason to continue to do so. When everything seems hopelessly lost, Abraham still believed. And so, in his absolute faith, complete faith that God was able, he obtains the promise. Now, Hebrews 11 gives us a little bit more insight to this as well, because Hebrews 11 gives us an idea of just what it was that Abraham believed. Because in Genesis 22, which I mentioned earlier, when God said “take your son Isaac and sacrifice him,” why in the world would anybody do such a thing? Abraham steps out to do that, Hebrews 11 tells us, because he believed this one thing – God was able to raise Isaac from the dead. Abraham wholeheartedly believed that God brings things that are dead to life again. His wife was barren, they were 99, er, they were 190 years old, er, she was 90, he was 100, not 190, so they’re old, and he says, “There’s no way she can have a child.” But then she has a child, and he goes, “Wow, God, You’re pretty powerful; that’s amaz… I could not have manufactured that. It tried. I tried; it was a problem. And… I couldn’t have done that. So, if I take Isaac’s life, which doesn’t make sense, it’s contrary to hope, I don’t see how tha… if I take his life, he’s the one that the promise is going to come from, You’re going to have to raise him from the dead.”
So what did Abraham believe in? He believed in the resurrection. He believed in the resurrection. What does Paul tell us in 1 Corinthians 15? Only this: the resurrection is the focal point of our faith. If Christ be not raised, then we’re dead in our sins, our faith is in vain. So Abraham, 4,000 years ago, 2,000 years before Jesus came, died, and rose again, Abraham believed in the resurrection. We, 4,000 years from Abraham, what do we believe in that guarantees us the promise? We hope for and trust in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who, the same power that raised Him from the dead, shall raise us to life. So, the nature of Abraham’s faith is described there in verse 18; it is this: he believed in the impossible; contrary to hope, against all odds.
Verse 19, the result, actually, verse 19, he continues to explain the nature of this faith: “And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about 100 years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised,” God had promised, “He was able to perform.”
So, this is the nature of Abraham’s faith. This is the nature of faith that secures the promise. It does not meditate upon, or consider deadness, the impossibility; we’re dead in our trespasses and sins before Christ; and there’s nothing we can do to make ourselves righteous; it doesn’t consider that. It says, “God, You’re able. I trust You.” He did not waver at the promise.
God says, “I will make you a great nation,” when he’s 75 years old; and he departs from Haran and he follows God. Because God says, “I’m going to make you a great nation.”
And so he follows, and he says, “I’m not going to waver. I’m going to trust in that.”
And by believing, look at verse 20, “but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God.” By believing, Abraham gave opportunity for God to glorified in his dead body. You see, if it’s by my works of righteousness, or if it was by anything that Abraham did to gain the promise, then he should get the glory, and everybody show go, “Man, glorify Abraham. Boy, we love Abraham.”
And listen, there’s a lot of people in the world that love Abraham. The three monotheistic religions of the world look back to Abraham as the father of their religion; that would be Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. That accounts for three billion people, nearly half the world’s population, glorifies Abraham. That’s a pretty big deal. Now if it was Abraham’s work that secured the promise, then you’d have every reason to glorify Abraham. We’d sing songs – “Abraham, Abraham.” But that’s not the case. Why? We sing about Jesus. Why? Because He’s the One that saves. So he was fully convinced that He, God, promised, and He was able to perform it.
Verse 22, the result – what’s the result of that kind of faith? “And therefore, it was accounted to him for righteousness.”
That kind of faith says, “I am completely unable. I am dead. There’s nothing I can do; but God, You’re able, and I’m going to trust in Your ability and not my own.” That kind of faith makes you righteous, gives you a right standing before God.
And He says, “I will grant you the promise.”
So the application, verse 23: “Now it was not written for his sake alone,” for Abraham’s sake alone, “that it was imputed to him.” What was not written? Genesis 15, verse 6: “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted unto him as righteousness.”
That was not written just for the sake of Abraham, that he could go, “Hey, right on, I’m righteous. Look, God said so.” It wasn’t written for his sake alone.
Who’s sake was it written for? Verse 24: “but also for us.” Why? “Because it,” righteousness, “shall be imputed to us who…” What? …do the works of the law. No-o-o, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.
“It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him.” Note that – “in Him who…” Did what? The very thing that Abraham believed would happen to Isaac if he killed him – “…who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who,” Jesus, “was delivered up.” Why was Jesus delivered up? He was “delivered up because of our offenses.”
“All we like sheep have gone astray; we’ve turned, every one, to his own way; but the Lord has laid on Him our iniquity.” “By His stripes we are healed.” “He who knew no sin became sin for us.”
So “He is delivered up because of our offenses.” So He died in our place. Why was He raised? “He was raised up” for our justification, “because of our justification.” So He’s raised from the dead so that we could be made right in Jesus Christ. Not according to my works, but according to the work of the only righteous One, Jesus.
And so Paul is showing here the impossibility of you or I, by our lineage, or by our law-keeping, to make ourselves right with God. “There is none righteous, no, not one.” The hedonist, the moralist, the religionist are all under sin – “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”
“But what about Abraham?”
Let’s talk about Abraham. Abraham was justified by grace, through faith, that not of himself. And if you believe with the same faith of Abraham, you become a child of Abraham by faith, and you are a recipient of the promise of salvation in Christ. Why? Because Jesus “was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised up for our justification.”
This, church, is the gospel. This is what secures our hope.
Let me, in closing, just read ahead, as like a trailer of coming attractions, where we’re going. Chapter 5, verse 1: “Therefore,” because of this, “having been justified,” done, “by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in…” What? “…hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given to us.” There’s no disappointment in hope in Christ. You’ll be disappointed if you hope in yourself.
Let’s stand and pray. Just ask all of our elders, pastors, prayer team leaders to come on up.
Father, we thank You for Your great grace. We’re completely undeserving of that grace. But God, we know that You alone can rescue, You alone can lift us from the grave. Jesus, we’re thankful today that You who knew no sin became sin for us, because we need You. So, God, work in us, work in us to will and to do those things that please You and glorify You. Transform us by the renewing of our minds, that we would reflect Your glory in a lost world. Lord, help us never to fail to recognize that Your grace is greater than our sin, and even if our heart condemns us, You, God, are greater than our heart, and You know all things. God, work in us, Your church, this week, to be a city set on a hill that cannot be hid. Give us opportunity, even outside of our comfort zone, to be challenged to share the glory of the gospel. We pray in Jesus’ name.