I. Justified By Faith
A. Abraham’s example of justification by faith. (v. 17)
1. As already mentioned, Abraham was not justified by circumcision or by obedience to the Law given to Moses.
2. He lived long before the law was given, and Paul has already discounted the notion that justification comes through circumcision or any other ritual.
3. God promised Abraham he would be the father of many nations (Genesis 17:2-4) and that the entire world would be blessed through him. (Genesis 12:3)
4. God fulfilled his promise to Abraham because Jews and Gentiles have and continue to be blessed through him.
5. This promise was ultimately fulfilled in Jesus who was from the line of Abraham but who came to die for all manner of people, not just the Jewish nation. All are blessed through him as they accept him by faith.
6. Paul then maintains this happened simply because Abraham believed God. His actions were similar to Noah’s when he built the ark at God’s instruction even though it had never rained before.
B. Paul’s description of Abraham’s God (vv. 17-19)
1. Abraham’s God could bring the dead back to life.
2. Abraham would later experience this personally when God instructed him to sacrifice his promised son on an altar. (Genesis 22:2)
3. Though God stopped him at the last moment and provided a ram for the sacrifice, Abraham had the faith to go through with the requested action even if it meant not understanding how God would fulfill his promise to bring many descendants through this very son.
4. The writer of Hebrews provides a commentary on this and states Abraham had faith strong enough to believe that even if God allowed him to go through with the sacrifice he would bring his son back to life. (Hebrews 11:17-19)
5. Abraham’s God had power over death and was also all powerful. His power could overcome circumstances that appeared to make no logical sense, such as in sacrificing the promised son.
6. Abraham’s God was also powerful enough to bring things into existence that did not exist before.
7. This belief of Abraham coincides with the account of creation where we are told that God created the heavens and the earth ex nihilio-not out of matter that already existed. Rather, he created the original matter and then formed the heavens and the earth from it. He is a miracle working God.
8. But Abraham’s faith in God began before the son was even born when he believed God could give him and Sarah a son even though he was advanced in age and Sarah was past the age of childbearing.
9. At 100, his body was as good as dead. The word dead refers to Abraham’s reproductive organs which were dead and beyond ever being able to enable his wife to produce a child. His reproductive organs had ceased to function. It was humanly impossible for him to father a child. He and Sarah were “sexually” dead.
10. Once again, we see the importance of the source of our faith. It can be in nothing except Christ.
11. If our faith is placed in traditions, rituals, spiritual heritage, obedience to a set of laws, or anything else at the expense of Christ, we are missing the whole message of God’s Word.
12. In fact, all of God’s promises are promises only he can fulfill. If we have the power to manipulate and bring about the end result, then God is not needed and we are just as powerful as he is.
13. Abraham’s God could make something out of nothing, revitalize a womb that normally would not bear a child, bring a promised son back to life, make him the father of many nations through a resurrected child, and bring a future descendant (Jesus) back to life.
14. His faith was not an irrational leap into the dark. Rather, he chose to let faith in God override his normal emotional response and past experiences and lead him to confidence in God.
C. The Result of Abraham’s Faith-God Declared Him Righteous (vv. 20-22)
1. Abraham did not waiver in his faith. Under the circumstances he faced and that God brought him through, this is an impressive conclusion.
2. Now we might consider the two instances where Abraham told a foreign ruler that Sarah was his sister instead of his wife. He knew the custom of the times and that she could be taken from him, so this was a plan he formulated and she agreed to. Was this not a wavering of his faith where he did not trust God to protect him?
3. Paul is stating that Abraham did not waiver or stagger in his faith where it concerned the son of promise.
4. Like David who committed adultery with another man’s wife but was still considered a man after God’s own heart, Abraham certainly had moments when his faith faltered and when he failed, but like David, the pattern of Abraham’s life was obedience and trust in God.
5. All of us have those moments when it appears our faith waivers. We have trouble claiming a promise of God. We have difficulty trusting him when circumstances seem unbearable.
6. Like Abraham, we need to be thoroughly convinced that God will be true to his Word and his promises.
7. At the same time, there are certain guidelines we need to follow in claiming biblical promises.
8. We must be careful not to claim promises that are specific to a certain situation or person in Scripture and not general in nature.
9. The promise of a son in old age was specific to Abraham and Sarah and cannot be claimed by anyone else who may want to have a child in their old age.
10. In claiming promises, we must also consider whether we want God to meet a need or desire in our life.
11. God promises to meet needs but does not obligate himself to meet our desires which are often selfish in nature. Needs are what must be met to preserve physical life and that will enable us to carry out what God has asked us to do.
12. We must also determine if there is something we must do for the promise to be fulfilled. Abraham had to leave his homeland for God to fulfill his promise to him.
13. Some of God’s promises are conditional (Proverbs 3:5-6) while others are unconditional. (Hebrews 13:5)
14. Because Abraham believed God, God declared him righteous and accepted.
15. James warns against being double minded people who waiver between belief and unbelief. (James 1:6-8)
16. Opinion, allegiance and decision making are areas we must be careful not to waiver in. If we wonder about a particular opinion, all we must do is consult God’s Word. Allowing God to totally control our life helps with the allegiance part. Trusting God and leaving the results to him equips us with good decision making skills.
17. Our faith will always grow stronger when we learn to trust God through any and all circumstances, no matter their difficulty level.
18. As we watch him honor his Word, it gives us experience that will guide us through all future trials. We build up experiences in faith as we do in life. We can then look back and see how God delivered us in the past, and this will give us courage as well as faith he will do in the future what he has done in the past.
19. We also remember that Abraham found himself in a society where many gods were worshipped and could even be manipulated by humans, but this was not the case with God. Abraham chose to trust in a God he could not control.
20. Just as Abraham chose to trust unequivocally in God’s promises, there are some things we should be just as confident in: God’s forgiveness of our sin is complete, he has prepared an eternity for us, our life has significance, our service is meaningful, he will meet our needs, and he will protect and watch over his children.
D. God Imputed Righteousness to Abraham (vv. 22-25)
1. The Greek word for imputed is logizomai (la ge’ zo my) and means to reckon, count, compute or calculate.
2. One thing is reckoned to be the equivalent of something else.
3. Something is credited to our account as when the bank credits our account with the money we recently deposited.
4. Here, Abraham believed God and God credited his account with righteousness because of his faith.
5. This is an important matter, for what happened to Abraham is the same thing that happens when we trust God in faith. (v. 24)
6. He declares us righteous (even though we are not actually righteous). We are seen as such, however, because we have believed by faith that salvation comes in Christ Jesus.
7. Paul also ties our faith in what Christ did on the cross with belief in his resurrection.
8. Paul deals at depth with the correlation between faith in Christ and belief in his resurrection in I Corinthians 15:12-19.
9. In arguing with some who did not believe in resurrection from the dead, Paul proposes the logical results of such disbelief.
10. If there is no resurrection, then Christ did not rise, preaching that he did is useless and so is our trust in him, the apostles have lied, our faith is useless, and we are still under condemnation for our sins, all who have died in Christ have perished, and we are the most miserable of people if we only have hope in this world.
11. The resurrection proved the efficacy of Jesus’ death and was God’s stamp of approval on what his Son did. It also proved his payment for our sins was accepted. Further it is a testimony we will be victorious over death.
12. Sadly many still question the reality of the resurrection. Rev. Bill Phipps, past moderator of the United Church of Canada, was quoted as saying; “I don’t believe Jesus was God, but I’m no theologian. I don’t believe Jesus is the only way to God. I don’t believe he rose from the dead as scientific fact. I don’t know whether those things happened. It’s an irrelevant question.”
A. Abraham’s faith can be ours as we experience it the same way he did.
B. His example is witness to the great exchange that takes place when we trust in Christ.
C. God takes the righteousness of his Son and applies it to our account.
D. Everyone likes a bargain, and this is certainly the greatest bargain that could be offered to anyone. How sad that many turn it down.