ABRAHAM, THE FATHER OF ALL THEM THAT BELIEVE
Text: ROMANS 4:9-18
- In Romans 3, Paul introduces the great doctrine of justification by faith (3:24,28). I say "great" because this doctrine is despised by the RCC, therefore it must be a great doctrine. You can be certain it is precious to God if the devil hates it.
- Then in Romans 4, Paul uses Abraham and David as two great examples of OT believers who were justified, not by works, but by faith (4:1-8).
- Which brings us to verse 9 where Paul refers again to Abraham (4:9).
- The rest of chapter 4 deals with the great patriarch Abraham. He is not only the father of the nation Israel, but "the father of all them that believe" (4:11).
I. ABRAHAMíS RIGHTEOUSNESS (4:9-12).
- How did Abraham become righteous? He "served other gods" before God called him (cf. Josh.24:2,3).
- We know that Abraham was justified by faith (Rom.4:1-3). This is how righteousness was imputed to Abraham, and this is how righteousness is imputed to every believer.
- There are three words used here that all mean the same thing. Count, impute, and reckon: all three of these words are one word in the original Greek text, not different words. The same Greek word is used 11 times in this passage and always means, "to put to oneís account."
- So "Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness" (Rom.4:3; cf. Gen.15:6). This is justification.
- The Jews assume that this imputed righteousness is passed on down to all the children of Israel ("the circumcision"). Though this is a popular misconception, Paul says they are wrong. Abraham was justified 14 years before he was circumcised (4:9,10). Abraham was justified in Gen.15, and circumcised in Gen.17.
- Strictly speaking Abraham was not a Jew when God called him out of Ur of the Chaldees and he was not a Jew when he was justified by faith. Someone put it this way: "In a very real sense, Abraham was justified while still on Gentile ground" (William MacDonald).
- So in answer to Paulís questions in 4:9 and 10, he says the blessing of justification came first upon the "uncircumcision" (Gentiles) because Abraham was justified before he was circumcised.
- Circumcision is symbolic, a "seal" (Rom.4:11). As we saw in Romans 2, God wanted the Jews to have their hearts circumcised. That is far more important than physical circumcision (2:28,29). The same can be said about baptism. It does not save; it is an outward public testimony of an inward change.
- Paul is pointing out that religious externalism cannot save anyone. Jews and Gentiles alike must walk by faith (4:12).
II. ABRAHAMíS INHERITANCE (4:13-16)
- Abraham and his seed are "heirs of the world" (4:13). This means that Abraham would be the father of believing Gentiles as well as Jews. This inheritance belongs to us Gentiles because we are Abrahamís seed by faith (4:11).
- It is to both Jewish and Gentile Christians in the church at Corinth that Paul says in I Cor.3:21, "For all things are yourís." Abrahamís inheritance is our inheritance as well.
- Now how did Abraham receive his inheritance? Through keeping the law? No, we were reminded last week that Abraham lived more than 400 years before God gave the law to Moses.
- Abraham received the promise of the inheritance "through the righteousness of faith" (4:13).
- Works-righteousness is deeply ingrained in the mind of man, so the Bible must often refute it. Paul says, "For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made voidÖ" (4:14).
- If God would offer the inheritance through the law, then His promise would fail. Why is that? Because nobody has ever kept the law. This was proven in the first part of the epistle. Man is a law-breaker not a law-keeper. Man is a guilty, condemned sinner.
- Verse 15 expresses the fact that nobody has ever kept the law, and because they have broken the law, Godís wrath must fall. The law condemns those who fail to keep its commandments perfectly and continuously. And since no one can keep the law, all who are under the law are condemned to death.
- Someone has pointed out: "It is impossible to be under the law without being under the curse" Ė William MacDonald.
- God gave man the law so that sin might be seen as "transgression" (4:15b). The law shows us our sin, reveals to us just how bad we are. The law was never intended to be the way of salvation. Rather it is the way of condemnation.
- Now we have been speaking of Abrahamís inheritance, which is our inheritance. It is "of faith" (4:16). It is "by grace" (4:16). And since our inheritance is of faith and by the grace of God it cannot fail (cf. I Peter 1:4,5).
III. ABRAHAMíS POSTERITY (4:17-25)
- Abraham is called "a father of many nations" (4:17). His name means "Father of Many Nations" (cf. Gen.17:5).
- God chose Israel, but that does not mean His grace and mercy would be confined to them. Paul quotes Gen.17:5 (and other OT Scriptures as well) to show that it has always been Godís intention to honor faith wherever He found it.
- This blessing came the same way as Abrahamís righteousness, and Abrahamís inheritance Ė through faith Ė "before Him whom he believed, even GodÖ" (4:17).
- Abraham believed God Ė "Who against hope believed in hope" (4:18). Hopeless from manís perspective, but not from Godís.
Some times things look hopeless, but the same God who made Abraham a father when he was 100 years old is able to answer our prayers, save our (hopelessly) lost loved ones, fix our building up, etc.
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