Title: The Nature of Faith
Text: Romans 4.16-25
CIT: We have Abraham’s faith when we believe like he did (God raises the dead [Jesus] and calls into existence things that are not yet).
CIS: When anyone believes Jesus was delivered up for our transgressions and raised for our justification, it is credited as righteousness and they can have a relationship with God, just like Abraham.
Introduction: We’re in Genesis 15 and 17 this morning, as well as in our main text Romans 4.16-25;
Billy Graham died this past week at the age of 99. What I love so much about him was the fact that he lived out his faith. I’m sure he wasn’t perfect. I heard him call himself a sinner when he preached. But what he did… his choices, his actions were all about living out the faith he professed.
That is what I want to talk to you about this morning: living out your faith in a public way.
In our text this morning Romans 4.16-25, v 16 acts as a transition verse of sorts. You see our topic… rd v 16, that is why it depends on faith… Faith is our subject. And more specifically, the faith of Abraham: 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…
So, we have some context before we even enter into the passage: Faith and narrowed down a little from such a broad subject, the Faith of Abraham, our father. To be sure, the faith of Abraham can be a pretty broad subject, too. So let’s get specific: in talking about faith, what Paul wants to do is describe for us the nature of Abraham’s faith in order that these Romans might apply it to their own situation. Paul wants the Romans to have the faith of Abraham – but what does that mean? How did Abraham demonstrate his faith and what he believed?
Opening illustration: I love Lisa. I trust that she loves me, too. But, words ring hollow if there is no action on my part (or hers for that matter) to demonstrate what I know to be true. My actions and reactions, well, that would be the nature of my love. Poems and songs are nice, but what we do in our day-to-day lives is what is true. What we do reveals what we believe.
Paul is going to spend the rest of this chapter outlining for us the Nature of Abraham’s faith, and then he will apply it to the Christian. Really, that would be the one point: The Nature of Abraham’s faith. Then, Paul cites three pieces of evidence from Abraham’s life which demonstrate his faith. Abraham believed God with the way he lived. (He persisted in Hope; His faith was not weakened at his physical condition; His faith was strengthened at God’s promise).
I. The Nature of Abraham’s Faith (17)
exp.: rd v 17a; This is God’s Statement to Abraham. It is interesting to note in that quoted verse from Genesis 15, God speaks to Abraham in the present tense of a future event as if it has already happened. Let me repeat that: God speaks to Abraham in the present tense of a future event as if it has already happened. He says: “I have made you the father of many nations.”
That’s nice to say God, but where is the proof? That’s the thing about faith – it doesn’t need proof to act. Abraham and Sarah have room to say to God – that doesn’t make sense! We have no children! We have no son to carry on our name. Abraham is declared that father of many nations and yet, he has no children. Moreover, Gen 17.1 tells us Abraham was 99 years old when this was declared to him.
Paul tells us that Abraham believed God. Abraham, you already are the father of many nations. That is what I’ve made you. Which BTW, believed is the word for faith; you could read this (17b): in the presence of the God in whom he had faith… and just what was this that he believed? Rd 17c; who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. Two parts to this: 1) bringing the dead to life (lit.: a compound word life maker) and 2) bringing into existence things that don’t exist (lit.: bringing the not being into being).
app.: When God says something, even if you can’t see it, even if it does not exist, do you believe it will come to be? Abraham did – that is the nature of his faith. He believed God. His faith in God was evident by what he then did. The nature of his faith is expressed in actions of his life.
God’s promise will demonstrate when it is fulfilled that He is the God who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. And Abraham then acts on what he knows about God – that God will do it. Paul seizes on this teaching moment by offering three pieces of evidence for Abraham’s faith, which demonstrate for us the nature of his faith. They are found in three subsequent verses (18, 19, 20):
- He persisted in hope when the physical told him it was impossible. 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.” Here is a 2nd quote from Genesis (15.5).
- His faith was not weakened even though he and Sarah were way to old for child-bearing. 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.
- He did not doubt God’s promise, but grew strong 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.
And then Paul sums it all up in v22 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.”
app.: So, the nature of Abraham’s faith is that he lived his life knowing that God would (1) bring life to what is considered dead and (2) that he would bring into existence things that don’t exist.
t.s.: So, let’s look a little closer now at Paul’s three examples:
- He persisted in hope when the physical told him it was impossible. (18) In hope he believed against hope.
exp.: We get the context of this verse from Genesis 15. If you have that bookmarked, turn with me there. 15 After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” 2 But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” 4 And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” 5 And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6 And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
ill.: I love looking up at the stars; have you ever tried to lay outside looking up into a clear night sky and count the stars? It is impossible like that. I’m sure there are computers and technology that would help with that today, but just laying out under the stars is… breathtakingly beautiful. Try to lay there and count them… practically impossible. Now, add to this story the idea that there are no street lights, porch lights, car lights, city lights. There is nothing quite like being out of the city – out in the wilderness and far away from lights and to see the night sky filled with millions of stars. As Abram looked up into the sky he would have seen it filled with stars innumerable.
app.: All of this from nothing. Abraham, a nation – no, a nation of nations… pretty hard to believe in that moment. But not for him… he didn’t live to see it, but he believe that God would accomplish what he said.
t.s.: 2nd demonstration as listed in Romans 4:
- His faith was not weakened even though he and Sarah were way too old for child-bearing. (19)
exp.: consider his body: he’s 99 years old in Genesis 17. In Gen 15, he’s probably about 85 years old. Rd 19b: which was a good as dead. Physically, he should produce the same as a dead body. That ain’t very productive. And his wife, Sarah? Rd 19c; or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. The Greek reads: or when he considered the deadness of Sarah’s womb. Twice in this sentence Paul uses the word: dead. He did not weaken in his faith, though physically his and his wife’s bodies were growing steadily weaker with their age.
ill.: I don’t consider myself old. I know I’m getting older, but I don’t think of myself as being old. But I feel the aging process. When I fall, it takes me longer to get up. I used to bounce back up. Now I kind of just go ‘thud’. Then I crawl back up slowly. I know it only gets harder as I see people who are 30 to 40 years older than me. I had lunch this week with Percy Werner and a couple of men from the church. Percy is 96. As he was getting in my car to go to lunch he told me to take a good look at 96. He said: this will be you one day. I told him I don’t think I’ll make it that long and he assured me that I will. That means I’d have to go another 43 years.
app.: Abraham feels old. He knows his wife is beyond child-bearing years. Her womb is dead. But there is something Abraham has come to know: This God who has called him, He is the life maker. He brings to life things others consider dead.
t.s.: He is aware of their situation, but knows that God is God and that he will do what he says. We see Abraham struggle, but he never weakens in his faith.
- He did not doubt God’s promise, but grew stronger in his faith. (20-21)
exp.: rd v 20-21; 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. The Greek structure puts the promise of God at the beginning – making it the emphasis of the sentence. Then it continues: he did not waver in unbelief, but grew strong in his faith… lit.: but was empowered. Passive voice. He didn’t pull himself up by his own bootstraps, but rather, an outside force strengthened his faith. Rd v 21; as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.
ill.: In Genesis 22, Abraham is commanded to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice. Abraham goes through the motions to fulfill what God has required of him. And the writer of Hebrews lets us in Abraham’s faith in chapter 11: 17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 19 He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.
app.: by his actions, Abraham declared that he believed in God who gives life to the dead. Here is what Abraham knew: God promised him descendants. God promised they would be through Isaac. He pleaded with God: Oh, that Ishmael might be my heir! God said no. He promised the heir would come through Sarah. Abraham knows this as he walks up the mountain to offer Isaac.
I have no idea what you’re facing today. But may I encourage you: if God is indeed in charge of your life, if you’ve trusted him to run your life, then let him run it! Be obedient and you’ll find His plan unfolding in your life.
We have 1,000’s of years to bank upon the promises of God. What God promised Abraham has been fulfilled in Jesus.
t.s.: Paul then notes: 22 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” (Another quote from Genesis) Now, Paul brings his message home, making it applicable for the believer.
II. The Nature of Our Faith in Christ (23-25)
exp.: rd 23-25: 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. The Nature of our faith is to demonstrate that we truly believe (1st) Jesus was delivered up for our trespasses and sin and then (2), that he was raised from the dead for our justification. When we do, it is counted to our spiritual accounts as righteousness. When we do, we have the faith of Abraham.
app.: Abraham is our spiritual father – that is, if we’re Christians. We should expect that Abraham’s children would be counted as righteous in the same way that Abraham was counted righteous. We believe that God raised Jesus from the dead (24) – that God gave life to his dead body. V25 puts them together that he died for our sins and his dead body was brought to life for our justification.
t.s.: What we have in Abraham was recorded for us – that we might know what faith looks like.
Application: Our faith must be God-Centered.
Conclusion: some closing thoughts:
- God, in whom we trust, demonstrates his will with inconceivable power.
- We have the Old and New Testaments with plenty of demonstrations.
- We have Church History with plenty more.
- God, in whom we trust, demonstrates his incredible patience with the passing of centuries.
- How much time is left? I don’t know, but I don’t believe it will be long now.
- Why is he still waiting? That, I don’t know either, except for the opportunity for the lost to turn from their wicked ways and cling to the hope of salvation from sin.
- God, in whom we trust, demonstrates indescribable mercy to the penitent.
- God has structured all of history to bring about an indescribable display of mercy.
- He has told us who He is: Holy.
- He has declared to us our sinfulness and our separation due to this sinfulness.
- He has made a way for us to find forgiveness of sin and to be made right with Him.
- He gave his one and only son to die for our sin on the cross of Calvary.
- He was buried in a borrowed tomb.
- He was raised for our justification and now rules and reigns in glory.
- Today is the day of salvation.
- God has structured all of history to bring about an indescribable display of mercy.
And, when you and I commit our lives to this, through faith in Jesus – we, too, are like our father Abraham, who was counted as righteous before God – because he believed that God could raise the dead and make something out of nothing.
This morning, if you’ve never committed your life to Christ, I offer him to you. Today you can know what forgiveness is like. You can experience it first hand. Maybe there is another commitment on your mind. You want to join the church, get involved in our ministry and our mission. Let’s talk about that.
We’ll gather for a time of fellowship in the back in just a moment. But first, let’s sit quietly before the Lord and reflect on His great mercy and love and patience. Then, after a moment of silence, I’m going to ask ….. to dismiss us with a benedictory prayer. Then, Duffey, would you lead us in a song of praise… Then, we’ll be dismissed.