ROMANS 4:1-25 The Faith That Saves

 

In the opening verses of the book of Romans, Paul said he was:

 

  • Romans 1:1-2 – “ . . . separated to the gospel of God2 which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures,” [1]

The gospel God inspires Paul to declare in Romans is that God will forgive a person’s sin and account a person righteous on the basis of faith in Jesus Christ. Our righteousness before God is not dependent upon our works. Paul says in these opening lines that the gospel was promised through the prophets in the Old Testament scriptures. He has repeatedly, to this point, quoted Old Testament verses to substantiate his teaching (e.g. 3:21). Paul is anticipating objections from those Jews who have grown up trying to be righteous by keeping God’s law. There will always be religious ritualists or legalists who try to relate to God by their works of the law.

In Romans 4 Paul is going to the Law (i.e. the Pentateuch book of Genesis) to show that the gospel of faith was taught before the Law was even given by God. Romans 4 is a thorough teaching on the faith that saves, and that a person is not accepted as righteous by God based on works of the law. Paul, in Romans 4, is going to go to the Old Testament and show the presence of the gospel there. What we will see is that the New Testament’s teaching that salvation is through faith in Christ is rooted in the Old Testament revelation that a person is accounted as just before God based on their faith trust in God.

A Faith Like Abraham

Romans 4:1 – “What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh?” [2]

Paul begins by saying, “What then shall we say . . . ?” Paul has made a preliminary foray in his presentation by stating that a person is not justified by the Law, but by grace through faith in Christ (3:19-31). Paul’s manner of making his point often utilizes the art of questioning as in 6:1; 7:7; 8:31; 9:14, 30. An apt question can open the door to the ministry of the Spirit in teaching. Here it is as though Paul were saying, “What can the experience and account of Abraham tell us about becoming righteous before God? Paul calls those who may have doubted him thus far to come and reason with me on this matter. Let us proceed as well to see how Paul addresses this issue.

Paul continues, “that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh?” To further his position Paul appeals to the greatest of patriarchs in the Jewish faith, Abraham. Paul is going to continue his argument by using the experience of Abraham to show that the concept of justification by faith is seen in this Old Testament patriarch. This would be very persuasive for a Jew, if it could be shown. And it will be very persuasive for us as well.

Abraham – Model of Faith

 

Abraham is used by Paul as a model of saving and sustaining faith in Romans 4. Abraham is seen prominently throughout the Bible.  Abraham is named in the Hall of Faith list in the book of Hebrews (Hebrews 11:8-12). Before we look a the specifics of Romans 4 about Abraham, let’s consider a brief overview of Abraham and his faith that we see in the book of Genesis:

 

Abraham by faith gave his all to God and obeyed God’s call on his life – Genesis 12:1-4.

 

  • Genesis 12:1-4 – “Now the Lord had said to Abram: 1 “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you.2 I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing.3 I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”4 So Abram departed as the Lord had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.”   [3]

Abraham grew up in the pagan land of Ur of the Chaldeas (Genesis 11:31) and later moved to Haran, places known for pagan idolatry. Notice that when God calls Abram he does not give him specifics beyond a simple call to leave. Abram from the start would have to trust God and take a risk. God builds faith by including an element of risk in his directions of us. In Hebrews it states:

  • Hebrews 11:1 – “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  [4]

We don’t’ like those words, “not seen.” We, (as I’m sure was likely true of Abram also) like to have our plans laid out before us. We want the entire blueprint of what God intends to do in our lives. “What does my future hold? What happens if I move here? Who will my spouse be? What career will I have?” and on and on. God gives us step one as He leads us by faith; we want step one, two, three, four, five, . . . .  We want everything set out neatly before us so we can decide if we want to do it.

There are a number of reasons God doesn’t lay out His entire plan for our lives before us.  First, it causes us to depend and trust in Him every step of the way. Second, if we saw the entire plan we might refuse to go because our faith has not been gradually bolstered and built up alone the journey. Third, if we knew what our future held we might coast. No, if we are gong to follow God in faith, we will need to experience what Abram did, a moment by moment trust in the Lord. So if God calls you to a task, don’t think if you have some uncertainty that this is not God’s will, He will give you enough to take the next step, but you will have to trust Him for the rest. You have to trust God with your future because faith is the “substance of things hoped for.”

Abraham knew no altar-native to God.  He called on God in prayer and worship and it was a priority for him to do so. He also led his family in the same spiritual path – Genesis 12:5-8; (13:4,18; 22:9).

 

  • Genesis 12:5-8 – “Then Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people whom they had acquired in Haran, and they departed to go to the land of Canaan. So they came to the land of Canaan.6 Abram passed through the land to the place of Shechem, as far as the terebinth tree of Moreh. And the Canaanites were then in the land.7 Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” And there he built an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him.8 And he moved from there to the mountain east of Bethel, and he pitched his tent with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; there he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord.”  [5]

It was Abram’s practice that when he went from one place to another, that he would erect an altar and prayerfully worship and seek the Lord. Because of the way God led Abram, it caused him to seek the Lord and led to a healthy spiritual relationship with God. Abram built altars to God because God had altered his life. Abram was altered by God because he knew no altar-native, i.e. alternative to God. God was the Lord of Abram’s life. This is a prime characteristic of a man of faith.

Abraham was not perfect, he was flawed - Genesis 12:10-20; 20; 16:2. Abram resorted to deception and lies on occasion rather than trust in God. And this occurred when he was young in his faith and when he was more mature in his faith. When tempted to “help God” in fulfilling His plan by resorting to a carnal alternative plan proposed by his wife Sarah, he did not resist it but gave in which led to the creation of perpetual animosity for his offspring. Yet he pressed on with God by faith.  

 

Furthermore, we see that Abraham was a pilgrim who lived in a tent, not a king who lived in a castle of carnality. Abraham had his priorities right. His eyes were fixed on the heavenly promise, not the pride of earth - 12:8; 13:3,12,18; 18:1,2,6,9,10; 24:67; Hebrews 11:13; 13:14; 1 Peter 2:11-12.Abraham had an ongoing relationship with God that produced growth in his faith – Genesis 17:3; 18.Abraham was changed by God – Genesis 17:4-5.Abraham was made fruitful by God – Genesis 17:6Abraham was marked by God so that he was distinct, from the world, holy – Genesis 17:10-11. Abraham was open to God’s will, even when it contradicted his desires – 17:18-19.Abraham left God’s mark on others – Genesis 17:27.Abraham was a servant of God – Genesis 18:1-8.Abraham accepted that God could do the impossible – Genesis 18:9-15.Abraham was strengthened in faith by his knowledge of God – Genesis 18:16-22.Abraham was concerned about justice and the salvation of others – Genesis 18:23. Abraham reverently sought to know more about God by asking questions of God, his faith was dynamic, not static, it was growing not slowing – Genesis 24-33.

 

But certainly the greatest demonstration of Abraham’s faith was his willingness to offer his son Isaac on Mount Moriah. Here is Abraham and his wife Sarah, well advanced in age and beyond the time that you would normally expect a couple to have a child, but miraculously God, true to His word, blessed them with a son of promise. So incredible and awesome is this blessing that all they can do is laugh and so they name their son of promise, Isaac, which means laughter. That is what happens in Genesis 21. God always is true to His word. God is faithful and brings to pass what He promises to do.

 

But to build faith and reveal His truth, there are almost always the Genesis 22 experiences. You see, God keeps us off balanced; we can’t seem to be able to figure Him out. We can be sure of His love, kindness, holiness and grace, but the way He demonstrates them, ah, that is another story. God’s ways are not our ways and they are past our finding out at times which causes us to have to trust Him in faith (Isaiah 55:8-9; Romans 11:33-36).

 

And so we come to Genesis 22. God tells Abraham to bring Isaac, his long awaited son of promise, through whom he and the entire world would be blessed, God tells Abraham to go and offer Isaac as a sacrifice on Mount Moriah (22:1-2). (Notice God refers to Isaac as Abraham’s “only son.” This is because God does not recognize that done in our flesh, He only accepts that which is produced through faith in Him – 1 Corinthians 3:15; Galatians 4:22-29.) It says that God was testing Abraham’s faith.  It goes on to say that Abraham simply obeyed. But I imagine that Abraham certainly couldn’t have expected let alone fully understood what God was intending to accomplish in this directive or why God would ask him to do such a thing. Abraham may have thought, “Father, this is my son, my ‘only’ son, the child of Your promise through whom Your covenant promises are to be fulfilled; You want me to offer him as a sacrifice? You want me to kill, no murder him? Father, I don’t understand.”

 

God often builds faith by bringing us to a point where we must simply trust Him even though we do not understand what He is doing in our life situation. When we find ourselves in such situations, we should seek confirmation in God’s word and godly counsel in such situations to make sure it isn’t simply us following a pipe dream. But for Abraham, there was no godly counsel available, and this was God’s word! It was just Him and God. What would this man of faith do?

 

Abraham obeyed God, took Isaac and a couple of servants and went on his way to Moriah (22:3). In “three” days Abraham came to his destination. What torment and heartfelt prayerful cries this man of God must have made on the way to Moriah! But Abraham did not express his feelings in a way to tip off his son as to God’s plans. All we know is that buy the time Abraham had reached Moriah, his faith in God had been encouraged enough so that he confidently told the servants to wait at the foot of the mount while he and Isaac went up and that “we will come back to you” (22:4-5). In Hebrews it states that Abraham’s faith in God was such that he trusted that God was able to resurrect his son Isaac from the dead if need be (Hebrews 11:17-19). Abraham had believed God could do the impossible in the process of Isaac’s birth. Now God was taking him to a higher level in that he would have to trust God to raise him from the dead.

 

Abraham put the wood for the sacrifice on the shoulders of Isaac and the two began their ascent up the mount. Now in all this Isaac followed his father in trusting silence. He only asked his father once where the sacrificial animal was and Abraham’s reply was “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” (22:6-8) [6]  Isaac was no young child. In fact he was quite possibly in his late teens or early 20s and would have easily been able to overpower his elderly father. But he did not. Isaac’s faith was being built here too. He went along with his father who he knew to be a man of faith. It is always easier to follow someone you know is a person of faith, but certainly Isaac’s faith must have been more fully placed in God. His father was old, had he gone off the deep end? What and why was he doing what he was doing? What must have Isaac thought when his father told him to get up on the altar, when his father the man of faith tied him down to the altar and then raised his knife high in the air? What must Isaac have thought? (22:9-10). He was literally brought to the end of himself, to the extreme end of himself in this curious situation. And that is the way God builds faith. Man’s extremities are God’s opportunities.

 

God builds faith by bringing us to the end of ourselves. He brings us to the end of our reason, the end of our strength, the end of our wits at times. He brings us to the place where all there is, is Him. He brings us to the place where all we can do is trust in Him. And when our faith is stretched to the point of breaking, He says, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”  (22:9-12) [7] This is how God builds faith. But because of Abraham’s faith God was able to do something even more incredible.

 

The word “love” is first mentioned in the Bible in Genesis 22:2. And it is fitting that the first mention of love is used in regards to a father’s love for his son.  There is a greater truth foreshadowed here and a greater love foretold. It’s interesting that when Abraham says, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering” (22:6-8), that those words can also be translated, “God will provide Himself, an offering.” And it is true, God in Christ, gave Himself to save us from our sins (2 Corinthians 5:19). Through this event God gives a picture of His loving sacrifice of His Son Jesus (22:2, 8; John 3:16). Mount Moriah would eventually go by another name, the name Golgotha. Mount Moriah is the eventual location of Golgotha where God the Father would send His one and only Son Jesus to give His life a ransom for many (22:2; John 3:16). (2 Chronicles 3:1 – Solomon’s temple was built on Mount Moriah and the highest point of this mount was later named Golgotha by Romans who used the highest point of the area to display those who were executed.) On Moriah God proved Abraham’s faith (22:12). But on Moriah God showed us a picture of the one in Whom we should put our faith to be saved.

 

What do we learn from this? One thing we learn is that faith is built by testing. No test, no testimony. We learn that God, in His Son Jesus Christ, does not limit the extent to which He will go to show us His love or deal with our sin. God really did go through with the sacrifice of His one and only Son, His precious Son Jesus. And that is why this portion of scripture is also the place where “worship” is first mentioned (22:5). On Moriah, on Golgotha, God showed us His love and gave us His gospel of grace and for that we should always be worshipping Him. Amen!

 

 

Abraham was accounted as righteous by God based on his faith and trust in God – Genesis 15:6.

 

  • Genesis 15:6 – “And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.”  [8]

Abraham, as you can see, was a man of faith. God used the life of Abraham to show humanity the faith He desires to work in and through them. Abraham wasn’t perfect, and our ultimate example in all things is the Lord Jesus Christ, but Abraham gives us a picture of the living faith that God wants for each of those whom calls His own. But more importantly, in Abraham we see the picture of the gospel of God. Because of Abraham’s faith in God, God could use Him to paint a beautiful picture of His grace, love and of His redemptive gospel in Christ. When we put our faith in God, He is able to use us in incredibly awesome ways. Glory to God Most High!

 

Now we turn the Romans 4 where we have the most particular consideration of Abrahams’ faith outside of the book of Genesis. What does God inspire Paul to focus upon in Abraham to reveal characteristics about the faith He wants to work in people? Let’s see.

 

A Faith That Doesn’t Boast

Romans 4:2 – “For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.”  [9]

Paul offers a hypothetical situation. The Rabbis taught that Abraham had a surplus of merit that could be passed on to his descendants.[10]  He may have had reason to boast before man, “but not before God.” Abraham didn’t boast before God but was instead humble before God and as a result God gave him grace and built his faith and exalted him in due time (1 Peter 5:5-6).

In Romans 3:27 Paul disallows any boasting before God. Many today lay claim to heaven based on their religious affiliation or that they belong to a religious family. God has no grandchildren, only children. You can’t be born into God’s kingdom or family; you have to be born again into God’s family (John 3:5-6).

A Faith Built on Scripture

Romans 4:3a – “For what does the Scripture say?”  [11]

“For what does the Scripture say?” Paul follows the example of Jesus His Master by referring to Scripture. This is a good example for the student of the word to follow. There are four things we should mention here about the relationship between the believer’s faith and God’s word.

First, an argument is powerful and effective in proportion to its scriptural accuracy and the amount of scripture it is based upon. Arguments constructed without Scripture are based on mere opinion and therefore on a shaky basis. There are as many opinions as there are people. But arguments based on rightly handling God’s word are powerful. This is clearly stated in the word itself where it is written:

  • 2 Timothy 3:16-17 – “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”   [12]
  • Hebrews 4:12 – “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”  [13]

God’s word has the power to impact people. Politicians depend on personal opinion. Statistics are good, as long as they remain relevant. Illustrations can move us emotionally. But it is the word of God that transcends time and is always relevant; it is the word of God that strikes deep to the soul and heart and is used by God to edify and build up our faith. The Bible contains God’s opinion, and His opinion is all that really matters.

Second, there is a direct correlation between faith and God’s word. Later in Romans Paul is inspired to write:

 

  • Romans 10:17 – “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”  [14]

If you want to have strong faith in God, you need to be in His word. God’s word studied and applied in the Spirit, builds strong faith and spiritual maturity. The food of faith is the word of God. Faith is like a muscle that God feeds with His word and stretches with trials and the circumstances of life. Jesus said we live by the bread of God’s word that nourishes us (Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:3). Feed your spirit on the word of God.

Sometimes teachings or messages use a verse from the bible only as a launching pad for a personal diatribe or speech peppered with statistics and colorful illustrations. Illustrations are good and valuable; Jesus used illustrations in communicating when He spoke in parables. But there is a practice at times where a minister speaks nothing but illustrations and the objective is to stimulate people emotionally, to get a rise out of them. Emotions are part of the human psyche, but faith supercedes emotions and if faith is to be grown and flowered to fullness, it needs to be fed God’s word (see below). It isn’t hard to get people to respond emotionally by way of a story. But emotional reaction is not spiritual growth. People do not grow spiritually because they respond emotionally, (I have seen many a teary response to sermons, with no spiritual growth!). People grow spiritually when they are ministered to with the word of God taught in the Spirit. The best illustrations are Biblical illustrations. That is the best of both world’s, when you can bring to life the word of God. There is a direct correlation between building faith and the word of God. Feed people the word!

 

Third, how you approach the Bible will determine how effective it is in building your faith. When Paul wrote to the Thessalonians he said that the way they received God’s word led to their strong faith. Paul stated:

  • 1 Thessalonians 2:13 – “For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.”  [15]

In the church people may grow comfortable with their pastor. On occasion when the pastor has to be away and a substitute is called to fill in and teach, attendance sometimes goes down. That shouldn’t happen. It shouldn’t happen because it is the Spirit of God that speaks through the word of God in the church. Granted, God calls people to teach and gifts them accordingly, but it is He who speaks. Some churches have pastors that are viewed more as celebrities than men called, anointed and spiritually gifted by God to minister.  God can speak to you through or in spite of the person teaching. I learned this early in my walk with the Lord. There were times when in churches I attended I was not entirely enamored with the one teaching, but as I faithfully and prayerfully sought the Lord; He never failed to speak to me in some way on the given day of the teaching I was in. Part of that is our own preparation and the appropriate preparation involves an expectation that God will speak through His word.

In the Old Testament on one occasion there was a thick headed prophet named Balaam who God was trying to get a message across to, but he just wasn’t getting it. He wanted to make some money by bringing a curse on God’s people. God told him not to do such a thing and didn’t allow him to do it, but Balaam persisted. At one point Balaam is persisting on a journey to bring a curse against God’s people, riding on his mule, when the LORD sends the Angel of the LORD to confront Balaam. Balaam did not see the Angel or know of the danger, but God gave the mule spiritual sight to see the Angel and even to speak out and warn Balaam what lay ahead of him. Balaam struck the mule three times because the mule refused to proceed. Then the mule spoke out to warn Balaam saving him from certain destruction (Numbers 22). I tell you this because on occasion I receive compliments after a service about my teaching. Truthfully it embarrasses me because I know the message is from the Lord and I can’t take any credit for it. When a compliment comes I deflect it to the Lord and add, “I guess if God can speak to Balaam through a mule, He can speak through me too.” That may be a somewhat humorous response, but it’s true. We need to approach the teaching of God’s word the proper way, as though it is the teaching and word of God. When we do that, our faith will be increased and edified.

Don’t neglect God’s word, don’t allow your study of it to become ho-hum and matter-of-fact, but approach God’s word as His love letter to you personally. The Spirit inspired the Bible, the Bible is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The Bible is a composition of words from God’s heart to your heart. Treat it that way. When you go to the Bible approach it prayerfully in the Spirit seeking Him to speak to you through it. Then surrender yourself to God to have Him apply His word to your life. That is how strong faith is built.

Fourth, for the believer to be unashamed they must be a student of God’s word. Paul wrote to Timothy:

  • 2 Timothy 2:15 – “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”  [16]

Be a diligent worker who studies God’s word thoroughly to determine how it fits together and is applied to life, then you will be unashamed before God.

A Faith That Brings Accounted Righteousness

 

Romans 4:3b – “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” [17]

Paul quotes Genesis 15:6, his keynote text from the Old Testament used to prove his point about the gospel. The Bible Knowledge Commentary states, “Because he believed, God imputed righteousness to his account (“credited,” elogistheµ, from logizomai, is an accounting term). Paul had quoted this verse before in another letter (Gal. 3:6).  [18] There is a faith in God that leads to God accounting one righteous. What is that faith?

 

What is the “Faith/Belief” That Saves?

 

The word “believe” is translated from the Greek term PISTEUO (Strong’s #4100.            pisteuvw , pist-yoo´-o) which means, “to have faith in a person or thing;  believe; trust; commit, put in trust with.” [19] Vine’s comments that the term PISTEUO means, “to believe,” also “to be persuaded of,” and therefore, “to place confidence in,” “to trust,” “ reliance upon.” PISTEUO is not merely assenting to something or giving credence but believing or trusting in something or someone in a way that causes one to act or change accordingly. “Faith” occurs 243 times in the New Testament. “Trust” occurs 18 times in the New Testament. We find this word most frequently in the gospel of John where it occurs 99 times. [20] In Romans we find the term “faith” 39 times in 34 verses. “Believe” occurs 8 times in Romans (3:3, 22; 411, 24; 6:8; 10:9, 14; 15:31). “Believed” occurs 6 times in Romans (4:3, 17, 18; 10:14, 16; 13:11). ”Believing” occurs once in Romans (15:13). Altogether in Romans we find approximately 54 references to faith which is about ¼ of the references to faith in the entire New Testament. Romans to a great extent is a book about faith.

 

Where Does Saving Faith Come From?

 

The faith that saves is not inherent in us; it is the gift of God by grace  to us. Evidence for this truth is the fact that we see thankfulness expressed to God for saving faith. If saving faith were something inherent in man, there would be no need to thank God. And yet, the Bible tells us to thank God for faith:

 

  • Colossians 1:3-4 – “We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you,4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints;”  [21]
  • 2 Thessalonians 1:3 – “We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other,”  [22]

The Bible states that saving faith is a gift from God:

  • Acts 3:16 -  “And His name, through faith in His name, has made this man strong, whom you see and know. Yes, the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.”  [23]
  • Ephesians 2:8-9 – “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.”  [24] (See also Ephesians 6:23-24)
  • Philippians 1:29 – “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,”  [25]
  • 1 Timothy 1:14 – “And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.”  [26]
  • 1 Peter 1:20-21 – “He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you21 who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.”  [27]
  • 2 Peter 1:1 – “Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, 1 To those who have obtained [lit. “have been granted”] like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:” [28]

In addition to these verses, in Hebrews it states that Jesus is the Author and Finisher of our faith:

  • Hebrews 12:1-2 – “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  [29]

Saving faith is the starting point of God’s regenerative work in a person. A person responds to God with saving faith because God by His grace enables the sinner to receive Him by faith. Having said this, it does not imply that God “regenerates” a person before they believe in Him, or in order that they might believe in Him. Regeneration is the subsequent work of God in a person once they have responded in faith to Him. Faith is a gift of God’s grace; regeneration is the subsequent work of God in the one who receives Jesus by faith. God regenerates the one who puts their faith in Him.

 

Faith and Regeneration

 

In Calvinism the order of salvation puts God’s regenerative work before a person’s saving faith. Calvinism teaches that people are totally depraved to the extent that God must regenerate them before they can put faith in God. This leads the Calvinist to say a person is “born again” before they are saved.

 

No where in the Bible is it taught that God regenerates a person before they are saved or that being “born again’ is separate and distinct from salvation.  Dave Hunt makes the following comment on the order of salvation as it relates to saving faith and the regenerative work of God in a person:

 

“Men fail to come to Christ not because they cannot, but because they will not: ‘And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life’ (John 5:40). . . . Defining depravity as inability requires God to sovereignly regenerate man, and without any recognition, understanding or faith on man’s part, bring him to spiritual life. [But] Enabling grace is needed for faith, but not ‘regenerating grace.’ Where does the Bible say one must be regenerated before one can believe the gospel? Not one verse can be cited where that proposition is stated clearly. . . . Nowhere from Genesis to Revelation does the Bible teach that sinful man, without first being regenerated, is incapable of repenting of his sins, turning to God and believing the gospel. On the contrary, it is all too clear that faith precedes salvation and is in fact a condition of salvation. [Luke 8:12; Mark 16:16; Acts 16:31; Romans 1:16; 1 Corinthians 15:1-2; Ephesians 2:8; 1 Timothy 1:16).] . . . In numerous places the Bible declares that upon believing in Christ according to the gospel we receive eternal life from God as a free gift. [John 3:16; 5:24; 20:31] . . . . The Bible clearly teaches that the moment one believes in and receives the Lord Jesus Christ as the Savior who died for one’s sins, that person has been born (regenerated of the Spirit of God) into the family of God and has thereby become a child of God. . . . Believing in Christ unto salvation is not the result of regeneration but the cause of it.”[30]

 

God enables by His grace the sinner to put faith in Jesus Christ and then regenerates the respondent by the rebirth of the Spirit. Faith precedes regeneration, not visa versa.

 

Faith Alone in Christ Alone Saves

 

That faith is the only means by which a person is saved is seen in numerous passages of the Bible. Here are just a few:

 

  • Galatians 2:16 - “knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.”  [31]
  • Philippians 3:9 – “and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;”  [32] ( See also Romans 3:20-22, 28; 4:5,14; 10:4; Galatians  3:11.)

Roman Catholicism objects to the doctrine of salvation by faith alone stating that nowhere in the Bible does it say that faith alone saves. The Roman Catholic Church points to James 2:24 which seems to contradict the idea of faith alone saving when it says, “A man is justified by works, and not by faith only.” Is this a contradiction? Not if one has a proper understanding of saving faith.

 

Paul may not use the exact word “alone,” but he does repeatedly say in Romans that faith apart from works saves (Romans 3:20,21,24,28; 4:5,6). James R. White explains the connection between faith and works:

 

“Faith alone saves, but a saving faith is never alone. . . . Sola Fide [faith alone] has never, ever meant ‘justified by a barren, dead faith that is not Spirit-borne nor accompanied by all the rest of the work of God in His redeemed people. The alone has always referred to the denial of any additions to faith, especially those that speak to merit. . . . Faith, then, abandons all claims to any merit or reward. . . . The faith that saves is a faith that clings in helpless dependence upon another: the God who justifies.” [33]

 

 Dave Hunt adds that faith is not a work. God’s enabling grace allows a person to receive the gospel by faith. Dave Hunt says:

 

“To believe the gospel and to receive Christ requires no work or worth on man’s part, contributes nothing to salvation, gives no credit to man and detracts in no way from God’s glory. . . . It is simply not true that believing in and receiving Christ gives any credit to man or detracts at all from the fact that it is Christ alone who procured our redemption. Faith is not a work nor does it give any credit to the person who believes . . .”  [34]

Faith is a gift of God’s grace, something to be received and exercised by the sinner to be saved through faith in Christ, and that to the glory of God.

 

What Does “Impute/Account” Mean?

 

The word “accounted” (Strong’s # 3049) is translated from the Greek term LOGIDZOMAI  (logivzomailog-id´-zom-ahee) which in secular useage meant, “to take an inventory, i.e. estimate;  conclude, account, count, esteem, impute, lay, number, reason, reckon, suppose, think on.[35]  In the New Testament LOGIDZOMAI  means, “to reckon, count” (in 2 Corinthians 10:2), to be “counted” (Rom. 2:26; 4:3, 5; 9:8), “reckoned.”  [36]

 

It is important to understand that this word, “account; impute; reckon” does not mean to change one inwardly to make them pleasing to God. Such a view leads to an inclusion of human works in justification. Rather, “reckon” means to credit to one’s account and treat them accordingly. The righteousness of Christ is imputed to the believer and when it is (by grace through faith) God then treats the believer as just before Him even though they may sin and fail subsequently to that declaration by God.

 

This is tremendously significant because the righteousness that is imputed by faith is the perfect righteousness of Jesus and results in a secure relationship with God, a peace with God (Romans 5:1) and all praise to God for His redemptive work in His Son.

 

Old Testament Examples of Impute as “credit to one’s account and treat accordingly”

 

In the Old Testament, the word CHASHAB (Strong’s #2803) is the term translated in the Greek (Septuagint) LOGIDZOMAI. It carries with it the meaning of laying to one’s charge and treating him accordingly; it produces no change in the individual but simply alters his relation to law. In Genesis 31:14 Rachel and Leah spoke of being “considered” as strangers to their father Laban. In Leviticus 17:4 it speaks of the “guilt of bloodshed” being “imputed” to the one who kills an animal and offers an improper offering to God. And in Leviticus 25:31 living areas without walls are to be “counted” As though they were fields. In all these cases we see something being “accounted” without any actual change in and of itself.

 

A New Testament example of LOGIDZOMAI as “credit to one’s account and treat accordingly”

 

When Paul wrote to Philemon about his runaway slave Onesimus, he instructed his friend to, “put that to my account” anything the runaway slave might owe him. In Romans 4:5 we see Paul speak of accounting the ungodly as righteous. Paul had not taken anything from Philemon, yet he asked that whatever Onesimus owed would be put to his account.

 

Why is a right view of Imputation Important?

 

James R. White explains:

 

“So why press the point so strongly? Because the only righteousness the Christian has is an imputed righteousness, and if that imputation involves a subjective change the person (i.e., if it means that we are made righteous, and hence pleasing to God) rather than the crediting of the righteousness of another (Christ), the entire gospel message takes on a completely different meaning and nature. The focus moves away from the perfection of the work of Christ on behalf of the believer to the maintenance of a state or condition. The glory for salvation itself is divided between the Savior and the saved, for the work of the one only makes it possible for the other to engage in “self-salvation.” . . . Why is imputation the only hope of the sinful soul? Because it is the one who knows the stain of his sin who knows that he must have a righteousness that is not his own.” (See Philippians 3:9).

 

We can not work our way to righteousness. We cannot add to our righteousness once we are made righteous through faith in Christ. When you receive Jesus as your Savior by faith, God credits you with the righteousness of Jesus which is complete, finished on the cross, perfect, and you cannot add to it. We live on compelled by a loving appreciation of what God has provided for us in His Son Jesus which results in a holy life. But the holy life does not add to our righteousness, it only shows that we have taken it to heart.

 

Faith or Works?

 

Romans 4:4 – “Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.”  [37]

The point being made by Paul here is that if God’s blessings are contingent upon, “him who works,” and what they do, then they are not the result of grace, but God owes them to the worker as a debt.

Oftentimes people try to bargain with God to get what they want. They try to twist God’s arm by doing certain good works or depriving themselves of certain things in order to win the favor of God. But if God’s favor is based on what we do, then the blessing is not freely given (3:24), but earned and if earned then God is obligated, and if God is obligated then it is the worker who gains a level of control. People have no leverage on God. God has total sovereign control. The grace of God is a part of that.

Romans 4:5 – “But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness,”  [38]

The point here by Paul is not to encourage the Christian to become a couch potato, but is that they not to see their works as the means to gaining righteousness. Faith or trust in God is the basis of securing the righteousness of God.

Pastor Chuck Smith states:

To him that does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, that faith is accounted for righteousness.  Does that mean then that I have a free ride, a free ticket, it doesn’t matter what I do as long as I believe in Jesus Christ?  Yes, as long as you believe in Jesus Christ, your belief will be manifested by your works.  But the works don’t make you righteous.  They don’t save you.  But they are the fruit of that faith and belief in Jesus Christ.  So we see a beautiful balance between Paul and James.  And so that is why I choose to take James at this time on Thursday nights, so that we get the balance.  Paul tells you that God accounts us righteous by our faith in Jesus Christ.  And he is right.  But James tells you that a true faith in Jesus Christ will be manifested by works, if it is a true faith.  That it will be displayed or demonstrated by works that are in keeping with what you believe.  You see, I may say that I believe in certain things, but if my works don’t line up with what I say I believe, then there is reason to question, do I really believe it?  You see if I said I believe someone has planted a bomb in this pulpit tonight that is set to go off in two minutes.  It’s going to blow this place apart.  And if I just kept talking to you, you’d say oh he really doesn’t believe it.  And you would be right.  I mean if I really believed it, I’d say everybody out of here, you know!  There are exits all around, you know, get out of the place.  It’s going to go up!  And I’d be out the back door.  You see, wow, he really believes it.  So your works come from your faith and they prove the genuineness of that faith.  But it isn’t’ the works that make me righteous, it’s just because I have that righteousness through faith in Christ because I have a true belief in Him.  I believe that He died for my sins.  I believe that I am destined to spend eternity in the glory of His kingdom with Him.  I believe that He loves me so much that He gave Himself.  And thus I respond to that love . . . and to the belief that I have.  It’s in harmony and shows the faith.  [39]

 

If salvation is based on works and not faith alone, then there can never be any assurance or certainty of salvation because one is always moved to ask, “how many works is sufficient to be saved?” But because salvation is by faith in Christ’s work, His work is complete and done and therefore when we put faith in Him, we are assured of our salvation because we know the work is complete in Him.

“Him who justifies the ungodly”

The words, “justifies the ungodly,” are incredible because it cuts out any works righteousness. Read what one commentator says about the significance of these words:

‘”God justifies the ungodly. Such an assertion runs directly counter to everything man’s religions teach. Men believe themselves capable of cleaning themselves up, of doing good works so as to receive from God the sentence of justification. One cannot help but think of these words from the Roman Catholic writer Ludwig Ott:

The reason for the uncertainty of the state of grace lies in this: that without a special revelation nobody can with certainty of faith know whether or not he has fulfilled all the conditions which are necessary for achieving justification.

Paul’s response to such an assertion would be twofold. First, the conditions necessary for achieving justification were accomplished in our place by Jesus Christ, who alone fulfilled the law perfectly. Second, no person can fulfill conditions to ‘achieve’ justification in the sense Ott is presenting here. The sole condition for the sinner to receive justification from God is a faith that is here contrasted in the strongest terms with any idea of merit or work.” [40]

The ungodly have no claims of personal merit before God; they have only an empty hand to hold out before God.

A Faith That Leads to a Beautiful Blessing

Romans 4:6-8 – “just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: 7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,  And whose sins are covered; 8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin.”  [41]

By citing David, (in Psalm 32; as well as Abraham earlier) Paul is referring to another of the most prominent and respected persons of Jewish history. Paul quotes David who speaks of the blessedness of the one whose sins are covered because they put their faith in God and trust Him.

David was a “man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14). God inspired David to write numerous psalms (Matthew 22:43). These psalms reveal David’s heart of worship toward the Lord (e.g. He served as the royal harpist under King Saul - 1 Samuel 16:14-23; David was a man of worship - 2 Samuel 23; 1 Chronicles 15; 25). David was a man of courageous faith. As a young shepherd he protected his flock from predators and trusted in God to use him to defeat the giant Goliath and the Philistines (1 Samuel 17). He was a man of God’s word and though opportunity presented itself, he spared sinful king Saul’s life on numerous occasions, choosing to trust God to raise him up in due time (1 Samuel 24; 26). David had a desire to build God a house of worship, though God would not permit this man of war to do so, God made an eternal covenant with David that God would build him a house by Messiah coming from David’s descendants (2 Samuel 7; Jeremiah 23:5-6; Matthew 1:1; Revelation 22:16). Yes, David was a man of faith as Hebrews summarizes by stating:

  • Hebrews 11:32-33 – “And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets:33 who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,”  [42]

Yet David is not a man without blemish. He is also associated with the terrible compound sin of committing adultery with Bathsheba and then by premeditation, arranging the murder of her husband, a loyal and upright soldier in his army (2 Samuel 11). David’s sin began when he shirked his responsibility and chose to idly remain hoe instead of go out to battle in the spring which was his and in general, all kings practice (2 Samuel 11:1). David’s idleness resulted in his coming across a tempting situation where a beautiful woman, Bathsheba, taking a bath on her rooftop. Temptation gets the better of him, he calls for his servants to bring Bathsheba to him, and they have an adulterous affair which results in her becoming pregnant (2 Samuel 11:2-5). Then David begins his attempts to cover-up his sin. He contacts Joab, his general and has him send home Uriah (Bathsheba husband) hoping that Uriah will have sexual relations with his wife, think that she is pregnant by him,  and no one will be the wiser as to David’s involvement in Bathsheba’s pregnancy. But David didn’t count on the integrity if Uriah who as a man of character refuses to sleep with his wife while his fellow soldiers remain on the lines of battle. David even tries to get Uriah drunk, but Uriah is steadfast in his integrity (2 Samuel 11:6-13). David, desperate to avoid the disgrace of his sinful affair, arranges with Joab to have Uriah sent to the front lines of battle where he will be exposed to the enemy and killed (2 Samuel 11:14-17). When it is learned that Uriah is dead, Bathsheba mourns and David takes her into his house giving the appearance that he is looking after his fallen soldier’s wife. David then takes Bathsheba as his wife and it appears that his problem is solved (2 Samuel 18-27). David was able to deceive those around him and cover up his sin. But One David could not deceive was God.

A year passes and David assumes all is well, that he’s gotten away with his sin with Bathsheba. What happened next is worth reading:

  • 2 Samuel 12:1-15 - “Then the Lord sent Nathan to David. And he came to him, and said to him: “There were two men in one city, one rich and the other poor.2 “The rich man had exceedingly many flocks and herds.3 “But the poor man had nothing, except one little ewe lamb which he had bought and nourished; and it grew up together with him and with his children. It ate of his own food and drank from his own cup and lay in his bosom; and it was like a daughter to him.4 “And a traveler came to the rich man, who refused to take from his own flock and from his own herd to prepare one for the wayfaring man who had come to him; but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.”5 So David’s anger was greatly aroused against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this shall surely die!6 “And he shall restore fourfold for the lamb, because he did this thing and because he had no pity.”7 Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul.8 ‘I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your keeping, and gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if that had been too little, I also would have given you much more!9 ‘Why have you despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in His sight? You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword; you have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the people of Ammon.10 ‘Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’11 “Thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, I will raise up adversity against you from your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun.12 ‘For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, before the sun.’ ”13 So David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die.14 “However, because by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also who is born to you shall surely die.”15 Then Nathan departed to his house.  And the Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and it became ill.”  [43]

 

The child born of his adulterous affair with Bathsheba dies (2 Samuel 12:16-25). David wrote two psalms that speak of his heart in this sinful matter. Psalm 51 is a record of David’s confession of his sin before God. Psalm 32 records David’s sense of joy and blessing that God would forgive him, even in such a despicable sin. It is Psalm 32 that Paul quotes I Romans 4. Psalm 32 is worth reading too as it conveys the blessedness not felt by David as God forgave him, but it conveys the joy of all those who realize they are sinners forgiven by God’s grace. Psalm 32 states:

 

  • Psalm 32:1-11 – “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered.2 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit.3 When I kept silent, my bones grew old Through my groaning all the day long.4 For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was turned into the drought of summer. Selah  5 I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” And You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah 6 For this cause everyone who is godly shall pray to You In a time when You may be found; Surely in a flood of great waters They shall not come near him.7 You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.9 Do not be like the horse or like the mule, Which have no understanding, Which must be harnessed with bit and bridle, Else they will not come near you.10 Many sorrows shall be to the wicked; But he who trusts in the Lord, mercy shall surround him.11 Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous; And shout for joy, all you upright in heart!”  [44]

David’s inspired words tell us that holding sin in and trying to hide it only leads to unbearable pain and sleepless nights (32:3-4). Blessing comes to the one who confesses their sin to God in prayer (32:1-2, 5). God will restore the repentant so that they are able to sing again (32:6-7). God is our hiding place and Deliverer. David exhorts the reader to not be like a stubborn “mule” because sorrow is the consequence of wickedly trying to hide our sin (32:8-10). The one who trusts God’s mercy and confesses their sin to Him, will be glad and rejoice because of the upright heart God will restore to them (32:10b-11).

 

A Blessed Imputation

Paul here takes David’s words of blessing regarding “the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin,” and associates the positive imputation of righteousness with David’s negative non-imputation of sin. This shows that not only is the righteousness of Jesus imputed to us, but also our sin is not imputed to us

The word “blessed” (Strong’s # 3108 - makarismov", mak-ar-is-mos´) means, “beatification, attribution of good fortune; supremely blessed; fortunate; well off; count happy; call blessed.”[45] That sounds like the right way of expressing the way the person feels who realizes that salvation not only involves the removal of sin form them, but in exchange for their sin, Christ’s righteousness is given to them. That truly is a supremely blessed and beautiful gift of God’s grace.

By faith God puts to our account the righteousness of Christ based on what Jesus has done for us in our place on the cross. Jesus served as our substitute paying the death penalty for sin on the cross for us. Because of Jesus dying on the cross to pay our death penalty for sin, out sin is not put to our account when we put our faith in Him.  THAT IS A “BLESSED’ STATE! We come to God on the basis of what Jesus has done, not on the basis of anything that we have done, do, or will do. It is a blessed state when we realize that through faith in Jesus, our sins are removed from our ledger.  

A Faith Available To All

Romans 4:9-12 – “Does this blessedness then come upon the circumcised only, or upon the uncircumcised also? For we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness.10 How then was it accounted? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised.11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also,12 and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised.”  [46]

The Jews believed that only they could be saved and that for anyone else to be saved that person would have to become a Jew. The Jews relied upon the outward sign of circumcision to give them assurance of their acceptance by God. Circumcision was the badge of God’s ownership and symbol that was more important than any other. The Jews were all caught up in the outward ritual rather than what it represented. Paul here brings the ritual of circumcision into proper perspective and points out its place. Since Abraham was accounted as righteous (Genesis 15) before (14 years before) he was circumcised (Genesis 17), then righteousness does not depend upon the rite of circumcision but on the faith of the person (4:9-10). Circumcision is a “sign” of the faithful heart condition (see 2:28-29). Circumcision is merely a sign to be worn by descendants of Abraham who also had been accounted righteous by faith (4:11-12).

Ritual Without Reality is Religious Vanity

Circumcision is meant to be a symbol of cutting off the fleshly life and that the spiritual life is superior to the fleshly life (Romans 2:28-29). THE SPIRITUAL LIFE, (life in fellowship with God by the Spirit in Christ) IS SUPERIOR TO THE FLESHLY LIFE (life focused on and lived to please your self; life lived in one’s own strength by one’s own wisdom and wit)). We see this in the following verses:

  • Philippians 3:3 – “For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh,”  [47]
  • Colossians 2:11-12 – “In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ,12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.”  [48]

If you  are circumcised and living after the flesh of self-centeredness and self-service, your life denies the very thing you are supposed to be demonstrating and circumcision becomes a mockery and worthless.  (The same is true of water baptism in the NT.)

God doesn’t want a person to trust in a RITUAL, but He wants people to trust in an ACTUAL relationship with Him. Trust in God, in Christ, not rituals such as baptism or circumcision for salvation.  Faith paves the way for ALL people to come to and relate to God in a real relationship with Him through faith in Jesus.

Romans 4:13 – “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.” [49]

It is clearly evident that the promise of God came before the law and therefore could not be received through the law. The principle and truth of righteousness by faith predated the coming of the law by more than 400 years.

If Abraham was given a promise by God based on a righteousness accounted to him by his faith not works of the law; then why won’t God bless and relate to you based on faith? He will! God’s blessings are not contingent upon our works or our efforts, but on His grace and the faith He gives us.

We need the righteousness imputed by faith for we can’t achieve it in our own ability and strength. When God imputes righteousness to us, it doesn’t vacillate up and down with our moods but is constant because it is based on Christ.

Romans 4:14-15 – “For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect,15 because the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression.”  [50]

If a person makes the keeping of the law the basis of receiving the promise of God, then the promise is made of no effect because the law brings God’s wrath as it reveals the depth of sin in humankind (3:20). The law exposes the nature of sin in people, the willingness to break God’s laws. Law can only lead us to the solution to our sin problem; it is not in and of itself that solution (Galatians 3 and 4).

For where there is no law there is no transgression.

A police officer couldn’t give you a speeding ticket unless there were speed limits set. Since we do not relate to God by law, but by grace through faith, transgression is not accounted to us. This is not meant to lead to a license to sin. Sin has a consequence of its own. If you go too fast in the absence of a set speed limit, you will crash and die. Jeremiah was inspired to convey this truth when he wrote:

  • Jeremiah 2:19 – “Your own wickedness will correct you, And your backslidings will rebuke you. Know therefore and see that it is an evil and bitter thing That you have forsaken the Lord your God, And the fear of Me is not in you,” Says the Lord God of hosts.”  [51]

Sin kills. It kills spiritually and oftentimes leads to physical death as well. God does not look down from heaven searching for someone that He can hammer. God calls us to repent in part because He knows that there is a consequence of sin, there is pain a suffering for the sinner and the victims of sin.

A Sure Faith

Romans 4:16 – “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 all”  [52]

Righteousness comes by faith because faith trusts in God, not people (like the law does) and if it is based on the grace of God, it is “sure” because God is infinitely more dependable than human beings are. The same standard of righteousness, faith, is extended to all whether or not they are under the law. Salvation based on works is never certain because you never know HOW MUCH is necessary to finish the work. But because salvation is based on Jesus through faith in Him, we are “sure” and confident of our salvation because His work is complete.

Assurance Comes From God

Assurance of one’s standing and salvation before God is based on:  Standing in Him - Ephesians 6:13; His promise to complete what He has started in you  - Philippians 1:6; Standing firm in Him - Philippians 1:27–30; Him fulfilling your needs - Colossians 1:15–23; Eternal encouragement - 2 Thessalonians 2:16–17; Absolute confidence He gives - 2 Timothy 1:12; Our Faithful Lord - 2 Timothy 2:13; Being approved to come to God through Jesus our High Priest - Hebrews 4:14–16; The fact that God cannot lie and will fulfill His promises -  Hebrews 6:18–20; God’s eternal guarantee - Hebrews 7:22; The full assurance God gives  - Hebrews 10:9–23; The perfect and complete salvation Jesus provides - Hebrews 10:11–14; The certainty of faith -  Hebrews 11:1; and God who has promised to keep us from stumbling Jude 24-25. Our assurance of eternal life is rooted in God’s faithfulness.

 

The Nature of Faith

 

Paul now returns to Abraham and refers to him to show the nature of faith. Abraham’s faith as depicted here is a faith that grows. Faith is alive and growing. We may look at Abraham and think, “Wow, I could never believe like he did.” But we can’t really assume such a statement because God gives grace in the moment, not before the moment of need comes. The faith God wants to work in you is the faith Paul describes by way of Abraham in this passage. Remember:

 

  • Philippians 2:13 – “for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”  [53]

Faith is a work of God in you. To have this faith built in you, you need only trust God to do it. Before you proceed, take heart in these few passages:

  • 1 Corinthians 15:57-58 – “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”  [54]
  • Philippians 1:6 – “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;”  [55]
  • Hebrews 11:1,6 – “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. . . . 6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”   [56]

What is the nature of the faith God wants to work in you? Let’s see.

 

A Faith That Believes God Can Do Anything

 

Romans 4:17 – “(as it is written, “I have made you a father of many nations”) in the presence of Him whom he believed—God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did;”  [57]

A righteousness that is based on faith is based on God and God the Creator of all is far more reliable and effective than any human. There is no such thing as impossibility with God. God even raises the dead.

God speaks of future things as though they already are because He has foreknowledge. God observes the beginning from the end and end from the beginning (Isaiah 41:22-23).

A Faith That Hopes Despite Hopeless Appearances

Romans 4:18 – “who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, “So shall your descendants be.”  [58]

Now Paul will show the character and nature of the faith that saves. He will do this be recounting the faith exhibited by Abraham. What was Abraham’s faith like? The faith of Abraham was not based on hoping in the things of this world, but it was based on hoping in God.

Abraham and Sarah were far beyond childbearing years and humanly speaking there was no hope for them to conceive. But Abraham did not allow the human impossibilities to hinder his faith because he hoped in God, not man.

“Hope” is derived from the Greek term ELPIS (Strong’s # 1680 - ejlpiv"  el-pece) which is akin to faith in that it is an anticipation or expectation, a confidence that the future holds a good outcome. Hope therefore is only as reliable as that which it is based upon. Many people hold out hope that wining the lottery will cure all their problems. Many have found that winning the lottery has only added to their problems. Abraham and believers have a steadfast and firm hope because it rests on God and His ability to keep His word and promise; it rests on God’s trustworthiness and faithfulness to do so. [59]

A Faith That Is Not Weak

Romans 4:19 – “And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb.”  [60]

The faith of Abraham was strong not “weak.” The word “weak” (ASTHENEO – Strong’s # 770 - ajsqenevw astheáneáoµ, as-then-eh´-o) refers to something that is, “ feeble (in any sense);  be diseased, impotent, (be) sick, (be, be made) weak.” [61]

Abraham did not allow his faith to be weakened by what he saw around him. He did not project on God what would be humanly impossible, but trusted in God’s ability.

Abraham was not like the spies sent into the Promised Land later in Israel’s history, who got their eyes off of God and onto obstacles and saw themselves as “grasshoppers” – Numbers 14.

When we get our eyes on us and our limitations and outside obstacles, we panic. When we contrive in our own strength (e.g. Hagar – Genesis 16) to do God’s will, it leads to problems and chaos.

The faith that justifies is not deterred from God’s calling and plan by the appearance of obstacles. Abraham and Sarah were far beyond the years of natural childbirth. But Abraham was not deterred by the science of his day or what appeared to be a hopeless cause.

A Faith That Is Strong and Unwavering

Romans 4:20 – “He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God,”  [62]

The faith of Abraham was strong, it did not “waver.” The word “waver” (DIAKRINO – Strong’s # 1252 - diakrivnw diakrinoµ, dee-ak-ree´-no) means “to separate thoroughly, to withdraw from, oppose; hesitate;  contend, make (to) differ (-ence), discern, doubt, judge, be partial, stagger, waver.” [63] Abraham didn’t allow circumstances separate him from His faith in God and His word. He didn’t hesitate or get tripped up by appearances, but trusted in God despite what he saw around him. Abraham did not sink into a morass of depressing unbelief, but rather gave glory to God and trusted in Him. The faith of Abraham was growing and ongoing.

God’s promises are so rich and full that we often can’t believe that God can do what He says He can and will do. But if there is a problem to accomplishing God’s stated will and promise, it isn’t our problem, its God’s problem. For God there is no problem too great that He cannot overcome it.

At one point in the history of Israel Ben Hadad king of Syria came up against the capitol of Samaria and besieged it. The siege kept any one from going in or out of the city which resulted in a famine within the city. It got so bad that people were turning to cannibalism. Elisha was the prophet and the Lord gave him a word that the siege would end the next day. Everything around them seemed to contradict what Elisha said, but sure enough, God delivered the people from a hopeless situation. Elisha found strength in a hopeless situation, because he focused on God and with God nothing is hopeless. (2 Kings 6-7)

There is a formula that helps us measure difficulty which states: Difficulty = Measured by capacity of agent doing work. The key is to measure the difficulty of circumstances and situations but God’s ability to accomplish anything and then, give glory to God! Paul wrote to the Philippians:

  • Philippians 4:19 – “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”  [64]

Abraham, rather than wavering in faithlessness, was  “strengthened” (ENDUNAMOO - Strong’s # 1743 ejndunamovw µ, en-doo-nam-´-o) or empowered, enabled, strengthened, he was made strong. [65] When Abraham was challenged about God’s promises he simply dwelt on God’s faithfulness and that strengthened his faith.

A Fully Convinced Faith

Romans 4:21 – “and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.”  [66]

“Fully convinced” (PLEROPHOREO – Strong’s # 4135 - plhroforevw, play-rof-or-eh´-o) refers to the attitude and feeling that something is fully supported by evidence, a complete assurance and conviction that something will be accomplished. To be “fully convinced” is to “most surely believe, fully know (persuade), make full proof of.” [67] Abraham was “fully convinced” in God and God’s ability, not the things that were around him. The test of faith is our attitude to His ability to do. BE FULLY, COMPLETELY CONVINCED IN GOD’S PROIMISES.

In the Old Testament when Jehoshaphat, king of Judah was confronted by a confederacy of enemies he was afraid and went to prayer before the Lord. The Lord answered him through the Jahaziel who the Spirit came upon with a fully convincing assurance in God. Read the account of how God strengthens faith:

  • 2 Chronicles 20:5-23 – “Then Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the Lord, before the new court,6 and said: “O Lord God of our fathers, are You not God in heaven, and do You not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations, and in Your hand is there not power and might, so that no one is able to withstand You?7 “Are You not our God, who drove out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel, and gave it to the descendants of Abraham Your friend forever?8 “And they dwell in it, and have built You a sanctuary in it for Your name, saying,9 ‘If disaster comes upon us—sword, judgment, pestilence, or famine—we will stand before this temple and in Your presence (for Your name is in this temple), and cry out to You in our affliction, and You will hear and save.’10 “And now, here are the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir—whom You would not let Israel invade when they came out of the land of Egypt, but they turned from them and did not destroy them—11 “here they are, rewarding us by coming to throw us out of Your possession which You have given us to inherit.12 “O our God, will You not judge them? For we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.”13 Now all Judah, with their little ones, their wives, and their children, stood before the Lord.14 Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, in the midst of the assembly.15 And he said, “Listen, all you of Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem, and you, King Jehoshaphat! Thus says the Lord to you: ‘Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.16 ‘Tomorrow go down against them. They will surely come up by the Ascent of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the brook before the Wilderness of Jeruel.17 ‘You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem!’ Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the Lord is with you.”18 And Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem bowed before the Lord, worshiping the Lord.19 Then the Levites of the children of the Kohathites and of the children of the Korahites stood up to praise the Lord God of Israel with voices loud and high.20 So they rose early in the morning and went out into the Wilderness of Tekoa; and as they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Hear me, O Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem: Believe in the Lord your God, and you shall be established; believe His prophets, and you shall prosper.”21 And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed those who should sing to the Lord, and who should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army and were saying:  “Praise the Lord, For His mercy endures forever.”22 Now when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushes against the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; and they were defeated.23 For the people of Ammon and Moab stood up against the inhabitants of Mount Seir to utterly kill and destroy them. And when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, they helped to destroy one another.”  [68]

If we look to ourselves our faith will flounder and fail. If we look to God all things are possible. Another example of this is found in the words of Jeremiah. Jeremiah was sent by God to warn the people of Judah against their persistent sin and the consequences it would bring. They refused to listen to God and so the Babylonians were used by God to take the children of Judah into captivity.

In the midst of God’s people being taken into captivity by the Babylonians,  God gave a word of encouragement to the prophet Jeremiah. God told Jeremiah to purchase a plot of land outside of Jerusalem. This seemed absurd to Jeremiah, why buy land in occupied territory? Why buy land when you were gong to be forcibly removed from it? But this act was meant to be a symbol of God’s promise to bring the people back to the land one day. Jeremiah faithfully trusted in God even though the world was falling down around him. Read what this great prophet was inspired to write when he was made aware of God’s plan:

  • Jeremiah 32:16-27,36-44 - “Now when I had delivered the purchase deed to Baruch the son of Neriah, I prayed to the Lord, saying:17 ‘Ah, Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You.18 ‘You show lovingkindness to thousands, and repay the iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of their children after them—the Great, the Mighty God, whose name is the Lord of hosts.19 ‘You are great in counsel and mighty in work, for your eyes are open to all the ways of the sons of men, to give everyone according to his ways and according to the fruit of his doings.20 ‘You have set signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, to this day, and in Israel and among other men; and You have made Yourself a name, as it is this day.21 ‘You have brought Your people Israel out of the land of Egypt with signs and wonders, with a strong hand and an outstretched arm, and with great terror;22 ‘You have given them this land, of which You swore to their fathers to give them—“a land flowing with milk and honey.”23 ‘And they came in and took possession of it, but they have not obeyed Your voice or walked in Your law. They have done nothing of all that You commanded them to do; therefore You have caused all this calamity to come upon them.24 ‘Look, the siege mounds! They have come to the city to take it; and the city has been given into the hand of the Chaldeans who fight against it, because of the sword and famine and pestilence. What You have spoken has happened; there You see it!25 ‘And You have said to me, O Lord God, “Buy the field for money, and take witnesses”!—yet the city has been given into the hand of the Chaldeans.’ ” 26 Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, saying,27 “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me? . . . 36 “Now therefore, thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning this city of which you say, ‘It shall be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence’:37 ‘Behold, I will gather them out of all countries where I have driven them in My anger, in My fury, and in great wrath; I will bring them back to this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely.38 ‘They shall be My people, and I will be their God;39 ‘then I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me forever, for the good of them and their children after them.40 ‘And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from doing them good; but I will put My fear in their hearts so that they will not depart from Me.41 ‘Yes, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will assuredly plant them in this land, with all My heart and with all My soul.’ 42 “For thus says the Lord: ‘Just as I have brought all this great calamity on this people, so I will bring on them all the good that I have promised them.43 ‘And fields will be bought in this land of which you say, “It is desolate, without man or beast; it has been given into the hand of the Chaldeans.”44 ‘Men will buy fields for money, sign deeds and seal them, and take witnesses, in the land of Benjamin, in the places around Jerusalem, in the cities of Judah, in the cities of the mountains, in the cities of the lowland, and in the cities of the South; for I will cause their captives to return,’ says the Lord.”   [69]

 

Both Jehoshaphat and Jeremiah found strength in their faith when they focused on God and trusted in Him. That is the key to strong faith, just focus on God. Like Abraham, Jeremiah and Jehoshaphat didn’t understand all that God was doing at first, but in the end, because they trusted God in such times, they experienced great blessing and the building up of their faith in God.

A Faith That Brings God’s Righteousness

 Romans 4:22 – “And therefore “it was accounted to him for righteousness.”  [70]

The faith that hopes in God and not the world; the faith that is not weakened by what it sees but trusts in the promising words of God; the faith that doesn’t vacillate but trusts in God’s promise giving Him glory; the faith that is fully convinced in the ability of God; that faith brings the accounting of God’s righteousness. The faith that brings righteousness trusts God’s word and God’s ability, trusts the person of God supremely.

A Faith For Us Also

Romans 4:23-25 – “Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him,24 but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead,25 who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.”  [71]

The account of Abraham was not written for his sake only, but for all our sakes so that we would know that when we put our faith in Jesus, righteousness would be imputed to us. What do we learn about faith and spiritual growth from the life of Abraham? There are five things we mention to summarize and see how Abrahamic faith leads to spiritual growth:

First, like Abraham, give God your all. When God called Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldeas, Abraham obeyed and left everything to follow God’s call on his life. The Lord said to Abraham:

 

  • Genesis 12:1 – “Now the Lord had said to Abram: 1 “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you.”  [72]

When God called Abraham was ready, he wasn’t tied to this world, but he was ready to give his time, money and everything he had to seek God and have God’s will fulfilled in his life. This is the first step of faith that leads to spiritual growth.

Second, put God’s word in your heart. In Genesis it states:

  • Genesis 12:4 – “So Abram departed as the Lord had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.”  [73]

God told Abraham to go and Abraham took God’s word to heart and went. In the Psalms it states:

  • Psalm 40:8 – “I delight to do Your will, O my God, And Your law is within my heart.”  [74]
  • Psalm 119:11 – “Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You!”  [75]

Abraham lived by every word that came out of the mouth of God.

Third, give your heart to God. It says of Abraham:

  • Genesis 12:7-8 – “Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” And there he built an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him.8 And he moved from there to the mountain east of Bethel, and he pitched his tent with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; there he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord.”  [76]

These verses show us that Abraham’s heart was “altered” by God. Because Abraham depended on God in faith and obeyed His word, God moved on his heart and built a strong faith within him. The LORD tells us in His word that we should give Him out hearts:

  • Proverbs 23:26 – “My son, give me your heart, And let your eyes observe my ways.”  [77]
  • Jeremiah 29:13-14a – “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.14 I will be found by you, says the Lord, . . . . ”  [78]

Abraham gave God his heart from the first, and God built him into a man of strong faith.

Fourth, pray for direction. Abraham was a man of prayer and because of this God was able to edify and build his faith strong. Of Abraham it is stated:

  • Genesis 12:8 – “And he moved from there to the mountain east of Bethel, and he pitched his tent with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; there he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord.”  [79]

Wherever Abraham went he pitched his tent, built an altar and called on the name of the LORD in prayer. Abraham was strong in faith because he was a man of prayer. The Bible says:

  • Psalm 143:10 – “Teach me to do Your will, For You are my God; Your Spirit is good. Lead me in the land of uprightness.”  [80]

That should be the regular prayer of our hearts. In Jeremiah it states:

  • Jeremiah 29:12 – “Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.”  [81]

When you pray you aren’t just speaking to the walls, God hears you when you pray. Speak to God, pour out your heart to Him and He will build your faith.

Fifth, put your trust in God. Of Abraham it was said:

  • Genesis 15:6 – “And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.”  [82]

In Proverbs it states:

  • Proverbs 3:5-7 – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding;6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and depart from evil.”  [83]

Abraham is the perfect picture of one who trusted God with all his heart even though at times his circumstances were beyond his understanding. He didn’t always see God at work, but he trusted that God was at work. And God was faithful to direct his paths. Abraham wasn’t perfect. There were times when Abraham trusted in his own wisdom, but he always came back to God because he was in essence and ultimately a man of faith.

Conclusion

A Faith That Gives Living Hope

 

The faith and hope God gives are sure and stabilizing. God’s hope is alive. The hope that comes through faith in Christ is real, dependable and living. The faith of God gives living hope that  stands the test of time and circumstances.

Have you ever experienced a seemingly hopeless situation? If not, you probably will at some point in your life. “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed . . . . “ (Romans 4:18a NIV) is the way the apostle Paul paints the picture facing Abraham when Isaac was born. When he rested on the sandy shores of this world, it was hopeless. But Abraham found an “anchor of the soul,” when he came to rest in faith on the solid rock of God and His Word.

           

Life is filled with situations that press beyond the limits of worldly explanation. Worldly optimists, (those whose faith and hope rests on the achievement of mankind) would tell us Science has all the answers, all the solutions to our problems. But that just isn’t so. I know, because I have experienced a situation that stretched beyond the outer limits of this world’s resources. For me this was a point of purity. There came a point when I had nothing and no one to put my faith and hope in but God alone. My faith and hope, of necessity, rested purely on God.

           

Sometimes you can be floating along on still waters and all of a sudden, a life-threatening squall thrashes in on you. That’s how it was for my wife and I. My wife was three months pregnant with our third child. A few days earlier a sonogram had allowed us to peek at a perfectly healthy baby reclined in the comfort of a womb. I had just returned with the answer to my wife’s provolone and salami craving. We were set to spend a nice calm Friday evening together. Then, the storm clouds burst in upon us with a deluge. “I’m bleeding! Oh my God, I’m bleeding!” my wife said as she stood and revealed blood soaked pants. Just that suddenly our child’s life was in jeopardy. I had never experienced such a shocking sunken feeling before.

           

We immediately called our doctor. He was unavailable. As we waited for the doctor to be located, I placed my hands on my wife’s womb and prayed for the life of our baby. All I could think was, “Why Lord? You gave us this gift after many patient prayers. Why would You now want to take the child away?”

           

Things were happening so fast. I was getting ready to take my wife to the hospital and thinking, “this may be a long night, I’ll need God’s Word for comfort.” As I sought out my Bible a still small voice brought to my mind a verse the Lord had been working into my life recently. “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him . . . . “ (Romans 4:18 NIV).

           

The fear and concern in my wife’s face matched my own concerns.  No words of mine would have met our need. I reached beyond myself and shared God’s Word with her, “’Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed . . . .’ No matter what honey, hope in God, trust Him. This is too big for either of us. Hope in Him.”

           

That night we learned the hopelessness of hoping in the world. After waiting for what felt like an eternity in the emergency room, my wife was brought to another room and given a pelvic exam. “Aborted fetus” was the emergency room doctor’s diagnosis. I thought of the irony of the millions of babies aborted willingly by their parents and the feared loss of our baby that we wanted so much. Our plight served to make willful abortion seem all the more evil and despicable.

           

We continued to wait for contact from our doctor. Our waiting was filled with intermittent tears and embraces. What we had seen appeared hopeless. What we heard from a doctor was hopeless. But what I still heard in a still small voice was, “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed . . . .”

           

Our doctor finally called and had my wife admitted into the hospital. The next day she would have another sonogram to see for sure what was or wasn’t alive inside of her. Once situated, the doctor arrived to speak with my wife and me. He had delivered our other two children. All he could say was, “There’s nothing I can do. We’ll just have to let nature take its course.”

           

That night was the worst of my life. I can only liken it to the feeling I had when my father died. Through the clouds we prayed. I thank God for the support of faithful friends. I called every person I knew and asked them to pray. “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed . . . .” I told them. “Pray for my wife and child,” I implored. All any of us could do was pray and hope in God. The stress exhausted me. Finally, I surrendered that child to God. That’s what Abraham had done with Isaac and I would follow his example (Genesis 22).

           

The next day I returned to the hospital to find that my wife had already been brought for her sonogram. I hurried down the empty early morning hospital corridors. It was like a dream, like some surreal vision.

           

The room where my wife had been taken was dark and filled with curtained cubicles. I called her name and thought, “This is it Lord.” I held my breadth as my wife identified her whereabouts. “Over here” she said. I stepped forward and pulled aside the curtain. “AND THE BABY IS FINE!” were her glorious words! I lost it. I wept openly the tears of relief and joy. I’ll never forget the thump, thump, thump of that little heartbeat resounding loud and clear in a friendly mechanical way. And I’ll never forget how the baby was casually reclined, hands behind head and legs crossed, as though saying, “What’s the big deal dad? Jesus is in control.” It was almost laughable.

           

My joy was not only from finding my baby safe and sound. More substantially, my joy was rooted in the realized faith and hope that had found God and His Word to be sustaining and true. God was there for us and He was true to His Word. I believe if my child hadn’t survived this placental tear, God would have given the grace for that as well. And the reason I believe that is because a little over a year after our son Stephen was born, my wife was pregnant with our fourth child. But in her eleventh week of the pregnancy a similar problem arose to that which we had experienced with Stephen. Only this time, there was a miscarriage. That baby was precious to us because given our ages, she or he would have been our last child. We named that baby Hope. We don’t know why her life was so short. Perhaps it was to show us that in the face of death, as well as life, God’s hope lives on. That’s a great legacy for any child.

 

In both situations, God had allowed me to come to a point of purity. This world had nothing to offer me to ease the pain or meet my need. I could do nothing in my flesh, my own strength. GOD ALONE SUSTAINED ME  (Psalm 55:22).

 

This experience left a lasting impression on me. What I learned prepared me, (and I hope others as well) for “hopeless” situations in the future. Romans  4:19-21 outlines in a practical way some guidelines for coping with “hopeless” situations. The following are some helps to hoping in God and living out His living hope by faith in Him.

           

First, Abraham didn’t deny or run away from the facts of his seemingly hopeless situation, he rose above them by faith in God (4:19).  Abraham “faced the fact” that he and his wife were too old to have children as far as the accepted medical view of his day and that his personal circumstances were seemingly hopeless. His faith and hope in God were pure enough to confront the reality of his situation even when the facts were against him.

           

Second, he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith (4:20). He did not strengthen himself but “was strengthened” by Another. God strengthened him as He regarded “the promise of God.” A still small voice steadied Abraham with the promise of God. When life kicks up into a whirlwind, listen for the voice of God and be strengthened by His Word (I Kings 19:1-18). For me it was Romans 4:18.  For you it may be another portion of God’s Word. God sustains us and makes His presence known with His Word (Psalm 119:28).

           

Thirdly, Abraham “gave glory to God” (4:20). I can’t tell you how many hearts God has touched from sharing this experience with those around me. Recounting our experience in a way that glorifies God ministers hope to others (2 Corinthians 1:3-7). Don’t let your “hopeless” situations go to waste!

           

Finally, “being fully persuaded that God had power to do what He had promised” (4:21). Abraham’s certainty was based on God’s faithful and righteous relationship with him. Abraham applied what he had been learning about God to this point in his life. God had spoken to Abraham before (Genesis 12:1-4; 13:14-18; 15:17; 18:21) and now God was delivering on His promise. Life with God is a learning process.  Points of purity, (i.e. Times when we are brought to purely hope in God alone) prepare us to progress onward and upward toward the finished product of Christ likeness God has planned for us. Perhaps someday we will learn what it was like for Jesus to hope in the heavenly Father while in the Garden of Gethsemane where He was on the brink of fulfilling God’s will and destiny for His life (Hebrews 12:1-2).

 

Having gone through this situation, God has fully convinced me that His presence is real, hope in Him is sure, and He and His Word are reliable. My past experience with God’s faithfulness enabled me to be “fully persuaded” he could deliver me BEFORE He actually did. A “POINT OF PURITY” IS A PLACE WHERE WE LEARN TO PUT OUR FAITH AND HOPE IN GOD ALONE.   In those points of purity, God teaches us to look to Him first, not last. It is a place of surrender, exhaustion, and illumination.  In those points of purity we learn the realness and reliability of God.  May your faith and hope be alive and rest on Him alone.

 

 



[1]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[2]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[3]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[4]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[5]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[6]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[7]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[8]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[9]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[10]Walvoord, John F., and Zuck, Roy B., The Bible Knowledge Commentary, (Wheaton, Illinois: Scripture Press Publications, Inc.) 1983, 1985.

[11]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[12]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[13]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[14]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[15]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[16]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[17]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[18]Walvoord, John F., and Zuck, Roy B., The Bible Knowledge Commentary, (Wheaton, Illinois: Scripture Press Publications, Inc.) 1983, 1985.

[19]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[20]W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger and William White, Vine’s complete expository dictionary of Old and New Testament words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[21]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[22]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[23]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[24]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[25]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[26]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[27]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[28]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[29]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[30] Dave Hunt, What Love is This? (Loyal Pub.: Sisters OR, 2002) pgs 98,99,100,101

[31]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[32]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[33] James R. White, Ibid., p. 67,108,210

[34] Dave Hunt, What Love Is This? (Sisters OR: Loyal Pub. 2002) p. 121

[35]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[36]W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger and William White, Vine’s complete expository dictionary of Old and New Testament words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[37]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[38]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[39] WFT tape #8121

[40] James R. White Ibid., p. 212

[41]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[42]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[43]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[44]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[45]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[46]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[47]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[48]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[49]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[50]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[51]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[52]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[53]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[54]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[55]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[56]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[57]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[58]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[59]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[60]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[61]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[62]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[63]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[64]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[65]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[66]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[67]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[68]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[69]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[70]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[71]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[72]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[73]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[74]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[75]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[76]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[77]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[78]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[79]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[80]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[81]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[82]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[83]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.