Like Our Spiritual Father Abraham We Are Righteous by Faith!
Dear heavenly Father, please be with me as I worship in Your presence this day. Fill my heart with gratitude for Your grace. In Your love You have bestowed upon me through faith the righteousness of Your dear Son, so that I need not fear Your wrath, but rather may look forward with confidence to the day I will stand before You in heaven. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Hosea cried out to ancient Israel pleading with them to return with repentant hearts to the LORD! Unfortunately, the people did not respond to Hosea’s pleas, and God was left to mourn His unfaithful people. May God never have to mourn our unfaithfulness, but rather may we join Hosea with penitent and thankful hearts in the LORD’s presence!
Jesus called Matthew to be His disciple. Matthew invited Jesus to a dinner in his home to which he also invited many social outcasts—fellow tax collectors and sinners who were led by Jesus to penitence and faith. The Pharisees objected to such associations, but Jesus came to bestow mercy upon repentant sinners! May we draw near, ever listen, and believe with joy!
Text: Romans 4:13, 16, 18-25
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…. 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…, 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.” 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. He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore “it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.
In Christ Jesus, our Brother by faith and the Source of our righteousness, dear fellow redeemed:
The five major world religions in alphabetical order are: Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism. It is interesting to note that the Old Testament figure Abraham plays a significant role in three of these major world religions: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. Judaism views Abraham as the first Jew, God having chosen him and made a covenant with him, promising to make a great nation of him and to send the Messiah through him, and giving to him the sign of circumcision—the most fundamental of all Jewish laws. Islam views Abraham as one of the greatest prophets of Islam and the father of all Arabs through Ishmael. They believe that Abraham and Ishmael traveled to the Mecca, thus figuring prominently in the hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca, one of the Five Pillars (or fundamental laws) of Islam.
Christianity, as demonstrated by our text today, views Abraham as the father of all believers. Christians seldom have a physical connection to Abraham, for relatively few of them are physical descendants of Abraham. Nor is there a connection between Abraham and laws that Christians must follow as in both Judaism and Islam. On the surface, therefore, one might conclude that Christianity’s ties to Abraham are less significant than those of either Judaism or Islam. That, however, would be a false conclusion, for as Paul observes in Romans 9: “Not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children…. It is not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring” (vs. 6-8 NIV). In other words, while Jews and Arabs are physical descendants of Abraham, we who place our faith in Jesus—the Savior promised through Abraham—are in God’s eyes Abraham’s true children and joint-heirs with him of heaven! This, then, is Paul encouraging message for us in our text: LIKE OUR SPIRITUAL FATHER ABRAHAM WE ARE RIGHTEOUS BY FAITH! For we place our faith in God…
…just like Abraham in spite of our external circumstances! Paul begins our text by pointing out that our certainty of salvation—our confidence that we are heirs of God and destined to rule with Christ—is not a matter of physical descent or of our perfect fulfillment of the works of the law, for that could never be, but rather that certainty is the result of God’s grace through faith. It is through faith in Jesus Christ, Paul informs us, that we receive true righteousness and are able to stand before God without fear, knowing that He is our good and gracious heavenly Father! Paul then uses Abraham to illustrate the nature of that faith—that absolute trust in God. He writes: “Abraham, who is the father of us all…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." 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.”
Review in your minds the story of Abraham. He was called by God to leave his family and homeland behind and to go to a land God would show him. God promised to give him that land and to make of him a great nation through whom the world’s Savior would come. Abraham was 75 years old at the time, while his wife Sarah was 65 years old. They had no children. Abraham believed God and obeyed God, leaving everything behind and ultimately was led to the land of Palestine. There he waited upon the promise of the Lord, but no child was born. He reminded God of that promise upon occasion. He and Sarah took matters into their own hands at one point, the result being the birth of Ishmael through Hagar. But that was not God’s plan, nor the intention of His promise. It was when the LORD was en route to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, that He told Abraham once again that he would have a son through Sarah. Abraham by that time was 99 years old. Sarah was 89 years old. They were both way past the time that people normally bore children. Still, Paul says, Abraham “contrary to hope, in hope believed”—he trusted in God in spite of his external circumstances and about a year later Sarah held Isaac in her arms. Nothing is too hard for the LORD! (cf. Gen. 18:14)
This past week we received word that Ohlmann Building Center in Valentine, Nebraska burned to the ground. Don and Joyce Ohlmann owned the center for over 40 years and not too long ago sold it to their son and his wife, Craig and Tracy, to carry on that family business. Don was a member of our CLC Board of Missions for over 20 years, and their families are key members of our Grace Valentine congregation. When my sister Ruth, who is a very close friend of both families, talked to Joyce shortly after the tragedy, Joyce’ comment was in spite of their external circumstances: “All things work together for good to those who love God!” (Rom. 8:28)
What are your external circumstances? Are you facing issues of infertility like Abraham and Sarah? Are you facing issues of grave illness like King Hezekiah of old? (cf. Is. 38:1-9) Are you facing issues of devastating financial loss like Job (cf. Job 1) or the emotional and psychological pain of defections by family or friends like David? (cf. 2 Sam 15-18) My dear friends, no matter what our external circumstances, we can put our faith and trust in God just like Abraham! In so doing we place those situations in the most capable of hands—our Savior God! LIKE OUR SPIRITUAL FATHER ABRAHAM WE ARE RIGHTEOUS BY FAITH! For we place our faith in God in spite of our external circumstances!
We do so in view of His unfailing promise and power! Paul goes on to explain regarding Abraham: “He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore "it was accounted to him for righteousness.”
The essence of faith is trust! Abraham had faith is God’s promise and he trusted in God’s limitless power. God had promised that he would have descendants. In fact at one point God had taken Abraham out of his tent in the midst of a clear desert night and told him: “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them…. So shall your descendants be” (Gen. 15:5). We are told at that point in the Genesis account, and Paul repeats that account, that Abraham’s faith was “accounted to him for righteousness.” Abraham was not righteous before God because of his works, although the faith he possessed demonstrated itself in good works. Rather, it was that simple trust in God—a God who had determined to save mankind—that God received with joy and acknowledged by bestowing upon Abraham His gift of righteousness.
My dear friends—let us recognize, rejoice in, and depend upon as did our spiritual father, Abraham, the promises and power of God. When our God promises always to be with us, as Jesus did just prior to His ascension (cf. Mt. 28:20), we can trust that He will keep His promise. When God promises that He will both hear and answer our prayers (cf. Ps. 50:15), we can trust that He will keep His promise. Several of our members have had surgeries lately and have developed infections thereafter. Those infections have left our members weakened, vulnerable, re-hospitalized, and in a number of cases special medical procedures have been necessary as a remedy. Long and sleepless nights have been spent by those individuals and members of their families as they poured out their hearts in prayer to the present God and Savior. They have trusted in God’s promises and have and continue to depend upon His power to help them and relieve them in the midst of their distress. It is that faith, which has as its ultimate foundation God’s promise to deliver us—body and soul, here in time and then throughout eternity—that is accounted to us, as it was to Abraham, for righteousness. It is not what we do, but rather our trust in what God has done and promised to do, which receives this blessed gift from our Father’s hand. Yes, LIKE OUR SPIRITUAL FATHER ABRAHAM WE ARE RIGHTEOUS BY FAITH! For we place our faith in God in view of His unfailing promise and power!
We do so as well in connection with His plan for our justification! Paul concludes our text by pointing to that which is most important to us—our eternal salvation! He writes: “Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.”
Paul later tells the Roman Christians: “Whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (15:4). The story of Abraham is intended to comfort us and assure us that we too by faith stand righteous before our God. Why is that? Once again, it is not because of our works! That is the difference between Christianity and the other world religions. Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism all prescribe a course of public and private morality, which they claim if kept will enable men and women to become right with God. Such thinking, however, is bound ultimately to leave anyone serious about their spiritual condition both uncertain and fearful. Uncertain because no one is perfect and can achieve the moral standard of perfection demanded by God and fearful because failing to achieve perfection leaves us subject to God’s wrath!
But, Paul says, that God’s perfect righteousness is imputed, that is charged to the account of, all who believe that God has raised Jesus Christ from the dead. In fulfillment of God’s eternal plan, Jesus was delivered up to Calvary’s cross in order to pay the debt owed by our sins. This He did, and He was able to declare before His death loudly and clearly: “It is finished!” (Jn. 19:30) Recognizing the completed work of redemption, God justified us—He declared us not-guilty, forgiven of all of our sins, and in order to demonstrate the certainty of our justification, He raised Jesus from the dead! When we trust in Jesus we become spiritual children of Abraham!
My dear fellow believers—this is the reason for our ultimate hope and confidence. We can live our lives with joy, knowing that all is well and will be well for us as we place our trust in God our heavenly Father and Jesus His beloved Son. LIKE OUR SPIRITUAL FATHER ABRAHAM WE ARE RIGHTEOUS BY FAITH! Hallelujah and amen!
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting
Soli Gloria Deo!