romansLast week we began our study of Romans 4:13-25 by taking a look at Abraham and Sarah’s journey of faith in the promises of God. I hope you were able to be with us as we walked with Abraham and Sarah through years of trusting God. I shared their story so that we might gain a better understanding of faith. Faith is not what’s comfortable, faith is not some kind of Pollyanna, pie-in-the-sky-easy-believism, and faith is not simply trusting in the evidence before us. Faith is taking God at His Word. Abraham took God at His Word. Even though, when he left his homeland, Abraham didn’t see the land that God had promised, Abraham took God at His Word. Even though Abraham didn’t have any children when God promised him that his descendants would be more numerous than the stars of the sky, Abraham took God at His Word. Even though Abraham had waited 25 years for the child God promised, Abraham took God at His Word.

Those statements that I have just made could lead us to believe that Abraham just followed God in blind faith, in bold faith, never wrestling with the promises of God at all. Oh, but those of you who were with us last week know better. In our lesson last week we learned that Abraham wrestled with God’s promises, he didn’t always understand how God would do what He had promised to do, and he and Sarah tried to “help” God when God didn’t act quickly enough in giving them a son. After waiting almost 25 years for the child God had promised, and after having a child by Hagar, God reiterated His promise to Abraham once again, “Sarah, your wife, will have a child.” Abraham fell to the ground and laughed. Then he asked,

17 “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” (Genesis 17:17 NIV)

Abraham wasn’t afraid to be honest with God, he wasn’t afraid to ask questions, but then he got up from the ground and he believed God. Abraham believed God. When reason would seem to disqualify the promises of God, Abraham believed God. When logic responded to God’s promises that they were illogical, Abraham believed God. When the evidence was weighed and it looked like there was no way that it could ever happen, Abraham believed God.

The story of Abraham and Sarah’s lives have been recorded in the annals of history for more than mere historical purposes. God has preserved the story of Abraham and his trust in the promises of God for you and me. Now it is our turn. Will we believe the promises of God? Will we take God at His Word for our own lives? Let’s take a look at our Scripture and begin.

13 It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. 14 For if those who live by law are heirs, faith has no value and the promise is worthless, 15 because law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression. 16 Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring– not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. 17 As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed– the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were. 18 Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead– since he was about a hundred years old– and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. 20 Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21 being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. 22 This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” 23 The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness– for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. (Romans 4:13-25 NIV)

Four times in these verses we come across a very important word that we need to take notice of this morning. The word, “promise” in Greek means, “announcement” or “promise.” The word is a compound word made of two words which individually mean, “upon” and “message.” Abraham based his faith “upon God’s message to him.” In the section of Scripture that we are looking at today the word deals strictly with the promises of God to Abraham and his offspring. I want to show you some of the other places in the New Testament where the word appears and how it is used. Take a look at 2 Corinthians 1:20-22 with me. Paul writes,

20 For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. 21 Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, 22 set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. (2 Corinthians 1:20-22 NIV)

What a powerful passage! All of God’s promises are fulfilled in Jesus our Lord. We are able to stand firm upon the promises of God through Jesus our Lord. He has anointed us, set his seal of ownership upon you and me, and put His Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee of what is to come in the future! Now that ought to make you, and me, excited!

In Hebrews 10:23 we read about another usage of the word that we are looking at. In this passage we are told to cling to the hope we profess. What reasons do we have for clinging to our hope? In the midst of heartache, when everything around us seems to tell us to give up and give in to hopelessness, why should we press on in the hope we have? Great question. Let’s discover the answer by reading verse 23.

23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10:23 NIV)

He who has made all of these promises is faithful. He has never broken a single promise, therefore we can cling to the hope we profess with absolute certainty that God will deliver for us just as He did for Abraham.

What is it that God has promised us? Well, we talked last week about His promise to never leave us or forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5) In 1 John 2:24-26 we read about another promise.

24 See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is what he promised us– even eternal life. 26 I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. (1 John 2:24-26 NIV)

What is it that God has promised? “Even eternal life.” John says that he is writing these things to us to teach us because there are those who are trying to lead us astray. That was an accurate statement in John’s day, but is it still accurate today? I was reading different people’s opinions this past week on the internet of what happens to us when we die. Here is what I found. WikiAnswers is a website where you and I can go to get all of the answers we need about anything in life. The WikiAnswer to the question is this:

I believe that after you die, you go to the Spirit World where everyone lives until the resurrection. At the resurrection, you will get your body back (a perfect body, free of any impediments that you had during your life), and then the judgment where you and God figure out where you will spend eternity. The very best place is a place where you can be with your family and friends forever and learn to become more like God, but unless you are a mass murderer or something equally bad, even if you don’t go to the very best place, the place where you do go will be someplace where you can be happy and hang out with people who are similar to you. (http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Where_do_you_go_when_you_die)

Sounds like a buffet of beliefs doesn’t it? “You go someplace until after the resurrection. After that you will get a perfect body. You and God will figure out where you will spend eternity.” What is that all about? “If you were a mass murderer, or something equally bad, you might not get to go to the best place, but you can still go to a place where you will be happy and hang out with your equally bad friends.”

Another wise sage commented that after we die, “The world keeps moving, only you are not there to experience it.” Last of all, a young girl expressed her feelings about what happens to us after we die with these words,

Depends what you believe in. I can’t make my mind up. Reincarnation? Maybe… I don’t believe in heaven. Perhaps you just die and that’s that. It’s like I WANT to believe in something more, but I know that I’m not going to be reincarnated as an animal like Hindu’s believe, or become a ghost, or live happily ever after in heaven. So do souls exist? Or does it just die and get eaten by maggots with your body?

Those answers are quite different than the promise of God that we read about in 1 John aren’t they? The promises of God are based on the Word of God. We can argue, debate, and discuss what one another believes until the cows come home, but the truth of the matter is that the only Truth is God’s Word. Will we, like Abraham, rely upon God’s Word alone? God’s Word is equivalent to the biblical meaning of the word “promise.” Let me explain to you what I am talking about.

In the Old Testament there really is no word for “promise.” The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament says, “This word has no preliminary history in the Old Testament.” (Vol. 2, pg. 579) There is no Hebrew equivalent even though you will find the word, “promise,” in the Old Testament of your English Bible. David Darnell says,

But their conclusion can be easily contested, for the Jewish Bible is filled with statements/declarations made by God concerning what will happen in the future, especially in terms of blessings for his people, that can accurately be described in our modern terminology as ‘promises.’ What we find in the Hebrew Bible is that God ‘speaks’ and announces to his people what their future holds for them, whether of blessing or disaster–and because it is God’s ‘word,’ it holds true. When Almighty God says, ‘I will do thus and so,’ the person who trusts that divine word knows that it will ‘come true,’ simply because God has said it, and God’s word is true. (David Darnell, Becoming Strong In Trust: Against Hope, Upon Hope. Pg 233)

If God says it, then it is true. When God speaks you know that what He has said will come to pass. That is as good as a promise isn’t it? Our faith, the faith God calls us to have in His promises, His Word to us, is the same faith that Abraham exhibited. Yet, at the same time, God’s revelation to us has become more clear, more specific, throughout the ages. This is called God’s progressive revelation. John MacArthur has written,

Men today have much greater divine revelation than Abraham had. During his lifetime, and for many centuries afterward, there was no written Word of God. (John MacArthur, MacArthur’s New Testament Commentary: Romans 1-8. Moody Press: Chicago, IL. 1991)

MacArthur is right in reminding us that for many, many years those who trusted in the promises of God had no written Word of God to reference. We have the Word of God and His many promises are included in His Word. For Abraham and those who have gone before us who didn’t have the written Word of God, they still had the “word of God” as God spoke to them. They put their trust in God, but they didn’t possess the full revelation of God, like those who have lived since the time of Jesus. Let me give you an example of what I am talking about. In Romans 4:23-25 we read,

23 The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness– for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. (Romans 4:23-25 NIV)

James Montgomery Boice writes,

Because we live on this side of the incarnation and atonement, we understand that the God in whom we believe is identical with Jesus. He said, ‘Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.’ (John 14:9). Moreover, we recognize that the chief revelation of God is at the cross and in the resurrection. In other words, Abraham had a promise, but we have a gospel, the Good News. Abraham looked forward to what God had said he would do. We look back to what God has already accomplished. (James Montgomery Boice, Romans: Volume 1, pg. 495)

We live on this side of the cross and the resurrection, but the faith that we are called to have in God is of the same nature as the faith that Abraham had in the promises of God. God’s promise to Abraham was comprised of three key components. First, God promised Abraham that he would have an immense number of descendants, (Genesis 12:2; 13:16; 15:5; 17:4-6; 16-20; 22:17). Second, God promised Abraham that he would possess “the land” (Genesis 13:15-17; 15:12-21; 17:8). Last of all, God promised Abraham that he would be the medium of blessings to “all the peoples of the earth.” (genesis 12:3; 18:18; 22:18). As we learned last week Abraham didn’t have any children nor did he possess the land when the promises of God came to him. He was up in years and the prospects of having children, much less innumerable descendants, was grim. Yet, Abraham believed God. Paul writes in Romans 4:18-21.

18 Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead– since he was about a hundred years old– and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. 20 Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21 being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. (Romans 4:18-21 NIV)

“Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed.” Abraham had no hope in himself to be able to do what God had promised. He had already attempted by human effort to “help” God along, but then he learned that God didn’t need any help. Abraham placed his hope in God and as a result he became the “father of many nations.”

There are two phrases that are used by Paul which we need to take a deeper look at this morning. Paul says, “Without weakening in his faith,” in verse 19. Then, in verse 20, Paul writes, “Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God.” What do these verses mean? Did Abraham never wrestle with the promises of God? Was Abraham sinless in his walk with God? If you were with us last week then you know that we can’t say that can we? Abraham did wrestle with the promises of God, he took matters in his own hand on one occasion, but he always got up and continued his walk with God.

The study of the life of Abraham is a powerful study of the progressive strengthening of faith. Let me walk you through Abraham’s journey in a flash so that you can see what I am referring to about the “progressive strengthening of faith.” We see early in Abraham’s walk with God, in Genesis 12:14-20, where he lied to Pharaoh about Sarah his wife because Abraham was afraid. In Genesis 16, we read where Abraham took Sarah’s advice about sleeping with Hagar in order for him to have the child that God had promised. This was not God’s plan, but Abraham and Sarah’s plan. In Genesis 17, we read where, after waiting almost 25 years, God came to Abraham to confirm His promise of blessing Abraham and Sarah with a child and Abraham laughed. He laughed, he asked God questions, but he continued to believe God. Three chapters later, in Genesis 20:2-18, Abraham was afraid once again of what would happen to him so he lied to Abimelech, the king of Gerar, about Sarah his wife. Abraham didn’t stop believing God at that point, he turned back to God. Abraham continued to walk with God, he continued to trust God, even though he had to deal with his own fears and struggles just like us. As Abraham continued to believe God and walk with God, God continued to strengthen Abraham’s faith.

The most challenging trial that Abraham had to endure in his life had to have been after the birth of Isaac. Isaac was a young teenager when God called Abraham to take his son to Mt. Moriah and offer him as a sacrifice. Can you imagine the tears Abraham must have cried in the days leading up to the morning when he and Isaac would walk together for what could be the last time? In the story, found in Genesis 22, we see no hint of doubt, no evidence of struggling with God, just a firm belief that God was true to His promises. As a matter of fact, Isaac even asked his dad,

7 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” 8 Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together. (Genesis 22:7-8 NIV)

God did provide a ram and Abraham’s son was spared. Through the years and years of walking with God, trusting in God, seeing how his own plans didn’t work out, and experiencing the faithfulness of God–Abraham’s faith grew and grew. Abraham’s faith grew to the point where, when God told him to do something, Abraham just did it. The writer of Hebrews gives us a commentary on what was going on in Abraham’s mind that day that he walked up Mt. Moriah with his son Isaac. Read along with me in Hebrews 11:17-19.

17 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18 even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” 19 Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death. (Hebrews 11:17-19 NIV)

“Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead.” As Abraham walked up Mt. Moriah with his son, Isaac, knowing that God had called him to offer his son as a sacrifice, knowing that God had also promised that Abraham’s descendants would be more numerous than the stars of the sky, Abraham thought to himself, “If God has called me to sacrifice my son, then God must be able to raise the dead.” Wow! Had Abraham’s faith, his reliance, his absolute dependence on God grown!

There is one final thing that I want us to look at this morning. Take a look at Romans 4:23-25 with me once again.

23 The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness– for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. (Romans 4:23-25 NIV)

These words, this story of God crediting righteousness to Abraham, were not written for Abraham alone, but for us. This is true, not just of Abraham’s story, but of all of the stories of the men and women in God’s Word throughout history who have believed God and walked with Him in faith. Scripture testifies to this fact. In Romans 15:4 we read,

4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Romans 15:4 NIV)

All of these things contained in God’s Word have been put there for you and me so that we might believe, so that we might place our confidence in God and not in ourselves. Abraham was called upon to trust God that what He said is true. You and I are invited to do the same. Paul says that “it was credited to him” is written for those of us who will believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. Do you believe this? Will you place your trust in God that He has provided for the forgiveness of your sins? He has made provision for you to be put in a right relationship with Himself, not by what you and I have done or will ever do, but by what He has done on our behalf through His Son.

Paul ends the fourth chapter of his letter to the Church in Rome by pointing us beyond works, beyond religious rituals, and beyond observing the Law…he points us to Jesus.

There are so many ideas about how to obtain salvation, how to get right with God, and how to go to Heaven today. Some believe that we are to live a “good” life. How good of a life do you have to live? Well, that is left up to the individual I guess. Others believe that you have to have some kind of religion to follow. If you follow the tenets of your religion then you will go to Heaven. The Hindu’s believe that bathing in the Ganga River will bring about the forgiveness of sins and help you to obtain salvation. They even go so far as to immerse the ashes of their dead relatives in the waters of the Ganga so that their loved one will be sent to Heaven. There are many, many ideas about how to be made right with God and obtain forgiveness and salvation, but the Bible speaks with one clear voice–believe God that He has already acted on our behalf through His Son Jesus. Will you believe this today? Will you say to God, “I believe you Lord that you have acted on my behalf and I believe in the One whom You have sent to pay the price for my sins. I turn away from my deeds and I want to walk in faith with You from this day forward.”

Mike Hays
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
September 3, 2013
Mike@brittonchurch.com

Taking God At His Word
Romans 4:13-25