Abraham – Pioneer (Leader) of Faith

William C. Brownson Uncategorized

READ : Romans 4:1-25

What can Abraham and David teach us about real faith?

Abraham’s Faith in God

Now today Paul wants to show us that this theme of salvation by faith is not a new thing! In fact, faith has always been the way God accepts people, beginning with Abraham. Listen to these words from chapter 4. Abraham, long ago, is our leader into faith.

What then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

Romans 4:1-3

Abraham was a great man, called a “friend of God,” and he received marvelous promises of great importance, but does he have grounds for boasting before God? Absolutely not! Remember that prophecy of Jeremiah, “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom or the rich man glory in his riches or the mighty man glory in his strength but let him that glories glory in this, that he understands and knows me” (Jeremiah 9:23-24). We’ll speak more of that later.

For now Paul highlights the difference between wages and gift. What are wages? Wages are payment for services rendered. When you receive your paycheck, you don’t write a thank-you note to your boss. He hasn’t given you anything. He has simply paid you the agreed-upon amount for your work. You earned that paycheck.

But verse 5 talks about a gift, and that is something different. A gift has nothing to do with what you have done. Instead of working to earn something, you receive righteousness, and salvation as a gift. Have you received that? Do you understand that? Yes, by faith you get it. Your empty hand of faith is held out to receive the promise and the gift of God.

Here we see the central miracle of salvation. God doesn’t justify and declare righteous those who are good. He saves the ungodly, the sinners. Didn’t Jesus say that? “I came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” Only those who know they are sick want to be healed by the great physician. Those who simply trust in the gracious God who has taken our judgment upon himself are considered by God at the Judgment Seat to be in the right, free from all accusation, and justified by faith alone. And since they receive everything as a gift, they will never boast about anything in themselves. They will only glory in the one who loved them and gave himself for them. Jesus died in their place. God forbid that we should glory except in the cross. Worthy is the lamb of God that was killed for us.

David’s Faith

So that was Abraham, the first faith leader. Now Paul appeals to the experience of another great leader in the history of God’s people: King David. It wasn’t only Abraham who believed in the promise of a Son in an amazing way and the promise of a children when everything seemed impossible. David also celebrates the promise of God. Remember how he starts Psalm 32:1-2 (which most believe was written after his great sin and after his repentance). “Blessed is the one to whom God will not impute evil. Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sin is covered.” And he talks about his experience: “When I kept silence [when he didn’t acknowledge his sin] my bones waxed old through my groaning all day long” (v. 3). The pressure of God’s hand was upon him (v. 4). “But then I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and when I did, you forgave the guilt of my sin” (v. 5).

And that’s when he celebrates, “Oh, the happiness of those whose sins are forgiven. God will not assign any evil to them. God will not count their sins against them. So both Abraham and David, leaders of the faith, learned that it’s through simple trust, confession and repentance that God’s forgives us – and not on the basis of our merit or works.

Father of the Faithful

Now, see how Abraham is the father of all the faithful. He is father of faith not only for Jewish people but Gentiles who share his faith in the promise of God. Let’s look closely at Abraham’s faith. He believed in the God who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that did not exist.

How do we know that Abraham believed that God would give life to the dead? Remember how he was ready to offer up Isaac in the confidence that God was able even to raise him from death? (Genesis 22:3-18). How do we know that Abraham believed that God could call into existence things that did not exist? What about the generative power in Abraham and Sarah to bring forth a child in extreme old age? That power did not exist until God acted.

Abraham had a huge faith in God. Listen to what Paul says. He looked the situation over, he weighed the possibilities; his own body which was now as good as dead. And next he thought of Sarah and her life-long barrenness, her age well past child-bearing years. But with all of this Abram did not weaken in faith. No distrust made him waver (vv. 19-21). That seems unbelievable that he could believe that Sarah would bear him a son. The only basis for that confidence was one thing, yes, the promise of God. Because he had his faith, instead of weakening, he grew stronger and stronger.

Here’s the heart of it: Abraham was fully convinced that what God promised he was completely able to do. Like David Livingstone, missionary to Africa once said, “God is a gentleman of the strictest honor, who always keeps his word.” Here, friends, is something vitally important to remember. Faith in the biblical sense is vitally connected to God’s promises. All of the Bible is God’s word, and as Paul has said, it’s “profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness.” But not everything in the Bible creates faith. Commandments are expressions of God’s will, but they don’t awaken faith. Moral lessons and good examples are the same. They don’t make us sure about what God will do for us. God’s promise is the basis for our faith. And that kind of faith, believing God to do what he has promised, gives glory to him.

If you have a friend and you promise to do something for him, and he says “I don’t think you’ll really do that,” you feel hurt. You feel insulted. You’re grieved. What has your friend done? He’s called you a liar. And if you refuse to believe the promise of God, that’s about the worst thing you can do to the Almighty God. And one of the greatest things you can do for God is to believe that he is faithful, that what he has promised he will certainly do.

In the Old Testament David prayed like that after God told him about the “house” that would be built for him – a dynasty of future rulers that would come forth from his body. So David went before God and humbled himself. “Oh, God, you’re so great. I’m not worthy that you should do this for me.” “But then,” he continued, “because you have promised it, now I pray, do as you have said.” And those who follow in Abraham’s footsteps and in David’s steps are those who trust in his promise.

I often talk to people about the promise of forgiveness. God says in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” So when you confess your sins, believing in Jesus, they are forgiven. You are cleansed. You don’t have to worry about them any more. I asked a woman once after she had done that whether she was forgiven, and she said, “I’m not sure.” But then as she read the verse again, she said, “I see it.” And I said to her, “How do you know that God has forgiven you?” And she said, “Because he said so.”

Just the Same Today

Now a wonderful closing verse (v. 25) in this great chapter. We read about how Jesus died for our sins and was raised for our justification. He was handed over to death. Who handed him over? Judas, when he betrayed him? No. The crowd screaming for his blood? No. The high priest demanding his execution? No. Pilate giving him to their will and the soldiers who did the deed? No. Above all that and through all that, God handed him over (see Acts 2:22-24).

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, echoing the prophetic words of Isaiah 53:10, “It pleased the Lord to bruise him. The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

And that death, Paul says, was for our trespasses. Jesus had no sins of his own. He deserved nothing but glory and honor. He bore our sins. He stood in our place. He endured the judgment we all deserve. And so the writer to the Hebrews puts it this way: “He put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” “And then he was raised,” continues Paul, “for our justification.” His death for us, for our sins, and his rising for our salvation, that’s the whole of it. That’s why the resurrection is so essential. And all those who will ever gather around the throne will be those who have believed that Jesus both died and rose again for them. They trust God’s promise of salvation. That’s the heart of it, friends. God bless you.