God Made Promises to Abraham and He Believed – Inheriting Eternal Rewards
ROMANS 4 (cont.)
In support of what we read in Romans 4 we go to other scripture. This is exactly how we follow in Abraham’s footsteps in obtaining God’s righteousness as he did.
- We receive a promise that God will bring new life from our dead spirit.
- That by faith in Christ we may be born again. Made new spiritually in the likeness of Christ.
As Jesus told Nicodemus:
John 3:3-6 (NKJV)
3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again (from above), he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Here we have someone being told he has to come to life in a new way. And if he contemplated his own body what would he say? Contemplating his own body, Nicodemus said:
4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”
5 Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
**All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted
Abraham was in that situation, similar to Nicodemus. Different conversation but same themes. When he contemplated the deadness of his body he looked past it, to the spiritual possibilities that God was offering and took Him at His word. Where Nicodemus obviously struggled at first with the concept. If you and I contemplated our deadness before coming to faith, our sinfulness, our rebellious heart, how hard they were and how our life had so much in it that it did not commend us to God. Then you and I would not have no hope for heaven either, would we? In the face of somebody’s proclamation of the Gospel what would our response be? Possibly we’ll say, Well I can’t get into heaven, if you only knew what I’ve done. God knows and I am sure I am not eligible. But we don’t place our hope in our flesh in that way if we come to faith. Just as Abraham didn’t place his trust in his wife’s womb so to speak. Likewise, we don’t think of the problem from our own perspective. We hope against hope, putting our trust in the God who justified the ungodly. More than that, God also promises to those who receive the new covenant that out of our dying bodies He will bring a new eternal body that will never die again. He not only fixes the problem of a dead spirit, He also promises to fix the problem of your dying body. Paul explained that promise to us –
1 Corinthians 15:42-44 (NKJV)
42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. 43 It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.
If you were to look at your own dying body, you would have no hope to live eternally. There is nowhere to put your trust, not in your own body certainly, not in medicine, not in this world to solve the problem of death. So far the statistics of death are 100%. So what we did instead, by hearing the Gospel and understanding it, we placed our hope in God’s promise to raise us just as He raised Christ Jesus. So you hope again against hope that death is not the end of you. It has to be hope against hope because in the future as God gives you this living, eternal body you will understand it. But on this side of it, when you think about the fact you will live again. It still doesn’t seem tangible. We understand it intellectually. But all we can see around us is death. All we see are people go to the grave and that’s it. Until we get past that problem and see it from the other side, we truly are unable to do more than hope.
What explains our confidence? Intellectually, you struggle to explain that confidence to others, don’t you? If they demand something of you to explain why you have such confidence in these things. Imagine Abraham trying to do the same thing. Imagine him trying to explain to someone else he was confident he was going to receive a son despite being 100 years old and his wife is past child-bearing years and they don’t have any kids. You have to imagine, that I am sure that anyone who asked for his defense heard him speak of the glory of God. Paul says that in verse 20. So he would have turned to the right source and said, I trust in God to do as He said.
But in the end, there is no proof. You can’t prove faith. That is the nature of the problem. His confidence was a faith that defied explanation. And that faith was a product of God’s supernatural work in Abraham’s heart. Hebrews says that Jesus is the Author and Perfecter of our faith. He brings us this supernatural confidence that won’t allow us to waver in our faith. But if seeing what you just read as Paul represented it and you understand it, then you are probably asking a question about now. Maybe its popped in your mind at some point. What about that episode of Abraham and Hagar?
While Abraham was waiting for the Lord to fulfill these promises, he took matters into his own hands. Abraham took Hagar as his concubine for the purpose of producing the child he expected that God was going to provide. He did this at the suggestion of his wife, but nevertheless Abraham went through with it. It seems as Abraham did exactly the opposite of what Paul was saying that he did here in Romans. It seems that Abraham contemplated the weakness of his wife’s body and then he wavered in his faith because of it. And so he doubted God, and it lead him to his sin with Hagar. But that’s not how to understand Abraham’s actions. He didn’t seek for a son through Hagar because he doubted God’s promise. He did it because he had faith that God was at work to produce an heir through that means. Notice Paul says Abraham was about 100 when he had all this confidence. But Abraham received the promise when he was 75, and it was at that time he was declared righteous by his faith. So Abraham received a promise at 75, believed it, and was credited with righteousness because of his faith in that promise. Then time begins to pass. Even as time passes, Abraham’s confidence in that promise doesn’t waiver, but his patience starts to waiver. The long time causes Abraham to second guess God’s timetable. To presuppose how that promise is going to be fulfilled. And then at a point, Abraham becomes convinced, perhaps by his wife, that the child just simply was to meant to come in a conventional manner. That is, Conventional for the days that he lived, the norms of his day. Eventually, Abraham just assumed that God intended to keep his promise to produce a son through a concubine through Hagar. To Abraham, God was still being trustworthy and the promises were still true and the blessing no less real. They just came a different way. And in that case he is shown to be impatient. Then after 25 years, the Lord announces that the time had come for the child to be born and that the son would come by Sarah, not Hagar.
Genesis 18:9-15 (NKJV)
9 Then they said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?”
So he said, “Here, in the tent.” 10 And He said, “I will certainly return to you according to the time of life, and behold, Sarah your wife shall have a son.”
(Sarah was listening in the tent door which was behind him.) 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, well advanced in age; and Sarah had passed the age of childbearing. 12 Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, “After I have grown old, shall I have pleasure, my lord (Abraham) being old also?”
13 And the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Shall I surely bear a child, since I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.”
15 But Sarah denied it, saying, “I did not laugh,” for she was afraid.
And He said, “No, but you did laugh!”
By the time you get to Genesis 18, neither Abraham nor Sarah are looking for the fulfillment of God’s promise because they assume it had already been fulfilled. At this point they’ve got Ishmael now with them and their assumption is that Ishmael is the promised son. That is why, when they hear there is going to be a new son, they are thinking, why would I need one at this point God. This is kind of silly. It’s not a lack of a faith in God’s promise; it’s a lack of perspective and appreciation of what God’s ways were going to be in this case. They both believed the promise and they thought they understood God’s plan. So when they hear the Lord promising another son through and Ismael is 13 years old by this point, they couldn’t understand it. They laugh at the suggestion, Abraham is puzzled by it. You didn’t see that in the text we just read, but that is also what you find in that chapter. He is puzzled by it. Much like a 100-year-old woman today would laugh if someone suggested she was going to have a baby. And much like an old man in that case would be upset at the notion of it. So then God explains the plan to Abraham shortly after this chapter. And when Abraham finally understands what God was going to do, he realigns his expectations. At that point, Paul says, he is about 100 years old. And at that point, Abraham demonstrated his confidence in God’s promise by acting without wavering.
First, Abraham obeyed God by sending his beloved son Ishmael out of the house with Hagar. Not an easy thing for him to do. Secondly, in a subsequent chapter he willing takes his other son up to be sacrificed. Abraham’s story is so interesting I think, because it features these contrasts of highs and lows in his life. And they are sandwiched. His best days are at the beginning and at the end. So Abraham hopes against hope for a child at the beginning of this and at the very end he nearly sacrifices the child at God’s request – and both stand as great examples of faith. Particularly the later of the two. Who could do what he was asked to do?
But in between those two high points, Abraham lies about his wife rather than trusting in God to protect them while waiting for the promised son. And he beds another woman in n attempt to have the promised son rather than waiting patiently. From the first moment we’re told he is trusting in God to fulfill His word. And as a result he was declared righteous from the beginning. But he doesn’t walk in perfect obedience or understanding in many of those years. In that 25 years plus. His life is evidence that the journey of faith doesn’t always reflect our great confidence in God for our eternal future. These are not incompatible. We may have saving faith in His promises but we will waver at times in our obedience. We may assume too much about what God’s plan is to work His will in our life.. Or we may decide to take matters into our own hands, we might decide to ignore Him for a while. But our faith is intact just as our justification is.
And so Paul says in verse 22, this is why God chose to declare Abraham righteous in
chapter 15 of Genesis, at the very start of this journey. He chose to make the declaration then He says for our sake not only for Abraham’s sake, but for our sake. This is what I think He is saying. In Genesis 15 Abraham was at the beginning of that journey, his faith was childlike. He knew nothing of the future. He had no idea that God intended to make him wait a quarter of century before He was going to actually fulfill the promises. He’s already 75 and he’s probably thinking I don’t have much time left. But God had a plan to wait a long time. Abraham simply heard a promise and he believed it. And so God credited Him with righteousness for his faith. Done! Even as God made that credit, the Lord knew all that would come later for Abraham. He knew the sin Abraham would accumulate in those coming years. He knew Abraham was going to act impatiently. Yet He had already prepared to cover that sin under this grant of justification right from the start. Abraham was credited as righteous and his credit was a forever decreed.
Paul says we need to see this order of these events in Abraham’s life. We need to see that faith produces righteousness regardless of the walk our life may take off from that point. Like Abraham our faith saves us from the penalty of sin but it also saves us despite our sin. So that even as we stumble like Abraham, we are credited with righteousness just as he was. These things we share with Abraham even as we believe in a different content of the promise. That content has fully matured now for us. He mentions that in verse 24. Paul says we believe in the promise of Jesus raised from the dead, that is more than Abraham got to know. And we have the same thing he has.
Eventually, in Abraham’s story, his understanding of God’s plan was fully informed. And at that point, here is an interesting fact of his life, one we also want to emulate. As he began to understand more and more of God’s plan for his life, his behavior began to aligned more and more with his faith. I think that’s one of the reasons we have the story of Abraham sacrificing Isaac in Genesis 22. Think about it, if that story never happened, we might still be debating whether Abraham even had faith. Because after his declaration of righteousness in Genesis 15, his record of obedience is not very good after that. It’s almost all downhill until you get to Genesis 22. Or right before that with Abraham releasing his son and releasing Hagar. So if we did not have that account you might assume his faith wasn’t genuine or you might doubt the Lord was going to be willing to actually follow through His promise, to a man like that. But then you reach that point Abraham sends Ishmael away and then he is ready to sacrifice his other son Isaac, the promised son. And that becomes the moment that we have confirmation Abraham was truly trusting in God and not in his flesh. He was willing to put the flesh of his son to death, confident that God could raise him back from the dead to fulfill His promise. The writer of Hebrews explains Abraham’s thinking in that moment:
Hebrews 11:17-19 (NKJV)
The Faith of the Patriarchs
17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, 18 of whom it was said, “In Isaac your seed shall be called,” 19 concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense (as a type).
His point being – the only way he could freely sacrificed his son with confidence that God was still planning to bring descendants through that son, is if he assumed that God would raise him from the dead after he sacrificed him. How else could God have been faithful? But it’s evidence of how much faith he had in the spiritual power of God to do as He claimed. So how encouraging is it for those of us who depend on God’s grace and yet repeat a lot of the same mistakes Abraham made in one form or another. So we know our salvation is secure despite our sin. In fact. you could say, we know all the more because of our sin. Because Paul says in verse 25, Christ was put to death because we have so much sin. That’s what we are trusting in. Someone needs to cover it, we simply can’t escape from it. Just as Abraham was declared righteous at the outset by a God who knew what was coming. We were declared righteous by our faith in Christ by a God who knows what is coming in our life. Someone needed to cover it and Jesus did. Then Paul adds at the end, but Jesus was also raised for our justification. That’s an interesting phrase.There’s a lot of debate in literature about what that really means. What I think it means is He was raised from the dead to give us confidence that our account in Heaven is truly clear. When Jesus returned to life, God brought to life that which was dead and therefore gave us proof that He can do that for us as well. He has proven death is not a barrier that we have to fear. When God is on your side, no one is against you. As a result you can be confident that the Bible’s testimony to you that your faith has produced justification. This is a trustworthy statement because it came from the One who went to the grave and came back out of it for our sake.
So as we walk by faith, we have confidence that our faith has cleared our account. And we maintain our faith throughout by God’s power in us. But like Abraham, you and I don’t know how long this is going to go on. We don’t know how long the Lord tarries. We don’t know the length of our life or how many trials we are going to face. Some day our path in life may depart from the faith in our heart.(or for every day for that matter, in some little way) We may start trying to work a plan ourselves. We may try to find our blessing in the wrong way. It’s common for us to cling to the physical life instead of the eternal, we want what we want now as opposed to waiting for what is promised in the kingdom. But none of those mistakes change our heavenly credit of righteousness. They only prove that we need that credit all the more. That grace is even more important. Meanwhile, as you grow in your faith and as you grow in your walk and as your behaviors becomes more closely aligned to your faith as a result. The Lord reveals more of Himself to you, His plan for you in His word, His expectations for you and I live in the light of that. That’s the goal. So our goal should be both to enter as Abraham entered, that is, his faith is our model, his credit will be our credit, we are then his heirs spiritually. But then we should also end our life the way he did, acting in keeping with that faith. Not looking back on those sad moments in between. James in his letter puts it this way:
James 2:20-23 (NKJV)
20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead (useless)? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect (complete)? 23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted (credited) to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God.
Our faith is saving us from the first moment, but James asks, is it useful to God? Does it bring Him glory? Does it testify? Abraham’s faith was justified or proven when he offered up Isaac on the altar. And his faith was working to perfect or complete his faith. And the scriptures were finally fulfilled, those who said he was declared righteous by his faith.
I think what James is saying is if you took chapter 22 out of Genesis, you wouldn’t have seen the faith we know Abraham had. It took that maturing man to get to that point and finally align himself with the will of God entirely and understand God’s plan. And then he could act in keeping his faith and now the world could see the faith that he claimed. It doesn’t mean that is when it attached or when he became saved. We know in Genesis 15 he was declared righteous.
That’s what God does. He declares you righteous at the beginning so you are not worried in the meantime. But He calls you to get to the point where your life mirrors your faith. That’s our goal, that our life would be a testimony to all that we claim to hold true in our hearts.
“The author’s biblical interpretations and conclusions presented in this document rely on original teaching used by permission of Verse By Verse Ministry International (VBVMI). The author’s views may not represent the views of VBVMI, it’s Directors or staff. Original VBVMI teaching may be found at http://www.vbvmi.org.”
Join our mailing list
Thank you for subscribing.
Something went wrong.