In our last dive into Romans, we saw that Abraham was justified because of his faith. Now he received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the covenant God made with Abraham for the Jews. However, through faith, we have been grafted into the vine and are, therefore, Jews by faith.
So that Abraham might be the father of all who believe; well, that certainly means me.
On that note, let’s dive in.
Romans 4:13 NASB For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law but through the righteousness of faith.
Perhaps a cleaner version would be the NLT.
Romans 4:13 NLT Clearly, God’s promise to give the whole earth to Abraham and his descendants was based not on his obedience to God’s law but on a right relationship with God that comes by faith.
Faith, in and of itself, does not have righteousness, but a right relationship is acquired by having faith in God.
Since the Jewish community, in general, does not put their faith in a relationship with Yeshua, then all they have left is an arrogance in the law, and this is why Paul has to say,
Romans 4:14-15 NLT If God’s promise is only for those who obey the law, then faith is not necessary and the promise is pointless. (15) For the law always brings punishment on those who try to obey it. (The only way to avoid breaking the law is to have no law to break!)
Premise the next few bits of information under this assumption, “If God’s promise is for”
“those who obey the law,”
Let’s not pull any punches here; he is talking about the Jews. None of which keep the law either. Want proof?
Genesis 6:5 NASB Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
“then faith is not necessary and the promise is pointless.”
If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, then you know that faith is necessary, and the promise is real and gives validity to our hope that there is a heaven to gain, and finally, peace in the love of the Father’s arms.
“For the law always brings punishment on those who try to obey it.”
There are many translations, and this one is not necessarily a true statement.
Some will tell you that the King James version is the only correct and accurate translation, so let’s see what it says. “Because the law worketh wrath.” The Strong’s concordance tells us that the word worketh also means accomplishes or causes.
Seriously, the law causes wrath?
If I kept the law, I might be boring, but shouldn’t I be considered righteous in God’s eyes, and therefore, excluded from God’s punishment?
The simple answer should be yes. You don’t get punished for trying to obey the law.
You get punished for disregarding the law. Let me ask you a question.
How many laws (commandments) did Israel start with?
Ten; and the focus of those laws was to love God and love on people by treating them right. Of course, the idea of being “right” is not based on human standards but on God’s character, nature, and moral standards.
But Paul writes (NET translation) “because where there is no law there is no transgression either.”
The young granddaughter, who reads quite well, ignored the signage at the park, which stated, No riding of any wheeled vehicle on the rubber playground mats, and her tire went between the cracks, which caused her to fall and scratch her face. Her dad did not realize that it was his child screaming because she was actually hurt; then he yelled at her that it was her fault, and she shrieked back, I didn’t know. I will say this, as the adult, I believe it was her father’s job to make sure she learned the rules, but he didn’t do that; he merely focused on some video on his cell phone, as he always does. She is very capable of reading, but who looks at the signs.
Isn’t this a summary of who we are and what we do?
Perhaps a better way of considering the law might be this; the law shows us how frequently we stumble and how much we need a savior.
Romans 4:16 (GW) Therefore, the promise is based on faith so that it can be a gift. Consequently, the promise is guaranteed for every descendant, not only for those who are descendants by obeying Moses’ Teachings but also for those who are descendants by believing as Abraham did. He is the father of all of us,
The promise, once again, is God’s promise to Abraham. Hebrews 6 covers it.
God made a promise to Abraham. Since he had no one greater on whom to base his oath, he based it on himself. He said, “I will certainly bless you and give you many descendants.” (Hebrews 6:13-14 GW)
Those descendants came through both Ishmael and Issac, but the promise was through the promised seed, Issac.
I struggle to find a translation of Romans 4:17 that made sense.
Romans 4:17 Moffatt NT (as it is written, I have made you a father of many nations). Such a faith implies the presence of the God in whom he believed, a God who makes the dead live and calls into being what does not exist.
Abraham has been married to Sarah, who is now in her 90’s and well past childbearing age, and has produced NO children. Sarah suggests he try it with Hagar, and it works. I am not a doctor, but something tells me that the problem was not Abraham. The problem here is that the promise was meant to be through Sarah, not Hagar. The ability to have faith for a child just became more unreasonable. And yet, Abraham believed God.
The father of many nations, but who would think in these terms?
If we take this idea back to Noah, we can see that the entire earth was, once again, entirely populated through Noah and his descendants.
Consider something, thousands of years later, people seeking religious freedom came to America. There were already people here, but it seemed like there was plenty of land and you could throw a rock and not hit anybody. The point I am making is that there were a number of people but they were not shoulder to shoulder as it often feels now.
Abraham, most likely, had no idea of what that would eventually look like.
What did Abraham know of God?
Not much. This is a huge assumption because as you read about Adam’s transgression in the garden (Genesis 3), you come to the discernment that God instructed Adam in how to keep the penalty for transgression at bay (Genesis 3:21). We ignore the fact that Adam passed this information along orally, first to Cain and Able – whom Cain killed, and then to Seth (the third son in the lineage), who passed that same information down the line to Noah. I am pointing this out because the answers are there if you are willing to think outside the box. But then, there was this lifelike dream that was like no other Abraham had ever had. This dream is where God promises that He will make Abraham the father of many nations.
There was something extraordinary about this dream because we all read about the sacrifice, the blood, and what was said, as though Abraham was physically standing there before God.
I write these studies for believers, and many of them may be familiar with the manner in which God introduced Himself to Abraham; it is because of this assumption that I don’t always insert the Bible passage that validates what I am saying. That assumption could be an issue as I am always hoping that some may be coming into a relationship with God as they read this, and seeing the passage would possibly cause faith in them.
That being said, the first interaction, where we see God speaking to, at this point, Abram, is in Genesis 12:1. We are merely spectators and can only assume how this utterance took place, because the details, like so many other incidents in scripture, are left out.
If I look up the Hebrew meanings of what seems like a simple word, “said” we find that some of the likely interpretations are to say in one’s heart, or to think. In reality, the heart is the mind.
Many years ago, someone said that we should practice listening to God’s voice. The idea behind this practice is to respond when He tells you to do something that will bring life into a situation. He will not tell you to jump off a cliff, that would be the devil. If an assertion like this is something you would say, then you should know that the fact that you are bringing out this alternate point demonstrates that you are capable of hearing voices in your head. Not to worry, we all hear voices in our heads. For some, the voice sounds like your wife; a friend; a drill sergeant, or God. Many of us have to sort out which voice we are going to respond to. Practicing listening to God’s voice, which is no different than the Holy Spirit of God, could, as it did for Abraham, turn out to be an interesting and productive thing.
Moffat’s translation tells us “Such a faith implies the presence of the God in whom he believed.”
Wow, how would it change your life if you did not believe in God, and then, suddenly He appears before you in a very realistic dream, as Jesus Christ, whom you recognize; and therefore, believe what He tells you.
I met such a man – a Muslim, and he now preaches Jesus.
Let’s do the breakdown of Romans 4:17.
“a God who makes the dead live and calls into being what does not exist.”
Lacking a doctor capable of doing all the tests necessary to determine which of them was infertile could imply that Abraham’s body was dead too. But we are not talking about Abraham when we talk about dead people. Paul is referring to Issac, Abraham’s son.
Wait a minute.
God spared Issac’s life at the last second by causing a Ram to appear in the thicket suddenly.
So how does death apply to Issac?
It doesn’t, any more than Sarah being included in this conversation because she was barren unless these people are primarily symbolic. No doubt, all these people died, but Issac represented Jesus and his willingness to be sacrificed for sins. And, if you want to get picky, there was Lazarus, Jesus’ friend. He was dead for four days. There is a significance to that four days as the Jews believe that the spirit stays with the body for three days. This is also the reason that Jesus referred to Jonah as an example of His death and resurrection. So Jesus’ hesitation in going to see him was meant to prove that Lazarus was completely dead and his resurrection, therefore, was to be taken seriously.
“ and calls into being what does not exist”
For Sarah, the ability to produce a baby did not exist, and yet there it is.
The nation Israel did not exist, and yet, there it is.
Heaven and earth did not exist, and yet John tells us that Jesus, the Word, spoke them into existence.
If you think about these statements, there are a vast number of other examples as well; and each of those is a call for us to apply faith to the things we think are impossible.