“(As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.” (Romans 4:17)
The verse quoted here is from Genesis 17:4-5. The verb have made is in the perfect tense. This grammatical arrangement, as well as context and other portions of Scripture, make it clear that God's promise to Abraham is irreversible. Abraham is not only the physical father of Israel, he is also the spiritual father of all the redeemed. Such numbers stagger the imagination. It is no wonder God told Abraham that he would be a father of many nations! After this parenthetical statement, the verse picks up where verse 16 left off. The personal pronoun him is referring to God, and the he is referring to Abraham. The God of Abraham's belief is then described. He is the same God believers serve today, and He is given two characteristics in this verse. First, He is the one who quickens the dead. This participle is in the present tense; thus it is describing a characteristic of God which is alive and well. God not only quickened the bodies and lives of Abraham and Sarah, He quickens the spirits of all who seek Him in repentant faith. His life-giving nature is enduring and everlasting, and best of all, it is always relevant in the here and now. He is next described as the one calls those things which be not as though they were. Again, this participle is in the present form; therefore, it is also describing a present, active characteristic of God. Without God's calling on his life, Abraham most likely would have died a heathen in the land of Ur, but God called him and gave him spiritual life. He also quickened the old, barren bodies of Abraham and Sarah and enabled them to have a son. God is a God of the impossible. Men look at their situation and think, “I have no hope.” Yet, God is able to say be to that which is not. In the beginning, He commanded light to be, and light was. Such is His nature. He can take the wretched and helpless sinner and transform him into a child of righteousness by grace and divine power. This ability to call the impossible into existence does not end at the salvation experience. Throughout the Christian life, yea, forever more, God is able to call the impossible into existence.
“Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be.” (Romans 4:18)
The phrase in hope has the meaning of on the basis of. Against all human reasoning and worldly concepts of hope, Abraham came to a point where he chose to believe based solely upon the hope he had in God's unbreakable word. Hope in God is not unsure in nature. Often times, people reference hope with a great degree of uncertainty. For instance, a child might say, “I hope I get the toy I want for my birthday!” He is not sure he will get it; he simply “hopes” or wishes for it. This is not biblical hope. When standing upon God's promises, and coming to Him on His terms, a person has unshakeable hope. Abraham made a conscious choice to look past what was and look forward to what would be. Anyone seeking redemption must do the same. Until an individual chooses to set aside the “what-ifs” and the fears and simply believe in Christ's ability to forgive and redeem, he will not be saved. Faith is choosing to stand on the basis of God's unwavering promises. Such promises gender true hope. The believer must live his life the same way. Day by day, God's children must consistently choose to live in the heavenly hope. Far too often, believers compare the validity of hope to their current circumstances. A believer may adamantly affirm to hope in God's promises, yet when the true test comes and all hope appears gone, the same believer views biblical hope as having failed and immediately turns to the flesh and the world for help. Such an action fails to allow biblical hope to perform in its most natural arena, the arena of the impossible.