Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Foundation of Faith (Part VI)

And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara's womb:” (Romans 4:19)

The phrase now dead is an adjectival participle which is ascribing a quality to Abraham's body, and its tense is very strong. The grammatical arrangement and the strength of the phrase are driving home a point concerning Abraham's physical condition. It would seem that when God reiterated His promise of a son in Genesis 17, Abraham was past any human hope of having children, as was Sarah. (Genesis 18:11) His body had no more human hope of participating in reproduction. Of course, such a circumstance affords God no difficulty; it only serves to provide a situation in which He will receive more praise.

He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.” (Romans 4:20-21)

The word for staggered means to doubt or discriminate against. Abraham chose not to allow his circumstances to move him towards discrimination against God's promises. Christians can learn much from this example. Anyone can maintain a positive attitude toward God as long as hope appears to be near; however, it is quite a different thing to persevere in God's promises when all appears hopeless. The text says that Abraham was strong in faith. The verb was strong is passive which means that the action is performed upon the subject. With this in mind, the verb could be translated, he was made strong in (or by is a possibility) faith. This all occurred while Abraham was giving glory to God. Obedience and praise bring strength and hope. Disobedience and the fear of man bring discouragement and despair. God will bring people to the end of themselves so that He might receive all the glory while, at the same time, causing His people to focus solely on Him. The person who is seeking redemption must be faced with the fact that he will have to cease trusting in his own ability and rest solely in the ability of God. After redemption, the believer will be consistently faced with choices to either turn to the flesh and the world or lay all hope in God. Such choices cannot be avoided. A believer can fail in them, but he cannot completely avoid them. Paul was consistently faced with such choices. He faced impossible situations in which he was forced to remember this truth, “...with God nothing shall be impossible.” (Luke 1:37)

Though old and worn out, Abraham chose to lift his heart in praise to God. He had no physical proof that such things would be. No, he had something far better- God's promise! And because of this, he was fully persuaded, being completely confident that God was able to carry out His irreversible promise. God's inability to lie (Hebrews 6:18) is far more stable than any physical evidence or support. The believer must get a hold of this truth! Righteous and holy decisions are not to be crucified on the altar of circumstance. No matter the impossible nature of the environment in which a believer may find himself, God always honors faith and the obedience that such faith brings. Abraham had every physical reason to doubt that he and Sarah would have a son, but instead, he chose to break the ancient mold of unbelief and take the Almighty at His word.

And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.” (Romans 4:22)

On the basis of simple faith, God's righteousness was logged down (imputed) in Abraham's spiritual account. One simple decision of faith brought eternal reward and an undying example which has forever been recorded.

Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.” 
(Romans 4:23-25)

The full significance of Old Testament events was often not fully realized until the advent of the New Testament dispensation. Abraham's dealings with God stand as a pattern for all to follow. As the Old Testament is read, careful observance must be made for ageless principles. The Old and New Testaments are not two different Bibles with two different messages. Their fabric is inseparably woven together for complete edification. Far too often, people read the Old Testament with the belief that much does not apply to them. Such a view is immature and misses the intent of Scripture. God gave the Abrahamic covenant as an everlasting guideline for all men to follow. Abraham believed God; therefore, God gave Abraham His own righteousness. Likewise, the person who puts their faith in Jesus Christ will be given the righteousness of God.

God the Father is referred to as him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead. The preposition from has the idea of out from the middle of. God has the power to completely deliver from the pangs of death. Psalm 16:10 says, “For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.” This prophetic Psalm depicts the power of God to fully raise Christ from the dead. Jesus experienced complete death and complete resurrection.

The who is referring back to Christ. He was delivered or handed over for the offenses or trespasses of mankind. This passage is not teaching that all men will be saved, because even though Christ was handed over for the sins of all, only those who come to God in faith will be imparted the benefit of such a sacrifice. Often times, a believer will say, “God didn't give me what I deserve.” It is true that the believer is spared the punishment of his sin; however, it must never be forgotten that Jesus Christ has received the full punishment of man's sin. God's wrath towards man's sin and wickedness must be satisfied. Christ has satisfied this wrath so that the repentant sinner might escape. The text also says that He was raised again for our justification. What good would His death be if life did not follow? Christ's death on the cross satisfied God's wrath toward sin, and His resurrection paves the way to eternal justification. Being absolutely sinless and the giver of life, it was impossible for Christ to remain in the grave; therefore, by His resurrection, the believer is declared righteous (justified), because he is given the righteous character of his Savior. If Christ had not risen, it would mean that something lacked on His part, but since He did rise, the believer can enjoy complete justification because he is nestled in the arms of Him whose righteous character has conquered sin and sin's consequence- death.

By the leading of the Holy Spirit, Paul has gone to great lengths to demonstrate this one main truth, justification before God comes only by faith in Jesus Christ. Faith is the foundation by which man comes to God. Faith is not simply used once for conversion and then cast aside. It is exercised moment by moment throughout the Christian life. Many people live as though they believe faith is needed only for conversion and “big trials.” Such is not the case. Faith is the means by which the believer rises in the morning, eats his meals, converses with others, works his job, and serves in the Body (the Church). If faith is not practiced in the smallest of daily tasks, how can it be truly exercised when the large storms arise? A man who never takes a walk will not be able to suddenly run a marathon. To say a man needs faith to eat his daily food is not being irreverent; it is simply acknowledging the truth of I Corinthians 10:31, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” May each and every believer daily seek justification by faith and not by works. If true faith is present, worthy works will follow.

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