In chapter 4, Paul uses Abraham as an illustration on the importance and the power of faith. Abraham is perhaps the most apt person for this illustration, as he is known as the father of faith! Paul uses Abraham’s example to further elaborate on his point that we cannot be saved by the works of the Old Law, since it is written that Abraham was counted righteous by his faith, and not by his works (v. 3; Genesis 15:6). Furthermore, this commendation was said of Abraham before he was circumcised, and not after (v. 10). No amount of works we do can help to clear our debt of sin. It is only by the grace of God that our sins can be removed. Hence, David wrote “Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered” (v.7; cf. Psalm 32:1). We are blessed because of a loving Saviour we have found in Jesus Christ!
I hope by this point in the book of Romans we have not been carried away that we can be saved by faith alone, as is taught in most denominations today. Faith cannot exist alone: faith is always accompanied by works of obedience. As James wrote, “faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone” (James 2:17). It is noteworthy that James would quote from the same verse that Paul did in Romans 4, but James does so to prove that Abraham was justified by a faith that is accompanied by works!
“Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God” (James 2:21-23).
Paul later goes on to show how Abraham’s faith held strong in the promises of God, especially the promise that Abraham would have a son, and Abraham would be the father of many nations. Abraham was “hoping against hope” due to him being already 100 years old, and his wife Sarah 90 years old. Sarah’s womb, by then, was “as good as dead” (v.18-19). However, Abraham was “strong in faith,” and “fully persuaded” that God was able to deliver on His promises (v.20-21). Did God deliver? Yes! Isaac was born. Did Isaac drop out from the sky? No! Abraham and Sarah, despite their old age, worked out their faith in order to conceive Isaac. What a faith that Abraham possessed! “Therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness” (v.22).
God has also made promises to us Christians. God has promised us salvation and an inheritance in Heaven. However, this was impossible because we had an insurmountable debt of sin to repay! Yet, God made the impossible possible through Jesus Christ, and we can attain it through faith in Jesus (v.24-25). However, we must fully persuaded as Abraham was! However, sometimes our faith can waver, and it is obvious we are not fully persuaded, whenever we:
- Doubt God’s providence in times of suffering
- Blame God for our troubles
- Try to solve problems our way instead of God’s way
- Allow ourselves to be distracted by worldly pleasures
- Do not put in our best effort to do God’s will
Brethren, we will not receive God’s promises unless we attain it by faith! If we truly have faith in God and His promises, we must trust wholeheartedly in God even in times of trouble. Furthermore, we need to remove distractions from our lives, and exercise our faith with works of obedience. Are we fully persuaded as Abraham was? Paul himself was fully persuaded, as he confidently affirmed:
“For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day” (2 Timothy 1:12).
Because of Paul’s faith in God, he endured his trials, he was not ashamed, and he was obedient to his calling as a preacher of the gospel. Brethren, if we are to be imputed righteousness as Abraham was, we need also to have a strong faith in Jesus Christ. We need to be fully persuaded in God’s promises, and we need to exercise our faith with works of obedience. Are you fully persuaded?