Abraham—the Father of All Who Believe, Continued
Paul continues his discussion about Abraham, that central figure in Jewish history, the father of their nation. Yesterday, we saw that God made a promise to Abraham in Genesis 15:6 that he would have a son, and that Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness” (4:3). Paul used this to show that righteousness comes by faith and not by works of the law and so includes Gentiles who trust in Jesus as well. Now Paul refers to another passage concerning Abraham in Genesis 17:4-6 where God promises Abraham that he would be the father of many nations. Again the emphasis is on Abraham believing God’s promise (i.e., faith), and that Abraham would be the father of many nations and not just one (i.e., believing Gentiles, too). To those who insist that righteousness (that is, a right standing before God) depends on works of the law, Paul reminds them that, far from righteousness, “the law brings wrath,” for the simple reason that no one can fulfill it. And if one could fulfill it, which one can’t, such would make faith null and the promise void, which is impossible as the promise depends on God’s faithfulness and not ours. And so Paul writes triumphantly: “That is why [righteousness] depends on faith, that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherents of the law [believing Jews] but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.”
The rest of the passage speaks to Abraham’s faith in God’s promise to him, though his own body was “as good as dead,” at least as that concerned fathering a son at 100 years of age, not to mention Sarah’s barren womb who was also at age ninety. But he trusted God as the One who “calls into existence the things that do not exist,” and “grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what He had promised.” Did you notice that Abraham grew strong in faith as he gave glory to God? We grow strong in faith when we praise the Lord.
Paul closes this chapter reminding us that the righteousness which “was counted to [Abraham]” by grace through faith may be counted to us as well “who believe in Him who raised from the dead Jesus Christ our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” So in chapters one through three, Paul showed us that no one can stand before God on the basis of the law but can only be condemned thereby; in chapter four, he shows us that a right standing before God is available by grace through faith using Abraham as his visual aid, who is the father of us all.