Following Abraham’s example.
Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all
It is of faith that it might be according to grace: Faith is related to grace in the same way works is related to law. Grace and law are the principles, and faith and works are the means by which we pursue those principles for our relationship with God.
To speak technically, we are not saved by faith. We are saved by God’s grace, and grace is appropriated by faith.
It is of faith: Salvation is of faith, and nothing else. We can only receive salvation by the principle of grace through faith. Grace cannot be obtained through works, whether they be past, present, or promised because by definition grace is given without regard to anything in the one who receives it.
“Grace and faith are congruous, and will draw together in the same chariot, but grace and merit are contrary the one to the other and pull opposite ways, and therefore God has not chosen to yoke them together. He will not build with incongruous materials, or daub with untempered mortar. He will not make an image partly of gold and partly of clay, nor weave a linsey-woolsey garment: his work is all of a piece and all of grace.” (Spurgeon)
So that the promise might be sure to all the seed: The promise can only be sure if it is according to grace. If law was the basis of our salvation, then our salvation would depend on our performance in keeping the law - and no one can keep the law good enough to be saved by it. A law-promise of salvation can never be sure.
If the promise “were of the law, it would be unsure and uncertain, because of man’s weakness, who is not able to perform it.” (Poole)
But also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all: If our relationship with God is according to grace (not circumcision or law-keeping), then that relationship is for those who are of the faith of Abraham, even if they are not of his lineage.
A Gentile could say, “I am not a Jew, I am not of the law; but I am of the faith of Abraham,” and he would be just as saved as a Jewish believer in Jesus would be.
The father of us all: The fulfillment of the promise in Gen_17:4-5 is found not only in Abraham’s descendants through Isaac, but especially in his role as being the father of us all who believe - and those believers come from every nation under heaven.
(As it is written, “I have made you a father of many nations”) in the presence of Him whom he believed; God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did; who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, “So shall your descendants be.”
The Call of Abram
Gen 12:1 Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee:
Gen 12:2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:
Gen 12:3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.
God's Covenant with Abram
Gen 15:1 After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.
Gen 15:2 And Abram said, Lord GOD, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus?
Gen 15:3 And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir.
Gen 15:4 And, behold, the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir.
Gen 15:5 And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.
Gen 15:6 And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.
Abraham and the Covenant of Circumcision
Gen 17:1 And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.
Gen 17:2 And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.
Gen 17:3 And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying,
Gen 17:4 As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations.
Gen 17:5 Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee.
Gen 17:6 And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.
Gen 17:7 And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.
Gen 17:8 And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.
Gen 22:15 And the angel of the LORD called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time,
Gen 22:16 And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son:
Gen 22:17 That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies;
Gen 22:18 And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.
So that he became the father of many nations: Even as it took a supernatural life-giving work to make Abraham the physical father of many nations, it also took a supernatural life-giving work to make him the spiritual father of many nations.
God’s life-giving power is demonstrated in the manner in which He can give life to the dead and call those things which do not exist (such as our righteousness) as though they did (by counting us righteous).
If God could call the dead womb of Sarah to life, he can call those who are dead in trespasses and sins (Eph_2:1) to new life in Jesus.
"I’m greatly comforted when God speaks about me as righteous, justified, glorified, holy, pure, and saintly. God can talk about such things before they exist, because He knows they will exist.” (Smith)
This life-giving power was accomplished in Abraham as he, contrary to hope, in hope believed. The life-giving power was evident both naturally and spiritually.
Abraham’s example also helps us to understand the nature of faith. The conception of Abraham’s son Isaac was a miracle, but it was not an immaculate conception. Abraham’s faith did not mean that he did nothing and just waited for God to create a child in Sarah’s womb. Abraham and Sarah had marital relations and trusted God for a miraculous result. This shows us that faith does not mean doing nothing, but doing all with trust and reliance on God and His miraculous work.
“All true believers, like Abraham, obey. Obedience is faith in action. You are to walk in the steps of the faith of father Abraham. His faith did not sit still, it took steps; and you must take these steps also by obeying God because you believe him. That faith which has no works with it is a dead faith, and will justify no one.” (Spurgeon)
“Sense corrects imagination, reason corrects sense, but faith corrects both. It will not be, saith sense; it cannot be, saith reason; it both can and will be, saith faith, for I have a promise for it.” (Trapp)
“But some one may object and say, that it is not beyond the course of nature that a man should beget children at that age. Though I allow that such a thing is not a prodigy, it is yet very little short of a miracle.” (Calvin)
3. (Rom_4:19-22) The character of Abraham’s faith.
And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore “it was accounted to him for righteousness.”
Not being weak in faith: Abraham’s faith was strong but it was also strengthened. He was strengthened in faith.
The idea seems to be that Abraham was strengthened in his faith; but Paul could also mean that Abraham was strengthened by his faith - certainly both were true.
How we need to be strengthened in faith! “Dear brother, little faith will save thee if it be true faith, but there are many reasons why you should seek an increase of it.” (Spurgeon)
Spurgeon knew that ministers and preachers especially needed to be
strengthened in faith. He sometimes shared his own struggles in this area from the pulpit, but wanted to make it clear that his struggles in faith should never be indulged: “Whenever, dear hearers, you catch any of us who are teachers doubting and fearing, do not pity us, but scold us. We have no right to be in Doubting Castle. Pray do not visit us there. Follow us as far as we follow Christ, but if we get into the horrible Slough of Despond, come and pull us out by the hair of our heads if necessary, but do not fall into it yourselves.” (Spurgeon)
“I do not think we shall have many conversions unless we expect God to bless the word, and feel certain that he will do so. We must not wonder and be astonished if we hear of a dozen or two conversions, but let the astonishment be that thousands are not converted when they hear such divine truth, and when we ask the Holy Spirit to attend it with divine energy. God will bless us in proportion to our faith. It is the rule of his kingdom - ‘According to your faith so be it unto you.’ O God, give thy ministers more faith! Let us believe thee firmly!” (Spurgeon)
He did not consider his own body, already dead: Abraham, in faith, did not look to circumstances (his own body and the deadness of Sarah’s womb) but he looked at the promise of God.
In Rom_4:19, there is textual uncertainly as to if we should read he considered his body as good as dead or if we should read he did not consider his own body. Either is possible, though the second seems a better choice.
He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief: His faith did not waver; and it gave glory to God. Though it was a huge challenge, Abraham remained steadfast in faith.
“When there is no contest, it is true, no one, as I have said, denies that God can do all things; but as soon as anything comes in the way to impede the course of God’s promise, we cast down God’s power from its eminence.” (Calvin)
Being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform: Abraham’s faith came because he had been fully convinced of God’s ability to perform what He has promised.
Is your God too small? The God of Abraham was able to perform what He had promised, and Abraham was fully convinced of this.
Some people don’t come to Jesus - or go further with Him - because they are not fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. They think, “It is fine for them but it won’t work for me.” This thinking is a devilish attack on faith, and must be rejected.
This kind of faith sees the work of God done. It sees the work of God done in the immediate (Isaac was born in fulfillment of the promise) and in the eternal (it was accounted to him for righteousness).
Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.
It was not written for his sake alone: It wasn’t only for Abraham’s benefit that God declared him righteous through faith; he is an example that we are invited to follow - it is also for us. Paul’s confidence is glorious: It shall be imputed to us who believe; this wasn’t just for Abraham, but for us also.
Who believe in Him who raised up Jesus: When we talk about faith and saving faith in Jesus, it is important to emphasize that we mean believing that His work on the cross (delivered up because of our offenses) and triumph over sin and death (raised because of our justification) is what saves us. There are many false-faiths that can never save, and only faith in what Jesus accomplished on the cross and through empty tomb can save us.
• Faith in the historical events of the life of Jesus will not save
• Faith in the beauty of Jesus’ life will not save
• Faith in the accuracy or goodness of Jesus’ teaching will not save
• Faith in the deity of Jesus, and in His Lordship will not save
Jesus died because of our offenses, but was raised up because of our justification. The resurrection has an essential place in our redemption because it demonstrates God the Father’s perfect satisfaction with the Son’s work on the cross, proving that it was in fact a perfect sacrifice made by One who remained perfect, even though bearing the sin of the world.
Delivered up because of our offenses: The ancient Greek word translated delivered (paradidomi) was used of casting people into prison or delivering them to justice. “Here it speaks of the judicial act of God the Father delivering God the Son to the justice that required the payment of the penalty for human sin.” (Wuest)
“Jesus’ resurrection always includes his sacrificial death but it brings our the all-sufficiency of his death. If death had held him, he would have failed; since he was raised from death, his sacrifice sufficed, God set his seal upon it by raising him up.” (Lenski)
“Christ did meritoriously work our justification and salvation by his death and passion, but the efficacy and perfection thereof with respect to us depend on his resurrection . . . This one verse is an abridgement of the whole gospel.” (Poole)
In this chapter, Paul has clearly demonstrated that in no way does the Old Testament contradict the gospel of salvation by grace through faith. Instead it is in fulfillment of the Old Testament, and Abraham, justified through faith, is our pattern.