Romans 4:18-22 The Nature of Abraham’s Faith


The apostle Paul is now going to discuss the immediate benefits of this God-given salvation and the nature of the resulting Christian life. In reviewing the nature of Abraham’s faith, Paul highlights five of its most striking characteristics.

The first important thing about Abraham’s faith is that it was faith in God’s promise. That is clear in verse 18, where one expression of the promise from Genesis 15 is quoted. But it’s also a dominant theme throughout the latter half of Romans 4, in which the noun promise appears four times and the verb promised once. God made a multi-faceted promise to Abraham, involving personal blessing, a land to be given to him and his posterity, blessing on his descendants, and a Redeemer to come. Therefore, the first and most important characteristic of Abraham’s faith is that it was faith in this promise.

When we first look at this, the fact that Abraham “believed” God may seem obvious and therefore unimportant. But it is neither obvious nor unimportant. It’s not “obvious,” because most of our natural thinking about faith moves in different categories entirely. What do we chiefly think of when we think about faith? We think in subjective terms, don’t we? We think of our feelings about something, which really means that we are man-centered in this area rather than God-centered. In the Bible faith is grounded in God and is something that springs from His encounter with the individual. We are not saved because we have a strong subjective faith (that would focus the matter on us), but because we believe the promises of God regarding salvation, promises made known to us in the pages of the Bible. In other words, Christian faith is a Bible faith. Or, to put it in still other words, we are saved not because of our faith but because of God’s promises. True faith is receiving these promises and believing them on the basis of God’s character.

The second characteristic of Abraham’s faith is that it was based on the Word of God and nothing else. We go back to Genesis 15 and find that God promised Abraham many offspring (as numerous as the stars in the heavens), by the time of his life described in Genesis 15, Abraham had lived most of a century without having any children. Where could Abraham find external support to assist him in believing this “wild” promise? There was no such support! So, if Abraham believed God, as he did, it was only because it was God who had made the promise. It’s the same when we trust God in the matter of salvation today. God says that He has given His Son in death for us (see John 3:16). What else in life can sustain you in believing such a promise except the bare Words of God in the Bible. Apart from God’s Word, we don’t even know anything about eternal life, let alone how to obtain it. So if we find salvation, it’s by believing God’s Word, pure and simple.

The vitality of Abraham’s faith (and therefore of all true faith) was greater even than this. For, as Paul points out in the closing verses of Romans 4, it was not a case of Abraham’s merely believing God in the absence of all external supports; he believed God when the external evidences were actually and sharply to the contrary (this is the third characteristic of Abraham’s faith). This is the meaning of the sentence “against all hope, Abraham in hope believed” (v. 18). It means from a human perspective the situation was hopeless. But since God has spoken, Abraham was willing to believe God despite the adverse physical evidence. At this point it is clear that Paul’s thought is moving beyond the situation described in Genesis 15 to the utterly “impossible” conditions of Genesis 17. As we have seen, by this time Abraham was 99 years old and there was no longer any hope that the aged couple could have their own child. When they were a bit younger, perhaps; but not at this point. That is why the text says, “Without weakening in his faith, he [Abraham] faced the fact that his body was as good as dead – since he was about a hundred years old – and that Sarah’s womb was also dead” (v. 19).

The fourth characteristic of Abraham’s faith is assurance. Paul says this in a number of ways: (1) “without weakening in his faith” (v. 19); (2) “he did not waver through unbelief” (v. 20); and (3) he “was strengthened in his faith” (v. 20). But the chief statement is in verse 21: “being fully persuaded that God had power to do what He had promised.” This is an important point. True faith should always have this assurance. But how does faith achieve this in a world where flesh is weak and circumstances are usually more powerful than we are? There is only one answer: True faith has assurance because it is directed neither to ourselves nor to circumstances but to God. Faith that is grounded in the Being and character of God will go from strength to more strength, since God is faithful.

The fifth characteristic of Abraham’s faith that we dare not omit and need to remind ourselves of, is that faith acts. Faith believes God, but it also acts decisively. Did Abraham believe God? Of course he did. He believed God enough to engender the child of the promise when he was 99 years old. How about you? Will you act on your faith as Abraham acted? Will you step out in faith, believing the promise of God concerning the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ? You will get little support from the world to help you make such a commitment. On the contrary, the world will hinder you as much as it possibly can and think you are irrational, even foolish. But where is the foolishness found? Is it on the side of those who trust God? Or is it on the side of unbelievers, who trust only themselves and the world, both of which are passing away? I urge you to trust God and act on it!

Romans 4:18-22 Reflection Questions:

Is your faith man-centered or God-centered?

In what specific ways is 4:18-25 a deliberate reversal of Romans 1:18-27?

How can we as believers celebrate the God who promises impossible things and brings them to pass?

Weekly Seed of Faith 1/2/20

Seed of Faith – Many in 20 Come To The Lord   By Pastor Dave  

“See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you.” Isaiah 42:9

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert
and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:19

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21:5

Dear Faithful Friends and Saintly Seed-Sowers:

Above are a few passages of Scriptures that I turn to during each New Year.  I think of all the wonderful blessings that God has done for me and my family and for so many of you! I rejoice for the daily miracles I am invited to witness each day. During the NEW YEAR,  I also love to reflect on the “new things” that God will be doing in my life, in your life and the lives of so many in 2020!

I am struck by the “new things” that God promises us in Scripture. From the Old Testament to the New Testament, we are promised that God’s business is making things new. I don’t know about you, but I can use a NEW year!

“Write them down for these words are trustworthy and true.”  What powerful words to reflect upon! Long ago, I had a GMC two-toned blue van. It was beautiful. We name our vehicles.  Don’t ask my why. We always have: Betty Ford, El Tanko, Woody, and the 1990 blue van–faithful and true, Trupi 5! (Yes, that was her name; that van took us from 3 kids in high school, to 3 kids in college, to my seminary years, and to our first two churches! As I sat down to write about how the Scriptures are trustworthy and true, I thought about how trustworthy and true Trupi 5 was. When we sold Trupi 5, she had over 350,000 miles on her! Faithful and true–the scriptures are just that!

I have been listening to King and Country’s latest album,  “Burn the Ship.”  Here’s the YouTube link … Listen to the chorus: “Burn the ships, cut the ties, send a flare into the night, say a prayer, turn the tide, dry your tears and wave goodbye.” (I’ll get back to this.)

Today I sit at my computer and look through my sermon files. I am overwhelmed and humbled.  I keep all of my sermons in folders labeled for the year they are preached. I have folders dating back to 2001 when I first started keeping an electronic file.  My manuscripts from 1998 to 2001 are in a box somewhere in my shed. Listen to C. H. Spurgeon, “All pastors should keep their sermons so that they can go back over them, read them and weep.”  Today I have been weeping over some of the messages I have written! It’s been a quiet week of holiday. Jac has been sick, and then I caught the flu from her. We’ve been laying low. At this time of the year, I like plan out my preaching calendar, to pick my brain of ideas of what the Holy Spirit wants me to talk about during 2020. I always sit down and write a review of the messages of the previous year and I look over some of the messages. Some messages have brought back fond memories of people and places that are dear to my heart, some have brought laughter at the silliness of my writing, and some have brought tears of sadness for friends lost and ministry moments gone by. It’s a great way to pray myself into 2020 and what’s ahead in the preaching arena for us all.

As we turn the page on 2019, we open a new chapter for 2020. The honest reality is that we aren’t just closing out a year–we are closing out a DECADE! A decade of ministry, memories, moments of joy and sadness, only to open a blank page for a new year and a whole new decade.

This got me to thinking: what is God calling you to do and become in the next year and in the next ten years? Last month, I had a very good friend pass away. Herman, Doc, always encouraged me to have a one-year plan, a five-year plan and ten-year plan.  As I get ready to ask, seek and knock on the Lord’s door for what to preach on, I couldn’t help but miss my friend. What is my one year plan? What is my five year plan? What is my 10 year plan? I’m 65. Seriously, in 10 years I will be 75! WHAT IS MY TEN YEAR PLAN?!!! In a way, I’m kidding. But I do want to encourage you to think about your life and to pray and plan for what you want to accomplish this year, and in the future. We have a whole new decade upon us!

Have you noticed that the year we enter is 2020?  Makes me think of having 20/20 vision; 20/20 vision is normal vision and the vision that a fighter pilot needs to fly his or her plane; 20/20 vision is needed to read a phone book, but who reads a phone book these days.  20/40 vision is required by most states to get a driver’s license. With 20/80 vision you can read an alarm clock from 10 feet away.  Do you know that 20/200 is considered legally blind?

The “so what?” comes early: What is your vision for 2020?

As you may recall, each year I try to come up with a “little ditty” to rhyme the year with.  My good friend, Will, texted me the other day and said that his little ditty was “plenty in twenty.” I like it. I didn’t have much to go on, not much rhymes with twenty–so my little ditty for this year is “MAY MANY in 2020 COME TO THE LORD.” I suppose that’s my one-year plan! I suppose if I plan the right preaching schedule, many will come to the lord!

It is my prayer that you will take this new, clean slate and make the LORD a passion and priority.  The Scriptures teach us that if we seek the Lord, He promises to be found. May the Lord be your vision in 2020.  May the Lord be your passion for this coming year.

I end with the lyrics to the song, “Burn the Ships”:
Step into a new day,
We can rise up from the dust and walk away,
We can dance upon our heartache,
so light a match, leave the past, burn the ships,
and don’t you look back.
So long to shame, walk through the sorrow, out of the
fire into tomorrow.
So flush the pills, face the fear,
feel the wave disappear!
We’re coming clear, we’re born again,
Oh, we can breathe again.

Whatever you faced in the past decade–it’s officially over. There is a brand, new year with a brand, new decade ahead. The Scriptures are faithful and true; they have way over 350,000 miles on them. God is doing a new thing! The former things have taken place but don’t miss the announcement: I (God) am making everything NEW!

Tonight I want to ask you to do something for me. I want to ask you to sit and pray and to answer a few questions for me:
1.  Am I faithful and true? Why or why not?
2.  What am I hoping for in 2020?
3.  Is my vision 20/20? Why or why not?
4. Do I really believe that God can take my heart ache and work with me?
5. How old will I be in ten years when the roaring 20’s are ended?
6. What is my ten year plan?
7. Where do I need God’s vision in my life? Physically? Emotionally? Mentally? Sexually? Spiritually?
8. Where do I need God to make things new for me?
9. Do I need to burn the ships? Do I need to walk away from something, someone?
10. Am I willing to light the match that will burn the ship? Am I willing to walk away? Am I willing to follow God with 2020 vision?

In closing, I have a great story to share with you next week but, for now, I want you to plan and forecast. Do you need God to make a way for you through the desert? Do you need a stream in your wasteland? God’s word is faithful and true and an honest prescription for 2020 vision. In Psalm 65 God promises to crown your year with HIS GOODNESS, for my paths to drip with HIS ABUNDANCE.  I’m all in. Are you? It’s not just a year. It’s a decade. Burn the ships.

I’m praying for you.

God loves you and so do I,
Pastor Dave

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