Romans 4:17-24 - the Unquestioning Faith of Abraham and what it means to us

With this post I will conclude a review of Romans chapter 4.

In verse 17, Paul gives two characteristics of God the Father.

  • who quickeneth the dead
  • who calleth those things which be not as though they were
  • These two characteristics are interconnected. The “quicken the dead” means to produce life where there was none before. It also means to restore to life that which at one time was alive, then died. Paul is referring to both physical and spiritual “quickening.” Jesus was alive and was crucified for our sins. He died and was buried. God quickened Jesus and brought Him back to life. A lost sinner is spiritually dead in his sins. That person has never been spiritually alive. God spiritually “quickened” this lost sinner and brought eternal life into that person where there never was life before. This happens in much the same way that God created Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. Adam had never lived. God formed him out of the dirt of the ground, and breathed life into him. The lost sinner is as spiritually dead as that dirt that God made Adam out of. It was when God breathed eternal life into the lost soul that that soul was spiritually quickened.

    Paul continues by saying that God calls things which “were not” as though they “were.” In other words, nothing is impossible for God. This goes hand in hand with the previous comment. If God can create life where there was none before, it would make sense that God, just by the power of His voice, can speak it and it be true.

    Paul continues to speak about the conversion of Abraham and how he had faith in God. In verses 18-22, Paul describes the faith of Abraham. Let’s look at Abraham’s faith more closely, as Paul describes it.

    Romans 4:18 “Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be.”

    It says “against hope believed in hope.” Abraham was nearly 100 years old when God promised him a son. Abraham’s wife Sarah was 90. From the human perspective it appeared he had reason to wonder. Nevertheless, he “believed in hope”. Hope here is the English word for elpis which means “the expectation of something good.” Abraham had this expectation “according to that which was spoken”, in other words, his faith was not based on what he saw, but in what God said. Like I said in a post several days ago, there is a big difference in “believing in God” and “believing God.” Abraham believed what God said. Verse 20 continues by saying that he did this in spite of the physical circumstances surrounding God’s promise. We can apply this to our lives today. Our “what God says” can be found in the Bible. Do you believe everything God says or do you lack faith? You either believe all of Scripture or you can just throw it all out. When we read God’s Word, we need to remember Abraham and how he believed “according to that which was spoken” and do the same thing. We need to believe God in what he says, and step out in faith and let God take care of us. If he can fulfill the promise to Abraham at age 100, then he can fulfill the promises made in His Word to us.

    Verse 20 records how strong Abraham’s faith was.

    Romans 4:20 “He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;”

    Staggered here is the English word for diakrino in Greek, which means to “make a distinction”. In other words, Abraham didn’t parse words with himself and justify God’s promise to mean something it didn’t. He didn’t lack faith in what God said. He didn’t ponder and rationalize that “well, maybe God meant something else.” He believed. Something I never understood is when people say they are looking for God’s Will. They don’t know if God is “leading” them to do “x” as if God is going to come down personally and tell them, or after praying and thinking about it for a long time they will suddenly be enlightened as to what God wants them to do. God’s Will and Purpose is found in His Word. I do believe God opens and shuts doors for us about some specifics. In other words if a person is determining what mission field to go to, God may open some doors to guide you to one place or another. We have to be careful because the devil also will place roadblocks in the way of what God wants us to do. When that happens, and we’re unsure of what to do, first thing is to search the Bible. Make sure what you think God is asking of you is biblical because God will never ask you to do something contrary to His Word. If you’re still not sure, then you should “try the spirits.” In other words, use God’s Word to differentiate between what is God’s guidance and what is a roadblock set up by the devil. Consider 1 John 4:1-3 on how to try the spirits.

    I John 4:1-3 “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.”

    After you search God’s Word and find what is acceptable to Him, and you have tried the spirits to make sure you’re following God, step out in faith and do what God says.

    Paul continues in Romans 4:21 to describe how strongly Abraham believed God.

    Romans 4:21 “And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.”

    Fully persuaded. FULLY. Abraham heard God’s voice and didn’t waiver but fully believed that God was able to perform what He said He would. When you walk close to God, you’ll recognize God’s voice when He tells you something. That doesn’t mean we’re perfect. Far from it. It means that if we confess our sins and walk with God, we’ll understand when God tells us something. There will be no doubt about what God wants with your life. Recall Jonah. God told Jonah to “go to Nineveh.” When Jonah heard, he didn’t sit and ponder what God had said. He immediately knew what God said. When your walk is close to God, you’ll know God’s leading in your life with the same amount of clarity that Abraham, Jonah and Paul all heard.

    It was this faith which Abraham had which justified him. (vs. 22). It was “imputed” to him, or in other words, it was “put on his account.”

    In the final verses of Romans 4, Paul tells us that the same righteousness which God gave Abraham is available to us.

    Romans 4:23-24 “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;”

    This same righteousness can be put on our account also, but there is a condition. “IF” we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead. Let there be no mistake about it. Jesus is the only way we can be seen as righteous in the eyes of God.

    Let’s read God’s Word and discover what God wants us, as Christians, to do. When God tells us, let’s have faith and obey.

    To learn more about Romans chapter 4, follow this link.

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