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Bible Commentaries

Wells of Living Water Commentary

Romans 4

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-5

Abraham an Exemplar of Faith

Romans 4:1-5 , Romans 4:13-25

INTRODUCTORY WORDS

In our verses there are several things relative to the faith of Abraham that are worthy of note:

1. What did Abraham find according to the flesh? The query is one of a far vista, for it deeply concerns every one of us.

(1) If Abraham were justified by the flesh he might have had whereof to glory, but not before God. He could have gloried before men, because men look at the outward appearances. Men delight to boast in their own worthiness and their own accomplishments. Men delight in parading themselves, as. though they, by their might or prowess, had done this or that After the flesh and before men, Abraham might have paraded his power to make money, and to increase his goods; he might have gloried in his feats of valor, such as overthrowing certain kings and delivering his nephew Lot; he might have gloried in his power in prayer; in his dedication of Isaac to death; in his years of faithful service and worship.

(2) Before God, Abraham could not have gloried in any of these, because, in what he did, power was given him of God. Before God, Abraham, like all of us, was but a sinner saved by grace. Every good he possessed in daily walk, every virtue he showed, and every act of faith he demonstrated, was all the gift of God. He was beautiful only by God's beauty that God had put upon him,

2. If Abraham had been saved or justified by works, the reward would not be reckoned of grace but of works. The moment we pass into the realm of works, we pass out of the realm of grace. Rewards lie in those accomplishments of saints which follow after they have been saved by grace. For God is not unrighteous to forget our work and labor of love; therefore when He comes He says, "My reward is with Me, to give every man according as his work shall be."

Rewards must, therefore, of necessity, fall far below the bestowment of grace, for this simple reason, that rewards can give no more than merit requires; but grace can give unbounding favors, because it is based on Christ's sacrificial Blood, and His marvelous accomplishments for those who believe.

No man could merit eternal life, or Heaven, or any of its glorious and eternal benefactions, because none of us could render a service to merit so great a prize.

3. The righteousness which is by faith. Romans 4:3 says, "Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness." Romans 4:5 says, "To him that * * believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness."

What was it, then, for which Abraham believed God? He believed that God had found a way by which He could be just, and yet justify the ungodly. That was the underlying principle of Abraham's faith not merely that God had told Abraham to go out to a country that he knew not of, and that Abraham by faith went out; not merely that God told Abraham to offer up his son, and that Abraham by faith had obeyed, and was in the process of sacrificing Isaac, accounting that God would raise him up not that alone.

The faith that was counted unto Abraham for righteousness was the faith that believed that God, through the death of Christ (whose day Abraham saw and understood) could justify the ungodly, Abraham believed that God would put his sins on Christ, and Christ's righteousness upon him he believed this, and nothing short of this; because anything short of this kind of faith, God could not have counted unto him for righteousness.

I. THE FAITH OF ABRAHAM WAS NOT A FAITH AFTER THE LAW (Romans 4:13 )

Here is Romans 4:13 : "For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith." These words carry great weight. If righteousness had come to Abraham by the Law, then Christ had died in vain. If righteousness had come to Abraham by circumcision, then men could be saved by religious rites and ceremonies.

Circumcision was, however, only a sign or a seal of the fact that Abraham had obtained righteousness by faith, while he was yet uncircumcised.

Thus also Abraham's righteousness by faith, being uncircumcised, is set forth by the Spirit of God to demonstrate the fact that uncircumcised Gentiles may now be justified by faith, apart from the works and the rites of the Law. What then?

1. If righteousness were by the works of the Law as given to the Jews, then all Gentiles would of necessity have been forced to become righteous only by being grafted into Judaism, and Judaistic rites. We who are Gentiles would have needed to become Jews, sealed by the seal of Judaistic circumcision. We would have been forced to become followers of Abraham, according to the flesh, and not after the Spirit.

2. If righteousness had come by Judaistic Law-works, then the Gentiles who know not the Law would have perished without the Law. Then the whole set-up of world missions as it now stands would have to be done away. Then the Church would need to be forever set aside, as an incubus on God's method of redemption. Then the ordinances of the Church, which link us to the Cross, would need be done away. Then the proclamation of salvation by grace through faith would cease to be God's plan of redemption. Then the Cross would be thrown out of the plan of redemption.

If righteousness is by Law-works, or Law-rites, then Christ would have died a martyr, and not a Redeemer; a murdered religious zealot, and not a God-sent Saviour.

Salvation would have been a work of the flesh, humanly reached through the deeds of the flesh, instead of a power of God through the Spirit. Then all the songs of the redeemed in Heaven would need to be hushed.

II. IF ABRAHAM WAS SAVED BY THE LAW, FAITH IS VOID (Romans 4:14 )

Let us quote Romans 4:14 : "For if they which are of the Law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect."

1. God's promise to Abraham concerning his seed and their heirship would have long ago faded away under the basis of Law-works. If God had promised Abraham that of his seed He would raise up Christ, and promised it solely by virtue of Abraham's worthiness and upon the worthiness of his children and his children's children, then Christ had never been born. Any promise based upon anything humanly dependent is certain to fail, through the weakness of human flesh. The reason the Law cannot perfect is because the Law is made weak by the flesh; that is, the heart of man is deceitful above all things and is desperately wicked. Who can know it?

2. God's promise to Abraham concerning his seed and their heirship would long have been made impossible if based upon religious rites and ceremonies. Even religious forms and traditions, Divinely given, soon are corrupted by man. Take the things commanded by God to Moses, concerning the Tabernacle and the worship of God; all these were soon spoiled by human additions and subtractions, even the rabbinical additions to the Judaistic demands. Hear the Lord Jesus as He speaks to the scribes and Pharisees. They had come to Him, saying, "Why do Thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread." The Lord Jesus replied, "Why do ye also transgress the Commandment of God by your tradition?" These rulers in Israel had so mutilated what God had said, that Christ, said unto them, "Ye hypocrites, * * in vain they do worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men."

Take present-day Judaism: it is far, far away from the express commandments of God. Take also the present-day church, how has it gone away from the simplicities of the New Testament church! There is not one altogether true to the faith once delivered. Thus, if salvation was based upon Law-works or church rites, it would of necessity collapse.

III. THE LAW WORKETH WRATH (Romans 4:15 )

1. How would you like to trust something to save you from wrath, that worketh wrath? Why, then, does the Law work wrath? We know that the Law is holy and righteous and good. How then can that which is good, work wrath? Remember, the Laws of God, like all just and holy laws, carry with them penalties for disobedience. The Law worketh wrath, because it carries these penalties upon the disobedient.

A law unenforced by penalties is a law that is void. A law given to the lawless will be quickly broken. Therefore the law must carry vengeance upon lawbreakers.

2. The giving of the Law was under throes of darkness, and a tempest, and an earthquake. Old Sinai did exceedingly tremble and shake. The reason for all this was that the Law was holy, but man was vile; the Law was righteous, but man was unrighteous; the Law was just, but man was unjust. He who would, as a sinner and breaker of the Law, appeal to the Law for salvation, is appealing unto the sword that is unsheathed to slay him. Shall we seek light from that which forebodes darkness and death? Shall we look for mercy where justice reigns?

3. The Law then becomes a schoolmaster to drive us to Christ. By the Law comes the knowledge of sin, but not a Saviour from sin. From the Law comes the pronouncement, "The wages of sin is death"; from faith comes the pronouncement, "grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." Nay, I had not known sin but by the Law. I had not known the depth of sin, if the height of God's holiness had not been proclaimed by the Law.

What then? How can a sinner be just before God? The Law cannot justify the one whom it can only condemn. The Law cannot save that which it judges worthy of death. There remains, therefore, but one hope, and that is by the way of faith in Christ, even the Christ who died, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God; even the Christ who was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.

IV. WHEREIN THE FAITH OF ABRAHAM STANDS FORTH SUPREME (Romans 4:16 )

Our verse is a rather long one. It reads: "Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the Law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all."

1. Faith drives us away from the Law and into the arms of grace. Herein is the faith of Abraham disassociated from everything that is of the Law, and of any self-accomplishment. It was not the achievements of Abraham's faith to which he looked for salvation. The achievements of Abraham's faith were the result of his faith, not the object of his faith.

Abraham looked by faith unto a redemption which is in Christ Jesus. He looked purposely and distinctly, not vaguely and indefinitely. He saw Christ, saw His atonement, saw His resurrection, saw it all; and seeing, he believed. He cast himself onto the arms of God's grace. His faith antedated his works, as well as his circumcision.

Yes, according to James, faith will work; and it will work wonderfully, even as Abraham's faith worked. Abraham was justified by a faith that works; he showed us his faith by his works. However, Abraham's faith that worked was not in the works of his faith, but in God's grace, which saves.

2. If salvation were by works, then it would be by the works of an unregenerated heart. If salvation were by works, then it would be works that are impossible, and unacceptable to God; for the very best of the works of the flesh is enmity to God, and cannot please God.

The moment faith becomes supreme in the life, as a basis for salvation, that moment the works of the flesh are denied, and grace is enthroned.

3. Salvation by grace through faith makes the promise sure to all the seed of Abraham; not to the Jews only, but also to the Gentiles; not to the circumcision only, but also to the uncircumcision.

If salvation were by the Law, or by Law-works, or by Law-rites, then the Jew would have every advantage. But salvation by grace through faith is a message to every man. All stand alike guilty before God; and all, alike, may be saved by grace.

V. THE FAITH OF ABRAHAM UNVEILED ITS SPIRITUAL VISION (Romans 4:7 )

Here is a wonderful Scripture: "(As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before Him whom he believed, even God, who quickened the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were." We now begin to get an inside light on the far-flung meanings of Abraham's faith.

1. He believed God. Here is something that goes deep down into Abraham's grip of faith. His faith was not placed in things, nor in himself, nor in men. He believed God. How this expression brings to mind the words, "Have faith in God." God is the only Rock that stands unshaken; He is the only Shepherd who gives His life for the sheep; He is the only Light that never fades.

God's Word is the only Word that is forever and for aye, Amen. It is the only Word that never fails, never falters, never flees.

2. He believed in God who quickeneth the dead. Abraham, in the offering of Isaac, believed in the God who is the Resurrection and the Life. He believed more than this he believed in the resurrection of the saints. We read that Abraham received Isaac from the dead in a figure. Yes, he saw the resurrection of Isaac, and of Christ, and of us all. What a faith in God!

3. He believed in God, calling those things which are not as though they were. Faith may have a far-flung vision; however, faith brings that far-flung vision into the immediate present. Faith gives substance to the things hoped for; and evidence to the things not seen. Faith makes things become so real that it acts as though they were present.

We often speak of eschatology, of things to come, of thing's in the far distance. Do we speak of them as though they were here with us now? Do we believe as though we had in hand the things which we hope for? Are they ours before we get them? All this was true in the faith of Abraham. He considered God's promises of future acquisitions as dependable as were God's already received realities. Both to him were things already received. He had what he hoped for. He possessed what he was to obtain.

Let us each examine his faith in the light of the faith of Abraham.

VI. THE FAITH OF ABRAHAM REVEALED AGAINST HOPE HE BELIEVED IN HOPE (Romans 4:18-19 )

Our verse reveals a real faith: "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." The next verse adds: "And being not weak in faith, he considered not his body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah's womb."

1. Abraham's faith was according to that which God had spoken, and not according to natural facts or factors. What if he were as good as dead? What if Sarah were past bearing? What did that have to do with God's ability to do what He had said?

Must we limit God to work in the realm of the natural, or allow Him to work in the realm of the miraculous? Is God man, that His hand must be shortened that He cannot save? Is God not abundantly able to do what He promises? Shall faith limit God by man's idea of limitations? Shall faith become unbelief, when anything outside the realm of what is possible with man comes up?

Does the fact that man cannot do it mean that God cannot do it? We are told to walk by faith: where shall we walk? We are told to live by faith: how shall we live? Shall we place ourselves inside the wonderful achievements of mortal man, and say to faith, "So far shalt thou go, and no further?" Even though man has never been able to walk, or to sleep in peace in a lions' den, faith can so do. Man has never walked up and down in the midst of the fire, yet faith can walk there. We aver that what is impossible to men, is possible to faith.

2. As the church has lost faith in God's Word of promise generally so, it has lost power to do wonders. We need some more Abrahams, and Moseses, and Elijahs, and Gideons, and Davids, and the like. With the coming of the church age, did God cease to work in the realm of the miraculous? Then it is because the church ceased to believe into that realm. When the church was born, did faith die? When the church came in, did God, who worketh all things after the counsel of His will, go out?

VII. ABRAHAM STAGGERED NOT THROUGH UNBELIEF (Romans 4:20-21 )

1. Abraham staggered not through unbelief. We judge that the church, instead of laying her failure in the realm of the miraculous to the silence of God in this age, had better place her failures at the feet of her own unbelief. Unbelief is black with the frown of God. Unbelief is the foe of everything spiritual, and of every attempt and effective accomplishment of the present-hour saints.

2. Abraham was strong in faith giving glory to God. How the words slay us. Shall saints of yore know more of God than we know? Shall they stagger not, while we stagger? Shall they haste to give glory to God, while we languish on in unbelief? God forbid!

Abraham gave glory to God when he received the promise. Abraham never did receive a great bulk of what God had promised, but he died in faith, and everything promised shall yet be fulfilled, and his seed, even as it was said. The presence of Israel, the Jews of today, in such ever-increasing numbers, is a sufficient proof that God is about to do what He told Abraham He would do.

3. Abraham was fully persuaded that what God promised He was able to perform. Do we not have the God of Abraham for our God? Are we living in God who was, or who is? The God who of old was able to perform all that He had promised, is still able to do the same.

Come, let us examine His promises to the Church. Let us take a tablet and write them down, one by one: then, with all of them written, let us write across that all God is able to perform, and He will perform even as we faith Him.

4. All this faith of Abraham which staggered not, was not written for his sake, but for us also. Righteousness was imputed to Abraham because he believed God. We too may have righteousness imputed to us if we believe in Him who wrought the supreme miracle of raising Christ from the dead; even the Christ who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification. Hearken here is the miracle of all miracles a Saviour who is ours by faith.

AN ILLUSTRATION

Abraham, without knowing where he went, obeyed God, and Abraham has abundant rewards.

"'Go, and dig there!' advised a facetious miner, thinking to play a joke on the confiding tenderfoot who had asked where he should begin his mining. He pointed as he spoke to a crumbling prospect hole, long before abandoned. To the eyes of inexperience one spot looked as promising as another, and the new arrival set to work, with the result that in less than twenty-four hours he had uncovered one of the richest veins of tellurium ever opened in that camp. He was still so ignorant of what he had found that when another miner offered to sink the shaft forty feet for a half interest in the claim, the opportunity to relieve a pair of blistering palms was hailed with delight. Yet that forty feet of sinking paid something like £10,000, while, first and last, the great Melvina Mine of Boulder County, Col., has yielded nearly £140,000. 'Treasures of wickedness profit nothing' (Proverbs 10:2 ). Like Moses, seek the 'greater riches than the treasures in Egypt' (Hebrews 11:26 )."


Verses 13-25

Abraham an Exemplar of Faith

Romans 4:1-5 , Romans 4:13-25

INTRODUCTORY WORDS

In our verses there are several things relative to the faith of Abraham that are worthy of note:

1. What did Abraham find according to the flesh? The query is one of a far vista, for it deeply concerns every one of us.

(1) If Abraham were justified by the flesh he might have had whereof to glory, but not before God. He could have gloried before men, because men look at the outward appearances. Men delight to boast in their own worthiness and their own accomplishments. Men delight in parading themselves, as. though they, by their might or prowess, had done this or that After the flesh and before men, Abraham might have paraded his power to make money, and to increase his goods; he might have gloried in his feats of valor, such as overthrowing certain kings and delivering his nephew Lot; he might have gloried in his power in prayer; in his dedication of Isaac to death; in his years of faithful service and worship.

(2) Before God, Abraham could not have gloried in any of these, because, in what he did, power was given him of God. Before God, Abraham, like all of us, was but a sinner saved by grace. Every good he possessed in daily walk, every virtue he showed, and every act of faith he demonstrated, was all the gift of God. He was beautiful only by God's beauty that God had put upon him,

2. If Abraham had been saved or justified by works, the reward would not be reckoned of grace but of works. The moment we pass into the realm of works, we pass out of the realm of grace. Rewards lie in those accomplishments of saints which follow after they have been saved by grace. For God is not unrighteous to forget our work and labor of love; therefore when He comes He says, "My reward is with Me, to give every man according as his work shall be."

Rewards must, therefore, of necessity, fall far below the bestowment of grace, for this simple reason, that rewards can give no more than merit requires; but grace can give unbounding favors, because it is based on Christ's sacrificial Blood, and His marvelous accomplishments for those who believe.

No man could merit eternal life, or Heaven, or any of its glorious and eternal benefactions, because none of us could render a service to merit so great a prize.

3. The righteousness which is by faith. Romans 4:3 says, "Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness." Romans 4:5 says, "To him that * * believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness."

What was it, then, for which Abraham believed God? He believed that God had found a way by which He could be just, and yet justify the ungodly. That was the underlying principle of Abraham's faith not merely that God had told Abraham to go out to a country that he knew not of, and that Abraham by faith went out; not merely that God told Abraham to offer up his son, and that Abraham by faith had obeyed, and was in the process of sacrificing Isaac, accounting that God would raise him up not that alone.

The faith that was counted unto Abraham for righteousness was the faith that believed that God, through the death of Christ (whose day Abraham saw and understood) could justify the ungodly, Abraham believed that God would put his sins on Christ, and Christ's righteousness upon him he believed this, and nothing short of this; because anything short of this kind of faith, God could not have counted unto him for righteousness.

I. THE FAITH OF ABRAHAM WAS NOT A FAITH AFTER THE LAW (Romans 4:13 )

Here is Romans 4:13 : "For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith." These words carry great weight. If righteousness had come to Abraham by the Law, then Christ had died in vain. If righteousness had come to Abraham by circumcision, then men could be saved by religious rites and ceremonies.

Circumcision was, however, only a sign or a seal of the fact that Abraham had obtained righteousness by faith, while he was yet uncircumcised.

Thus also Abraham's righteousness by faith, being uncircumcised, is set forth by the Spirit of God to demonstrate the fact that uncircumcised Gentiles may now be justified by faith, apart from the works and the rites of the Law. What then?

1. If righteousness were by the works of the Law as given to the Jews, then all Gentiles would of necessity have been forced to become righteous only by being grafted into Judaism, and Judaistic rites. We who are Gentiles would have needed to become Jews, sealed by the seal of Judaistic circumcision. We would have been forced to become followers of Abraham, according to the flesh, and not after the Spirit.

2. If righteousness had come by Judaistic Law-works, then the Gentiles who know not the Law would have perished without the Law. Then the whole set-up of world missions as it now stands would have to be done away. Then the Church would need to be forever set aside, as an incubus on God's method of redemption. Then the ordinances of the Church, which link us to the Cross, would need be done away. Then the proclamation of salvation by grace through faith would cease to be God's plan of redemption. Then the Cross would be thrown out of the plan of redemption.

If righteousness is by Law-works, or Law-rites, then Christ would have died a martyr, and not a Redeemer; a murdered religious zealot, and not a God-sent Saviour.

Salvation would have been a work of the flesh, humanly reached through the deeds of the flesh, instead of a power of God through the Spirit. Then all the songs of the redeemed in Heaven would need to be hushed.

II. IF ABRAHAM WAS SAVED BY THE LAW, FAITH IS VOID (Romans 4:14 )

Let us quote Romans 4:14 : "For if they which are of the Law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect."

1. God's promise to Abraham concerning his seed and their heirship would have long ago faded away under the basis of Law-works. If God had promised Abraham that of his seed He would raise up Christ, and promised it solely by virtue of Abraham's worthiness and upon the worthiness of his children and his children's children, then Christ had never been born. Any promise based upon anything humanly dependent is certain to fail, through the weakness of human flesh. The reason the Law cannot perfect is because the Law is made weak by the flesh; that is, the heart of man is deceitful above all things and is desperately wicked. Who can know it?

2. God's promise to Abraham concerning his seed and their heirship would long have been made impossible if based upon religious rites and ceremonies. Even religious forms and traditions, Divinely given, soon are corrupted by man. Take the things commanded by God to Moses, concerning the Tabernacle and the worship of God; all these were soon spoiled by human additions and subtractions, even the rabbinical additions to the Judaistic demands. Hear the Lord Jesus as He speaks to the scribes and Pharisees. They had come to Him, saying, "Why do Thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread." The Lord Jesus replied, "Why do ye also transgress the Commandment of God by your tradition?" These rulers in Israel had so mutilated what God had said, that Christ, said unto them, "Ye hypocrites, * * in vain they do worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men."

Take present-day Judaism: it is far, far away from the express commandments of God. Take also the present-day church, how has it gone away from the simplicities of the New Testament church! There is not one altogether true to the faith once delivered. Thus, if salvation was based upon Law-works or church rites, it would of necessity collapse.

III. THE LAW WORKETH WRATH (Romans 4:15 )

1. How would you like to trust something to save you from wrath, that worketh wrath? Why, then, does the Law work wrath? We know that the Law is holy and righteous and good. How then can that which is good, work wrath? Remember, the Laws of God, like all just and holy laws, carry with them penalties for disobedience. The Law worketh wrath, because it carries these penalties upon the disobedient.

A law unenforced by penalties is a law that is void. A law given to the lawless will be quickly broken. Therefore the law must carry vengeance upon lawbreakers.

2. The giving of the Law was under throes of darkness, and a tempest, and an earthquake. Old Sinai did exceedingly tremble and shake. The reason for all this was that the Law was holy, but man was vile; the Law was righteous, but man was unrighteous; the Law was just, but man was unjust. He who would, as a sinner and breaker of the Law, appeal to the Law for salvation, is appealing unto the sword that is unsheathed to slay him. Shall we seek light from that which forebodes darkness and death? Shall we look for mercy where justice reigns?

3. The Law then becomes a schoolmaster to drive us to Christ. By the Law comes the knowledge of sin, but not a Saviour from sin. From the Law comes the pronouncement, "The wages of sin is death"; from faith comes the pronouncement, "grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." Nay, I had not known sin but by the Law. I had not known the depth of sin, if the height of God's holiness had not been proclaimed by the Law.

What then? How can a sinner be just before God? The Law cannot justify the one whom it can only condemn. The Law cannot save that which it judges worthy of death. There remains, therefore, but one hope, and that is by the way of faith in Christ, even the Christ who died, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God; even the Christ who was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.

IV. WHEREIN THE FAITH OF ABRAHAM STANDS FORTH SUPREME (Romans 4:16 )

Our verse is a rather long one. It reads: "Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the Law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all."

1. Faith drives us away from the Law and into the arms of grace. Herein is the faith of Abraham disassociated from everything that is of the Law, and of any self-accomplishment. It was not the achievements of Abraham's faith to which he looked for salvation. The achievements of Abraham's faith were the result of his faith, not the object of his faith.

Abraham looked by faith unto a redemption which is in Christ Jesus. He looked purposely and distinctly, not vaguely and indefinitely. He saw Christ, saw His atonement, saw His resurrection, saw it all; and seeing, he believed. He cast himself onto the arms of God's grace. His faith antedated his works, as well as his circumcision.

Yes, according to James, faith will work; and it will work wonderfully, even as Abraham's faith worked. Abraham was justified by a faith that works; he showed us his faith by his works. However, Abraham's faith that worked was not in the works of his faith, but in God's grace, which saves.

2. If salvation were by works, then it would be by the works of an unregenerated heart. If salvation were by works, then it would be works that are impossible, and unacceptable to God; for the very best of the works of the flesh is enmity to God, and cannot please God.

The moment faith becomes supreme in the life, as a basis for salvation, that moment the works of the flesh are denied, and grace is enthroned.

3. Salvation by grace through faith makes the promise sure to all the seed of Abraham; not to the Jews only, but also to the Gentiles; not to the circumcision only, but also to the uncircumcision.

If salvation were by the Law, or by Law-works, or by Law-rites, then the Jew would have every advantage. But salvation by grace through faith is a message to every man. All stand alike guilty before God; and all, alike, may be saved by grace.

V. THE FAITH OF ABRAHAM UNVEILED ITS SPIRITUAL VISION (Romans 4:7 )

Here is a wonderful Scripture: "(As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before Him whom he believed, even God, who quickened the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were." We now begin to get an inside light on the far-flung meanings of Abraham's faith.

1. He believed God. Here is something that goes deep down into Abraham's grip of faith. His faith was not placed in things, nor in himself, nor in men. He believed God. How this expression brings to mind the words, "Have faith in God." God is the only Rock that stands unshaken; He is the only Shepherd who gives His life for the sheep; He is the only Light that never fades.

God's Word is the only Word that is forever and for aye, Amen. It is the only Word that never fails, never falters, never flees.

2. He believed in God who quickeneth the dead. Abraham, in the offering of Isaac, believed in the God who is the Resurrection and the Life. He believed more than this he believed in the resurrection of the saints. We read that Abraham received Isaac from the dead in a figure. Yes, he saw the resurrection of Isaac, and of Christ, and of us all. What a faith in God!

3. He believed in God, calling those things which are not as though they were. Faith may have a far-flung vision; however, faith brings that far-flung vision into the immediate present. Faith gives substance to the things hoped for; and evidence to the things not seen. Faith makes things become so real that it acts as though they were present.

We often speak of eschatology, of things to come, of thing's in the far distance. Do we speak of them as though they were here with us now? Do we believe as though we had in hand the things which we hope for? Are they ours before we get them? All this was true in the faith of Abraham. He considered God's promises of future acquisitions as dependable as were God's already received realities. Both to him were things already received. He had what he hoped for. He possessed what he was to obtain.

Let us each examine his faith in the light of the faith of Abraham.

VI. THE FAITH OF ABRAHAM REVEALED AGAINST HOPE HE BELIEVED IN HOPE (Romans 4:18-19 )

Our verse reveals a real faith: "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." The next verse adds: "And being not weak in faith, he considered not his body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah's womb."

1. Abraham's faith was according to that which God had spoken, and not according to natural facts or factors. What if he were as good as dead? What if Sarah were past bearing? What did that have to do with God's ability to do what He had said?

Must we limit God to work in the realm of the natural, or allow Him to work in the realm of the miraculous? Is God man, that His hand must be shortened that He cannot save? Is God not abundantly able to do what He promises? Shall faith limit God by man's idea of limitations? Shall faith become unbelief, when anything outside the realm of what is possible with man comes up?

Does the fact that man cannot do it mean that God cannot do it? We are told to walk by faith: where shall we walk? We are told to live by faith: how shall we live? Shall we place ourselves inside the wonderful achievements of mortal man, and say to faith, "So far shalt thou go, and no further?" Even though man has never been able to walk, or to sleep in peace in a lions' den, faith can so do. Man has never walked up and down in the midst of the fire, yet faith can walk there. We aver that what is impossible to men, is possible to faith.

2. As the church has lost faith in God's Word of promise generally so, it has lost power to do wonders. We need some more Abrahams, and Moseses, and Elijahs, and Gideons, and Davids, and the like. With the coming of the church age, did God cease to work in the realm of the miraculous? Then it is because the church ceased to believe into that realm. When the church was born, did faith die? When the church came in, did God, who worketh all things after the counsel of His will, go out?

VII. ABRAHAM STAGGERED NOT THROUGH UNBELIEF (Romans 4:20-21 )

1. Abraham staggered not through unbelief. We judge that the church, instead of laying her failure in the realm of the miraculous to the silence of God in this age, had better place her failures at the feet of her own unbelief. Unbelief is black with the frown of God. Unbelief is the foe of everything spiritual, and of every attempt and effective accomplishment of the present-hour saints.

2. Abraham was strong in faith giving glory to God. How the words slay us. Shall saints of yore know more of God than we know? Shall they stagger not, while we stagger? Shall they haste to give glory to God, while we languish on in unbelief? God forbid!

Abraham gave glory to God when he received the promise. Abraham never did receive a great bulk of what God had promised, but he died in faith, and everything promised shall yet be fulfilled, and his seed, even as it was said. The presence of Israel, the Jews of today, in such ever-increasing numbers, is a sufficient proof that God is about to do what He told Abraham He would do.

3. Abraham was fully persuaded that what God promised He was able to perform. Do we not have the God of Abraham for our God? Are we living in God who was, or who is? The God who of old was able to perform all that He had promised, is still able to do the same.

Come, let us examine His promises to the Church. Let us take a tablet and write them down, one by one: then, with all of them written, let us write across that all God is able to perform, and He will perform even as we faith Him.

4. All this faith of Abraham which staggered not, was not written for his sake, but for us also. Righteousness was imputed to Abraham because he believed God. We too may have righteousness imputed to us if we believe in Him who wrought the supreme miracle of raising Christ from the dead; even the Christ who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification. Hearken here is the miracle of all miracles a Saviour who is ours by faith.

AN ILLUSTRATION

Abraham, without knowing where he went, obeyed God, and Abraham has abundant rewards.

"'Go, and dig there!' advised a facetious miner, thinking to play a joke on the confiding tenderfoot who had asked where he should begin his mining. He pointed as he spoke to a crumbling prospect hole, long before abandoned. To the eyes of inexperience one spot looked as promising as another, and the new arrival set to work, with the result that in less than twenty-four hours he had uncovered one of the richest veins of tellurium ever opened in that camp. He was still so ignorant of what he had found that when another miner offered to sink the shaft forty feet for a half interest in the claim, the opportunity to relieve a pair of blistering palms was hailed with delight. Yet that forty feet of sinking paid something like £10,000, while, first and last, the great Melvina Mine of Boulder County, Col., has yielded nearly £140,000. 'Treasures of wickedness profit nothing' (Proverbs 10:2 ). Like Moses, seek the 'greater riches than the treasures in Egypt' (Hebrews 11:26 )."

 


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Bibliography Information
Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on Romans 4:4". "Living Water". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/lwc/romans-4.html.

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