Read Romans 4:16-25
“God’s promise of eternal life is received through the same kind of faith demonstrated by Abraham, who believed in the God who resurrects the dead and creates new things out of nothing.”
Digging Deeper: I don’t know if you’ve done much thinking about Abraham, but what a true hero of the faith! Here’s a guy who was saved by faith even before there was a Bible or the Law or Christ’s death and resurrection or a community of faith. God appeared to Abraham one day—we’re not even sure if he’d had any previous interaction with God or if this was simply an out of the blue encounter—and Abraham said, “Okay God—I’m on board. What’s next?”
Abraham then went on a life-long journey with God in which he became known as a friend of God—a pretty cool designation, I’d say—the genetic father of God’s people, the Jews, and the spiritual father of all who believe. (James 2:23, Romans 4:1116-17)
Obviously, Abraham was a very special man, and the Bible holds him up as an example to emulate for believers like you and me. We all ought to be Abraham-like in the spiritual dimension of our lives.
But is that even possible? Is there even the smallest chance that I can develop that same kind of Abraham-like relationship with God? Can I attain a walk with God that will be an Abraham-like example to others? And if it’s possible, then how?
Well, it is possible! Paul goes on to say, “God will count us righteous too if we believe in him who raised from the dead this Jesus who died for our sins and was raised to make us right with God.” (Romans 4:24, NLT)
How can we attain friendship with God? I can sum up the “how” in two words: Faith and hope—technically, that’s three words, but works with me!
First, you’ve got to make resurrection the foundation of your faith.
That’s what Abraham did! Romans 4:17 says, “Abraham believed in the God who brings back the dead to life.” Abraham was a little ahead of his time—like a few thousand years—but he believed in the God of the resurrection. What Paul is referring to here is the story of God’s call to Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac on the altar (you can read the story in Genesis 22), and Abraham’s willingness to actually go through with it. Why would Abraham be willing to do such a thing? Because he had faith in the God of the resurrection—the God who could, and would, raise Isaac back to life again.
The truth is, to have that kind of Abraham-like faith, you and I have to have that same Abraham-like trust in the God of the resurrection. If you don’t have a foundational and resolute belief in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, and his promise to resurrect you from the dead, your faith will not only not develop to Abraham-like proportions, it will be meaningless. Paul teaches us in I Corinthians 15:14, “If Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.”
In other words, if we have no faith in the God of the resurrection, then I am wasting my energy writing this blog…and you’re wasting your time reading it…and you’ll never come close to living an Abraham-like life of faith. But the historical fact of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead proves that God is who he said he is and will fulfill what he has promised to do. And the faith you place in the God who resurrects the dead will empower you to live the kind of God-honoring faith that Abraham had.
Second, you’ve got to claim resurrection as the basis of your hope.
That, too, is what Abraham did. Romans 4:18 tells us that “even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept on hoping”…believing in God’s promises that one day he would be the father of many nations when his only son, through whom his lineage would continue, was about to die. In other words, Abraham didn’t let his circumstances dominate his life; he allowed God’s promises to dictate his life. Abraham believed that if Isaac was going to die on the altar, God would raise him to life. That was his hope.
I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about this, but the exercise of that kind of hope is arguably the most powerful discipline you can engage as a believer. Count Bismarck said, “Without the hope of [Christian resurrection], this life is not worth the effort of getting dressed in the morning.” He was right! Christian hope is that important, and that powerful.
Karl Marx proclaimed that religious hope is the opiate of the people. But Hebrews 6:19 says, “We have this hope as an anchor of the soul, firm and secure.” And Paul writes in Romans 5:5 that this “hope does not disappoint us!”
Do you practice hope? I’m not talking about the breezy kind of optimism that Mary Martin sang about in South Pacific when she crooned, “I’m stuck like a dope with a thing called hope.” I’m talking about the exercise of hope that declares that you are choosing to believe in God’s promises, not just in spite of the evidence, but in scorn of the consequences. We’ve been called to practice that kind of hope.
Faith, hope and the resurrection…that was Abraham’s secret. I have faith that it will be your secret too…at least I hope so! He is risen!
“For a mere legend about Christ’s resurrection to have gained
circulation and to have had the impact it had without
one shred of basis in fact, is [unbelievable].”
~William F. Albright
This Week’s Assignment:
- Memorize Romans 4:16, “Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all.”
- Read Romans 4 in several different versions. I would recommend the version you normally use, plus The Message and The New Living Translation.