Summary: This is the 7th of the 30-session Bible Study on Romans
16 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 17 (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; 18 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 Unmerited Promise
The promise that God made to Abraham, that he would be heir of the world was fulfilled, because he believed that God would do what he promised. He knew that he didn’t deserve it in any way, and that it was God’s gift to him. This promise was concerning all people – not only the Jews, but all people who would believe God, just like Abraham did. That’s why He is considered the ancestor of all who receive God’s righteousness through faith in Jesus.
Paul then goes on to quote from Genesis 17:5, where God said that Abram would no longer be called Abram, (which meant ‘exalted father’) but would thereafter be called Abraham, (which meant, ‘father of many),’ and He added that He would be the father of many nations. In God’s eyes Abraham was the father of the many who would believe God just like he did. Abraham believed God, who could bring dead things to life, and who referred to things which did not exist as though they did. (We’ll see what he’s referring to later in this study).
Faith in a Seemingly Impossible Promise
Paul then goes on to say that Abraham believed God’s promise to him, despite the fact that what God was promising, seemed like an impossibility. Based on his faith in God’s promise, he did indeed become the father of many nations, just as God said to Abram in Genesis 15:5, when He took him out, and showed him the stars. He told him to count the stars if he could and then He said, “So shall your descendants be.” What Paul is saying here in essence is, that just as Abraham believed God’s promise that he would be the heir of the world, and God made him righteous as a result of his faith in God, so also, all of us (Jews or non-Jews) who put our trust in Jesus’s work on our behalf, will be a part of those people God was referring to, who will be made righteous. That’s why God considers him our father (ancestor).
19 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. 20 He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, 21 and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. 22 And therefore “it was accounted to him for righteousness.” 23 Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, 24 but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25 who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.
Un-weakening and Unwavering Faith
When Paul said earlier, “God, who gives life to the dead,” he was referring to the time that God appeared to Abraham when he was almost 100 years old, 99 to be precise. Abraham did not weaken in his faith in God’s promise, even though he was quite old, and his wife was way past the age of child-bearing. Paul refers to Abraham as being ‘dead’ as it were, and Sarah’s womb being ‘dead’ as well. Abraham did not waver in his faith regarding God’s promise but instead, his faith only grew stronger and he gave glory to God. We usually give glory to God after a promise if fulfilled, but Abraham gave glory to God even while waiting for the promise to be fulfilled. He was convinced that God was able to do what He had promised. He was, in essence believing, that God would do the impossible. That’s why it was credited to him as righteousness.
We are Heirs of the Promise
Paul goes on to say that not only was Abraham imputed righteousness, but it referred to all of us as well who would be imputed righteousness through faith in God who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead. God was going to intervene in our sinful lives and make us righteous, not based on anything we did, but based on our faith in God, who raised Jesus from the dead. He was punished for our sins and was raised from the dead, so that we would be justified (made righteous). Those who believe it, receive it.