Summary: When someone directs us to do something, before we take the first step, most of us want to know all the details. Abraham didn’t ask; he just kept on moving by faith until he came to this land that was going to one day be Israel.
In college, usually the most basic freshman courses are labeled “101.” It may be Algebra 101, History 101, Calculus 101 or something like that. Today I want to teach from Romans 4, some of the basics about faith.
My favorite uncle was Uncle Charles, my mother’s younger brother who never married. One of the reasons he was my favorite uncle is because he was so generous. In fact, it was just about a month ago that he died and went to be with the Lord. I can remember when I was a little kid, we would gather at my grandparent’s house where my uncle lived. When the family was all gathered around, he always played a little game with me. He would hold out both of his hands. In one hand would be a nickel; in the other hand would be a dime. He would say, “Ok, David, choose, which one would you like to have, a nickel or a dime?” You know, a nickel is a lot bigger and thicker than that little old thin dime, so I would pick the nickel. He laughed, and called the rest of the family in there and said, “Y’all come here and watch this.” He pulled out another nickel. He said, “All right, David, choose which one you want, the nickel or the dime.” I’d choose the nickel and everyone would chuckle a little bit. I want you to know, the second time he did it, I figured it out. I figured out I was being the point of a little joke there, But do you know what I also figured out in that young, devious mind of mine? I figured out the moment I chose the dime, that little game would end. I went for years choosing that nickel. I got lots of nickels. I never once chose the dime. I had figured it out and I had the key to that little game. Even though he got a lot of laughs out of it, I think in the end, the laugh was on old Uncle Charles.
There’s no trick to knowing God. You’re not the object of some divine, capricious joke. God has made it really simple. As I said last week, he offers his Grace that comes down in the form of Jesus, and our response is our faith. When God’s Grace intersects with our faith, which is a gift itself, BOOM, that’s when salvation takes place. Just as I figured out that little game Uncle Charles used to play, as soon as you can figure out that the key to unlocking the blessings of the Christian life is faith, the sooner you will begin to enjoy all the blessings of the Christian life. Romans 4, is sort of a little parenthetical chapter Paul inserts. He has been talking about all these great doctrines, Grace, righteousness, redemption, faith, and suddenly he’s going to insert a little historical chapter, and he’s going to give us some flesh and blood examples of what faith really is. We’re going to look at that today.
We will be looking at the first 17 verses of chapter 4, but let’s read them as we introduce each section. First, let’s read the first eight verses.
Romans 4:1-8. “What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. What does the Scripture say? [Here’s the first time of twelve times the word faith, trust or believe is going to be used.] ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness. Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works. ‘Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.’ [from Psalm 32]
I. EXAMPLES OF FAITH
Today, as we start examining the first of two messages about faith in chapter 4, I want to introduce you to this topic, “What is faith and how can I appropriate faith?” First I want to talk about what the examples of faith are. When Paul is going to talk about faith, he gives us, as I have said, some live and living, flesh and blood illustrations. He gives us two Old Testament examples.
1. Abraham–followed God’s plan without knowing all the details
Example number one is Abraham. Much of the chapter is about Abraham. What can you say about him? Well, Abraham followed God’s plan without knowing all the details. To follow God when you don’t know all the details requires faith. The amazing thing about Abraham is he came along before the law of God was even given to the Jews. One of the questions that has been asked of a lot of so-called Christians is, “Who came first, Moses or Abraham?” Did you know about half of the people who claim to be Christians get the wrong answer? Half of the people say, “Well, Moses came first.” No, no, no Abraham came centuries before Moses. God gave the law through Moses. Old Abraham came along before there were the Ten Commandments. He came along before there was the law of God. God just called him out of Ur of the Chaldeans, which is near Saudi Arabia today in the Iraqi area, and said, “Abraham, there is only one God. Stop worshiping all the pagan gods that your family has worshiped for years. Trust me. I’m going to take you to a land.” It took great faith for Abraham to say, “Ok, yes sir!”, and he moved. He started moving toward this land he didn’t even know anything about. He didn’t even know God’s name.