Summary: The Bible makes clear the fact that man’s faith & God’s grace are both involved in salvation. For the promise of God’s salvation belongs to the realm of grace & faith, not works.
ROMANS 4: 16-18
FAITH IN GOD’S PROMISES
Paul continues his illustration of Abraham as the supreme Old Testament example of saving faith. He makes clear the fact that man’s faith and God’s grace are both involved in salvation. For the promise of God’s salvation belongs to the realm of grace and faith (CIT).
The exercising of faith is the prerequisite response of trusting God and His promises. Abraham’s faith in God’s promises is astounding to me. For when God spoke to Abraham, He responded in obedient faith. Because of his faith in the promises of God, he became the father of the faithful.
I. Universal Promise, 16.
II. Unwavering Faith, 17.
III. Uncommon Hope, 18.
After addressing law, wrath, and sin Paul now contrasts faith, grace, and promise in verse 16. "For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, 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."
The inheritance promised to Abraham and his seed or descendants (4:13) must be either because of law or faith. It cannot be by attempting to keep the law, for the law works or brings wrath (4:15) where ever it is broken, not salvation. All have broken God’s Law. Therefore salvation or justification must be of or "out of faith." For faith is the only response that is compatible [or in accordance] with God’s grace. The promise of justification, or salvation, rests upon the grace of God and can only be received through faith in God.
The Apostle says "the promise" of justification by faith is certain because of God’s grace. If salvation or justification be in any form or to any degree dependent upon the merit, the goodness, or the stability of man, it never could be sure, in fact it must be utterly unattainable. Unless we are saved by grace, we cannot be saved at all. To reject therefore, a gratuitous salvation, is to reject the only method of salvation available for sinners. Salvation being of grace, suspended on the simple condition of faith in God’s Word, without regard to parentage, national or church affilication, is therefore available to all classes or types of people.
[Salvation by character?] A minister was sitting in a railway coach BESIDE AN UNBELIEVER who said to him, "I differ with you. I don’t believe that anyone is admitted into heaven because of his faith. I believe that when God receives anyone into heaven, He inspects his character and good works rather than his faith." Presently the conductor came along and looked carefully at every ticket the passengers gave him. After he passed, the minister said, "Did you notice that the conductor looked carefully at every ticket the passengers gave him, and took no pains to inspect the passengers? A railway ticket entitled them to be transported to their destination. So faith in Christ brings saving grace. Now it also produces Christian character which is pleasing to God, but man is not saved by His character but by God’s grace. The Bible says, "‘For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: It is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast.’"
This promise of salvation by faith is certain of fulfilment for one group only, the true seed. The true descendants are those who, though honoring God’s Law [as the Jews did], rest their faith in God and His promises as did Abraham. The statement that Abraham is the father of us all means that all believers are the spiritual children of Abraham. In God’s kingdom there is no room for racial prejudice. Because of their common faith, "all" believers constitute one family, the family of God.
II. UNWAVERING FAITH, 17.
Verse 17 adds evidence for the previous statement from the Old Testament by quoting Genesis 17:5. "As it is written, ‘A father of many nations have I made you’ in the sight of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist."
The father of physical nations, yes, but also of a spiritual nation. In God’s all knowing sight He saw Abraham as the father of many nations even though Abraham was without heir when the promise was given.
Paul further describes the object of Abraham’s faith as the God who imparts life to the dead. The reference is to the One who revived Abraham’s power to beget, and Sarah’s ability to bear. Abraham was as good as dead as far as his fathering a child was concerned. Their was no work he could do that would father a child.