To this point in Paul’s letter to the Roman Church, Paul has stressed faith as the way -- the only way -- to salvation. To counter any arguments from Jewish Christians in the congregation, Paul used the example of Abraham as one who was made right with God -- justified -- by faith.
In our study of this life changing book we’d better stop here and examine the word and the concept of faith. In Hebrew, faith, or maw haw, means to question or hesitate. Certainly this is not the faith of Abraham. While he did have many questions and at from time-to-time wondered when the God’s promise would happen, I don’t think we can say that he hesitated in his faith in God. Certainly he did hesitate when God called him out of Ur, the land of his father, to found a new nation. Scripture records that Abram, as he was known then, picked up everything he had, sheep, cattle, tents, a nephew, and his wife Sari, and began a trek to a land unknown to him. What a great act of the word we are defining -- faith -- this was.
Let’s look at the word “faith” as Paul uses it in the Greek language, a language which Paul used and the language in which the epistle to the Roman church was written. In Greek, faith is pis tis and means a conviction in the truthfulness of God.
This is the kind of faith Paul’s Abraham had. A conviction in the truthfulness of God. This faith - this conviction - is what God recognized when he, “credited his faith to him as righteousness.”
Let’s continue to examine the word faith. In the newspaper business reporters are trained to ask a number of questions. Among them are, “Who, what, why, when, where, and how.” If we apply the skills of a newspaper reporter to the question of faith what will we find? If we ask the question, “Who?” who will we find? Who has faith? Oddly enough, the answer to that question may very well be, “Everyone has faith.”
Everyone has faith in something. Even a lack of faith denotes a kind of faith. We hear much said of faith. Some people have “little faith,” and we feel sorry for them. Some folks have “a desperate faith,” and we pray for them. Some people have a “different faith,” and we fear them. Some people have “strong faith,” and we admire them. Perhaps one of the best attempts to define faith, what it is and who has it, comes from The Communicator’s Commentary, written by Dr. Stuart Briscoe. He writes, “The object of faith is what really matters, more than anything else. Some people who had strong faith in thin ice never lived to tell the tale but died by faith. Others who had weak faith in thick ice were as safe as if they stood on concrete.” Note Brisco’s response. He writes, “The object of faith is what really matters, more than anything else.” He is telling us that one of the answers to the “Who.” question is God.
In whom do we have faith? It is the Almighty God, the God of Heaven and Earth. The God who spoke the universe and this earth into being. Whether we have faith is not the question. The question really should be, “In whom do have faith?”
Next we have to ask, “Why have faith?” Why did Abraham have faith - faith in God? What happened that Abraham, would have faith. You see, Abraham was not a Jew, at least not a Jew as we think of Jews today. Abraham was a Chaldean, a descendant of Shem, who was the son of Noah. Was Noah a Jew? Not as we think of the Jew of the old testament. Abram, or later Abraham, as God re-named him, did become the father of the Jew and as Paul explains, also the father of all who believe by faith - that’s us. For it was Abraham who first believed God by faith or at least the first to have has faith in God credited as righteousness.
But back to the question: Why did Abraham believe God? Perhaps it was because of God’s promise: “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Gen. 12:2,3.
Scripture continues with an account of great faith: “So Abram left, as the Lord had told him ...” What great faith Abram had. He left behind all those who were important to him, except his nephew and his wife. This 75-year-old man picked up, packed up, and followed God. Just a few verses later we find Abram in the land of the Canaanites. There a remarkable occurrence happened and perhaps this is why Abram believed, why Abram had faith, “The Lord appeared to Abram and said, ‘To your offspring I will give this land.’” Well now, Abram saw the Lord. You might say, “If I saw the Lord, I’d have faith like Abram’s too.” We too, would like to see the Lord, but before we use Abram’s encounter with God as the reason for Abram’s faith, let’s remember what our Lord Jesus told Thomas, the doubter, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen me and yet have believed.” Jn. 20:29 There’s no doubt that Abram followed God by faith, by promise and by vision. Why did Abram have faith in God - faith powerful enough to bring about his salvation? Abram listened, watched and prayed and through his senses he found faith. He used his eyes, his ears and his heart to find faith in God’s promises. You see faith is not blind faith. Faith, the kind of faith that Abraham possessed was intelligent faith. Abraham knew in whom he put his trust.