Summary: In Romans 4:13-25, Paul shows how Abraham believed that what God promised, God would do. Similarly, in order to be made right with God, we must believe that God will make good on His promise to save those who put their trust in Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection.
A. I like the old story about a man who fell off a cliff, but managed to grab a tree limb on the way down.
1. The man began to call out: “Help, help, is anyone up there?”
2. Then the man heard a voice saying, “I am here. I am the Lord. Do you believe me?”
3. The man replied, “Yes, Lord, I believe. I really believe, but I can’t hang on much longer.”
4. The Lord then said, “That’s all right, if you really believe you have nothing to worry about. I will save you. Just let go of the branch, I will catch you.”
5. There was a long pause, and then the man cried out, “Help, is anyone else up there?”
B. Another story tells of a city being bombed during wartime, and a father who picked up his son and ran for a shelter.
1. On the way, the bombing intensified and the father wasn’t sure they would make it to the shelter.
2. Seeing a deep hole, the father put his son down and jumped into the hole.
3. When he told his son that he would catch him in his arms if the boy would jump into the hole, the boy said, “But I can’t see you, father!”
4. The father looked up at the silhouette of his son against the background of explosions and burning buildings and said, “But you don’t have to see me, because I can see you.”
5. With faith and trust, the son jumped into his father’s waiting arms.
C. True faith is the willingness and the ability to trust in what we cannot see.
1. In 2 Corinthians 5, when Paul was describing the faithful Christian’s trust in their heavenly home, he wrote: “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Cor. 5:7)
2. Faith is essential for our relationship with God.
3. Faith is essential in the process of being made right with God – we are justified by faith.
4. And faith is essential in the process of continuing in relationship with God – we walk by faith.
D. In our continuing study of Paul’s letter to the Romans, we return to chapter 4, where Paul is still talking about Abraham and how his example relates to the New Testament doctrine of justification by faith.
1. Twice in the verses we looked at last week, Paul declared that Abraham was made right with God because of his faith.
a. In verse 3, Paul wrote: Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness.
b. Then, in verse 9, Paul wrote: Faith was credited to Abraham for righteousness.
2. As Paul was making those statements about Abraham’s faith, he was contrasting the “faith” approach to salvation with two other approaches.
a. In Rom. 4:1-8, Paul was showing how Abraham was saved by faith and not by works.
b. In Rom. 4:9-12, Paul was showing how Abraham was saved by faith and not by circumcision.
3. Today, in Romans 4:13-25, Paul will move on to the next logical step as he employs the example of Abraham, when he says that Abraham was saved by faith and not by keeping the law.
a. What is interesting about this third point that Paul makes is that he doesn’t make the same kind of argument about the law as he made about circumcision, but he could have.
b. In Paul’s argument about circumcision, Paul argued that Abraham couldn’t have been saved by circumcision because the moment when he was saved by faith came 13 or more years before he was circumcised.
c. The same argument could have been made about the law since Abraham lived 500 years before the giving of the law to Moses.
d. But rather than making that argument, which was certainly true, Paul instead presents the inherent weakness of attempting to be saved by the law and then shows the absolute superiority of salvation by faith and the kind of faith that is necessary.
E. The theme of “promise” binds this entire section together.
1. The word “promise” appears for the first time in Romans in today’s section.
2. The word “promise” will appear as a noun 4 times in today’s section, and it will be used in its verb form one time.
3. As you know, the concept of promise is central to the story of Abraham.
4. In today’s section, Romans 4:13-25, Paul makes three points about the promise to Abraham.
a. First, the promise is based on faith, not the law (vs. 13-15).
b. Second, the promise, because it is based on faith, unties Jews and Gentiles in to one people of God (vs. 16-17).
c. Third, the faith with which Abraham responded to God’s promise was firm and unwavering (vs. 18-22).