Romans 4:13-25

Thursday Evening Bible Study

June 19, 2008


Paul has been sharing his theology of how salvation works:

In chapters 1&2 he has made a case that all humans are accountable to God.  To the Gentiles they only have to look at creation around them to realize there is a God.  To the Jews, they have the Law of God reminding them of their accountability.

In chapter 3 Paul made the case that all men are sinners and that Jesus Christ came to be a sacrifice to pay for our sins.

Now in chapter 4 Paul has been showing that salvation comes to a person when they believe.  Salvation isn’t based on our good works.  Salvation is based on Jesus’ good work on the cross and our simply believing it.

Paul has used the Old Testament to show that Abraham was declared “righteous” when he believed God.
(Rom 4:3 NKJV)  For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness."
What was it that Abraham believed?
When God promised Abraham a son, Abraham believed.

:13 For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.

heir of the world

It could be referring to Abraham being promised the land of Canaan:

(Gen 17:8 NKJV)  "Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God."

It could be that this is referring to how all the earth was going to be blessed because of Abraham:

(Gen 12:3 NKJV)  I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."

Abraham wasn’t declared righteous because he obeyed the law.  He was declared righteous (Gen. 15:6) six hundred years before the Law of Moses.

He was declared righteous because he believed – this is the “righteousness of faith”

:14 For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect,

made voidkenoo – to empty, make empty; to make void; deprive of force, render vain, useless, of no effect

The verb is a “perfect” tense, meaning it would be something that happened in the past and the effects continue on to the present.

made of no effectkatargeo – to render idle, unemployed, inactivate, inoperative; to cause a person or thing to have no further efficiency; to deprive of force, influence, power; also a “perfect” tense.

The idea would be that if God changed the rules and made righteousness come by the Law instead of faith, then Abraham’s faith would be made useless and the promise made to Abraham would have lost its value and Abraham would no longer be righteous.

:15 because the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression.

You can’t be guilty of breaking the law if no law exists.

When a law exists, then the breaking of the law brings about a penalty, judgment, wrath.

Abraham was declared righteous before the law existed.

: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

those who are of the law … of the faith – Paul is talking about Jews (of the law) and Gentiles (of the faith).

The Law was only given to the nation of Israel, the Jews.  If salvation comes only through the Law, then how could the rest of us be saved?  How could Abraham be the father of “many nations” if only the Jews could be saved?

Salvation comes by grace through faith so that every one of us, whether we’re Jews or Gentiles, can be absolutely sure of our salvation.

If salvation came through the law, then some of us would wonder whether we’re saved or not.

surebebaios – stable, fast, firm; metaph. sure, trusty



God doesn’t want you wondering about your salvation, He wants you sure of it.
(1 John 5:11-13 NKJV)  And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. {12} He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. {13} These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.
Some folks say it is prideful to say that you know you are going to heaven.  But John says that he wants you to KNOW that you have eternal life.  God doesn’t just want you wondering, He wants you to know.
Our salvation is based upon whether or not we have Jesus, and we only have Jesus when we believe in Him.
I believe this is one of the important steps of growing up as a Christian. You need to get to the point where you are no longer wondering whether you are saved or not.

I remember as a young Christian feeling like I needed to get saved every time there was an altar call.

One of the things I’ve learned over the years is that the person who is stuck in that place of always wondering – never gets much done for God.  They are continually stuck wondering.

God wants you to put the doubt behind you.  He has things for you to do, things that a true child of God can do.

Believe me, the life of grace is no dead level; it is not a marsh country, a vast flat. There are mountains, and there are valleys. There are tribes of Christians who live in the lowlands, like the poor Swiss of Valais, who live between the lofty ranges of mountains in the midst of the miasma, where the air is stagnant and fever has its lair and the human frame grows languid and enfeebled. Such dwellers in the lowlands of unbelief are forever doubting, fearing, troubled about their interest in Christ, and tossed to and fro; but there are other believers, who, by God's grace, have climbed the mountain of full assurance and near communion. Their place is with the eagle in his eyrie, high aloft; they are like the strong mountaineer who has trodden the virgin snow, who has breathed the fresh, free air of the Alpine regions, and therefore his sinews are braced, and his limbs are vigorous. These are they who do great exploits, being mighty men, men of renown.

-- Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Wilfredo Garza lived the life of an illegal immigrant for more than 35 years. Year after year, he eked out a living crossing the border from Mexico into the United States—some days finding work, some days not. Regardless, he was constantly looking over his shoulder. He was caught by the Border Patrol four times during that period and bused back to Mexico every time. Undeterred by each apprehension, he swam back across the Rio Grande to try again.
The cycle would likely have continued for several more years if not for an amazing discovery. One day, Wilfredo worked up the courage to walk into an immigration lawyer's office. There, incredibly, he found out that his father was born in Texas and spent time working there, which meant that Wilfredo was actually a U.S. citizen!
All these years he possessed the very papers—his father's birth certificate and work records—that proved his citizenship, and yet he lived in guilt and fear. Now he has a certificate of citizenship. Now he doesn't have to sneak across the border; he can walk through the main gate.

Anderson Cooper, "360 Degrees, On the Border" (aired 5-25-06), CNN; submitted by Jay Caron, East Wenatchee, Washington

: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;

(reread vs. 16 first)

“I have made you a father of many nations” – quoting Gen. 17:5

This was the promise that God made to Abram when He changed Abram’s name to Abraham:

(Gen 17:5 NKJV)  "No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations.
Originally his name was Abram, meaning “exalted father”; afterward it was changed to Abraham, meaning “father of a multitude”.

Paul is saying that the “many nations” refers to those who believe in God like Abraham did.  That means that we as believers can claim that Abraham is our father as well.

in the presence of Him… - go back to verse 16, Abraham is the father of us all … in the presence of Him whom he believed.

In God’s eyes Abraham is the father, the spiritual father, of all believers.

gives life to the dead – this is one of the things that God alone can do.

This idea is going to apply to:

Abraham – his body was as good as dead, but God was going to make another son come from Abraham.
This same principle will also apply to Abraham when God asks him to sacrifice Isaac – Abraham obeyed because he believed that God could raise the dead (Heb. 11:19).
Us – we as pagan Gentiles, as well as Jews, are as good as dead because of our sins, yet God gives us life.
Jesus – who would die on the cross, but be raised from the dead three days later.

God gives life to dead things.

calls those things which do not exist as though they did – God alone sees the future.  He sees things happening before they even existed.

(Isa 44:24-28 NLT)  The LORD, your Redeemer and Creator, says: "I am the LORD, who made all things. I alone stretched out the heavens. By myself I made the earth and everything in it. {25} I am the one who exposes the false prophets as liars by causing events to happen that are contrary to their predictions. I cause wise people to give bad advice, thus proving them to be fools. {26} But I carry out the predictions of my prophets! When they say Jerusalem will be saved and the towns of Judah will be lived in once again, it will be done! {27} When I speak to the rivers and say, 'Be dry!' they will be dry. {28} When I say of Cyrus, 'He is my shepherd,' he will certainly do as I say. He will command that Jerusalem be rebuilt and that the Temple be restored."

What’s fascinating is how God talks about being the one who knows and causes the future, and then He gets specific and mentions someone by name.  Cyrus would be the Persian ruler who would make the decree to set the Jews free from Babylon to go back and rebuild Jerusalem and the temple.
Isaiah is writing this several hundred years before Cyrus was even born.

When God says to Abraham that he would be the father of many nations, you can bet that this is what would happen.  And it has.

: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."

contrary to hope, in hope believed – could be translated, “beyond hope, upon hope he believed”

The idea is that Abraham’s situation was “beyond hope”, but that didn’t stop Abraham believing in hope.

so that – the purpose behind Abraham’s believing God was so that God’s promise would come true.

How could he do this?  How could he hope even when he was hopeless?  Read on …

: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.

being weakastheneo – to be weak, feeble, to be without strength, powerless; the grammar has the idea of “not becoming weak”

Abraham’s body was weak, but his faith was not.

considerkatanoeo – to perceive, remark, observe, understand; to consider attentively, fix one’s eyes or mind upon

The “not” is not in some Greek manuscripts, that’s why some translations read that Abraham “considered” his own body …

Whether it’s there or not, the point is still the same.

deadnekroo – to make dead; worn out; of an impotent old man; The verb is a “perfect” tense, meaning that the action has happened in the past (dying), and the results continue on into the present (still dead).


Get your eyes off the impossibility of the problem

Sometimes we can get so fixated on our problems that we get to thinking that they’re too big!
When the children of Israel first got to the doorstep of the Promised Land (Num. 12), they sent in spies to check things out.  Two of the spies said that things were awesome and they should go in.  The other ten could only think about the giants they had seen in the land.  The people were discouraged and didn’t go because they couldn’t stop thinking about giants.
Peter had an encounter with an interesting problem.  He and the guys had been out in the boat rowing against the wind all night.  Jesus shows up and He’s WALKING ON THE WATER!!  I don’t know how He did this considering there were a lot of waves.  Was He surfing?  Hurdling over the waves?  Peter gets excited and asks Jesus if he can try walking on water.  Jesus says, “Sure”.
(Mat 14:30-31 NKJV)  But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, "Lord, save me!" {31} And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?"

When Peter began to focus on the problems around him rather than Jesus, he began to sink.

It’s not that it’s necessarily wrong to be aware of the problems around us – I’m not sure God wants us going through life with a blindfold on – the problem is when we’ve gotten a twisted perspective, and the problem now seems bigger than God.

:20 He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God,

waverdiakrino – to be at variance with one’s self, hesitate, doubt; the Old King James reads “He staggered not at the promise of God”

This word is found in:

(James 1:5-8 NKJV)  If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. {6} But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. {7} For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; {8} he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

James (James 1:6) tells us that doubt and unbelief are the things that cause the tossing in the storm.  They are the things that are really tearing you up, not the situation.

strengthenedendunamoo – to be strong, endue with strength, increase in strength


Strengthened by praising Him.

I think there’s a connection between Abraham growing strong in faith and his giving glory to God.
Jehoshaphat was faced with an invasion from three enemies at once.  When they cried out to God for help, God promised to deliver them.  They decided to respond to the situation with praise to God:
(2 Chr 20:20-22 NKJV)  So they rose early in the morning and went out into the Wilderness of Tekoa; and as they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, "Hear me, O Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem: Believe in the LORD your God, and you shall be established; believe His prophets, and you shall prosper." {21} And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed those who should sing to the LORD, and who should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army and were saying: "Praise the LORD, For His mercy endures forever." {22} Now when they began to sing and to praise, the LORD set ambushes against the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; and they were defeated.
You can measure your trust in God with your praise.  You can strengthen your trust in God with your praise.
Pastor Chuck writes: Years ago while pastoring in another area, I was working at a supermarket to meet the family’s needs. We had three children and the church only paid twenty dollars a week.  My mother-in-law had died in Phoenix, and we went there to take care of the funeral arrangements. While I was gone my union dues at the supermarket lapsed. When I returned to pay them, the union had attached a fifty dollar fine. I couldn’t afford to pay the fine plus the dues. I was in a bind, because the union wouldn’t let me work, and I couldn’t get the money without the work.  Since my income from the supermarket had stopped, things were pretty tough and I became discouraged. I’ve always believed in keeping my accounts up to date as a witness for Jesus Christ. Now for the first time in my life I started receiving letters from my creditors.  One morning I got up and totaled our debts. They came to $416.00. I laid them before the Lord, but I was very disheartened. “Where in the world am I ever going to get $416.00?” About that time the phone rang. I picked it up, and a friend said, “Chuck, I’m calling to let you know that I put a check in the mail for you. I sent it special delivery, and you should get it tomorrow morning. It’s for $425.00.”  Was I ever elated! I ran into the kitchen, grabbed my wife, and danced her around the room. I was praising the Lord. “Victory! Bless God! Hallelujah! We’ll be out of debt! We even have enough money to go out for dinner!”  Later, after I had settled down again, God began speaking to me. “How do you know that he sent the money to you?” “Lord, I’ve known my friend for many years. He wouldn’t call me unless he’d done it. I trust his word, Lord.” “Very interesting,” said the Lord . “You had My word this morning that I would provide the money, but I didn’t see you dancing your wife around the kitchen. Instead, you were down in the mouth and blue. Now that you have a man’s word for the money, you’re all excited. Tell Me, whose word is greater?” I had to repent. My faith didn’t include praising God for His promise before it was fulfilled.  We often become defeated and discouraged even though we have God’s guarantee of victory and success.
You can trust God’s promises.  Try giving Him thanks.

:21 and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.

fully convincedplerophoreo – to bear or bring full; to fill one with any thought, conviction, or inclination; to be persuaded, fully convinced or assured

abledunatos – able, powerful, mighty, strong

to performpoieo – to make; to do

How can I have faith like Abraham in my everyday life?  There were two components to Abraham’s faith.


Know the promises

Abraham’s faith was based on something that God had promised to him.
It wasn’t based just on something that Abraham wanted, it was based on what God specifically had promised Abraham.  (Gen. 15:4)
(Gen 15:4 NKJV)  And behold, the word of the LORD came to him, saying, "This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir."

Abraham wanted a son, but so did God.

Some people make the mistake of thinking that if they have enough “faith”, then they can get God to do anything.  Not so.
(1 John 5:14-15 NKJV)  Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. {15} And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.

God wants us to trust Him, to have faith when we ask.  But He also wants us to learn to ask for the things that He wants for us.

How do I know if something is God’s will for me?
Can God speak to me directly like He did to Abraham?

Yes.  But when He does, you’ll know He’s spoken.  And when God clearly speaks to you, there comes a point where you need to buy into trusting Him completely.

But if you claim that God has “spoken” to you, don’t be upset if some of us aren’t quick to believe you.  The Bible says to “test” these things.  Some people tell me that God wants them to do things, and I think it’s just their way of doing what they want and nobody will question them.

The best way to know for sure that God has spoken is when the promise lines up with things in the Bible.

Like salvation:

(John 3:16 NKJV)  "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

This is one promise God wants you to believe!

Like victory over temptation:

(1 Cor 10:13 NKJV)  No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

If I pray for God to help me with my temptation, do you think God will answer?  Absolutely!

What if my request isn’t mentioned in the Bible?

When it comes to finding out whether things I’m asking for are God’s will, I’m going to get three possible answers:

1)  Yes, it’s His will.

2)  No, it’s not His will.

3)  I’m not sure. 

Frankly, there are plenty of times when we just don’t know for sure.  Does this mean we shouldn’t ask?  No, I think we should keep asking, but we need to be willing to be open to whatever God wants. Sometimes we find out by asking.


God is able

I have to honestly face the question, can God actually keep this promise?  Will He keep His promise?  This is a key to faith.
(Heb 11:6 NKJV)  But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
Vic Pentz writes, About a year and a half ago, I bought a new navy blazer at Nordstrom. It was one of those cases you may have gone through where you buy an item of clothing and the more you wear it, the more you realize you don’t like it. My blazer wasn’t the right color, and to make matters worse, it attracted lint like it was going out of style. After wearing it pretty regularly for six months or so, I stuck it in my closet and didn’t wear it for a long time.
Tucked away in the back of my mind all the while was that famous Nordstrom unconditional-return policy. I thought, I’ve had this thing for a year and a half. I’ve worn it lots of times, and there’s just no way they’re going to take it back. About two weeks ago I decided I had nothing to lose. I pulled the blazer out, threw a lot of lint on it to make it look bad, and took it down to Nordstrom’s men’s department. I walked in, and immediately I felt nervous. I felt like I was about to pull a scam of some sort, but I played it straight. I walked right up to the first salesman I saw and gave this little prepared speech. I said, “I am about to put your famous unconditional-return policy to its ultimate test. I have here a blazer. I’ve worn it lots. I’ve had it for a year and a half. I don’t like it. It’s the wrong color, and it attracts lint like it’s going out of style. But I want to return this blazer for another blazer that I like.” Then I stood there.
I couldn’t believe it. This guy with a big handlebar mustache just looked at me and shook his head. He said, “For heaven’s sake, what took you so long? Let’s go find you a blazer.” Ten minutes later I walked out with another blazer that was marked seventy-five dollars more than I paid for the one that I brought in. It was perfect for me. Didn’t cost me a penny. God is like Nordstrom.

-- Vic Pentz, "A Twinge of Nostalgia," Preaching Today, Tape No. 88.

We may have a hard time believing that God could possibly keep His promises to us, but all we have to do is to give it a try.  Try trusting Him.  Try putting your life in His hands.
God says,
(Jer 32:27 NASB)  "Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh; is anything too difficult for Me?"
Paul writes,
(Eph 3:20 NKJV)  Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,
(1 Th 5:24 NKJV)  He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.

: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,

This teaching about Abraham’s righteousness goes beyond Abraham…

: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.

God can raise the dead.

God gave life to Abraham’s dead body.

God gave life to Jesus’ dead body.

Abraham believed, his dead body was given life, and he was declared righteous.

We believe, we are given the life of Jesus Christ, and we are declared righteous.

Jesus was delivered to the cross because of our offenses.

He died because of my sins.  It was my sins that put Him on the cross.

Jesus was raised because of our justification.

He came back to life because our sins were fully paid and He had some life left over at the end of the transaction.

He paid for all the world’s sins, and still had enough life to be raised from the dead.

His resurrection proves my sins have been paid for.


It’s all by faith

What Paul has been saying is that all we have to do to know we are saved, is to trust the Lord.  We have to believe that He will save us.
Dr. Harry Ironside, for eighteen years pastor of the Moody Church in Chicago, told of visiting a Sunday School class while on vacation. The teacher asked, “How were people saved in Old Testament times?” After a pause, one man replied, “By keeping the Law.” “That’s right,” said the teacher. But Dr. Ironside interrupted: “My Bible says that by the deeds of the Law shall no flesh be justified.” The teacher was a bit embarrassed, so he said, “Well, does somebody else have an idea?” Another student replied, “They were saved by bringing sacrifices to God.” “Yes, that’s right!” the teacher said, and tried to go on with the lesson. But Dr. Ironside interrupted, “My Bible says that the blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sin.” By this time the unprepared teacher was sure the visitor knew more about the Bible than he did, so he said, “Well, you tell us how people were saved in the Old Testament!” And Dr. Ironside explained that they were saved by faith—the same way people are saved today! Twenty-one times in Hebrews 11 you find the same words “by faith.”