World English Bible translation
4:17As it is written, "I have made you a father of many nations." This is before him whom he believed, God, who gives life to the dead, and calls the things that are not, as though they were. 4:18 Who in hope believed against hope, to the end that he might become a father of many nations, according to that which had been spoken, "So will your seed be." 4:19 Without being weakened in faith, he didnít consider his own body, already having been worn out, (he being about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarahís womb. 4:20 Yet, looking to the promise of God, he wavered not through unbelief, but grew strong through faith, giving glory to God, 4:21 and being fully assured that what he had promised, he was able also to perform. 4:22 Therefore also it was "reckoned to him for righteousness." 4:23 Now it was not written that it was accounted to him for his sake alone, 4:24 but for our sake also, to whom it will be accounted, who believe in him who raised Jesus, our Lord, from the dead, 4:25 who was delivered up for our trespasses, and was raised for our justification.
Today's Scriptures complete our picture of Abraham for the purposes of the Epistle to the Romans. Paul states that Abraham believed God even though he was advanced in years. His own body was "worn out," being over one hundred years old. Moreover, his wife Sara was of advanced years and they had tried for many years to have a child but Sara was barren. Yet, despite all these things Abraham believed the promise that God had made to him that he would be the father of many nations.
Paul declares that Abraham believed God because he knew that God "gives life to the dead, and calls the things that are not, as though they were." Abraham reasoned that if God could give life to the dead then he could do anything that he chose to do with him while he was yet alive. This is the kind of faith that was accredited as righteousness for Abraham.
Then Paul says a remarkable thing. "Yet, looking to the promise of God, he wavered not through unbelief, but grew strong through faith." Abraham was a great man of faith, but from a human perspective, when we read the story of his life we can see instances where it certainly looks to us as though Abraham's faith is wavering. Abraham took Sarah's maidservant, Hagar, as a second wife because he grew impatient. He had a child through her that complicated his life and who became the progenitor of the Arab people. Many see the enmity of the Jewish and Arab peoples as arising from this conflict in Abraham's life. Moreover, there are two instances when, in the course of traveling in foreign countries, Abraham lies to a king about his relationship with Sarah because he is concerned for his life. God intervenes in both cases and rescues Abraham but it seems to be a pattern of deception and a lack of faith that was a part of Abraham's character.
But even though Paul does not speak of these incidents, they actually support his position rather than prove Paul wrong. Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. This does not mean that Abraham was sinless for the rest of his life just as you and I are not sinless even after Christ accepts us. What it does mean is that when a man is justified by faith by God, his sins and iniquities are forgiven. God does not see the momentary failures and doubts that we experience in this life. When a man or women is declared righteous by God it is an eternal declaration. If you are in Christ and Christ is in you then God will say that you "wavered not through unbelief, but grew strong through faith" even though in your own experience you might have had as many ups and downs as Abraham.
Abraham's justification was not for him alone but is an example to us as well of the type of faith that is recognized by God. We too may have righteousness accounted to us if we believe that God raised Jesus, our Lord, from the dead. Abraham's story is a human story of a man whose faith under difficult situations was proven to be genuine. Every day there are people who give up for much less than Abraham endured. And even though he misunderstood at times and made mistakes, his faith endured.
Did you think faith would be easy? It isn't. It is so easy to give up and lose faith; it's the easiest thing in the world. But, we have all the resources of God to help us if we will only believe. Can you believe? Can you believe despite overwhelming reasons to give in and to lose hope? Can you believe when the entire world tells you that you should quit? Can you have the same kind of faith as Abraham?
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