Romans 4: 13-25
“Understanding Faith: In the School of Abraham”
For many Christians faith is an enigma. As a result, faith is construed as little more than an ethereal assent of hope in the Invisible for a desired outcome. Nevertheless, twentieth century theologian, writer, and pastor A.W. Tozer offered a remedy for this dilemma in his famed work, The Pursuit of God. In this work Tozer, appealing to Hebrews 12:2, succinctly defined faith as “the gaze of the soul.” Therefore, we can infer that the substratum of faith is an undistracted preoccupation with the one, true, and living God.
Using Tozer’s definition as context we can determine that a life lived in an ever focused, trusting, and undistracted gaze on God is characterized by godly submission. Consequently, those who devoutly worship the God “who was, is, and is to come” voluntarily forfeit their will for His [Luke 22:42], model His divine character [John 5:19], and follow His lead [Genesis 12:1-8]; and this decision, according to Romans 4:22, is reckoned to them as righteousness.
When the church lives in awestruck wonder of and right standing with the Almighty God it comes to understand and appreciate both His self-sufficiency and His sovereignty. In addition, the church comes to know that God’s benevolence towards them is not so much contingent on their appropriate response as it is on His grace. Nevertheless, just as there are unconditional blessings available to all [Matthew 5:45], there are conditional promises set aside for those in covenant relationship with God [Deuteronomy 28].
Abraham, the Father of Faith, lived in covenant relationship with God. Aspects of this conditional relationship demanded that Abraham, as listed above, forfeit his own agenda, commit to displaying the holiness of God, and obey wholeheartedly. In turn, God promised to bless Abraham beyond measure and make him the father of many nations [Genesis 11:26-12:9]. The Apostle Paul, in Romans 4, employed the Abrahamic account to establish a pattern for believers who, like Abraham, are called to a life consumed by God. According to the Apostle Paul, Abraham’s decision to believe and follow intently the One who called him into divine Friendship [Isaiah 41:8, and James 2:23] led him to do three things right.
First, Abraham did not waver concerning the promises of God (Romans 4: 20a): Abraham refused to let any circumstance, personal short comings, or faithless individual(s) separate him from the word of God for his life. Abraham knew God, therefore, he knew that if God said it, He was faithful to bring it to pass.
Second, Abraham grew strong in his faith (Romans 4: 20b): I love the idea that Abraham’s faith was “bigger” than him. Abraham’s “big faith” positioned him to live in a realm outside of his natural capacity, thereby requiring his imperfect nature to mature into his faith in a perfect God. According to the text, Abraham’s ability to grow strong in his faith was directly linked to his practice of giving God the glory. Simply, Abraham worshipped; and as he worshipped, the glory of God manifested in his life exchanging the natural for the supernatural, weakness for strength, foolishness for wisdom, darkness for light, and abstract promises for divine reality.
Third, Abraham was convinced that God was able (Romans 4:21): Abraham, a true Friend of God, did not worship the promise; rather, he worshipped the God of the promise (pardon the cliché). Because Abraham’s faith was predicated on God and not the desired outcome, he did not question God’s ability to perform. Therefore, being fully persuaded that the Creator of the universe was more than able to fulfill the word of His promise, Abraham rested peacefully in the never failing power of God.
Thanks be to God that His promises to Abraham were realized, because we reap the benefits. Moreover, from Abraham’s [very human] testimony of faith we come to understand what is required to live in authentic covenant relationship with God–an undistracted holy life. Therefore, may we embrace the example Abraham provided and live as heirs worthy of the promise: steadfast, mature, and confident.