ABRAHAM -- A Case Study in Believing
Abraham is one of the Old Testament believers that provides us with an excellent example of how we are to believe God. Even in the Old Testament, God didn't want or expect His people to do works in order to gain His favor. We, and they, became justified only by believing God and His Word. Abraham learned this, and his example of believing is clearly stated in Romans chapter four.
Romans 4: 1, 2, 3 -- What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.
Romans 4: 3 is a verse that is referring to Genesis Chapter 15.
Genesis 15: 6 -- And he [Abraham] believed in the Lord; and he [the Lord] counted it to him [Abraham] for righteousness.
Abraham believed God, and so God set it to his account for righteousness. It is like Abraham had a bank account, and God deposited righteousness for him. Righteousness is one of our sonship rights (see teaching on Righteousness). It means we are in a state of being right and just, free from guilt and sin. Abraham didn't receive his righteousness by doing good works, and neither do we.
Romans 4: 4 -- Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.
If we work for something, we get paid for it. We earn our wages by our work. Abraham didn't work for righteousness, but he did believe God. By grace, God reckoned it unto him for righteousness.
Romans 4: 5, 6, 7 -- But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith [believing] is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.
In the Old Testament, men and women who believed God had their sins covered, or hidden. Today, men and women who believe God are actually cleansed from their sins; it is not just covered up. Because of Christ's life, death, and resurrection, it is available for us to be washed clean from all our sins.
Romans 4: 8, 9, 10 -- Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith [believing] was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision.
Righteousness was not reckoned unto Abraham after he was circumcised, but before. It was not the act (the works) of being circumcised that made him righteous. Genesis 15 records that God imputed (reckoned or counted) righteousness to Abraham for believing, but it was later in Genesis chapter 17 before Abraham was circumcised.
Romans 4: 11, 12 -- And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith [believing] which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also: And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith [believing] of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.
Abraham was circumcised as a symbol of the righteousness he received from God. Yet he is the father of all believers, whether they were circumcised or not, whether they belong to a certain denomination or not. The one criteria is that they believe and therefore follow in the steps of Abraham.
Romans 4: 13, 14 -- For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith [believing]. For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith [believing] is made void, and the promise made of none effect:
Doing the works of the law did not bring righteousness; believing brought righteousness.
Romans 4: 15 -- Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression.
The law only brought the opportunity for people to transgress, to break the law. If there is no stop sign at an intersection, you cannot break the law by driving right through. Obeying the 'law' just to keep from getting a ticket is not the way to achieve righteousness, yet this seems to be the way many people think it works.
Romans 4: 16 -- Therefore it is of faith [believing], that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith [believing] of Abraham; who is the father of us all,
Abraham believed the promises made to him by God. When he believed, Abraham became the father of all who would believe, both of the circumcision (the law) and the uncircumcision (Gentiles). When he believed, God reckoned righteousness unto him. When we believed to be saved, Abraham became our father, and we received righteousness as well. It was by the grace of God that we were made righteous. It was a free gift on His part. We did nothing but believe to obtain it.
Romans 4: 17, 18 -- (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were. Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations; according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be.
God promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations. Abraham, of course, never saw it happen in his lifetime, which is why the word 'hope' is used in this case. We 'hope' for something that will happen in the future, while we 'believe' for something that is available now.
Romans 4: 19 -- And being not weak in faith [believing], he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara's womb:
For years God had told Abraham that he and Sara would have a child. It took a long time, but when he was almost 100 years old, Abraham finally got to the point that he believed God. The same can be true for us. When we start to truly believe, we finally get results. This is very different from what is known as 'mental assent', where we mentally agree that the Word is true, but we don't really believe it in our hearts.
Romans 4: 20, 21 -- He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith [believing], giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he [God] had promised, he [God] was able also to perform.
These verses truly depict Abraham's strength in believing. For him, believing was not just mental assent, but he was 'fully persuaded'. We have to be convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt, even if we never see it come to pass. It is still God's Word, and it will have to come to pass. God always performs what He promises. Abraham glorified God every day throughout the years, and finally he got to the point where he was fully persuaded of God's promise. It was at this point that Isaac conceived within Sara.
Romans 4: 22 - 25 -- And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who [Jesus] was delivered [to die] for our offences, and was raised again for our justification [when we were justified].
The record of Abraham was written not only for Abraham's sake, but for ours also. By Abraham's example of believing we can also believe God beyond a shadow of a doubt. We will be righteous if we believe on Him who raised Christ from the dead. Verse 25 also tells us that Jesus was delivered for our offences -- he bore our sins and they were buried with him. He was raised again when we were justified by God and left the sins in the grave. If we believe this, we never have to try to carry our own sins. The beginning of Romans chapter five culminates this great truth.
Romans 5: 1 -- Therefore being justified by faith [believing], we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
When we confessed Jesus Christ as Lord and believed that God raised him from the dead, we were saved (Romans 10: 9, 10). This act of believing made us whole, and God's Word says that we were made righteous and justified. Because of all of this, we have peace with God. Peace is something that seems to be so elusive in everyday life. If people would believe God's Word, they would find that peace that they so desperately seek.
Abraham got to the point where he believed God's promise that he (Abraham) would not be just a father, but a father of many nations. His descendents would be as the grains of sand on the beach. We also must reach the point in our renewed mind where we are 'fully persuaded' of God's Word, and then we will manifest the peace of God in our lives and the many other benefits of being children of God.