“Father Abraham had many sons. Many sons had father Abraham.”
I grew up in elementary school singing this song and never understanding what it was talking about. I understood that Abraham was a great guy in the Bible and I understood that he was the “father of many nations” and that probably meant that he had a good many family members. One of the only reasons I knew that was because the songs said so. But that was about the extent of my elementary knowledge. But as I was singing, I was unknowingly telling about a great story of faith and trust. A story that shows us the power of God and the power of our faith in God.
The fact is, the moment that Abraham was given the promise to be the father of many nations, was quite a miracle. It required great amounts of faith and trust as I said earlier. Abraham was over a hundred years old at this point in time, and, his wife, Sarah was well over the age to have children. But the Lord made a covenant with Abraham and Abraham had faith. Later we see that Abraham’s family does become a great family that covers many nations. They were promised certain land and certain privileges. They were given certain commandments to follow and promised great things from the Lord. Going throughout the line of family members we see many great forefathers of the Christian faith in this lineage.
Looking at God’s promise a little closer, Abraham was around a hundred years old. Sarah was around that same age. There really was no way that Sarah was going to have children, yet God says He will bless her with a child.
Genesis 17:17 says “Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?”
Abraham did not doubt God, but he was amazed that in his situation, God was going to give them a child. His laughter was not laughter of disbelief but of excitement and pleasure. He trusted that God had a plan and He knew what He was doing. This covenant came out of Abraham’s justification in the sight of God.
Paul reminds the Romans of the doctrine of justification through faith by reminding them this story of Abraham. The issues at hand was the Romans needed to be reminded that justification came through faith and not through works. The question would still have arisen that Abraham’s justification was not a consequence of the circumcision that came out of conformity to the law. Paul goes further to explain that Abraham was not justified because of his circumcision. It was before his circumcision that this blessing occurs. In fact, it was more because of his justification that he was circumcised. It was to be more of a public seal or display of the covenant that came from justification not the cause of it. Paul then goes forward from here and continues to talk about how looking at Abraham can apply to our lives and how we can share in this amazing promise.
At this point in Romans, Paul has just told the church that their works cannot save them. Leading up to this chapter, Paul has been pointing out that no one is righteous, explaining what happens to the unrighteous, describing how God’s wrath will destroy anyone who is unrighteous, and explaining the relationship between God and the Law and us. I can only imagine the Romans feeling this letter is looking pretty dim. Paul has gone through multiple ways of explaining how we are unfit to be in the presence of God. In chapter 4, Paul explains how to receive justification. He uses Abraham and David to explain this.
This was not what the Romans were used to being taught. They were taught the Law is our salvation and following it to the letter is how we received our justification. Paul said that no one can follow the law perfectly. They were told that doing good deeds within the bounds of the law were how we become righteous. Paul explains that faith is how you gain righteousness in God’s sight.
When you get to Romans 5 you get to the best part of the letter up to this point.
Previously Paul was explaining how we are not good enough for God and how we have been looking for justification in the wrong ways. This is the turning point. This is the 180 degree turn that we make as we no longer look at us. This is where the focus turns to God and how we receive justification through the belief in Him. Now Paul goes forward and explains what happens after we receive our justification through faith. I can only image after reading everything up to this point the Romans are looking like a scolded kid and as they come upon this section I can almost see a smile slowly start to show on their faces. As you read through this passage you can’t help but smile. Paul wants them to understand that while we were wallowing in our sin, God loved us enough to offer a way out of our unrighteousness.
This is the beauty of the Gospel. We no longer are enemies of God. We no longer fear his wrath. We have peace in Him. We have hope in Him. We have love in Him. We have a power over sin. We have justification in Him. We become Righteous.