“For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation. For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”)–in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become “the father of many nations,” according to what was said, “So numerous shall your descendants be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. Therefore his faith “was reckoned to him as righteousness.” Now the words, “it was reckoned to him,” were written not for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification.”
Summary – Paul’s teaching in this passage follows a progression. Having just finished explaining that Abraham was circumcised after having believed in God so that he would be the father of the circumcised and uncircumcised, Paul continues his argument by referring to the Abrahamic Covenant of Genesis 15 and 17. The promise speaks of land which Abraham’s offspring would inherit, but here Paul understands the promise to be not of a certain piece of the world, but the world itself. This fits into his point here: the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant would not be narrow (i.e. through one people group in one piece of land) but broad (through all of the faithful–Israelite or not–in the whole world). This makes it based on grace. Paul then explains Abraham’s faith: Abraham believed God’s promise even though the state of things made it seem impossible. This faith was strengthened while Abraham praised God! Paul turns from his Abrahamic example to make his point: Abraham’s faith was his righteous deed. But not just his, this applies to anyone who has faith in God and His work through the Son.
Insight – It can be hard to believe God’s promises. We have all been told, “Be like Abraham in your faith,” but that is easier said than done. Can you make yourself believe God’s promises just by trying really hard? That would be like believing a pig could fly if it just thought it could, or like thinking your bed could become a spaceship if you just pretended hard enough! Faith in God doesn’t come through our effort. This passage tells us that Abraham “grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God.” So as Abraham thought about who God is and praised Him for those things, his faith grew. When we worship God at church and hear through His Word what He has done for us, our faith, too, will grow.
Child Catechism – What is one thing you learn through worshipping God? I learn that I can trust Him totally.
Discussion – What does it mean that “Father Abraham had many sons” (vs 16)? Who are Father Abraham’s many sons? Why does Father Abraham have many sons (vs 14)?
Prayer – Faithful Heavenly Father, your Word teaches us that you will remain true even when everyone else is false. We ask for your grace to believe your promises like our father Abraham did. Help us to hope against hope. Help us to trust when it seems impossible. Make us strong in our faith as we give glory to you. Through Jesus our Lord, Amen.