Sunday’s message was entitled, “Faith and Promise: Following Abraham’s Example.” It went well and we gleaned a lot from the passage about faith and God’s promise. Nevertheless, one thing that stood out amongst the data was Paul’s picture of Abraham. He said Abraham didn’t “weaken in faith,” that he paid no attention to his age or Sarah’s barrenness, that he didn’t “waver concerning the promise of God” but was “fully convinced” (vv. 19, 20, 21). Anyone, however, who has read Genesis might have a question about Paul’s diagnosis.
Did Abraham make mistakes? Absolutely. Did he walk perfectly with God? Certainly not. But I think what Paul is trying to convey in Romans 4 isn’t a particular study of particular sins but instead an overall picture of an overall faith! The thrust comes in v. 20, where it says, “No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God.”
The phrase, “he grew strong,” is actually a divine passive. Unlike the active, which describes someone doing something, the passive is used when something is being done to someone. In this case, Paul is saying that God was working on Abraham . . . making him stronger. As Leon Morris puts it, “Abraham was made strong because of his faith indeed, but it was God, not faith, that provided the strength. Faith was no more than the means by which he received it.”
So what can we learn from this text? Here are a couple of points:
- God is working on His people. Psalm 138:8 and Philippians 1:6 are wonderful verses that describe the process that all of God’s people are undergoing. God is working on each one of us!
- God will finish His work. Regardless of how many mistakes we’ve made, God is gracious and faithful. He saves anyone and everyone who places their faith in Christ, and promises to continue working on them until glory. Paul said, “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it” (1 Thess. 5:24).
So, when you feel unworthy, remember that unworthiness isn’t equal to worthlessness. God has plans and a purpose for your life, and it begins with working Christ-like qualities into your character. You are what He says you are: period! In Christianity, you’re defined by your Father, not by your accomplishments or failures. Like Abraham, we may make mistakes from time to time, but our overall life . . . is it one of remarkable faith? Let’s be people of faith, and inherit the promises (Romans 4:16).