In Romans 4:1-25, Paul proved four aspects about justification by faith from the life of Abraham in the Old Testament: (1) how the Old Testament proved that justification is by faith and not works (Romans 4:1-8); (2) how the Old Testament proved that justification is by faith and not circumcision (Romans 4:9-12); (3) how the Old Testament proved that justification is by faith and not Law (Romans 4:13-17); and (4) how the Old Testament proved that justification is by faith in God (Romans 4:17-25).
We have now studied the first three aspects about justification by faith from the life of Abraham as recorded in the Old Testament. Now we come to the fourth and final aspect about justification by faith from the life of Abraham – justification is by faith in God (Romans 4:17-25).
Faith believes God (Romans 4:17). Faith is not only believing in God, it is also believing God. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Faith rests completely in God – in His wisdom, love, and power! Abraham believed in God and believed God who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist. Abraham didn’t only believe in God – he also believed God.
Faith believes without seeing (Romans 4:18). “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Against all evidence to the contrary Abraham believed God’s promise and His power to call as though existing that which did not exist – that he would be a father of many nations according to that which had been spoken, “So shall your descendants be.” Abraham took God at His word and believed God even under what appeared to be impossible circumstances – this gives glory to God and is genuine and biblical faith.
Faith believes in spite of circumstances (Romans 4:19). God waited until it was totally impossible from the human standpoint to fulfill His promise to Abraham by giving him a son in the face of impossible circumstances. It was unthinkable that a man ninety-nine years old could beget a child in the womb of his wife who was eighty-nine years old and who had never had a child up to this point! From a reproductive point of view, both Abraham and Sarah were dead. But in spite of the circumstances – Abraham did not become weak in the faith – he kept on believing God.
Faith believes God’s promise (Romans 4:20). God is truth and He cannot lie – believing God’s promise because of believing God’s character gives glory to God. Abraham didn’t focus on his impotence but on God’s omnipotence.
Faith believes God’s power (Romans 4:21). God is able to perform what He promises and therefore the promise of God and the power of God combine to give absolute assurance of the things hoped for – “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).
Faith receives God’s justification (Romans 4:22-25). Since faith believes God by believing without seeing, believing in spite of circumstances, believing God’s promises, and believing God’s power it receives God’s justification – completely as a gift and not something to be earned. The gift of justification is tied to God’s promise concerning His Son – this is the testimony or the promise that faith believes in order to receive God’s justification. To not believe is to not receive and to make God into a liar.
The story of Abraham and his faith is important to us today because men are now saved and have always been saved on exactly the same basis on which Abraham was saved – through believing God concerning His promise concerning His Son. Jesus said that Abraham rejoiced to see His day, and he saw it and was glad (John 8:56). Abraham believed God’s promise concerning God’s Son.
God’s promise concerning His Son was the He would deliver Him up because of our transgressions and raise Him up because of our justification (Romans 4:25). "Delivered up" is a judicial term referring to the commitment of a criminal to his deserved punishment. Jesus Christ was delivered up to serve the sentence of death that our transgressions deserved. Over and over the Bible makes it plain that the death of Christ was for our sins, for our transgressions, and not for crimes that He committed because He never did.
Christ was raised from the dead to provide our justification. Two things are true here: (1) God would have been unjust to execute an innocent man in the place of the guilty and then not raise that innocent man from the dead, and (2) a dead high priest cannot mediate between man and God and therefore cannot save anyone – but our living High Priest, Jesus Christ, can!
Justification is by faith in God!