Promise Granted Through Faith

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Heir of the World

The Letter to the Romans (All Is of Grace (Romans 4:13–17))
The Letter to the Romans All Is of Grace (Romans 4:13–17)

It was not through law that there came to Abraham or to his seed the promise that he would inherit the earth, but it came through that right relationship with God which has its origin in faith.

The New King James Version (Chapter 4)
13 For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. 14 For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect, 15 because the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression.
Verse 16 says,” And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification. 17 For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.)
The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Ro 5:16–17.
What is being said here?
The Letter to the Romans All Is of Grace (Romans 4:13–17)

(1) On the one side, there is God’s promise. There are two Greek words which mean promise. Huposchesis means a promise which is entered into upon conditions. ‘I promise to do this if you promise to do that.’ Epaggelia means a promise made out of the goodness of someone’s heart quite unconditionally. It is epaggelia that Paul uses of the promise of God. It is as if he is saying: ‘God is like a human father; he promises to love his children no matter what they do.’ True, he will love some of us with a love that makes him glad, and he will love some of us with a love that makes him sad; but in either case it is a love which will never let us go. It is dependent not on our merit but only on God’s own generous heart.

(2) There is faith. Faith is the certainty that God is indeed like that. It is staking everything on his love.

(3) There is grace. A gift of grace is always something which is unearned and undeserved. The truth is that we can never earn the love of God. We must always find that glory not in what we can do for God but in what God has done for us.

The Letter to the Romans All Is of Grace (Romans 4:13–17)

(1) On the other side, there is law. The trouble about law has always been that it can diagnose the fault but cannot bring about a cure. Law shows people where they are going wrong, but does not help them to avoid going wrong. There is, in fact, as Paul will later stress, a kind of terrible paradox in law. It is human nature that, when a thing is forbidden, it has a tendency to become desirable. ‘Stolen fruits are sweetest.’ Law, therefore, can actually move people to desire the very thing which it forbids. The essential complement of law is judgment, and, as long as men and women live in a religion whose dominant thought is law, they cannot see themselves as anything other than condemned criminals awaiting God’s justice.

The Letter to the Romans All Is of Grace (Romans 4:13–17)

(2) There is transgression. Whenever law is introduced, transgression follows. No one can break a law which does not exist; and we cannot be condemned for breaking a law of whose existence we were ignorant. If we introduce law and stop there, if we make religion solely a matter of obeying law, life consists of one long series of transgressions waiting to be punished.

(3) There is wrath. Think of law, think of transgression, and inevitably the next thought is wrath. Think of God in terms of law, and the only way to think of him is in terms of outraged justice. Think of human beings in terms of law, and the only way to think of them is as destined for the condemnation of God.

So, Paul sets before the Romans two ways. The one is a way in which men and women seek a right relationship with God through their own efforts. It is doomed to failure. The other is a way in which men and women enter by faith into a relationship with God, which by God’s grace already exists for them to come into in trust.

The Letter to the Romans Believing in the God Who Makes the Impossible Possible (Romans 4:18–25)

In hope, Abraham believed beyond hope that he would become the father of many nations, as the saying had it: ‘So will be your seed.’ He did not weaken in his faith, although he was well aware that by this time his body had lost its vitality (for he was 100 years old), and that the womb of Sarah was without life. He did not in unfaith waver at the promise of God, but he was revitalized by his faith, and he gave glory to God, and he was firmly convinced that he who had made the promise was also able to perform it. So this faith was accounted to him as righteousness. It was not only for his sake this ‘it was accounted to him for righteousness’ was written. It was written also for our sakes; for it will be so reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus, our Lord, from the dead, who was delivered up for our sin and raised to bring us into a right relationship with God.

The Letter to the Romans Believing in the God Who Makes the Impossible Possible (Romans 4:18–25)

It is told that, once, Saint Teresa of Avila set out to build a convent with only a few coins as her complete resources. Someone said to her: ‘Not even Saint Teresa can accomplish much with so little.’ ‘True,’ she answered, ‘but Saint Teresa and a few coins and God can do anything.’ We may well hesitate to attempt a great task by ourselves; there is no need to hesitate in attempting anything with God. Ann Hunter Small, the great missionary teacher, tells how her father, himself a missionary, used to say: ‘Oh! the wickedness as well as the stupidity of the croakers [prophets of doom]!’ And she herself had a favourite saying: ‘A church which is alive dares to do anything.’ That daring only becomes possible to the individual and to the church that takes God at his word.

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