Why By Faith
Romans 4:16 – 22
Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all, (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were. Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be. And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara’s womb: He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.
In the previous few verses, the Apostle Paul reiterated the fact of Abraham being justified by faith. This was “by faith righteousness” before the law and completely apart from the law. The legal precedent has been laid down. God is perfectly consistent to declare a man righteous without the deeds of the law. In fact, we learned in the last chapter, that the deeds of the law would never justify anyone, “for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20).
But what is the reason that it must be by faith? We find that in verse 16. It is of faith, that it might be by grace. Remember, and never forget, the importance of justification by grace (Romans 3:24). While justification by faith leaves the door open for a works requirement, justification by grace shuts that door. The Apostle does not state that it is by faith that it might bring forth works, but by faith so that it might be by grace. If works had anything to do with it, there would be a debt owed. The gift of righteousness would not be a gift:
Romans 4:4–5 — “Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”
Remember that not only justification is by grace, but that the entirety of salvation is by grace, through faith:
Ephesians 2:8-9 — “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
This “by grace through faith” salvation also shuts the door on works. This is explicitly stated here. Our forgiveness of sins is “according to the riches of [God’s] grace” (Ephesians 1:7), and we will read in Romans chapter 5 that we have “access by faith into this grace wherein [we] stand” (Romans 5:2).
If works were to have anything to do with any of this, it could never be “sure”, as the apostle states of the promise, because the works are never finished, because they depend entirely on us. Grace depends on Christ alone!
Assurance of salvation, and of everything that accompanies salvation, can never be found in looking at ourselves. A changed life does not give assurance of salvation, only Christ is assurance of salvation, because the promise of God is found in Him. Abraham believed the promise of God and it was counted to him as righteousness.
Now to be very clear on this matter, Abraham believed God regarding the promise that God made to him. We should not read more into Genesis 15:5–6 than what is there. He believed God that his seed would be in number as the stars in the sky. He believed the Lord concerning this promise, and that faith was counted to him as righteousness.
We have a promise of God that is “by faith of Jesus Christ unto all, and upon all them that believe” (Romans 3:22). That which God tells us is different than what he told Abraham. It is the same faith in this regard: Abraham BELIEVED GOD. When we put our faith in Jesus Christ and His finished work of redemption on the cross for us, we BELIEVE GOD. It is this faith that is counted for righteousness, and it is this faith by which we have access to the grace wherein we stand.
In this same chapter, in verse 4:11, Abraham is said to be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised. In Genesis 17, anyone of Abraham’s seed that was not circumcised would be cut off from among his people. So which is it? Is this a contradiction?
Abraham has a seed which is of the law. He is the father of circumcision to them, for they are the nation which is called the circumcision. But is he the father to all of them? Physically, yes. But as we read in verse 12, Abraham is “the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith” of Abraham (Romans 4:12).
The Lord said to the Jewish people that did not believe in Him that they had no right to call themselves Abraham’s children. Why? Because they did not believe in Him. Not only that, they sought to kill Him, because His word had no place in them. Take the time to read John chapter 8 and this conversation the the Lord had with them. Any that are unbelieving, they may be the physical seed, even of Abraham. But they ultimately have another father, and the Lord declared to them who that father was. If they were Abraham’s true children, they would believe Christ. If this is true of the children of Abraham, it would also be true of the children of Isaac, Jacob, and so on.
Romans 9:6–8 — “…For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.”
Now the scripture also makes it clear that Abraham is not only the father to the circumcised that believe. He is now father of faith to the uncircumcised also that believe. Those that are of the faith of Abraham, that is, that they, like him, believe God, can now trace a lineage to Abraham “who is the father of us all”, i.e., all them that believe (vs. 11). Now the name change from Abram to Abraham truly takes on all of its rich meaning:
Genesis 17:5 — “Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee.”
Now, even those not of the natural seed, when they believe God, they walk in the steps of Abraham, the father of all them that believe. And this opportunity to be numbered among the seed of promise is open to all, circumcision, or Israelites by birth, and to Gentiles, or the uncircumcision. This is the point of the “olive tree” metaphor of Romans chapter 11. Israel grew in the olive tree naturally. They are the natural branches. The natural branches that were broken off are those that do not believe. They can be grafted back in, as the apostle says, when they believe. Gentiles are now grafted in and can partake of the “root and fatness” of the olive tree. But when they also do not believe, they are broken off as well. There is no unrighteousness with God.
Now when we read Abraham’s record of faith, is it not a comfort to see that it was not a perfect faith from the beginning. He had what we might say is a “mustard seed faith” at the beginning. And he and Sarah did not from the beginning respond in the right way. In the first attempt they tried to help God out in fulfilling His promise. God does not need our help. Our help is at best the works of the flesh. Our attempts to help out god result in the works of the flesh. In Galatians 4, the apostles equates adding the works of the law to our position in Christ as the works of the flesh as allegorically the bondwoman and her son. Abraham was told to cast them both out, because in Isaac his seed was to be called. Our works of the flesh must also be cast out, because “if be of works, then it is no more grace” (Romans 11:6). But it is of faith, that it might be by grace. Faith is not a work. Faith is all that is required, because believing God is all that man can do. And believing God gives Him glory, because we are acknowledging that He will do what He says He will do.
And He truly is able to do what He says He will do. He is able to justify the ungodly, because Jesus Christ our Lord was set forth as the propitiation for our sins. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly, and our wonderful God will justify the ungodly when we place our faith in Christ.
He is truly willing, for He spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all (Romans 8:32). He did this because He wills that all men would be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth.
He is ready, for all that is necessary has already been done. Abraham’s faith was imputed to him for righteousness when he believed God. Your faith will also be imputed to you for righteousness, when you believe on Him who died for your sins and rose again.
Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and THOU shalt be saved!
“Thou” is you, personally. No one can believe for you, and no one can keep you from faith. Will you, personally, BELIEVE GOD?
Charles Miller View All
Husband, father, engineer...Enjoys fishing, archery, guitar, running, and lifting, but most of all reading and studying God's Word.
How much work would be enough or would be good enough? I, Elfriede, really like: “for by the law is the knowledge of sin”
It’s a good way to understand that we are guilty and NEED A SAVIOR! I really enjoyed your message. Thank you. Blessings, Elfriede
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Very well done here, Chuck! Appreciate you showing how the door is closed to works. It’s so sad how many end up looking to themselves rather than the FINISHED WORK of the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. They are removed from the Grace of Christ and lose their assurance.
Also really liked how you separated what we believe today from what Abram did. They are not the same messages. Like you said we cannot read into the Scripture; we allow it to speak for itself. Thank you brother!
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Thanks again for reminding us that it is “by grace through faith” and that we are kept by His grace even when we fail Him.