Questions for Littles: Who received the promise that he would be heir of the world (v13)? Who are not the heirs of this promise (v14)? What does the law bring (v15)? Of what is the promise (16a)? According to what is the promise (16b)? Whom did Abraham believe (v17)? What two things had God done that made Abraham sure of that promise (17b)? Of what did Abraham become the father (18)? What would he have been weak in, if he considered the deadness of his body and Sarah’s womb (19)? What did he give to God as a result of his strengthened faith (20)? What was he convinced of about God (21)? What was imputed (counted) to him, through this faith (22)? For whose sake was this written (23-24)? In whom do we believe (24)? Why was Jesus delivered up? Why was Jesus raised?In this week’s Epistle reading, we are confronted with our weakness and God’s power. Abraham’s physical condition, when he heard God’s promise about Christ coming from him, is analogous to our spiritual condition: dead. But that’s the point: the outcome didn’t depend upon Abraham’s ability to have offspring, but upon God’s ability to keep His promise.
If Abraham’s true descendants were the ones who had the law, then the promise would be dead on arrival (v14), because all the law does is testify against us that we are breaking it (v15). The gospel tells us this too: that Jesus had to be delivered up because of our offenses (v25). So that is one reason that the true children of Abraham are the ones who have his faith.
Another reason is the one in v16: that it might be according to grace. Grace is God’s blessing for those who deserve only curse (as we have seen), but it is also God’s strength for those who have only weakness (cf. 2Cor 12:9-10). We need the Creator who breathes life into dirt, and who commands light (which did not yet exist) to exist (v17).
That’s Christian faith: admitting that I have absolutely nothing good or strong in myself, while rejoicing that God has in Himself abundant goodness and strength for my salvation. This is what Abraham believed about the promise of the Christ who would come from him (v18-21), and this is how he came to be counted righteous (v22).
Did it work? Absolutely! It is a mystery why some translations of v25 say that Jesus was raised “for” our justification. The preposition used, with that case of its object (“justification”), always means “on account of.” When Jesus rises from the dead, He puts on display that His goodness and His power have conquered: that all who are in Him have been justified!
We are tempted to think that we can earn from God what we can only inherit from God, so let us remember that not only is it impossible to earn our part in what He has promised, but that it has to be by faith so that it can all be by His grace and by His power.
What are you really working on in your Christian walk right now? What difference does it make in your thoughts and words to remember that this must come entirely by God’s goodness and strength?Suggested songs: ARP32A “What Blessedness,” or HB275 “Amazing Grace”