CMF eZine

The online magazine of the Christian Military Fellowship.

Romans 4:19 - against the tide

"Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah's womb;" (NASB)
"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:" (KJV)
"And Abraham's faith did not weaken, even though, at about 100 years of age, he figured his body was as good as dead—and so was Sarah's womb." (NLT)
"Without being weak in faith, he considered his own body as dead (because he was about one hundred years old) and the deadness of Sarah's womb." (NET)

With God all things are possible!  If we are asked to do those things that can be done in the power of the flesh only what would be the point?  Our path of hope is one of endless impossibilities made possible by a loving Heavenly Father.  When the impossible becomes the reality then it is clear who receives the glory for the things HE has done.

Oh we of little faith stumbling ever in the dire straights of the day,
walking forlorn amongst the shadows of doubt with chin and chest in union stay,
Never seeing the light of life that shines down from above,
feeling not the warmth of being wrapped in the Savior's love.

He considered not - He did not regard the fact that his body was now dead, as any obstacle to the fulfillment of the promise. He did not suffer that fact to influence him, or to produce any doubt about the fulfillment. Faith looks to the strength of God, not to second causes, or to difficulties that may appear formidable to man.  Now dead - Aged; dead as to the purpose under consideration; compare Hebrews 11:12, “As good as dead.” That is, he was now at an age when it was highly improbable that he would have any children; compare Genesis 17:17. (Dr. Albert Barnes)
Jesus responded, "Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!" Then He got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm.  (Matthew 8:26 NLT)
Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. "You have so little faith," Jesus said. "Why did you doubt Me?"  (Matthew 14:31 NLT)
Then He said to Thomas, "Put your finger here, and look at My hands. Put your hand into the wound in My side. Don't be faithless any longer. Believe!" "My Lord and my God!" Thomas exclaimed.  (John 20:27-28 NLT)

Romans 4:18 - Against Hope

"In hope against hope he believed, so that he might become a father of many nations according to that which had been spoken, 'SO SHALL YOUR DESCENDANTS BE.'" (NASB)
"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." (KJV)
"Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping—believing that he would become the father of many nations. For God had said to him, 'That's how many descendants you will have!'" (NLT)
"Against hope Abraham believed in hope with the result that he became the father of many nations according to the pronouncement, 'so will your descendants be.'" (NET)
The hope that comes from heaven sustains a belief when there appears no earthly reason for its existence.  From where could this hope come if it were not an act of divine grace.  Our falleness would give birth to a hope that is no hope at all.  Our earthliness would have us hope in the things of this world that are turning to rust.  Abraham's hope was made reality, not because he hoped in the things unseen, but because his hope was in the promise of the Lord.  In Christ our hope soars to heavenly places and is not left earthbound.  No matter the circumstances, hope is fulfilled because the promises of God do not fade or grow dim.
Who against hope believed in hope - The faith of Abraham bore an exact correspondence to the power and never-failing faithfulness of God; for though, in the ordinary course of things, he had not the best foundation of hope, yet he believed that he should be the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken; namely, that his posterity should be like the stars of heaven for multitude, and like the dust of the earth. (Dr. Adam Clarke)
A description of true faith wholly resting in the power of God, and his good will, set forth in the example of Abraham. (Geneva Bible Translation Notes)
The Apostle shows the power and excellence of that faith to which he ascribes justification. Who against hope - Against all probability, believed and hoped in the promise. The same thing is apprehended both by faith and hope; by faith, as a thing which God has spoken; by hope, as a good thing which God has promised to us. So shall thy seed be - Both natural and spiritual, as the stars of heaven for multitude. (John Wesley)
And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us
the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love.  (Romans 5:5 NLT)
We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don't need to hope for it.  (Romans 8:24 NLT)
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.  (Proverbs 13:12 NLT)
So take courage! For I believe God. It will be just as he said.  (Acts 27:25 NLT)

Romans 4:17 - Belief or Unbelief

pisteúo?; fut. pisteúso?, from pístis (G4102), faith. To believe, have faith in, trust. NT meanings:
(I) Particularly, to be firmly persuaded as to something, to believe

pístis; gen. písteo?s, fem. noun from peítho? (G3982), to win over, persuade. Faith. Subjectively meaning firm persuasion, conviction, belief in the truth, veracity, reality or faithfulness (though rare). Objectively meaning that which is believed, doctrine, the received articles of faith.

peítho?; fut. peíso?, aor. pass. epeísthe?n, perf. pass. pépeismai, 2d perf. pépoitha. To persuade, particularly to move or affect by kind words or motives.
"(as it is written, "A FATHER OF MANY NATIONS HAVE I MADE YOU") in the presence of Him whom he G4100believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist." (NASB)
"(As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he G4100believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were." (KJV)
"That is what the Scriptures mean when God told him, "I have made you the father of many nations." This happened because Abraham G4100believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing." (NLT)
"(as it is written, "I have made you the father of many nations"). He is our father in the presence of God whom he G4100believed — the God who makes the dead alive and summons the things that do not yet exist as though they already do." (NET)
I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, 'May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,' and it will happen. But you must really G4100believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart.
(Mark 11:23 NLT)
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and G4100believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  (Romans 10:9 NLT)

We oftentimes believe but are we convinced?  We say we believe but does our life, like Abraham, give credence to our words?  We see that the object of our faith (The God who gives life to those who are dead) is the very reason that our faith lives!  The very fact that He is, is the profundity upon which all creation rests.  Where there is belief in Christ, there is life! Where there is unbelief, there is death!

him whom he believed — that is, “Thus Abraham, in the reckoning of Him whom he believed, is the father of us all, in order that all may be assured, that doing as he did, they shall be treated as he was.” (A Commentary on the Old and New Testaments by Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown)
He believed God's testimony, and looked for the performance of his promise, firmly hoping when the case seemed hopeless.  It is weakness of faith, that makes a man lie poring on the difficulties in the way of a promise.  Abraham took it not for a point that would admit of argument or debate. Unbelief is at the bottom of all our staggerings at God's promises.  The strength of faith appeared in its victory over fears. God honors faith; and great faith honors God.  It was imputed to him for righteousness.  Faith is a grace that of all others gives glory to God.  Faith clearly is the instrument by which we receive the righteousness of God, the redemption which is by Christ; and that which is the instrument whereby we take or receive it, cannot be the thing itself, nor can it be the gift thereby taken and received.  Abraham's faith did not justify him by its own merit or value, but as giving him a part in Christ. (Mathew Henry's Concise Commentary)
Whom he believed: God who quickeneth.  It is God himself that faith fastens upon: other foundation can no man lay.  Now observe what in God Abraham's faith had an eye to that, certainly, which would be most likely to confirm his faith concerning the things promised (Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible)

Romans 4:16 - Justified by Faith

"For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all," (NASB)
"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," (KJV)
"So the promise is received by faith. It is given as a free gift. And we are all certain to receive it, whether or not we live according to the law of Moses, if we have faith like Abraham's. For Abraham is the father of all who believe." (NLT)
"For this reason it is by faith so that it may be by grace, with the result that the promise may be certain to all the descendants — not only to those who are under the law, but also to those who have the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all" (NET)
The conclusion of this argument: the salvation and justification of the posterity of Abraham (that is, of the Church which is composed of all believers) proceeds from faith which lays hold on the promise made to Abraham, and which promise Abraham himself first of all laid hold on. (Geneva Bible Translation Notes)
The real children of Abraham, then, are those who put their faith in God. What's more, the Scriptures looked forward to this time when God would declare the Gentiles to be righteous because of their faith. God proclaimed this good news to Abraham long ago when He said, "All nations will be blessed through you." So all who put their faith in Christ share the same blessing Abraham received because of his faith. But those who depend on the law to make them right with God are under His curse, for the Scriptures say, "Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the commands that are written in God's Book of the Law." So it is clear that no one can be made right with God by trying to keep the law. For the Scriptures say, "It is through faith that a righteous person has life." This way of faith is very different from the way of law, which says, "It is through obeying the law that a person has life." (Galatians 3:7-12 NLT)

For example, there was God's promise to Abraham. Since there was no one greater to swear by, God took an oath in His own name, saying: "I will certainly bless you, and I will multiply your descendants beyond number." Then Abraham waited patiently, and He received what God had promised. Now when people take an oath, they call on someone greater than themselves to hold them to it. And without any question that oath is binding. God also bound Himself with an oath, so that those who received the promise could be perfectly sure that He would never change His mind. So God has given both His promise and His oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to Him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God's inner sanctuary. (Hebrews 6:13-19 NLT)

Romans 4:15 - Crime and Punishment

"for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, there also is no violation." (NASB)
"Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression." (KJV)
"For the law always brings punishment on those who try to obey it. (The only way to avoid breaking the law is to have no law to break!)" (NLT)
"For the law brings wrath, because where there is no law there is no transgression either." (NET)

The Law of God requires perfect purity.  Not only so but then it denounces each and every sin.  Then the law condemns the sinner and assigns to him the just punishment.  There has only been one who lives in perfect purity, the Lord Jesus Christ!  All of the rest of us fall short of the mark and as previously said, "For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God's glorious standard." (Romans 3:23)  This is of great importance for us to understand because of the unique way that God designed our deliverance.  Note the phrase in the New Living Translation "The only way to avoid breaking the law is to have no law to break!"  No law makes provision for mercy to be exercised, it only renders punishment for disobedience.

"A reason of the first confirmation, why the promise cannot be apprehended by the law: because the law does not reconcile God and us, but rather proclaims his anger against us, because no man can fully keep it."  (Geneva Bible Translation Notes)

Why, then, was the law given?  It was given alongside the promise to show people their sins.  But the law was designed to last only until the coming of the child who was promised.  God gave His law through angels to Moses, who was the mediator between God and the people. (Galatians 3:19 NLT)

Romans 4:14 - Faith Inoperative

"For if those who are of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is nullified;" (NASB)
"For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect:" (KJV)
"If God's promise is only for those who obey the law, then faith is not necessary and the promise is pointless." (NLT)
"For if they become heirs by the law, faith is empty and the promise is nullified." (NET)

Once again we see that faith is the foundation upon which salvation stands. Obedience to the law was an impossible dream because we could not keep it. So the Lord Jesus Christ provided the way (by faith) where we are able to live without being forever condemned by the weight of our own sin. If we could have been justified by the law then faith would useless.

I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die. (Galatians 2:21 NLT)
For if the inheritance could be received by keeping the law, then it would not be the result of accepting God's promise. But God graciously gave it to Abraham as a promise. Why, then, was the law given? It was given alongside the promise to show people their sins. But the law was designed to last only until the coming of the child who was promised. God gave His law through angels to Moses, who was the mediator between God and the people. Now a mediator is helpful if more than one party must reach an agreement. But God, who is one, did not use a mediator when He gave His promise to Abraham. Is there a conflict, then, between God's law and God's promises? Absolutely not! If the law could give us new life, we could be made right with God by obeying it. But the Scriptures declare that we are all prisoners of sin, so we receive God's promise of freedom only by believing in Jesus Christ. Before the way of faith in Christ was available to us, we were placed under guard by the law. We were kept in protective custody, so to speak, until the way of faith was revealed. Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith. (Galatians 3:18-24 NLT)
For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God's grace. (Galatians 5:4 NLT)
I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God's way of making us right with Himself depends on faith. (Philippians 3:9 NLT)
For the law never made anything perfect. But now we have confidence in a better hope, through which we draw near to God. (Hebrews 7:19 NLT)
Rom 4:14
For if they which are of the law - Who seek for justification and acceptance by the Law.  Faith is made void - Faith would have no place in the scheme; and consequently the strong commendations bestowed on the faith of Abraham, would be bestowed without any just cause.  If people are justified by the Law, they cannot be by faith, and faith would be useless in this work.
And the promise ... - A promise looks to the future. Its design and tendency is to excite trust and confidence in him who makes it.  All the promises of God have this design and tendency; and consequently, as God has given many promises, the object is to call forth the lively and constant faith of people, all going to show that in the divine estimation, faith is of inestimable value.  But if people are justified by the Law; if they are rendered “acceptable” by conformity to the institutions of Moses; then they cannot depend for acceptance on any promise made to Abraham, or his seed.  They cut themselves off from that promise, and stand independent of it.  That promise, like all other promises, was made to excite faith.  If, therefore, the Jews depended on the Law for justification, they were cut off from all the promises made to Abraham; and if they could be justified by the Law, the promise was useless.  This is as true now as it was then. If people seek to be justified by their morality or their forms of religion, they cannot depend on any promise of God; for he has made no promise to any such attempt.  They stand independently of any promise, covenant, or compact, and are depending on a scheme of their own; a scheme which would render his plan vain and useless; which would render his promises, and the atonement of Christ, and the work of the Spirit of no value.  It is clear, therefore, that such an attempt at salvation cannot be successful.  (Dr. Albert Barnes)

Romans 4:13 - Heirs

"or the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith." (NASB)
"For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith." (KJV)
"Clearly, God's promise to give the whole earth to Abraham and his descendants was based not on his obedience to God's law, but on a right relationship with God that comes by faith." (NLT)
"For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would inherit the world was not fulfilled through the law, but through the righteousness that comes by faith." (NET)
"When God promised Abraham and his descendants that the world would belong to him, he did so, not because Abraham obeyed the Law, but because he believed and was accepted as righteous by God." (TEV)

There are no grandchildren in the faith but only children.  There is always only a first generation that comes only by the righteousness that comes by faith!

"and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay." (1 Peter 1:4 NLT)
"God gave the promises to Abraham and his child. And notice that the Scripture doesn't say "to his children, " as if it meant many descendants.  Rather, it says "to His child"—and that, of course, means Christ.  This is what I am trying to say: The agreement God made with Abraham could not be canceled 430 years later when God gave the law to Moses. God would be breaking His promise.  For if the inheritance could be received by keeping the law, then it would not be the result of accepting God's promise.  But God graciously gave it to Abraham as a promise." (Galatians 3:16-18 NLT)
"And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God's promise to Abraham belongs to you." (Galatians 3:29 NLT)
The promise, that he should be the heir of the world - Is the same as that he should be "the father of all nations," namely, of those in all nations who receive the blessing. The whole world was promised to him and them conjointly. Christ is the heir of the world, and of all things; and so are all Abraham's seed, all that believe in him with the faith of Abraham (John Wesley)

Romans 4:12 - Abraham the Father of Circumcision

"and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham which he had while uncircumcised." (NASB)
"And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised." (KJV)
"And Abraham is also the spiritual father of those who have been circumcised, but only if they have the same kind of faith Abraham had before he was circumcised." (NLT)
"And he is also the father of the circumcised, who are not only circumcised, but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham possessed when he was still uncircumcised." (NET)

Though it can be said that Abraham is the spiritual father of the circumcision, this is true only if they share the same saving faith. The Lord of Lords peers into the heart. If external things like circumcision and baptism are not a reflection of the heart then they are useless. However, if the heart be true, then the outward sign is a God-given seal.

Matthew Henry asserts: Now we may hence observe, (1.) The nature of sacraments in general: they are signs and seals - signs to represent and instruct, seals to ratify and confirm.  They are signs of absolute grace and favor; they are seals of the conditional promises; nay, they are mutual seals: God does in the sacraments seal to us to be to us a God, and we do therein seal to him to be to him a people.  (2.) The nature of circumcision in particular: it was the initiating sacrament of the Old Testament; and it is here said to be, [1.] A sign - a sign of that original corruption which we are all born with, and which is cut off by spiritual circumcision, - a commemorating sign of God's covenant with Abraham, - a distinguishing sign between Jews and Gentiles, - a sign of admission into the visible church, - a sign prefiguring baptism, which comes in the room of circumcision, now under the gospel, when (the blood of Christ being shed) all bloody ordinances are abolished; it was an outward and sensible sign of an inward and spiritual grace signified thereby.  [2.] A seal of the righteousness of the faith. In general, it was a seal of the covenant of grace, particularly of justification by faith - the covenant of grace, called the righteousness which is of faith (Romans 10:6), and it refers to an Old Testament promise, Deuteronomy 30:12.  Now if infants were then capable of receiving a seal of the covenant of grace, which proves that they then were within the verge of that covenant, how they come to be now cast out of the covenant and incapable of the seal, and by what severe sentence they were thus rejected and incapacitated, those are concerned to make out that not only reject, but nullify and reproach, the baptism of the seed of believers.

Romans 4:11 - Seal of Faith

"and he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised, so that he might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised, that righteousness might be credited to them," (NASB)
"And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also:" (KJV)
"Circumcision was a sign that Abraham already had faith and that God had already accepted him and declared him to be righteous—even before he was circumcised. So Abraham is the spiritual father of those who have faith but have not been circumcised. They are counted as righteous because of their faith." (NLT)
"And he received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised, so that he would become the father of all those who believe but have never been circumcised, that they too could have righteousness credited to them." (NET)

The seal of the righteousness imputed by faith and the pardon received.  A token of the relationship between Abraham and God.  The covenant everlasting!

Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, "The Lord knows those who are His," and, "Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness." (2 Timothy 2:19 NASB)
If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you; for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 9:2 NASB)
I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a book written inside and on the back, sealed up with seven seals. (Revelation 5:1 NASB)
And I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, having the seal of the living God; and he cried out with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, (Revelation 7:2 NASB)


Romans 4:10 - Credit Crunch?

"How then was it credited? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised;" (NASB)
"How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision." (KJV)
"But how did this happen? Was he counted as righteous only after he was circumcised, or was it before he was circumcised? Clearly, God accepted Abraham before he was circumcised!" (NLT)
"How then was it credited to him? Was he circumcised at the time, or not? No, he was not circumcised but uncircumcised!" (NET)

I suppose the argument here portrayed is similar to the ordinance of Christian baptism. One must consider whether one is credited before or after baptism/circumcision. But the Apostle has already dispatched this thought in Chapter Two:

For a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision something that is outward in the flesh, but someone is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is of the heart by the Spirit and not by the written code. This person's praise is not from people but from God.
(Romans 2:28-29 NET.)

As to the time line, the distance between Genesis 15:6 and Genesis 17:1 is about 13 - 15 years. As to the possible objection by the Hebrew, there is none because Abraham's faith was expressed long before the rite of circumcision. There are a great many lessons that could be provoked from this passage. However, the one that comes to mind is that we must not rest upon the physical act of baptism (nor any other) but cling to the faith that has set us free in Christ Jesus. We are creatures of now and cannot hold to past successes or circumstances. Who we are today is who we are! That is why Christ has created a new day and called it today whereby we may enter into His Sabbath rest. If we are hard hearted or arrogant we will fail and lose out on a daily blessing. If we recognize that we are still living in this fallen fleshly container and have need of the renewing of our minds by the Holy Spirit in order to face the challenges of each and every minute, then we will be able to enter this rest.

Faith was reckoned to Abraham for justification, as we read Genesis 15:6, (see the note on Genesis 15:6); but circumcision was not instituted till about fourteen or fifteen years after, Genesis 17:1, etc.; for faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness or justification at least one year before Ishmael was born; compare Genesis 15, and 16. At Ishmael’s birth he was eighty-six years of age, Genesis 16:16; and, at the institution of circumcision, Ishmael was thirteen, and Abraham ninety-nine years old. Dr. Adam Clark
Abraham’s age when he was declared righteous (Gen. 15:6) is not stated. But later when Hagar bore him Ishmael, he was 86 (Genesis 16:16). After that, God instructed Abraham to perform the rite of circumcision on all his male descendants as a sign of God’s covenant with him; this was done when Abraham was 99 (Genesis 17:24). Therefore the circumcision of Abraham followed his justification by faith by more than 13 years.  Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983-c1985). The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures (Ro 4:9). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
And Abram believed the LORD, and the LORD counted him as righteous because of his faith. (Genesis 15:6 NLT)
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, "I am El-Shaddai—'God Almighty.' Serve Me faithfully and live a blameless life.  (Genesis 17:1 NLT)
Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised, and Ishmael, his son, was thirteen.
(Genesis 17:24-25 NLT)

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