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Rom 4,13-25 - The Faith of Abraham

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(I have borrowed some thoughts for this message from a sermon preached by Ray Stedman in 1976.)

Today is a very special day! We celebrate Marcy’s covenant of  baptism through faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. The step of baptism is a big step of faith. In baptism we affirm publicly the Christian statement that we hold to be true – that no one comes to the Father, except through Jesus Christ. This is a claim that we cannot prove with observed evidence – we can’t prove that this is so. We have to believe it. And this requires what the theologian Soren Kierkegard called a “Leap of Faith.” This morning I want to talk about faith -- a simple thing, but hard for many people to understand.

Some people think that faith is nothing but a mental agreement with a  truth. But faith is more than simply believing something is true. Some people believe that faith is a feeling, a feeling of confidence. If you happen to have confidence, you have much faith; if you do not have confidence, then you have little or no faith.

If you really want to know what faith is, you have to see it in action. That is why the Apostle Paul, in Rom. 4, brings in Abraham, the man of faith. He is preeminently qualified as a man of faith. Looking at Abraham we can learn what faith is.

In the first part of Chapter 4 Paul writes about the righteousness of Abraham. Righteousness comes as a gift from God when we believe. Abraham obtained righteousness by faith.

There are four things that the Apostle Paul points out about Abraham's faith: First, he points out what faith is not. Sometimes the best way to learn what a thing is, is by learning what it is not. Second, he talks about what faith does, what it accomplishes. Thirdly, he explains what faith actually is -- the nature of faith. And fourth, Paul talks about the beneficiaries of faith, or whom faith helps.

1. Verses 13-15 deal with what faith is not.

It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. For if those who live by law are heirs, faith has no value and the promise is worthless, because law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression. {Rom 4:13-15 NIV}

Paul tells us that faith is not trying to obey and fulfill some kind of law. It is not doing our best to try to live up to a standard that we think we ought to live up to. If we think that God is going to accept, love, and forgive us because we have tried hard to do what we think is right, we are on the wrong track. It will never work.

Abraham received the gift, the promise of righteousness, long before the Law ever was given. If we look at Galatians 3:23-29, we find that Abraham received the gift of righteousness 430 years before the Law was given. So righteousness could not come by law. Faith is not works.

2. Next, Verses 16-17, which tell us what faith does:

Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham's offspring -- not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. As it is written: "I have made you a father of many nations." {Rom 4:16-17a NIV}

Here is faith in action. The promise that Abraham received came by faith. Abraham’s righteousness, that sense of being approved and loved and wanted and accepted before God himself, was given to him because he believed God. God made him a father of many nations and also the father of our faith.

3. Verses 17-20 considers what faith actually is.

He [Abraham] is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed -- the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, "So shall your offspring be." Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead - since he was about a hundred years old - and that Sarah's womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God," {Rom 4:17b-20a NIV}

Paul gives us three things that tell us what faith is: First, Abraham believed God. God is the object of our faith. What matters the most is who we believe in, and not necessarily how much we believe. Jesus told us that even if we have a little tiny faith, like a mustard seed, it will work. The object of your faith is the important thing.

He is the God who gives life to the dead. He is the God who "calls things that are not, as though they were." It was that God in whom he fixed his faith.

But, whenever we are called to exercise faith, we come against some obstacles. Abraham teaches us to have faith in God in hopeless circumstances. "Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed..." “he did not wave through unbelief regarding the promise of God..." The promise of God hung on the fact that there must be a child born to Abraham and Sarah. Through that child would come all the descendants from the nations of the world that would be blessed by Abraham. And, more important yet, through that child would come Jesus Christ, the Savior.

Abraham looked at the circumstances and saw his hundred-year-old body and the barrenness of Sarah's womb. Abraham faced the hopelessness of these facts "without weakening in his faith." Rather, “he was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God," {Rom 4:20b NIV} His faith was made strong. Faith grows. Jesus said it would. If you have faith like a tiny little mustard seed, but the object of your faith is trustworthy and has promised to do something, then exercise your faith and it will grow. Obey. Abraham did; and as he believed and obeyed, he was strengthened in his faith and he gave glory to God.

In Verse 21 Paul says Abraham also was, ... fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. That is why "it was credited to him as righteousness." {Rom 4:21-22 NIV}

Faith grounds us on the truth, as it did Abraham. He was fully persuaded. This is the faith that was credited to him as righteousness.

4. Verses 23-25 deal with the beneficiaries of faith:

The words "it was credited to him" were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness -- for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. {Rom 4:23-25 NIV}

Those words were not written for Abraham alone. They were also written for us today. We look at the faith of Abraham and say, "That was truly a “leap of faith”. Paul says it was only an ordinary faith. Anyone can exercise such faith if they want to.

You and I can benefit from that same righteousness too. We can be a friend of God, accepted before him, with worth and value in his sight - not just once as we begin our Christian life, but every day, taking it fresh from his hand. We are forgiven of our sins, restored, every day afresh and anew. All that Abraham had - the promises of the world, the indwelling of the Spirit - all are ours as well.

The gift of righteousness is for those "who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead." He is still the God of resurrection, the God who can raise people from the dead.

Now if we believe in God we are ready to live on the basis of his death and his life for us, knowing that his Spirit dwells in us.

Ordinance of Christian Baptism

And Church Membership

June 2, 2002


Dear Marcy, Family and Friends, dear congregation, we are here today to praise God, that through faith in Jesus Christ, Marcy has made a decision to ask for baptism and membership in the Springfield Heights Mennonite Church.

In Matthew 28:18-20 we read the words of our Lord Jesus: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

Jesus gave us a commandment and a promise.  Because of the command and the promise we are here today. Because of them these persons are here to make the covenant of baptism with God and His people. We are witnesses of their choice, but more than that, we are their companions in it.

Baptism is an act both of God and of us. In it God gives us the covenant of a good conscience, as Peter says. It enacts what God has done with us: made us dead unto sin and alive unto himself. In baptism we also respond to God, letting go of ourselves, dying to ourselves, to be given new life by God's Spirit. It is a public witness of what has happened to us.

Baptism is an act both of a person and a community. It seals our decision to turn from living for ourselves, and against God and other people, to living for them. John uses to most personal words possible to describe becoming a Christian: IT IS TO BE BORN AGAIN, into a new humanity. This new humanity of which we are a part affirms that God is at work, that conversion and baptism are not only the private experience of one person, but acts of God which the church accepts and stands by.  Baptism is communal because when we are born again our new life is with others, not against them, most particularly it is with the body of Christ.

And so we also recognize that Christ gave us the Church as the visible expression of this new humanity, the reality of his Body. Our act of membership is the act of expressing our belonging into that Body, and an expression of our commitment one to another in love, for our mutual growth as members of Christ and to the glory of our Lord.


1. Do  you now confess faith in Jesus Christ as your personal Savior from the power and guilt of sin, trusting in the forgiveness and renewing power of God declared through Jesus' death and resurrection?

Answer:      I DO

2. In response to that love, do you now commit yourself to Christ and to His service through the church, and will you seek by the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit to turn from sin; will you foster communion with God in prayer and the use of His Word; and as far as you know, will you lead an upright Christian life according to God's revealed will and to the honor of His name?

Answer:      WITH GOD'S HELP, I WILL

3. Baptism is also an act of identifying with God's mission for the world. So I ask you now, do you desire to be baptized upon this faith in Christ and to be received into the church of Jesus Christ, identifying yourself with God's mission for the world through the church, fostering communion with fellow Christians, willingly offering the gifts God gives you for the common good and growth of Christ's church and for the sharing of the Good News with the world?

Answer:      I DO

BAPTISM:           [candidate(s) kneel]

"Marcy Friesen, upon your confession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and Lord, I baptize you in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen."

RECEPTION AS MEMBER(S):    [candidate(s) remain kneeling until they receive the right hand]

"In the name of Christ and of the church I now extend to you the right hand of fellowship and welcome you as sister into the Springfield Heights Mennonite Church. May the Lord bless you and make you to be a blessing."

(Henry Pankratz & David Reed will greet Marcy)



As we now receive you into the fellowship of the church, we make a covenant with you as we renew our own covenant with our Lord;

          To bear one another's burdens,

To share mutually in the forgiving or the retaining of our sins,

          To share in the abundance of this world's goods,

          To assist each other in times of need,

          To share our joys and our sorrows,

          And in all things to work for the common good,

Thus manifesting God's presence among us to His glory. As we unite with each other now, may we all be joined with Christ our Lord.



To him who is able to keep you from  falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy --- to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore!  Amen.    (Jude 24,25)

Communion Service


On the day of Pentecost we celebrated a service of communion with our new members. Today we also want to celebrate communion with Marcy Friesen as a sign of our belonging to each other in the Body of Christ, the Church. We are going to do it a bit different today. I will invite Marcy and her family, and a few volunteers from the congregation to come and join us here in the front to partake in this communion service. The rest of the congregation is invited to participate symbolically with your silent prayers.

So, can I have a few volunteers to come and join in this communion service with Marcy and her family.

Words of institution:

Brothers and sisters in Christ,

This supper is a remembrance of the sacrifice of Christ

          for the sins of the world;

          an encounter with the risen Lord;

          a feeding on him in faith;

          a communion with one another in his body,

          the church;

          and an anticipation of the day when

he will come again.

Therefore, let us come to the Lord’s Table in faith,

          knowing our weakness, renouncing our sin,

          trusting in Christ, seeking his grace.

SCRIPTURE LESSON:  1 Cor. 11:23-29

“…I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took  a loaf of bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”25 In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. 27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 for all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves.” NRSV


We come before God in silent confession…

Almighty God, our minds have so many hidden places that it is difficult to clean them from all deception. Grant that we may honestly examine ourselves. Shine upon us with the light of your Holy Spirit. In confessing to you our hidden faults, allow us to respond to you in pure and spotless worship.


The Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took  a loaf of bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

 (Take the tray of bread and give thanks for the bread)


Prayer of thanks for the bread:

“Take and eat in memory of Him.”


In the same way he took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this as often as you drink it in remembrance of me.”

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup,

you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

(Take the cup and give thanks for the cup)


Prayer of thanks for the cup:

This cup is the new covenant sealed by Christ’s blood, which was shed to the forgiveness of our sins. Let us drink in memory of Him.


Brothers and Sisters, we have followed the Lord's invitation to come to his table. We have drawn from the well of his love and forgiving grace. We have been nurtured in our faith and strengthened for our journey. Let us give Praise to God!


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