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The Nature of Faith

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The Nature of Faith

Romans 4:18–20 HCSB
He believed, hoping against hope, so that he became the father of many nations according to what had been spoken: So will your descendants be. He considered his own body to be already dead (since he was about 100 years old) and also considered the deadness of Sarah’s womb, without weakening in the faith. He did not waver in unbelief at God’s promise but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God,
Faith in theory so to speak, what is faith in practice?
What is faith? What does it look like? What are the characteristics of faith?
Let me put it this way, first, what Paul says about faith is not only true for justification but also for living!
What Paul says is true about faith for living, for battling, for fighting temptation, for dealing with doubt, for surmounting obstacles and failures. Faith is not merely that which saves but keeps saving. In other words, here we see the Elements of Faith. (We can call this the Nature of Faith).
What did Abraham’s Faith enable him to do?

I. His Faith enabled Abraham to believe God’s Word

It enabled him to believe God’s word of promise.

What was the promise God made to Abraham?
It’s right here in our text.
“According to what had been spoken So will your descendants be.”
What did that promise mean?
It meant that Abraham would have an incredibly large and numerous progeny.
What did God use to demonstrate how many Abraham’s descendents would be?
Sand on the seashore and stars in the heavens.
Faith enabled Abraham to believe God’s word of promise.
That is incredible promise especially for someone at Abraham’s age and with a wife in the condition of Sarah!

Promise Not merely to natural descendants

But that’s not all to that word So. The Holman doesn’t accurately, and the ESV doesn’t make it clear enough. The Holman has descendants in the plural. The Word is is actually σπέρμα and it’s in the singular. The ESV gives offspring, which in the English could be singular or plural. The word is seed in the singular. And this really gets to what God’s promise really is.
σπέρμα
Galatians 3:16 HCSB
Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say “and to seeds,” as though referring to many, but referring to one, and to your seed, who is Christ.
Galatians 3:16
The promise was not to merely Abraham’s natural seed and progeny, but to One — the Lord Jesus Christ. Our Lord tells the Jews, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day: and he saw it and was glad.”
It’s a serious misunderstanding of God’s promise to Abraham to confine it to his natural seed, and to the land of Israel.
2 Corithians 1:20
2 Corinthians 1:20 HCSB
For every one of God’s promises is “Yes” in Him. Therefore, the “Amen” is also spoken through Him by us for God’s glory.

This involved the Gentiles coming into this salvation.

“So that he became the father of many nations.”
Matthew 8:11 HCSB
I tell you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew
How does this include the Gentiles?
Because they are Abraham’s children — By Faith, not by blood. How could a Jew be the Father of many nations, many ethnic groups? He couldn’t. It is only that he is their father in the Faith.
So, the first thing Faith enables Abraham to do is believe God’s word of Promise.

II. His faith enabled him to believe God’s Word alone — and nothing else.

He had nothing to go on except the mere word of God.
Romans 4:17 HCSB
in God’s sight. As it is written: I have made you the father of many nations. He believed in God, who gives life to the dead and calls things into existence that do not exist.
Here’s Abraham looking at all that sand and all those stars and he looks at himself and Sarah and he can see his utter deadness and her deadness. There is nothing to go on except God’s Word.

III. His faith enabled him to believe God’s Word alone — in spite of all appearances to the contrary.

“He believed, hoping against hope.”
What that means is that by all appearances, by every natural sense, by every opinion and evidence to the contrary — there is absolutely no way this comes to pass, naturally and ordinarily speaking.
What conceivable hope was there that Sarah would bare a child? What are the odds?
There is not even a glimmer of hope. He had nothing whatsoever to go on — except God’s Word. And not only that — everything was against the promise.
And yet this is the triumph and achievement of faith.

IV. His Faith enabled him to believe God’s Word alone — fully convinced.

Look at verse 21.
Romans 4:21 HCSB
because he was fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.
He was fully convinced, fully persuaded that God was able to do what He promised to do.
We need to understand that faith, true faith, always has in it this element of assurance, or certainty, and of confidence — regardless of circumstances, or inabilities. Faith is not mere hopefulness — faith is fully persuaded, assured, and certain. Faith isn’t whistling in the dark to keep up your courage. Faith is Fully Convinced.”
Hebrews 11:1 HCSB
Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen.
Faith is like a title-deed. There is certainty with a title-deed. In other words faith is not something vague and uncertain, indefinite or nebulous.
Faith is that which substantiates. Same thing is repeated in .
Hebrews 11:13 HCSB
These all died in faith without having received the promises, but they saw them from a distance, greeted them, and confessed that they were foreigners and temporary residents on the earth.
Fully Convinced that God was able to make good on what He promised.
Hebrews 11:19 HCSB
He considered God to be able even to raise someone from the dead, and as an illustration, he received him back.
Hebrews 11:
It’s all resting on God and His nature and His Word.

V. His faith enabled him to believe God’s Word alone — to live in it.

And what I mean by live in it is to do it. In light of everything Abraham acted upon what he believed. He believed God’s Word and acted on it.
You may not have ever realized this, but God changes Abram and Sarai’s names.
Genesis 17:5 HCSB
Your name will no longer be Abram, but your name will be Abraham, for I will make you the father of many nations.
Genesis 17
Abram means “high father” and Abraham means “the father of many nations.” From that point on, Abraham walked and lived as Abraham and not Abram. What’s your name? Abraham.
Those are the elements of Faith.
That brings us to:
How does Faith enable us to have such certainty and not stagger?
The answer is Faith makes a man strong.
Romans 4:20 HCSB
He did not waver in unbelief at God’s promise but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God,
A better translation would be “he was made strong by faith.”
Look at the way Paul puts it.
First in the Negative
“without weakening in the faith.”
Now I want you to notice something here, and it’s absolutely important when it comes to living in faith.
The phrase “without weakening in the faith” is living in faith even though — and look at the first part of verse 19:
“He considered his own body to be already dead (since he was about 100 years old) and also considered the deadness of Sarah’s womb!”
This brings out the glorious aspect of true faith. Because faith is from God and completely and utterly on God’s Word and because God’s Word is eternal and will be fulfilled — then true faith can stand up against the reality of life.
Let me demonstrate this in a very odd way.
Romans 4:19 KJV 1900
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:
Romans 4:19 HCSB
He considered his own body to be already dead (since he was about 100 years old) and also considered the deadness of Sarah’s womb, without weakening in the faith.
Did you notice the difference?
KJV has he considered not his own body now dead…neither yet the deadness of Sara’s womb. The Holman, the RSV, the ESV have — He did consider his body already dead and Sarah’s womb to be dead.
What difference does it make?
Faith is not something that refuses to face the facts. Faith is not an emotional escapism. Abraham faced the facts. He looked at the facts and they were the absolute worst. And yet, though he did that, he was not weakened in his faith.
Why?
This is absolutely important point concerning True Faith, Biblical Faith.
Abraham looked at the facts, but he didn’t stop there. He didn’t just keep on looking at the facts and difficulties and obstacles and objections. He looked at them, but he then looked to the One who made the promise.
The problem with unbelief is that it only looks at the difficulties and says, “No God.”
Like Peter walking on the water.
It’s a complete fallacy and detrimental to faith when assailed by doubts, that you have no faith. To be entirely free from doubts doesn’t signify faith, but may actually mean presumption. Faith like that is what cults have. But there’s a very real sense in which faith is that which enables us to overcome doubts and to answer them — But God.
Weakening
What is meant by “Weakening?”
Unbelief attacks us on two fronts. Look at the reality. Look at the facts. Look at the difficulties, objections, and your weaknesses or impotence. And we see how that is overcome by looking to God. He is able.
But also look at the greatness of the promise. This is not something ordinary. It’s impossible. It’s too good to be true. The greatness of the promise can often cause us to weaken or stagger.
The word “weaken” or “stagger” means to judge, discriminate, or estimate. It goes beyond that! It means to argue with yourself about it. It’ arguing within “Yes, but.” Faith says, “Believe it.” Then Reason comes in and says, “That’s utterly impossible.” Instead of weakening or staggering between the two. It is to hold firm to it, remain upright, to walk steadily in what God said and who God is.
And look at verse 20.
Romans 4:20 HCSB
He did not waver in unbelief at God’s promise but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God,
He gave glory to God.
He’s whole dependence is God.
Faith enabled Abraham to do all of this. Faith makes us strong. Faith prevents weakness. Temptation is not sin. If it were, then Christ, who was tempted in all manners, would have failed.
Abraham considered the problem, but he was not weakened but rather strengthened because it directed him straight to God.
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