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The Promise Maker

Romans   •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  22:11
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Romans 4:13–17 NIV
13 It was not through the 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. 14 For if those who depend on the law are heirs, faith means nothing and the promise is worthless, 15 because the law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression. 16 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 have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. 17 As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.
We are studying Romans Chapter 4. In this chapter Paul using the life of Abraham as an illustration that Justification by Faith is not a radical new idea unique to the Gospel, but has actually been God’s plan from the beginning. Paul uses three important aspects of Abraham’s life, to demonstrate that even in those things, Abraham is justified faith.
Abraham NOT justified by:
Works-Vs. 1-5
Circumcision Vs. 6-12
Law Vs. 13-14
You may remember that In verses one through five Paul showed that Abraham was not justified by his works, and in verse 6 through 12 Paul showed that it wasn’t through circumcision that Abraham was justified.
Today, we are looking at verses 13 and 14 where Paul says that it isn’t through the Law that Abraham is justified.
Not Through the Law
The word law in the Bible has several meanings, and we have to look at the context to determine what the author intended. Generally speaking, mostly, like in this case, the word law is referring to God’s law, this is not a government law, or a social structure but rather the law of God. The word law sometimes refers to God’s law in a very general sense, such as any of the rules God has established for holy living, or it can be very specific as in the case of Genesis chapter 3. God made and gave Adam and Eve 1 law-do not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and Evil. Other times, the Bible uses the word law to refer to the first 5 books of the Old Testament known as the Torah, or the book of the law.
Contained in the Torah, is the Mosaic Law. This is the set of rules God gave Moses on mount Sinai, after the Israelites were brought out of Egypt You know at least some of these the 10 commandments, but there are others as well. 613 all together. They cover rules governing social structure and morality, purity and dietary laws, as well as rules for sacrifices and worship. They are quite extensive. In Romans when Paul uses the word law, he is talking to jews who would have these rules in mind, so most likely he is referring to the Mosaic law.
The Jews believed that Abraham, was able to keep the whole law. Even before the law was given. They believe that Abraham was the Father of the Jewish people, because he was able to not violate the law. he was entitled to the promised land. The Jewish people, as his descendants then inherited the promised land from Abraham, along with the the blessings. That is the thinking that Paul is addressing here in verses 13 and 14.
He writes this in Romans 4. I’m going to switch to the NASB version because I think the translation is a little clearer.
Romans 4:13 NASB95
13 For 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.
For-----or because---the promise to Abraham. What was that promise again? Let me refresh your memory, Genesis chapter 12.
Genesis 12:1–4 NIV
1 The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. 2 “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” 4 So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran.
As we read the promise, it goes like this-God promises I will make you into a great nation-I will bless you-I will make your name great- I will bless those who bless you- God is the one making the promises. Here when God first gives the promise, God does not indicate that there is a condition for the promise to be effective. In other words, here in Genesis 12 at least God the Father does not require Abraham to do anything. In other words God does not say Abraham, if you follow the law, or if you do certain things, then I will bless you-Instead God just says they will happen. I will bless you I will make you into a great nation.
Next verse on screen-(not read)
Romans 4:13 NASB95
13 For 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.
Who was the promise to?
For the promise to Abraham or his descendants. Normally, this is thought of as the Jewish people exclusively in the jewish mind, but the promise was not just limited to the jews
Abraham and his descendants here, or offspring. The word for offspring is literally “seed”. Another time we see that word seed is in Galatians where Paul elaborates a little more on this this. It is in the passage Bill read for us this morning. This from Galatians chapter 3, verse 16.
Galatians 3:16 NIV
16 The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ.
Paul is talking about Christ. Through the line of Abraham, there is a very specific person that God has in mind-Jesus.
When we read Romans 4:13 we read
Romans 4:13 NASB95
13 For 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.
For the promise to Abraham, who leads to Christ that he would be heir of the world.
The promise that God made to Abraham, was not made conditionally on Abraham’s ability to uphold the law, but on faith, because Abraham believed God. Abraham believed what God told him. In this discussion, Abraham’s ability to uphold the law or not uphold the law is not the issue. The issue is that Abraham believed this promise-This promise of Christ that God was saying.
Abraham was this guy whose father made idols or statues of gods out of precious metals, to sell to the pagan’s in a very ungodly place. Meanwhile, the whole rest of the human race is steeped in sin. No one is following after the creator God. The question then becomes, how is God going to rescue the human race? How is God the Father going to save human race. Is God going to put the weight of the fate of the human race on a man and his ability to do right or wrong according to the law? Is God going to rest redemptive history on the shoulders of the son of an Idol maker living in a pagan city?
God comes to this man this idol maker Abraham and makes a promise. God says, I am going to do this. Even BEFORE Abraham had the ability to prove himself, God reaches in to this planet of corrupt and self-centered people. People who would rather chase after anything that gives them pleasure like money or power or luxury.And God says I promise you Abraham I am going to make something out of you, not only you, but the people to come after you. Abraham, believes Him. God says Abraham, I’m going to give your descendants a title deed to a large piece of land, and it will be passed down through your generations, forever. And Abraham believed Him.
Then, generation after generation, the inheritance to the land of Israel is passed down, sometimes they follow God, most times they don’t. But guess, what the land is still theirs, because God had promised. Then God himself comes down. Born of virgin He not only has title deed through the inheritance to the land of Israel, but also title deed to the kingdom of heaven, because He is the king of glory and king of the universe.
Then the king himself is rejected, even though He kept the law, the whole law, unlike everyone who came before Him, including us sitting right here. So we accept that promise, that He will bless us, by removing our sins and transgressions from us, Romans 4 7 and 8, but we have to receive that promise by faith. We have to believe God. We have to believe that he removes our sins, and covers our transgressions.
The effectiveness of the Promise lies in the Promise maker.
The effectiveness of this promise, lies not in us, but in the one who makes the promise. The cross which brings people into the blessing of God, is exactly effective as God had intended it.
But we cannot get trapped into thinking that we--- by our ability to do right our wrong--- have any effect on the promise.
Romans 4:14 NIV
14 For if those who depend on the law are heirs, faith means nothing and the promise is worthless,
For if you depend on the law for your inheritance then there is no need for faith. Think about this for a second, if the inheritance came by obedience to the law, if you could do that then, theoretically you not need God, rIght? I mean it would be possible that you could live your whole life in accordance with the law, doing all the right things, and not acknowledge God at all. You could in theory have a good atheist.
If that were the case the cross would be completely unnecessary. We would not need a Messiah to die in our place. We would just need to try harder. Techniques, and a better effort. Is that why Christ came. Christ came to preach good news to the poor, to set the the captives free, to seek and to save that which is lost. Luke 4, 18. And frankly how much harder can we try? I can tell you from personal experience that I have been trying for my whole life and I am woefully falling short of following even a basic version of the law.
If it were through the law, then not only would our faith mean nothing but the promise itself would be worthless because we would never be able to attain it. Because as Paul labored in chapters 1,2 and three we are unable to keep the law. Right?
Romans 3:23 NIV
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
A promise we cannot reach would be worthless. A man could promise me a million dollars to climb mount Everest but for me, I am unable to do that. That promise would be worthless. The promise depending on me to fulfill is useless.
Paul then explains why that is. It is because....
Romans 4:15 NIV
15 because the law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression.
We by nature are lawbreakers. God by nature is just-lawbreakers are subject to the wrath of the just and Holy God. Sin must be punished. But, Paul says if there is no law, there is no transgression. That word transgression means crossing the boundary, like trespass. That makes sense right? If there is no law there is no law-breaking.
Romans 4:16 NIV
16 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 have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all.
Therefore, Paul says, the promise comes by faith so that it might be by grace. Therefore, the promise comes not because of us- but because of God. Because of God’s grace- Because God is loving God, a God who loves us so much that is willing to go to the cross and suffer the wrath of God in our place on our behalf so that we can be sure to attain the promise.
If we did keep the law and earn the inheritance, it would not be grace,. It would not be a gift that God gives us, by his love. It would just be something that we earned, God would just paying out the do, not necessarily loving gracious and full of mercy.
Furthermore if it were up to us, it would not be guaranteed. This promise would be dependent on us who fail miserably all the time to be fulfilled. One little infraction by Abraham. One tiny infraction by any of us, could then nullify the promise. The very promise that brought Christ!
Instead, the faith of Abraham to believe the promise maker, brought Christ so that through the gospel we too have the opportunity to believe God, and be saved, and to be in the kingdom of God. ----
In that sense Abraham is our Father.
Romans 4:17 NIV
17 As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.
Paul then quotes a passage from Genesis 17, verse 5, -for I have made you a father of many nations-notice the tense, and the subject. First the subject is God the promise maker, then the verb is in the -past tense- like it already happened. God says- I have made you a father- What is so interesting about that is that it hadn’t happened yet. Sarah had not yet given birth to Issac. The nations are yet to be born, the promise is yet to be fulfilled. Yet God speaks in the past tense. as if it has already happened. Abraham, in the sight of God, was already a father.
Paul says in the sight of God then he goes on to describe who God is. God is not just a statue or a force, or a higher view, or something, Paul calls God the God who gives life to the dead!
Do we forget who our God is. The God who gives life to the dead. God raises the dead.
These aren’t just fables, or metaphors- He raised a widow’s son in 1 kings. He raised the Shunammite woman’s son in 2 Kings. There was a man whose body was thrown into Elisha’s tomb, in 2 Kings. There was the widow of nain’s boy in Luke 7, and Jarius’ daughter in Mark 5. Jesus commanded the dead Lazarus to come out of the tomb. There was tabitha on Acts 9, and Eutychus in Ac 20.
Jesus himself suffered the wrath of God, and rose from the dead, under his own power. And he raises those who are dead in their sin and trespass. He takes the dead in sin and miraculously gives them a new birth by the power of the Holy Spirit. God raises the dead. He does not merely wake the sleeping.
Do you realize that today. God raises the dead? Who do you know that is dead in sin? Pray for them. Who do you know that needs life? Your God promises that He alone will give new life to those dead in sin and trespass. Pray for them, Call on God to change their heart -
He is the God who calls into being things that were not. When the earth was formless and void and darkness hovered over the abyss, this God called light into being. Do you understand that? He called the stars, galaxies, and super nova into existence,---out of nothing---This is God we are dealing we worship and who speaks to us, and who calls us!
When Abraham was still in UR- Still an IDOL MAKER-Still a sinner-God called Him as if he were already the one to whom the promise was fulfilled.
The world would call a man on a cross, cursed, and forgotten. The cross doesn’t just leave Jesus hanging there ineffective. The cross does not leave a poor fellow Jesus hoping with crossed fingers that somehow, someone will come. Jesus died an effective death, and the God who calls into being that which does not exist. Through the cross Calls a sinner to life! He can then JUSTIFY or make righteous one who is not righteous.
The promise is so great not because of the person to whom the promise was made. The promise is great because of the one made the Promise. God Almighty made the promise. If would have depended on man, if it depends on you or on me, it is worthless-nothing
But the God called that which was not-into being made the promise happen. He calls us while we are still sinners. While we are still in our sin He calls us to be saints! Do you see that! He calls us that even though we are dead in our sins and trespass, Dead, unable on our own to come to life. God calls us to life, new life from the dead.
God the father offers that promise in Gospel, of Jesus Christ. That promise is for eternal life in all those who trust in Christ alone. Who needs to trust in Christ alone for eternal life right now today?
There is nothing that you could have done that will keep you from God, Trust in the promise that through the sacrifice of Jesus by your belief in Him He will call you justified, sanctified and glorified.
Do you know anyone who needs to be brought into an inheritance in the kingdom of God? A sinner who needs to be called be called by God? You can’t do it for them, you cannot convince them enough, You cannot drag them into the kingdom of God. But we know someone who can We know someone who does all the time. He can call the dead to life.
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