Romans 4:18-25 (ESV)
18 In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's womb. 20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” 23 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.
Faith Apart from Circumstances
Paul concludes chapter 4 of Romans by circling back to the faith of Abraham that started God’s covenant family. This time he highlights the faith of Abraham to believe that God would give him a child, even though he was well on in age. Abraham did not merely believe God when evidence of the promise was absent. In hope he believed against hope. In other words, Abraham believed God when the evidence sharply pointed against God’s promise. From a human perspective, the situation was hopeless. Abraham was just an ordinary person putting his faith in an extraordinary God. If you’ll recall in Romans chapter 1, Paul paints a hopeless picture of humanity under the power of sin. He now uses Abraham to reverse the storyline from a hopeless humanity to a humanity that can be put back together again and rediscover the life God intended His image bearers to live. Faith does not ignore hopeless circumstances. Faith faces them and sees beyond them to God. Faith is not irrational – nothing is more rational than to believe God’s word, even when it seems foolish from a human perspective. Abraham’s faith initiated God’s covenant with humanity and Jesus fulfilled it. In the words of N.T. Wright, “Abraham believed that God would give life where there was none. Christians believe that God raised Jesus from the dead.” Both positions take faith that God is bigger than sin and death, bigger than the hopelessness seen in our lives and the lives around us. Faith in His Son is God’s gift to humanity, a gift to be received or rejected. Aligning your life with Jesus makes you right before God’s throne and gives Him control to orchestrate your life so that the promises of God manifest in you and through you. This is the good news of the gospel!
How does your faith hold up when circumstances do not seem to be going your way?
For some extra fun, read Genesis 16 to learn how Abraham tried to fulfill God’s promise of a child on his own. In Romans 4:19-20, Paul says that Abraham did not weaken in faith or waver in unbelief. What does this tell you about God?