Bible studies from Scripture Union
Take time to think for a few moments about what God has done for you. Why are you thankful? What is getting in the way of your thankfulness?
13 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. 14 For if those who live by law are heirs, faith has no value and the promise is worthless, 15 because 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 are of 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 things that are not as though they were.
18 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.” 19 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. 20 Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21 being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. 22 This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” 23 The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.
A new family
Some people have a family they are proud of – loving care, provision and security seem guaranteed. Not everyone in our world is that fortunate. But here is a guarantee from God that’s certain for all people, whoever we are.
Through faith and belief in Jesus we have been brought into the family of Abraham – and, ultimately, of God. Of course, we fail in trying to live up to God’s standards (v 15), but here is the hope of God’s promise – guaranteed (v 16). He brings life out of death.
Abraham knew God’s promise about being the father of many nations (v 18). His body was past it – as good as dead (v 19)! Yet he kept on believing in God’s promise (v 20) – and as a result he became the ancestor of Jesus, who is the guarantor of our salvation.
Under the surface of all Paul’s explanations, there is the quiet truth about Jesus. Finally, he spells it out. Jesus died for our sin, but God raised him to life (v 25). For all who believe in him, we have been put right with God – guaranteed for life (v 16).
‘Amazing love, how can it be? That you, my king, would die for me. Amazing love, I know it’s true. It’s my joy to honour you. In all I do, I honour you’ (Chris Tomlin, Authentic, 1998).
The Queen of Hearts in Alice through the Looking Glass believed six impossible things before breakfast. The casual spectator might think that Abraham was the same sort of fantasist when he believed that as a childless couple in their nineties he and Sarah would have descendants to inherit the world – but Abraham believed in a God who was faithful to his promises and could do the impossible. Paul has made it clear that the descendants of Abraham include Gentiles who have a faith like his. Abraham was twice called to believe that God brings life from the dead: first from the dead womb of Sarah and then when he was called to sacrifice Isaac. Christians also believe in the resurrection from the dead – of Jesus our Lord.
This wonderful inclusion in the one family of Abraham – because of faith, not works – gives to all Christians a new, unmerited status. The attitudes of pride that divided the Roman congregation socially and racially; the concern for status and personal honour which characterised the Roman and Greek worlds – all these are shown to be irrelevant now that the one basis of faith unites the community. More than that, we are united as beneficiaries of the death of Jesus. For our trespasses he was handed over to death and by his resurrection we are justified. There is no greater honour than to be someone who is right with God.
Paul notes that Abraham’s faith does not waver throughout his long life and the lengthy wait for the fulfilment of the promises. Such faith is a challenge to us who live with a fuller revelation that our God fulfils his promises. In the face of disappointment, sufferings, unfulfilled hopes and personal failures, we can remind ourselves again that our God is absolutely trustworthy.