Covenant Words
Covenant Words

Episode · 7 years ago

Counting Faith (Romans 4:13-25)


Rev. Christopher Chelpka

Please remain standing, and let's give our attention to Romans Chapter Four, verses thirteen through twenty five, Romans Four thirteenth through twenty five. Here we conclude chapter four and Paul's Focus on Abraham as the father of faith, Romans four, verse thirteen. For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be the heir of the world did not come through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if it is the adherence of the law who are to be heirs, faith is null and the promise is void, for the law brings wrath, but where there is no law, there is no transgression. That is why it depends on faith in order that in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring, not only to the adherent of the law, but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all. As it is written, I have made you the father of many nations, in the presence of God and whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. 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. 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 wound. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was counted to him as righteousness. But the words it was counted to Him we're not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in Him who raised from the dead, Jesus, Our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. Hey, God bless his word to us. Please be seated. Well, if you are familiar with this passage or if you've been tracking with us in the last several sermons, you know what this passage is about. That our justification are standing before God comes by faith alone and not by works, or even faith plus works. But Paul has been making that point in particular through this example of Abraham, as a way to connect us together, US being both Jew and gentile, those who are brought under the law or adheres to the law, those who are born according to according to the flesh, according to Abraham, and those who are not, both Jew and gentile, belong to God through faith in Jesus. Depends on faith, not on obedience to the law. Now, this has all kinds of powerful implications, as we've been seeing, all kinds of ways in which this impacts our life and speaks to our unity in the church. But I confess that... much as we hear this and as much as we know it, there's a way in which hearing it is still hard. You hear that God promised the world to Abraham, that the substance of those promises was received by faith and not by works, and it always feels a little abstract. It always feels a little bit like a thesis statement that you know you need to affirm, that you know you should live by it in some sense, and yet it always feels a little bit distant. I feel fairly confident in using a word like always there, because I've talked with you, I know you and I know my own heart as well. I know that believing by faith is not always easy. It's hard to hear a promise and move forward, to believe in something that you cannot see, to trust God and his promises even while they don't seem to be happening here and now, to put our faith in all his historical event, the death and resurrection of Jesus, even when we weren't there, relying on the testimony of witnesses and of God. Of course, this Christians. It feels a little bit ridiculous to admit this. Who would doubt God? But right do we have to doubt his word, to doubt his promises? Why in the world would we struggle to walk according to a promise made by God? And yet we do. We struggle. We struggle against all kinds of things. We struggle to see by faith. We struggle to give glory to God. We struggle to hope in the things that God has given us instead of putting our trust in our current circumstances and situation. We struggle to feel like we belong to God's family or that others should belong who have done terrible things. We desire continually to add something to contribute in some way to our salvation and do not trust God for simply giving it to us. I know that you are afraid. You're afraid that your sins will catch up to you, that God saying that he has freely forgiven you and forgiven your trespasses on the cross may not be true, that the regrets that you have, the sins that you've committed, maybe even as recently as to day, we'll catch up with you will destroy you, that the cross is not good enough, afraid that God is angry with you, or you are filled with pride. You prop yourself up with your plans, your career paths, your chaste hopes. You pride yourselves on the things that you know, the things that you've done, the places you've been, the plans that you have. I know how you feel. I feel these ways too. But more important than mean knowing how you feel is that God knows how you feel. He knows who you are, he knows the particulars of your life, just as he did when he came to Abraham and promised him the... When God came to Abraham about this good news that he would make him and his offspring air of the world. God already knew about the circumstances and sins and particulars of Abraham's life. God knew about the decades of Sarah's barrenness. He knew about every creek and ache and every discomfort in Abraham's hundred year old body and Sarah's hundred year old body. He knew about their particular spiritual upbringing, which was likely not a happy one or God glorifying one. He knew about the century, now that it happened, of sin and rebellion against God, things that you and I know nothing about, things that aren't recorded in scriptures, all kinds of stories and events that they could go on hours and hours and hours about. We don't know. But God knew. When God came to Abraham and promised him the world, he knew. But none of those things, none of those circumstances, none of those sins, had any effect on God's plans when he promised eternal blessing to this couple and to their offspring. It didn't have any effect on him in the sense that he was unaware of them and just sort of moved forward without thinking. But it didn't have any effects effect on his promises. Because he was ultimate and in control of their circumstances, of the lives. He would give Abraham and Sarah and their children the world in a eternal and completely blessed sense, not because of what they had or didn't have, or would or wouldn't do, but simply because he wanted to give it to them. It wasn't based on some kind of good works that they had done or or based on a certain amount of sin that they had accumulated. It was simply in His grace and him his love and in the particulars of their lives that he came and he spoke to Abraham and said, through your offspring, I will bless you and all the nations of the world will be blessed through you and I will give you a heavenly country. This is what Abraham believed. Abraham would come to see things in this particular way, and it's seeing things in this particular way that we call faith, trusting in God and the ultimate decrees that he has made, even, as we have confessed this morning in the shorter catechism, the for ordained things that he has planned and promises to fulfill, believing those as alternate, even over the circumstances and things that we see right now. That's what faith is. Faith looks past the secondary circumstances of our lives to the primary cause of all things, God, and trusts his word above everything. So if God says you're going to have a child, even though you're barren and have been for on a years, you start getting a nursery ready, you throw a baby shower, you gather your friends around and you say, Hey, I'm going to have a baby. I don't know about you, but I like the idea of Sarah and her friends have a good baby...

...shower, eighty, ninety a hundred year old women gathering to gather and tasting baby food, putting on diapers quickly. But it be kind of like Noah, wouldn't it, building an arc in the desert without any rain because of the promise of God? They acted because they believed. That's what faith is. Faith isn't doing this kind of calculus and saying well, there's this plus this, mine is this. Well, okay, faith is saying God is God and I am not, and God has promised me something. He has said he will give me something, so I'm going to believe it and thank him for it and be grateful for it and be filled with joy and act accordingly. And that's what Abraham and that's what Sarah did. Faith believes God. It believes that he's not constrained by the things in this world, by our disabilities, by our sins, by our fears. Are there are things in your life that you believe God is constrained by? Are there things that you don't trust him about because you think that there are things that you have or don't have, physical or spiritual, that God is not capable of overcoming? Put that kind of thinking to death, because God can overcome it. And if you need an example, there are hundreds. We can consider the one Paul has given us this morning of Abraham and Sarah. They didn't believe an empty promise, did they? Do you know what happened to Sarah's baron womb? A child was born and through him whole family was born. Eventually, our Savior was born, Jesus Christ himself, who would come and fulfill, in an ultimate and final sense, all of these things that God had promised. Hundreds thousands of miracles lining that road, signpost after signpost after sign post pointing to God and his promises, a sale to our faith, over and over and over again, of God saying yes, I can, yes, I can, yes, I can, I will, I will, I will, I have, I have, I have. That's the road on which we walk, billboards, placard all the way, placarded all the way, showing us what it means to live by faith. Well, that's how Abraham heard this promised and received it, and it's how he would one day enjoy its fulfillment. But just as God knew Abraham and his particular circumstances, the challenges, the difficulties, the physical impossibilities, he also knows you. And this is good news, because did you hear what God said in his word? He says that this promises that were made to Abraham were also made to you. So when we think about God going to Abraham and saying to this, are to you, this I promise, it's not a great leap to say to this, to me, God has also promised the same thing. Why is that not a leap? Because that's exactly what the Bible says right here. These promises that God made to Abraham, these amazing, spectacular promises that, through this child, Jesus all the nations in the world...

...would be blessed, nations and people's that include even us who have believed on him. Let me read it to you, he says. But the word, this is verse twenty three. But the words, it was counted to him, were not written for his sake alone. This is a remarkable thing. This is scripture commenting on scripture. If you've ever watched a DVD and you've turned on the special features right where the directors or producers, actors talking behind the thing, describing what's going on in the thing itself, that's what's going on here, God commenting on Holy Scripture itself as you're listening to it. He says, that's why it was written. Righteousness was counted to Abraham by faith, not just so Abraham would hear it, but for you. It's not written for our sake, of loan, but or for his sake alone, but for all hours also. It. That is righteousness, the righteousness which justifies, the righteousness which saves US, which declares makes us innocent before God. That righteousness will be counted to us who work, who do good things, know to those who believe in Him who raised Jesus from the dead, our Lord he was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. See, Jesus didn't go to the cross. Jesus didn't die this terrible death because you lived a great life. Does that make any sense? Would God send his only son into the world to die on a cross at the hands of evil men and for sin, because you pulled your act together? No, God sent his son to come as a sacrifice because your sin needed to be sacrificed for, because you needed to be saved. These promises are not just for Abraham, but for you. How do we know? Because of the original promise and for his offspring, and because of what it says about Abraham, the father of us all, both Jews and gentiles, because of what scripture says now and back in Genesis. But it is for US only. These promises and gifts are far US only, in the way it was for Abraham. God will not give this gift to those who will not receive it, to those who will not believe it, to be offered the gift of God and say no, thanks, I don't want it, I'm not interested, I've got other plans. Whatever the excuse. Maybe I'm too scared, I'm not worthy is to act just like the people and Jesus, as parables, who are offered gifts and turned them away and who ended up being cut off and cut out and remaining under God's wrath and curse. To reject God's gift is not to stand in some kind of neutral place and say, well, I'll be all right. It is to remain in sin, it is to remain under the law, it is to remain under the curse of God. And that's why it is so critical that, while God's grace is being extended to you, you open up your arms and you embrace it by faith. Those who do not trust in him but choose their own obedience to the law will find, as Paul says here in Romans for that...

...the promise is voided. Why? Because the law brings about wrath. When you choose to turn away from the gift and say I'm going to earn it, I'm going to merit my salvation, I'm going to go and please God by pleasing him or pleasing men or pleasing myself, Paul says that's a dead end. As he's shown to us, the law only brings wrath, it only brings us under condemnation, and that's true for both Jew and gentile, as he's been pointing out. But the promise is different. It's also for Jew and gentile, but it rests on grace. Where the law guarantees death, grace guarantees life. This promise overcomes all the things. This promise overcomes all the things that usually overcome us. God's word, his promise to give this gift, overcomes our sin, it overcomes our fears, it overcomes our deaths, the flesh that is so strong in us, the circumstances, these particular circumstances of wrath and curse and disobedience. That's what God overcomes by His grace, by these powers. God puts death to death and he does it on the Cross. That's why he gives us Jesus. Do you remember what he says? They're at the end verse Twenty Five. Who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification? That's why Jesus came, to make sure that that promise that God gave to Abraham all those years before would be fulfilled. God didn't leave it to chance. God didn't leave it to sinful men. God sent his perfect and only and righteous and holy and good son who went to death so that our death would die, so that our sins would be overcome. Through Jesus Christ, God brings about all of these promises. He makes us worthy, through the righteousness of Jesus Christ, received by faith, to belong to the family of Abraham, to receive the blessings promised to Abraham. So what do you believe? Do you trust and hope and fear the Lord God who has sent his son to accomplish these things? Or is your greater trust in the circumstances and particulars of your life, the sins of your past, the troubles of your present, the your worries about the future? Is that where your hope is? Is that where your faith is? Or are you a child of Abrahm, an air of the promise? Does the world belong to you? If you put your faith in Jesus if you trust in him as Abraham did, and look past all of these things to trust the word of God beyond all else, then these promises are for you and I pray that you will believe that the spirit of God either...

...has worked in you or will work in you even today to make you be able to see the world in a New Light, to be able to see things according to God's word, above all things in every particular circumstance and every particular trial. And I pray that if that light has already been given to you, that if you already see things in that way, that you will continue to walk in that way, even as Abraham did, because God promises that he will work in us according to his promise. And so let us live in that way and trust God to strengthen us according to faith, as only he knows how. Let us turn and pray and ask that God would give us these kinds of gifts and this kind of faith.

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