It’s harder to unlearn something than to learn it. Paul’s consistent drum beat to the Jews in Rome is belief; faith in God and justification through Jesus. The Gospel…salvation via grace through faith, not works. When you have spent your entire life (and the lives of many generations before you) believing something, it is not easy to change. The Jewish people have spent their lives enslaved to a law they couldn’t keep but were convinced would save them and putting their hope in their heritage as God’s chosen people.
Paul continues his case for the Gospel to the Romans coming from many different angles, trying to convince them it not only doesn’t go against what God has spoken, but it is the true essence of what God has spoken. In this part of the letter, Paul says, let’s chat for a bit about Abraham. Father Abraham, the most revered man among the Jewish people. The man upon whom God’s blessing of a nation set apart for Him was established.
Paul brings it way back…all the way to Genesis 15:6 and reminds them of this truth they had been given long ago, “Abraham BELIEVED God, and it was COUNTED to him as righteousness.” Long before the law was even given to the Jewish people, Abraham was COUNTED – CREDITED – as righteous. Through FAITH, God put Abraham in the righteous column of His great ledger. Abraham wasn’t justified by his good works for God. Abraham wasn’t justified by his incredible acts of love. Abraham wasn’t justified by his maturing character. Abraham wasn’t justified by keeping the law that had not even yet been given.
Abraham believed God. Period.
What does it mean to believe God in this way? James tells us that even the Devil believes God. And in the Gospels, we saw the demons recognizing Jesus and fully believing He could destroy them. But this isn’t the belief or Abraham or the belief that will save us. True belief is faith, trust, submission, obedience, reliance on God above all. Abraham didn’t always know how or why what God said would happen, but he believed that it would happen just as God said. He believed God’s promises and believed God was willing and able to keep them. Despite a long time lapse from the promise, despite his circumstances that seemed impossible, despite any clear direction or plan…Abraham believed. In fact, his faith grew stronger.
“NO UNBELIEF 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.” (Romans 4:20-21). This. This, Paul is saying is what we should emulate. This is the legacy. This is the torch we should carry.
Paul continues, “That is why his faith was ‘counted to him as righteousness.’ But the words ‘it was counted to him’ were not written for his sake alone, but FOR OURS ALSO.”
So, what is the alternative? What is the downside of unbelief? It is us putting faith in something other than God – money, mentors, prestige, leisure, comfort, family, power, success – and it results in sin.
John Piper says, “All the sinful states of our hearts are owing to unbelief in God’s super-abounding willingness and ability to work for us in every situation of life so that everything turns out for our good. Anxiety, misplaced shame, indifference, regret, covetousness, envy, lust, bitterness, impatience, dependency, pride – these are all sprouts from the root of unbelief in the promises of God.”
And faith is both backward and forward-looking. It is believing that Jesus died on the cross, took upon Himself our sins, and gave us His righteousness. But it is also believing God’s promises for the present and future.
Most of us will say we believe God. We trust God. We submit to God. The rich young ruler who approached Jesus thought the same. But when Jesus told him to sell all that he had, the basis for his true belief – his money – surfaced. And as part of that story – whether it be money or some other “god” that even subconsciously has first place – Jesus tells us we can’t sever two masters. We will only truly put our faith and belief in one when push comes to shove.
Do we truly believe? Is our faith and trust truly in God alone? Fighting unbelief is a constant battle. This is why we need to stay in God’s Word and soak in His promises. We have to know Him to believe Him. We have to know His promises to believe His promises.
“Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24) I’ve included a list of 60 of God’s promises summarized in the first person below. Let’s be encouraged today and believe all that God has promised. When we believe and put our faith in Him, we are free. “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would do what he said.” (Luke 1:45)
All 1 1 Corinthians 1 Peter 1 Thessalonians 1 Timothy 2 & 3 John 2 Corinthians 2 Peter 2 Thessalonians 2 Timothy Acts Colossians Ephesians Galatians Hebrews Info James John Jude Luke Mark Matthew Philemon Philippians Revelation Romans TItus