Romans 4 study notes

“[Abraham was] fully convinced that what He (God) had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore “IT WAS ACCOUNTED TO HIM FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” Rom 4.21-22

In Chapter 4 of the book of Romans, the author (Paul) reaches out further to the Jews to tell them that the entire dealing of God with them in the past thousands of years was to manifest the following truth: man’s righteousness is based on faith in God’s righteousness, not based on man’s work. Paul used Abraham, the Father of Jews (that is, the first Jew by definition) as an example. In a strict sense, it is not Paul but God who was using Abraham as an example, both historically in the time of Abraham when God called upon Abraham, and spiritually at a time Paul’s writing.

What an example God had in Abraham!  The background of the Abraham’s faith in God was very simple: God promised to Abraham something that seemed impossible, but Abraham believed in God. God therefore rewarded him by accounting his faith as his righteousness. This is in direct parallel to everyone’s faith in God.

God called Abraham to have faith in a humanly impossible promise.

Now, we must be careful not to confuse “believing in impossible things” with “having true faith”.  Believing in an impossible thing is not necessarily faith. It might be simply superstition that amounts to idol worship. It is the nature of the object of the belief, not the subjective status of the mind, that determines whether a belief is superstition or true faith.

But we must at the same time recognize that true faith has to be based on believing the impossible. This is not a mistake, neither accidental. Impossibility is the inherent measure of the distance between God and sinful human. It is the only right way for God to manifest Himself.

Often, an unbelieving heart questions what God has done and what God has asked him to believe, and complains: “Only if God had asked me to believe something that is more natural, more understandable and more reasonable!”

But he does not know what he is asking for.  For one who is dead in his sin, the only thing that is natural, understandable and reasonable is death. With sin, any hope in eternity is but wishful thinking, regardless how courageous and inspiring the hope may seem to be. 

The hard truth faced by the natural man is, the things that are humanly possible and inherent to the natural man are always aligned up with death and therefore cannot possibly save him from his natural condition which is eternal death in sin.  This is an objective law which is not subject to any violation imposed upon by human hope and wishful thinking. This might be analogous to a law in physics which dictates that one cannot lift himself up by pulling his own hair.

If you come to God to ask for something natural, easier to understand and more reasonable, you might just as well have asked for death instead of salvation.

In contrast, the resurrection life, which is the eternal life, is a contradiction to sin and therefore is inherently unnatural to natural man.

But thank God who is the God of mercy, because He does not give us according to what we ask but gives us according to what we need

What do we need then? A sinful man needs only one thing, that is forgiveness by the holy God; a dead man needs only one thing, that is resurrection from the death.

In Jesus Christ, God has accomplished both. You only need to have faith in what Jesus has done for you to embrace the reality in Him. God has promised you something which seems impossible, and if you believe that God did not lie, your faith will be counted as righteousness to you. Stop doubting by reasoning that what was promised is impossible and therefore unreasonable. Impossibility is the very quality of the promise that can save you, because the impossibility is overcome (made possible) by the resurrection power of the Lord Jesus Christ.

God made such a hard-to-believe promise because he must, as nothing short of the resurrection power can save you from sin and death. If it could take less to accomplish that, God would not have made such a hard promise. You complain it is hard to believe, but have you ever thought that it was much harder for God to make such a promise, because the hardship all falls on God himself? The hard nature of the promise required God to give away his beloved Son for our sake. Do you think God would let His Son suffer the death as a cost of sin if it were not necessary?

Dear friend, take this to heart: Nothing short of that will do. What you think is easy to believe is not worth believing; But what is worth believing is necessarily hard to believe due to the nature of our problem. Why do you base your doubt on the very premise which is the only thing that can save you? Abraham believed. Many others did too. Will you?

“[Abraham was] fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore “IT WAS ACCOUNTED TO HIM FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” Rom 4.21-22