Lord, increase our faith (Luk 17:5). Amen.
Text: Romans 4:18–25
Who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, “So shall your descendants be.” And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore “it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.
When we believe what God has done for us in Christ, it is accounted to us as righteousness, as if we had done it ourselves. “When we believe,” says the Apostle. Therefore the statement that the world is justified in Christ needs explanation. Certainly the sins of the whole world were charged against Christ, and all people are redeemed with His blood, so there is righteousness for all to have. But it is only accounted to the believers. Your sin is accounted to Christ, whether you are Jew or Gentile, whether you are believer or ungodly. But His merit is not counted to you as righteousness unless you believe. The believers are thus truly justified before God. Paul just wants to show that faith alone justifies. Not circumcision, not ancestry, not deeds, but faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness. So it is of the highest importance to believe, and all of Scripture urges us to believe.
Abraham and Sarah were old, so there was no hope of having children. But God had spoken a promise that was worth more to Abraham than nature and reason. Giving God the glory, he grew stronger and more certain in faith, and then “he saw Christ’s day” (Joh 8:56). Abraham believed in Christ, therefore he was justified through his faith. Christ, not his own believing, was his comfort and hope. Take note that for Paul it is one and the same thing that is accounted to Abraham and to us as righteousness, namely, what God had promised, that is, Christ.
We have only sin and have fallen in death. If we look at this, then it is against all hope to expect eternal life. But just as Abraham could believe through the Word, so Christ is with us in the Word, so that we too can believe. Isn’t it true that He died and rose again for us? Aren’t the Gospel and Baptism and the Supper from Him? Isn’t He Himself the One who died and rose again for us? And isn’t God’s promise more sure than your eyes which are so blind in heavenly things? So give God the glory, let Him be true. “Believe with hope against hope,” and you shall be strengthened in faith and be perfectly certain that He is powerful to do what He has promised. How foolish is unbelief! Shouldn’t God be powerful to do what He promises? Wasn’t He able to give us His Son? And shouldn’t He then keep His word and by Him justify us?
Have mercy, gracious God, and give us faith in our inmost heart. Amen.
The faith that compromises
And takes the easy way,
The faith that never rises
To fight and work and pray,
That faith is dead and vile,
Its holy name disgracing,
And has no pow’r when facing
The tempter’s craft and guile.
Brorson: The faith that God believeth L 275:4-5 (We substitute HCH 187:2 (L 275:3).) tr. P. C. Paulsen;
tune: Aus meines Herzens Grunde (ELH 79); alternate hymn: There is a fountain ELH 301:3-4