Abraham is one of the great characters in the Bible.
Living in Ur of the Chaldees, one of the modern cities of his day, God called him to leave to go some place else – God would show him where. And Abraham left, along with his wife, nephew and father. Other siblings and their family joined them in Haran and there Terah, his father, died.
But Abraham was not yet where God wanted him to be. God spoke to him again with the same instructions: go some place that I’ll show you. So Abraham packed up again, setting out this time with his wife and nephew and his household.
The important lesson from Abraham is that he believed God and acted on it. “For what does the scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness’” (Romans 4:3 NET). It was because he believed God before doing anything that his faith was credited as righteousness (Romans 4:5).
God gave Abraham a great promise when he called him. He told Abraham that his descendants would inherit the world, even though at that time Abraham had no children. And Abraham believed God, even though he was at the time an old man.
“For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would inherit the world was not fulfilled through the law, but through the righteousness that comes by faith…Without being weak in faith, he considered his own body as dead (because he was about one hundred years old) and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. He did not waver in unbelief about the promise of God but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God. He was fully convinced that what God promised he was also able to do. So indeed it was credited to Abraham as righteousness” (Romans 4:13, 19-22).
Later Abraham was given the mark of circumcision, which was handed down to his descendants, identifying them as descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – they were Israelites because they descended from Abraham’s grandson. Even though they had this special relationship with God, the promises had a wider application than just the physical descendants of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob. Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness before circumcision. Why is this important? Why does it matter when this actually happened?
“For this reason it is by faith so that it may be by grace, with the result that the promise may be certain to all the descendants – not only to those who are under the law, but also to those who have the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all (as it is written, ‘I have made you the father of many nations’). He is our father in the presence of God whom he believed” (Romans 4:16-17).
Because this was before the covenant of circumcision, this is not only for his physical descendants but for everyone who has the faith of Abraham. Although he was the father of many nations, in this way he became the father of us all – of everyone who has faith like his.
We are called to have this type of faith, believing that Jesus came back to life from the dead and that through his death we have forgiveness of our sins. Even though we did not see these things, we still have to believe. We have to have the same faith that Abraham had (see Romans 4:23-25). Abraham is indeed the father of us all, of all who believe God.
Readings for next week:
14 March – Romans 5-6
15 March – Romans 7
16 March – Romans 8
17 March – Romans 9
18 March – Romans 10