16For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us,
17as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”)—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. 18Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become “the father of many nations,” according to what was said, “So numerous shall your descendants be.” 19He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. 20No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22Therefore his faith “was reckoned to him as righteousness.”
23Now the words, “it was reckoned to him,” were written not for his sake alone, 24but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification.
Do you struggle with doubt about your faith in God? Do you really believe that God is watching out for your well-being and best interests? I once had a conversation with a friend about these questions. He commented to me that if he would pray and read the Bible more, maybe he could have more faith. As I reflected on his comment, I began to empathize with his sense of unbelief and powerlessness. He hoped that by doing good deeds it would produce more faith.
In our passage, Paul is writing to the first-century church in Rome that was made up of mostly Gentiles. He was making an important point that Abraham was not justified by works (vv. 1-8), nor by circumcision (vv. 9-12), but only by faith in the promises of God. Abraham was the father of both Jews and Gentiles, of all who are saved by faith. Clearly, even where no ground for reason or hope existed for Abraham to believe, he put his hope in an all-powerful God who created humanity and the world.
Paul tells us that Abraham’s faith was strengthened because he was fully persuaded that God had the power to do what he had promised. He did not try to earn faith; rather, he simply had faith. He didn’t try to believe God, he just believed. Our lives would be so much simpler if we would just learn to live in the same way.
As twenty-first-century Christians, we have the entire Bible to read about God’s faithfulness and power to keep his promises. We need only to take the time to remember how faithful God has been in our lives to anticipate a hope for tomorrow. During this season of Lent, let us grow in our faith in an all-powerful God of creation and resurrection.
Prayer: Sovereign Lord, your hand has touched the dry bones of our faith, your Word has breathed new life where there was death, your Spirit has raised us up from where we lay, your love has brought us home and to your cross, and by your grace we stand forgiven and free. Hallelujah!
Luis Ruiz is the supervisor of RCA mission in North America, Latin America, and the Caribbean. His role is to consult with area mission partners to initiate and evaluate mission programs and projects, to provide oversight and pastoral support for missionaries, and to maintain strategic ecumenical relationships.