It’s always cool to find something new in scripture, even after having read it all my life.
The verses that strikes me here are verses 16-17, and especially 17.
Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring–not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed–the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.
The God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.
When you think about it, that’s what our salvation is all about. We were walking dead men before God saved us, condemned because of our sin. But through Jesus’ death on the cross for us, we have now been given life.
It’s the second half of that that really strikes me, though. It seems to point to creation first of all. The ESV puts it this way,
[God] calls into existence the things that do not exist.
In other words, from the mind of God came all that exists today.
But we also see this concept of “calling things that are not as though they were,” in the story of Abraham. God told him that he would be the father of many nations and that the whole world would be blessed through him.
The incredible thing about all these promises is that God made them when Abraham was 75 and Sarah 65. Yet they all came to pass. What was true in the mind of God concerning Abraham, eventually all became reality.
And Abraham never wavered in his belief that God could do what he promised. He did have his doubts on how exactly it would happen, (thus the whole debacle with Hagar and Ishamel), but as to the actual promise of God, he never considered the possibility that God would lie. Paul puts it this way,
Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead–since he was about a hundred years old–and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness. (19-22)
Paul then says,
The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness–for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. (23-24)
As I was looking at this today, it seemed to me that all that Paul said points to the idea of justification. It’s a tough concept to grasp. How can God call people who are clearly not righteous, righteous in his sight? How can God call people who clearly still sin, righteous?
The answer is found back in verse 17. He “calls things that are not as though they were.” That’s justification in a nutshell. He calls us righteous as though we already were. Why? Because in his mind, we already are. He sees us not just for what we are now, but what we will be.
Before God created the universe, in his mind’s eye, he already saw what it would be like, and with a word, it came to be. When God made his promise to Abraham, in his mind’s eye, he saw that all he promised would come to pass, and by his power, it did.
And when God looks at us, he sees in his mind’s eye what we will be. And by his power, we will be transformed into his likeness. It’s a process that is happening day by day, and will come to its completion when we stand before him in heaven. Because of this, God can look at us as we are and call us righteous.
So often, though, we like Abraham look at the reality of today. That we are weak. Sinful. But like Abraham, let us believe without wavering what God has promised. Let us be fully persuaded that he has the power to do what he has promised: to change us and make us truly righteous someday. Not just in God’s mind. But in reality. (II Corinthians 3:18; I John 3:2)
With that in mind, let us be strengthened in our faith, giving glory to him, not because of anything we’ve done, but because of what Jesus did.
He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. (25)