Romans 4:16 | Faithful Loving Children

God has made many promises that are recorded in the Bible. Maybe the most important of all those promises is the promise made to Abraham about a future nation. Abraham is the father of the Jewish peoples and they recognize him as their patriarch. But this promise that God made to Abraham was bigger than just a physical blood bond. God’s promise to Abraham is that he would be the father of many nations.

5 And [God] brought [Abraham] outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6 And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness. Genesis 15:5-6 ESV

Abraham is not just the physical father of the Jewish people. Abraham is the spiritual father of all people who believed in Christ. Abraham is the example of trusting God even when we can’t see what God is doing. Abraham is the father of faith. Abraham’s example is our example of trusting and loving God.

16 That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all. Romans 4:16 ESV

One of my favorite recounting of saving faith involves Jesus and a tax collector. In this event recorded in the Gospel of Luke we see a Jew who is the physical son of Abraham come to a saving faith that makes him the true spiritual son of Abraham.

He entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3 And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. 4 So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. 5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. 7 And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” 8 And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:1-10 ESV

Jesus pronounced this son of Abraham saved. Is Zacchaeus saved because he “also is a son of Abraham” or is he now a son of Abraham because salvation came to Zacchaeus on that day. Is Zacchaeus saved because he promises to give away his wealth or is Zacchaeus saved because he has a miraculous saving moment with Jesus and out of the overflow of that love, trust, and faith Zacchaeus wants to give up his ill-gotten gain?

We tend to look at the physical situation first. Those Paul is writing to claim to be physical heirs to Abraham and they look to the law of the Jews for salvation. But Paul wants them to know that the promise God made to Abraham and the response of Abraham to trust God is what made Abraham the father of faith. Paul wants us to see the spiritual response first. I am not Jewish but Abraham is my spiritual father because we share in the same faith. Zacchaeus is a son of Abraham not by physical blood bonds but by spiritual faith bonds. Abraham, Zacchaeus, and any follower of Christ share the same faith.

Salvation and the promise of God comes not from our physical circumstances but from the condition of our heart. Do you trust God like Abraham trusted God? Jesus lived a sinless life, died on a cross, and rose from the dead that we might be saved. Do you believe him? Do you trust him to do what he says he will do?

16 That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all. Romans 4:16 ESV

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