great; and so you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will
curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” - Genesis 12:1-3
Last Sunday we began a two-week investigation of Abraham’s relationship with God. Scripture is clear that he
walked closely with God and enjoyed sweet fellowship with Him. Abraham followed the LORD’s leadership and
direction, even when it was difficult. He built numerous altars where he worshiped and made sacrifices to God. He was a godly man of the highest moral character.
Yet, despite Abraham’s goodness, a potential problem arises. Paul has been arguing that salvation comes
through faith alone - specifically in the person of Jesus Christ. So how could someone who lived centuries
before the crucifixion and resurrection know to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior? Is such a person
saved, and if so on what basis? Was Abraham saved because of his obedience to God (works) or because
of his faith? These are the questions we are dealing with in chapter 4 of Romans.
A week ago we studied verses 1-12 and discovered that Abraham’s faith was “credited as righteousness”. We
discovered that God cited Abraham’s faith as the reason for their reconciliation. As the result of his faith,
Abraham was forgiven of his sin, freed from his accountability to it, and had his sins covered. Abraham was
made righteous, just as we are, through the righteousness of Christ imputed upon his life. Abraham may not
have known about Jesus per se, but he depended upon God to be his savior nonetheless and his faith was
“credited as righteousness”. Thus, Abraham was redeemed by the cross though he lived prior to its happening.
Furthermore, Abraham was justified by faith while still uncircumcised. Later in his life, God confirmed the
Abrahamic Covenant and initiated the ordinance of circumcision. This was a binding, unconditional promise
made by God to Abraham and his descendants for all generations. This morning we will briefly consider the
legacy of Abraham in light of this covenant, and how it still applies to us today.
I. THE PROMISED INHERITANCE (Romans 4:13-15)
God’s covenant with Abraham included three main features - a promise of land, a promise of descendants, and
a promise of blessing and redemption. The physical land of Palestine itself was given by God to Israel. Its
dimensions are specifically spelled out in the Bible and cannot be disputed. But this promise finds ultimate
fulfillment in that the descendents of Abraham would be heirs of the entire “world”. This refers to the citizenry of the new earth, which will be created for the redeemed following the millennial age.
This promised inheritance will be given to those who have been justified and saved by faith. The law does not
bring about such a glorious inheritance; on the contrary, it brings about God’s wrath. Because all have sinned
and are guilty under it, the law ultimately results in condemnation. But apart from the law there is no violation,
meaning no guilt, and therefore no wrath. The blessed promise of God to become an heir of the “world” applies to those who live by faith; not to those who live by the law.
II. FATHER OF MANY NATIONS (Romans 4:16-18)
The promises of God that were made to Abraham were extended to his descendants. A strictly literal
interpretation would conclude that they only applied to those born of his family tree. In other words, only those
who could trace their ancestry back to Abraham would be privy to the conditions of the covenant. This was
the viewpoint of most Jews, and still is today. This would restrict the promise to only blood relatives.
However, upon careful consideration of what Paul is saying, the Abrahamic Covenant was made on the basis
of faith. It applied to everyone who shared in the faith of Abraham, not merely to those physically born of his
line. The descendants of Abraham include all people who demonstrate the same type of dependant faith in
God that he did. Thus, all those who trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior are truly the children of Abraham and are partakers in the covenant.
God promised that Abraham would be the father of many nations, not just Israel. Some of these are descended
from him in the flesh, while others are descended from him in faith. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all trace
their heritage to Abraham. These three religions represent over half the world’s population and clearly
making Abraham the father of “many nations”. Jews and Muslims are his direct physical descendents having come through his sons Isaac and Ishmael respectively. But Christians are descendents of Abraham also, on
the basis of a common faith and salvation.
III. ABRAHAM’S CREDITED RIGHTEOUSNESS (Romans 4:19-22)
Abraham was almost 100 years old when God told him that he and his barren wife Sarah would have a son.
This promised child would be named Isaac and the covenant would continue through him. Paul describes
Abraham’s body to be “as good as dead” and Sarah’s womb to be completely dead - not a very promising
description for expecting parents. Yet Abraham believed that God would keep His promise to give him a son.
His unwavering faith was credited to him as righteousness.
We talked about faith being credited as righteousness last week, so I am not going to cover it at length again
today. But it does bear repeating that Abraham was not saved by works. He was saved by faith, and so are all
of those descended from him.
IV. OUR CREDITED RIGHTEOUSNESS (Romans 4:23-25)
Not only was righteousness credited to Abraham as a result of his faith, but so also is it imputed upon all who
believe the God that raised Jesus from the dead. The process of justification is the same, both then and now.
Through the crucifixion Jesus forgave our sin and our paid our penalty, and through the resurrection He
overcame the grave and covered us with His eternal righteousness . It is a marvelous exchange.
When I was young I developed a bad habit - perhaps you can relate. I found myself constantly using an
inappropriate word. For weeks I tried to stop saying it, but just couldn’t do it. One afternoon my mom
approached me with a suggestion. She told me to exchange the bad word with a good word instead. So from
that day forward whenever I was about to say the swear word I consciously chose to say the other word instead. The strategy worked and I was quickly able to break my bad habit. Here’s my point...
It was not enough for Christ to simply remove our sin and guilt. He had to replace it with something else, lest
we return right back to our old ways. We needed more than to be forgiven yet still unrighteous. We needed
to be both forgiven and made righteous, so that our standing before God would remain right. Thus, Jesus
exchanged our sin for His righteousness. He not only took away our bad, but He replaced it with His good so
that our relationship with God could remain eternally secure.
The initial phase of the salvation process is justification. When a sinner comes under conviction and turns to
God, professing their faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and asking for forgiveness of their sins,
the act of justification takes place. It is a one-time event that occurs at the very instant when a person gives
their life to Christ. When people refer to their past salvation experience, they are talking about the moment of
Paul spent all of chapter 4 explaining that justification comes by faith alone to all believers. Even those who
lived prior to the cross, such as Abraham, had their faith credited as righteousness. In the case of Abraham,
though he is regarded as the “Father of the Jews” he is also the father of many nations who share his faith in
Next week we will delve into the results of justification. What does it accomplish in our lives? How should we as
believers respond to it? What actions follow or accompany justification? We will answer these questions and
more in our next sermon.