By David Baumann
Reading from Romans, 4:13-25
13 For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 14If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. 15For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation.
16 For 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.
Paul presents Abraham as the father of the faithful. Abraham’s faith set the example and the standard of what God wants. As we look at Abraham’s life, we see how he lived that faith from the beginning. He left his home and kindred to go to some unknown place, just because he trusted in a revelation from God. He trusted God’s promise that he would become the father of a multitude even as the years passed without that promise’s fulfillment, as he himself grew to an advanced age and Sarah was decades beyond being able to conceive. Abraham even trusted God when God commanded him to offer the long-awaited child of promise as a sacrifice. In short, Abraham trusted God’s promise and providence when any reasonable human standard would have thought such trust was idiotic. “No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God.”
Paul avers that the same pattern of faith holds in those “who believe in [God] who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.” Such faith is not believing something that’s hard to accept; it is something other than that. Faith means loving and trusting God the way Abraham did. It’s not just about unprovable assertions; it’s about loving God above all else. If Christ is not raised, then there is no meaning in the world but what people can scrape together, which is always temporary, illusive, or deceptive before it is destructive. As the very wise St. Francis de Sales wrote in An Introduction to the Devout Life, “We can never stand well with the world except by coming to an open breach with it:… it counts us as fools; let us count its votaries as madmen.”
David Baumann has been an Episcopal priest for 45 years, 39 of them in the Diocese of Los Angeles. He now serves as part-time priest in southern Illinois. He has published devotions, articles, and essays, as well as science fiction novels and short stories.
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