Romans chapter 4 continues Paul’s dissertation between the relations of Christians raised under the Law and the Gentiles. some of those that laid claim to the Abrahamic promise considered themselves entitled to the rewards of God by strict adherence to the Law. Paul insists that piety is not the same as righteousness. faith is the missing component. the seed of Abraham’s flesh counted on being an earthly heir of their fathers through an outward expression of the covenant. the argument of chapter 4 is that Abraham was first faithful before any outward sign was required.
Abraham left his native land and family to inherit a land promised to him. as an older man, Abraham was well aware of his physical limitations. he never considered it. Neither did he consider the “deadness of Sara’s womb” (Romans 4:19, KJV, Tyndale 1987). God said go, and Abram did not hesitate. Genesis 12 lays out one of those injunctions, get out of your country (He didn’t say if, but I believe Abram could have made his own choice), and I will make, and I will bless. God knew the character of Abram and what He would accomplish through his offspring.
the faith of Abraham, who died not having received the promise, is fulfilled in Jesus. God told Abram, “in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). Ellicott’s Commentary remarks (on Romans 4:24), “The birth of Isaac resembles the resurrection of Christ in that it involved the exercise of Omnipotence, and in that Omnipotence Abraham believed, and we are to believe. The Apostle is further led to allude to the resurrection (though he has not laid so much stress upon it hitherto) because of the place which it held in his theory of the gospel.” i believe the resurrection they allude to here refers to the bringing of Sarah’s womb back to life in the pregnancy with Isaac. Hebrews 11:9 also mentions that he sojourned in the land of promise with Isaac and Jacob, so Abraham did receive a promised heir and spent time with “Israel.” this part of the promise was only the beginning.
Hebrews 11 commends many, some by name, as having obtained a good report through faith but not receiving the promise. Acts 2:38 is another conditional statement of faith with promise. if you repent and are baptized in Jesus’ name, then you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. there is evidence in scripture of those receiving the Spirit before they were baptized, but they immediately followed it up by being baptized the Bible way. faith is the first step. faith is good, but there is also a promise to receive.
along with the promise is a mandate in Matthew 28:19 to go, teach, and baptize. faith leads us to promise. promise fulfilled empowers us to action. action leads someone else to faith. the cycle repeats, the body grows, and Jesus is glorified.
in conclusion, Paul’s argument is valid in the minds of those that are willing to view Abraham as first a father of faith, before he was a father of a great nation. his faith led him to follow God regardless of the day’s opinions. Abraham’s response to God’s call resulted in miracles and blessings. after many years, his response brought the Messiah to bless all the families of the earth. our response to such a tremendous outpouring of love should be faith that produces promise in our lives and fruit for the Kingdom of God.