Abraham’s faith, portrayed so powerfully in the Old Testament, has a distinct New Testament flavor. When God told Abraham that he and Sarah would have a son, it was a promise that life would spring from the bodies of those who were “dead” as far as childbearing was concerned. Abraham faced this 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.” But Abraham did not “waver through unbelief.” He believed the promise God had given. And this faith was “credited to him” as that righteousness his actions showed he did not possess.
We too believe the message of life springing from death—the message of a resurrected Lord, who died for our sins and was raised for our justification. And for all of us who, like Abraham, commit ourselves to the God we are “fully persuaded … had power to do what He had promised” (v. 21), there is a righteousness we do not possess credited to our account.
In Romans 4:18-21, Paul lists seven key characteristics of Abraham’s faith and of all faith that is God-given.
First, the apostle declares of Abraham that in hope against hope he believed. The terms hope and faith are related, but they are not the same. Hope is the desire for something that might be true or might happen, whereas faith is the firm confidence that it is true or will happen. The object of Abraham’s faith was God and in particular His promise that he might become a father of many nations, according to that which had been spoken.
Second, Paul declares that Abraham believed God without becoming weak in faith. To become weak in faith is to allow doubt to cloud and partly undermine belief.
Third, Paul tells us that Abraham’s faith prevented him from becoming discouraged by his own natural weakness. Because Abraham’s faith in God was strong and unwavering, his own ignorance and weakness were no obstacles to his trust.
Fourth, Abraham did not doubt God’s promise when the circumstances around him seemed to make its fulfillment impossible. When God repeated the specific promise that Isaac would be born to Abraham and Sarah the following year, both Abraham and Sarah were old and past child bearing age.
Fifth, with respect to the promise of God, Abraham did not waver in unbelief. He did not vacillate between faith and doubt as many believers frequently do .
Sixth, Paul says that Abraham’s faith was characterized by his giving glory to God. Godly faith glorifies God; the One who gives faith receives all the credit.
Seventh, Abraham was fully persuaded that God’s promise was certain and His power sufficient, being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able to perform. This statement sums up the fact that his faith in God was complete.
The story of Abraham and his faith is important to us today because men are now saved on exactly the same basis on which Abraham was saved—trusting God. Even the sacrificial work of Jesus was the provision for Abraham’s sin by which God saved him. Men today have greater divine revelation than Abraham had. During his lifetime, and for many centuries afterward, there was no written Word of God. Yet Jesus declared categorically to the disbelieving Jewish leaders that “Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad” (John 8:56).
Carson, D. A.: New Bible Commentary : 21st Century Edition. 4th ed. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA : Inter-Varsity Press, 1994.
MacArthur, John: The MacArthur New Testament Commentary Romans 1-8: Chicago, Ill: Moody Press , 1991.
Mitchell, Michael: “Let’s Talk about Faith” © 2006
Richards, Larry ; Richards, Lawrence O.: The Teacher’s Commentary. Wheaton, Ill. : Victor Books, 1987.