Romans 4. Lesson Six. Abraham's Descendents Will Inherit the World.

Key Notes: God made a promise; Abraham believed Him and was justified. Reckoning. Father of us all. Receiving and rejecting.

There are two keys to understanding this chapter: Abraham's faith, and the word "reckoning". Why is Abraham brought up? He was dead and gone 2000 years before Paul wrote. But he is the Bible's best example of a person believing against the odds. A brief retrospect of Abraham’s life will illustrate Paul’s teaching .God told Abram to leave his home and family and go to a land he would later inherit.Terah, Abram’s father started the trek from Ur of the Chaldeas (southern Iraq) to Canaan but they settled in Haran. (Gen.11:31–32) They had been pagans, worshiping the gods of the Chaldeans. (Josh.24:14). God promised him a son and a blessing to all the nations. It is a story about God planning and overseeing the birth of a child to an old couple. God made the promise of a son when Abraham was 75 and Sarai was 65. The baby was born twenty-five years later when all reasonable hope for a child had been given up but faith in God had not been given up. The Promise was given to Abraham 6–7 times.

{1} God would make from him a great nation that would be a blessing to the world. (Gen.12:1–3). Abram was 75 years old. The time was about 2000BC, some 600 years before Moses.

{2} When Abram landed in Canaan, God promised the land to his descendents. (Gen.12:7)

{3} God told him again that he would have all the land he could see and descendents like the dust of the ground. Gen.13:14–17

{4} God came to Abram again and Abram noted that he was not making any progress toward becoming a great nation. He had no son. God promised him a son. He showed Abram the stars and promised that his offspring would be as numerous. (Gen.15:1–6). Abram believed what God told him, and God credited him with righteousness. That sounds like a strange way to become righteous—too easy, and not logical. Paul will expound on that. God completed the transaction with Abram with a unique sacrifice which confirmed the covenant God made with him. Gen.15:7–1

(5) This time the promise was elaborated with a prophecy of the captivity Abraham’s descendents would experience. (Gen.15:13–16). At the end of the chapter, God promised him all the land from the Euphrates to the River of Egypt. Gen.15:18–21

{6} When Abraham was 99 years old, God came again and renewed the promise of a multitude of offspring, a family of kings, with an everlasting covenant. The land would be their permanent possession. (Gen.17:1–9). As a sign of the covenant, Abraham was to be circumcised along with all the males in his household. (Gen.17:9–14)
God further specified that Sarai would have the child—and changed her name to Sarah, “Princess.”. (Gen. 17:15,16. Sarah was 90 years old.

{7}God came to Abraham again and promised him a son in the spring. Sarah laughed at the very idea. Gen.18:9–15

The next year, when Abraham was 100 years old, Sarah gave birth to Isaac. Isaac means “laughter”. The name was chosen by God and we can see His humor. (Gen.21:1–7). Sarah and the women around her laughed as well.

In short, the story is about God promising a child to an old couple—seven times over 25 years. It was God’s idea. And because they believed Him, God granted righteousness. That is, they became saved people without actually doing anything to merit it except saying OK to God. That sounds far-fetched. We cannot  deny that Abraham was a saintly man, but he did commit two conspicuous sins of lying that were overlooked and made a serious mistake getting involved in surrogate maternity.

Rom. 4:1–8 Abraham was justified (declared righteous, acquitted of guilt) because he believed God. God made the proposal. Abraham accepted it. Then God put righteousness to his account. He did not work for it. It was a gift. If he worked for it, it was his due. But God gave it to him as a gift.
David's case was quite different. He was grateful that God would not reckon his sin against him. In David’s case the guilt of adultery was remitted because of his trust in God. So justification works in spite of  minor sin--Abraham’s--) or major transgression--David’s.

4:9–12 Paul points out that justification was given to Abraham before the rite of circumcision. (Gen.15). Hence Abraham’s justification did not depend of a ritual, as we think of baptism. He is father of Gentiles (uncircumcised) as well as Jews (circumcised) who follow his example of faith. Neither circumcision nor baptism can save us.

4;13–15 Justification was given before the Law of Moses was transacted. So justification is also independent of following the Law. Justification does not, and cannot,  depend on obeying the laws.

4:16–22 His faith made him the father of many nations.

4:24–25 The same faith is reckoned to us who believe in God who raised Christ from the dead. Jesus was put to death for our sins and raised for our justification.


Paul also gives us a key word: "reckoned" (Gr. logizomai). The word occurs 11 times in these 25 verses. (4:3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 22, 23, 24). It is a term used in banking: putting money to an account. A #529 is an account to which you can put money for your children's education. They do not earn it. You are making a gift to them in the form of useful dollars. You have transferred it from your account, reckoned it to their accounts. So God puts righteousness to our account--on the basis of our faith. As God's righteousness is put to our account, our sin is put on Jesus' account.
"For our sake He made Him to be sin for us Who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God in Him." II Cor.5:21

Paul links Abraham's faith in God to our faith in Christ. It is the same faith. (4:16,23,24). Is that possible? One  key is Jesus’ stunning statement. “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he was to see my Day. He saw it and was glad.” (Jn.8:56). Abraham (2000 BC) was able to foresee the Coming of Christ. We do not know exactly how Abraham understood Christ’s “Day”, but we can fit it into the picture.

According to God’s proposal to Abraham, a miracle-child would eventually lead to a great nation (Israel). From that nation, the world would be blessed. The nature of the Abraham's blessing was told by Peter:
“You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God gave to your fathers saying, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your posterity shall all families of the earth be blessed’. God, having raised up His servant, sent Him to you first, to bless you in turning every one of you from your wickedness.” Acts 3:25–26

So God’s blessing to the world in Abraham is the forgiveness of sins through Christ, God's servant, and his sacrifice. Forgiveness of sins is available to all those who have faith in Christ.

Jesus said Abraham was looking forward to Christ and His salvation 2000 years ahead. (Jn.8:56). Similarly,  we look back to Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection  2000 years ago. Abraham was saved by believing God for a son, Isaac, and through him  another Son, who would bless the world. So the promise to Abraham was not abstract, but specific. Abraham believed in God’s salvation. There was also a redemptive component to the covenant which God Himself enacted at the time, with animal sacrifice. Gen.15:7–20

But the promise gives more. Abraham will be the father of many nations, not just Israel. Further, his descendents would inherit the world (4:13), not just Canaan. This suggests a world-wide kingdom, not just a king for Israel. Jesus began his ministry by announcing "Repent! for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand." (Matt.4:17). We believe its partial fulfillment is in the Church, with two billion souls from every nation under Heaven naming the name of Christ in our generation. And in the Age to Come, when Jesus is King, the saints will reign with Christ over the world. (Rev.20:4–5). In this way the believers will inherit the earth.
No wonder that Abraham is called the father of us all. 4:16

A  small application: Abraham is father of us all. We look back on his life of faith and try to emulate it. We too are part of a line, a train of human beings that stories will be told about for years to come. Augustine’s mother Monica prayed him into the Kingdom and Augustine became a spiritual giant. John Wesley’s mother was pivotal in the life of her son and the millions who have followed his preaching and teaching. My grandfather is a spiritual icon to all of his children and children’s children. Our lives are not our own. Fathers and mothers are models that generations to come may look back on with scorn (Ex.49;1–7) or admiration, even pride. (Prov.17:6). May your great-grandchildren look back on the godly lives of their ancestors.

The basic message of Romans 4 is simple: Righteousness “will be reckoned to us who believe in Him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was put to death for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” (4:24). As He did to Abraham, God makes a promise to each of us: “As many as receive Him (Jesus) He  gave power to become sons of God , even to them that believe on His Name.” (Jn. 1:12). We can say "Yes" to that. It is that simple. But what God did was not simple. He gave His Only Son as our sacrifice. When we “receive Him”, we receive His sacrifice.

How do we receive Him? How do we reject Him? All our lives we have said "no, no, no". "Not now; maybe later." " I have too much on my mind." " I'm not sure I believe that stuff."

How do we receive Him? It is the opposite of "No, no, no". We turn around and say "Yes." To say "Yes" is to receive. Accept Him. Take on faith the gift He offers you.

A student's first prayer sounded like this: "Hello, God.... I have been waiting to meet you for a long time."