Romans 4:20-25 is a masterful presentation of God’s plan for salvation. In this chapter, Paul is showing that Abraham is an example of how justification (declaration of righteousness before God) is received. It is received by faith alone and not by works or effort or our earning it in some way. God saw fit to design salvation this way so that no one could boast of his standing before God.
What exactly did Abraham believe? There is a debate on that, but the text seems to simply state that Abraham believed God would do what he promised him. That is, make him a blessing to all the nations.
I think William Barclay summarizes this well when he says, “It was this willingness to take God at his word which put Abraham into a right relationship with him. Now the Jewish Rabbis had a saying to which Paul here refers. They said, ‘What is written of Abraham is written also of his children.’ They meant that any promise that God made to Abraham extends to his children also. Therefore, if Abraham’s willingness to take God at his word brought him into a right relationship with God, so it will be with us. It is not works of the law, it is this trusting faith which establishes the relationship between God and a man which ought to exist.”
What are we today supposed to trust God to do for us? Notice how Paul makes the transition to answer this question in verses 24-25, “It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.”
Today, God is still the object of saving faith as in the time of Abraham, but the content of that faith is different. Today we are to take God at his Word and believe that he will forgive our sins and give us eternal life because of the work of Jesus on our behalf. Jesus died to forgive our sin and was raised to give us a new life. We, like Abraham, need to take God at his word and trust him to do as he promised. We are declared righteous by faith today just like Abraham was declared righteous by faith 4,000 years ago!
Father, I am so thankful that I am not supposed to earn a righteous standing before you. Such a task would be very disheartening since I know I could never be good enough. Thank you that you have always designed salvation to be based upon faith in your promises. Thank you for sending Jesus to pay the price of all sin so that such righteousness could be justly given to all who will take you at your Word!
Following Jesus with you,