Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on December 24, 2017
Let us bring this morning with our December’s memory verse, Romans 3:23-24, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”
This morning it was going to be my intent to step out of the book of Romans and select a more traditional Christmas text. However, after pondering the text for this week, I have decided against it, for I believe our text for this morning is the essence of Christmas.
Some of you, perhaps, at first glance won’t agree with me, however, Lord willing by the end you will see it. And before I begin, I want to warn you that today's text is somewhat involved and winding, but hopefully it will pull some things together for you and causes your heart to be full of joyful gratitude for the promises of God. So let’s turn to our text for this morning, Romans 4:13-25.
And as it said at the end or Romans 3, this great exchange of our sin and Christ's righteousness is achieved through the mechanism of faith. Romans 3:28, “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.” And this is a fundamental and core doctrine of Christianity. If you do not fully accept that we are saved by faith alone, then I am afraid to tell you that you are not saved and you are still under the wrath of God and are destined for eternal punishment in Hell. The one and only way to receive the grace of Christ is to trust in the sufficiency of Christ. There is no other way into the presence of God, except through faith in Jesus. How do I know this? The Bible. I am not making this stuff up, I am just telling you what the Word of God says, “one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.”
In unpacking this fundamental Christian doctrine, Paul uses Abraham to prove hammer home this crucial point. Last week, Jeff did a great job setting the stage. I was hoping that he was going to break out in song, “Father Abraham had many sons. Many sons had father Abraham. I am one of them and so are you, so let’s all praise the Lord, right arm…” That song that so many of us know from childhood is based upon Romans 4. So parents, or teachers, if you plan on singing that song, brush up on Romans 4 so you can teach the kids why in the world they are singing such things and dancing around with their arms flailing.
What I want to focus on in our text this morning is the word promise. This is the first time we see this word in the letter to the Romans and we see it now used in verse 13, 14, 16, 20, and 21. So let us look at this promise in verse 13. It says, “For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith.” Their are two components to this promise. First, the promise is granted to Abraham and his offspring and second that he and his offspring would be heirs of the world. So let us first look at the first part, Abraham and his offspring.
Abraham and His Offspring
As Jeff stated last week, this promise from God to Abraham that he would have offspring and become a great nation was first mentioned in Genesis 12. At that moment, Abraham was 75 years old and Sarah, his wife, was 65 years old. As many of you know, the age 75 and 65 is not normally the time one becomes a parent, but when you become grandparents. However, a child at this time, would have been technically possible, however, extremely unlikely.
And as Jeff unpacked last week, when this promise was made, Abraham believed God's promise and it was counted to him as righteousness. Having said that, God didn't give them a child right away. He waited to fulfill his promise. Year after year passed with no children, and we eventually find ourselves in Genesis 17, 24 years later. Let us look at that text this morning. Turn with me to Genesis 17:1-8. In Genesis 17 Abraham is now 99 years old and Sara is 89 years old.
And how do we know this? Look back at Romans 4:19 says, “He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. 20No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.“
And God did. God fulfilled his promise just like he said. In Genesis 21:1-3 we read, “The LORD visited Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did to Sarah as he had promised. 2And Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the time of which God had spoken to him. 3Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore him, Isaac.” And if you didn't know, Isaac is Hebrew for, “He laughs.” So God was good on his promise to Abraham, and Abraham was fully convinced he would.
Promise Based Upon Grace
It is important to understand that this promise from God to Abraham was based fully upon the grace of God. Abraham did not have to do anything to earn an offspring. He simply had to trust that God would be good on his promise. As Paul says in Romans 4:16, this promise of Isaac rested fully upon the grace of God. The fulfillment of the promise of God to Abraham did not depend upon Abraham obeying the law. It did not depend upon good works. The fulfillment of the promise was based solely on the sovereign grace of God. All Abraham had to do was believe.
And this is the point that the Apostle Paul is addressing in his letter to the Romans. The promises of God have never been based upon the law of God. It has never been based upon being good enough, jumping through religious hoops. You cannot earn the grace of God. You cannot earn the promise of God. The purpose of the law is not to bring about the fulfillment of the promise. What is the purpose of the law? Look at verse 15 in Romans 4, “For the law brings wrath.” What does this mean? It means that you don't know that you are a sinner by nature until God says, “You shall not covet.” and the next thing you know you are coveting everything that is before your eyes. The law makes evident our depravity, our wretchedness, our deadness in our sins and trespasses. Therefore, the law does not earn us grace, it shows us our need for grace.
Offspring of Faith
Now, this is where it gets a little more complicated. If you noticed in Genesis 17, God tells Abraham that he will be the father of a multitude of nations. Paul points this out in Romans 4:17, “as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations” Therefore, the offspring of Abraham does not only include the biological descendants of Isaac, for that would only include the Jews. Therefore, the offspring mentioned in Genesis 12 and 17 must also include the gentiles as well. How does this occur? How can Abraham be the father of many nations? The answer is through faith.
Look at verse 16, “That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.” The offspring of Abraham are those who share Abraham's faith in God's promises. So how does this work? It only works through Jesus Christ.
As you know, Jesus is a Jew. He is a physical offspring of Abraham. He is a biological descendant of Isaac. This is why the book of Matthew begins the way it does, with genealogy of Jesus, to reinforce this truth. Matthew 1:1, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” Jesus is the son of Abraham. He is a child of the promise.
Now listen to what the Apostle Paul says in Galatians 3:16 about the promises made to Abraham, “Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ.” Paul is saying that offspring does not mean Isaac, Jacob, the 12 sons of Jacob, and so on and so forth, but that it refers to one single person, Jesus. Therefore, the promise that was given to Abraham and his offspring, really rests in the offspring that is Jesus. That Jesus is the holder of the blessing.
So the question is, if that is true, then how do we, Gentiles, get access to blessing of the promise. Paul tells us in Galatians 3:26-29, “in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slaveg nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.”
The means by which we receive the blessings of the promise that was originally given to Abraham is through union with Christ. And it is only through faith in Christ we become one with Christ. Through faith, he becomes our brother, and therefore, his inheritance becomes our inheritance. Through faith we are grafted into the vine of Israel, into the vine of Jesus Christ.
This is why Romans 4:13, says, “ For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world.” The promise of inheriting the world is massive. It almost seems as if Paul is speaking in hyperbole, but he is not. Through faith in Christ we truly will inherit the world. Listen to how John Gill, the 18th century Baptism put is, “by "the world" here, is meant, both this world and that which is to come; Abraham and all believers are the "heirs" of this world, and of all things in it; "all things" are theirs, and, among the rest, the world, Christ being theirs, and they being Christ's; he is heir of all things, and they are joint heirs with him; and how little soever they may enjoy of it now, the time is coming, when they, by virtue of their right, "shall inherit the earth"
It is only through Christ that the promise of God is fulfilled and this comes about through faith, not through good works. This is why the Apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1:20 – “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.”
This is what Christmas is about. That the offspring of Abraham has finally came, the holder of the promise from God. Jesus is the child of the promise. This should be the catalyst to our worship this time of year. This should be our Amen to God for his glory. Jesus is the offspring of Abraham, the true child of the promise.
However, the inheritance of the world can only be accepted by humbling ourselves and trusing in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is why Jesus says in Matthew 5:5, ““Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
Those who inherit the earth through Christ are not the proud and self centered who depend upon their good works. It will not be those who think they are good enough. It will only be those who turn from their own ability and fully trust in Jesus Christ. “It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” And like I have ended so many sermons before, we can see in God's Word the pillars of the protestant reformation: Faith alone. Grace alone. Christ alone.