Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jul 17 2013 - Romans 4:1-12 – Father Abraham

Paul uses the example of Abraham to show that God receives all who come to him in faith, Jew or Gentile. Abraham was not a Jew, neither was Abraham circumcised when he believed the promises of God and began his pilgrimage with God. So he is the father of Gentile believers. He is also the father of Jewish believers, though not merely by physical parentage; he is the father of Jews who share the same faith as Abraham.

Salvation is all of grace; it begins with the initiative of God who calls and promises and acts for our salvation – to bring us to himself. Salvation is all of faith; the faith that responds to God’s call, lays hold on his promises and trusts in all that God has done to save us.

But there is more to say about Abraham for our encouragement. Abraham did not always lead a life of exemplary faith. His faith sometimes failed him. Twice he passed off his wife Sarah as his sister to get himself out of trouble – and twice God rescued him from the trouble that would otherwise have befallen him. His faith failed concerning the promise of a son through Sarah when he took her servant Hagar to bed to gain a child through her. Abraham knew God, but he often failed to act in a manner consistent with that knowledge. Thank God it is not our faith that commends us to God, for our faith, just like our conduct, often fails. Salvation is by God’s grace and by God’s power, though it is apprehended by feeble and faltering faith.

Such salvation is the source of great blessing – or perhaps, more accurately, is great blessing. Paul, is seeking to emphasise that God’s acceptance of us is not on the basis of what we have done but on the basis of what God has done for us in Christ. He quotes from Psalm 32:

Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.

As I read these words, I think of Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son. He had taken and squandered all that his father had given him and, only when reduced to utter despair had thought to return to his father and ask to earn enough in his father’s employ to keep him from starvation. But in the story told by Jesus, the father was looking and longing for his son to return. He ran out to meet him, kissed him and received him back into the family home not as a slave but as a beloved son. He celebrated the son who was lost but who is now found. The father in the parable did not treat his son as he deserved but in a way that reflected his own extravagant and forgiving love. And this is how God has dealt with us – and how he continues to deal with us.

Praise God for the abundance of his undeserved blessings towards us. Walk in the footsteps of Abraham, the man of faith – at least, follow his example when he did walk by faith.

Father God, thank you that you called Abraham out of a pagan culture that he might know you and serve your great purpose of salvation and that, through him and his offspring, all peoples on earth might be blessed. Thank you that you enabled him to obey your call. Thank you also that, through the Lord Jesus, that blessing has extended to me and I have been made a member of Abraham’s family – the family of faith. Help me to walk in the footsteps of faith and to rejoice in all that you have done for me in the Lord Jesus Christ. May others be drawn to faith in him through the testimony of my life and words.

Peter Misselbrook