Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jul 18 2013 - Romans 4:13-5:5 – The God who gives life to the dead

God had promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations, yet he was nearly one hundred years old and still did not have a child. His body, and that of Sarah, were now as good as dead when it came to the matter of procreation. Nevertheless, Abraham placed all his faith and hope in what God had said, “being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised (Romans 4:21). He believed in “the God who gives life to the dead and calls the things that are not as though they were” (4:17).

Paul draws a parallel with the Christian faith. We also believe in “the God who gives life to the dead and calls the things that are not as though they were.” We believe in the God who raised Jesus from the dead and who has given us life that we might be children of the living God. His Spirit has spoken words of promise into our hearts and has given us a sense of the wonder of his great love for us (5:5). This gives us confidence that God will do for us all that he has promised and so we rejoice in hope of the glory of God (5:2) – we rejoice in the prospect of one day seeing him in all his resurrection glory and sharing in that glory.

Faith rests in the character and the power of God. It trusts that he will do what he has said even when circumstances seem to make such faith seem foolish. Such faith is grounded in God’s proven track record; he raised Jesus from the dead.

As we have mentioned before, Paul is writing to a church of Jewish and Gentile Christians. There were tensions between the two groups and the Gentile Christians may have been accused by some of not being God’s people in the same sense as the Jews. There may be times also when we are filled with doubts and fears, how can we claim to be children of the living God? Paul reminds them and us that “God … calls the things that are not as though they were.” We have become the children of God, not through our own worth or effort – by nature we are among “the things that are not.” God has made us his own through the death and resurrection of Christ and the call of his Spirit. He has made us his own. Paul reminds the Christians at Rome that the covenant God made with Abraham embraces all who have a faith like that of Abraham – who trust in the God who gives life to the dead, who raised Jesus from the dead.

We who trust in him, whether Jew or Gentile, are all heirs of the promises God made to Abraham. And what promises they were! Did you notice what Paul writes in 4:13? He says “Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world.” In Genesis God promised Abraham that he would give him and his offspring the land that he was leading him into. But Paul sees this as a picture of God’s greater purpose to redeem a people for himself from every nation and language-group and to make them co-heirs with Christ a renewed creation. We are heirs of the world – of the cosmos! Paul will have more to say on this amazing theme in Romans 8.

God’s purposes and plans are BIG. They encompass the whole world – all its peoples and the very fabric of the universe itself.

Father God, the scale of your purposes for us takes our breath away. We recognise that Jesus Christ is Lord and that it is your purpose to bring every knee to bow to him and to bring all of creation under his dominion. Thank you that, in your grace and goodness, you have embraced us in your redeeming plan. Help us to recognise not only that we belong to you but also that we belong to one another that we might praise you together and together serve your purposes in this world.

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Peter Misselbrook