Reading through the Bible together
We may be wondering, after reading the first three chapters of Romans, how to believe to receive the free gift of righteousness. In this chapter, Paul introduces the powerful example of Abraham so that all of us can follow his life of faith. In the first three verses, we read that Abraham was not justified by works, but makes it clear that “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness.” Paul is quoting from Genesis 15:6. This is such an important concept in Scripture that we see nearly the same words in Galatians.3:6, and James 2:23.
What we want to understand is that it was the belief or faith that Abraham had for God to declare him righteous. In Genesis 15:1-6, Abraham reminds God that He had promised to make his descendants a great nation (Gen. 12). Also he reminds God that he is childless and that his servant Eliezer could be his heir. God then says that one from his own flesh would be his heir. Humanly this was impossible, but then God shows Abraham the stars in the sky, and He promises that his seed will be like that (Gen. 15:2-5). When Abraham sees the stars, he is reminded that God is Creator and that His word can create something out of nothing. He believes that God can create life from his wife’s dead womb. And God declares him to be a man of faith.
Paul helps us to see more clearly that Abraham did not earn salvation but that righteousness was credited to him, and he was declared righteous before he was even circumcised (vs. 4-15). He describes the struggle of faith that Abraham had in believing God’s promises (vs. 16-25). Abraham had to overcome his doubts and believe that the dead womb of Sarah could again have a birth experience with Isaac as their son. We then read that he believed in “God who quickes the dead and calleth those things which be not, as though they were” (v. 17). Paul restates Abraham’s belief in God by saying that he was “fully persuaded that what God had promised, He was able also to perform, and this is what was imputed to him for righteousness” (vs. 21,22).
What we can take away from this is that to “believe” in God is to be fully persuaded in our minds that what He promised, He is able to perform in our lives. This persuasion is based on the creative power of God’s word. All of us who are fully persuaded that God can change our lives, in the same way that Abraham was persuaded that God could, will be counted as righteousness as God gives us the new birth experience. Just as the Father raised up Jesus from the dead in verse 24, He can raise us up to walk a new life of faith (vs. 24).
Norman McNulty, M.D.
Neurologist, Lawrenceburg, TN, USA