Pastor’s Class Notes
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Introduction: We have already noted the three main components of faith: Renouncing Self, Relying on Christ, Receiving the Gift. Paul now delineates some of the results of faith. What does faith look like in action? How does it express itself in our lives? How can we know for sure we have the real thing? By examining Abraham, we can see some of faith’s attributes:
I. FAITH GOES BEYOND SENSE AND REASON
Romans 4:18a “Who against hope believed in hope. . . .”
Hope refers to the expectation of something desirable. Abraham wanted descendants, but he was past the age of 70 when God called him. The patriarch’s plight was beyond hope. Hence, he had to find a hope beyond hope.
Every reasonable argument said “No!” All of his past experience said “No!” Common sense said “No!” But when God said “Yes!” Abraham agreed with Him. Everything pointed to the contrary, but Abraham held on to the Word of God.
When all natural human hope failed, spiritual hope took over. Human hope is based on outward possibilities; it trusts only as far as it can see. Spiritual hope trusts in God even when the way cannot be seen.
The steps of faith fall
upon the seeming void,
and find the rock beneath.
By definition, there has to be some difficulty connected with that for which faith is necessary, or else there is no need for faith. To trust God in the light is nothing, but to trust Him in the dark–that is faith.
It had never rained upon the earth before the time of Noah. The ground was watered by a mist that came up from the earth (GN 2:6). Nevertheless, against all the evidence of human history, Noah built a huge ship.
Gideon’s army was outnumbered hundreds to one, but against human reasoning, he proceeded anyway. Joshua defied every vestige of common sense and commanded the sun and moon to stand still. Fortunately the sun and moon had never heard of common sense. Hence, they obeyed.
If you live by sense and reason alone, your faith will stay stuck in the mud. Do not fasten your mind to your eyes. Base hope on more than what you can see.
We have tunnel vision. Hence, faith must fly upward on celestial wings and unite with God who sees all. Learn to listen to what He says about what He is seeing.
II. FAITH GENERATES GREAT EXPECTATIONS
Romans 4:18 “. . .that he might become the father
of many nations. . . .”
The result of Abraham’s faith was that he anticipated something wonderful from God. The patriarch was suddenly filled with great expectations. He looked forward to having an heir through which his descendants would become numerous.
The man full of faith looks for blessings, and actually expects them. He believes prayers will be answered and is constantly looking for the Divine to work among His people. Ann Hunter Small, missionary teacher, felt this to be an important characteristic among the people of God. She once said, “A church which is alive dares to do anything.”
John and Charles Wesley were once conversing about an important project. They both agreed it was worthwhile and desirable, but Charles felt they could not do it. John thought they should do it, and continued to press the point. Finally, Charles said, “When God gives me wings, I’ll fly.” John replied, “When God tells me to fly, I’ll trust Him for the wings.”
Even the easiest things are difficult when we approach them without the blessing of God. But difficult things become easy when faith points us to Him. Faith will expect great things from God, whatever obstacle has to be overcome.
III. FAITH CLINGS TO THE WORD OF GOD
Romans 4:18c “. . .according to that which was spoken, so
shall thy seed be.”
God told Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars of heaven (GN 15:5). Abraham believed the bare Word of God and nothing else. God made a statement; Abraham clutched it and refused to let go.
That is always a major characteristic of faith. It clings to a Word of God, without need of proof. Faith believes the Word; unbelief questions it. D. L. Moody used to say, “Unbelief sees something in God’s hand and says, ‘’I wish I had that.’ Faith sees it and says, ‘’I will have it’–and gets it!”
Once we have a promise from God, let our faith be grounded upon it. God should be believed absolutely and without hesitation. He has proven Himself worthy of our trust. Let us think well of the bridge which has often carried us over troubled waters.
God deserves to be treated as a trusted friend. Unbelief dishonors the Lord. In essence, it makes Him out to be a liar. It is an intolerable presumption to refuse to take God at His word. It is literally an insult to the Lord. He should be trusted as a father, not suspected as a stranger of questionable character.
Before I proceed to the next point, let me speak a word of caution. Be sure that what you are trusting is truly a word from God. Human faith, apart from a genuine promise of God to rest on, is folly and fanaticism.
It is possible for you to want something so badly that you convince yourself it is God’s will, even if it is not. Desire can often cloud our spiritual judgment. Do not mistake presumption for faith.
Never make the mistake of exalting your own mind to the place of deity. Your thoughts are not infallible. In any given situation, you might possibly be wrong. Keep this fact ever in mind. It will help stave off pride.
Andrew Murray had a nephew who suffered from tuberculosis of the lungs. This lad wanted to accompany the famous preacher on a preaching tour, but was physically unable. Andrew Murray said, “You believe that God can heal you, do you not?”
The nephew said, “Yes.”
Murray then replied, “Well, let us go to God in faith believing.”
The two men prayed for healing and ended by thanking God for the miracle they believed had already taken place. They departed on the tour, confident that the young man was totally healed. But in three weeks he was dead.
Just because you think something is right, that does not necessarily make it right. Everything must be judged in light of the promises of God. Faith clings to the Word of God.
IV. FAITH ENVISIONS RESURRECTION
Romans 4:19 “And being not weak in faith, he considered
not his own body now dead, when he was
about a hundred years old, neither yet
the deadness of Sarah’s womb:”
As far as his reproductive powers were concerned, Abraham was dead; and Sarah’s womb was barren. But the patriarch trusted God for a resurrection. He envisioned life springing from death. And if you can trust God for that, you can trust Him for anything.
You can almost hear the taunts of Satan, “Look at your body, Abraham! And look at Sarah’s barrenness.” But then listen as Abraham responds in faith, “What difference does that make?” Abraham was not swayed by his own personal weaknesses.
At the age of 99, before the birth of Isaac, Abraham obediently changed his name from Abram (exalted father) to Abraham (father of a multitude). I wonder how many people smirked, “Where is the multitude?” Can you imagine a 99-year-old husband and an 89-year-old wife wanting to buy a home near an elementary school?
Abraham’s faith looked beyond death and envisioned resurrection. Praise God! He brings life out of death. The earth was without form and void, but God brought life out of the dead ruins. In darkness God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. In Sarah’s dead womb, God said, “Let there be Isaac,” and there was Isaac. Adam sinned, and something died in the human heart. But through the new birth, God can place within us the new life of Jesus. Someday all the dead will be resurrected. Have we not seen a resurrection here in our own fellowship? That which had grown feeble and weak has been infused with a powerful heavenly life.
Death is no great obstacle to God. “It is the cup in which God shall pour life; it is the framework that shall exhibit the picture of God’s power; it is the dust in which the seeds of glory shall bud and flower” (Barnhouse). And if He can overcome death, He can overcome anything.
What is our guarantee of these things? How can we be so confident? Because God raised Jesus from the dead. That settled once and for all any doubt about the ability of God to infuse life into death.