Chapter # 4 Paragraph # 3 Study # 2
Thesis: The issues of "faith" ultimately begin at the foundation: God's revelation of His intentions.
Introduction: In our study last week we focused our attention upon Paul's claim that there could be no certainty in the promises of God if grace could be shunted aside. Man simply does not have the capacity to bring the promises to pass, nor does he have the capacity to lay a legitimate foundation down so that God can legitimately bring the promises to pass as a consequence of man's efforts. His argument included the claim that God made the process a "faith-based" process for the specific purpose of bringing grace to the front of man's thinking so that certainty could be seen clearly. It should be obvious that if the Performer of the Promises is God, there is no problem with certainty. But, what ought to be obvious is often not clear at all because some "complicating" issue is introduced into the mix. In respect to the certainty issue, man says that attempting to "believe" that God will do as He has promised without it being hinged upon whether man will behave himself, or not, is foolishness. So the complication is introduced: it is not that God is incapable; it is that, without man's submission, He is unwilling. Thus says man as he "complicates" the issues. But Paul says that it was precisely because of man's lack of good behavior that God determined to make "Promise" hinge only upon Himself. The issue is not that man does not behave; it is that he can not behave. Thus, if God wishes to get anything done, He must get it done on His own; He cannot trust man to do what he should.
Now, this raises this issue: does man's behavior, then, not really make any difference? Is man not really a player? Paul would answer that this way: man's "play" is "faith-dependent". It makes all the difference in the world whether a man believes God, or not. Heaven and Hell are the final habitations and "faith" is what determines where a man ends. Even in the text before us, Paul declares that it was because Abraham "believed" that he was able to "become" what God had said he would be. But, it is crucial that we understand that the issue is "believing", not "performing". Performance is the inevitable outworking of "belief", and it cannot be effectively addressed except by addressing the content of the "faith". The problem is this: faith is not a finally established, fully developed, entity until it has been fired in the kiln of the trials and complications of living. Faith can falter without promise going out the window because the ultimate foundation of faith is God's performance. Faith cannot fail without promise going out the window, but whether faith fails, or not, is God-dependent. Why do you suppose that Jesus told Peter that He had prayed for him that his faith fail not?
So, this evening we are going to look at this issue of how God enables a man to "believe" unto the "promised result".
November 15, 2005
- I. God's First Activity: Producing Faith.
- A. He establishes content.
- 1. First, by speaking: 4:18 -- "according to the standard of what was said."
- a. What was "said" was "so shall your seed be" -- Genesis 15:5.
- b. What was "said" was in direct contradiction/confrontation of Abraham's focus of attention so that there was no confusion as to the general boundaries of the meaning.
- c. Upon the "saying" came the "believing" that produced the "reckoning".
- 1) This is the form of faith-production as it exists in the Word of God.
- 2) The form consists of a "promise" that is given in the context of the frustration of real desire; that is completely without any recourse to the man's abilities; and that has the extended future within the understood meaning.
- a) The necessary "T"heology is two-fold.
- i. The promise requires resurrection from the dead...in two specific areas: the "deadness" of the sexuality of both of the recipients; and the "deadness" of the physical bodies of both of the recipients (there is no use for a promise that goes unfulfilled).
- ii. The promise requires the concept of the "fait accompli" -- the use of the Perfect Tense in the face of the Present and Near Future.
- b) There is an intervening problem: a lack of clarity regarding the methodology and a subsequent stumbling of faith.
- i. This is why "Promise" is not rooted in human performance: faith is never everything it needs to be and lack of understanding is inevitable.
- ii. Faith is the effective mechanism of "Promise", but "Promise" is not tied to the perfection of faith.
- 2. Then, by inscripturating: 4:17 -- "as it stands written."
- a. What was "written" was "a father of many nations I have made you" -- Genesis 17:5.
- b. What was "written" was in the context of a direct contradiction of Abram's own "solution" to the divine "failure".
- 1) The preceding story is 14 years prior and has the fingerprints of human manipulation all over it.
- 2) The immediate response of Abraham was both "laughter" and "appeal".
- a) The "laughter" was produced by a rather significant faltering of faith.
- b) The "appeal" was rooted in the desire for approval of "performance". If God had granted the "appeal" the entire scenario of "Promise" would have been torpedoed by the incorporation of human ingenuity (i.e., capacity).
- c. What was "written" is for the development of the theology of the later generations.
- 1) God spoke to Abraham what was written for us.
- 2) The direct implication is that once God's plan has been revealed, the "writing" takes the place of the "speaking" for those who come after.
- 3. Then, by explaining (angels, prophets, apostles, teachers, etc.).
- a. The content is God's declaration of what will be. It is non-negotiable. Integrity cannot be compromised without being destroyed.
- b. What will be is not, however, "magic". What God says will be, He underwrites by His own involvement, both direct and intermediate.
- c. What will be often needs to be "argued" and "explained" in later generations in order for people to come to the same kind of faith that the original believer came to by virtue of God's direct speech. Paul's entire ministry was built on the premise that what was "written" is determinative and needs to be coherently argued.
- B. He confronts.
- 1. This is necessary: Romans 10:13-15.
- 2. This is not determinative: Romans 10:17-21.
- C. He disallows rejection.
- 1. Paul's only answer to the difference between those that hear and believe and those who hear and gainsay is Romans 11:1-7.
- a. This is the only answer that can keep "boasting" at bay.
- b. This is the only answer that can maintain "Promise" as a function of grace.
- 2. In illustration, Paul's conversion is the prime example: God simply overwhelms those whom He has chosen.