by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 4 Paragraph # 3 Study # 5 Lincolnton, NC December 20, 2005
19 And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara's womb:
20 He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;
21 And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.
22 And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.
1901 ASV Translation:
19 And without being weakened in faith he considered his own body now as good as dead (he being about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah's womb;
20 yet, looking unto the promise of God, he wavered not through unbelief, but waxed strong through faith, giving glory to God,
21 and being fully assured that what he had promised, he was able also to perform.
22 Wherefore also it was reckoned unto him for righteousness.
I. What Did Abraham "Consider"?
A. In Genesis 17:17, Abraham not only "laughed" at the idea that a man who was a hundred would have a son with a woman who was ninety, he also appealed to God to let Ishmael be the "heir".
1. The word translated "laughed" is often used to indicate an attitude of scoffing disbelief.
2. Clearly Sarah was "laughing" improperly because as soon as she was called for it, she lied because she was afraid (Genesis 18:12).
3. Just so, Yahweh required (Genesis 17:19) that the son be called "Isaac" (laughter) and Sarah obeyed with a "twist" (Genesis 21:6) in that she turned the "laughing" into a matter of joy instead of scorn.
4. It is impossible to read this text and not conclude that Abraham not only did not believe the promise, but wanted Ishmael to be what God had meant in Genesis 15:6 and before. The shocking thing about this is that Abraham had apparently considered Ishmael to be the fulfillment of God's promise of a "seed" and was "comfortable" for 14 years with Ishmael as the son of promise. This is a shock because what was an act of the flesh was clearly grasped as the "fulfillment" of God's words and the man didn't even consider that maybe he had been wrong to take Hagar to his bed.
B. The two textual traditions have equally sufficient "evidences" to validate themselves as the proper reading.
1. The Textus Receptus says that Abraham did not consider his own body... .
2. The Nestle/Aland 26 says that Abraham did consider his own body... .
C. What did Paul mean?
1. He could not possibly have meant that Abraham did not think about the physical impossibilities involved in the Promise of God because Genesis 17:17 clearly says otherwise.
2. The word Paul used to focus our attention is typically used to indicate a rather deliberate "investigation" of some phenomenon that might have more significance than might appear at the first look. In other words, Paul used a word that was designed to get us to do what it meant: consider what "consider" might mean.
3. Here is where the use of "become weak" is of significant help: the entire idea of "becoming weak" is the idea of being subjected to some kind of onslaught that is designed to destroy one's strength to resist.
a. If Abraham was not "subjected" to the onslaught, there would be no point to the statement that he did not "become weak".
b. That the first response by Abraham was "unbelief" is not "marvelous" -- that is precisely what anyone would do.
c. The issue is not the first response; it is the settled response.
1) Paul did not deny that Abraham's initial reaction was incredulity, nor did he deny that Abraham "considered" his own body as well as Sarah's.
2) What he did deny was that the "onslaught" had any long-term effect. In other words, he did not deny that Abraham was "infected" with the "germ" of unbelief, but he did deny that Abraham's "unbelief-antibodies" were ineffectual.
3) What is important is not that the "infection" comes to pass, but that it does not have its intended effect because the believer is able to "throw it off".
II. How Did Abraham "Throw Off the Infection"?
A. Verse 20 tells us that he "gave glory to God".
1. This means one primary thing: he attributed a certain "glory" to God.
2. The question that God raised in Genesis 18:14 is a question of "glory".
3. Paul means that Abraham answered the question correctly.
B. Verse 21 tells us that he "was fully persuaded".
1. This signals a deliberate comparison of the "problem(s)" with the "glory" of God.
2. It also signals a strength of decision that completely sets the "problem(s)" aside.
C. Verse 22 tells us that it was this that resulted in Abraham's "justification".
1. We are told that Abraham was "justified" in Genesis 15:6 -- some significant time before the Genesis 21 reality.
2. But here we are told that Abraham's "justification" was rooted in Genesis 17-18.
3. James 2:21 even goes to the further historical point of Genesis 22:10 to tell us that Abraham was "justified" by offering his son as a sacrifice.
4. Paul's theological "point" is this: it is not what men "say" within the context of their initial responses to the "tests" of their lives that determines the quality of their "faith" -- as to whether it "justifies" -- ; it is what men "conclude". Thus we have the reality in Paul's theology that it is not "profession" of faith that saves us, but "continuance" of faith (1 Corinthians 15:2) -- just as Hebrews 3:6 pointedly attests. Thus we have the biblical "tension" of whether the "profession of faith" is true. Paul remarks on the tension in 2 Timothy 2:19, and records some "fear" in Galatians 4:11. Nowhere does the Bible give any encouragement to the notion of salvation to those who are living in unbelief. Peter addresses this in 2 Peter 1:10 by insisting that people not rest in a kind of "professionalism" that leaves too much contradiction in the life.