By Bob Hoekstra
For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect. (Romans 4:13-14)
These words from the book of Romans continue our consideration of God's promises and God's law. Abraham is again the person around whom the insights unfold.
God promised Abraham blessings beyond measure. "Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (Genesis 28:14). These promises were not contingent upon Abraham's ability to perform up to the level God's holy law. "For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law." When God made these promises to Abraham, the law was still hundreds of years from being revealed. Likewise, these promises were not contingent upon circumcision (the sign of this covenant with Abraham). "And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe" (Romans 4:11). Circumcision was added after Abraham heard the promises and believed.
In these encounters with God, Abraham was being asked to put his trust and confidence in the Lord. "For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith." When Abraham believed in the promises of God, at that moment, God declared him righteous in His sight. "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness" (Romans 4:3). What gave Abraham a right standing with God and allowed him to enter into God's promises was his trusting in the Lord.
The only other option to "God-dependent faith" would be "self-dependent law performance." Such an approach to God would be totally unacceptable. "For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect." Attempting to merit God's promises by law performance says we view faith in Him as meaningless. Striving to earn what God has pledged to provide says we consider His promises as ineffectual.
Dear Lord, forgive me for my frequent attempts to accomplish by my performance that which You offer by promise. Lord, I see that this shows disdain for faith in You and for Your promises to me. Please give me a fresh new awareness of the excellence of faith and the power of Your promises, Amen.