Our faith is based in the God of miracles, not in what we think is possible. I was struck by this truth as I was reading Romans 4 this morning. Paul goes to great lengths to say that, like Abraham, we’re made right with God by our faith in the miraculous. To put it more plainly, we are justified by God by believing in something that would be impossible by natural means.
Here’s the verse I want to focus in on:
25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. (Rom.4:25 NIV)
The Passion Translation says it this way:
25 Jesus was handed over to be crucified for the forgiveness of our sins and was raised back to life to prove that he had made us right with God! (Rom.4:25 TPT*)
I want you to notice the distinction Paul is making here. This may shock you, but forgiveness of sin is not the basis of our justification. While being forgiven is critically important, it’s believing that God raised Jesus from the dead that makes us right with God.
To understand this important distinction, I would like us to think about Paul’s line of argument in Romans 4.
First, Paul tells us that the Law only brought consciousness of sin and punishment. Here’s what Paul said about Abraham in this regard:
13 God promised Abraham and his descendants that they would have an heir who would reign over the world. This royal promise was not fulfilled because Abraham kept all the law, but through the righteousness that was transferred by faith. 14 For if keeping the law earns the inheritance, then faith is robbed of its power and the promise becomes useless. 15 For the law provokes punishment, and where no law exists there cannot be a violation of the law. (Rom.4:13-15 TPT)
Understand that Israel already had forgiveness of sins by maintaining an intricate system of sacrifices under the legal code. But Paul is saying this is not what justified Abraham…or us.
Forgiveness of sin may make us pardoned criminals but it won’t make us a new creation. It’s not what fulfilled the promise to Abraham—that he would have a great family from many nations, ultimately meaning, many sons and daughters of God who are co-heirs with Christ (See Gal.3:16-29).
So, what did justify Abraham?
Paul goes on to answer this very question in two important places:
17 …He is our example and father, for in God’s presence he believed that God can raise the dead and call into being things that don’t even exist yet.18 Against all odds, when it looked hopeless, Abraham believed the promise and expected God to fulfill it. He took God at his word, and as a result he became the father of many nations. (Rom.4:17-18 TPT*)
19 In spite of being nearly one hundred years old when the promise of having a son was made, his faith was so strong that it could not be undermined by the fact that he and Sarah were incapable of conceiving a child. 20–21 He never stopped believing God’s promise, for he was made strong in his faith to father a child. And because he was mighty in faith and convinced that God had all the power needed to fulfill his promises, Abraham glorified God! (Rom.4:19-21 TPT*)
So, what can we learn from these two passages? For chronological reasons, I will try to answer this in reverse order of the passages listed.
First, we see in verse 19-21 that Abraham believed in the miracle of being able to father a child when he was 100 years old, not to mention, Sarah birthing the child at this age!
Second, and probably more important to us, when Abraham was asked to sacrifice Isaac on Mt. Moriah, his faith was not so much in the sacrificing of his son. Actually, in Abraham’s day, that would not have taken a lot of faith. Most pagan cultures (remember Abraham came from Ur in Babylon) believed that sacrificing your own son was the highest form of worship.
No, what made Abraham’s faith so remarkable is that he believed God would raise Isaac from the dead if he did go through with it! (See vs.17-18.)
So, what does this say about the basis of our faith? If we’re going to believe and be justified like Abraham, then we’re going to have to believe in the miraculous, which means our faith is primarily based in the resurrection, not the crucifixion.
The crucifixion, as critically important as it is, is not a miraculous event. Any honest historian of the ancient Middle East can believe this took place, even atheists. The resurrection, on the other hand, is out of our human control and beyond the laws of nature. Only God can raise someone from the dead. Believing this is saving faith.
This is why Paul would tell the Corinthians that if the resurrection is not true, then our faith is empty and meaningless (see 1 Cor.15:14).
Saving faith means that we trust that God can do, for us and through us, what we cannot do by our own power. This fact of faith is described by Paul later in Romans…
10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you. (Rom.8:10-11 NIV*)
Beloved, this is the basis of the faith of Abraham, and the basis of our faith. It’s what makes us right with God. Anything less is empty humanistic religion.
Here’s one of my favorite songs, sung by Kristene DiMarco, to inspire us in this regard. He is the God of miracles!