Our faith is based in the miraculous

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 faith14 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!

* All emphasis added.

About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 39 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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5 Responses to Our faith is based in the miraculous

  1. “….forgiveness of sin is not the basis of our justification….”

    Beautiful, Mel! I can’t begin to tell you how appropriate this is. I have seen others try to make this same point and it has not gone very well for them, LOL. We people can be very clingy about hanging on to that idea that forgiveness of sins is the beginning, middle, and end of the story. The thing is, “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” Abraham was justified by faith. Romans 4:13 says, “It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith.”

    This distinction really matters and here’s one reason why. I’ve kind of had to step away from a dying church last year. I love them dearly, but they can never make any progress, there is no growth, they never move from where they are at. They are now still without a pastor for that very reason. Your words here describe the nature of the problem so well, “Forgiveness of sin may make us pardoned criminals, but it won’t make us a new creation.”

    One Easter we painted the words, “He is risen indeed,” up on the wall. I met with our elders many times, explained we need to just leave those words up, because He is risen all year round, and the resurrection is so central to our faith. Without the resurrection, you just have death. We really had a major resurrection deficit going on in our church.

    It’s been a really good experience because I am such a traditionalist, I like things to stay the same, I don’t like risk, and yet I now see how there’s a very fine line between that mindset and death. You’re either living or you’re dying, there is no in between place where you can just kind of hang out and “not live.”

    • Mel Wild says:

      Well said, IB. You’re right. You made so many good points here.
      This foundation in the miraculous applies to making real change in our lives or churches as well as saving faith. But this change DOES require faith and faith requires risk. And that’s what makes the resurrection so symbolic of our life of faith because we cannot raise ourselves from the dead! We must learn how to trust in something that ‘s totally outside of our ability to control, namely God! Only God can save us or change us, but our part is that we must let Him do it, and that’s a scary proposition because it feels a bit like walking off a cliff.

      As you said, we don’t like change. We want to stay the same because it’s familiar, but staying the same is also atrophy and stagnation, and the beginning of a trajectory toward death.

      What faith in the miraculous (I’m including miraculous change/transformation here) does is helps us go beyond what we can imagine or even think (Eph.3:20) into the realm of where God thinks and what He believes about us. We grow and change by growing our mental grid so we can receive more from God than our former boundaries of trust and faith would allow, and that kind of “growing our grid capacity” only comes by leaving the security of our human reasoning and limitations. This is still logical, just a different kind of logic–the logic of faith. 🙂

  2. “we trust that God can do, for us and through us, what we cannot do by our own power.”

    Thanks for this affirmation/reminder. VERY timely for me right now. B Blessed!

  3. Pingback: Calling ourselves “Christians” | In My Father's House

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