“who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore ‘it was accounted to him for righteousness.’” (Romans 4:18-22).
Not everything called “faith” pleases God. Therefore, not all “faith” justifies.
As James 2 plainly declares, the faith of demons who “believe and tremble” (v. 19) is not the same as the obedient faith of Abraham (vv. 21-24) and Rahab (v. 25). The faith which is impractical when a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food is profitless, dead, and useless (vv. 15-20).
In the passage above, the apostle Paul pinpoints four bold and distinctive characteristics of Abraham’s faith, the faith which justifies (Romans 4:22).
It was full of trust, but not presumption. “Contrary to hope” Abraham accepted God’s rejection of Ishmael and believed his barren, menopausal wife would have a son because God said so. Like his promised Seed who trusted God but did not presume to tempt Him (Matthew 4:5-7), Abraham’s faith was full of trust.
It was full of strength, not riddled with doubt. Neither his age of almost 100 years, nor the deadness of Sarah’s womb drove a sliver of doubt into his faith. God said it; that settled it. Sarah may have laughed out of doubt in God’s word (Genesis 18:9-15) but any doubts Abraham may have been tempted to hold on to were quickly extinguished by an unwavering faith in God’s word (Genesis 17:21-22).
It was full of confidence, not timidity. Abraham did not waver: God said it; that settled it. This fundamental premise strengthened his faith, reinforcing it with confidence. It manifested itself in giving glory to God.
It was full of conviction, not uncertainty. Though Sarah and Abraham had grown impatient with God’s timetable of fulfilling His promise of a son and had interjected Hagar into it, Abraham’s conviction of God’s faithfulness to His word was unwavering. Comprehending God’s providence will always be beyond the capacity of the human mind; being fully convinced that God will perform what He promises is not. Abraham’s faith was full of conviction because he focused on the certainty of God’s power to keep His promises.
Full of trust. Full of strength. Full of confidence. Full of conviction. This is the faith God deserves, desires, and demands. This is the faith which justifies.