Faith Believes the Promise
Jacob, Patriarch
5 February 2019
The promise is everything. What God promises to us in the holy gospel is ours, simply through the incomparably great power of God to do what He says. It is not up to us to consider whether it is possible for God to carry out His promises. It is only for us to have faith in what God has promised. This is the faith of which the Bible speaks; it believes the promises carried by the gospel. Faith, the hand that grasps the promises, is only valuable because what is grasped is what God gives. It justifies the sinner because of the promise.
Faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness because he believed the promises. He believed them when He had no human hope that God would carry out the promise, and so against all hope he hoped in God. When Abraham had no son, he believed that he would have descendants as the sand or stars in the sky. When he had a son whom God demanded in sacrifice, he believed that God would raise the dead for the sake of the promise. You can see why Abraham is called the father of believers.
Faith leads us to believe what God has said about the incarnation and the personal union of the two natures in Christ. The promise tells us that the Christ has come down to redeem sinners by giving Himself for them. The promise tells us that the incarnate Christ has ascended to be seated at the right hand of God the Father. How can man ascend? Why should God come down? All these doubts and quibbles should stand silent in the face of the divine promise. Faith lauds the God who employs His power to save His children. It does not chide Him or doubt His ability to do what He says, no matter how wild or seemingly unreasonable the promise of God might be. Faith believes the promise.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

  Hilary of Poitiers
"The Apostle Paul is careful to leave no room for doubt. We cannot say, "Christ was born, suffered, was dead and buried, and rose again but how, by what power, by what division of parts of Himself? Who wept? Who rejoiced? Who complained? Who descended? Who ascended?" Man or God? He rests the merits of faith entirely on the confession of unquestioning reverence. 'But the righteousness based on faith says, "Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?'" (that is, to bring Christ down) or "'Who will descend into the abyss?'" (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved' (Rm 10:6-9).
"Faith makes complete the righteous man. As it is written, 'Abraham believed God and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness' (Rm 4:3). Did Abraham impugn the Word of God, when he was promised the inheritance of the Gentiles, and an abiding posterity as many as the sand or the stars for multitude? To the reverent faith, which trusts implicitly the omnipotence of God, the limits of human weakness are no barrier. Despising all that is feeble and earthly in itself, it believes the divine promise, even though it exceeds the possibilities of human nature. It knows that the laws that govern man are no hindrance to the power of God, who is as bountiful in the performance as He is gracious in the promise. Nothing is more righteous than faith. For as in human conduct it is equity and self-restraint that receive our approval, so in the case of God, what is more righteous for man than to ascribe omnipotence to Him, whose power he perceives to be without limits?
"The Apostle then looking in us for the righteousness which is of faith, cuts at the root of incredulous doubt and godless unbelief. He forbids us to admit into our hearts the cares of anxious thought, and points to the authority of the Prophet's words, 'Say not in your heart, who has ascended into heaven' (Deut 30:12)? Then He completes the thought of the Prophet's words with the addition, 'that is, to bring Christ down.' The perception of the human mind cannot attain to the knowledge of the divine, but neither can a reverent faith doubt the works of God.
"Christ needed no human help, that anyone should ascend into heaven to bring Him down from the seat of His blessedness to His earthly body. It was no external force which drove Him down to the earth. We must believe that He came, even as He did come. It is true religion to confess Jesus Christ not brought down, but descending. The mystery, both of the time and the method of His coming, belongs to Him alone. We may not think because He came but recently, that therefore He must have been brought down, nor that His coming in time depended upon another, who brought Him down."

Hilary of Poitiers, On the Trinity,
Romans 4:13-25
For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.
That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring- not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, as it is written, "I have made you the father of many nations"- in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, "So shall your offspring be." He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead ( since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.
That is why his faith was "counted to him as righteousness." But the words "it was counted to him" were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.
Lord Christ, You have given the divine promise to Abraham and all people. Grant that I might believe in that promise that my faith would be reckoned to me for righteousness. Amen.
For Joanna Karner, that the Lord Jesus Himself would grant her strength and courage
For all those seeking work, that the Lord would grant them the gift of labor in keeping with their vocation
For lawyers, that God the Lord would strengthen them in their calling to uphold the rights of the downtrodden, that all might have equal protection under the law
Art: ASSERETO, Gioachino Isaac Blessing Jacob (1640s)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2019
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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