Listen to sermons at




Sermon #41 — Romans Series


Title:                                                   Abraham’s Faith

      Believing, Seeing, Showing


      Text:                                  Romans 4:1-25

      Subject:               Faith in Christ

      Date:                                Sunday Morning — January 4, 2015

      Readings:           Genesis 15:1-21 and James 2:14-26



I received a letter this week from a very good friend, expressing concern about the behavior of others. Without question, his concern is, in measure, valid. When those who profess faith in Christ live inconsistently with that profession, they bring reproach upon the gospel and the name of Christ. But his letter also exposed a horribly evil thing to which we are all far too susceptible — The proud, self-righteous notion that we are the standard of godliness! — That we have the right to dictate to our brothers and sisters in Christ how to dress, what to eat and drink, and what recreation and entertainment (if any) is allowable!


Illustration: “You don’t like baseball, do you?


The Correspondence                                                 


In the course of his letter, my friend asked…


“Should we not be distinctive and separate to some degree? If not, will not others around us simply think we are the same as everyone else, and that faith in Christ stands for nothing really?”


Then he went on to express concern about what he has determined is worldly behavior, unbecoming to a Christian: Sports, Television, Movies, etc.


This is how I responded…


“While it is altogether right and proper for believers to conduct themselves in their lives to “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things” (Titus 2), it is always wrong to try to display godliness. The world always substitutes self-righteousness for godliness because the world never understands what godliness and righteousness is. It was the world who, beholding perfect godliness, accused our Savior of ungodliness.


Godliness is living for God. Godliness is devotion to Christ. It can never be measured, recognized, or understood by the ungodly. Additionally, while we may and must each decide for ourselves what we should and should not do, we must never make for or impose upon (even in our thinking) rules for living which are not plainly stated in Holy Scripture. For example: Drunkenness is horribly evil. The moderate use of alcoholic beverages is not.”


I think I was able to help my friend; and I want to help you in this matter. Godliness is not something that can be seen with the eye. Godliness is devotion to God. Holiness is not something you can display to the world. Holiness is Christ in you (Hebrews 12:14).

·      If you can display it, it is not holiness.

·      If the world can see it, it is not righteousness.

·      If one who is unregenerate can do it, it is not godliness!


Perhaps you are thinking, “But, Bro. Don aren’t we to show our faith? Doesn’t James tell us that faith without works is dead?” He does indeed. Yes, we ought always to show our faith, but not the way most people think.


Proposition: You cannot show your faith to the world, but only to God.


Open your Bibles with me to the 4th chapter of the Book of Romans. Let’s see if I can make good on what I have just said. — You cannot show your faith to the world, but only to God. The title of my message is — Abraham’s Faith: Believing, Seeing, Showing. — Abraham’s Faith: Believing, Seeing, Showing (Romans 4:1-25). In this fourth chapter of Romans God the Holy Spirit tells us two things to which I call your attention today.

1.    Abraham believed God” (v. 3).

2.    All who are Abraham’s children “walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham” (v. 12).


Miracle of Grace


Here is a miracle of grace. — “Abraham believed God” (v. 3). — What a tremendous declaration that is! This faith which is exemplified in Abraham is a thing no man can perform. It is not the result of man’s will, decision, or moral and mental determination. Faith is the gift of God. No man can or will believe God, except it be by the gift and operation of God in him. We believe according to the working of his mighty power. So, when the Scriptures assert that “Abraham believed God,” the Holy Spirit is saying, — Here is a miracle of grace! Here is a sinner doing what no sinner can do, doing what we must do, but doing what only the grace of God can enable him to do!


Romans 4:3 is a direct quote from Genesis 15:6. It refers us to that experience of Abraham recorded in Genesis 15.


(Genesis 15:6) “And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.”


Faith Believes


Faith believes. That is the first thing I want to talk about. Faith believes God. — In this 15th chapter of Genesis, when the Holy Spirit declares that Abraham believed in the Lord, at least five things are evident.


1.    Abraham believed the gospel as the very word of God, as a word directly from God himself.


Paul tells us that the word God spoke to him was the gospel of Christ preached to him. God had said, “Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward. Upon the heels of this revelation, Abram asked the Lord to give him a son in whom all his promised mercy might be fulfilled. “And, behold, the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir. And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.”


Like the Apostle Paul, Abraham was a man who could declare, “I certify you, that the gospel I believe is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.” The gospel came to him, not as the word of man, but the word of God. His faith stood not in the words of man’s wisdom, but in the power of God.


If ever a sinner believes God, he will believe because the gospel has come to him in the demonstration and power of the Holy Spirit with much assurance, being assured by God himself that it is the very word of God.


(1 Thessalonians 1:5) “For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.”


That faith which stands in the wisdom of man is but the faith of a man. That faith which stands in the power of God is the faith of God’s elect.


2.    Abraham believed the word of God concerning his Son, the Seed, in whom and by whom redemption would be accomplished.


The promise he heard from God, he recognized to be the very same as that made to Adam and Eve in the Garden. Abraham understood that God’s promise here declared went far beyond the promise of a son. It was the promise of God concerning his Son (Galatians 3:6-16).


True faith is fixed on Christ alone. It is not the faith of this sect, or that, but faith in Christ. It is not the faith of this creed or that. It is not the faith of emotion and fear. True faith looks to Christ, embracing him, his person, and his work, as the God-man our Mediator.


3.    Abraham believed that God could and would do that which was humanly impossible.


Abraham believed God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which are not as though they were.


(Romans 4:18-25) “Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be. {19} And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb: {20} He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; {21} And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. {22} And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. {23} Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; {24} But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; {25} Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.”


Faith believes that Christ is able to save! He can cause dry bones to live. He can raise up the dead. He can give life to the corpse, cause the blind to see, the lame to walk, the dead to hear, and the cursed to be blessed.


4.    Abraham believed the promise made to him by God in the gospel, though vast and sublime beyond calculation, to be a matter of absolute certainty, because God had spoken it.


(Romans 4:17) “(As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, [even] God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.1 (18) Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be.”


(Ephesians 1:3-6) “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: {4} According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: {5} Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, {6} To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.”


5.    Abraham believed the gospel as the word of God to him.

·      Thy Shield

·      Thy Great Reward

·      Thy Savior


He heard God speak the gospel to him as the word of his salvation.


(Ephesians 1:13-14) “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, {14} Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.”


Believing God, Abraham was justified. By faith he received the blessedness of sins forgiven, righteousness imputed, and immutable, perfect acceptance with God himself, through the blood and righteousness of Christ. That is what Romans 4:3 and Genesis 15:6 declare.


Standing in Grace


Go back to Genesis 15. Here is Abraham, a sinner believing God, standing accepted before God. — Accepted in Christ! — Accepted by faith! — Accepted by grace! — This is the grace of God “wherein we stand” (Romans 5:2). Oh, what a blessed place to stand! Once a person believes God, he sees what he could not see before, understands things which mystified and dumbfounded him before, and rejoices in things that either bored him to death or stirred his hatred of God to the boiling point before.


Standing justified before God, accepted in Christ, standing in the grace of God by faith, believing God, the most uneducated, illiterate soul sees with perfect clarity what the most brilliant and most educated unbeliever cannot even imagine, because faith understands all things.


(John 14:26) “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”


(John 16:13) “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come.”


(1 Corinthians 2:9-16) “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. (10) But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. (11) For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. (12) Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. (13) Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. (14) But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (15) But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. (16) For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.”


(Hebrews 11:1-3) “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (2) For by it the elders obtained a good report. (3) Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.”


(1 John 2:20) “But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.”


Faith Sees


Second, faith sees.

·      Abraham saw Christ.

·      Abraham saw a City.

·      Abraham saw the promises of God.

·      Abraham saw the Kingdom of God and the glory of God.


(John 3:3) Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.


(John 11:40) Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?


Let me show you some things every saved sinners sees, knows, and understands.


God’s Call


First, standing justified before God, as a sinner accepted in Christ the beloved, faith sees the value of God’s call and prizes it (v. 7).


(Genesis 15:7) “And he said unto him, I am the LORD that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it.”


·      The Distinctiveness of It

·      The Blessedness of It

·      The Result of It – Faith in Christ!


When the soul is graciously enabled to perceive its complete justification by faith, then it distinctly discerns its calling. Now, the believer perceives his privileged separation and discerns why he was convinced of sin, why he was led away from self and self-righteousness, and the pleasures of this world, to live the life of faith. Now he sees the high calling of God in Christ Jesus and prizes it!

·      Am I justified by Christ? Then will I not go back to that bondage in which I once was held.

·      Am I now accepted of God through faith? Then will I live no longer as an alien from the commonwealth of Israel and a stranger to the covenant of promise!

·      Am I free from the law’s curse? Then I shall no longer fear the judgment!

·      Am I the heir of God? Then I shall no longer fear the future!

·      Am I one with Christ? Then I shall no more fear death and condemnation!


I now walk in the favor of God. I am no longer obnoxious to his wrath. None can lay anything to my charge, for I am absolved through Jesus Christ. If when I was a poor, lost sinner he justified me, much more, being justified, will he keep his promise to me. If when I was a rebel condemned, he nevertheless in his eternal mercy called me and brought me into this state of acceptance and grace, much more will he preserve me from all my enemies, and give me the heritage which he has promised by his covenant of grace. A clear view of justification helps you much in grasping the promise, therefore seek it earnestly for your soul’s comfort.


Blood Atonement


Second, standing in Christ, standing in grace, standing justified before God, faith sees the glory of God in blood atonement (vv. 8-11).


(Genesis 15:8-11) “And he said, Lord GOD, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it? (9) And he said unto him, Take me an heifer of three years old, and a she goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon. (10) And he took unto him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each piece one against another: but the birds divided he not. (11) And when the fowls came down upon the carcases, Abram drove them away.”


·      The only grounds upon which God can bless and save a sinner is blood atonement. — “The precious blood of Christ.

·      All the sacrifices point to one sacrifice. — Christ!

·      Faith drives away every unclean foul of the air which would take away or turn it from the sacrifice.

·      Faith sees itself involved in the sacrifice.


Abraham, after being justified by faith, by God’s command, killed three bullocks, three goats, three sheep, with a turtledove and a pigeon, all being the creatures ordained of God for sacrifice. The patriarch’s hands are stained with blood. He handles the butcher’s knife. He divides the beasts. He kills the birds. He places them in an order revealed to him by God’s Spirit at the time. There they are. Abraham understood that there is no meeting with God except through sacrifice. God has shut every door except that over which the blood is sprinkled. All acceptable approaches to God must be through an atoning sacrifice, and Abraham saw that.


Abraham saw the sacrifice of Christ as represented in emblems which comprehended all the revelation of sacrifice later made to Moses and Aaron. The purest and healthiest air for faith to breathe is on Mt. Calvary. I do not wonder that our faith grows weak when we turn our thoughts to lesser things! Turn, O my soul, to the annals of the Redeemer’s sufferings given us in the Gospels.

·      Bow yourself in prayer before the Lamb of God!

·      Blush to think how quickly and how often you forget his sacrifice!


It is not the study of theology, it is not reading books upon points of controversy, it is not searching into mysterious prophecy which will bless your soul, it is looking to Jesus Christ crucified. As a believing soul, as a man justified before God, Abraham looked at the sacrifice, all day long and until the sun went down, chasing away the birds of prey as we must drive off all disturbing thoughts that take our minds off Christ! Faith sees the sweetness of God’s call and the value and glory of Christ’s blood atonement.


Covenant Grace


Third, standing in grace, faith sees God in covenant grace, a covenant ratified by blood (vv. 12, 17, 18).


(Genesis 15:12) “And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him.”


(Genesis 15:17-18) “And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces. (18) In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates:”


I suppose that these pieces of the bullock, the lamb, the ram, and the goat, were so placed that Abraham stood in the midst with a part on one side and a part on the other. So he stood as a worshipper all through the day, until night began to fall. Then a horror of great darkness came over him. He fell into a deep sleep.


Who would not feel a horror passing over him as he sees the great sacrifice for sin, and sees himself involved in it? There in the midst of the sacrifice he saw, moving with solemn motion, a smoking furnace and a burning lamp, answering to the pillar of cloud and fire, which manifested God’s presence in later days to Israel in the wilderness. In these emblems the Lord passed between the pieces of the sacrifice to meet his servant, and enter into covenant with him.


This was the most solemn of all modes of covenant making in ancient times.

·      The sacrifice was chosen

·      The sacrifice was slain.

·      The sacrifice was divided.

·      The covenanting parties met between the divided pieces.

·      That’s where faith meets God and God meets faith (Exodus 25:25).


Immediately after this, the Lord God told Abraham that all the blessings promised, though surely his, would not come without a time of much trouble and great tribulation. — “Thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years.”


Our Trials


Fourth, standing before God, trusting Christ, accepted in him, faith sees that every trial, every trouble, every affliction, and every sorrow we experience in this world of woe is ordained of God in covenant mercy and comes to pass according to the purpose of God’s grace in the covenant (v. 13).


(Genesis 15:13) “And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years;”


Our trials are as much a part of our blessedness as our justification.


(Romans 5:1-5) “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: (2) By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (3) And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; (4) And patience, experience; and experience, hope: (5) And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”


Salvation Sure


Fifth, standing in grace, faith sees and is assured of the fact that our ultimate salvation and triumph in Christ is sure (vv. 14-16).


(Genesis 15:14-16) “And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance. (15) And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age. (16) But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.”


The Lord God gave Abraham assurance of his grace. He would bring his seed into the Promised Land. The people who had oppressed them he would judge. So let it come as a sweet revelation to every believing sinner, that at the end we shall triumph, and those evils which now oppress us shall be cast beneath our feet. The Lord shall bruise Satan under our feet shortly! We may be slaves in Egypt for a while, but we shall come up out of it with great abundance of true riches, better than silver or gold. We shall be prospered by our tribulations, and enriched by our trials. Therefore, let us be of good cheer. If sin be pardoned, we may well bear affliction.


“Strike, Lord,” said Luther, “now my sins are gone; strike as hard as thou wilt if transgression be covered.”


These light afflictions which are but for a moment, are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us!


Faith Shows


Third, turn briefly to the Book of James (James 2), and I will show you one more thing about faith in Christ. Faith always shows itself, but not the way men imagine. Faith shows itself by two things, by two magnificent works.


Faith shows itself by whole-hearted consecration to God (James 2:20-24). — Abraham! — Jephthah!


(James 2:20-24) “But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? (21) Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? (22) Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?9 (23) And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. (24) Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.”


Faith shows itself by obedience to God (James 2:25-26). — Rahab the Harlot!


(James 2:25-26) “Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent [them] out another way? (26) For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”


All of this is written in the Book of God about Abraham for us, to teach us to believe God!


(Romans 4:24-25) “But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; (25) Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.”





Don Fortner








Pastor Fortner’s


Audio Sermons

Video Sermons