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.
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Sons of Abraham
Wednesday of Lent 3
11 March 2015
Those of us who have the vocation of father are glad for the limitation that imposes on our fatherly responsibility. As a parent I am responsible for my two children. I am their father and the father of none other. This is a blessing when I recognize that other people's children probably ought to have raised their children better than they did. This is not my responsibility because these other children are not mine. Promiscuity confuses the vocations to which we have been called, because no one is exactly sure whose children are whose.
Our heavenly Father also gives us fatherly responsibility in other ways as well. There is fatherhood to the community, what were once called the patres patriae, "the fathers of the nation." Political leaders are fathers in this sense. They are to care for the nation like a father cares for his children by nature. There is a limit to this fatherhood, in that, for example, the President of the United States is bound by oath to do his best for the people of the United States. He is not the world's fixer. The Constitution limits his responsibility according to national boundaries. Pastors are also fathers to those whom the Lord has placed under their spiritual care. The limiting factor for that office is the call of God's people to the pulpit and altar of the church. He is not responsible for the people of another parish, under the care of another shepherd. He is to serve the flock to which God has called him and not anyone else's flock. Fatherhood has boundaries, whether natural, national, or moral.
There is a notable exception to these limitations to fatherhood. God our Father has no boundaries to His fatherly authority: "Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us" (Mal 2:10)? Yes, God is the Father of all, even of those who do not confess His fatherhood. A runaway still belongs to the family and bears his father's name (Lk 15). A fatherhood that is akin to God's is the one conferred by God upon Abraham, who is the father of all who believe. Abraham becomes the father of many nations by an adoption of grace. He is not the natural father of any but Israel. However, through adoption in Christ he names a huge family. What is remarkable about it is that there are no boundaries. They are like the sand on the sea shore (Gn 32:12). Abraham is the father of Isaac and Jacob. But he is also my father by faith in Christ, the ultimate of His offspring. Of course, if Abraham is my father, it means that he still lives. Indeed he does, with all those who shared his faith and now see the face of his Offspring, Christ. Abraham has many sons and I am one of them. The God who can bring into existence that which does not exist (Rm 4:17) can make even a poor sinner like me a son of Abraham through faith in Christ.
"'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' (Rm 4:17). What is amazing about a man's being the father of those sprung from himself? This is every man's lot. But the extraordinary thing is, that those whom by nature Abraham did not father, he received by the gift of God. So if you believe that the patriarch was honored, believe that he is the father of all.
After saying, 'in the presence of the God in whom he believed,' Paul does not pause, but goes on, 'who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist,' so laying beforehand his foundation for discoursing on the resurrection. And it was useful also for his present purpose. For if He could 'give life to the dead' and 'call into existence the things that do not exist' then He could also make those who were not born of Abraham to be his children. And this is why he does not say, 'bringing in the things that do not exist,' but 'calling them,' showing how easy it was. For as easily as we call the things which exist by name, so easy it is for Him, yes, and much easier to give existence to things that do not exist."
John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans, 8
O God, since you promised faithful Abraham that he would be the father of a great multitude, You provided a substitute for his son Isaac. In the fullness of time, You sent Your Son, the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world, to lay down His life that we might live as faithful children of Abraham. Grant to all trust in Your mercy; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
For President Matthew Harrison of the LCMS, that the Lord Jesus would give him strength of body and soul
For the people, cut off from the church through false teaching or practice, who live like sheep without a shepherd, that the they would heed the call of a true shepherd and be reincorporated into the body of Christ
For those struggling with anger and animosity toward others, that they would find peace for their own troubled hearts
Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias Isenheim Altarpiece (1515)
© Scott R. Murray, 2015