Righteousness of Faith
Romans 4:13-25
Feb 25, 2024

     I’m sure we have all met those dreamers…. maybe you are one of them, or maybe I’m one of them….you know, one of those people that has the most “out there” idea that it could not possibly come true.

     For example, when my oldest grandson was about four years old, he loved for his Daddy to take him down to the park which was by a water stream, maybe it was a river. In any event, he had been watching cartoons, and on this particular cartoon the characters had been using a net or a basket of some sort to catch fish. He told his Daddy he wanted to go fishing, and when his Daddy explained they didn’t have a fishing pole, he pulled out from the kitchen cabinets an asparagus steamer basket, and showed it to his Daddy, exclaiming, “we can use this.” 

     Now, I don’t know if you all know what an asparagus strainer looks like, but it is pretty much an open basket with gaps that are open all the way around and up and down of about an inch or so in each section, certainly not the best tool for catching fish.

     Nevertheless, our four year old grandson had no doubt that he could catch a fish if he could just convince his Daddy to take him down the park. So, after trying to explain to his young son that this wasn’t possible, yet to no avail of convincing him, his Daddy decided to play along. He tied a string to the asparagus pot handle which would allow them to cast it into the stream, and off they went, down to the park.

     I can just imagine the excitement our little grandson was anticipating in the catch that was to come, and I can also imagine his Daddy’s skepticism of the fact that this was not going to happen.

     So as they approach the banks of the stream, our grandson tosses out the asparagus basket, and pulls it back in…and yes, you guessed it, the basket came back empty. So he tosses again, with the same excitement and anticipation as before, and still the basket returns empty.

     In wanting to encourage his son to not give up, his Daddy reaches for the basket and say, “let me throw it a little further out,” again not expecting the basket to return with anything in it.

     However, when our grandson slowly pulls in the mostly open asparagus basket, much to our son’s dismay, and to our grandson’s glee, there in that open basket was a fish!

     If only we all had the faith of a child.

     Although, looking at today’s story in our scripture, if only we had the faith of the man of old, the faith of Abraham.

     Paul refers in our scripture today of Abraham’s faith as “hoping against hope.” This means hope in spite of apparent impossibility. “Against hope” is exactly that, an apparent impossibility. It’s something that we perceive, usually on past experiences of ourselves and others, that it cannot be done or it cannot possibly happen. It might even be considered wishful thinking.

     Here in their old age, Sarah, Abraham’s wife remains childless, and God comes to them to tell them they will have a child, and that Abraham will be the father of many nations. Sarah laughs when she is told she will give birth to a child, after all she is beyond this possibility of hope.

     Yet Abraham trusts in God’s promises, and puts his faith in God to deliver the divine promise. Abraham left room for hope, because in his full life, he had learned one thing if nothing else, and that was that he could trust what God tells him.

     Paul explains that this faith and trust, this hope that Abraham placed in God’s word took action on Abraham’s part.

     Too often we dismiss something too soon in believing it can be a possibility, we say we have faith, yet we are the first to run up the bank, away from the water from which our baskets can be filled.

     One of my commentaries summarized it this way, “When serious troubles are still unresolved, our choice is between hoping too much or hoping too little. The story of Abraham and Sarah and Paul’s words about hoping against hope suggest that we who trust God would do well to err on the side of excessive hope.”

     Now let’s look at the next part of this scripture that talks about Abraham’s faith being reckoned to him as righteousness.

     Reckoning is establishing something in a particular way, and in Abraham’s instance, it was his “rightness” in his believing in God’s promise.

     Paul says these words were not written for Abraham alone, but for ourselves also. So what does this mean?

     When we believe in the promises of God, with the same trust and hope, the same faith that Abraham believed in God’s promise, then we are also reckoned to righteousness. We do the right thing in God’s eyes, trusting in what he tells us in his words will happen, and we are credited by God to have righteousness or rightness of our faith.

     When God sees our faith in the divine promise of Jesus as the Son of Man, the one God sent to fulfill the new covenant, God gives us credit for our faith, and we are justified by faith. Justification then is the act by which God moves a willing person from the state of sin to the state of grace, or a state of righteousness through the birth, death and resurrection of the one sent by God.

     We are therefore, justified by faith, and this faith is what unites us to Christ.

     This faith is the belief in the truth of the gospel, as well as trust in the God of the gospel, the same God of Abraham.

     Our justification before God by faith results in the creation of a family of faith that includes all believers. It’s what drives us to come here on Sunday mornings so that we can be present with God and our family of faith here in this community.

     We are justified by faith alone; however, it comes with a good and loving heart, a willing heart to act in the same ways that Christ did when he loved others unconditionally. In these actions we bring glory to God.

     Like Abraham, we believe in the God of the gospel. We believe that it is true and trust that God will deliver his promises, just as he delivered the Christ child, just as he delivered the lamb for the cross, and just as he raised Christ on the third day.     

     Kevin McFadden, author of “Faith in the Son of God,” says ‘justification by faith does not draw attention to ourselves and our great faith, but rather to Christ and God’s great work of redemption through him.’

     All the divine works of God seem impossible to us as humans when we consider “justifying the ungodly,” or “giving life to the dead,” or “calling into existence the things that do not exist,” however, all of them are fundamental to Christian faith.

     The very basis of our “hope against hope” is trusting in the God who created the world, raised Jesus from the dead and invites sinners into fellowship. It is God’s divine promise.

     So whether we are a child of God with a basket full of holes trying to catch a fish, or a woman or man in our old age trusting in God’s word, the very basis of our righteousness of faith, is believing in God, and all that is provided to us through his divine promises through Christ by whose death our sins were forgiven, and by whose resurrection, we have a new life. To God be the glory!


*Cover Art by Unsplash+, used with subscription