Word for Today Archive

Pastoral Commentary for Romans 4
Author: Pastor Bob Nordlie

Faith is a word people use a lot without really understanding what it means. Ask someone what faith means and you might get an answer like, "It means you believe something." For example, when I go in my garage and look at the mechanical device sitting there with a frame, two wheels, pedals, handlebars and a seat, I might say, "I believe this is a bike." Does that mean I have faith in my bike. Not necessarily. How could you know I have faith in my bike? When you see me get on and ride it, then you know I have faith in my bike.

Faith is all about trust. It's knowing something and accepting it to be true, but it's also trusting what you know enough to act on it. Take the example of Abraham. Paul said, "What does the Scripture say? 'Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.'" (Romans 4:3) When you look back to Genesis 15:6 where those words came from, God has just led Abraham out of his tent and told him to look up at the sky and count the stars, if he could. Then God said, "So shall your offspring be." That's when we're told Abraham believed God. But what did that mean?

Paul explains: "Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead - since he was about a hundred years old - and that Sarah's womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised." (Romans 4:19-21) Abraham's faith was very real. He trusted God's promise that he would have a son of his own to be his heir, and that from his son would come more descendants than he could possibly count.

Abraham's faith caused him to act. Remember, he's almost a hundred years old and there's no such thing as Viagra. Sarah's only a few years behind him, and menopause is a fleeting memory. But Abraham "gave glory to God." How? By making love to his wife, thus demonstrating that he trusted God's promise.

And that's not all. A dozen years later God tested Abraham's faith again. He told him: "Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about." (Genesis 22:2) Imagine, the young man Abraham has loved and cared for as his only begotten son, the fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham, is now to become a sacrifice to God. Yet Abraham doesn't flinch. He acts. Why? Because he trusted God. "Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death." (Hebrews 11:17) Talk about faith!

Note that Abraham's faith involved knowledge of God and his almighty power. It involved believing what he knew to be true. But above all, it meant trusting God enough to act, even when that was hard to do.

God clearly rewarded Abraham's faith. Isaac was born to that aged couple. A ram caught in a thicket became the substitute for Isaac and a type of Christ. And you and I are numbered among the descendants of Abraham too numerous to count. So what is your faith going to do today?

Pastoral Commentary for Romans 4
Author: Pastor Josh

"Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed." (vs. 18a)
"Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact... " (vs. 19a)
"He did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God." (vs. 20a)
"Being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. (vs. 21)

What powerful statements.
Those powerful statements remind me of a powerful movie I watched recently.

This past weekend, I had opportunity to watch the movie, "The Guardian" with Kevin Costner and Ashton Kutcher. If you haven't seen the movie - I'd consider it a must see. If you've seen it, and it's been awhile, you might rent it again.

What a powerful story of courage and friendship, of persistence and dedication to serving others. Being a movie about the United States Coast Guard, I appreciated the motto the Coast Guard lives by, "so that others might live".
How Kevin and Ashton lived this motto out touched my heart.

If you were in the ocean needing help and the Coast Guard was on the scene, you could trust that they were going to swim as hard as they could for as long as they could to make sure you would be rescued.

Abraham had such a trust in our Heavenly Father. He was "fully persuaded" that God had the power to do what was promised... even if the promise was "against all hope". Abraham would not waver in His belief that God would come through.

Is there any part of your faith walk that is on shaky ground right now?
Are you "less than persuaded" that God can come through? Are you wavering or weakening when it comes to your faith?

Today... we see that while it might be a long time coming, God will deliver.
Your Heavenly Father will always act in line with His promises. Always.

Allow this truth to anchor your life today. Your Heavenly Father is your ultimate "Guardian". He loves you. He cares for you. He will do whatever it takes, "so that you might live", in relationship with Him now... and for eternity.

In addition to watching the movie, "The Guardian" - you might check out the story of Abraham by reading Genesis chapters 15-22.

Pastoral Commentary for Romans 4
Author: Pastor Zach

To study to become a pastor, I went to seminary in St. Louis. And over the course of my educational career, beginning in grade school and stretching all the way through seminary, I always looked forward to my academic breaks with a sense of eager anticipation. This was especially true in seminary, because I was a long way from my home in Austin. And I can still remember, the first day of every extended break, waking up at 3:30 am, hopping in my truck, and hitting the road for a thirteen and half hour trek home.

Because I drove this route from St. Louis to Austin many times, I became quite familiar with it. I had appointed stops and would even buy the same snack foods every time I made my journey. I also noticed that things seem to change slower in the country, even if that country has an interstate racing through it, than in the city. This was especially true of billboards. There was one billboard in Missouri on I-44 which, over my four years in seminary, never changed. It read, "Waiting for a sign from God? Here it is."

More than one person, especially in a time of trial or crisis of faith, has asked God for a sign. Disappointingly, I have heard far fewer stories about how God did deliver a sign than stories of how he didn't. Indeed, many of us intuitively know that it is dangerous for us to ask for some heavenly omen because, more often than not, we'll be disappointed.

The animated cartoon character Homer Simpson, who, although not a particularly astute theologian, is funnily folksy, once offered this prayer: "Dear Lord, the gods have been good to me. For the first time in my life, everything is absolutely perfect just the way it is. So here's the deal. You freeze everything the way it is, and I won't ask for anything more. If that is okay, please give me absolutely no sign. Okay, deal. In gratitude, I present you this offering of cookies and milk. If you want me to eat them for you, give me no sign. Thy will be done." Although we would never pray such a crass prayer as this, this is the way many of us by default operate: God is not in the business of giving signs.

In our reading for today from Romans 4, Paul argues that a person is made righteous not by what he does, but by faith in Christ's salvific work alone. Indeed, Paul says that even those before Christ were justified by their faith and not by their works. For instance, Abraham: "What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about - but not before God. What does the Scripture say? 'Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness'" (verses 1-3). Abraham's faith, Paul says, not his good works, made him righteous in God's sight.

In order to bolster his argument, Paul continues by noting that Abraham was declared righteous by God before he himself had done anything righteous. Thus, Abraham's righteousness could not have come from anything he had done: "Under what circumstances was Abraham's righteousness credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before" (verse 10)!

In first century Jewish society, circumcision was the ultimate "sign" that a person was a child of God. As Paul says, "Abraham received the sign of circumcision" (verse 11). But now, in Romans 4, Paul is arguing for a new sign that a person is a child of God. And this is a sign that is not done by human hands as some righteous work, as is circumcision, this is a sign that is effected by God himself: the sign of faith. This is why Paul writes, "Abraham is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them" (verse 11). Paul says, in order to be a righteous child of God, the sign you really need is faith in Jesus Christ.

So perhaps it isn't such a bad thing to ask for a sign from God after all. But this sign will probably not come in an experience that rends the heavens or in a voice that rumbles into your soul. It probably won't even come in large words plastered on a billboard along some country boulevard. No, the sign from God that you most need is a sign that you already have: faith in your heart. Thank God for that most precious sign today.

Read Today's Scripture and Commentary on the Concordia website.

2020-06-05 06:46:42