I want to make my objective clear. Every time I come to this pulpit, I have a specific objective in mind. I do not
always make that objective clear, but I want to make it clear tonight. My objective is to build you up in faith.
The reason for this objective is the difference that faith in the living God can make in your life.
In this great chapter on faith, Paul focuses our attention on the father of faith - Abraham. Without question
Abraham is the greatest man in the Old Testament. The thing that made him the greatest man in the Old
Testament was that he was the man with the greatest faith in the Old Testament. His life's story is a
remarkable testimony to the power of God being revealed through a human life.
Abraham was comfortably situated in the Ur of the Chaldeans when the word of God came to Him. He joined
his family and neighbors in worshipping the gods and goddesses of his father week after week. He knew little
of the living God. When he was seventy-seven years old the living God spoke to him and gave him
instructions to go to a land that He would show him. In response to that word which came from God at the age
of seventy-seven, he left the comfortable circumstances of the Ur of the Chaldeans and started for a land that
he had never seen and didn't know where it was. All that he had was a promise from the living God.
Abram meant "the father of many." Even though his name was Abram, he actually was the father of none. His
wife, Sarah, was not able to conceive. This was an embarrassing situation in that ancient
world. Can you not imagine the jokes that must have been made about Abram's name? "The father of many"
is actually the father of none.
In an attempt to escape the embarrassment of his name and to help God keep His promise, when Abram was
eighty-six he took the handmaiden, Hagar, into his tent. She conceived and bore him a son whose name was
Ishmael. At least Abraham was now able to say that he had one son, even if he was not born of Sarah.
Sometime later God came to Abram and told him that Ishmael could not be the son of promise. When he had
told him that he would be the father of many, he had meant through Sarah. In this meeting God changed his
name again. He gave him the name Abraham - the father of many nations. Abram was actually ninety-nine
years old when God changed his name to Abraham. Dr. Barnhouse imagines what the reaction in the
neighborhood must have been when Abram announced his name change. When he said, "I am going to
change my name!" Some must have thought, he can't take it any more. The pressure of being called the
father of many when he doesn't have any legitimate children it is just too much for him. What a shock it must
have been when Abram informed them, "My name is now Abraham - the father of many nations. What chance
does a man who is ninety-nine years old and has not been able to father one son through his beloved wife
have of becoming the father of many nations? Actually, there is no possibility humanly of him even becoming
the father of one. The only possibility of Abram ever becoming the father of many, or Abraham becoming "the
father of many nations" is in the promise of God. The experience of Abraham helps us to see the relationship
between the power of God and human faith.
I. God has the power to perform whatever He has promised.
This is the truth that underlies all of the experience of Abraham. Paul stated it so clearly when he said, "Being
fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised." There is a correlation between the promise
of God and the power of God. Paul describes for us the dynamics of this faith of Abraham. What he believed
about God made all the difference in this moment of crises. As it is written, I have made you a father of many
nations. He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed - the God who gives life to the dead and
calls things that are not as though they were." Notice what Abraham believed to be true about God.
1. He has the power to give life to the dead.
Paul puts it simply, "the God who gives life to the dead." Evidently, Abraham reasoned back from the promise
of God. Here was his situation - God had given him a promise that he would be the promise of many nations.
In reality the womb of Sarah was dead and his own body was dead as far as reproductive powers were
concerned. He was ninety-nine years old and beyond the years in which he had any natural possibility of
being a father. However, he chose not to focus upon his natural condition, but rather to focus upon the
promise of God. Since God cannot lie, and God had clearly said that he was to be the father of many nations,
that left only one possibility. God must have the power to bring to life that which was dead. In this instance, he
must have the power to bring to life the womb of Sarah and the reproductive capacities of Abraham. So he is
the God who gives life to the dead. Later, this same truth about God would sustain Abraham when he was
called to offer Isaac as a sacrifice. Since he had the promise of God that through Isaac he would be the father
of many nations, and God was requiring of him the death of Isaac, then God must be intending to raise Isaac
from the dead in order to keep His promise. What God has promised, God is surely able to perform. If God
has promised something that requires a resurrection from the dead in order for it to become a reality, then
God will raise the dead. When you make this kind of statement about the power of God, you are really
affirming that God can do anything. What ever is required in order for the promise of God to become a reality,
God is surely able to do.
2. He has the power to call things that are not as though they were.
This second expression of Abraham's confidence has bothered Bible scholars some. What does he mean
when he speaks of calling "things that are not as though they were."This statement is clearly a reference to
the promise of God. God had called Abraham "the father of many nations." Actually, Abraham was not even
the father of one child. But what ever God calls Abraham, He is able to cause to exist.
It might be helpful if I asked the question, "When did Abraham become the father of many nations?" Did he
become the father of many nations when Isaac was born? Or, did he become the father of many nations when
God called him Abraham - the father of many nations. As far as the purpose of God is concerned Abraham
became the father of many nations at the moment God spoke the promise. If God has said it, it is done.
This helps us understand some things Paul will say later in the Roman letter. In describing what God has done
for His people, Paul will use some past tense verbs while referring to things that have not happened yet. As an
example he speaks of those God has called to salvation as "glorified."
In the mind of Paul, since God has promised the glorification of His people in heaven, it is an accomplished
fact. It will be many years later before a child of God actually experiences glorification, but it is already a fact
since God has promised it. What ever promise God has given to us in scripture, He is able to call it into
existence. He is the creator God. If it requires a divine act of creation in order for the promise to become a
reality, then He will perform an act of creation. He is the one who has the power to do what He has
promised. This really becomes a significant truth when you pick out from the scriptures all the promises that
God has made to His children. Remember there is in God all of the power that is needed for the performance
of the promise.
II. Faith releases the supernatural power into the realm of the natural.
This is the other side of this truth. There is a vital connection between our faith and God's power. Paul brings
the two together with this statement, "Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so become the father of
many nations, just as it had been said to him, "so shall your offspring be." Its those words and "so became."
He became what God had promised by simply believing. When the only basis he had for faith was the
character of God, he believed. When everything around him said there is no hope of the promise of God ever
becoming a reality, he chose to look to the God who had promised in faith. He became what God had
promised by faith. There are some important truths for us to learn from this.
1. The super natural is always required to do the work of God.
Abrahams becoming the father of many nations was at the heart of God's redemptive purpose in the earth. It
was the will of God that Abraham would be a vital part of his purpose to bring the Messiah into the world. He is
to be the father of many nations. But the only way he can be the father of many nations is for the power of
God to be expressed toward him, in him, and through him. The supernatural, the power of God, is always a
requirement. We must not forget this. What ever God promises us, it will require His power for it to ever
become a reality. This is true for you individually and it is true for us congregationally. You may sense that
God is requiring something of you that is totally beyond your ability or resources. I suspect many of us will
have this experience as we begin to ask God about our part in the capital stewardship, Crossover campaign
of this spring. God will ask some of us to make a commitment that we do not have the resources to back up.
The only way our commitment can ever become a reality is for God to supernaturally provide. There is no
question about it. What God wants this church to do in this community requires the supernatural, the power of
God, for it ever to become a reality.
2. Faith is required for the release of the supernatural.
It was Abraham's faith that brought the quickening power of God to bear upon the womb of Sarah and upon
his own reproductive capacities. When he touched God through faith, then God touched him at his point of
need in power.  This helps us see the very nature of faith. Faith is standing on the promise of God. Faith is
looking to the power of God. Faith is depending on the faithfulness of God. Faith is receiving the resources of
God. The prominent thing in faith is the object of faith - the living God.
Unbelief is the opposite of faith. Every time you are faced with a situation that requires faith unbelief is a
possibility. Unbelief does not limit the power of God, but it does limit the expression of the power of God. In
order for God to manifest Himself as God in the realm of the natural, He needs a person of faith. When Jesus
walked through Galilee, the power of God was expressed through Him in almost every village. But when He
came to His own hometown of Nazareth, things were different. The gospel writers tell us that not many
miracles happened there. Did Jesus have less power in Nazareth than He did in Capernaum? Obviously not!
The gospel writers indicate that it was because of their unbelief that only a few sick persons were healed. He
had as much power there as any where, but the power was not released. Where there was no faith there was
no expression of the power of God. God has the power to save all men. However, some are saved and some
are not saved. What makes the difference? Faith! God saves everyone that believes. If you are to experience
the saving power of God, that power must be released in your life through faith. God has the power to sustain
and use every Christian in His service. Some are sustained and used while are others are not sustained and
used. What makes the difference? Faith! Every time God needs faith in a human life, He expresses Himself in
power toward and through that life. God has the power to make every church strong and effective in its
ministry but there are some churches obviously strong and effective, while others are weak and ineffective.
What makes the difference? Faith! It is faith that releases the power of God through the life and ministry of a
church. Our faith will be the greatest determinant in our ministry. If we will look at the promises of God, and
take our stand on the promises of God, and base our expectations on the power of God, we will experience
the provisions of God. There is this vital connection between faith and the power of God.