Second Reading: Romans 4:18-25

Friends by Faith

Do you have a friend you can completely trust? How does increasing trust strengthen a friendship?

Popular Translation

18 Hope against hope, Abraham put his faith in God. Abraham did this so he could become a father of many peoples, just as God said: "You will have many descendants."

19 Abraham's trust in God did not become weak. Since he was almost a hundred years old, he thought he and Sarah could never, ever become parents by themselves. 20 But he did not doubt God's promise, like unbelievers do. Instead, Abraham gained strength by his faith. He gave glory to God. 21 He was really convinced that, whatever God promised, God could do.

22 So, God made Abraham a friend because of his faith. 23 The Bible does not say this about Abraham alone. 24 It also says this about us. God will make us his friends because of our faith. We believe God raised our Lord Jesus from the dead. 25 He was handed over to evil people for our sins, but God raised him up so we could be his friends.

Literal Translation

18 Hope against hope, (Abraham) trusted (God) that he would become a "father of many nations" by the (word) having been spoken, "Thus will be your seed," 19 and not having weakened in faith, (he) considered his (own) body [already] having been dead, living almost a hundred years (old), and the dead state of motherhood in Sarah, 20 but he did not doubt in the promise of God, (as) in disbelief, but he was empowered by faith, giving glory to God, 21 and having been fully convinced that what (God) promised he also had the power to do. 22 So, "it was consider for him (an act of) righteousness." 23 (This) was not written for him alone that it was considered (an act of righteousness) for him, 24 but also for us, to whom (faith) will be considered (an act of righteousness), the (ones) believing in the (One) having raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25 who was handed over for our trespasses and was raised up for our justification.

4:18 "(Abraham)" is the pronoun "who." Since Abraham was the subject of the discourse, the pronoun "who" referred to the patriarch and is the subject of the sentence.

"Thus will be your seed" Genesis 15:5.

4:20 "(as) in disbelief" This could refer to nagging doubts Abraham might have had, or it could refer to outsiders (i.e., Gentiles). The popular translation used the second sense.

4:22 ""it was consider for him (an act of) righteousness." This verse is from Genesis 15:6. Paul took a sentence with an active construction and made it passive. Literally, God considered Abraham a righteous man, one who had a worthy relationship with his maker. Abraham was righteous based upon his faith.

Healthy relationships are built on trust. Best friends trust each other with secrets more than they trust acquaintances. Friends depend upon each other for help, emotional support, and a loving presence. People trust their friends will be there for them.

The paragraph above stated the obvious. But, the nature of trust cannot be overstated when the friendship exists between Creator and creature. In his letter to the Romans, Paul pointed to trust as the end game for the spiritual quest. One finds justification (i.e., a sense of proper place and peace) with God when he or she places trust in the Almighty. This trust becomes a basis for a relationship, a friendship. In this way, the believer addresses God as Father, confidant, intimate companion. Notice, trust trumps other spiritual goals of blind obedience to divine edict, the search for enlightenment, or participation in the rhythms of nature. Trust in God is the hallmark of Christian spirituality.

Paul appealed to the story of the Patriarch in order to make his point. In his debates with others at the synagogues he visited, Paul must have encountered opposition to his notion of salvation by faith. Didn't such a view abrogate the Torah and its edicts? By pointing to the faith of Abraham, Paul leaped over the arguments of his Jewish critics. Faith was the basis for the covenant God made with the Patriarch, Paul reasoned; so, faith was the means to realize the promises God made to his people. As Israel was born out of the faith one man had in God, so, too, a new people would come to be out of faith. For Paul, faith in God's Chosen stood above obedience to the edicts of the Law. When believers placed their complete trust in Jesus Christ, they were saved.

Trust is the key. When we trust God with our joys and sorrows, our successes and failures, our past and our future, we treat the Almighty as friend. And through trust, we are open to his will and his ways. In trust, we find our place with God. He call him "Friend."

How has your friendship with God grown? How has your trust in him increased?