For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect:Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression.Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all,(Romans 4:13-16)
The faith of Abraham was based upon a promise from God the Almighty.that he would one day bear children,“as many the and of the sea, and the stars of the heavens’. This would require a miracle, because at the time Abraham and his wife were long past child bearing age, and had never conceived. It couldn’t possibly come about by any “works”.
The difference between Law and Promise is the difference between self effort and God’s power. Only God could make Abraham the Father of many nations! Originally, when Abraham was still an idolator, his given name was Abram,”exalted father”. In the giving of the promise, God changed his name to “Father of many nations”- Abraham.
And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying,As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations.Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee.And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.(Genesis 17:1-5)
When God wanted to start a new nation to accomplish his purposes, He didn’t seek out a virile young couple at the beginning of fruitful life, He choses an old couple long ast child bearing age, barren and beyond the hope of ever having their own children.This is how God works, so that no man can take the credit.
God made a promise to Abraham- a promise so unlikely only He could accomplish it. The existence of Israel is a miracle of the grace of God.All Abraham was expected to do was to believe God’s promise.
This is exactly the way God’s salvation works. Salvation is a human impossibility, no man can justify Himself before a Holy God, no one can save himself, no one can give himself a new spiritual and moral birth. As John would tell us in His gospel-
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.(John 1;12-13)
The new birth cannot come about “of the flesh”, nor “of blood”,nor of human will, New Birth is an act of God. The expression “born again” can also be rendered “born from above”. Since it cannot b effected by any human effort- it must be of God’s promise and cannot be attained by “works of the law”.
Promises from God, are gracious, God will do something for his people they can never do for themselves. They are to be received by faith- after all what can we do to effect them? God’s promises are what he says he will do. Abraham obtained the promise by faith, he didnt merit it or do anything to make it happen. How could he? Faith corresponds to grace and promise.
Law corresponds to works, self effort, and ultimately to wrath, because law increases the knowledge and guilt of the transgressor of the law.Thats why even with the advent of the law of Moses, the only way to be justified before God was by faith in God’s gospel. Law can never justify anyone, only show up their sins in heightened relief. Man could ever only be saved by faith .