Romans 4:17 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.
It is in Genesis 17 that God changes Abram’s name to ‘Abraham’. ‘Ab-ram’ means ‘Exalted Father’, and ‘Ab-raham’ means “Father of Many (nations)’. At this time, Abraham’s only offspring was Ishmael, whose mother was the Egyptian servant-girl, Hagar, not Abram’s wife Sarah, the ‘mother’ associated with the Covenant Promise. So we see here, as throughout Scripture, that God is so supremely sovereign in the world he has made that he only has to promise something, and it can be considered as if it has already happened.
Paul uses the formula, “as it is written” to demonstrate this Scriptural principle in Abraham’s case. In other words, it is fundamental to who God is that he can “call things that are not as though they were”! And it is because of the absolute, unwavering trust that Abraham had in God’s sovereignty and faithfulness to his promises that Paul is using as an example of believing faith that God ‘credits as righteousness’. Some time later, after the supernatural, miraculous conception by Sarah of Isaac, the son of the Covenant Promise, Abraham would say to Isaac, on the way to his sacrifice on Mt Moriah, “God will provide himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son” (Genesis 22:8). So it was sinful Abraham’s saving faith in Jesus, God’s own sacrificial Lamb, that guaranteed his righteous standing before his holy God, even though it would be 2.000 years before the event God promised actually took place in human history.
“Abra[ha]m believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). We, too, can enjoy an eternally secure relationship with our holy God, in spite of our innate sinfulness, by simply placing our whole trust in what Jesus already achieved for us through the Cross and the Empty Tomb, knowing that God clothes us in Christ’s righteousness, and, by doing so, “calls things that are not as though they were”.
“Look, Father, look on his anointed face and only look on us as found in him. Look not on our misusings of thy grace, our prayer so languid and our faith so dim; for, Lo, between our sins and their reward we set the passion of thy Son, our Lord” (William Bright).
“When Satan tempts me to despair and tells me of the guilt within, upward I look, and see him there who put an end to all my sin. Because the sinless Saviour died, my sinful soul is counted free, for God, the Just, is satisfied to look on him, and pardon me” (Charitie Lees de Chenez).
I am not yet made perfect, but, I thank God with all my heart that he “calls things that are not as though they were.”
– Bruce Christian