In the first three chapters of Romans, God led Paul to expertly craft an argument for the necessity of salvation. He has written plainly about the only means of salvation: the gospel of Christ. The message of the gospel is that our sin makes salvation necessary and our Redeemer (Christ) makes salvation possible. But what makes salvation happen?
To answer that question, Paul uses Abraham, the great patriarch, as an example. In exploring how Abraham was saved, he shows how you and I are saved.
Abraham was not saved by doing good things — like circumcision. He submitted himself to circumcision, but only after he was saved (v.11). If not by good works, then how was old Abraham saved? The answer is that he was saved the same way you were: by faith. God had made a promise to Abraham that was impossible — as a dried-up century-old man, he would have a son with his barren, post-menopausal wife.
Although Abraham knew it was physically impossible, he took a giant leap of faith and believed God would do it! He was “fully convinced that God was able to do what He had promised” (v.21). And when Abraham placed his faith in the promise of God, he was saved.
Some people have a hard time connecting the dots here. They wonder, “If salvation is only possible through faith in Jesus, how was Abraham saved on the other side of the cross?” Again, he was saved the same way you were, by faith — but since Jesus had not yet purchased redemption on the cross, Abraham (and other Old Testament saints) was saved on credit. Verse 3: “Abraham believed God, and it was counted (or “credited”) to him as righteousness.” When Jesus was crucified, Abraham’s salvation was paid in full! Abraham had faith in God’s plan of redemption that was yet to be completed, while you and I place our faith in God’s plan (Jesus) that has already been fulfilled.
So here is the gospel: our sin makes salvation necessary, our Redeemer makes salvation possible (v.24-25), and our faith makes salvation happen.
Challenge: Pray for an opportunity to explain that to someone today, and when it comes, do it!