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All Scripture references are to the New International Version UK edition, unless stated otherwise.


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.


Question: What is the meaning of the second part of this verse: ‘God who . . . calls things that are not as though they were’?


Answer: To properly understand this, we must consider the entire verse, and compare it with other Scriptures. The quotation ‘I have made you a father of many nations’ comes from Genesis 17: 4: ‘As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations.’ This is one of many promises that God made to Abraham.


According to the Scriptures, Abraham and his family foreshadow important features of God’s Plan. Perhaps the best explanation is found in Galatians 4: 22-31. Although beyond the scope of our answer, the Apostle Paul here clearly shows that the mothers Sarah and Hagar, and their respective sons, Isaac and Ishmael, pre-figure or type various individuals, classes and covenants. Abraham in this context seems to type God as the ‘begetter’ – through the Law and Grace covenants – of the Jewish nation and the Church respectively.


Returning to v. 17: ‘He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed.’

The expression ‘in whom’ refers to God, who ‘gives life to the dead’. When these words were recorded the resurrection was (and is) future.


God always speaks of those features of His Plan which are yet future as if they have come to pass. Many unbelievers think that death ends all. But Jehovah intends to awaken all the dead from their graves, an expectation based on the sure foundation of Christ’s ransom-sacrifice, and therefore an absolute certainty from God’s point of view. He sees the dead as merely experiencing a temporary suspension of life, as being asleep.


Jesus Refutes The Sadducees

On one occasion, the Sadducees, who denied the resurrection or any future life, tackled Jesus in an attempt to refute His teachings on this point. Jesus’ answer to them is in Luke 20: 37, 38:


37 But in the account of the bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’.

38 He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.


Jesus here confirms a future life on the basis that God would not refer to Himself in the present tense as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had they gone out of existence forever. Jesus asserts that though man may regard the dead as extinct, from God’s anticipatory standpoint, ‘to him all are alive’, that they only sleep, awaiting the resurrection morning. Though the original sentence upon Adam and his descendants was to death, that verdict has been overturned by the ransom-sacrifice of Jesus.


God declares the fixedness and unalterable nature of His great Plan of salvation for the world of mankind. His infinite wisdom and sovereign power guarantee His predictions, and give the Christian a strong foundation for faith (Isaiah 46: 10).


I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.



Copyright February 2012 ukbiblestudents.co.uk


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