Lesson 17—Romans 4:13-25

The Fourth Illustration from God’s Picture Book

The Promise that God gave to Abraham vs. 13.

Again we accompany Abraham. This time to learn about the wonderful promise God made to him and how Gentiles as well as Jews are involved in the fulfillment of it. We have seen Abraham standing alone beneath the starry sky. Then he stood childless and without a possession in the world and God tells him he is the “heir of the universe.” To him and to his seed “the uttermost parts of the earth” are given “for a possession.” Now that seemed impossible for Abraham was not only childless but all prospect of having children in his home had vanished long since. But God said so and that was enough for Abraham, he believed God.

The first lesson that Paul would have us learn thru this experience of Abraham is that

The promise of God is not dependent upon the obedience of the law. vs. 14, 15.

It was not because of any goodness in Abraham that God gave him the promise. It was not “through the law,” that is, it was not on the ground of legal obedience. Indeed a promise is quite different from a command. When God promises He must fulfill, but the law makes demands upon us. It says “Do as I command you,” and puts us under obligations. The promise is unconditional.

Verse 14 tells us we can never link “faith” and “promise” and “law” together in one chain. If we try, “law” is sure to break the chain and make “the promise of none effect” because the law worketh wrath, “for where no law is, there is no transgression.”

Solomon put Shimei under law. (1 Kings 2:36-46). He said “You shall have a home in Jerusalem so long as you do not transgress.” Shimei accepted the conditions and said “The saying is good, as my Lord the king hath said, so will thy servant do.” But you put the law about a man and he will transgress. Shimei did. In course of time his servants ran away and he went after them. Shimei brought back his servants from Gath whither they had fled but he lost his life. “Why hast thou not kept the oath of the Lord and the commandment that I have charged thee with?” said the king and Shimei died at the hands of the law he had transgressed. “If they which are of the law be heirs,” all is lost but if “faith,” “promise” and “law” cannot be linked together, “faith” “grace” and “assurance” can. They form a line that can never be broken and that reaches out to “whosoever will” lay hold of it. God gave the promise on the principle of faith that it might be by grace and that it might be sure to all the seed of Abraham. The inheritance will surely be possessed by all of Abraham’s spiritual seed, because when God promised it, it was an unconditional promise.

Let us think of Abraham’s seed for a moment. That seed is divided into three groups and Abraham is the father of them all. There are those who will live up in heaven forever. There are those who will inherit the holy land and possess forever the land of their fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Then there is a third group—the rest of the nations. All the nations of the earth. When God made the promise to Abraham he had in view this grand and glorious scene of blessing.

The Promise was made by the God of Resurrection, vs. 17.

We read that Abraham’s body was dead and God said to him, I have made thee a father of many nations.” All human hope of Abraham having a son had perished, then how could nations rise out of a childless home? This was no difficulty with Abraham: “he believed God, who quickeneth the dead and calleth those things which be not as though thev were.” How could the promise fail when He who promised was such a God. What did it matter that impossibilities presented themselves, faith trusts God. Abraham did not as yet have a son but he had the God who promised and that was enough. His faith was in the omnipotent eternal God.


1. What is God’s picture book?

2. Why is it that faith, promise and law cannot be linked together?

3. What three things form a line that can never be broken?

4. Does the expression “Seed of Abraham” refer only to the nation of Israel?