Online Bible Commentary
A Father of Many Nations
Romans 4:17 (as it is written, "I have made you a father of many nations") in the presence of Him whom he believed--God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did; 18 who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, "So shall your descendants be." 19 And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah's womb. 20 He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, 21 and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. 22 And therefore "it was accounted to him for righteousness." 23 Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, 24 but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25 who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification. (NKJV)
The Apostle Paul wrote the letter of Romans to the church in Rome while in Corinth, Greece for three months in A.D. late 56-early 57. The letter was written to both Jew and Gentile (non-Jew) believers.
In this passage, Paul begins by quoting Genesis 17:5, "I have made you a father of many nations" (v. 17a). These are God’s words to Abraham.
God made this promise to Abraham “in the presence of Him”, in the sight of God (v. 17b). God’s word had come to Abraham in a vision (Genesis 15:1). The promise was made to Abraham “whom he believed—God”, who had believed God (v. 17c).
God “gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did” (v. 17d). In other words, God resurrects the dead and speaks of things that do not exist as already existing. God told Abraham “I have made you a father of many nations", even though that had not yet happened.
Abraham and Sarah were beyond child-bearing age. Abraham was about 100 years old. Having a baby now was “contrary to hope” (v. 18a) Only God could make this happen at this late date.
So God gave Abraham a son, Isaac, because Abraham “in hope believed”, because of Abraham’s faith in God (v. 18b). God did this “so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ " (v. 18c). God had made the promise “So shall your descendants be” as meaning the number of stars in the sky (Genesis 15:5}.
Abraham was not “weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah's womb” (V. 19). Abraham had faith when everything else yelled “impossible!” All things are possible with God.
Abraham “did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief” (v. 20a). Abraham fully believed the promise of God. There was no doubt in his mind that God was incapable of a lie.
Abraham “was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God” (v. 20b). Abraham was strong in his faith. He gave all the glory to God, knowing that there was no human way for him and Sarah to have a baby at their ages.
If it was to happen, it had to be a God-thing. This was God’s way of showing Who was making this happen.
Abraham was “fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform” (v. 21). Abraham knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that if God promised it, God would deliver it. He knew that God is faithful.
As a result, "it was accounted to him for righteousness." (v. 22). Because of Abraham’s faith in Him, God put righteousness to Abraham’s account.
This is called imputed righteousness. This is the same righteousness that is imputed upon every person who believes in God and becomes a Christian.
“Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him” (v. 23). God imputed His righteousness to Abraham, but not just to Abraham.
He imputed His righteousness “also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead” (v. 24). God’s righteousness is imputed to all believers, to all who believe in God, who resurrected Jesus from the dead.
Jesus, “was delivered up because of our offenses” (v. 25a). Jesus was delivered up to death on the cross to deal with our sin problem. His death paid the penalty for our sins, past, present, and future, and did away with them, casting them as far as the east is from the west.
Also, Jesus “was raised because of our justification” (v. 25b). He was resurrected so as to demonstrate God’s justification of all believers.
Jesus was resurrected from the dead. He was the first of us, showing us that we also can be resurrected upon death.
But we can only be resurrected and spend eternity in Heaven if we are justified. Justification comes from God. We are justified, declared innocent by God, at the moment we profess our faith in Him and become a Christian.
In conclusion, because of Abraham’s faith in God, God made him a father of many nations. Abraham’s son, Isaac, was the father of Jacob, who was later named Israel. So, Abraham is the father of the Israelites.
Prior to Isaac, Abraham had an illegitimate son, Ishmael, not from Sarah. God renewed the covenant with Abraham (Genesis 17) after Ishmael was born, making it clear that Ishmael was not the promised son. Ishmael was said to be a prophet and some people connected him to the religion of Islam. However, Muhammed founded Islam about two thousand years after Ishmael’s death.
Abraham was born a Hebrew, technically a Gentile. Judah had not yet been established, so the term “Jews” did not exist. So, Abraham is the father of us all, both Jews and Gentiles, who have put their faith in God, the God of the Bible. Abraham is a father of many nations.