Stöckhardt: Not By Sight, But By Faith

What we have said about justifying faith on the basis of Scripture is explained by the example of Abraham’s faith at the end of Romans chapter four. And we should practically use this kind of example. Exempla illustrant.[1] We read in Romans 4:18-22: “In hope he [Abraham] believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, ‘So shall your offspring be.’ He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was ‘reckoned to him as righteousness.'” Abraham believed in hope against hope. According to the common course of events there was nothing for him to hope. But he did not consider his own deadened body and the deadened body of Sarah, did not look at what lay before his eyes, but looked only at God and God’s promise, according to which he should be a father of many nations. He gave glory to God in that he did not doubt, but knew in the most certain way, was firmly convinced about it, that God could do what He has promised. We should apply this to ourselves. “But the words ‘it was counted to him’ were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.”[2] We believe in God, Who has raised Jesus from the dead. We believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Crucified and Resurrected, in Whom we have perfect righteousness, as the Gospel witnesses. And this is the type and nature of proper faith: he completely disregards his own person and looks solely at the promises of God that promises us vain grace, comfort, and joy in Christ. Faith is a marvelous thing. We go out, as we believe, as it were, completely from ourselves and cling with every fiber of our hearts to the great and rich promises of God, rest with our soul entirely in the Word that presents to us the righteousness that avails before God. According to the natural course of things, according to the judgment of reason and our own conscience there is nothing for us to hope. For we are sinners and deserve only death and destruction. But we believe in hope against hope. We forget ourselves, who we are, and direct hearts and thoughts solely on the Word that eternally stands firm outside ourselves, on the gracious promises of God of the forgiveness of sins and eternal life, and not doubt that God actually does and gives what He promises in His Word, that all of God’s promises are “Yes” and “Amen” in Christ, and give God glory with such confidence.

Accordingly, a preacher should say to his hearers: Pay no attention to what is before your eyes! You probably still feel sin in your flesh daily. Your conscience often gnaws and bites at you. If you look at yourself, you have to hope for nothing good. But you must and shall entirely ignore your unworthiness and incompetence, your own person, your deeds and conduct, your own righteousness and unrighteousness. This is proper faith. Behold what lies outside of and around you! Fix your eyes straightaway on the Word. The comforting voice presses against you throughout Scripture: Be of good cheer, my son, your sins are forgiven! You shall not die, but live! And what God promises you in His Word is Truth, it has power and validity. Therefore give God glory and do not doubt, but believe in the most certain way that the gracious promises of God also concern us and will come true for you. Let this be your watchword: “I believe what Jesus’ Word promises, whether or not I feel it.”

[1] They illustrate examples.

[2] Romans 4:23-25.

“The Practical Treatment of the Doctrine of Justification”, translated by DMJ


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