Monday, November 28

Called According to Paul: Romans 4:17

An explanation of this series of posts can be found here. You'll find the first two posts in the series are here and here.

In this post I'll look at Paul's use of the word called in Roman 4:17.
...as it is written, 'I have made you the father of many nations'--in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. (ESV)

The context of this quote is speaking of Abraham's faith. Abraham believed that God would fulfill his promise to him. You'll remember the promise: God would make Abraham the father of many nations, and his offspring would be innumerable like the stars are innumerable.

Abraham faith was firm because he understood some things about the God who had spoken the promise to him: he was a God who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. In other words, Abraham's faith was strong regardless of the impossibility, humanly speaking (Abraham being "as good as dead" and Sarah being barren), of what God had promised him, for Abraham understood that God is the God of divine fiat.

The language of the phrase we are looking at--"calls into existence the things that do not exist"--is language that harks back to God's creation by command. So while this particular usage of the word call is not refering to the call that works salvation (or faith, or conversion) like the usages examined in 1 Corinthians 1 and 7, Paul is nonetheless using it in the sense of divine command. Abraham believed God because he understood that many nations would spring forth from him by way of God's calling into existence things that do not exist. Paul is using call here in the sense of a command with creative power.

Just as with other posts in this series, I welcome additions/corrections/comments about Paul's usage of the word call in this context.
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