41. The Certainty of Faith – Giving God Glory (Romans 4:21)

As Paul defines the nature of faith in Romans he appeals first to Abraham and then to Adam. In the case of Abraham Paul stresses that his relationship with God first and foremost rested upon his response of faith (confident trust). “But to the one who puts confident trust in the One Who declares the impious person just, his confident trust is credited for a declaration of justness” (Romans 4:5). He tells how Abraham did not doubt that God would fulfill His promise of a child to be Abraham’s heir. Even though his natural bodily functions, as well as Sarah’s, because of age gave all indications that the promise could not be fulfilled, Abraham still exercised confident trust in God’s word to him. “Against hope he put confident trust in hope” (Romans 5:18).

            In place of doubt and faithlessness, Abraham’s faith made him strong (enedunamothe, empowered1 5:20). The appropriate evidence of faith, as Paul has argued in Romans 1:21, is giving God the glory He alone deserves. When God publicly declared His eternal power (dunamis, 1:20) through creation, humanity exchanged God’s glory for idolatry. Not so Abraham! When God made His promise, Abraham demonstrated strong faith “by giving glory to God” (5:20).

            How exactly did Abraham “give glory to God”? What did this look like? Paul says that “he was fully persuaded (plerophoretheis) that God had power (dunatos) to do what he had promised” (5:21). He does not use the verb “to put confident trust in” (pisteuein) by which he had up to this point described Abraham’s response to God (4:3, 5, 11, 17, 18, 24). Rather he chooses a verb that most commonly had the sense of paying off a debt, whether financial or moral. In this sense it signifies giving full satisfaction for an outstanding account. This idea of perfect accomplishment is perhaps what we find in Luke 1:1 where the Gospel writer defines the subject of his gospel as “a narrative about the actions that stand fully accomplished (peplerophoremenon) among us”. So Abraham gave glory to God by demonstrating full satisfaction that God’s power was equal to the promise He had made. As Abraham made decisions and took action because he knew God would provide him with a son, this confident life perspective added to God’s reputation. It said to all the world – Yahweh can be trusted, Yahweh is this powerful, Yahweh knows what He is doing.

At the end of Colossians Paul says that Epaphras, the messenger from the church at Colosse was praying constantly for his Christian friends back home. The substance of his prayer is significant:  “that you might stand perfect and fully satisfied (peplerophoremenoi) in all God’s will” (4:12). He prayed that the Colossian believers would fulfill God’s will perfectly and satisfy all of its dimensions fully. Earlier in Colossians 2:2 Paul expressed his hope that this letter would provide them with encouragement, knitting their hearts together in love and resulting in “the full wealth of conviction (plerophorias, this is the cognate noun) that understanding brings”. Paul writes to make sure that Christian understanding is fully complete so that they can withstand the deception of false teaching (Colossians 2:8-9).

When Paul comes to the end of his Roman letter, he discusses various contentious issues, one of them being the observance of special days – should everyone consecrate a particular day to God? After setting out the alternatives, he urges, “let each person be fully convinced (plerophoreistho) in his own mind” (Romans 14:5). Which day we seek to give to God in worship is neither here nor there for Paul, it seems. What is important is that a person, out of consciousness of God, live each and every day for the Lord and should he set aside a special day, to do it because he has thought it through and knows this is pleasing to God.

The writer of Hebrews uses this term twice. In the great summary of Hebrews 10: 19-25, he builds upon the wonderful privileges that we possess because of the work of Jesus, our perfect high priest. His perfect sacrifice and intercession now offer us the opportunity to draw near “with a sincere heart in full assurance (plerophoriai) derived from faith” (Hebrews 10:22). Our faith should completely satisfy any hesitation we might have about our relationship with God. Earlier when the writer was warning his readers about the dangers of reneging on their Christian confession, he urged them to show diligent eagerness “towards the full assurance (plerophorian) derived from hope until the end” (6:11). They should remain fully satisfied in their faith because of the hope they have in this Gospel.

Finally, there are three places where Paul uses it with reference to the full completion of a ministry or commission. He urges Timothy to “completely accomplish (plerophoreson) your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:5). He thanks God that the Lord stood by him and strengthened him so that “the proclamation might be fully accomplished (plerophorethei) and that all the nations might hear” (2 Timothy 4:17). When Paul reflects upon the mission he had among the Thessalonians, he says the Word of God was present “in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction (plerophoriai)” (1 Thessalonians 1:5).

While these usages indicate various nuances that this cognate noun and verb express in the New Testament, the sense of full accomplishment, often with the attendant sense of assurance or conviction, dominates. Faith particularly is linked with this term, but not as feeling, but more as the careful reflection upon the Gospel truth with corresponding conviction about its truth and implications being the foundation for our actions. There is often a futuristic element with this word such that our current assurance lends us significant hope in God’s promises. As we act upon our convictions in Christ, God’s reputation gains weight in our world. Our complete satisfaction in God’s abilities demonstrates the reality of His love, His truth, His will, and His power. As well, we see our own ministry as the ‘full accomplishment’ of our obedient response to God. All this adds to God’s glory


  • Paul uses this term in Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”.

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