(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; - Romans 4:17
There is a lot of controversy about this scripture. The end of this scripture is often quoted by 'Word of Faith' preachers in such a way to say that WE can call things into existence with our words. However, opponents of the 'Word of Faith' movement point out that it is clearly referring to God when read in context. Let's look a little bit deeper at this passage of scripture by expanding the context:
16 Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all 17 (as it is written, “I have made you a father of many nations”[d]) 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.”[e] 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.”
We see that in this passage Paul is discussing the story of Abraham. When Abraham and Sarah were 'well advanced in years' God came to Abraham and told him that he would be the "father of many nations". There was one problem, Abraham wasn't even a father and was already approaching 100 years old. Of course we know the story and Abraham believed God, held onto the promise, and Isaac was born.
So let's look at the argument about verse 17. As the Word of Faith opponents point out it is very clear that Paul is attributing this ability to God. This is an ability we not only see in the story about Abraham but also in the creation of the World. God started with nothing and spoke everything into existence (Genesis 1).
However, looking at the entire passage it seems that, in this case, God needed something from man in order to complete this task. It seems that God needed Abraham to have faith in His Word. This may seem to go against the theology that God is all powerful but it actually does not. It simply brings to light a principle that God set into place since the creation of the world. He created mankind and said "let him have dominion over [creation]" (Genesis 1:26). This means that God handed authority of this earth over to mankind after creating us. So God will call those things that do not exist into existence but is looking for man to have faith in His words in order to believe it into existence. He is all powerful but has given authority on earth to mankind and we can use that authority to invite His power to work in the earth. This is one reason why Hebrews 11:6 says:
Without faith it is impossible to please God...
Taking it a step further, we also see in Genesis 1:26 that God made mankind (both male and female) in His own image. It would make sense that if God made us in His own image we would have some of the same abilities as Him. This means that maybe we do have the ability to call things into existence. I can see how this may be kind of a stretch so let's look at some further evidence in scripture:
Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
And those who love it will eat its fruit.
22 So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. 23 For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. 24 Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.
The centurion answered and said, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed.
These are just a few examples of the evidence throughout the Word that there is power in our confession. Now I am not advocating the "Name it, Claim it" extremism in this area. However I do believe that we need to confess the Word of God over our lives in faith and watch our situations change!