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Abraham-Faith and Love

  

Abraham was justified by faith.  In this article we will explore the explicit teaching about Abrahamís faith and the implicit teaching about Abrahamís love for God, We should not draw conclusions about justification by faith until we have considered the pertinent factors.

 Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.  (Genesis 15: 6)

And he said, ďDo not stretch out your hand against the lad, for know I know you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, tour only son from Me.Ē  (Genesis 22: 12)

Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered up Isaac, his son on the altar?  You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ďAnd Abraham believe God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,Ē and he was called the friend of God.  You see that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone.  (James 2: 21- 24)

 

Was Abraham the first to believe in God, and the first to live by faith?

No, the Scriptures tell us that Abel, Enoch and Noah all believed God and lived by faith before Abraham.  (Hebrews 11: 4- 7

 

Was Abraham the first whose faith was reckoned for righteousness?

No, that distinction belongs to Noah.  Hebrews 11: 7

 

Was Abraham the first whose faith was pleasing to God and rewarded by God?

No, that distinction belongs to Enoch, who did not see death.  His faith was pleasing to God.  (Hebrews 11: 5)

 

Was the event (when Abrahamís faith was reckoned for righteousness) recorded in Genesis 15: 6, the first time that Abraham believed in God?

No, by faith Abraham obeyed when he was called and by faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise before the Scriptures state his faith was reckoned for righteousness.  (Hebrews 11: 8- 10)

 

What does this tell us about Abrahamís faith and love?

The Scriptures explicitly states that Abraham responded by faith.  Without doubt, he believed God before the Scriptures record that his faith was reckoned for righteousness.  In light of the following considerations, his obedience tells us something about his love for God.

 

Why was the statement that Abraham believed and his faith was reckoned for righteousness made at that particular time, not earlier or later?

I believe the statement could have been made when he was called or when the record states he lived as an alien, but it was not so as not to be tainted with his works.  It is imperative that we understand that justification is based on faith not works.  Only faith is reckoned for righteousness.  This is the thrust of the Apostle Paulís teaching in his letters. However Paul recognizes that obedience is essential to salvation not only in the Roman letter but also in other epistles.  (Romans 4: 1- 4)

The statement was not made later, after he was circumcised to show that the promise of life by faith applied to the Gentiles, who were uncircumcised, also.  Circumcision was, for the Jew, a seal of the righteousness by faith.  (Romans 4: 9- 13)

Since circumcision was only a seal or sign of the righteousness by faith, could a male Jew blow it off if he was so inclined?

On the contrary an uncircumcised male was to be cut off form his people as a covenant breaker. (Genesis 17: 10- 14)

 

What then is the intent of James teaching about justification?

James would agree with Paul that justification is based on faith not works.  Only faith is reckoned for righteousness.  James is endeavoring to show that the faith, which saves and justified is never alone but will inevitably be associated with works of faith or obedience.

 

Is salvation by faith alone?

Certainly not!  Paradoxically, faith alone is reckoned for righteousness but the faith that is reckoned for righteousness is never alone.  Works are not reckoned for righteousness; baptism is not reckoned for righteousness; repentance is not reckoned for righteousness.  Salvation is not by faith alone because:

 

When is faith reckoned for righteousness?

Some would say:

1. Immediately upon believing.

This might be true except that the Scriptures give several examples that donít appear to fit that pattern.

2. When mental assent becomes trust

Again, this might be true except:

3. When faith is perfected by obedience

 

Conclusion:

Those who look to Abraham as an example of salvation by faith alone or as an example of righteous being imputed without regard to obedience are looking in the wrong place.  Abraham has a unique place in history; he was to become the father of a great nation, the Jews, but more importantly he was to become the father of a great spiritual people.

Some tell us that recognizing baptism, for example, as a necessary to salvation is adding to the finished work of Christ.  How they love that phrase!  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Baptism is Godís way of manís  appropriation, by faith, of the finished work of Christ and no symbol more fittingly points to the death and burial and resurrection of Christ than baptism.  No symbol points to the cleansing by the blood of Christ better  than baptism.  No symbol points to the spiritual birth better  than the coming forth from water and Spirit when baptized

Some also bemoan baptism as an additional requirement, not realizing that baptism is Godís blessing so that we may know when our faith and love are acceptable to God.

 

God Bless.

Arland  Pafford  

 

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Last Update   09/26/12