October 14, 2015
(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)
Today we are on to the third of Four Examples Of Faith. This example is Abraham, and there is so much evidence for Abraham’s faith that it will take more than one blog to even briefly examine what the Scriptures say about the father of the Jewish nation as well as all believers. As touching him being the father of all the faithful, it says in Romans 4:16 (Contemporary English Version):
Everything depends on having faith in God, so that God’s promise is
assured by his great kindness. This promise isn’t only for Abraham’s
descendants who have the Law [the Jews]. It is for all who are Abra-
ham’s descendants because they have faith, just as he did. Abraham
is the ancestor of us all.
Let’s see what James writes about Abraham in James 2:21 through 24:
Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac
his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with
his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was
fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to
him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. You see
then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.
The last sentence of this passage caused fits for the Martin Luther! Luther came out of the medieval Roman Catholic Church whose clergy was too often corrupt, and that emphasized works as the basis of justification before God. When this Catholic monk (and later, priest and theology professor) was studying for a lecture on Paul’s epistle to the Romans, he focused on Romans 1:17: “…in…[the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’ ” It is by faith, not by works that a person is justified before God! So because James had written in verse 24 of our Scripture, “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only…”, Martin Luther wrote in his German translation preface to James: “St. James’s epistle is really a right strawy epistle [an epistle of straw], compared to these others, for it has nothing of the nature of the gospel about it.”
But what does the Scripture say about Abraham’s justification?
• In Genesis 15, verses 1-4, God promised Abraham – then probably at least 80 – a son, an heir, by his wife Sarah, who was 70 or so. It was impossible by human standards! Sarah had long before stopped having her monthly cycle, and had never borne children before that! But it is stated in Genesis 15:5 and 6:
Then He [God] brought him outside and said, “Look now toward heaven,
and count the stars, if you be able to number them.” And He said to him,
“So shall your descendants be.” And he believed in the LORD, and He
accounted it to him for righteousness.
Abraham had faith in what God had promised him! This was the basis of his being declared righteous before God!
• Paul gives strong commentary on this in Romans 4:16 through 22:
…Abraham…in the presence of…God, who gives life to the dead and calls
those things which do not exist as though they did…contrary to hope, in
hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according
to that which was spoken, “So shall your descendants be.” And not being
weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he
was about an hundred years old), and the deadness of Sara’s womb. He
did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strength-
ened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what
He had promised He was able also to perform. And therefore “it was
accounted to him for righteousness.”
Paul then applies this to us and our justification in Romans 4:23 through 25:
Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, but
also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up
Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our of-
fences, and was raised because of our justification.
These last three verses I consider to be the best Scriptural definition of salvation through justification by faith! Abraham experienced this, and so do we when we come in faith to Jesus: “…he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.”
More on Abraham as one of the Four Examples Of Faith in our next blog, especially what James mentions in verse 21 as the evidence of Abraham’s faith, “…he offered Isaac his son on the altar….”