Summary: Abraham was in the position to be the ultimate example for justification by faith for several reasons.
Abraham: A Midrash Extravaganza
1. There aren’t many Abraham jokes out there. To get this one, you have to know a little about computers and the life of Abraham.
2. Abraham announced to Isaac one day that he had decided to upgrade their family computer to Windows 10. So they traveled to the mountain to download the upgrade.
As they neared the top of the hill, Isaac said, "But father, we don't have enough memory!"
To which Abraham replied, "Don't worry, my son, the Lord will provide the RAM."
3. As recorded in the Bible, Abraham the Hebrew was guided by G d to the Holy Land, where he was chosen to be the progenitor of the Jewish nation. Together with his wife, Sarah, he taught people about the existence of a G d who is one and cannot be seen. His legacy was carried on by his son, Isaac, whom he almost sacrificed at G d’s command. The first of the patriarchs, he is referred to by Jewish people as Avraham Avinu, “Abraham our Father.” [chabod.org]
4. Based upon Isiah 51:1-2a, the Jews understood Abraham’s example of faith as “the rock.” The text reads: “Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness, you who seek the Lord:
look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug.
Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who bore you…”
5. The idea is that Abraham models how to relate to God, and he does. Prototype.
6. It is therefore natural for Paul to look to Abraham’s example as an argument for the truth of justification by faith.
Main Idea: Abraham was in the position to be the ultimate example for justification by faith for several reasons.
I. Antiquity: The Book of Genesis SAYS Abraham Was Counted Righteous Because of His Faith (1-8).
Genesis 15:6, “And he [Abraham] believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
A. Abraham was justified by FAITH (1-3).
B. Justification is a GIFT, not a wage (4-5).
Ponder this verse: it has deep implications.
He chooses Abraham, not an example of an evil person who was saved, like the thief on the cross, but a good man, relatively speaking. As Chrysostom comments, “…for a person richly adorned with good deeds, not to be just from those, but from faith – this is something to cause wonder, and to set the power of faith in a strong light. And this is why he passes by all the others, and leads his discourse back to this man.” [Homily 8 on Romans].
C. David was also COUNTED righteous apart from works (6-8).
These the examples share the word “counted,” (credited) a bookkeeping term.
Gezerah shavah (same terms) – one of Hillel’s key interpretational rules.
II. Clarity: Abraham Was YET Uncircumcised When He Was Justified (9-11a).
A. Jews believed he was considered a GENTILE until he was circumcised.
B. He was “counted righteous” 13 years BEFORE he was circumcised. (see Genesis 15:6; 16:3-4, 16; 17:24-25).
C. Logically, then, circumcision, the symbol of Law-keeping, is not NECESSARY to salvation.
• We would argue the same thing about baptism; it is a symbol, sometimes used for the whole of conversion, but salvation comes when we repent and believe, and baptism is the symbol of what has already happened.
III. Simplicity: Abraham Did Not Relate to God through LAW Keeping (11b-12).
A. Abraham was to be the father of MANY nations, not just Israel
- Are you genetically descended from Abraham? (Arabs, Jews, Ethiopians & more)
B. Abraham is the father of all who have FAITH in the true God (11 b-12)
1. Luke 19:9-10 speaks of the repentance and faith of Zacchaeus the tax collector, “ And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
2. Even modern Jews will tell gentile converts that they can refer to Abraham as Our Father Abraham, which is how the Jewish people refer to him.
C. He did not relate to God through LAW (13-17).
D. His faith was demonstrated by the fact he DEPENDED upon God to keep His promise and make him a father in old age (18-22).
A city was being bombed during wartime, and a father who picked up his son and ran for a shelter.. On the way, the bombing intensified and the father wasn’t sure they would make it to the shelter.
Seeing a deep hole, the father put his son down and jumped into the hole.. When he told his son that he would catch him in his arms if the boy would jump into the hole, the boy said, “But I can’t see you, father!”