Summary: Standing in the Freedom of the Gospel: The Faith of Abraham
Standing in the Freedom of the Gospel:
The Faith of Abraham
Judaizers believed they were children of Abraham, Christ followers because they were Jews who followed the law. They appealed to the Old Testament Patriarch Abraham as the basis for their faulty thinking. But Paul argues that the Judaizers not only misunderstood the gospel but the Old Testament and that following the law does not make us children of Abraham or Christ followers. He also appeals to Abraham and argues that what God teaches us from the life if Abraham is that faith is the only requirement that makes us children of Abraham, Christ followers. Add anything to faith and you are on the wrong path leading to the wrong destination. So let’s look at Abraham.
1. Abrahams’ Righteousness (v. 6)
Remember, Judaizers believed that for the Gentiles to be justified or righteous before God, they must believe in Christ and become a good Jews by adhering to ‘works of the law’ - circumcision, Sabbath keeping, and kosher foods. We saw last week that in verses 1-5 Paul argued from their experience of the Spirit of God that it is by faith and not works that one is justified before God because Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness (6). His main point in the letter that he repeats over and over is that one is justified or made righteous before God by faith alone and not ‘works of the law.’ He appeals to the Hebrew Scriptures, and specifically Abraham, to argue against their faulty thinking. First he shows that Abraham was counted as righteous before the law was given and before he was circumcised and even before Abraham had heard of circumcision! He also appealed to Abraham because Abraham was far from perfect. He was a man of great faith and great faults. He left everything he had when God told him to leave his country and his people for an unknown land. He gave Lot the best choice of the land because he trusted that God would fulfill his promise of land to Abraham. When God tested him to see if he was willing to sacrifice the son of promise, Isaac, he trusted that God would provide a sacrifice. But Abraham also deceived Pharaoh and king Abimelech, telling them that his wife Sarah was his sister to protect his own life. He slept with his maidservant Hagar to conceive a child because he did not trust God to provide him the one he promised. So Abraham was a flawed man who trusted God, a godly sinner. The point is that God justified Abraham by faith alone and not because of works.
One could point to James 1:21-23 to argue that God does justify by works. “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness"--and he was called a friend of God. (Jam 2:21-22)
But James is writing from a different perspective than Paul. Paul is arguing how one is justified before God. James is looking at sanctification and that the nature of genuine saving faith produces fruit in the life after of a Christ follower.