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.
2. Abrahams’ children (v. 7)
Jews in general believed that one was a son of Abraham by virtue of being a good Jew, an ethnic Jew who followed the law. The identity marker was circumcision. But Paul says that anyone, Jew or Gentile, who puts their faith in Christ are sons of Abraham. So it does not matter your ethnicity, your pedigree, your morality, your religious upbringing, or your social status. What matters is do you trust that Christ paid the penalty for your sin.
Remember that Paul uses sons and not daughters because sons were the ones who received their father’s inheritance. He wants us to understand that being Abraham’s children means that we also receive all the rights and benefits of being a son, including the inheritance.
As children of Abraham, we are part of the covenantal community, the body of Christ, the people of God. Being part of the community means we are a family. We are here for each other, help each other, be involved in each others lives, and encourage each other.
3. Abrahams’ Gospel (v. 8)
The gospel is not a New Testament idea. The gospel dates back even before Abraham to the plan of God in eternity. The first hint of it hint of it is found Genesis, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring1 and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel (3:15).” Paul defines the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you--unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” We are blessed to be a blessing to those who have not heard the gospel.