Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 13, 1961

Abraham's Faith

R. L. Burns, Fort Worth, Texas

Various characters of the Old and New Testaments are remembered for some outstanding feature in their relationship to Jehovah. We speak of the patience of Job, the love of John, and the courage of Paul. But the predominant characteristic of the life of Abraham was the noble mark of faith. But while men may talk of "the faith of Abraham," I doubt that but few really know what "Abrahamic faith" really is. Romans 4:3 refers to his faith in this manner: "And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness."

Now this verse has been urged upon us to mean that man is only to believe and God will save him without acts of obedience. Those who argue in this fashion picture Abraham here as a sinner, alienated and separated from God, and by the simple act of believing (mental consent) they see him transformed into a child of God. The careful student of the Bible will note that Abraham was a "child of God," or in covenant relationship with and a believer in God, long before the account to which Roman 4:3 refers. If you will follow the life of Abraham in the record of Genesis, you will note: (1) God appeared to him in Ur and told him to go into another land which he would show him (Gen. 12); (2) when he reached Shechem, in Canaan, God said to Abraham: "Unto thy seed will I give this land" and Abraham built an altar and worshipped God (Gen. 12: 6. 7); (3)he worshipped God after returning from his trip into Egypt (Gen. 13:3, 4); (4) Melchizedek, priest of Jehovah, declared Abraham to be "blessed of God Most High." And after all these things, from which we may clearly determine he was already a child of God and approved, Jehovah made the statement of Rom. 4:3, which is taken from Genesis 15:1-6. To argue then that Paul was here contending for justification by faith alone, or apart from obedience, is to violate every principle of Bible study. This passage simply says, "Abraham had confidence in God's promise and God put it down to his account."

Paul is arguing that justification is by a system of faith and not a system of works, especially the Mosaic system of works, and he quotes Gen. 15 to prove it. The argument he makes from this incident should be read in full in Romans 4:1-25. You will notice, however, that Paul says: 'Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was reckoned unto him; but for our sake also, unto whom it shall be reckoned, who believe on him that raised Jesus our Lord from the dead." (Romans 4:23, 24)

How could this have been written "for our sakes also?" The faith of Abraham amounts to two parts: (1) Believing that God existed, (2) and believing, or having full confidence in, whatever God said. We are told that faith amounts to these two things. "And without faith it is impossible to be well-pleasing to him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that seek after him." (Hebrews 11:6) That is, we must recognize that "God is" (His existence) and "that he is the rewarder of them that diligently seek after Him" (confidence in everything he says).

Many people believe that there is a God who can not even pretend to obey His word. This principle is illustrated throughout the Bible. God speaks; man hears what God speaks; man believes that which God speaks; man obeys that which God speaks; man is blessed at the point of obeying that which God speaks. This illustrated by the following: "By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they had been compassed about seven days." (Hebrews 11:30) But if you will turn back to Joshua 6:1-5 you will find the detailed account of Israel's marching around Jericho for a week, etc., as Jehovah had commanded them and they, with complete confidence in His word, obeyed. "By faith" involves obedience as is shown by the simple statement of Hebrews 11:31: "By faith Rahab the Harlot perished not with them that were disobedient, having received the spies with peace."

Are we required to have this kind of faith today? Romans 4:23, 24 so states. When God calls upon a man to do his will, he who has the faith of Abraham will submit. We are commanded to do many things that may seem unreasonable and illogical, but faith does not stop to question. Faith may not be demonstrated by a test-tube or proved by a syllogism, but comes through hearing the word of God. (Romans 10:17) The waters of baptism are as barren as was Sarah, so far as human reasoning is concerned, but we are baptized because we have faith in God's commands. (See Mat. 28:19; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 3:21) Theologians, skeptics, sectarians may stagger in unbelief, but we act because "we believe that he (God) is a rewarder of them that diligently seek after him."