Monday, 15 June 2009

The faith of Abraham

God's Word tells us that is was Abraham's faith in God, not his works, that made him righteous in God's eyes.

And [Abraham] believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness. (Gen. 15:6)

What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. (Rom. 4:1-3)

Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. (Gal. 3:6)

But what about the following verses?

Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. (James 2:17)

But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? (James 2:20-21)

It is interesting to note that Abraham seems to play a central role in the faith/works debate.

What I also found interesting is that, in this context, the main example from Abraham's life here in the book of James is Abraham offering his son Isaac upon the altar. James says that it was this act that justified Abraham. But what kind of an act was it? Was it only works-related? Did his faith even matter?

Let us for a moment imagine the scenario that God tells Abraham to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice, but Abraham says no. For one thing, it would seem then that he could not have been justified by his works. But what reasons could such a (hypothetical) decision have had? I see only two possibilites:

1) Abraham did not really believe that God's will was good for him.
2) Abraham did not want to obey God.

Of course, these are just hypothetical statements, but we can see how closely the faith of Abraham would have been related to his works. And we also see this in another place in Scripture:

By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure. (Heb. 11:17-19)

Abraham had the faith that God could raise up his son Isaac from the dead. He truly believed that God could do this. What a demonstration of his faith! But wait... It doesn't say that Abraham believed that God would raise his son from the dead. Only that "God was able to raise him up". God gave Abraham no guarantee of this. God did not say to Abraham: "Sacrifice your only son Isaac and then I will raise him up again." He just said: "Sacrifice your only son Isaac." Period. So although Abraham had complete faith in God, it was still the greatest demand God had ever made on him. Isaac must have been Abraham's greatest treasure in life. And now God wanted to take that treasure from him. So, in addition to Abraham's faith, we see a second aspect in his life: his obedience to the will of God. Without his faith and obedience, Abraham never would have had any works to show. Abraham's works were a direct result of his obedience and his obedience was a direct result of his faith. It all belongs together. Therefore we can say that Abraham was justified by his faith, and at the same time we can also say that he was justified by his works.

But the question we should ask ourselves today is: Do I have that kind of faith? Do I completely trust God and am I convinced that His will for me is good and that He can do all things? That nothing is impossible to Him? Even the things that seem so impossible in my own eyes? And am I willing to obey God even though it costs me everything? Even though He wants me to give Him all the things that are most precious to me in my life?

Can we say that we have the faith of Abraham? I know I still have a lot to learn from his faith.

Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!

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