Friday, February 3, 2012

Abraham - Justification's Illustration

Romans 4:3 "For what does the scripture say: "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness."

The Bible uses people to illustrate central truths
For every New Testament teaching or doctrine we can find at least one concrete, flesh and blood example of that truth.  When it comes to the central Gospel truth of Justification by Faith Alone,  we find such an example in the life of Abraham.  Abraham was a man called by God out of the region of ancient Babylonia (modern day Iraq, near Persian Gulf) called "Ur of the Chaldees" in Genesis 12. 

Abraham - the example of what it means to be justified by faith
After 13 years God would speak to him in a dream in Genesis 15, reaffirming His promises to Him.  By receiving those promises by faith alone, Abraham was demonstrating the concept of God "crediting" or "counting" Abraham as being right with Him.  We pick up this illustration of Abraham in Romans 4.  Some key questions from Romans 4 will guide us in seeing how Abraham illustrates Justification by Faith.

1. Is Justification based upon human goodness?
According to Romans 4:1-8 the answer is "no".  Abraham had been called by God while He was worshipping other gods in Ur in Genesis 11:27-32.  Later on we would find out that his wife Sarah was barren, unable to conceive a child, a crucial key to God's promise to Abraham of numerous offspring.  Even after trying to bring that about himself with his handmaiden Hagar, Abraham demonstrated that he was unable to bring about anything contributing to his own salvation.  It was God's loving choice and calling of Abraham that convinced Abraham to believe.(Joshua 24:1-3; Isaiah 51:1-2; Acts7:1-4)  As Abraham demonstrates, his salvation was by grace through faith alone.

2. Is Justification based upon the religious rite of circumcision?
When Paul wrote Romans, many Jews in his day thought salvation was a result of circumcision plus faith.  Yet when God spoke these words to Abraham in Genesis 15, it was before He had revealed the rite of circumcision in Genesis 17.  Thus it is not based upon how religious one is that makes one right with God.  This is the argument of Romans 4:9-12.

3. Surely Abraham was justified by keeping the ten commandments?
According to Genesis 15, it would be another 400 or so years before God would reveal the Law to Israel and Moses on Mount Sinai.  Abraham was not declared righteous due to keeping the law.  Rather it was by grace alone through faith alone - identical to how justification occurs today. (John 1:12-13; Ephesians 2:8-9) This is the argument of Romans 4:13-15.

4. Abraham was justified by faith alone
In Romans 4:21-22 we read: "and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able to perform. (22) Therefore it was also credited to Him as righteousness."  The essence of saving faith entails the idea of "firm persuasion".  The Hebrew word the word "amen".  When you here the word "amen", it means you affirm, agree, are fully persuaded of what is being said to you.  Abraham "amened" what God promised to Him.  He could not do anything to earn it, nor could he accomplish it.  God alone could bring about the miraculous result of a son born to He and Sarah in their old age. (Genesis 21)   By faith alone he received the promise.  Abraham was justified by faith.

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