"Abraham believed God and it was counted unto him as righteousness."
Like Abraham, all men and women can find blessedness and hope through their
faith in God. The whole point in studying about Abraham is to learn what we
can become by faith. Abraham was not a super man, but rather like us. He was
real; he breathed, ate and slept. And that is what makes his story so
relevant to us. Any of us can be what Abraham was: "and he was called the
friend of God" (James 2:23).
Was Abraham Perfect, or Nearly So?
Absolutely not. Abraham needed to be justified because he had sins. The fact
that the Bible say that Abraham's faith was counted to him as righteousness
shows us that Abraham could not claim a righteousness of his own. The Bible
says that Abraham, like David, was righteous because God had forgiven him of
his sins (Romans 4:3-8).
This is one way in which our faith is like Abraham's. We understand that we
are saved by faith and not by our own perfection. We are not heaven-bound
because we deserve to be, but because we have been chosen to go there by our
faith. We can witness in the life of Abraham the sin of lying (Genesis 20:2)
and know that he came from a family of idolaters (Joshua 24:2). He built
altars every place and this show us that he felt burdened by his sins. If
Abraham is going to get to that "city not made with hands" then it will have
to be by "grace through faith".
How Does Justification by Faith
First of all, we must understand that not only is our God a consuming fire,
holy and righteous, but He is also loving, gracious and patient. He is
willing, even happy to forgive Abraham and all who will respond by faith to
God's mighty plan of salvation.
Paul explained that Abraham was not justified by works in the sense that he
deserved the blessings he received from God's hand. God did not owe Abraham
anything. The only way to be justified by one's own works is to never have
sinned. That's not the way Abraham was justified. Neither is it the way you,
or I, reach heaven! To the "good fellow" who may well be a good neighbor,
honest and kind to others and therefore thinks that he has no need to become
a Christian because "Surely God won't punish me," we can only say that
nobody is justified by their own works.
Abraham was a good neighbor and all that but still a sinner that needed
justified. To refuse Jesus Christ is to absolutely guarantee one's own
Abraham was "justified by faith." This does not refer to a single incident
but rather a way of life. When God said "go" then Abraham went. When God
said "offer" then Abraham built an altar. When God said, "I will give you
such-n-such" Abraham considered the promises as absolutely secure.
Does Justification by Faith Mean
That Obedience is not Needed?
Not at all! Obedience has always been included in the concept of
justification by faith. When one ceases to put his faith in God, he ceases
to walk by faith and therefore cannot be justified by faith. So, we must
"walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham." (Romans 4:12).
Certainly the book of Romans does not teach justification by faith alone as
some suggest! Paul teaches justification by faith but never envisions a
faith without obedience. He refers to "obedience to the faith", obeying
"from the heart" and the "obedience of faith" all in the book of Romans
(1:5; 6:17; 16:26).
Also, the life of Abraham is hardly an example of justification by faith
alone! How silly and insulting to Abraham. His faith was much more real than
that. Abraham is an example of what a life of one who is being justified by
faith is all about, but "faith alone" has nothing at all to do with the
"faith of Abraham". "By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a
place which he should after receive as an inheritance, obeyed..." (Hebrews
11:8). "And the Scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God
and it was imputed to him for righteousness: and he was called the friend of
God. You see then how that by works a man is justified and not by faith
only" (James 2:23,24).
So we can learn much from Abraham. We are comforted to see that even
imperfect people will go to heaven. We are encouraged to walk by faith ever
growing in our friendship with God. And we hold on to our hope in Jesus
Christ as we trust in God's promises to us. We are men and women of the
promise! We are fully persuaded, even as Abraham was, that God will give us
an eternal victory far more marvelous and grand than we can now imagine. For
this victory we patiently wait as we walk by faith.
From The Bradley Banner 2/11/2007
Published by the Bradley Church of Christ
1505 E. Broadway
Bradley, IL 60915