Abraham's Justifying Faith
General Idea: The Jewish Christians were teaching the Gentile converts they had to be circumcised and follow the law. Paul addressed them by showing in the OT the promise was by faith and not of works. This is also the same heresy James addressed. Justification is by faith alone, by grace alone. This is illustrated and even proved logically by using the example of Abraham. Abraham was justified before circumcision (which was "the seal of the righteousness of faith"), so he can be the 'father' of all believers, both Jew and Christian. Thus circumcision is the 'symbol' not the action that creates and demonstrates faith. The 'promise' was not given to Abraham through the law either, because the Leviticial law was not established yet. Abraham was an early example of faith by grace, that of God directly interceding and saving a person, not because of their worth, because we have none, but for His purpose and love.
1. Abraham was saved by faith, not works, a prelude to God's grace before he was circumcised (Gen 15:6; Gal. 3:11; James 2:21-26).
a. Faith, not works, provides righteousness, faith, not ritual or religion, nor is it wages we earn that we can brag about (vs 7:18).
b. Paul continues his argument of justification.
i. Faith is not a feeling or an emotion, nor can it be defined in subjective ways.
ii. Faith is not passive, but a response by knowledge and belief through agreement and trust, demonstrated by obedience and commitment.
iii. Faith involves our will being surrendered to God's will, involving all of our being, heart, mind and soul; all sealed by the Holy Spirit (10:14).
c. Abraham, without a Bible and past history to rely on, believed in God's promises.
i. Faith is directed to a real and personal God who loves us first.
ii. Faith is not just obedience, nor is it in an object or idea. It is through faith we receive Christ (see chap. 3 notes).
iii. Faith excludes all other means of obtaining righteousness.
d. The world believes that through pious acts a person can earn their way, because God is love and will not reject the good. The Bible tells us we have no good. God had Abraham wait for his child of promise to remove the "human quotation" and strength so only reliance on God was left.
e. Faith means not knowing where you are being led. What faith does mean? It is knowing the One who is leading!
i. The response of faith is developing the fruits of character (Isa. 40; Gal 5).
ii. Faith is not sanctification, for this is a result thereof, not a cause.
2. The promise of salvation is by what Christ has done through our faith.
a. Christ takes our punishment, God chooses us, the Holy Spirit convicts us and we receive it all by faith and nothing else added to it! This all means that our righteousness was imputed to us from Christ's work, when we believe. If when we go to God by our works, we try to cheat grace and nullify its purpose and greatness.
b. David's redemption is our example. He was saved by faith, not works, a prelude to God's grace too (2 Sam.11; Psalm 32; Matt. 9: 9-13). David's salvation and restitution to grace was by his repentance and then by God's forgiveness, yet there was the consequence (2 Sam. 12).
c. God is the justifier of the ungodly, not the righteous (Matt. 9:9-13).
d. The resurrection was the proof that God accepted Christ's redemption in our place.
e. Not in circumcision. Faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness, at least 14 years before he was circumcised; having taken place before Ishmael's birth, at which time he was 86 years old, and the other when Ishmael was 13 years of age, and Abraham 99. (Gen. 15:5, 6; 16; 16:1-3; 17:1; 10, 23-27; Ac 10:47; 1 Co 7:18- 19; Gal. 5:6; 6:15).
f. How are we saved? Our salvation is by believing by faith as Abraham and David did. Abraham looked toward the promise, we look back. Faith and promise go together as bread and butter, as law and works.
g. When we have a right relationship with God, our natural response will be to do as He pleases us to do out of our love and gratitude for what He did (2 Cor. 5:14).
h. Abraham is our spiritual father, as he is the father of the Jewish nation (Matt. 3:7-9).
i. He did not flounder at God's promises (Phil. 4:19).
ii. He ignored his abilities and wealth and possible actions, and trusted God (Isa. 55:8-9).
iii. He praised God and believed, before God did anything for him (Isa. 40:15; Eph. 3:20).
3. Calvary is where our sins were placed on the "mercy seat" of Christ, on His account, on His righteousness; God transferred Christ's funds into our account. What can be greater than the gift we have been given?
a. Since we have been given faith, we must live it out and not let it fall lifeless (Gal 5:6; Eph. 2:10).
b. James 2 is not expressing works righteousness as Catholic doctrine teaches; however, it is the expression of the proof and response of faith that it has been received. Our works are only accepted by God because of what Christ has done on our behalf (Gal 5:17)
c. Our service must be motivated by our love, not obligation or some kind of payback, or barter.
d. God only accepts His own gracious gifts, that is we reciprocate (Give back) to our Lord. Giving glory to God is an act of faith and obedience, and is one of our primary calls.
e. The argument is clear and conclusive that Abraham was justified by faith, through grace before circumcision (works).
f. Blessings are not just given for works, but by the covenant of faith and grace.
Abraham believed God! By seeing Abraham's and David's example even in sin and failures they still looked to God and God restored them. They remained faithful, and were able to develop character and be an example for us and entity. The question is, do you remain faithful even in hard times? Faith helps us be faithful (Psalm 119: 89-90; Matthew 17:19; 25:21; Rom. 1:17; 5:1-2; 1 Cor. 12:9; Gal. 5:22-23; Hebrews 11:1; 1 Thess. 5:24). Being faithful is the "gluing" fruit that will preserve our faith and the other characters of the Spirit and identify God's will so we can be dependable and trusting to God and others. It is the one fruit that we give+- to God, whereas the others are from the Spirit working in us! Faithfulness is authenticity, perseverance and the power and motivation for Christian living. Because God is trustworthy with us we can be faith-worthy in Him (Isa. 40:31; Heb. 11:8)!
1. Have you ever preferred a designer label for clothing, perhaps a big name like Armani or Brooks Brothers, did the clothing give you a greater sense of confidence versus a K-Mart brand? Why or why not?
2. When you receive you paycheck from work, does it give you a satisfaction that you did your job, that you have purpose and identity?
3. How do we receive Christ?
4. How do we obtain righteousness?
5. Abraham was saved by faith, not works, or circumcision, so why do we still perform circumcision today as Christians?
6. Can you think of any good reasons for circumcision to be preformed today? Consider any medical benefit.
7. How would you explain Justification to a non-believing friend?
8. Faith, not works, provides righteousness, so why does the world place the emphasis on being a good person and doing good works?
9. It is faith, not ritual or religion or 'wages', there is nothing we earn or do that we can or have the right to brag about. So why do some Christians brag about what they are doing in their church or in their job?
10. Is there a difference between boasting and being glad of your position and communicating it to others?
11. When do we cross the line from confidence into pride?
12. How would you explain faith to a non-believing person?
13. Faith is not a feeling or emotion, so how can it be defined without using subjective answers?
14. How can you make faith not passive, how can you demonstrate it?
15. Faith involves our will being surrendered to God's will, so how can you do this?
16. Abraham, without a Bible and past history to rely on, believed in God's promises. How does his faith compare to yours? (Remember you have a track record to look to in the Word and others testimonies!)
17. Why would Abraham a rich and prosperous man feel he needed God and His promise, why would he bother?
18. Who is faith directed to?
19. How can you make sure faith is a real and personal?
20. "Because God loves us first," how does this help you in your faith and decisions of life?
21. Why is faith not just obedience?
22. Why is faith not just an object or idea?
23. The world believes that 'God is love' and He will not reject the good people. How do you explain to a friend those without Christ will parish?
24. Why did God wait so long before fulfilling Abraham's promise?
25. What is the "human quotation" and 'strength' that you have that needs to be removed, so only reliance on God is left?
26. By what pious acts can a person earn their way into Heaven?
27. By what pious acts can a person earn their way into God's favor?
28. The Bible tells us we have no good, so what effect does our obedience have?
29. What are the responses of faith that you have been impressed with by others?
30. What does the effect of church leadership, or parents, or godly friends have on you when they are developing the fruits of the Spirit and character (Gal 5)?
31. What is the difference between Faith and Sanctification?
32. The promise of salvation is by what Christ has done through our faith. How does this action keep you focused in your daily pursuits?
33. How does the resurrection come into play in Christ's redemption in our place?
34. What are we doing to God when we try to live 'our' life the way we want it, then think we deserve salvation by our good works?
35. How does this passage compare with II Cor. 5:14?
36. When we have a right relationship with God, what will be our natural response be to do as He pleases or ours, why?
37. How can we improve our thinking about doing service and our motivation for Christ?
38. Abraham did not flounder at God's promises (Phil. 4:19). So what can you do to take to your heart and mind God's goodness even when your world is crashing down?
39. Paul is writing about hope and faith in the mist of horrible persecution, wars, diseases, church strife and chaos we can barely comprehend. So how can you capture that passion for your life and ministry?
40. Abraham ignored his abilities and wealth and possible actions, and trusted God. What do you have to ignore?
41. Abraham praised God and believed, before God did anything for him. What has God done for you that you can praise Him for?
42. What can be greater than the gift we have been given?
More on "Sanctification:" Are you willing to reduce yourself down to merely "ME"? Are you determined enough to strip yourself of all that you are in the world, in your career, ministry, church, including what your friends think of you, and what you think of yourself? Are you willing and determined to hand over your true self, your simple naked self to God? Once you are, then He can begin to work greater in you and in others through you. Christ will immediately sanctify you completely, and your life will be free from being distracted from His character and precepts. To be determined and persistent toward glorifying God, Christ as our Lord (I Thess. 5:23-24)! You can start by surrendering to Him in prayer (Gal. 2:20-21; Phil. 1:6; 3:10), "Lord, show me what sanctification means for help me live as my life is yours." He will show you! Sanctification means being made one with Jesus. Sanctification is not something Jesus puts in you it is Himself in us (II Cor. 1:39).
"Atonement" means to "cover" and to reconcile two opposing parties with an offering or gift that is sacrificial in nature. For us to God, which was done through Christ, who made amends to "cover us" and please God's wrath on our behalf. Everyone has sinned and everyone needs atonement (Lev. 17:11; Job 15:14-16; Psalm 5:4-6; Isa. 53:4-6; 64:6; Jer. 44:4; Hab. 1:13; Matt. 27:37; Luke 22:37; John 2:2; 4:10; Rom.10: 2-3; Gal. 3:13; 4:4; Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14-22; 2:14; Heb. 2:17; 9:11-15; Rev. 1:5) Thus, our redemption is through Christ's blood and suffering which was our sacrifice to bind us in good relation back to our Creator and Lord.
(Condensed from "Walking by Faith: Impressions from the book of Romans," by Richard J. Krejcir ã 2000, http://www.intothyword.org/)