Abraham justified by faith

Farmville Enterprise January 3, 2018

A common misperception which I held for many years has been front and center the past two months in almost every class I have attended.  In Community Bible Study we are studying Romans and our church just finished part one of a study on Ephesians.  In Sunday School we talked about Abraham for a few weeks and he also was recently the subject of lessons with our Wednesday night children’s ministry. All of these reinforced the truth that Abraham was justified by his faith and not by his good works. “Then the word of the Lord came to him: ‘This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir.’ He took him outside and said, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars – if indeed you can count them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’ Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” (Genesis 15:4-6)

“What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about – but not before God. What does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’ Now when a person works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the person who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.” (Romans 4: 1-3)

In certain passages we could easily misinterpret the God of the Old Testament as the harsh law-giver but the God of the New Testament, embodied in Jesus, as the compassionate grace-giver. The truth is that God has not changed. His nature and character remain the same. We read in the Old Testament, “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love” and that “he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him.” (Psalm 103:8;10-13) Story after story in the Old Testament demonstrate God’s forgiveness after the Israelites repeatedly disobeyed and turned away from him. Notice within the Ten Commandments God shows that he blesses exponentially more than he chastises. “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” (Exodus 20:5b-6)

The Jewish Patriarchs and their families were not saved by keeping the law, but by faith. Of course, at the time they did not know specifically about Jesus but that a Messiah was promised. God’s plan has not changed. The old covenant has been replaced by the new covenant, which God referenced all along. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

 

 

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