Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 2 Study # 2
December 11, 2011
6 Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.
7 Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.
8 And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.
9 So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.
10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.
11 But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.
12 And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.
13 Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:
14 That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
1901 ASV Translation:
6 Even as Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness.
7 Know therefore that they that are of faith, the same are sons of Abraham.
8 And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all the nations be blessed.
9 So then they that are of faith are blessed with the faithful Abraham.
10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under a curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one who continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law, to do them.
11 Now that no man is justified by the law before God, is evident: for, The righteous shall live by faith;
12 and the law is not of faith; but, He that doeth them shall live in them.
13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us; for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:
14 that upon the Gentiles might come the blessing of Abraham in Christ Jesus; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
I. Paul's Linkage of the Gospel to the Methodology of God's Dealings With Abraham [See notes for Dec. 4, 2011<135>].
II. Paul's Focus Upon Abraham's "Believing".
- A. This raises the question of why Moses waited to declare that God accounted "faith" to Abraham as righteousness until Genesis 15.
- 1. It is possible that what God was looking for in Abram (a "faith" that warranted "justification") had not yet materialized until the situation recorded in Genesis 15 had developed. This is important because we often get the idea that a person is "justified by faith" if he "believes" anything God has said, but if that were true, Paul would not have claimed that "the Gospel was preached to Abraham" in 3:8. There is a very specific content to "justifying faith". This "specific content" is precisely the reason that the letter to the Galatians was written. There is not one gospel for the ill-informed and another for the well-taught, nor is there one gospel for the deceived and another for the enlightened. According to 1:8-9, eternal condemnation awaits all who trust in a twisted "variation" of the Gospel and the alternative is also true -- an indescribable glory awaits those who trust in the truth of the Gospel.
- a. Complicating this issue is this reality: in 3:8 Paul identifies "the Gospel" as "...in thee shall all nations be blessed" and in 3:14 he identifies that "blessing" as our "reception of the promise of the Spirit". The question this raises, in terms of specific content, is just how much Abraham knew about the centrality of the Spirit's presence in us as an element of the core of "the Gospel" and why the death of Messiah is not included.
- b. Further complicating this issue is this reality: there is a kind of "belief" that is temporary and does not "last". Jesus referred to this kind of "faith" in His parable of the soils upon which the Word of God falls when it is preached (Luke 8:13). This acknowledges the reality that "faith" exists upon multiple levels, some of which offer a "belief" that cannot stand a severe test and others which offer a "belief" that has become an integrated part of the way a person views reality. Beliefs that fall apart under stress are never given credence in the Bible as "justifying faith".
- c. Additionally, James 2 clearly declares that Genesis 15:6 was "fulfilled" when Abraham and Rahab "acted" upon what they "believed" in settings that were critical, life/death situations. This means that biblical "faith" does not "fail". Jesus referred to this reality in His conversation with Peter in Luke 22:32 when He said that He had prayed for Peter that his "faith fail not".
- d. The ultimate complication, though, is this question: exactly what was the "content" of the "faith" that led to justification? What, specifically, did Abraham "believe"? Was the content of his "faith" the same content of Rahab's "faith"? In terms of actual words, it is highly unlikely that Rahab had a sufficient theological grasp of the promises of Yahweh to His people to have the same content of "faith" as did Abraham. However, the issue of "faith" is not, specifically, "word-content"; rather, it is a matter of "object-focus". The question of the psalmist, "From whence cometh my help?" raises the issue of "object-focus". As long as Yahweh is the object of the "faith", the content is secondary. The problem with legalism is that the actual object of faith is the person who commits to obedience as the way of salvation. That commitment, itself, is a declaration of the "belief" that the one doing the committing is capable of rendering the required obedience and will execute that capability to the satisfaction of the God making the demands.
- 2. It is interesting that it is in Genesis 15, after the "justification" of Abram, that Yahweh made a covenant with him to undergird his "faith" in the promise(s) of Yahweh. His question to Yahweh was "...whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it [the land of Canaan]?...". Yahweh answered with a covenant-enactment that was supposed to "seal the deal". How different this is from Luke's record of Zacharias asking Gabriel the same question: Zacharias gets struck dumb for 9-10 months and Abraham gets a covenant.
- B. At the very heart of the methodological debate (whether justification is by works of law or by the hearing of faith) is the text of Genesis 15. It is in that chapter of the Bible that "faith righteousness" is first reckoned to someone by God. Thus, it is in that chapter of the Bible that we are compelled to go to see what the divine methodology is. Fortunately, it is not a hard chapter to understand. God made a promise to a man who believed Him. When he believed Him, He counted "faith" as an adequate substitute-principle for righteousness and called the "believer" righteous.
- 1. The text says that Abraham "believed in the God". The "in the God" is a translation of the use of the dative for both definite article and noun. Paul's point is that Abraham's "believing" was specifically "directional". "The God" is the "locus" of Abraham's "faith". This means that the "words" of the God are not ultimately primary, but that "the God" is the primary object of the believing. Clearly, "words" are crucial, but not ultimate. "Words" reveal what "the God" wishes to be believed in terms of content, but, ultimately, it is the character of the speaker of those words that makes them "believable". Thus, "the God" is always the ultimate object of a genuine faith.
- 2. The text goes on to say that "it was reckoned to him". The verb is passive. This emphasizes that the focus is not upon "the God" as the One doing the reckoning, but upon "the faith" that was exercised. "It" is "the faith exercised". Paul's point here is that God's intent in revelation regarding the "how" of "righteousness" is to show that "faith" is the required response that will allow God to "bless" man.
- 3. Critical to the issue is the fact that the text introduces a kind of "reckoning" by God that consists of His, in a sense, calling apples oranges. On what basis does God simply erase the reality of unrighteousness in a man and "reckon" him "righteous"? Paul's goes to significant length in his New Testament letters to explain this "basis", but does Moses? in Genesis? This raises the bar in terms of just what the people in Abraham's day actually knew, or it simply dismisses the "need to know" as a "later development". At some point, the issue of "faith" is not a "need to know" reality since there are always points of ignorance that do not rule out "faith". The bottom line is not what a person does not know, but what God has made known.
- a. This fact exists: no one can say anything to anyone without the presence of "implied meanings". The words, themselves, demand it. The nature of Truth demands it. All truths are integral aspects of the Truth and, as such, have direct implications with each other.
- b. This fact also exists: no one who speaks (except omniscient ones) knows all of the implied meanings that are involved in the words one uses. This means that what God told Abram had implications for the entire revelation from Genesis to Revelation, but those implications were not, necessarily, known by Abram. They only hit the radar at later points of time when progressive revelation has opened the doors of understanding so that people can see what some of the implications are.