Chapter # 4 Paragraph # 1 Study # 1
Thesis: Paul's doctrine of justification by faith is rooted in Abraham's "discoveries".
Introduction: In our study last week we looked at Paul's "third" question. What about boasting? What about theological exclusiveness? What about the impact of my doctrine on the Law? Of that third question Paul wrote that he did not contradict the Law's essential purpose but, rather, firmly established that essential purpose. However, this raised the question of "interpretation" because it was as clear as it can be that Paul's concept of the Law's essential purpose was in direct opposition to the "Jews' " concept. Thus, it was a matter of "whose" interpretation would be accepted as legitimate. That was what Romans 1-3 was all about -- explaining Paul's "interpretation" of the essential purpose of the Law. The chief problems with the Jews' "interpretation" are that it not only could not be true as it was a fundamental contradiction of its own roots [Justice -- one cannot make Justice the roots of justification if the Law revealed man's sins], nor could it address the major underlying problem of boastfulness and its underlying problem of Sin's dominion. So, "Law" cannot be the method of salvation.
Now, this evening we are going to look at yet a fourth question: What did Abraham finally come to clearly understand about the issue of justification in respect to its methodology?
August 23, 2005
- I. The Importance of This Fourth Question.
- A. Its goal is revealed by Romans 5:1.
- 1. Romans 5:1 presents "justification by faith" as "established truth".
- 2. Romans 5:1 signals Paul's confidence that his doctrinal point of view has been made indisputable by the facts.
- B. Its place in Paul's "argument" is "supporting evidence".
- 1. In Romans 2-3 Paul argued "logically" that one cannot make Justice the basis of the methodology of justification.
- a. The Law, which is the expression of Justice, reveals that no man is just so that no man can be treated justly unless condemnation is the result.
- b. The universality of condemnation by Law therefore must mean that a totally different method must be used if any man is to be "justified".
- 2. In Romans 4 Paul is going to argue that his "logic" is supported by the biblical record of the "discoveries" of Abraham.
- II. The Importance of Abraham.
- A. Abraham had become, by Paul's day, the authority figure for security and status.
- 1. As the "authority figure", Abraham existed in the popular and theological mindset of Israel as sacrosanct: he could not be contradicted by anyone who wished to be "right".
- 2. This condition had set up a huge "prejudice" that became the foundation for the resolution of every argument. [See Luke 3:8 in the Baptizer's doctrine and John 8:39 in the Christ's doctrine].
- 3. Paul's appeal to Abraham did two things simultaneously.
- a. It capitalized upon the enormous force of deeply embedded prejudice.
- b. It established the prejudice as legitimate.
- B. Abraham had been made the authority figure in Paul's day by Yahweh Himself as an outworking of Abraham's identity as "our forefather according to the standard of flesh".
- 1. The issue here is Paul's meaning of Abraham's identity as "forefather".
- a. The text places Abraham in the position of "critical forefather".
- b. All know that Abraham was, himself, in a genealogical flow that had begun with Adam and had developed downline so that all who came after a given person in the flow were "the children of" that person, but everyone who came before that given person were the "forefathers" of all who came after.
- c. Thus, we must look for a specific reason for looking to Abraham as "forefather" instead of Terah, Noah, or even Adam.
- 1) That reason is not "the standard of flesh" because by that standard there is no particular reason for any appeal to him instead of Terah, Noah, or Adam.
- 2) That reason must be something that Yahweh did in respect to Abraham that He had not done before him with any of his forefathers.
- 3) That reason is what is known as the Abrahamic Covenant.
- a) Before Abraham there was no covenant that had the particular provisions that are in the Abrahamic Covenant.
- b) "Promise" existed both without and with "covenant" characteristics (as Genesis 3:15 and Genesis 9:11-17 reveal).
- c) But "Promise" as Paul uses the term in Galatians 3:15-17 had the three major provisions of Land, Seed, and a Great Name that no covenant before it had.
- 2. It was Yahweh's covenant promise of "A Great Name" that was what had created the identity of Abraham as the authority figure he was in Paul's day.
- III. The "Discovery" of Abraham.
- A. This is the heart of Paul's fourth question: what had Abraham discovered?
- B. This is a huge aspect of Paul's argument.
- 1. No one could hope to even get a hearing in a Jewish setting if he could not get "Abraham" on his side in the argument.
- 2. By raising the question Paul is indicating that he is going to try to prove that Abraham was on his side of the argument.
- C. This is also, however, a significant revelation of a crucial fact.
- 1. The issue of "discovery" involves the "final" result of a long term investigation that owes its finality to the processes involved in the whole of the investigation.
- a. There is something of the "mystery" story involved here...searching for clues that will end up with a valid "case".
- b. Just as with the "mystery" story, Abraham's "case" had a beginning that contained the solution: how was Abraham "justified"?
- 2. The issue of "discovery" also involves the on-going interim process: what did Abraham himself finally conclude as a result of the interim experiences.
- a. This means that "theology" is generally an end-of-life conclusion that has come about because of the interim processes so that one's "final" decision is the one that is most important (this is why the once-saved-always-saved debate rages).
- b. This also means that we need to be careful to be "logical" about our experiences because Paul put the "logic" forward before he put "Abraham" forward.