World of Faith

What is Real Faith? – Part Two: Having the Faith of Abraham | February 23, 2007

I apologize for this week’s entry being delayed until late Thursday night (actually Friday morning for most of you). I am in St. Louis, visiting my parents (I’m originally from St. Louis, although now I’m an Okie), and so I’ve been fairly busy this week. Finally, I have some time to work on this week’s entry, and I hope you enjoy it.

Last week I introduced our current series, “What is Real Faith?” and I provided two basic reasons why I am presenting this series. The first reason is that I believe 2007 is the year of the open heaven, the year of the open door, for us as believers, and thus we all need to have faith and believe for the desires that God has placed in our hearts, expecting Him to fulfill these things in our lives. God really wants to manifest Himself this year, and that cannot happen without us exercising our faith. The second reason why I am bringing this series is that each of us needs to shore up and solidify our faith as the foundation for our Christian walk, especially in the day and hour in which we live. Hebrews 12:25-28 (NAS) tells us, “See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking, for if those who did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven. And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, ‘Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.’ This expression, ‘Yet once more,’ denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service, with reverence and awe.” As I said last week, In the present day and hour, everything that can be shaken, will be shaken, and I certainly do not want to be moved. I want to be like the wise man that built his house on the foundation of the Rock, who is Jesus Christ, and the foundation of my faith in Jesus and things that He has wrought for me.

Also, as a matter of introduction, I began to define faith last week, looking at Heb. 11, the “faith chapter” in the Scriptures, paying close attention to the life of Abraham, as the Bible points to Abraham as being a man of great faith, and even the model for a life of faith for us as believers. So, this week, as I continue to define faith, I think it would be appropriate to look at the life of Abraham, as it is discussed in the New Testament, as a model of faith for us today. The Bible teaches that the lives of the Bible characters in the Old Testament are there for an example for us, and thus, we should learn from them. So, that’s why this week’s subtitle is “Having the Faith of Abraham,” as I believe that is available to every believer.

There are three key passages in which Paul writes and depicts the faith of Abraham as an example for us as believers. These three passages are in Romans 4, Galatians 3, and lastly Hebrews 6 and 7, and so lets look at these passages in turn, beginning with Romans 4:1-5 (NKJV), which states, “What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work, but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.” I’ll come back to Rom. 4 in a moment, but first, this passage explains that Abraham was not justified on the basis of works, but on the basis of his faith, and this was before the Mosaic Law was established, under which God’s chosen people of old, Israel, was justified by that Law. Paul continues in verses 9-12 that for us as Christian believers, it does not matter whether we’re circumcised or not for God to account our faith in Jesus as our righteousness. Paul wrote in Rom. 4:9-12 (NKJV), “Does this blessedness then come upon the circumcised only, or upon the uncircumcised also? For we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness. How then was it accounted? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also, and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised.” Thus, Paul taught that if we have the faith of Abraham, and believe in Jesus Christ for our salvation, then our faith is accounted to us as righteousness. Beginning in Rom. 4:13, Paul writes, “For the promise that he (Abraham) would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect, because the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression.” This means that the promise is not just salvation, but the very fact that we are joint heirs with Christ, we inherit the world with Christ, because we as believers are Abraham’s seed. All of this is because we enter the New Covenant through our faith in Christ and what He procured for us on the cross. Then Paul writes in Rom. 4:16-22, “Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham (i.e. Christians), who is the father of us all… in the presence of Him whom he believed – God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things that do not exist as though they did; who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he (Abraham) became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead… and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He (God) had promised, He was also able to perform. And therefore ‘it was accounted to him (Abraham) for righteousness.’” WOW, that is a long passage and a lot dissect. First, this passage tells us that the promise of God of an inheritance for God’s people is for all who believe according to the faith of Abraham. But then, in the latter half of this passage, Paul actually identifies several characteristics of faith. Paul also indicates characteristics of unbelief, which essentially is the opposite of faith. According to verse 20, wavering is a sign of unbelief, but faith strengthens your walk with God. Also, being fully convinced or fully persuaded is a sign of strong faith. And the result of faith is that the believer is made righteous in Christ.

Paul also writes about the faith of Abraham in Galatians 3. In Gal. 3:5-9 (NKJV), Paul writes, “Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? – Just as Abraham ‘believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, ‘In you all the nations shall be blessed.’ So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.” The first point that Paul makes here in this passage is that it is faith that makes one a son (and thus an inheritor) of Abraham. Secondly, Paul is saying, and says so expressly in a later verse, that if you have the faith of Abraham (and believe in Jesus Christ for your salvation), then you WILL be blessed…you will be blessed with the blessing of Abraham, and more on that in a moment. Paul then continues in Gal. 3:10-14, “For as many as are the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things that are written in the book of the law, to do them.’ But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for ‘the just shall live by faith.’ Yet the law is not of faith, but ‘the man who does them shall live by them.’ Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us… that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” The crux of this passage is seen in the last two verses, verses 13 and 14. The curse of law has many aspects, which are listed in Deut. 28, for those of you who would appreciate further study. However, Christ has redeemed us from all of that (although we must appropriate the redemption by faith, just like we do for our salvation). The result is that rather than receive the curse, we receive the blessing, much of which is also listed in Deut. 28. The blessing really is provided by the promise of the Holy Spirit, which we receive at salvation, by faith in Jesus Christ.

So then this promise and blessing is further re-iterated in Hebrews 6 and 7. The author of Hebrews writes in Heb. 6:13-20 (NKJV), “For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying, ‘Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you.’ And so, after he (Abraham) had patiently endured, he (Abraham) obtained the promise. For men indeed swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is for them an end to all dispute. Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become our High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” The first point in this passage is that faith requires endurance. Heb. 6:12 tells us that faith and patience is required to enter the promises of God. Gal. 6:9 (KJV) further instructs us “in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” Second, this passage also makes clear that that God has determined to abundantly show us as believers, because we are the “heirs of promise,” that His counsel (God’s wisdom, etc.) is immutable, which means it cannot change, and thus we can confide in God and His wisdom and counsel, for it anchors our soul, and that is our consolation (our hope, our refuge, our salvation, etc.) Finally, this passage teaches us that the Anchor in Jesus, who is our High Priest before God. There is no longer a need for a mediator, for Jesus is the High Priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

But the author of Hebrews isn’t finished discussing Melchizedek, who was a precursor and a type of Christ. For Abraham, who had great faith, encountered Melchizedek. The author of Hebrews describes Melchizedek in Heb. 7:1-3, “This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, and Abraham gave him (Melchizedek) a tenth of everything. First, his (Melchizedek’s) name means ‘king of righteousness’; then also, ‘king of Salem,’ meaning ‘king of peace.’ Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever.” Thus, Melchizedek was the High Priest of his day, and because of this, as a matter of faith, Abraham blessed Melchizedek a tenth of the spoils of war. This was the first tithe. Some Christians teach that tithing is not for today, for it passed away with the Mosaic Law. But tithing started well before the Law of Moses, for not only did Abraham tithe as this passage describes, but Jacob also tithed to God. Jesus is our High Priest as well, and so I really do believe that when we tithe, we do so not under compulsion as under the Law, but as an exercise of our faith. I’ll speak more to that in a bit, but the main highlight of this passage is the background of Melchizedek, a true precursor of Christ. Like Jesus, Melchizedek is without genealogy, and has no beginning or end. Like Jesus, Melchizedek remains a priest forever. Melchizedek was the first king of righteousness and king of peace. So then, the author of Hebrews continues to describe Abraham’s encounter with Melchizedek in Heb. 7:4-10, “Just think how great he was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder! Now the law requires the descendants of Levi who become priests to collect a tenth from the people – that is, their brothers – even their brothers are descended from Abraham. This man, however, did not trace his descent from Levi, yet he collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. And without doubt the lesser person is blessed by the greater. In the one case, the tenth is collected by men who die; but in the other case, by him who is declared to be living. One might even say that Levi, who collects the tenth, paid the tenth through Abraham, because when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor.” WOW, again this is a lot to dissect. The crux of this passage is that Abraham tithed to Melchizedek, well before the descendants of Levi instituted the tithe as a matter of the Mosaic Law. While that Law has passed away, tithing has not passed away, for Abraham tithed as a matter of faith, and so likewise we should also tithe, as a matter of our faith towards God. Further, this passage indicates in verse 7, the lesser (the one who tithes) is blessed by the greater (Jesus) that receives the tithe through His Body, the Church.

Together, the three passages of Romans 4, Galatians 3, and Hebrews 6 and 7 depict Abraham as a model of the faith we should have as believers. Next week, I will begin the next part of this series, and discuss how the Bible defines faith, by contrasting what faith is, and what faith is not. Faith is clearly the opposite of doubt and unbelief, but also faith is not presumption. So, next week’s title will be “A Biblical Definition of Faith.” After next week, I’ll be getting into how we exercise our faith, for as it says in James, “Faith without works is dead.” I want my faith to be alive, not dead.

Blessings,
Jonathan

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