“What Would Abraham Do?” This was the perpetual thought that circulated around an orthodox Jew’s head as he went about his daily religious duties. Abraham, their forefather was, from their perspective, almost a ‘god’ and he carried enormous influence over the Jewish people, more two thousand years after he had died. Paul, knowing the strength of opposition that the Jews instinctively had to his gospel, spent a whole chapter of Romans (4) enlisting Abraham’s moral support.
Paul’s main ideas:
- What you work for, you have earned
- What you haven’t worked for, you must have received as a gift
- Both Abraham and David received the gift of righteousness, by faith
- Abraham only got circumcised after he’d received righteousness, so faith comes first
- Abraham predated the Law, so the Law couldn’t have been the cause of his righteousness
- Abraham is the spiritual father of all those who receive righteousness by faith
- He believed in God who “gives life to the dead and calls into being things that ARE NOT”
- He fully faced his physical limitations but still trusted in the power and promise of God
It is also instructive to look back over the order of the events of Abraham’s life: before he was credited with righteousness by faith, he simply heard God’s call and obeyed, by moving to Canaan. It is not until Genesis 15 that God shares his covenant with Abraham, and Abraham truly believes. Perhaps in our discipleship of others, we should ask for a measure of commitment and obedience even prior to their conversion?
After believing, Abraham further obeyed God, by offering his only son, Isaac, as a potential sacrifice to the Lord – although God did stop him at the last moment. That obedience followed faith, this time. We should certainly expect disciples to obey, as part of their faith and commitment to Christ. James 2:20-26 makes it clear that works of obedience are an integral part of genuine saving faith too (not that works on their own will save us).