The Faith of Abraham
What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." 4 Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.
5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, 6 just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: 7 "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered; 8 Blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin." NKJV
In the Jewish mind there was no one more important than Abraham. He stood as the great head of their faith. Not only and that he was its first but also that he was its greatest. So Paul is simply asking what was it that made Abraham great? Was it all the things that he did? Do you obey the law? Was he totally obedient? Every Jew knew that it was Abraham’s faith that made them great.
So Paul is asking the question for them, what about Abraham. According to his flesh what was so great about him?
I. What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh?
A. Paul asked this question not for himself but for the Jews who had asked him this question already.
B. Abraham was the father of the faithful.
1. Christians know that better than anyone.
2. For although we are not of the race of the Jews yet through faith we are descendants of Abraham
C. But the Jews thought of him not only as that but also as the father of their race.
D. Some people suppose that when Paul says according to the flesh he is referring to circumcision.
1. That is possible for Paul was going to deal with ad in our next section.
2. But I think it’s more possible that what Paul is referring to is in reference to keeping the law.
3. He has been showing that keeping the law will not get you to heaven.
4. Let me say that again it’s not that keeping the law could get us to heaven not because there something wrong with the law but it’s because we could never keep it.
II. For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.
A. Don’t forget that justified means to be declared righteous.
B. So the idea is did Abraham do something that qualified him to be declared righteous?
C. That Abraham did many things no one would deny.
1. He left his homeland at the command of God.
2. He built altars everywhere you went and sacrificed animals to God in worship.
3. He waited patiently for the promise of God for us son.
4. Only one time does the Scripture record that he did not obey God, when he went down into Egypt.
5. Even when the promise child was born in God commanded his sacrifice, Abraham obeyed without hesitation.
6. As we look at that impressive list there is not one of us who are a little envious of Abraham.
D. But yet is boast could never be before God.
1. Because it was God who is calling Abraham.
2. It was God who selected Abraham not Abraham who selected God.
3. It was God who brought Abraham along not Abraham who brought along.
III. For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness."
A. To support his position Paul refers to the Scripture.
1. Gen 15:6 And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness. NKJV
2. Paul will use this verse in the book of Romans several times.
3. He also uses his first when writing to the Galatians.
4. The writer of Hebrews refers to this.
5. And that also James refers to this.
B. Clear back in Genesis the principle of justification by faith was established.
1. God knew of Abraham’s faith and declared him righteous.
2. That’s the point that Paul is trying to make in this passage.
3. In the book of James he refers to this from a different perspective.
a. The emphasis for James is what do people say in your life.
b. James simply says you can see the faith of Abraham.
c. James contention was without works it is impossible to see another’s faith.
d. James is not disagreeing with Paul he simply is referring to being justified in the sight of men.
IV. Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.
A. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness,
1. Hear Paul gets to the heart of the matter.
a. If you work for what God gives you then God is your paymaster.
b. God blesses you because you deserve it.
c. God declares you righteous because you’ve earned it.
d. And if that is the case it is a debt not grace that is the cause of our salvation.
2. On the other hand if it is faith that God accounts for righteousness then it is of grace.
a. The answer seems obvious.
b. God is no one’s debtor.
c. God is not beholding to any of us.
d. What we receive from God is because it is gracious hand and his fathomless mercy.
e. Amazing Grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me, I once was lost but now I’m found was blind but now I see.
B. Just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works:
1. There is something about man, something that forces him to think that God demands works.
a. A religion of works receives a natural acceptance from men and women.
b. A religion of works appeals to their pride.
c. A good pastor friend of mine was losing a member to the Mormons. He asked for an interview with the Mormon elder in the presence of his church member. During the interview he asked the Mormon how do you think you’re going to get to heaven. A little bit of faith in a lot of works was the reply.
2. But this is not that we believe there is no need for law for Christians have always known that there is.
a. One of the reasons those early Christian settlers in America were still stern was that they knew the rebellion that lies in the hearts of men and women.
b. We believe that laws necessary, and that Christians ought to live above the laws of God.
c. To go contrary to law is to go contrary to God.
d. Jesus himself said that those who do not keep the law and teach people to not keep the law shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven.
3. "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered;
a. Ps 32:1 Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered.
b. This is what makes grace almost scandalous.
c. And that is what upset the good Jews of Jesus day.
d. That he would go about with publicans and sinners.
e. That is why grace seems scandalous to many today, that God would say if some of the worst people around us.
f. The drug dealers, murderers, pimps, and prostitutes.
4. Blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin."
a. The whole basis of this is that our sin has been imputed to Christ.
b. He bore in his body our sins on the tree.
c. The basis of all of this is not that God does not care about sin.
d. It is that Jesus Christ paid for our sins so that we might be free.