Abraham’s faith.

by K.W. Leslie, 04 August
Galatians 3.5-6 KWL
5 The one who provides the Spirit to all of you,
who works acts of power among you—
does he do this out of you working the Law,
or out of hearing and trusting?
6 Likewise Abraham “trusted God,
and God credited him with righteousness.” Ge 15.6
Previously:
  • “By Law we’re good as dead—so live for Jesus!” Ga 2.17-21
  • “How’d you get from grace to legalism?” Ga 3.1-4
  • Figured I should also throw in the relevant passage Paul quoted. It’s specifically about the LORD promising Avram ben Terah a land and descendants. Thing is, Avram was more than 75 years old, his wife was only a year younger than he, and though he was quite wealthy by ancient standards, he had no biological nor adoptive children. His patriarchy would have to pass down to one of his slaves.

    Genesis 15.1-8 KWL
    1 After these words,
    the LORD’s Word was given to Avram in a vision,
    to say, “No fear, Avram. I’m your shield.
    Your compensation will be great.”
    2 Avram said, “Master LORD, what did you give me?
    I’ve gone childless.
    The ‘son’ who will someday possess my house
    is this Damascene, Eliezer.”
    3 Avram said, “Look at me!
    You don’t give seed, and look:
    The ‘son’ of my house is my heir.”
    4 Look, the LORD’s Word to Abram said,
    “This is not your heir.
    For one who comes out of your own guts—
    he is your heir.”
    5 The LORD brought Abram outside,
    and said, “Now look at the skies.
    Tally the stars—if you are able to tally them.
    The LORD told him, “Your seed is like this.”
    6 Avram trusted in the LORD,
    and the LORD credited him with righteousness.

    The apostles point to this proof text more than once. Because they knew—because everybody in ancient Israel knew—it’s foundational to the LORD’s covenantal relationship with Avram. As you likely know, this man was later renamed Abraham, and is the ancestor of pretty much the entire middle east. And of course the Abrahamic religions of Hebraism/Pharisaism/Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

    Imperfect faith. Still faith though.

    Oh, this wasn’t a perfect trust. Abraham trusted the LORD… to a point. Abraham, after all, was a finite and flawed human. Really flawed; just about every single story we have of him in Genesis show him doing something we’d consider morally questionable, if not downright wrong! If you want a good example to live your life by, forget the “heroes” of the bible; always stick with Jesus.

    You notice in this passage, and a number of others, the LORD promised Abraham children, and lots of descendants. Like the stars; certainly not as many, ’cause our telescopes make it quite clear the stars easily number in the trillions, if not more. The gist of the LORD’s statement is the number is pretty much impossible to tally on a simple cuneiform tablet. You gotta invent Arabic numerals first.

    But Abraham grew impatient, figured “God helps those who help themselves,” and made a son the fast way—with a concubine. Not that the LORD didn’t have great plans, and do great things, through this son Ishmael. But the LORD had someone else in mind, and other plans.

    Nope, Abraham was far from a perfect person. But fits and starts aside, Abraham trusted God. And the LORD considered Abraham’s trust more than enough justification for his relationship with this flawed, confused nomadic shepherd.

    And that is the basis of the apostles’ arguments about justification by faith alone. We don’t achieve right standing with God through good works and good karma. We only receive it because we trust him to save us. And trust him with the rest of our lives. And wouldn’t you know it—he comes through.

    Likewise us.

    Since it’s true for Abraham, it’s true for every human who enters a relationship with God: We believe him. We trust him. That’s faith.

    Not only can God work with this faith, it’s what he wants to work with. Our good intentions are never gonna be good enough; our good deeds are never gonna be grand enough. Trusting him makes us right with him. And God’s gracious salvation, and the indwelling of his Holy Spirit, follow right after.

    So, to go back to the previous passage’s point, how’d the Galatians receive the Holy Spirit? Were they so good, God decided to reward ’em with him? Nope; they heard the gospel and believed, so God gave ’em the Spirit.

    If they thought they merited the Spirit by their obedience… well clearly they hadn’t been reading their bibles. Which back then was only the Old Testament. (Galatians is arguably the first book written of the New Testament! Yep, even before the gospels.) As you can see from Abraham, the foundation of God’s relationships with anyone, is faith. Not Law, not obedience; faith. Abraham-style faith.