What Characterized Abraham’s Faith

Multitudes believe that saving faith in Jesus Christ can be separated from obedience to God.  However, Abraham is the man in the Bible who is given to us as a model of real (living) faith in both the Old and the New Testaments.  In Jesus Christ there is a better covenant with better promises (Hebrews 8:6), a perfect revelation of God’s mind and character (John 1:14-18), a perfect example of true righteousness, etc.  Yet an obedient heart which is subject to God’s moral law is required all the same in New Testament times of those who would truly believe in Jesus Christ the Lord.  Abraham and the Old Testament saints are given as models or examples of faith for those of us in New Testament times (as passages like Hebrews chapter 11,  James chapter 2, and Romans chapter 4 prove).  It is pathetic that faith in Jesus Christ is frequently preached about without the examples of men of faith in the Old Testament, and the lessons we can learn from what is written about them, factored into the message.  This is contrary to the Apostolic example of preaching on faith..  There can be no reasonable doubt this is a key reason for the unholy, disobedient living which prevails among professing Christians. 

The true Gospel is “concerning Jesus Christ our Lord… for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name’s sake” (see Romans 1:3-5); and the stated goal of the Apostle Paul’s ministry (i.e. of Apostolic ministry/true Christianity) is “that the offering up of the gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost… to make the gentiles obedient by word and deed.” (see Romans 15:16-18).  Remember that Paul was sent among the gentiles.  There is only one gospel.  The Gospel of Christ is the same for both Jews and gentiles (Romans 1:16-17, Acts 20:21, Ephesians 4:4-6). 

The Apostle Paul also warned about false gospels (2 Corinthians 11:3-4).  In relation to that, the phrase “justified by faith alone” is a Protestant/Evangelical sacred cow.  In many cases, when anyone talks about forsaking sin, obeying God, being holy/worthy, etc as having to do with our salvation, someone will say something along the lines of “Hey, salvation is by justification by faith alone.  You’re making Christianity about works. You’re speaking heresy.” 

Yet we can boldly say that justification by faith alone is not only never mentioned positively in the Bible, it is even spoken of negatively and directly rebuked.  There is a universe of difference between justification by faith versus justification by faith alone.  The Bible teaches justification by faith, not justification by faith alone.  A true, living faith in the true God is never alone.  It is always obedient to God in subjection to His moral law and the terms of His present covenant arrangement.  It is dead faith which is not. 

By what Scripture says about Abraham’s faith, we can say that: The faith of Abraham is abandoning oneself to God’s authority in order to walk in His ways without self-imposed conditions, believing (i.e. being persuaded) that He will be faithful to those who do so.

Consider the following Scriptures about Abraham and his faith together: 

Genesis 12:1-3: “Now the Lord had said unto Abram (who we know became Abraham eventually), Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” 

Genesis 15:1-6: “After these things the word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.  And Abram said, Lord God, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus?  And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir.  And, behold, the word of the Lord came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir.  And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.  And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness.” 

Genesis 18:17-19: “And the Lord said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?  For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.” 

Genesis 22:1-2, 10-12, 15-18): “And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham (that means to test/to try as an opportunity to do good- God never tempts (influences/entices) anyone to do evil- James 1:13), and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.  And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of… And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.  And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I.  And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me… And the angel of the Lord called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.” 

Abraham is proof that truly believing the true God (which is exercising saving faith) means keeping the way of the Lord/fearing God/obeying God’s voice, etc as these passages show.  Obedience to the true God is what characterized Abraham’s faith

Hebrews 11:8-10: “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither (where) he went.  By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” 

Some will point out here the times in the Bible where Abraham didn’t obey God.  Such moments happened, and God doesn’t hide them from us.  It is clear however that Abraham repented and got back on the right track after he sinned.  Abraham also did not sin with the presumption that God would have mercy on him and bring him back automatically (as many do and teach). 

Abraham set his heart in the right direction and made pleasing the true God the principal aim of his life.  He got sidetracked and did wrong in some difficult moments.  This was not inevitable, but it can happen to anyone who is walking on the narrow way to eternal life that Abraham walked on.  When Abraham faltered and sinned he didn’t harden his heart by justifying himself nor in any way making excuses for himself.  He also did not believe that his justification before God was unconditional.  He rather confessed his sin for what it was before God and returned to walking in obedience to God. 

How can we know that?  In Genesis 22 (where it is also seen that faith gets tested and that having authentic, acceptable faith at one point does not guarantee that one will continue therein), we also see there how the Lord told Abraham that he had proven his fear of God, his obedient heart towards Him and genuine worship of Him,  by his demonstrated willingness to offer up his son Isaac upon God’s commandment to him. 

Genesis 22:9-12: “And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood.  And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.  And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I.  And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.”

This was after all the times recorded in Scripture where Abraham had gone astray.  Unless God lied, Abraham always turned back to keeping the Lord’s way and did not harbor or hold onto any disobedience.  

To confirm this, if there was somehow any doubt in anyone besides the many “faith alone”, unconditional eternal security types who wouldn’t even reconsider their doctrine if the Bible said that “for as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (oh, wait, it does say that- James chapter two is just as much God’s Word as every other chapter in the Bible), we also even have God’s own clear testimony about Abraham, which God spoke to Abraham’s son Isaac after Abraham was dead, as a summary of Abraham’s life. 

Genesis 26:3-5: “Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee; for unto thee, and unto thy seed, I will give all these countries, and I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father; And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.” 

This explains why when the Bible speaks of faith that justifies, it is speaking of abandoning oneself to be subject to the Lord in the present-tense.  This exercise of faith necessarily involves working what is right in God’s eyes without self-imposed conditions.  Obviously, this faith could not possibly be alone.

Romans 1:16-17: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.  For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” 

The just shall live by faith.  What could be plainer? 

The New Covenant rite of baptism serves a similar function as circumcision did in Abraham’s time.  When circumcision was commanded of Abraham by God, he speedily obeyed, having himself and every male of his household circumcised that very same day (see Genesis chapter 17).  

That same chapter begins with God giving a charge and a promise to Abraham.  Genesis 17:1-2: “And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.  And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.”

Abraham’s swift obedience to God’s painful, uncomfortable, and not likely to make him better liked among his household command to have himself and all the men in his household circumcised is a perfect illustration of what God later spoke through Isaiah.

Isaiah 66:1-2: “Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me?  and where is the place of my rest?  For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.”

We are told then in the New Testament that it wasn’t the circumcision that made Abraham righteous, but that the righteousness of his faith was proven by his obedience to God’s command for him to be circumcised (this truth is implied in several Old Testament passages too). 

Romans 4:8-12: “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.  Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also?  for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness.  How was it then reckoned?  when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision?  Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision.  And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also: And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.” 

Abraham didn’t do anything independently to earn God’s favor.  Abraham didn’t seek justification by doing things independently to appease God, to pay Him, to bribe Him, to make God his debtor who owed him salvation, or anything along those lines.  It is that mentality which is the basis for many false religions, and it is the general approach that many take towards getting right with God that is completely wrong (which many unsuccessfully try to combine with Christianity too by the way- even the justification by faith alone people- do you think they don’t have their own packages of works which they put together to at least try to fool themselves that they are godly Christians and to convince themselves that they aren’t as bad as their false doctrine tells them they can be?). 

Earlier in Romans chapter four, we are told in Romans 4:1-5: “What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?  For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.  For what saith the scripture?  Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.  Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.  But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”

Many Jews at that time sought justification from a strict adherence to the ceremonial law of Moses.  Multitudes in general, both now and throughout history, make futile attempts to get right God on self-imposed terms, like “If I do X and Y, then God will surely be pleased with me.”  Mentalities and approaches like this are what the Bible condemns when it condemns seeking to be justified by works. All such mentalities and approaches are at their core attempts to bypass the faith of Abraham that abandons self to the true God in obedience and trusts in His promises within that context. 

The key point in Romans chapters three and four is that we must seek the Lord in that way and that we can’t rightfully get around that.  Those who try to do so stumble at Christ’s righteous authority (see also Romans 9:31-33 with Romans 10:3-4 where this is applied to unbelieving Israel in its rejection of its Messiah Jesus Christ).  

By faith the moral law of God is established (Romans 3:31), the fundamental requirement of man that we turn from living by what is right in our own eyes to be subject to God and do what is right in His eyes without self-imposed conditions.  The very moment one so turns to the Lord in faith, seeking to the application of the atonement for sins that Christ has accomplished on the cross, they are justified before God.  Working to earn one’s own justification contradicts how the Lord must be sought in order to be justified before Him.  A heart that is turned to the Lord in faith like Abraham’s is willing and ready to obey His Word.  The works-based mentality of those who seek to earn their salvation opposes this living, obedient faith.  We must obtain justification on the terms which God has offered.  That will never involve avoiding the crucifixion of our carnality and the agony of the soul associated therewith.  This is illustrated so well by the key examples of Abraham’s authentic faith and Jesus’ call to identify with Him in coming after Him, taking up our cross daily, and following Him (which He gave in the context of obtaining eternal life).  

Continuing with Romans chapter four, leading up to and back into the verses we read earlier from Romans 4 about the details of Abraham obtaining justification before God, Romans 4:6-8 says: “Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.  Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” 

The “Even as” here is crucial in understanding how God imputes righteousness to a man without works. Paul quotes from Psalm 32 here to show how David describes the blessedness of the man unto whom the Lord imputes righteousness without works.  Let’s see that description then in its original context.  It further proves that to have righteousness imputed to us without works we must turn to be obedient to God’s voice. 

Psalm 32:1-7: “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.  Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.  When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long.  For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer.  Selah (perhaps a call to pause and consider what has just been said).  I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid.  I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.  Selah.  For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found: surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him.  Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance.  Selah.” 

David made it clear that when he confessed his transgressions to the Lord he therein forsook them, as that is implied in the Biblical understanding of proper confession of sin.  Proverbs 28:13: “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” 

David didn’t work to atone for his own sin and/or work to score “brownie points” with God.  He dealt with his sin head on, with “no guile.” (Psalm 32:2)  He settled his controversies with God as the Great Authority figure that God is.  We thus have the following exhortation as the Psalm closes in regard to what was previously said in this Psalm which God gave by His Spirit through David. 

Psalm 32:8-11: “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.  Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee.  Many sorrows shall be to the wicked: but he that trusteth in the Lord, mercy shall compass him about.  Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart.” 

To trust in the Lord in truth and be regarded as righteous (that is, be justified) before Him, we must submit to His instruction and teaching.  The wicked refuse to do so.  The description of Abraham’s faith in Romans chapter four, considered with the other Scriptures that are cross-referenced there, bears witness to this truth. 

The doctrine of “justification by faith alone” then is a devilish doctrine that is a slap in the face to God’s Word. The Bible is clear that genuine faith submits to God and obeys His Word.  An adulterous woman doesn’t earn her husband’s favor; but if she is genuine in returning to him, upon a free offer of pardon which he makes to her, she will prove it by turning back to be faithful to him.  

In that sense, we must be justified by works.  Otherwise, we mock God and any profession of faith which we make in Jesus Christ is empty or vain.  In that sense, those who are disobedient to God and don’t keep His Word prove themselves unbelievers. 

James 2:19-26: “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.  But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?  Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?  Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?  And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.  Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.  Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?  For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”

Consider also here, Ephesians 5:23-24: “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body.  Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.” 

And then on the other hand, there is Titus 1:16: “They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate (unapproved).” 

So much confusion on this topic comes because people don’t see (and often they’re willingly blind to) “how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only” like we see from the example of Abraham that James gives above. Abraham heard God’s Word and acted on it.  He truly believed God as the Great, Almighty, and Dreadful King that He truly is.

Malachi 1:14: “But cursed be the deceiver, which hath in his flock a male, and voweth, and sacrificeth unto the Lord a corrupt thing: for I am a great King, saith the Lord of hosts, and my name is dreadful among the heathen.”

Abraham didn’t set boundaries on his life regarding to what extent he would go to obey God.  Since he honored God’s authority and believed God would be faithful to him as he did so, he therefore did what God commanded him- without rationalizing what God had commanded away (as the norm is).  

Hebrews 11:6-7: “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him (in the next verse we’re given an example of that in Noah).  By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.”

Men of (true, living) faith like Noah and Abraham were ruled by the Word of God and not by their own plans, desires, and/or impulses.  Their attitude was basically, “Whatever God commands of me, He has a right to.  If I do what He says, it will ultimately be well with me-but not otherwise.”

This is the obedient attitude that we must have towards God’s Word that is revealed in its completeness to us in His Son Jesus Christ.  Those who take on this attitude follow in the steps of Abraham’s faith and prove it by their works.   Those who are disobedient to the will of God revealed in Scripture, along with those who neglect to know it altogether, can justly be reproved for their unbelief. 

Luke 8:21: “And he (Jesus) answered and said unto them, My mother and my brethren are these which hear the word of God, and do it.” 

John 8:39: “They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father.  Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham.” 

Aaron’s email is: [email protected]