Why Was Abraham the Right Example of Faith to the Jews?
A guest post by David Stafford.
The statement, “The just shall live by faith” appears four times in the Scriptures (Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38).
Obedient faith requires God to speak, man to hear, and man to obey (Romans 10:17; Hebrews 11).
Abraham was justified by faith (Romans 4:16; Hebrews 11:8, 17–19; James 2:21–23), and he was alluded to as an example of faith in the book of Romans (Romans 4). Many people could have been used as an example of faith (Hebrews 11), but why was Abraham the right example of faith to the Jews?
There are three reasons why Abraham was the right example of faith to the Jews.
Abraham: An example to prove that all men and women have been justified by faith.
The thesis of Romans must be emphasized to answer the question “Why Was Abraham the Right Example of Faith to the Jews?
The book of Romans is a treatise on justification. The theme of Romans is stated in the beginning of this book.
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 (Romans 1:16–17).
The Patriarchal, Mosaic, and Christian dispensations had different laws that were expected to be obeyed by those who lived under those dispensations, but they all had something in common. Men and women have always been justified by faith.
This concept is emphasized in the phrase “from faith to faith.” The quotation Paul mentioned was from Habakkuk who preached that the just survived Babylonian captivity though living by faith (Habakkuk 2:4).
Why was justification by faith an important concept that had to be reinforced to the Jews? The Jews were given the oracles of God, and they boasted in having the law (Romans 3:1–2). Though they had the law, they were ignorant of the law’s intention (Romans 10:4; Galatians 3:24–25). The law pointed out sin (Romans 3:20; 4:15; 7:7; 1 John 3:4), and the law was unable to justify a man.
Paul said, “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law” (Romans 3:28). Abraham was not justified by anything he did in the flesh. Paul said, “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” (Romans 4:1–2).
If Abraham was justified by works, then he could boast and demand justification. Abraham, however, was not justified by works of merit, but he was justified by obedient faith.
Abraham: An Example of Someone Respected of the Jews and Gentiles
The Jews were aware of the Abrahamic promise God made to him at Ur of the Chaldees. God made this promise in the early life of Abraham when his name was still Abram.
Now the LORD had said unto Abram, 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 12:1–3).
Abraham was the best example of faith, because the Jew and Gentile revered him. The Jews boasted of being descendants of Abraham (John 8:33) and considered him their father. Jesus rebuked them for their failure to live as Abraham lived (John 8:39–40).
Paul alluded to Abraham to demonstrate the need to live like Abraham who was justified by faith.
Abraham: An Example Who Lived Before the Law of Moses
Abraham was approved of God and was justified by faith.
Paul said, “For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (Romans 4:3). This is a quotation from the Old Testament when Abraham was told that he would have descendants that would proceed from his seed line (Genesis 15:5–6).
When was Abraham justified by faith? When did he live? Abraham did not live under the Mosaic dispensation; he lived under the Patriarchal dispensation. Abraham was justified by faith before the law of Moses.
The Jews had a convoluted idea that circumcision was the sign of justification, but justification was not limited to the Jews.
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 (Romans 4:8–12).
Abraham was justified by faith approximately 29 years before he was circumcised (Genesis 17:4).
Abraham was strong in the faith (Romans 4:19–20), because he trusted in the promises of God.
Abraham was the right example to defend the proposition that all people are justified by faith. He lived before the law of Moses when he was justified by faith (Romans 4:8–12).
If we want to be justified like Abraham, then we must live by faith and trust in the promises of God (Romans 4:19–25).
David Stafford preaches for the Piedmont Church of Christ in Piedmont, Alabama. David and I went to school together for a year and served together for a year at the Nesbit Church of Christ — he was in the class ahead of me.
David has always been a good friend and encourager. His hard work has always demonstrated to me how much he cares about serving the Lord. I’m glad he agreed to share his thoughts with us!