Home » Tuesday: The Faith of Abraham ~ Part 1    


Tuesday: The Faith of Abraham ~ Part 1 — 26 Comments

  1. Consider for a moment the faith of Abraham as described by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans. Abraham saw the current situation (he and his wife were old) but did not “weaken in faith” (Rom 4:19). He was “fully convinced that God was able to do what He had promised” (Rom 4:21) and “grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God” (Rom 4:20). Abraham did not base his faith on his circumstances, but on the trustworthiness of God. Abraham knew God was trustworthy and so he believed.

  2. It is interesting that the verse:

    He believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness Gen 15:6

    is given at the beginning of the chapter where God promises Abraham that he and Sarah will have many descendants. Then in chapter 16, he is knocking on Hagar's door to put God's plan into action.

    Abraham did not always get it right and he had many lessons to learn, which leaves me with two key ideas:

    How many times do I run ahead of the Lord with my own plans? Do I have everything right? Do I still have much to learn?

    Secondly, when I look at others and listen to them, do I allow for the fact that they too are on a learning curve?

    Abraham was still learning when God declared him righteous because he believed. He had not arrived at some critical level of understanding or perfection of behavior. He believed and it counted as righteousness.

    • Thanks, Maurice. That seems to indicate that God does not judge merely by outward behavior but by the intentions of the heart and the direction of our lives.

      Thus when God "counted" Abraham "righteous," it was not some legal fiction. God was recognizing the state of Abraham's heart.

      • Yes, it was not legal fiction because anyone else who knew Abraham could see his faith by how he lived his life(Mark 2:5). Genuine faith will glorify God(Matt 5:16).

  3. The Faith of Abraham


    Author said- Abram’s faith was, believing in God’s promise of a son despite all the physical evidence that would seem to make that promise impossible. I am not too sure about this, if so, why would he and his wife plan to take the servant maid as the bearer of his son? Can anyone doubt Jesus and still believe in him?
    Look at John 3:16. Can anyone half believe in Jesus and still have eternal life?
    Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devil also believe, and tremble. James 2:19. Can Satan be saved by believing there is one Lord or Jesus is the son of the most High. Didn't the demons cried out to Jesus when they say him and begged him not to destroy them?
    Could it be our understanding of believe is different from what the bible is trying to convey to us?
    I believe the sun is hot, the earth is round, the moon shines at night, etc. Is this the believe the bible is trying to capture or is it something different? My brethren, it takes more than just believing with the lips. The Jews believed with their lips but were condemn by Jesus.

  4. Hello my SDA friends! I am sure glad the Lord allows us to learn as we go! I think G-D knows us well! Either way the struggle I am having is of a deep Spiritual one-and I need your all guidance. As a new person studying SDA Church, I find myself very drawn to the teaching.
    However, my Catholic roots run deep. The problem I keep reflecting upon is Sola Scriptura, how can so many denominations, which claim to be truthful, have such differing opinions of The Scripture?
    If sola scriptura is true, then Protestantism is true. Period. If it was our Lord’s intention for Scripture to function as the “sole and sufficient infallible rule of faith and practice” for the Church he established, then Protestantism is true.

    Now, accepting the truth of sola scriptura, I might have to spend the rest of my life trying to figure out through the arguments of various theologians to determine which version of Protestantism I believed to be most in line with Scripture.

    The Baptists, or the Presbyterians, or the Lutherans, or the Anglicans, or the Methodists, or the Church of Christ—or maybe the independent church down the street.

    What about a new church formed around some bright, charismatic, convincing young pastor with his new angle on how to put the scriptural pieces together?

    In other words, my fear is without divinely led Magesterium, with divinely led teaching, the wisdom of Church Tradition we cannot truly follow the Word. Scripture Canon itself was put together by the Church Catholic, so I am very concerned.

    It is said there are over 60 denominations of Baptist groups alone, how do we disseminate, how do we decide which is proper Scripture? As I try to study more of SDA Teaching, and how I have found love for this Church, I pray someone can help me to understand the turmoil I have,trying to distingush my calling to Church. Thank you for your help and teaching! 🙂

    • Hi John

      We can look at/into what others propose is the truth of scripture. Sometimes we may find helpful insights - sometimes we may become confused.

      But at the end of the day, we must put in the effort to investigate for ourselves (2 Timothy 2:15) and decide what we choose to believe and why. And we are not left to do this on our own. We are offered wisdom (James 1:5) via the Holy Spirit teaching/guiding our learning (John 16:13).

      You can share your learnings and your questions here at ssnet with the rest of us fellow learners.

      • John, I agree with Phil. Rather than taking the word of imperfect humans in the proper interpretation of Scripture, the concept of sola scriptura means we are to compare the Bible to itself to interpret, asking for the guidance of the Holy Spirit to lead us in all wisdom and understanding. We always welcome questions; each of us is also learning for ourselves. I will keep you in my prayers, that you would find true Biblical understanding.

    • John, just as we are not, will not be perfect until we are transformed (Phil 3:20-21, 1 Corinth 15:50-54) , no one religion, Protestant or otherwise, has all the truth. Wether it be an individual church’s doctrinal knowledge or an individual believer’s walk with God, think of it as a spectrum of connection to God who saves us. Some bars of the chart reach higher and come closer to the ideal but all are still connected to God by His grace. It is not knowledge that saves but the belief in the grace provided that connects all those churches and individuals to THE IDEAL, Jesus Christ. Through prayer and study, an individual must choose which path will take them closest to the ideal.

    • John, IF sola scriptura is true, then all who follow scripture alone are walking in the truth. Too many protestant believers omit portions of scripture as no longer truth. There are many opinions of truth, but in scripture "the truth of the Lord endures forever"(Ps 117:2). I have witnessed the opposing beliefs that existed in a single congregation, so I have learned that not all see truth in the same light(Matt 15:9), as Jesus warned would take place(Matt 24:4,5). You and I may walk in the light of Truth and know of it certainty, unless sin blinds us and allows us to "believe lies"(Ps 119:105, Prov 22:20,21, 2 Thess 2:10-12).

  5. Bro Mac- As mentioned before I grew up going to church on Sunday with my mother, that was all she knew from her mother. As I got older I was introduced to the Adventist religion. But remember the 'church/organization' cant save us, it is our total dependence on Jesus. As I learnt more about Jesus (not the religion/church), I began to love him and to serve him. As a result, I began to pray more and read the bible for deeper understanding. The Holy Spirit in return began to speak to me in several different ways.
    You said- 'Scripture Canon itself was put together by the Church Catholic', this was true. And so was the 'Slaves Bible', it was put together by the slaves masters to keep a group of people in slavery for ever. But look what happened after a period of time. We can't dismiss the working of the Holy Ghost. He is the one who leads people into all truth. As long as you are sincere in looking for a clearer understanding of Jesus as found in the scriptures, angels and the Holy Spirit will be you guide.
    As you cont to pray with an open mind, the Holy Spirit will lead you into all truth. Truth will be reveal to you.

  6. Abram's faith in the promise of becoming a father of nations was real, or he would not have been counted as righteous by God. The future failure did not count in the reckoning of God on that day. He did not count righteous an unrighteous man, yet he was a man that could fail at another time, and God reckons with those failure when they happen, not before. The experience of faith grows, and even our failures are part of God's plan to lead us to being complete, transformed by grace through faith that does not give up because of occasional failures.

    God knew of the failure to come in the future, and also saw the ultimate victory that failure would lead to in those who exercise faith through repentance while they advance "as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day"(Prov 4:18). Remember, God is saving sinners by making them saints, which like a planted garden, does not happen in a moment. "First the blade, then the ear, then...the harvest"(Mark 4:28) as Jesus taught. God cannot justify any who cling to a known sin, refusing to repent.

    Abram's faith was perfect in God's promise of Gen 15, or he would not have gone through the trouble of the ritual God required.

  7. Brother Mack, consider the arguments Jesus used with the two disciples as they travelled on the road to Emmaus. Jesus did not use tradition to convince them that he was the Messiah, but rather Scripture. We should do the same.

  8. I note the cautions that some are raising in relation to what I have been outlining of recent. Thank you for raising them. And I affirm that no-one should accept anything I say. Rather, each person should prayerfully and carefully check out for themselves the points I raise and the substantiation I provide for those points (Acts 27:11; Romans 14:5). I try to unpack each point as sufficiently thoroughly as I can, but I also try to be mindful of how long my posts are - so I cannot comment on every related aspect in a single post.

    The views outlined by today's lesson - though very widely held within Christianity - are problematic on many grounds.

    1) The essence of the Hebrew and Greek words translated 'righteousness' essentially mean 'rightness' - or something being as it 'ought to be'. What is not included in the word is the reference-point that the something 'ought to be' is referring to. Wider consideration is needed to identify that reference-point.

    2) While the Hebrew root word chashab is used 124 times throughout the Old Testament, according to Biblehub.com, the specific Hebrew phrase in Genesis 15:6 that has been translated "and He (Yahweh) accounted it" is wayyahsebeha and is only used in a total of three places in the Old Testament - the other two being Genesis 38:15 and 1 Samuel 1:13. By looking at what is portrayed in common across these three usages, it can be seen that wayyahsebeha reflects the process of coming to (reckoning/'computing'/considering and weighing up the 'evidence'/etc) a conclusion based on observing ‘the evidence’ such that the observed evidence validly supports the conclusion. Thus wayyahsebeha is the establishing and establishment of an evidence-based conclusion. While the conclusions draw in Genesis 38:15 and 1 Samuel 1:13 were in fact incorrect, those conclusions were nevertheless based on the evidence of "outward appearance" that the human observer could see (1 Samuel 16:7). Thus the human observer did not know their conclusion to be incorrect at the time they formed their ‘evidence-based’ conclusion. They were not concluding something when they knew it not to actually be the case. This is the commonality across all 3 usages of the specific Hebrew phrase.

    3) From a biblical perspective, the term righteousness (Hebrew saddiq) - when referring to humans - does not mean without 'fault'. Proverbs 24:16 is one of the most direct statements in this regard. So what does saddiq/righteousness mean? Noah is characterised in Genesis 6:9 as a righteousness man. In the verses immediately before and after this, the condition of the rest of humanity is outlined with Genesis 6:5 providing the most succinct diagnosis: their hearts were evil (maleficent) continually/habitually. This is precisely the same diagnosis that was provided for Pharaoh - an irreversibly hardened/set heart.

    Putting the above together, we see that from a biblical perspective, righteousness is a person whose heart is habitually aligned to beneficence/self-giving love for others. This is in contrast with the unrighteous whose hearts are habitually aligned to maleficence - evil continuously. This accords 'perfectly' with what Paul outlines in Romans 8:2 where he identifies that either a person is living in accordance with the law of sin and death or in accordance with the law of the Spirit of Life.

    If what is outlined above it truth, then the significance of the statement in 1 Samuel 16:7 regarding God looking on the heart becomes clearer. Man looks at outward behaviour as the marker of righteousness - but God looks to the underpinning, habitual motivation of the heart: beneficence or maleficence/self-seeking.

    Once again we can look at 'in the beginning' to reference-point what is being proposed. What was Adam and Eve's heart motive prior to Genesis 3? Beneficence. And what was their relation to God? They trusted Him.

    What did their heart motive change to in Genesis 3? Self-seeking. What led them to resort to self-seeking? They mistrusted God.

    So, what got broken within creation? Heart motive from beneficence to self-seeking in conjunction with mistrust in God.

    So, what needs to be fixed/restored? Heart motive from self-seeking back to beneficence in conjunction with restoration of trust in God.

    So we can see that genuine trust in God and living in accordance with beneficence (ie a heart that desires to living in accordance with the principle of beneficence) are an inseparable co-occurring reality. Wherever you have one, you will have the other. If one is lacking, so is the other.

    So, what happened with Abraham? He both trusted God and had a heart that was realigned back to being in harmony with beneficence. This is righteousness - rightness - what 'ought to be' because it was what was the original created condition of humanity at the outset.

    This is the reality that was 'wayyahsebeha' (reckoned/recognised and affirmed) about Abraham in Genesis 15:6 because the evidence actually supported that conclusion. Abraham was recognised and affirmed as righteous because he was - he trusted God and his heart was in alignment with beneficence as the governing principle of his life and living.

    Thus, rather than God viewing us as righteous even though we are not, the truth is that God views us as righteous because He has actually drawn (eg John 12:32) us back to trusting Him and at the same time restoring our hearts back into alignment with beneficent living (Psalm 51:10; John 3:3-6). He views us a righteous because we are uniting/walking with Him in being restored back into harmony with what we were created to be. As Genesis 6:9 accurately states: Noah was a righteous man - he walked with God. The conclusion is supported by the true reality.

    • Where does the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus fit into this picture? Are we 'saved' when God views us as righteous? Can God draw us back to trusting Him without the fact of Jesus' sacrifice? I am not disagreeing with anything that you have said, but am trying for a more complete picture.

      • Joe, the "when" of salvation will only be determined in the judgment, since I could be "saved by grace through faith" today, but fall back into the pit next Wednesday, and decide that I rather like it there. We can believe that God will save all who "believeth in Him"(John 3:16), and IF faithful, will receive the crown of Life. Only the judgment can fix the when for certain.

        As for where does Jesus' sacrifice fit in, there is no salvation without His death FOR me. Jesus has always been the means for justifying sinners, who would remain guilty without "the lamb of God" which takes away the sin of the world.

      • Joe, I believe that Jesus became a member of the human family explicitly to reveal the character of the Father and draw us back to trusting Him. It was the only way God could devise to save lost humanity. Christ made clear that anyone who knows Him knows the Father also. (John 14:7-9) When we accept Christ as Savior and trust Him for our salvation, we become "new creatures" (2 Cor. 5:17), and God accepts our heart's desire to be like Him and views us as righteous.

        At the same time, we can never fully "keep" the Law of God as Christ did, but when we are "in Christ," we are covered by His righteousness even while we are daily growing to be more like Him.

        • "...we can never fully "keep" the law of God"

          Isn't this Satan's base claim?! You agree with it?
          Heaven will have no place for such individuals will it? This means sin will never be overcome.

          Now don't think I am saying something that I am NOT saying. This isn't about feeling "perfect" in this present world, but Jesus is clear that only "him that overcomes" will receive eternal life and all that comes with it. Nothing about "partial or almost overcomers" in His promises.

          Can we believe His promise to write His law upon the heart or not? Will the soul with the law written upon his heart sin? Do we understand what the law written upon the heart means?

          • By leaving out a part of my sentence, you are missing what I wrote:

            we can never fully "keep" the Law of God as Christ did.

            I don't know whether you want to argue that we can equal the life of Christ. I just know I wouldn't claim that. Christ disproved Satan's claim. It's not our work. Our work is to trust Him to work out His life in us, and that changes us.

            I submitted earlier that God looks at the heart, as evidenced by a number of references in the Bible. And if we allow Him too, He can and does change our hearts. But the habits of a lifetime take time to undo, even while we are growing. That's why we are told that "sanctification is the work of a lifetime." However just like a child is "perfect" at every stage of development, so we may be "righteous" as we grow. God doesn't turn His back on us just because we stumble an fall into sin. He knows we will repent and keep on drawing closer to Him as long as we look to Him.

            I submit that our "righteousness" is not on the same level as Christ's righteousness. For one thing, we have a history of sin that cannot be undone. That is why we can never be saved "by faith alone," as the lesson mistakenly claims or by our own striving for righteousness.

          • Robert and Inge - may I direct you to 1John5:1-4KJV. This provides understanding that it is *FAITH* that overcomes the world(sin) - v.4 "For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.

            Yes, 'by faith alone' are we saved, and there is nothing else we can do to add to that. The type of Faith God offers the believer is a living, life-altering Faith and needs to be applied in order to manifest that it 'works'.

            Eph.2:10KJV - "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained (prepared) that we should walk in them.
            These 'good works' are our life now lived according to the Will of God and not any longer after our own mind's preferences.

            With this understanding, all our living is the evidence of our faith vested in the Faith of Christ Jesus which, when lived, saves us from the sin of this world.

        • Inge, thank you for your comment:
          When we accept Christ as Savior and trust Him for our salvation, we become "new creatures" (2 Cor. 5:17), and God accepts our heart's desire to be like Him and views us as righteous.
          At the same time, we can never fully "keep" the Law of God as Christ did, but when we are "in Christ," we are covered by His righteousness even while we are daily growing to be more like Him."

          This is what I understood when the LORD said that He imputed His righteousness to Abraham and us while His imparted righteousness was doing it's work of transforming us to be in His Image/Character.

      • Hi Joe

        In regard to your first question, under the 1st Adam, humanity as a ‘species’ is terminal (Romans 5:12-14). Therefore someone from outside of the genetic inheritance of the 1st Adam needed to enter humanity and become a valid member of humanity (2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 8:3; Hebrews 2:17, etc) and ‘retrace’ the steps (so to speak) of the 1st Adam without ‘falling’ into exchanging a heart motivation of self-giving beneficence for a heart motivation of self-seeking. This is precisely what Jesus successfully did - even when confronted with being put to death (Philippians 2:8; Romans 5:19; Isaiah 53:12) by a Satanically-inspired coalition.

        Because Jesus as the 2nd Adam-human (The Son of Man) maintained allegiance to living in accordance with self-giving, he earned/retained the right to eternal abundant life (Revelation 3:21). Thus there are 2 Adams with 2 accompanying human inheritances - one of death and the other of life. And we each get the freedom to choose which inheritance we want to be a part of. We can keep the terminal inheritance of the 1st Adam that we are born into (Psalm 51:5). Or we can cooperate with the drawing of Jesus (John 12:32) via the Holy Spirit (John 16:8) and be reborn (John 3:3-6) via having our heart and spirit renewed (Psalm 51:10) and in so doing share in the inheritance of the 2nd Adam - ie, become ‘saved’/redeemed/ransomed. With this renewed heart we then progressively (again in co-operation with the work and associated empowering of the Holy Spirit) re-build our character (Philippians 3:12-15).

        With regard to your second question, we are ‘saved’ the moment we surrender holding to self-seeking and instead submit to the Spirit’s work to renew our heart and spirit to self-renouncing. Salvation is not when God determines we are righteous - it is when the reality of ransom/redemption actually takes place. And when the reality takes place, God is able to validly declare that such has happened.

        With regard to your third question, I would propose that on the basis of what I have outlined in regard to your first question, yes, in theory God could validly draw us back to trust Him. But without Jesus all-encompassing sacrifice, there would be two main issues. First, there would be no clear display of the absolute self-sacrificing beneficent nature of God that so clearly refutes (via evidence that speaks for itself) that God is not what The Serpent insinuated in Genesis 3:1;4,5. Satan had insinuated that God is all of arbitrary, prohibitive, coercive and authoritarian (ie fundamentally self-seeking) rather than absolutely authoritatively-informative, non-coercive, non-arbitrary, transparent and committed to His creation’s authentic freedom of choice (fundamentally and absolutely self-renouncingly beneficent). Second, without a valid successful second Adam’s inheritance as an alternative option, we would remain bound to/by our terminal state. Mortality would therefore not be able to put on immortality.

        Contrary to The Serpent’s insinuation at the outset (Genesis 3:1,4-5), nothing about God and His Way is arbitrary - everything is anchored in reality/actuality.

        Hope this helps you assemble a more complete picture … and there’s still heaps more to go…

        • Thank you very much, Phil, for your answers to my questions. (And thanks to Robert and Inge as well.) The reason that I asked my first question was that in your original post you indicated that God considered Abraham righteous because Abraham responded positively to God's wooing of him. Abraham chose to be part of the kingdom of God, the kingdom of self-giving, rather than the kingdom of self. This seemed to be a bit different than the usual view that our righteousness is as filthy rags, and when we choose God we are covered with Christ's righteousness (see the Ellen White quotes in Friday of this week's lessons). I don't believe that the two views are inconsistent, but it almost seemed as though a person could be viewed as righteous by God apart from what Jesus has done and is doing for us, or in Abraham's case what He promised to do. So I thought that I would ask you to fill in some details, which you have kindly and nicely done. The second question followed from the first. I agree with you that we move into a 'saved' condition when we surrender to God. As long as we don't remove ourselves from Him, that position is confirmed at the judgement. If we could become righteous in God's eyes apart from Jesus' sacrifice, then we could become saved apart form Jesus' sacrifice, and that did not seem quite right. You are certainly correct in saying that there is much more to consider in what God has done and is doing to win us back to Him. It is a good thing that we will have an eternity to learn about this.

  9. I consider the statement - … “and he counted it to him for righteousness” to point out that our relationship with our Creator/God is exclusively based on Believe in that He is - that what He tells us is Truth - that His Truth is life-giving and life-sustaining, and that our interactive relationship with Him is through exercising our faith as we apply His Truth by faith.
    If we truly believe that which we are told about Him and His Will from Scripture, then there remains no doubt that we will live His Word of Truth and Life by faith as our heart and mind is being inspired and renewed by the Holy Spirit.

    Without/outside this initial ‘credit/allowance of righteousness through believe’, we cannot begin our relationship with God the Creator Father. No relationship with Him is possible outside of Believe and Faith in the truthfulness of His Word and trust that He will fulfill His promises.

    To believe and the resulting commencement of the relationship by being declared ‘right/righteous’ in the sight of God, is the starting point of our Walk by Faith with our Creator.
    Our Faith in His Word of Light and Truth leads to His healing of the sin-sick soul and its rebirth as the child of God.

  10. When Paul wrote in Gal 5:4 as "fallen away from grace" he is describing the difference between our human error of believing what we did (sin)somehow is more powerful than His love. Which means, we often put emphasis on what God said (commandments/law) over what Jesus did (the cross). Or, when we (believers) put more emphasis on being good and the importance of obedience, over Christ's ability to save, we have fallen from grace. A necessary distinction: the keeping of His commandments is an identity of our belief, trust, & obedience, as a point of reference aligned with His character for the world! Falling in sin, is like falling Forward - as we strive to be more like Jesus, we may stumble and fall, but when we ask for earnest forgiveness, Christ's grace is sufficient to count us as righteous in the sight of God. We need not start all over, but consider Falling Forward as we grow. Of course, as we continue to strive we become more like Him the more we behold Him (by beholding...recall the saying). Self-righteousness becomes a sin-problem when we commit acts against the character of God, because of our pride and selfishness to do as we so chose, despite knowing the difference. We can fall, and still not fall from grace - but know that His love is greater than what we did; then live according to His love as a believer! Greater still, do so in humility and live according to His character. Righteousness is then accredited to us.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

HTML tags allowed in your comment: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>