Tuesday, 26 March 2013
For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Romans 4:3
Paul returns to Scripture – to the Old Testament – in order to prove his just-made statement. If Abraham was justified by works, then he would have something to boast about, but not before God. The verse Paul selects is Genesis 15:6 and the timing of the occurrence in Abraham’s life is as important as the words used. When taken in context and analyzed properly, today’s verse disproves the Calvinist doctrine of regeneration and it also shows that “faith” is not a work it all.
The previous verse said, “For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.” It is clear then that what is stated in today’s verse, “Abraham believed God…” is not a work. Paul began with “for” to demonstrate this. He is placing “works” and “belief (or faith)” in opposition to each other; therefore “faith” cannot be considered as “work.”
Quoting the noted Bible scholar Albert Barnes, “Faith is uniformly an act of the mind. It is not a created essence which is placed within the mind. It is not a substance created independently of the soul, and placed within it by almighty power. It is not a principle, for the expression a principle of faith, is as unmeaningful as a principle of joy, or a principle of sorrow, or a principle of remorse. God promises; the man believes; and this is the whole of it.”
As Barnes notes, “It is not a created essence which is placed within the mind.” In substantiation of this, Barnes reviewed every passage on which the corresponding Hebrew word was used in the Old Testament, and then again every corresponding time the Greek was used in the New Testament. His conclusion was that “there is not one in which the word is used in the sense of reckoning or imputing to a man what does not strictly belong to him; or of charging on him what ought not to be charged on him as a matter of personal right.”
This completely and entirely demonstrates that the doctrine of regeneration as submitted by Calvinism is wrong. Faith, which comes from within the man, results in justification. A man is not “regenerated” first in order to believe, as if God were injecting man with something externally in order for the act to occur. Further, to demonstrate that “faith” is not a “work” we can contemplate the following argument –
1) Deeds of the law, or works, do not lead to justification (as noted in Romans 3:28).
2a) “Faith” is not something required within the context of the law. The law is of works and demands perfect obedience (Romans 3:19, 20 & Galatians 3:11).
2b) But by faith a person is justified and declared righteous (Romans 3:28, Galatians 3:24)
3) Therefore, because the law demands works, and faith is not a requirement under the law, then faith cannot be a work; it is something entirely different.
It is completely evident, fully supportable, and biblically correct to note from this one verse that 1) belief is an act of the free will of man; 2) it is not placed in man through a nebulous process of being “regenerated to believe” by which he then believes; and that 3) this faith is in no way considered a work.
Therefore, the truth of Scripture indicates, from the first pages of Genesis, that man has been granted free will and that He must exercise that gift in faith. Further that this faith must be properly directed and in line with the revealed light which God has provided.
Now to address the second issue of today’s verse – the timing of God’s declaration. Genesis 15:6, which today’s verse from Romans cites, occurred several chapters and many years before the sign of circumcision. Circumcision was mandated in Genesis 17 when Abraham was 99 years old and when Ishmael was 13. However, Genesis 15 was prior to the conception and birth of Ishmael. Therefore, the declaration of righteousness was at least 14 years earlier, possibly more. Further, Abraham’s offering of Isaac in Genesis 22 and which is noted in James 2 came many long years after that.
Because Abraham’s faith was credited to righteousness prior to either of these acts, then neither of them can have any bearing at all upon his declaration of justification.
Life application: When reading the Bible, make sure you take time to stop and think through why ideas and concepts are introduced. God is revealing His light to us and to quickly pass over what is being said will cause you to miss the point of the passage. And be careful to not rely too heavily on commentaries. Reading them is fine, but be sure to compare them with what God has laid out, when they conflict with the word, they need to be disregarded.
Most gracious and heavenly Father. You have given me the ability to choose, but I know that the faith I exercise must be properly directed. Please be with me and open my eyes to the truth of Your word and the principles it contains so that my decisions will be right and in line with Your will for me. To Your honor and glory I pray this. Amen.