by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 2 Study # 2 December 11, 2011 Dayton, Texas (Download Audio)
(137)Thesis:"Believing" unto justification is a process with a beginning, a developmental period, and an end.
Introduction:In our study last week, we focused a good bit of attention upon the questions of why and how one becomes a "son" of Abraham.
The "why" issue is focused upon God's intention of operating under the umbrella of Genesis 12:1-3. All of the divine intentions to "bless" human beings are placed under this umbrella and no one receives eternal blessedness except by becoming a "son" of Abraham and, thus, an "heir of the promise".
The "how" issue is focused upon the identification of the particular issue of Abram's "identifying trait". Paul's argument is that Genesis 15:6 is the only text that specifically identifies which of the multitude of Abram's "traits" is the "identifying" one. In other words, is Isaac a "son" of Abraham because he copies Abraham's "trait" that resulted in his lies to the kings regarding the identity of Sarah (Genesis 12:13; Genesis 20:2) when he lies about the identity of Rebekah (Genesis 26:7)? Clearly, not. Paul says that the "identifying trait" is "faith" because that is the only "trait" that God declares will result in "righteousness".
Because "faith" is the "identifying trait", it becomes imperative that we understand what "faith" is. It is no accident that Moses recorded Abram's "justification" in Genesis 15. Hebrews 11:8 says it was "faith" that moved Abram to "obey". Hebrews 11:17 says it was "faith" that moved Abraham to offer up Isaac. It is interesting that Hebrews 11 ignores Genesis 15:6. This evening we are going to try to explain why that might be.
I. Paul's "Faith" Concept.
A. All "faith" will result in a commensurate response.
B. "Faith" can be upset (2 Timothy 2:18).
1. Jesus taught this in Luke 8:13 and it was Luke who, alone, explained Jesus' teaching in terms of "believing for a while" (Luke was Paul's long-time associate and understudy).
2. Jesus also recognized this in Luke 22:32 and was motivated to prayer for Peter by it.
C. In Galatians, Paul's "faith" concept is that "even if you did 'believe' when I was with you, your current apostasy is a real threat to your eternal destiny" (1:8-9; 4:19-20).
1. It is clear from 4:19 that Paul considered the process of "faith" to be very much like unto the gestation period of a baby in the womb so that if anything upsets the process of the formation of the baby in the womb, there will be no "birth".
2. It is clear from 1 John 2:19 that Paul's concept is in harmony with the rest of the apostles' grasp of what "faith" is.
D. The conclusion is that Paul considered Genesis 15:6 to be the point at which Abram's "faith" jelled into an irreversible reality so that, from that point forward, he was "the father of all them that believe" (Romans 4:11).
1. This may explain Hebrews 11 as a statement of "faith" with a "beginning" and an "end".
a. Abram's "faith" began in Genesis 12.
b. Abraham's "faith" reached its zenith in Genesis 22.
2. Paul's argument is that the biblical record puts Abram's "justification" at the point of the promise in Genesis 15.
II. Paul's "Faith" Content.
A. Paul's use of Genesis 15:6 is illuminating in that the "point" of "birth" was not, verbally, the Gospel as we know it.
1. The reality of Truth, when it is expressed in words, is that the whole is implicitly present in every particular statement.
2. The problem with the reality is that it takes omniscience to grasp the links.
3. But these facts remain: 1) that "the Gospel" is present in every statement of Truth even when men cannot "see" the connections between what is said and the crucified Christ, and 2) it is the intention of progressive revelation to unveil the links.
B. The weight of Genesis 15:6 in Paul's reasoning is that it contained the seminal issue involved in "faith".
1. When push comes to shove, the issue of "faith" is its object.
2. When shove comes to crisis, the issue of "object" is the Person, not His words.
a. Ultimately, it was not the words of the promise that Abram "believed".
b. It was the Person Who uttered the words Who became the object of Abram's "belief".
c. When all is said and done, words can be misunderstood so that "faith" in words can end up being "unbelief"; but, God can be retained as the object of "faith" even when confusion and misunderstanding is rife.