Agreed. But that doesn’t mean that the faith/righteousness Abraham was credited for having did not involve allegiance as a part of the faith/righteousness. It did. He picked up and moved where God told him to. He prepared to sacrifice his only son. Those things did not buy him righteousness, but they were examples of his faith being actualized. His faith was lived out faithfully and loyally over a lifetime. Not to earn himself anything, but because that is what real faith produces - fruit.
Sure he did. He picked up his family and moved, because he believed God was going to make good on his promises. He obeyed.
What do you make of the whole Isaac on Mt. Moriah story? That incident is specifically tied to faith in Hebrews 11. (Which I see Dennis has already pointed out.)
Great book. We have talked about a lot of things. What exactly are you claiming is illegitimate totality transfer?
Noah is also mentioned in Hebrews 11. What was his act of faith? When warned about the coming flood, he built the ark. He obeyed. He didn’t just mentally assent to the fact that God was going to judge the world for wickedness, he did what God told him to do, and that was literally his salvation. If he had just believed God, he would have perished with the rest of the wicked. God redeemed his life through the acts of obedience that were produced by his faith. What are we supposed to learn from that if not that faith involves action?
The insertion looked like you might be changing what Paul said to equating faith with believing the right things so I thought clarification was needed to point out that Paul was saying no such thing. If you accept this clarification then the issue is resolved. No he-said she-said argument is of any interest to anyone.
Nobody can say what would have happened. We only know that it is because Abraham did so that He is called the father of faith. I think it is clear that this degree of faith is what God was striving to teach Abraham during all those years of wandering.
It is not the yield that counts but the effort and sincerity. The yield is in fact something we have to leave to God. And that is amply demonstrated in the Abraham-Isaac story. Once Abraham demonstrated that He was fully going to leave it all in God’s hands by sacrificing his only rational hope he had of descendants in Isaac, that is when God knew that Abraham’s hope and faith was truly in God Himself, and so God changed the fruit (the actual result) from the sacrifice of Isaac to the sacrifice of an animal, and then Isaac did indeed become the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham.
Scripture? Abraham made no commitments, and there’s no scripture to support that claim. That’s our issue, and that’s our question. Must we commit to allegiance or not for salvation? I claim we do not commit to anything. We simply mentally assent to the truth of God’s offer of a free gift. If we must do more than simply accept the gift, we’re in teh realm of quid pro quo (this for that, barter and trade).That’s faith in its simplest form. Whether we commit later on or not reflects growth, discipline, parental guidance, and maturity. Does scripture ever say that God is propitiated by our commitment?
Some will grow and mature, some will not. I claim, and I think it’s solidly backed by scripture, that our growth later on has no bearing on our being saved or not. Being saved, however is a requirement if you are to grow and mature. A babe must be born first before it can grow and mature and produce good things. It may also produce bad things, but that has no impact on it being born.
Commitment has no place in our being saved eternally? Commitment, however, is very important to our growth leading to maturity where production can occur, e.g., Abraham. If you condition salvation on allegiance, you’ve entered into a legalistic agreement where God will give to you only if you promise to respond and follow thru with good works. The flip side of that agreement is, “If you fail to perform, you’ll burn for eternity.” Who will find that to be “good news?”
Instead, the concept of grace is that God gives to us freely apart from any required allegiance, performance or promise of payback. No quid pro quo. Instead, He offers eternal life freely based on Christ and His work on the cross (the only thing that propitiates Him), and also offers a new way of life where we can learn to live like He lives with its high level of joy and satisfaction. He wants us to live like He does, graciously where we give to others without expectation of being paid or rewarded. He wants us to experience the same joy that he gets by seeing grace proliferate. It’s the better way. See Heb 12:2.
I live with high confidence that I will be saved eternally. It is based on the fact that it was given to me as a free gift. Just like Abraham, I simply accepted it as true. As time has moved on and I’ve learned and grown spiritually, I have come to understand the concept of grace and learned to see its value. It so much better than a life where what I can get from God is based on a sordid barter and trade agreement. God doesn’t give to me based on what I’ve earned. He gives to me based on my capacity to enjoy it, and that capacity is developed by the transformation of my thinking that comes from getting to know Christ through scripture, i.e., the renewing of my mind and thinking (something God commands for our benefit.)
I claimed he did stuff the Bible says he did which showed his commitment to God’s promises. As to a text where Abraham swears an allegiance ceremony to Yahweh…In Genesis 15 you have God binding himself to Abraham in covenant with the whole smoking cookpot and flaming torch flying between the halves of slaughtered animals. Then in Genesis 17 you have circumcision being instituted.
"Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring. Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”
And so Abraham goes and cuts off his foreskin in obedience and has his whole household follow suit. That is totally “making a commitment.” I’m not saying that act somehow earned his salvation, but it was definitely presented as a tangible actualization of his faith, and one that God required of him. I don’t know how you read that Genesis 17 passage and come away with the impression that God was offering Abraham something that did not require things of him beyond “mental assent.”
You are really hung up on the eternal salvation issue, but I am hung up on “what is faith?” It is not my place to judge anyone’s eternal salvation. I AGREE WITH YOU THAT SALVATION IS BY GRACE THROUGH FAITH AND CANNOT BE EARNED. I disagree with you that God does not require our allegiance.
Did God and Abraham “cut” the covenant before Abraham believed or after? My point and scripture’s is that God counted Abraham’s faith for righteousness. When they cut (ceremonial establishment of a covenant in that day) the covenant, it was between Righteous Abraham and Righteous God. What we do after salvation is very important and absolutely requires commitment, allegiance, etc. The issue is that you guys are making the commitment and allegiance a necessity for becoming a believer.
When you evangelize, what do say to people about how to be saved? I tell them the gospel (good news, 1 Cor 15 - McKnight and I agree on this), then I tell them that because God is now propitiated with the work of Christ, He is free (doesn’t have to violate his inviolable integrity) to offer eternal life as a free gift. You can receive that gift right now by simply believing in Jesus Christ. Belief is your way to responding to God’s offer. It is telling God that you recognize what Christ has done for you, and that you accept His offer as a free gift. You are taking God at His word, and trusting that He will follow thru. In the quietness of your soul, you can tell God that you believe in Jesus Christ. The moment you do, that is the moment eternal life becomes your permanent possession. No repentance (other than changing your mind about who Christ is and what He did), no giving up sin (if you know someone who actually gave up their sin, I would like to meet them.), no baptism, no commitment, no profession of allegiance, etc. Believe and you will be saved.
No, that is what you keep hearing for some reason. We are talking about the topic “What is real faith?” and “Does real faith entail allegiance?”
I tell people to commit their whole life to God and he will transform it and use you to bring his kingdom. That is what happens when we are united with Christ in his death and resurrection through faith. We are made alive spiritually in Christ and are empowered to live the righteous lives that God requires of us. We get the privilege of participating in his work of setting creation right. I don’t focus on eternal life after we die because I think the best part of the Good News is that we get to be the people we were created to be starting NOW. Living forever with Christ is just the continuation of the redemption that begins the moment that we are spiritually reborn. Me and my personal eternal destiny is not the main point in God’s redemptive history. I don’t think we are saved to get eternal life. We are saved to join God’s side, to be a part of the transformation and breaking in of the New Creation that began with Christ’s Incarnation. We are saved to take part in the ultimate vindication when Christ returns to establish his rule and death and evil are finally defeated once and for all. My salvation is all about God’s glory and the ultimate glorification of Christ as King of all. It isn’t about me.
It is precisely deeds of the law – one boundary-marking deed in particular – that Paul connects to these works:
For what does the scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness. So also David speaks of the blessedness of those to whom God reckons righteousness irrespective of works:
“Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven,
and whose sins are covered;
blessed is the one against whom the Lord will not reckon sin.”
Is this blessedness, then, pronounced only on the circumcised, or also on the uncircumcised? We say, “Faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness.” How then was it reckoned to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the ancestor of all who believe without being circumcised and who thus have righteousness reckoned to them, and likewise the ancestor of the circumcised who are not only circumcised but who also follow the example of the faith that our ancestor Abraham had before he was circumcised. (Romans 4:3–12, NRSV)
If Paul is talking about works as everything a person does, then the switch to talking about circumcision is a non-sequitur. But if he is talking about the works of the law – the ways the Jews showed they were already God’s people – it is crucial to note that Abraham was reckoned righteous before he had those boundary markers.
Paul never minimizes Abraham’s obedience, but he does minimize Abraham’s circumcision. I think that helps us see what kind of works he was targeting. When Paul discusses Abraham’s faith in Galatians he is even more clear that the works he speaks of are not actions in general but specifically works of the law (Galatians 3:6–14; 4:9–11). A bit later:
Listen! I, Paul, am telling you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you. Once again I testify to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obliged to obey the entire law. You who want to be justified by the law have cut yourselves off from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love. (Galatians 5:2–6)
All that counts is faith working through love. Not a passive belief that makes no difference, but faith working. Paul does not pooh-pooh those types of works, nor does he contrast those works with faith. They are inextricably linked to faith. After contrasting the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit, Paul is emphatic that these are not mere optional add-ons:
And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. […]
Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith. (Galatians 5:24–25; 6:7–10)
Paul’s argument against works of the law crescendos into an appeal to not neglect the works of the Spirit, since doing so has eternal consequences. If Paul started out arguing against all works, his argument seems incoherent. But if he had a specific category of works in mind for censure – those boundary-marking works of the law – there is no conflict.
Not only does this reading remove an apparent conflict within Paul’s thinking, it also removes an apparent conflict between Paul and Jesus. Jesus told an interesting story about how people enter the kingdom of God, and it seems to unpack what it means to repent and believe:
“What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?”
They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax-collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax-collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.” (Matthew 21:28–32, NRSV)
We disagree. I think my views are clear enough as are yours. My real reason for this side bar was/is that I see a link between one’s views of soteriology and origins. If you’re wrong on one, you’re likely to be wrong on the other. It’s the thinking and reasoning process. Clearly we do it differently. I wish you well when you stand at your final judgment.
Yep - and as I heard Gordon Fee say back in the day, Romans is not about “how do I get saved?” in some sort of “evangelical, 4-spiritual laws” kind of way. It’s Paul asking “how has God made one people for himself out of two peoples (i.e. Jews and Gentiles)?” The answer: not by works of Torah, but by pistis in Jesus as Messiah: belief/trust/loyalty/allegiance.
One way Paul does this is in Romans is to show that Abraham is the father of all who offer pistis to Jesus, both Jew and Greek: before Abraham engaged in works of Torah, his faith (belief/trust/loyalty/allegiance) saved him. So, Jews are not at an advantage relative to Gentiles: for all have sinned (i.e. both Jews and Gentiles) and God has given them both mercy. It’s a way of Paul saying that belief/trust/loyalty/allegiance has always been the plan from day one, and Torah was a temporary mechanism for Jews only that no longer needs to be followed, because now they can show their allegiance to Jesus.
That’s a kind of interesting insight–and boils it down, too, doesn’t it? If God is looking at the heart, does he really want to look at what we know and believe in our heads, or our attitude of repentance, regardless of what we cogitate?
The book “Benefit of the Doubt” by Greg Boyd reminded me that God is happy to have us use our minds and question. I’m thinking you would agree with that, too, so that even if honest inquiry leads us in another direction from orthodoxy (even if we were wrong), then He would know our hearts. After all, from Psalm 103, “as a father has compassion on His children, the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him; for He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.” Are we able to truly comprehend everything and get it all right in our heads, all the time? He knows we can’t…
So, doesn’t it boil down to relying on the Lord’s justice and mercy, rather than our getting it right all the time? Thank God!
Thanks for the opportunity of reading this discussion, Brother Isbell…
Here’s a book that you and others might like. It’s titled " Slaves, Citizens, Sons: Legal Metaphors in the Epistles" written by Francis Lyall, Professor of Public Law at Aberdeen in Scotland.
I’m the only reviewer of it on Amazon, but here’s what I said:
This is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Linking many difficult terms and phrases used by Paul to his legal training in both Jewish and Roman Law enabled him to make informative analogies about the nature of the theological concepts he was writing. Examples include faith, trust, adoption, etc. For me it made the New Testament much more understandable and coherent.
Just received an offer from Scientific American on a new ebook titled “The Science Behind Debates.” I bought it and started reading. It’s fascinating, and I’m already seeing some if in our debating. Not finished, but it’s relevant and informing. Only $6.00.