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Faith and Works
By the late Rosco Brong
Former Dean, Lexington (KY) Baptist College

Related Scripture: Romans 4:1-25

      KEY VERSE: "For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness." - Romans 4:3.

      Lesson Scripture: Genesis 12:1-3, 7; 22:1-8

      Abraham is preeminently the typical believer of the Old Testament, as Paul is of the New Testament. Prophetically anticipating the delusions of dispensationalists who imagine different ways of salvation for different people at different times, Paul made it very clear when by divine inspiration he wrote Romans and Galatians that God's way of justifying sinners has always been through faith in His word, plus and minus nothing.

      One of Satan's biggest lies is the statement that it makes no difference what you believe. The truth is, as God tells us, that what and Whom we believe makes all the difference. Sincerity is no substitute for truth, though of course a supposed faith that is not sincere is no faith at all.

      Where do works come in? Not alongside faith, as some say who ought to know better, but following faith, as a product of faith. Real faith works: a so-called faith that does not work is a dead faith, and a dead faith cannot save. So James tells us that in the eyes of men those who claim faith are justified in their claim to faith by their works. (James 2:24.) But God knows in advance whether our faith will work, and so in His eyes we are justified by faith alone. (Romans 4:5.)

      Our present lesson, reviewing some of Abraham's experience as a man of faith, may be outlined as follows:

1. Walking by Faith, Genesis 12:1-3
a. Promised blessing, 1
b. Personal blessing, 2
c. Public blessing, 3

2. Waiting in Faith, Genesis 12:7

3. Working by Faith, Genesis 22:1-8

a. Test of Faith, 1, 2
b. Testimony of faith, 3-8
Notes on the Printed Text:

      Walking by Faith, Genesis 12:1-3

      It is characteristic of God's people that "we walk by faith, not by sight" (II Corinthians 5:7.) "By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went." (Hebrews 11:8.)

      Faith in the promises of God moves us, as it moved Abraham, to seek a better life in a better world. This presupposes some discontent with the life and world in which we find ourselves when we awake to a realization of what God can give us.

      Promised Blessing, 1.
      "The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran, and said unto him, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall show thee." (Acts 7:2, 3.)

      God's goodness to us, even in our state of sin and rebellion, is calculated to lead us to repentance. (Romans 2:4.) But always in order to obtain and enjoy the promised blessings of His salvation we must get out of our native state or condition and come into the land of pilgrims and sojourners.

      Personal Blessings, 2.
      Some blessings of God are for all His creatures (Matthew 5:45), and no doubt He blesses nations and other groups of people as such. But His choicest and richest blessings are personal. God is a Person, and He delights in knowing, saving, and blessing individual souls.

      "I will make of thee a great nation." So God changed the name of Abram to Abraham, because He "calleth those things which be not as though they were." (Romans 4:17; Genesis 17:5.)

      "And I will bless thee." Called to leave his country, his kindred, and his father's house, Abraham obtained something infinitely more precious: the friendship and blessing of God (Compare Mark. 10:28-31.)

      "And make thy name great." It is natural for men to desire a great name, but the great names of earth soon fade into oblivion. Only God can give us a name to endure for eternity. (Revelation 2:17; 3:5; 13:8; 17:8.)

      "And thou shalt be a blessing." Human ideas of greatness, instructed by the devil, generally involve injury to others; but when God blesses us it is in order that we may be a blessing to others.

      Public Blessing, 3.
      So God's blessing of an individual becomes a blessing to society: or at least to that part of society that will receive it. This is the divine order: the so-called social gospel, which majors on social reform, is the devil's delusion, trying to put the cart before the horse.

      Generally speaking, God has always blessed those who blessed His people, and cursed those who cursed them, intimately and specifically, the reference is to Christ: people will be blessed or cursed according as they have received or rejected Him.

      Waiting In Faith, Genesis 12:7.
      "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1.)

      "But hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it" (Romans 8:24, 25.)

      Abraham waited many years on the promises of God, expecting to receive what God promised with no other evidence than his faith in the promise. This is of the very essence of faith. The invisible God somehow appeared to Abraham, who built an altar to the God of promise. This was centuries before the Mosaic law governing the building of Old Testament altars. Under the New Testament, we have, only one literal altar: the cross or "tree" on which Christ died.

      Working by Faith, Genesis 22:1-8.
      This is the event in Abraham's life that James points to in saying that Abraham was justified by works. (James 2: 20-24.) That is, his works justified his claim to faith, or "made perfect" the faith through which he had been justified before God many years before:

      "Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God."

      Test of Faith, 1, 2. "Tempt" here means "test" or "try." God never tempts anyone in the sense of inducement to evil, but He does tempt His people in the sense of testing or trial.
      Abraham's "temptation" here was to part a test of his love as between God and Isaac (verses 2 and 16). Sometimes we are forced to choose between our love for God and love for someone or something else. Abraham met this test and proved that his love for God was the supreme motivation in his life.

      But further this was a severe test of Abraham's faith. He had been told that God's promise to him was to be fulfilled in Isaac. How could this be if the young man Isaac died childless on the altar? The Holy Spirit answers: Abraham accounted "that God was able to raise him tip, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure." (Hebrews 11:19.)

      Testimony of Faith, 3-8.
      It is good to express our faith in words; it is better to prove it in works. The best testimony of a living faith is an obedient life. Abraham demonstrated his faith in God by doing what God told him to do.

      We should note also the faithfulness of Isaac in submitting to his father's will. Isaac was not a helpless babe, but a young man able to carry the wood for his own burning. His voluntary submission is a testimony to Abraham's success as a faithful father.

      Another testimony of Abraham's faith, though perhaps he spoke more truly than he knew at the time, is in the words: "My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering."

      Further thoughts: Abraham was willing to sacrifice his beloved and only legal son and heir; so did God sacrifice His only begotten Son for us. Isaac was willing to be sacrificed; so was Jesus. (John 10:15-18.) God provided a ram as a substitute for Isaac; there is no substitute for Jesus, but He Himself died upon the cross as the Substitute for sinners.

      Key Verse:
      "For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted onto him for righteousness." - Romans 4:3.

      Verses 23-25 of the same chapter may be comment enough:
      "Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification."


[From Rosco Brong's Sunday School Commentary, volume I, number 112, edited by J. D. Gumm, published by Richmond Road Baptist Church, Lexington, KY, 2004. Originally published in the Ashland Avenue newspaper. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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