One of the axioms of the New Testament that people are "justified" by faith is found in Saul of Tarsus' letter to the Galatians.
By the way, to this day, I am not sure what Christians mean when they say people are JUSTIFIED before God.
Galatians 3:6 - Consider Abraham: "He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness."
Here is the CONTEXT from Galatians, chapter 3.
1 You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.
2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?
3 Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?
4 Have you suffered so much for nothing-if it really was for nothing?
5 Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?
6 Consider Abraham: "He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness."
7 Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham.
8 The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith
Crickett Keeth, in his blog at http://bible.org/seriespage/abraham-and-sarah-couple-who-believed-god-impossible-week-four, states:
The lives of Abraham and Sarah are full of lessons from which we can learn much. But will we? Because Abraham believed God was faithful to His promises, he stepped out in faith and followed God's leading. Because Sarah believed God was faithful, she gave birth to a son well past her childbearing years.
I have several problems with this axiom if we are talking about Abraham's relationship with God which eventually led to Jewishness.
The CONTEXT of Saul's admonition is that [some of the believers of] the Galatians became dissatisfied with relating to their Christianity by mere belief, and they began to incorporate Jewish practices into their worship. Probably many of them contemplated conversion to Judaism.
This angered Saul because he saw no justification for gentiles following the TORAH unless they WERE contemplating being Jewish. He therefore asks them to take Abraham as a paradigm for being "justfied" with God by believing His promises. Pastor Keeth broadens this idea by inclusion of Sarah, Abraham's wife.
I have "searched the scriptures", more honestly, have searched Google, and although I have found the verse Saul alluded to, I find it surrounded by verses of doubt. See below.
15 Now God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be.
16 And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her.
17 Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?
18 And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee!
19 And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant and with his seed after him.
20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation.
21 But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year.
Far from believing God, they laugh at what he has to say. Nevertheless, in the verses immediately preceding [Gen 17:1-14,23-27], we see what constitutes a real justified relationship between God and Abraham as Abraham continues to intensify that relationship and his own spiritual status by OBEDIENCE, not faith.
In my last essay, I explained that by entering the first covenant [between the pieces], Abraham's status as a "Hebrew" became enhanced to a new level. I also pointed out that the whole reason that God established that covenant was due to Abraham's unbelief.
1 After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.
2 And Abram said, LORD God, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus?
3 And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir.
4 And, behold, the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir.
5 And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.
6 And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.
7 And he said unto him, I am the LORD that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it.
8 And he said, LORD God, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?
Abraham has constant questions for God surrounding the promises. So even after God counted Abraham's belief as a righteous quality, his belief in verse 6 is immediately followed by his doubt in verse 8.
Now here is the heart of the matter. Abraham and his followers have to make choices, as will be shown, in order to qualify as God's disciples. The choices will need ACTION, not belief, to lead them to the level of "Jewishness".
1 And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.
2 And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.
3 And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying,
4 As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations.
5 Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee.
6 And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.
7 And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.
8 And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.
9 And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations.
10 This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised.
11 And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.
12 And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed.
13 He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.
14 And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.
23 And Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all that were born in his house, and all that were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham's house; and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the selfsame day, as God had said unto him.
24 And Abraham was ninety years old and nine, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.
25 And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.
26 In the selfsame day was Abraham circumcised, and Ishmael his son.
27 And all the men of his house, born in the house, and bought with money of the stranger, were circumcised with him.
Here Abraham asked no questions but he and the men of his entourage obeyed God and were circumcised. With this covenant, Abraham and his followers changed forever. They were no longer gentiles. The choice that they made to obey changed them into proto-Jews. Note several things. This covenant is EVERLASTING [BERIT OLAM], a covenant across time and space [which OLAM signifies], never to be abandoned. The men, and by implication, the women related to them, made a choice to be something other than what they had been. And the person who "is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant." Choice is given. He who chooses not to enter the covenant of the removed foreskin has chosen to remain gentile. He will be "cut off", that is he will not be included as a member of the Covenanted Peoplehood. This is not a punishment. It is a choice to be in a different relationship with God, the Covenant of Noah.**
God said: "I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect." This is the perfect of the Covenant. As to Noah, he was not qualified to be the progenitor of the Jewish People. Abraham walked before God. Noah walked with God but not with people.
These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God.
Noah was perfect IN HIS GENERATION ONLY. Abraham would have been perfect in ANY generation. And now that he has become a Hebrew [and proto-Jew] in the fullest sense, he is ready to show how worthy he is - by his CHOICE and his ACTION.
17 And the LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do;
18 Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?
19 For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.
20 And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous;
21 I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know.
22 And the men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before the LORD.
23 And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?
24 Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein?
25 That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?
26 And the LORD said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.
27 And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the LORD, which am but dust and ashes:
28 Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous: wilt thou destroy all the city for lack of five? And he said, If I find there forty and five, I will not destroy it.
29 And he spake unto him yet again, and said, Peradventure there shall be forty found there. And he said, I will not do it for forty's sake.
30 And he said unto him, Oh let not the LORD be angry, and I will speak: Peradventure there shall thirty be found there. And he said, I will not do it, if I find thirty there.
31 And he said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the LORD: Peradventure there shall be twenty found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for twenty's sake.
32 And he said, Oh let not the LORD be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten's sake.
33 And the LORD went his way, as soon as he had left communing with Abraham: and Abraham returned unto his place.
Noah labored to save himself and his family for many years. Nowhere do we hear of him pleading with God for the lives of the human race. But Abraham, the FIRST thing he does after becoming covenanted is to plead for the lives of the Sodomites. It is the "Jewish way". And the descendants of Abraham will persist down through time with very few to plead for them in their hours of destruction.
Next, I will examine the generations of Abraham and ongoing choice.
** The Covenant of Noah consists of 7 Commandments gentiles are required to follow.
1.Prohibition of Idolatry: You shall not have any idols before God.
2.Prohibition of Murder: You shall not murder. (Genesis 9:6)
3.Prohibition of Theft: You shall not steal.
4.Prohibition of Sexual promiscuity: You shall not commit any of a series of sexual prohibitions, which include adultery, incest, bestiality and anal sex between males.
5.Prohibition of Blasphemy: You shall not blaspheme God's name.
6.Dietary Law: Do not eat flesh taken from an animal while it is still alive. (Genesis 9:4, as interpreted in the Talmud (Sanhedrin 59a)
7.Requirement to have just Laws: Set up a governing body of law (eg Courts)
Source - Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_Laws_of_Noah, which gives specific scriptural citations for each of these commandments - but for a much fuller understanding, Google "7 laws of Noah'.
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