The post below is the first, Lord willing, of a series I will do on the relationship of faith and salvation. The study took me a number of months, is part of my Ph. D. dissertation, and was spiritually refreshing and a definite blessing. I wanted to first note, however, that Tuesday was the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the decision that legalized abortion in our land and has led to the murder of over 55,000,000 children. Are you doing anything to oppose this terrible evil? We pass out thousands of copies of the gospel tract here. You can get this tract personalized for your church by contacting my church here, and then print as many as you wish on 8.5x11 paper on your copy machine.
One reason such a wretched evil is legal is because churches have become confused on the gospel. If even 50% of the people independent Baptist churches led to repeat a sinner's prayer were truly converted, we would have a radically different country. This study will help you be clear on the nature of justifying faith. It will also bless you as you see the role faith has in your sanctification. I would encourage you to read all the parts that will follow, meditate upon the truths in them, and put them into practice.
Please note that the Accordance Bible software Greek & Hebrew fonts will be used in the study below. You can get these fonts by downloading a free trial version of Accordance here.
“The just shall live by faith”—
A Study of the Relationship of Faith to Salvation in its
Justifying, Sanctifying, and Glorifying Fulness, part 1
Faith is associated in Scripture with the receipt of salvation in all its aspects—justification, progressive sanctification, and ultimate glorification are connected to faith. The specific character of the connection between faith and salvific blessings is of tremendous value to the understanding of both the character of Christian conversion and Christian growth in grace.
The first reference to belief in the Old Testament—which is also the first reference to reckoning, crediting, or imputation, and the first reference to the adjective righteousness,[i] is Genesis 15:6, the paradigmatic statement concerning the father of faith, Abraham: “And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.”[ii] Genesis 15 records the gospel preached to Abraham (Galatians 3:8), and Moses records that the patriarch’s exercise of faith in that God[iii] who promised the seed of the Abrahamic covenant (Genesis 15:2-5), the Christ,[iv] who was the instrumentality through which Abraham, although he failed to perfectly keep the law, as is evident in the rest of Genesis, was nonetheless accounted righteous. Genesis 15:6 thus sets a pattern that by faith alone in God and His Messiah sinful men are counted righteous by Jehovah, whether at the moment of initial conversion as those without any inward righteousness at all, as Abram was when an ungodly idolator in Ur of the Chaldees,[v] or at the highest point of sanctification possible to the people of God on earth. While Abraham’s earthly pilgrimage evidenced that true faith results in a life characterized by faithfulness and obedience, nonetheless the patriarch was judicially righteous before God only through imputed righteousness received by faith alone.
While I do not agree with important portions of the theology of John Calvin, the following material from his Commentary on Genesis, concerning Genesis 15:6, was very helpful:
[T]he believing of which Moses speaks, is not to be restricted to a single clause of the promise here referred to, but embraces the whole; secondly that Abram did not form his estimate of the promised seed from this oracle alone, but also from others, where a special benediction is added. Whence we infer that he did not expect some common or undefined seed, but that in which the world was to be blessed. . . . [T]his promise was not taken by him separately from others. . . . God does not promise to his servant this or the other thing only, as he sometimes grants special benefits to unbelievers, who are without the taste of his paternal love; but he declares, that He will be propitious to him, and confirms him in the confidence of safety, by relying upon His protection and His grace. For he who has God for his inheritance does not exult in fading joy; but, as one already elevated towards heaven, enjoys the solid happiness of eternal life. It is, indeed, to be maintained as an axiom, that all the promises of God, made to the faithful, flow from the free mercy of God, and are evidences of that paternal love, and of that gratuitous adoption, on which their salvation is founded. Therefore, we do not say that Abram was justified because he laid hold on a single word, respecting the offspring to be brought forth, but because he embraced God as his Father. . . . Abram was justified by faith many years after he had been called by God; after he had left his country a voluntary exile, rendering himself a remarkable example of patience and of continence; after he had entirely dedicated himself to sanctity and after he had, by exercising himself in the spiritual and external service of God, aspired to a life almost angelical. It therefore follows, that even to the end of life, we are led towards the eternal kingdom of God by the righteousness of faith. On which point many are too grossly deceived. For they grant, indeed, that the righteousness which is freely bestowed upon sinners and offered to the unworthy is received by faith alone; but they restrict this to a moment of time, so that he who at the first obtained justification by faith, may afterwards be justified by good works. By this method, faith is nothing else than the beginning of righteousness, whereas righteousness itself consists in a continual course of works. But they who thus trifle must be altogether insane. For if the angelical uprightness of Abram faithfully cultivated through so many years, in one uniform course, did not prevent him from fleeing to faith, for the sake of obtaining righteousness; where upon earth besides will such perfection be found, as may stand in God’s sight? Therefore, by a consideration of the time in which this was said to Abram, we certainly gather, that the righteousness of works is not to be substituted for the righteousness of faith, in any such way, that one should perfect what the other has begun; but that holy men are only justified by faith, as long as they live in the world. If any one object, that Abram previously believed God, when he followed Him at His call, and committed himself to His direction and guardianship, the solution is ready; that we are not here told when Abram first began to be justified, or to believe in God; but that in this one place it is declared, or related, how he had been justified through his whole life. For if Moses had spoken thus immediately on Abram’s first vocation, the cavil of which I have spoken would have been more specious; namely, that the righteousness of faith was only initial (so to speak) and not perpetual. But now since after such great progress, he is still said to be justified by faith, it thence easily appears that the saints are justified freely even unto death. I confess, indeed, that after the faithful are born again by the Spirit of God, the method of justifying differs, in some respect, from the former. For God reconciles to himself those who are born only of the flesh, and who are destitute of all good; and since he finds nothing in them except a dreadful mass of evils, he counts them just, by imputation. But those to whom he has imparted the Spirit of holiness and righteousness, he embraces with his gifts. Nevertheless, in order that their good works may please God, it is necessary that these works themselves should be justified by gratuitous imputation; [since] some evil is always [naturally] inherent in them. Meanwhile, however, this is a settled point, that men are justified before God by believing not by working; while they obtain grace by faith, because they are unable to deserve a reward by works. Paul also, in hence contending, that Abram did not merit by works the righteousness which he had received before his circumcision, does not impugn the above doctrine. The argument of Paul is of this kind: The circumcision of Abram was posterior to his justification in the order of time, and therefore could not be its cause, for of necessity the cause precedes its effect. . . . Both arguments are therefore of force; first, that the righteousness of Abram cannot be ascribed to the covenant of the law, because it preceded his circumcision; and, secondly, that the righteousness even of the most perfect characters perpetually consists in faith; since Abram, with all the excellency of his virtues, after his daily and even remarkable service of God, was, nevertheless, justified by faith. For this also is, in the last place, worthy of observation, that what is here related concerning one man, is applicable to all the sons of God. For since he was called the father of the faithful, not without reason; and since further, there is but one method of obtaining salvation; Paul properly teaches, that a real [imputed] and not personal righteousness is in this place described.
As, throughout life, justification is by faith alone, and Genesis 15:6 is an instance of this continuing faith in the patriarch’s life as the perpetual and sole instrumentality for his receipt of legal righteousness, something present in him by Divine grace from the point of his initial conversion in Ur of the Chaldees (cf. Hebrews 11:8-11), so one notes that the Hebrew structure of Genesis 15:6 validates that Abraham’s faith in Jehovah, as expressed in the verse, was not one that arose afresh at that moment, but had been in exercise in the past, from the moment of his conversion, up to that point in time. The waw + perfect form that begins the verse, N™ImTaRh◊w, “and he believed,” has an “aspect of . . . repeated or durative action,” as opposed to the simple perfect or qatal form, which has an “aspect . . . of a single and instantaneous action” (pg. 375, 119x, A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew, Paul Joüon & Takamitsu Muraoka, rev. English ed. Leiden: Netherlands Institute of Near Eastern Studies, 2005), so that a “longer or constant continuance in a past state is . . . represented by the perfect with ◊w (as a variety of the frequentative perfect with ◊w), in Gn 15:6, 34:5, Nu 21:20, Jos 9:12; 22:3b, Is 22:14, Jer 3:9” (GKC, 112ss). Continuing belief, arising out of a moment where belief began in the past, is in view in the “and he believed” of Genesis 15:6, as the same sort of aspectual force is conveyed in the “held his peace” (vñîrTjRh◊w) of Genesis 34:5, the “which looketh” (hDpä∂qVvˆn◊w) of Numbers 21:20, the “is mouldy” (Myáîdü;qˆn h™DyDh◊w) of Joshua 9:12, the “have kept” (M›R;t√rAmVv…w) of Joshua 22:3, the “was revealed” (h¶Dl◊gˆn◊w) of Isaiah 22:14, and the “came to pass” (‹hÎyDh◊w) of Jeremiah 3:9; compare also the “did eat” (…wôlVk`Da◊w) of Genesis 47:22. Furthermore, since the and he counted it of Genesis 15:6 (Dh¶RbVvVjÅ¥yÅw) continues with waw consecutive the sequence started by the and he believed (N™ImTaRh◊w), and thus continues the aspectual force of the waw + perfect of and he believed, the continued reckoning of the patriarch as righteous from the past point of his conversion until the time of Genesis 15:6, simply through the instrumentality of faith, is also expressed in the verse (compare the continuing defilement and adultery in the P¶Aa◊nI;tÅw . . . P™AnTjR;tÅw . . . ‹hÎyDh◊w of Jeremiah 3:9).
[i] That is, to há∂q∂dVx; however, in continuity with the example of Abraham, Noah is mentioned as a “just man” (qyöî;dAx vy¶Ia) because Jehovah could say, “for thee have I seen righteous before me” (y™AnDpVl qyñî;dAx yIty¢Ia∂r ñÔKVtOa) earlier (Genesis 6:9; 7:1) in the first references to the qdx word group in the canon, where Noah was the recipient of undeserved and free grace (Genesis 6:8), was accounted a righteous man on that basis, and therefore became a holy man (Genesis 6:9).
[ii] :há∂q∂dVx wäø;l Dh¶RbVvVjÅ¥yÅw h¡DOwhyèA;b N™ImTaRh◊w
kai« e˙pi÷steusen Abram tw◊ˆ qew◊ˆ kai« e˙logi÷sqh aujtw◊ˆ ei˙ß dikaiosu/nhn “And Abram believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness” (LXX).
Credidit Abram Deo, et reputatum est illi ad justitiam. “Abram believed God, and it was reputed to him unto justice.” (Vulgate)
:…wkÎzVl hyEl hAbvAj◊w ywyåd a∂rVmyEmVb NyEmyEh◊w “Then he believed in the Word of the Lord, and he reckoned it to him for merit.” (Targum Onkelos)
:wkzl hyl tbvjtaw yyyd armm Mvb Mrba Nmyyhw “Then Abram believed in the name of the Word of the Lord, and it was reckoned to him for merit.” (Targum Neofiti)
Nylymb hymql jfa ald wkzl hyl hbvjw yyyd armymb atwnmyh hyl twwhw “Then he had faith in the Word of the Lord, and he reckoned it to him for merit, because he did not speak rebellion before him with words.” (Targum Pseudo-Jonathan)
[iii] Consider that the One communicating with Abraham was Jehovah the Son, for He is the One who revealed the Father (John 1:18) in all the Old Testament theophanies.
[iv] John 8:56. Galatians 3:16 is very clear that Abraham’s faith had respect to the Christ, who was not only the representative, but the embodiment of the promised race—for this cause the people of Israel typed Christ (cf. Matthew 2:15; Hosea 11:1).
[v] Romans 4:3-5 (Abram was “ungodly” until his conversion by faith in the land of Ur); Joshua 24:2-4; Genesis 15:7; Hebrews 11:8-10; Acts 7:2-4.