Abraham is known as “the Father of Faith.” His fidelity to God is legendary among Bible believers. Today’s text contains a statement that is often misused concerning Abraham and his righteousness before God, specifically verse 3, “For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”
To many, this is the “sugar stick” verse to teach salvation by faith only without any response of obedience by man. However, to use this verse in this way is to misuse and even abuse the text itself.
The verse cited here is from the Old Testament, specifically Genesis 15:6. And in the context, this statement concerning Abraham has nothing to do with the salvation of his soul from sin, for this matter had long since been established and maintained by Abraham, as he had been a faithful and obedient servant of God for many years at this point. Consider the following truths regarding him…
In Genesis 12:1-3, God commanded Abraham to pack up and move, not telling him where he was going. Genesis 12:4 says Abraham departed “as the Lord had spoken to him.” This thing was done by faith (Heb 11:8).
Moreover, it has been said that the journey of Abraham could be marked by the smoke from his altars, altars built for the purpose of making sacrifice to God. Abraham built an altar in Shechem (Gen 12:6-7). Abraham built an altar between Bethel and Ai (Gen 12:8). After a brief sojourn in Egypt, he returned to this same place, identified by the altar he had made there previously, “and there Abram called on the name of the Lord.” Finally, after Abraham and Lot could no longer dwell together as the land could not sustain them (Gen 13:5-6), Abraham entered Canaan and in Hebron he built an altar to the Lord.
Paul’s is not that Abraham was declared righteous apart from obedience, but that he was righteous apart from the works of the Law of Moses. Paul introduced this specific point in Romans 3:21 and 28, then he reintroduced it in Romans 4:9-12.
Abraham believed God. His faith in God saved him, but only when his faith compelled him to obey God. When Abraham obeyed God, “then was brought to pass the saying, Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness” (James 2:23).