FOUNDATIONAL FRAMEWORK. PART 18
Foundational Truths: The Bible is God’s self-revelation.
God is the Eternal, Sovereign Creator; all that He creates is good.
Man is a responsible agent, held to a moral standard.
Sin originates within a person, separating us from God.
Genesis 15:1-6. Abram is in a difficult position. YHWH has made a promise to give him offspring, but he is old and understands that his child-bearing years have probably passed him (or Sarai) by. Abram knows that it is the Lord alone who opens the womb. He fears that his inheritance will go to Eliezer (15:2), but YHWH reaffirms that his heir will come from his own loins. YHWH gives an illustration to reassure Abram.
Abram is to look up at the stars (15:5). Could he count them? In the same way, he would have an innumerable amount of offspring. Abram’s response to this promise defines “faith” for us. “Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness” (15:6). This is the first mention of the word “believed,” meaning “confirm, support, sure, firm, established, verified, reliable.”
Abram was convinced of the object in question.
God’s Word is the object of Abram’s faith. His conviction that what God said was true was met with YHWH declaring him as being “righteous” in His sight. Notice that the issue is not the QUALITY of Abram’s faith, but the trustworthiness of the OBJECT of his faith.
We actually see that Abram believed God when YHWH called him to leave Ur (Heb 11:8-10), but it is Gen 15:6 that is meant to capture our attention about the subject. This “first mention” of “believe/faith” is no different from how we should understand this word in the New Testament.
If we were to look for a biblical definition of what “faith” means, Hebrews 11:1 would suffice: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Two words have been placed in boldface type for our examination.
First, “assurance” is the word hupostasis meaning “guarantee of ownership/entitlement, title deed” (BDAG). It is translated as “confidence” in 2 Cor 9:4; 11:17 and “assurance” in Heb 3:14. The idea is that “faith” is a “firm confidence.” The second word under consideration is “conviction” being elenchos meaning “proof, evidence, conviction.” Thus, we see that “faith” is confidence and conviction in something. Other uses for “faith” would include “persuasion” (peithō, Acts 26:28), “reasoning” (Acts 18:4), and “believe” (John 3:16; 5:24).
Faith is not a gift from God. Eph 2:8-9 is often used to promote the idea that God gives certain individuals faith as a gift and not others. In Greek, this is grammatically impossible. The demonstrative pronoun “that” is neuter, while “faith” and “grace” are feminine. “A rule of Greek grammar is that a demonstrative pronoun should agree with the gender of its antecedent.” Clearly, it does not. The supplied notation by the NASB translators gives the proper direction of thinking: Salvation is a gift from God. Why? Because He is not obligated to save anyone, yet He does, and that is grace!
How are People Saved? Chafer writes, “The Word of God is the agency by which faith is generated” (Sys. Theo. Vol. 1, p. 121). This is seen throughout the Bible. Romans 10:17; 1 Peter 1:23; James 1:18; John 5:24 are all clear that one must hear the Word, then they can believe. This has great implications on the importance of missions.
Salvation is by God’s grace and is all God’s work. This is communicated to us through His Word. “Faith” is a response to hearing the Word. When we believe God’s Word, He seals us for glory. This is the Order of Salvation (Eph 1:13).