Abraham our Father (4:1)
This first question serves two purposes. First, Paul is linking back the heritage of true faith (faith in the one true God) to the father of faith, Abraham. This will be a significant person for Paul because it will help to make the point that all Jews and Gentiles must express faith, in a way just like Abraham in order to be justified before God. Second, this is a question that takes the argument of works verses grace to another level. Because Abraham is seen as “the father of all that believe”it is important, from Paul’s perspective to identify what it was that Abraham “did” so that God accepted his faith as genuine. If Abraham is the prototype of faith, all that have come after him must understand what Abraham had or did that gave rise to the faith that pleased God.
True Faith does not Boast (4:2)
After having considered in the previous chapters the futility of works Paul points us to the example of Abraham, that will serve as the measure of genuine faith. If what Abraham did was according to works, then he had reason to boast. But, Paul tells us that boasting is futile with regards to salvation because God is the one saving [Ephesians 2:8-9]. Paul is telling us that whatever Abraham did it was not something that could give him reason to take pride. Abraham’s faith was grounded in something, rather, someone else.
Here is the heart of genuine faith. Faith that originates within me is not true faith. Faith must be grounded in something sure, something unchanging in order for it to have any power. When we recognize the awesome nature of God faith springs forth from inside of us because we can be sure of what we have believed in. The human heart is designed to resonate at the frequency of hope which is the frequency that God operates on [Colossians 1:27]. This is what made Abraham’s demonstration of faith so amazing. This man from Ur heard God and believed that what God said was true. Faith does not have to see what it has believed [Hebrews 11:1]. Faith knows that what it has believed will come to pass.
The Story of Abraham (4:3)
This verse is a reference to Genesis 15: 3 specifically. But in Genesis 15 we find a very powerful moment in the life of Abraham. Abraham is dealing with the reality that he does not have an heir to pass his name and inheritance to. This is a very big deal. But God takes Abraham out onto the porch (God’s office if you will) and says this.
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. 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? And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir. 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. 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. And [Abraham] believed in the LORD; and [God] counted it to [Abraham] for righteousness. [Gen 15:1-6, KJV]
Why was Abraham’s faith counted as righteousness? It was because Abraham accepted the word of God as a completed work. That is, if God said it, that was all that Abraham needed. This is an interesting challenge to all those who claim to have faith. Can we take God at His Word? Paul then describes [4:5-6] the difference between the person who exercises faith in God’s provision and the person that attempts to gain access to the promises of God through their own means. It is this distinction that must be understood if faith that pleases God is to be demonstrated. Any attempt to ascend the mountain of God through our own means is incorrect and will ultimately be futile [Psalm 24:3-6].