Two-thousand years ago Paul wrote, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness” (Rom. 4:3; Gal. 3:6; James 2:23). 2,000 years before that, the Genesis record said the same (Gen. 15:6).
This oft-quoted passage carries great importance. It describes Abraham’s life and relationship with God. It is also used as a model for our faith in God, who makes covenant with people with faith like Abraham.
Abraham’s faith is so important in our lives, that He is called “the father of us all” (Rom. 4:16) — that is of those “…who also follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham…” (Rom. 4:12).
What were these “steps of faith” in which “our father Abraham” walked? And how can you and I walk in these steps today? Ponder Abraham’s walk of faith.
Abraham’s Steps of Faith.
In Genesis 13:14-17 God promised Abraham the land of Canaan (cf. Gen. 12:1-3), saying, “…for all the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your descendants forever…. Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth; for I will give it to you” (Gen. 13:15,17). Abraham walked through that land, trusting God, listening to His word, observing the land, experiencing the journey, and serving God. Though he personally did not receive that land during his lifetime, his descendants, the nation of Israel, did. Abraham believed this, journeying by faith in God who would fulfill His promises about a great nation in that land.
“By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Heb. 11:9,10).
We walk in the steps of his faith (Rom. 4:12), serving God while looking forward to an eternal city beyond this land in which we are aliens.
Abraham Our Model
Abraham’s faith is portrayed to us in many passages and in many ways. From the account of his life in Genesis 11:26 through 25:10 to the New Testament, we learn that “…those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer” (Gal. 3:9).
Abraham modeled the kind of walk that honors God. We learn many things concerning faith from “Abraham, the believer.”
Abraham’s Faith Was…
- Rooted in God. Rather than in human intuition, comfort, tradition, or opinion, Abraham’s faith was anchored in the faithful One who is consistent in character. God proved His faithfulness often before Abraham; He also displayed this many times in Abraham’s life. The faithful One is worthy of our faith too.
- Founded upon God’s word and promises. Neither fairy tales nor human guesswork can compare to the magnificent word and promises of God! God revealed Himself to Abraham, teaching both him and us about His nature and His plans. Though God revealed His word and promises to Abraham millennia before the Seed promise concerning Christ was fulfilled, God kept His word. He kept all His promises to Abraham, both short and long-term. He keeps His promises to us today as well.
- An active faith, displayed throughout his recorded life. Abraham’s faith was the opposite of a non-doing trust: “…he [Abraham, sc] believed in the Lord…” (Gen. 15:6). This includes more than mental assent, and he repeatedly showed this both before and after that statement.
Before Genesis 15:6 Abraham left Ur of the Chaldeans (Gen. 12:1-5). He built an altar to God and worshipped Him (Gen. 13:4). He made an oath to God and kept it (Gen. 14:22-24).
So, when Gen. 15:6 reads, “Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness,” this was far more than Abraham’s initial faith. The backdrop of Abraham believing this promise of God is a canvas covered in the mosaic of his humble, trusting, submissiveness to God. May we trust God like this.
- A patient faith. God’s promises to Abraham came years before their fulfillment. From the promise for an heir to promises concerning the nation of Israel to prophecy of the coming of Jesus, the fulfillment of all God’s promises to Abraham were centuries in the making. Regardless how long, though, God keeps His promises and fulfills His prophecies.
“For when God made the promise to Abraham, since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying, “I will surely bless you and I will surely multiply you.” And so, having patiently waited, he obtained the promise” (Hebrews 6:13-15).
God promised — Abraham waited — God kept His word. May we too patiently wait for God’s promises to us.
- A struggling, growing faith. Like other worthies in both testaments, Abraham’s faith was put to the test; he did not always pass.
God promised him an heir. When God’s promise was long in being fulfilled, Sarah decided to help the plan along; Abraham consented. Thus Ishmael — and a great deal of trouble — was born (Gen. 16).
Twice he failed the test of honesty, fearing death for being married to the beautiful Sarah (Gen. 12:10-20; 20:1-18).
Yet he persevered and grew through his struggles. He sometimes showed a lack faith and wisdom; he sinned. But everyone faces the harsh realities of weakness and temptation. Abraham shows us the importance of perseverance and spiritual growth developed through temptations and trials.
The man of faith we see in Genesis 22 — the one willing to offer his son on an altar to God — was a great deal stronger than the one who struggled with God’s promise about the birth of this heir. “He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he [Abraham, sc] also received him [Isaac, sc] back as a type” (Heb. 11:19). May our faith grow like his.
Abraham’s faith was rooted in God, founded upon God’s word and promises, active/obedient, and patient — yet a struggling and growing faith. In all these ways he models what God wants from us: humble, trusting, submissiveness. May we trust the Lord with a growing faith like Abraham.
In scripture God-honoring “faith” carries a comprehensive significance. Just as the “grace of God” includes all God’s actions that bring us the opportunity for salvation, “faith” includes all the actions God expects from us before He will grant us that salvation. Nowhere is this more evident than when discussing Abraham’s faith.
Thus, “…you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ…. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise” (Gal. 3:26-29). Abraham’s true descendants obey God initially in faith and baptism, continuing then on the course that characterized his life with God. Truly Abraham is “the father of” those “who also follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham…” (Rom. 4:12).
What kind of faith honors God? Faith like Abraham! May we follow God by following Abraham’s path of faith.
written by Shane Carrington