Gospel Guidebook: Getting and Keeping It Right  




Romans 4:17-22 and the Demonstration of Abraham’s Faith

In Romans 4:17-22, Paul is not referring to Abraham’s justification-by-faith moment in Genesis 15:6. Rather, he is referring to a subsequent demonstration of faith in Genesis 17:5 that represented the justification-by-faith that Abraham already had. In James 2:21-23, James did something similar, but instead of referring to a subsequent demonstration of faith, he refers to a subsequent demonstration of faith-based works in Genesis 22:9-12 that represented the justification-by-faith that Abraham already had. Neither of these subsequent events contributed to or added to Abraham’s justification-by-faith in Genesis 15:6. Likewise, the lack of these subsequent events would not have canceled or impaired Abraham’s justification-by-faith in Genesis 15:6. These subsequent events enabled Abraham to experientially demonstrate his previous justification-by-faith moment, thereby bringing glory to both God and himself. Both James and Paul express that they are referring to these subsequent events as representative events of Abraham’s justification-by-faith moment by referring back to Genesis 15:6 in their concluding remarks. James says, “And the Scripture was fulfilled” (James 2:23a) “which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness” (James 2:23b, cf. Genesis 15:6). Paul says, “And therefore” (Romans 4:22a) “it was imputed to him for righteousness” (Romans 4:22b, cf. Genesis 15:6). James goes on to show that this subsequent event brought glory to both God and Abraham by saying, “and he was called the Friend of God” (James 2:23c, cf. Isaiah 41:8). The story of Abraham’s heroic demonstration of faith in Romans 4:17-22 is inspiring, informative, and descriptive, and it shows us the amazing extent to which faith can go.