When Was Abraham Justified? | Part 1

AbrahamWhen was Abraham justified? This might seem like a rather elementary question with an obvious answer: Abraham was justified when he believed the Lord and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness, which is recorded in Genesis 15:6. Certainly Paul’s use of this text in defense of justification by faith apart from works in Romans 4 and Galatians 3 confirms that Genesis 15:6 was the precise point of Abraham’s justification, doesn’t it? This is probably what most people assume. This is what I thought—prior to giving it some careful consideration.

I’m now convinced that Abraham was already justified prior to the events recorded at the beginning of Genesis 15. In this post I’d like to give some arguments in favor of this position, and in the next post I will answer objections and respond to potential problems.

As I see it, the main issue hinges on one central point:

Abraham had genuine faith in God prior to Genesis 15.

Here are some arguments that demonstrate this point:

  1. The Form of the Hebrew Verb: The Hebrew construction strongly suggests that this was not the first time Abraham believed; rather, faith was Abraham’s characteristic response to God. The verb אמן (“to believe”) is a waw perfect (וְהֶאֱמִ֖ן) rather than a waw consecutive imperfect (ואמן). The waw consecutive imperfect is the normal form for past action. The independent perfect carries basically the same force. Moses had two options available to him to convey the simple past, “he believed.” He chose neither. This is what we would expect if Genesis 15:6 recorded Abraham’s first act of genuine faith. The independent imperfect and the waw perfect are often semantically equivalent and are used to convey modality, frequentativity, or futurity. The frequentative is the most likely meaning in this context. The idea would be something like, “And he kept on believing the Lord.” The grammatical evidence, then, suggests that this was not Abraham’s first act of faith, and consequently not the point of his justification. (See this document (Word | PDF) for supporting sources, esp. Carson, et al., NBC; Ross, BKC; Vickers, JBR; and Wenham, WBC.)
  2. Evidence from Abraham’s Life: While it is true that the first mention of the word for faith (the verb אמן) in the Bible is not until Genesis 15:6, the act of faith is clearly present prior to that. From the very beginning of the account of Abraham’s life, the Scripture records his devotion to the Lord and his response of faith to all that the Lord promised him and asked him to do. The continual pattern of Abraham’s life for the first ten years of its recorded history was radical obedience rooted in a deep trust in God.
  3. New Testament Confirmation: Removing all doubt, Hebrews 11:8 makes clear that Abraham’s faith in Genesis 12 was genuine faith: “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.” The author of Hebrews, in setting forth examples of faith to be followed, intentionally begins the story of Abraham with Genesis 12, when he “by faith” obeyed the Lord, believing His promises to him to be reliable. Had Abraham still been an idolater (cf. Joshua 24:2) and his faith something less than genuine, surely the author of Hebrews would have cited Genesis 15 or some point later in the narrative as the start of Abraham’s exemplary faith.
  4. Conclusion: If we conclude, then, that what Abraham had prior to Genesis 15 was genuine faith in God and His promises—which is where all the evidence points, it seems we must also conclude that Abraham was justified prior to Genesis 15. To resist this conclusion is to reject Scripture’s teaching that God justifies at the moment genuine faith exists. (One may argue in response that such an interpretation is anachronistic and is guilty of reading NT theology back into the OT. I grant that the OT does not explicitly connect justification to the first act of faith. But I think the burden of proof lies on the one who would suggest that justification does not take place when genuine faith first exists. Furthermore, such a position would seem to make the precise time of justification rather arbitrary.)

Here are a couple of additional considerations:

  1. The Gospel in Genesis 12: Paul quotes (with slight modification) Genesis 12:3 in Galatians 3:8 and says that Abraham had the good news preached to him, which—I have sought to demonstrate—he believed. This calls into question the notion that Abraham had substantially different revelatory content—which would have been insufficient for Abraham to have been saved—prior to Genesis 15.
  2. Post-Conversion Reckoning as Righteousness: The language of God’s reckoning as righteousness is perhaps used as non-conversion language. Paul’s use of Genesis 15:6 in Romans 4:22, where he says, “Wherefore it was reckoned to him as righteousness (διὸ [καὶ] ἐλογίσθη αὐτῷ εἰς δικαιοσύνην),” is connected to Abraham’s faith in Genesis 18, which is post-conversion for both the Genesis 12 and Genesis 15 views. Some argue on this basis that God reckoned Abraham’s subsequent faith as righteousness as well. This would mean that God’s reckoning righteousness need not be connected merely to conversion, but to faith as often as it is exercised throughout the Christian life. This is essentially the point Calvin makes (see this document [Word | PDF]). We are always considered or reckoned righteous through faith—from start to finish.

Sources Supporting the Genesis 12 View

As confirmation to the above conclusion, it is nice to know that virtually all the commentators and theologians that I have come across who deal with the issue are in agreement that Abraham was justified by the events recorded at the beginning of Genesis 12. Luther, Calvin, Brakel, and Spurgeon defend a Genesis 12 justification, as do O. Palmer Robertson and Brian Vickers. (See this document [Word | PDF].)

Here are a few selections:


Therefore if you should ask whether Abraham was righteous before this time, my answer is: He was righteous because he believed God. But here the Holy Spirit wanted to attest this expressly, since the promise deals with a spiritual Seed. He did so in order that you might conclude on the basis of a correct inference that those who accept this Seed, or those who believe in Christ, are righteous. (See this document [Word | PDF] for citation information and fuller context).


Therefore, by a consideration of the time in which this was said to Abram, we certainly gather, that the righteousness of works is not to be substituted for the righteousness of faith, in any such way, that one should perfect what the other has begun; but that holy men are only justified by faith, as long as they live in the world. . . . But now since after such great progress, he is still said to be justified by faith, it thence easily appears that the saints are justified freely even unto death. (See this document [Word | PDF] for citation information and fuller context).


Since justification is the fruit of faith when first exercised, justification is also the fruit when faith is exercised by renewal. This we observe for example in Abraham. Abraham was already a believer and had long before been justified prior to the promise in Genesis 15 being given to him, namely, “So shall thy seed be” (vs. 5). It is nevertheless stated in verse 6, “And he believed in the LORD; and He counted it to him for righteousness.” . . . Abraham was already justified prior to this; nevertheless, when subsequently he believed again, he was again justified. (See this document [Word | PDF] for citation information and fuller context).


I take it, beloved friends, that our text does not intend to teach us that Abram was not justified before this time. Faith always justifies whenever it exists, and as soon as it is exercised; its result follows immediately, and is not an aftergrowth needing months of delay. The moment a man truly trusts his God he is justified. Yet many are justified who do not know their happy condition; to whom as yet the blessing of justification has not been opened up in its excellency and abundance of privilege. (See this document [Word | PDF] for citation information and fuller context).


The fact that this declaration concerning the faith and resulting righteousness of Abraham comes at this particular juncture does not imply that now for the first time he believes and his faith is reckoned to him for righteousness. To the contrary, he continues in a state of faith and its resulting righteousness. But the placing of this declaration of righteousness at this juncture of the patriarch’s life underscores the fact that nothing has been added to faith as the way to righteousness. (See this document [Word | PDF] for citation information and fuller context).


When Paul chooses to include Abraham in Romans, he is not simply using a handy example that just happens to support his argument, nor does he merely use Genesis 15:6 as a proof text. While Genesis 15:6 is not, as we will see, the first time Abraham believed, and subsequently not the time of his, so to speak, conversion, it is a pivotal moment in the biblical narrative. (See this document [Word | PDF] for citation information and fuller context).

Sources Supporting the Genesis 15 View

The view that holds that Abraham was not saved until Genesis 15 finds virtually no support at all throughout church history (at least not that I have been able to find in hours of research in scores of commentaries and hundreds of journals) and puts one in the company of Origen and Walter Eichrodt. (See this document [Word | PDF].) I welcome other supporting sources.

Here are two selections:


Was Abraham justified just because he had the faith to believe that he would be given a son? Or was it also because of all the other things which he had believed previously? . . . Before this point, Abraham had believed in part but not perfectly. Now, however, all the parts of his earlier faith are gathered together to make a perfect whole, by which he is justified. (See this document [Word | PDF] for citation information and fuller context).


To see in this impressive picture of the decision of faith, as it lays hold of the promise of God, and thus becomes assured of a new way into an unknown land, only adherence to and perseverance in an essential relationship of trust already existing is manifestly to underrate its importance. . . . Here a new understanding of God’s activity and of his own position is opened up to him. To speak in this context of nothing more than the reinforcement of an earlier faith of Abraham is clearly to mistake the significance of this element in the thematic structure of the historian’s work. Abraham makes his decision for affirming the new condition offered him in the promise, and for basing his whole future life on this foundation. (See this document [Word | PDF] for citation information and fuller context).

In the next post, I’ll try to deal with objections to this view and potential problems or questions that it may raise.

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16 Responses to When Was Abraham Justified? | Part 1

  1. Sam April 7, 2007 at 4:51 pm #

    I suspect that second temple sources would reinforce your view. Where Paul seems to differ from 2nd temple Judaism isn’t in the timing of justification, but in the source. Cf. Gen 26.4–6 odd inclusion Deuteronomic language to describe the life of Abraham, taken by 2nd Temple interpreters to apply to the whole Abraham narrative.

  2. Pouestinpas April 7, 2007 at 4:53 pm #

    Good post, but the problem you now must deal with is why Paul calls Abraham asebeia in Rom 4. Traditional Protestant readings take this as indicating Abraham was not “saved.” NPP advocates see it as an ironic term indicating Abraham’s gentile status.

    • Matthew Eby January 23, 2010 at 11:08 am #


      I realize this was posted well over two years ago, but I only just now came across it via Google.

      I’m curious as to which NPP advocates specifically take ἀσεβῆ in Rom 4:5 as indicating gentile status (and where they do so). The only place I’ve seen it is nascently in Dunn’s Romans commentary and in Don Garlington’s _In Defense of the New Perspective on Paul_ (2005), pp. 174, 193 n. 17. There Garlington refers the reader to his earlier work _Obedience of Faith_, but the latter doesn’t reference Rom 4 in particular. Do you know of any other references?

      Also (@Phil Gons), was there ever a “part 2″ to this topic?



  3. Mike Aubrey April 7, 2007 at 5:12 pm #

    Phil, that was a interesting post. I would have assumed Genesis 15 initially from reading Romans, but you make a good case. I’m looking forward to your next section of this series.

    (If the picture is Abraham…he wasn’t justified in growing that beard…)

  4. Chad April 7, 2007 at 9:10 pm #

    I look forward to your next post. What is your position on NPP?

  5. Phil Gons April 7, 2007 at 9:12 pm #

    Thanks for the comments, guys.

    Sam, good observation. I haven’t really looked at Second Temple sources w.r.t. this question. That would make an interesting study. Let me know what you find out! :)

    Pouestinpas, I’m not sure that the above view really poses any difficulties regarding God’s justifying the ἀσεβής. (1) Luther, Calvin, Spurgeon, Robertson, and Vickers all affirm the above view and the traditional view on justification of ἀσεβής. (2) Paul never suggests that Abraham was ἀσεβής in Genesis 12–14. (3) If Abraham was justified in Genesis 12 (or earlier), then he was justified when God called him out of idolatry and ἀσέβεια and he responded in faith. Quite to the contrary, it is the view that sees Abraham as being justified in Genesis 15 that seems to run into trouble with God’s justifying Abraham as ἀσεβής, for Abraham manifested godliness for the preceding ten years recorded in Genesis 12–14.

    Chad, while I am sympathetic with some of the concerns of the NP, I think the central tenets as typically stated have devastating problems.


    • Duff Gordon September 15, 2014 at 8:19 pm #

      Do you know how many non Christians live integrity filled lives without being “justified”? It is a non factor

      Chapter 15 is the only one with forensic language offered to Abraham and I am shocked that heroes like Calvin and Luther fell for the earlier 12-14 .They should know that blessings are distinct from a judicial declaration by Abraham’s God in 15. Do you want all the blessings in the world or salvation declared by your God who will never fail you? It is not that far a connection with Christ being tempted to give up what he was by Satan for all the world as presented by the devils lies.. Perhaps God had Abraham wait fort the true jewel
      excuse me it was a random thought.
      I am not saying that pistis is unimportant, but it can be misplaced as James illustrates with the devil believing
      also in God. Finally James tries to trick believers with his law being (nearly everything in life). He twists the chronological order of salvation in 15 in order to get “works”” highlighted as usual. James 2:21 “Was not our ancestor considered righteous{ NIV}for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? (NO!) Now I challenge anyone to find definitive evidence of James not having fabricated that fabrication. {Without the spilling of blood there is no forgiveness of sins Heb}
      Finally James “You see that his faith and his actions were working together and his faith was made complete by what he did and the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God and it was censredited to him as righteousness, and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone'” So we see that James is hellbent picking the verse that God almost unilaterally decrees the real, never changing justification-it feels like Abraham is fishing while he listens under the stars . And so in God’s throw off man style “Abram believed the Lord and credited it to him as righteousness. So if the truth be told all the the slaughter places and blessing , bringing the knife all so close meant not a thing when it comes to eternity. James, name a work that contributed to 15? Bring it all on. TULIP and 5 solas are also for
      Patriarchs. Name one patriarch that has been cut off. David should have been hanged,

      I have with all my heart to express my reformed theology. The law types I wish you well, but I have shown that Abraham as in election is not picked because of good works,His works never had a dot in God’s eye. Jesus came to save sinners and of the Kirk I am Chief

  6. Tom Reynolds April 9, 2007 at 2:53 pm #


    I am unclear as to why you are relying on study Bibles and dubious sources in making such an important point. I have also studied Galatians and by extension Genesis and cannot come to this conclusion. In the LXX the waw perfect is translated as an aorist: ἐπίστευσεν. This is not conclusive but merits attention.

    Brueggemann in his Interpretation commentary notes the progressive sequence of 15:1-6:

    (v. 1) Yahweh’s fundamental promise
    (vv. 2–3) Abraham’s protest
    (vv. 4–5) Yahweh’s response
    (v. 6) Abraham’s acceptance (140).

    I don’t think this can be ignored. You also need to reference Sarna in the JPS series and Hamilton in the NICOT (423). Cf. Matthews (NAC).

    If you are concluding that Abram was righteous before the events of Gen 15 then I think you have to answer one question: would Abram have been righteous if the events of Gen 15 had not occurred or if he had responded negatively to God’s promise therein? This begs the question of what exactly “righteousness” is and how it is received. Paul’s point is that it is received not through works, an argument that cannot be based on Gen 12 because in that instance Abram’s obedience is demonstrated by his works response, not his belief. I agree that Abram was probably right before God in Gen 12 but that righteousness could not have been made his before he believes (in the face of doubt) in 15:6.

    Thanks for provoking such good thoughts. :)


    • Cameron November 16, 2009 at 10:43 pm #


      would Abram have been righteous if the events of Gen 15 had not occurred or if he had responded negatively to God’s promise therein?

      I would also point out that Abraham committed adultery in Gen 16, which is in between Gen 15 and 18, the very places that James 2 teaches that Abraham was righteous (by man’s view) and proved to still be so in Gen 18. Abraham committed adultery (a mortal sin to Catholics) in the midsts of these two points, and Gen 18 still proved his justification in Gen 15.

  7. Phil Gons April 9, 2007 at 6:35 pm #


    Thanks for the comments.

    1. I’m unclear as to why you are concluding that I am relying on study Bibles. My goal was to be exhaustive. A couple of study Bibles addressed the issue, so I included them. That hardly constitutes reliance. I was simply including every source I found that addressed the issue. My arguments are in no way derived from or dependent upon study Bibles.

    2. I’m unclear what sources I cited that you would classify as dubious and why. Again, my inclusion of a source doesn’t constitute full agreement or reliance, nor does it demonstrate that the author’s arguments influenced my own. My purpose was to list all sources I found that address the issue.

    3. I’m aware of the LXX translation. Vickers addresses your concern, which is based on a misunderstanding of the function of the aorist tense. See p. 18 of my sources document [Word | PDF] where Vickers says,

    The Septuagint translator’s choice of a simple aorist (ἐπίστευσεν) is in keeping with this interpretation (or at least does not argue against it). It is not surprising that the translator chose an aorist since it is the “default” tense, and does not add particular emphasis on the temporal nature of Abraham’s belief in Genesis 15:6. The Septuagint captures the imperfective aspect of the Hebrew text. The temporal point of Abraham’s belief, thought not tossed aside, is not the main focus of this narrative.

    He says this in a footnote:

    This observation is based on the idea that the [sic] in terms of verbal aspect, the aorist tense carries the least semantic weight. Moberly agrees with the idea that Genesis 15:6 should be read not as a “new” act on Abraham’s part or as a “deeper or truer response” than what is seen in Genesis 12 or in Abraham’s response to God’s promises in 18:14–17 (“Abraham’s Righteousness,” 118). However, he is incorrect to say that the ongoing sense of the Hebrew of Genesis 15:6 is “lost in the Septuagint” since an aorist rather than an imperfect is selected to translate והֶאֱּךמִן [sic!]. He also points out that the Septuagint, and presumably its incorrect rendering of וְהֶאֱמִן with ἐπίστευσεν, is cited three times in the New Testament (ibid. [sic] 105). Moberly’s comments seem to rest on the idea that in this text the aorist is punctilliar [sic] in respect to time. That is, the Septuagint translator, by using an aorist, misconstrues the text to mean that only Abraham’s faith at that particular point in time is in view. This could be true, but it may here be functioning as a background tense, and thus say little if anything about temporal elements in the text, punctilliar [sic] or otherwise. See Stanley Porter, Verbal Aspect in the Greek of the New Testament with Reference to Tense and Mood, vol. 1 of Studies in Biblical Greek, ed. D. A. Carson (New York: Peter Lang, 1989), 17–65; 163–239; idem, Idioms of the Greek New Testament, 2nd ed. (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1994), 20–26, 35–49.

    4. Nothing in Brueggemann’s argument seems to necessitate that Abraham did not have true faith and was not justified prior to Genesis 15:6. In fact, Brueggemann himself speaks of Abraham’s faith in his comments on chapters 12–14. You’re going to need to develop the argument here, because I’m missing how this poses a threat to the view I defended above.

    5. If Abraham was already justified in Genesis 12, his subsequent hypothetical actions in Genesis 15 would not influence his antecedent righteousness. I ask you, What if Abraham had not believed God in Genesis 18 or 22, etc.? Would that unbelief invalidate his prior justification in Genesis 15? Questions of “what if” Abraham had not believed are not helpful. The reality is that Abraham characteristically (not perfectly) responded in faith from the beginning of the narrative in Genesis 12 until his death in Genesis 25, and I submit that he was justified at the inception of that faith.

    6. To attribute Abraham’s actions in Genesis 12–14 to works rather than faith flies in the face of Hebrews 11:8. Abraham’s response in Genesis 15 was no more a response of faith than his responses of faith in 12–14.

    7. I don’t understand this statement: “I agree that Abram was probably right before God in Gen 12 but that righteousness could not have been made his before he believes (in the face of doubt) in 15:6.” How could he be right before God, but it not be his? Whose was it? And in what sense can someone be righteous before God without that righteousness being his? Again, consider Hebrews 11:8 which demonstrates that Abraham was a man of faith in Genesis 12.

    Thanks for your thoughts. Perhaps my second post will better answer some of your concerns.



  8. Matt Olliffe December 29, 2008 at 9:13 am #

    Hi again Phil
    I wrote a BD Honours thesis with that very title and came to the same conclusion. Here is my synopsis.

    Recently, Catholic convert Robert Sungenis has contended that justification is not a one-time event but an ongoing process. His argument centres around the life, faith, and justification of Abraham (Gn 12:1-3; 15:6; 17:1-14; 22:15-19; Ro 4:1-25; Ga 3:6-9; He 11:8-19; Jas 2:21-23). On a synthesis of the biblical data (Gn 12:1-3, He 11:8-19, Ga 3:6-9), Sungenis contends Abraham’s justification antedated Genesis 15:6. Abraham possessed justifying faith at Gn 12:1-3, before Genesis 15:6. However, while Sungenis argues this is a disaster for the Protestant position, Luther and Calvin both anticipated Sungenis’ observation. In fact, the timing of Abraham’s justification afforded Calvin an argument against the later Tridentine position. As Trent limited gratuitous justification only to exclude pre-baptismal works, to accept that Gn 15:6; Ro 4:3 was not Abraham’s initial justification, then the Tridentine position has the difficulty that the reckoning of Abraham’s faith as righteousness, attested after he had walked in faith many years, is used by Paul to exclude by analogy not only pre-baptismal works from justification but also post-baptismal works. Indeed, Post-Tridentine theology has moved towards the Lutheran position in that it agrees that ‘whatever in the justified precedes or follows the free gift of faith is neither the basis of justification nor merits it.’

    Wilhelmus à Brakel (1635-1711), on the basis of his observations regarding Abraham’s justification, proposed ‘repeated justification’, or ‘daily justification’, as frequently as man exercises faith in Christ, even daily. However, for à Brakel, the presence of sin in the life of the believer renders him unsuitable for justification. In effect, he undermined the justification of the ungodly (Ro 4:5). His warnings to the unjustified believer about eternal torment show a deep inconsistency in his theology that is pastorally disasterous.

    Both L Berkhof (1873-1957) and A A Hoekema (1913-1988) saw justification as a declarative and judicial act of God taking place once for all when a person accepts Christ by faith, and not a process. Unfortunately, Hoekema based his argument on the punctilliar force of the aorist. Further, their proposal locates my justification in my history, the moment I first believed, not in Christ’s history, whose I am and to whom I cling by faith. Pastorally, this leads to an unhealthy stress on conversion experience, and in its worse forms, leads to a (present) faith in (past) faith.

    I propose that the language appropriate to describe the relationship between continuing faith and justification following its initial moment is that of a ‘continuing instrument’. Justification should be viewed as consisting in both an initial declarative act and a continuing status co-extending with continuing faith, that allows repeatable declarative acts based on that same continuous faith. It follows that justification by faith apart from works is a ‘process’, ‘a going forward’, While either a ‘declaration’ of faith righteousness or a ‘demonstration’ of faith righteousness by works may be repeated, the ‘continual progress’ or ‘status’ of justification remains unrepeated and uninterrupted.

    BTW, a friend has let me know that the latest edition of the WTJ has an article on this, but I haven’t been able to get it yet.

    In Christ
    Matt Olliffe

  9. Cameron November 16, 2009 at 11:03 pm #

    The more I think of this interpretation, which is ironically anti-antithetical to most Protestant’s understanding of solafide – including mine, I see that in Rom 3 and 4 Paul is not emphasizing “when” justification takes place but “how”. The Jews believed it was by works of the law (which was really given to 1. condemn them for failing to uphold it perfectly, Deut 27:26, and 2. was to serve as a civil law or a code of conduct until Christ) and Paul says it’s by faith apart from works, period.

    The argument is on “how” not “when”. Hence why Paul seems to like quoting Hab 2:4 (Rom 1:17 and Gal 3:11), “the righteous shall live by faith”, and Rom 14:23 says “anything that does not come from faith is sin”. Thus, we know for certain 1. works do not justify, faith does, 2. God gives this faith as an act of grace (Rom 4:5, 16, Eph 2:8), and 3. we are saved by works but only by Christ’s works as His righteousness is given to us (Rom 5:18-19).

  10. Larry Kinsler September 3, 2010 at 3:13 am #

    Abraham was justified ONLY when he believed in the ” seed” ( Gen. 15), and that seed was Jesus Christ( Gal.3:16 ). Jesus said ” Abraham SAW my day, and was glad” (Jn. 8:56 ). Simply believing doesn’t bring justification, but believing IN A PERSON, that person being Jesus Christ.
    To be declared righteous by God ( justified ), we have to be Sinless, and to be sinless happens only one way, and it is not by my own obedience, but by the ” obedience of ONE ( Ro.5:19). When I express my faith in Jesus, then and only then will I receive a perfect righteousness that comes from God and then I can RIGHTLY be justified by God because I possess the same righteousness that His Son Jesus possesses.

  11. Cameron December 21, 2010 at 10:59 am #


    you said, Paul’s use of Genesis 15:6 in Romans 4:22, where he says, “Wherefore it was reckoned to him as righteousness (διὸ [καὶ] ἐλογίσθη αὐτῷ εἰς δικαιοσύνην),” is connected to Abraham’s faith in Genesis 18, which is post-conversion for both the Genesis 12 and Genesis 15 views.

    To me it’s questionable whether Rom 4:22 is about Gen 18. It could be Gen 15 as well, right?

    Nevertheless, I agree that Abraham was justified continuously, and only through faith of course. Here’s the conclusion I’ve come too. As it’s already been pointed out, Paul is referring to “how” one is justified, not necessarily “when”, and the Abrahamic promise is Paul’s major example because this proves to the Jew especially (and all of us) that the promise comes by faith, apart from works.

    Secondly, I’m starting to lean more towards this understanding in that all the elect are justified in Christ upon Calvary and on this bases we are declared righteous. This deals more with our negation of sin, and makes Christ’s righteousness possible for the elect. Then when the Spirit applies this work to us directly there is the positive imputation of Christ’s righteousness through faith, and this is continuous. When we are forgiven our sin, it is on the bases of the past act. We are continually made righteous by faith.

  12. Jon September 24, 2012 at 5:06 pm #

    Good thoughts–appreciate the “how” over and above “when” in the context of Romans 4. Was doing more research on this b/c a friend is being pulled into Rome recently, and one of the things he cited was what was mentioned earlier, the modern catholic doctrine of “continual justification” (they cite Genesis 12, 15, 22). Here’s the only thing I could add to the “how” versus “when” distinction. Going back again to the question of WHEN Abraham was justified–Genesis 12 or 15–Could it be that here the Holy Spirit has seen fit, for particular and vitally important reasons–to give us more DESCRIPTION than PRESCRIPTION? I’m thinking especially of Acts chapter 8. We know that after a man believes in Christ, he receives the Holy Spirit. But why the delay in Acts 8? Was it not to attest a vital truth to the apostles, who would behold with their own eyes Samaritans receiving the Holy Spirit? So perhaps here also–to demonstrate to us an equally vital truth–that was forementioned above–namely, the HOW of justification–that it is only BY faith in Christ that a man is justified before God–to demonstrate this clearly to us in Genesis 15 was perhaps one of the reasons we have Abraham’s saving faith in Genesis 12 but God’s declaration in Genesis 15. Just a thought.


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