Jacob (James) 2:23-24 says, “The Scripture was fulfilled that says, “And Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness”—and he was called God’s friend. You see that a man is proved righteous by works and not by faith alone. [1]

[Read Gen. 12:1-3,7; 15:1-21, 17:1-21]

We see throughout Scripture that Abraham is known for 1 thing. What is it? . . . Faith. But how do we see his faith? How do we know that he was a man of faith? Why does Sha’ul talk consistently in Romans 4 of Abraham’s faith, and then again in Galatians 3?

So let’s look into Abraham’s responses to the promises that Adonai made. We read the promise in 12:1-3 & 7, but what are his responses? In vs. 4-5 we see that Abram went . . . and then in vs 8, Abram built an altar. What do we not see? What is missing from the story? . . . Abram did not reply, he simply obeyed. This became Abram’s way of life. God spoke, he responded.

Some time later . . . . (How much time? About 11 years), in chapter 15 we see a conversation that Abram has with Adonai. Abram has an honest question. He is now about 85, has no children, and by this time (post-Flood), the age of child bearing has been reduced significantly. So Abram asks Adonai, “How will you keep Your word?” So Adonai makes a formal covenant with Abram, but interestingly, Abram does not “pass between the pieces” to ratify the covenant. Also up to this point all of the promises have been unilateral. Abram has no action items attached. But probably the most famous verse in Abram’s life is 15:6. “The childless Abram had faith in God’s promise that his descendants would be as countless like the stars of heaven. He was ready to wait God’s time, without doubting God’s truth. That is the mark of true faith – steadfast trust [faithfulness] in God, despite the fact that circumstances all point in the opposite direction.[2]

What are Abram’s actions immediately after this conversation with Adonai? Well, he goes about fulfilling Adonai’s promise. Note that Abram did not disobey Adonai by having Ishmael through a surrogate mother. At no time prior to Chapter 17:15 (13 years later) does Abram find out that this option was not within Adonai’s plan. Many try to say that Abram was in disobedience to God by having Ishmael, but this simply is not supported by Scripture. Even when using this story as an analogy, Sha’ul does not attribute sin to Abram. In Gal. 4:23 he states, “But one—the son by the slave woman—was born naturally; while the other—the son by the free woman—was through the promise,” any more than saying that Adonai was in sin by giving the Mosaic covenant (vs. 24).

In fact if Abram had only Isaac, then the promise that Adonai made to Him in 17 would not have come to pass. In 17:1-2 we see Adonai expanding on the previous promise. Once again, what was Abram’s response? (vs. 3) Then Adonai continues to expand the promise and clarify the linage of the “promised” son (17:15-16).

Abraham’s response is to laugh “for joy, not from incredulity[3]” because what follows is an exclamation, not a question. Although Adonai promises to bless Ishmael (vs. 20), He states that He will confirm the covenant through the child of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac. It is at this time that Adonai requests a sign from Abraham of the covenant already in place between them: circumcision.

Once again, what was Abraham, response after Adonai had left? In verse 23 Abraham once again immediately obeys. And not just himself and his family, but his entire household, including all his servants.

When the authors of the New Covenant wrote of Abraham what do they say? In Rom. 4, Sha’ul shows that Abraham was considered righteous prior to any requirements were placed on him. [Rom. 4:1-12] Sha’ul shows that Abraham is the ultimate example of a gentile coming to faith in Adonai, and a Jew coming to have the same trust that Abraham had.

We then see that our covenantal relationship to God is not based upon how well we have kept Torah, but rather whether or not we have the faith that Abraham had. [4:13-25] Here Sha’ul talks about how Abraham’s faith did not waiver, but rather he rejoiced and gave glory to God. And then he quotes Gen.15:6. Sha’ul then makes the connection that just as Abraham trusted in Adonai to provide him a son, so also we follow his example and “trust in Him who raised Yeshua our Lord from the dead.” (4:24)

In the letter to the congregation of Galatia, Sha’ul is telling the Gentile believers in Yeshua, that there is no requirement for them to be circumcised. The reason for this is that Abraham (in the same way as themselves) had been justified prior to circumcision. [Gal. 3:6-14] Sha’ul is explicitly stating that it is not necessary for a Gentile to join the Jewish community in order to be a part of the Messianic community. “This Paul feels as a direct slight on the Messiah’s death and resurrection, the seeking of any other condition making of his sacrifice an inadequate procedure. . .  Having already found ‘standing’ in Jesus’ faithfulness, he does not wish them to ‘exchange’ this for approval in the eyes of the Jewish community according to the prevailing social norms.[4]

Of course the balance of this is found in the letter by Jacob [Jas. 2:14-26] Here we see that, in the same way as Abraham, the evidence of our faith is our obedience to Adonai, and our love for one another. Just as Abraham had instantly obeyed Adonai, which demonstrated his trust, so also our lives must reflect our stated beliefs. Otherwise we will be shown to be hypocrites (two-faced or actors). Our actions will not match our words, and what we truly believe will be seen by all.

Finally Jacob refers to Abraham being the friend of Adonai (vs. 23). This is a quote from [Isaiah 41:8-16]. And we will close with this, because this, truly, should be the goal of all of us. To be known as Yeshua’s friends. [Jn. 15:9-17]

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are taken from the Tree Of Life Version (TLV), 2014.

[2] J. H. Hertz, The Pentateuch and Haftorahs. (Soncino, London, 1960), 54.

[3] J. H. Hertz, Pentateuch. 58.

[4] Hilary Le Cornu, A Commentary on the Jewish Roots of Galatians. (Academon, Jerusalem, 2005), xliv.