Abraham Righteous Solely by Faith?


Question

Many Christians refer to Genesis 15:6 to demonstrate that Abraham was righteous only by faith and not by following the commands and laws of God. How can we respond to this?

Answer

This topic is covered extensively in EP Sanders’, “Paul, the Law and the Jewish People”, which I would strongly recommend for those trying to understand the use of this passage to justify Christian beliefs in regard to salvation, or in trying to understand their soteriological perspective.

Genesis 15:6 says as follows, “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness,” the argument from this which is normally given, is that this verse never mentions works, commandments or laws. It specifically mentions faith only, therefore it is perfectly acceptable to believe that Abraham was righteous solely by his faith and nothing else. This is the same form of argument used by Paul in Romans 3:27-29, 4:9-25. Unfortunately for those who use this verse to argue their case of righteousness only by faith, they are appealing to the argument from silence – a fallacy. Simply because it is not mentioned in this verse, does not mean that Abraham is solely righteous by faith.

In fact, God in other places directly ascribes Abraham’s blessing/ righteousness due to his obeying of God’s command/ the law. We read, “and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.” – Genesis 22:18, and we also read from Genesis 26:4-5, “I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because Abraham obeyed me and did everything I required of him, keeping my commands, my decrees and my instructions.

Therefore, while Genesis 15:6 does mention that Abraham was righteous due to his faith while mentioning the promise of his descendants being as numerous as the stars, Genesis 22:18 and Genesis 26:4-5, while speaking of the same promise, mention Abraham’s righteousness and blessing by God due to his obeying of commands and laws. It is quite probable that the Christian had not read all of the related passages or were solely taught this one proof text that related to the teachings of Paul in Romans. Either way, the related texts clearly contextualise what Genesis 15:6 was saying.

and God knows best.

6 comments

  • test.

  • quote:
    Tzadik/tzedek appear a few hundred times in Tanakh and it always means someone who DOES the RIGHT THING.

    quote:
    There is one time where God COUNTS Avraham’s believing in God’s words as justice/righteousness. It doesn’t say that this belief made Avraham a tzadik. The belief was considered as if he had DONE “tzedakah” as the verse says. A tzadik is the opposite of a rasha (a lawless person) – it is one who DOES the right thing.

  • quote:
    Isaiah 58:2-
    Yet they seek Me daily, and delight to know My ways; as a nation that DID TZEDAKAH, and forsook not the ordinance of their God, they ask of Me righteous judgements, they delight to draw near unto God.

    Psalms 106:3-
    Happy are they that keep justice, that DO TZEDAKAH at all times.
    Psalms 106:30-31-

    Then stood up Phinehas, and wrought judgment, and so the plague was stayed.
    And that was counted unto him for TZEDAKAH, unto all generations for ever.


  • Then stood up Phinehas, and wrought judgment, and so the plague was stayed.
    And that was counted unto him for TZEDAKAH, unto all generations for ever.”

    killing a person stays a plague and is seen as if one did tzedakah

  • QUOTE:
    A TZADIK IS SOMEONE WHO D-O-E-S TZEDAKAH (JUSTICE-LOVE) and who ACTS ACCORDING TO HASHEM’S LAWS – THAT’S WHY THE WORD TZADIK SOUNDS LIKE THE WORD TZEDAKAH.

    A tzadik is someone who ACTS according to God’s LAWS – he/she lives a life of TZEDEK (justice – the state of being law abiding) and DOING TZEDAKAH (justice-love) to his fellow humans.

    TZEDAKAH NEVER MEANS “INNOCENT OF SIN” IN ALL OF TANAKH

  • QUOTE:
    However, the word tzedakah only means justice or justice-love in every instance in Tanakh. It never means innocence, nor vindication, nor justification, nor “being right with G-d” as Paul of Tarsus and the NT teach us. This one NT teaching has pulled the wool over the eyes of people who don’t know Hebrew and has also killed the heart of the Torah, namely Hashem’s love of true righteousness which is the DOING OF TZEDAKAH.)

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