What is happening here? We all know that Abraham was compromised on his stand of faith. He faltered twice before world leaders over his wife Sarah. To save his own skin he was willing to abandon his wife to a pharaoh and a king’s harem. We know too that Abraham didn’t wait for the LORD to provide the promised child, but rather took matters into his own hands by having a child with his servant girl Hagar. Oh yes Sarah introduced the idea to him, but Abraham committed the act and jeopardized his stand in faith. God told him to name his promised child Isaac, meaning “he laughs”. Yes Sarah laughed at the notion of her having a child late in life. But note that Isaac’s name means “he laughed” not “she laughed”. God held Abraham accountable, just like He held Adam accountable. Hardly the stuff of a man of faith. Was Paul aware of this or did he not know? Paul was a member of the Pharisees. It is without doubt that he would have known the details of the Abrahamic story. Paul would have memorised the Torah off by heart, so how could Paul have claimed that Abraham kept hoping – believing // Abraham’s faith didn’t weaken // Abraham never waivered in believing God’s promise. // Abraham was fully convinced?
Just what is happening here? Is Paul covering up the truth? Is God overlooking sin or is He playing semantic games with us? Did God grant Abraham liberty or license to sin? There is something that doesn’t ring true here. When we add the matter of the verses Israel Folau quoted and contrast them with the situation with Abraham just where is the truth in all of this? Is God overlooking Abraham’s shortcomings and calling his sin unwaivering faith? Is God playing semantic games with us? If He is, how then can He call us out on sexual sin (homosexuality or anything else) and consider someone who has told a lie to be the same as the other sins in the list in Revelation 21:8. How can the coward, the faithless, the detestable, the murderer, the sexually immoral, sorcerers and idolaters be classified in the same category as liars. Have we not all told a lie at some stage in life? How then can any of us be considered to be righteous or saints, in right standing with God? Are the standards of God not too high? And if they are too high for us to attain, then how can God overlook the short comings of Abraham, the father or exemplar of faith, and yet condemn those of us who have told a lie or been involved in a homosexual relationship? A layman’s interpretation of these verses in the Bible seem to lead us to ask, “Who then can be saved if that is the case?”
- Does God favour some and reject others?
- Just what is going on here?
Let’s look at the situation surrounding Abraham more deeply. How can Paul say what he does about Abraham when we know the full story from the pages of the Bible? And yet God said of him he was unwaivering in faith, not weak in his faith, fully convinced that God was able to do all that He had promised. Is there a deep truth here or is God playing semantic games with the human race? Just what is the truth behind Paul’s words recorded in Romans 4 ? How can God call Abraham strong in faith when we know the truth? If God can call Abraham’s faith strong and unwaivering when we know it wasn’t, then it makes a mockery of the standards depicted in Revelation 21:8 that God wants us to hold to.
The strength of Abraham’s faith is seen in his willingness to sacrifice Isaac if that was what God wanted. Because God is omniscient and knows the end from the beginning He knows what Abraham will do before he does it. He knows the thoughts and intentions of Abraham’s heart. The all-knowing God can look past Abraham’s stumbling in faith to the moment he will reach his pinnacle in faith; the moment when he will be willing to sacrifice his son if that is truly what God wants. God knows and can distinguish the end point of Abraham’s faith from his stumbling beginnings. Therefore He can class this one who is the Father of faith as having unwaivering faith because He alone knows the level of faith Abraham will have in the end and thus be able to say that Abraham was unwaivering in faith, despite his early faltering steps. Isn’t that encouraging? God can overlook your initial, faltering, baby-steps in faith because He already knows the level of faith you will achieve ultimately. Now that people is good news! God can trust you in your process of trusting in Him because He knows in the end you will reach the point when you can believe and keep on believing in Him, trust and keep on trusting in Him. Thus God’s classification of your faith as unwaivering is on the basis of God foreknowledge of you because He knows the heights you will achieve in the end. God is not covering up your stumblings in faith. He is not playing semantic games when He pronounces your faith as unwaivering. He is simply overlooking your initial steps and looking toward what you will achieve in faith in the end.
I will address the matter of the verses Israel Folau quoted in the next Nugget and put it all in context.