Salvation 2.0: Part 6.4: Saved by Faith, Just Like Abraham

grace5Fifth point: The faith that saves is the faith of Abraham. Paul says so in Rom 4 and Gal 3. The one wrinkle is that, after the resurrection, Abraham’s faith in God becomes faith in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son. But it’s still faith in God.

Paul says that we’re saved by God’s promise to Abraham to count faith as righteousness.

(Rom 4:9-12 ESV) Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. … 11 He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well,  12 and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.

(Gal 3:6-9 ESV) just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?  7 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham.  8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.”  9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

So Abraham is the spiritual father of the Gentiles who are saved by faith, thanks to God’s promise given to Abraham.

Faith saves because of God’s promise to Abraham — and yet God said nothing to Abraham (or Moses or David or the Prophets) about baptism. If a failure to be baptized correctly defeats faith, then we aren’t saved by faith under God’s covenant with Abraham.

But couldn’t God have modified his covenant with Abraham to add baptism as just as important and just as essential as faith? Well, no. After all, this is precisely the argument made by Paul’s Judaizing opponents regarding circumcision. Paul refutes their argument as follows:

(Rom 4:10-12 ESV)  10 How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised.  11 He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well,  12 and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.

Paul points out that God’s crediting of Abraham with righteousness came first — by many years. Therefore, circumcision cannot be an additional condition for forgiveness and grace. If circumcision wasn’t required for Abraham to be saved because he was circumcised after he had faith, then the same logic applies to baptism.

In fact, Paul goes through his entire extensive argument regarding faith and works in Rom 1 – 4 and doesn’t once mention or allude to baptism — not until Rom 6. And in Rom 6 his point is that baptism should affect how we live as Christians.

(Rom 6:3-4 ESV) 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 

“Walk in newness of life” refers to how we live as Christians, not to our forgiveness. (Compare Paul’s use of “walk” in Rom 8:4; 13:13; 14:15.)

The whole point of the argument is that Christians no longer belong in the world of death; Paul does not here suppose that one should wait until the final bodily resurrection (8:11) before beginning to “walk in newness of life,” and this “walk” is based on a present status, not merely anticipating the future reality. The argument of these verses is not simply that one has died to sin and hence must not live in it anymore, but that one is already “alive to God in Christ Jesus” (v. 11) and must now live accordingly.

N.T. Wright, “The Letter to the Romans,” in The Acts of the Apostles-The First Letter to the Corinthians (vol. 10 of New Interpreters Bible, Accordance electronic ed. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2002), n.p.

Remember: I’m saying that we’re normatively saved at the moment of water baptism — and Paul’s argument fits nicely with this position. But Paul’s argument is not about salvation but ethics.

Profile photo of Jay Guin

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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23 Responses to Salvation 2.0: Part 6.4: Saved by Faith, Just Like Abraham

  1. Chris says:

    Jay, this all makes sense, but then I read in James the following and it appears on the surface a contradiction:

    “But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only” (James 2:20-24).

    I mean it’s either faith only and no works or “faith working together with works.” Or we missing some key element in Paul’s argument? Both men were talking about Abraham’s faith and it appears James is talking about the faith that saves – “justified” not just the kind that produces good works after salvation.

    One clear distinction between the two is one is discussing circumcision and the other sacrificing Isaac on the alter. Could it be said that in baptism our faith is made perfect?

  2. laymond says:

    “Paul points out that God’s crediting of Abraham with righteousness came first — by many years. Therefore, circumcision cannot be an additional condition for forgiveness and grace. If circumcision wasn’t required for Abraham to be saved because he was circumcised after he had faith, then the same logic applies to baptism.”

    Mat 3:15 And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.

    “THE SAME LOGIC APPLIES TO BAPTISM”

  3. Alan S. says:

    Was there a fourth point?

  4. Chris says:

    Sorry, didn’t mean to drag up again this old faith vs. works issue, because I know there is nothing I can do to contribute to my salvation. That’s why I don’t consider baptism a work because even then – it’s a work of God.

    Baptism has nothing to do with salvation (Jesus did everything), but it has much to do with conversion.

  5. Dwight says:

    Conversion into Christ is salvation. Rust reformer changes or converts rust into paint, thus stopping the rusting, which destroys. We are converted into Christ, thus stopping death. Those in Ephesus were converted unto John, but weren’t saved (didn’t receive the HS), so they had to be baptized into Christ. This proves that baptism itself doesn’t save, but rather what or who we are baptized into.
    I Peter 3:20 “that is, eight souls, were saved through water. There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,”
    This places salvation within the realm of baptism as an agent through the resurrection of Jesus. Ideally it was Noah’s faith that saved him by trusting in God and this lead him to be carried to not death, but safety by the waters. He wasn’t saved before the flood, only after it came.

  6. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    Chris,

    You bring up a good point about Paul and James. In my view, James isn’t saying that we are saved ON THE BASIS of works because that is an impossibility. Our work (any work / countless work) does not contribute to the efficacy of Christ’s blood. I think James is describing the KIND of faith that faves. The person who does not transform his/her life hasn’t been truly saved. Just so, the person who stubbornly refuses to the baptized hasn’t been truly saved in my opinion.

  7. laymond says:

    Chris, said “Baptism has nothing to do with salvation (Jesus did everything), but it has much to do with conversion.”
    Chris also said this, “I know there is nothing I can do to contribute to my salvation. ”

    Chris, do you believe you can be saved without forgiveness of sins,? and do you believe we are baptized for forgiveness of those sins ? A third question if you don’t mind, do you believe you can go on your merry way knowing you are sinning, and still be saved.? (or is there something you can do?)

  8. Chris says:

    More thoughts:

    Also, considering (Rom 6:3-4 ESV) 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?

    Galatians 5:6
    For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

    So, I take it that the key is being “in Christ Jesus” from both verses. If baptism puts us into Christ Jesus, it far supersedes circumcision or any another work under the old covenant, (because Christ supersedes all) which isn’t Paul mainly distinguishing between works of the law/old covenant vs new covenant?

    Also, circumcision was for males only. Once we’re baptized into Christ, there is no distinction between male, female, Gentile or Jew.

    Even Paul laid out steps/aspects of saving faith – Romans 10:9-10, which I take confession is through baptism. Faith does involve participation on our part to some degree. So, salvation by faith or faithfulness and baptism really provide no conflict. It’s all part of believing in the resurrected Christ and partaking in His death, buriel and resurrection and baptism is the mode of faith which God chose for us to participate in that (not just some mental acknowledgement) but it all begins and ends through faith in Christ.
    Calling upon the name of the Lord.

    Everything under the old covenant is enveloped by Christ, all before were but shadows and signs pointing us to the Cross.

    Am I on the right track in processing this all? 🙂

  9. laymond says:

    Dwight said, “This proves that baptism itself doesn’t save, but rather what or who we are baptized into.”
    Right, but it gets you on the right boat, surely there were other boats when Noah built the “right” boat under God’s directions. but they were not equipped to save.
    and you are right baptism does not save if you jump ship in the middle of the ocean.

  10. Chris says:

    Laymond wrote:
    Chris, said “Baptism has nothing to do with salvation (Jesus did everything), but it has much to do with conversion.”
    Chris also said this, “I know there is nothing I can do to contribute to my salvation. ”

    Chris, do you believe you can be saved without forgiveness of sins,? Absolutely not. Where did you get this?

    and do you believe we are baptized for forgiveness of those sins ? Yes
    A third question if you don’t mind, do you believe you can go on your merry way knowing you are sinning, and still be saved.? (or is there something you can do?) Again, absolutely not, where did you get this?

    Sorry for the apparent confusion Laymond what I meant is this: Christ led a sinless life, Christ was crucified on the cross, Christ suffered and bled for my sins, Christ paid my ransom, Christ died and Christ rose from the grave for me and you and for everyone on this earth to have eternal life. I did NOT contribute one thing to what Christ did – notta, zero, zilch, nothing – did you? Salvation is found in Christ alone – not in Laymond, not in Paul, and not in me. So, when I say Jesus did everything, believe me brother, I mean everything. My only part is to respond to this wonderful gift of salvation, but did I do anything to make this salvation possible 2,000 years ago or today – not one thing. Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe. If it weren’t for Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, baptism means nothing, you’ll just come up a wet sinner. No Jesus, no hope- know Jesus, know hope.

  11. Dwight says:

    I would like to make one thought: I don’t believe we are baptized for salvation, but we are baptized for our salvation in Christ. We are not baptized into salvation, we are baptized into Christ. Our faith is in Christ, but many place it in baptism. Our call to baptism should be a call to Christ. We probably don’t know who Christ and make applications to our lives is as much as we know what baptism is and what it is for.

  12. Chris says:

    Thanks Dwight. I only distinguished (apparently rather poorly) between the words salvation and conversion because I try to separate what Christ did to provide for our salvation and my response to His saving provision.

    Any other words, I try an emphasize that Christ alone provides all there is to salvation, not man. I respond by faith to all He did and thus I’m converted. Does this make sense?

    I liked how you described baptism, that’s a great way to put it. Thanks!

  13. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Chris,

    When Paul speaks of works, he is referring to “works of the Law.” But his point is not that works damn but that only faith saves.

    When James speaks of works, he is speaking of works produced by faith. Remember: “faith” in the Greek includes the meanings faithfulness and trust — and a faithful, trusting follower of Jesus will produce good works (absent some physical or mental disability).

    Now, Paul also says that our faith will show itself in works. He just says it differently. For example,

    (Rom. 6:9-18 ESV) 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. 15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.

    We are “slaves” of righteousness — meaning that we must not sin — which is a type of work. Right?

    (Rom. 8:12-14 ESV) 12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

    The receipt of the Spirit should be manifested by a changed life — where we defeat the “deeds of the body” by the Spirit.

    More positively, ALL of Rom 12:1-15:7 is about how we should live a Spirit-led Christians.

    And we’ll be judged by how we live —

    (Rom. 14:23 ESV) 23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

    And many other Pauline passages to that effect.

    So here’s the logic.

    Faith –> salvation –> receipt of the Spirit –> good works

    Faith/faithfulness/trust in Jesus saves, brings the Spirit, and produces good works — which ultimately are more from God himself, through the Spirit, than ourselves — although I wouldn’t be too absolute here.

    On the other hand, it is NOT TRUE that good works –> salvation. It’s other way ’round.

    True faith will inevitably produce good works. Hence, it’s a logical necessity (called the contrapositive) that the absence of good works –> no faith. Which is James’ point. If Abraham had not done good works, we would have good reason to doubt his faith, because true faith always produces good works. Hence, no good works means no faith.

    But it’s entirely possible to do good works and have no faith at all. Countless people do good works who have no faith, and they are damned in their sins.

    What does this have to do with baptism? Not much, really, despite a century of CoC arguing the case. While faith necessarily produces good works, it doesn’t necessarily produce particular good works. There will be people of faith who struggle with greed. There will be people of faith who struggle with anger. There will be people of faith who didn’t get baptized exactly right. But all of them will do good works — because they have faith, and all with faith do good works.

    But it’s fallacious to argue that faith –> good works therefore faith necessarily implies baptism, because baptism is a good work. I’m not sure that baptism is a good work at all, but it doesn’t matter. Even if it is, faith only implies that you’ll do good works, not particular good works, or else we’d all sell all our goods, sell our lands, evangelize like Paul, and otherwise do every single good work we read about in the Bible.

  14. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Alan S —

    Part 6.3 has points 3 and 4. Confusing, I know.

  15. Monty says:

    If Jesus told the man to go and wash in the Pool of Siloam then faith in Jesus meant he did just that. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.”

    If the man hadn’t responded would he have had faith in Jesus? NO! He would have had a lack of faith. HIs response in obeying Jesus’ command,showed faith in Jesus, not in a works based salvation! What if the man told Jesus, “if I go and walk to the pool and get down in the pool and wash my eyes that will mean I am saving myself and you will have nothing to do with it? That’s what many do with baptism. How foolish. We create arguments that aren’t even rational. Nobody,(not a Baptist , Methodist, COfC, or whoever), believes that the man healed himself just because he obeyed Jesus command. That is was of merit. That is of the flesh, by working for it, earning it, or by being the right race(Jew). It’s the same with baptism. Baptism is a command to be obeyed(because of faith in Jesus). Just as the man got up and went and washed. HIs going merited nothing. But his refusal to go(if that had happened) would surely have been an act of unbelief and shown his lack of faith. That’s why in Galatians 3 after Paul has just taught extensively on circumcision and it’s evils as being opposed to the gospel, he says, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Paul has no problem with baptism or that it is somehow opposed to the gospel, as so many churches do today. It is part of the teaching of the good news. Good news is only Good News if you are taught how to take advantage of it. Faith in Jesus(belief/repent/ or whatever word you want to use) is predicated on obeying his teaching. We don’t merit salvation because we respond to whatever commands Jesus used to appropriate his divine gift. If Jesus had said, “Repent and be circumcised” then that is what men (who weren’t) would have to do to be saved, would it not? But he didn’t say that. Jesus instituted a new covenant not based on man/woman/Jew/Gentile/Scythian/Barbarian. Not flesh(circumcision)/not works that merit(being good enough), not race, or sex. The gospel doesn’t rule out obedience to the gospel(whatever God determines that is). Baptism based on faith in Jesus, is obeying the gospel. How else could it be commanded as it was in Acts? It wasn’t an option. To not be immersed into the name of Jesus(back then) would have been tantamount to a lack of faith. Funny how so many today consider not being baptized to be a greater show of faith.

  16. laymond says:

    Chris, you are right you had nothing to do with building the “ark of salvation” but if you don’t physically and spiritually climb the ladder to safety within that “Ark” you will defiantly be lost to the flood waters of sin, and salvation will pass you by.
    Just like the specific directions God gave Noah, Jesus was specific in what we must do if we are to be included in his salvation. And as James said, part of it is physical. If we think we can lay on our butt attributing nothing of ourselves, one day we will awaken to see the doors closed, just like the non believers in the flood. Yes we will knock on the door during that “great day” but as Jesus said he will say “I don’t know you.”

  17. laymond says:

    Chris, if you believe your works do not contribute to your salvation, you evidently have not read fully the book of Revelation.

    Rev 20:12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.

    Rev 20:13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.

    If you look closely you will see the churches were judged on their works. not just their beliefs.

  18. Dwight says:

    What all of the above proves is that often we try to isolate things and quantify them beyond their qualities. Jay says, “When Paul speaks of works, he is referring to “works of the Law.” But his point is not that works damn but that only faith saves.” and yet I am sure Jay believes that “Jesus Saves”.
    And we can have a deep faith in others and in the world and yet that can’t save us.
    The fact is that while the scriptures do argue that faith saves, it also argues that one will be saved “by calling on the name of the Lord” and that Acts 2:38 and I Peter point out that baptism saves and repentance.
    The quality of faith is that it brings us to action and response, whether it is baptism or works. The quality of calling on the name of the Lord is accepting Jesus. The quality of baptism is being buried with Christ in our faith and being raised “in newness of life”. The quality of repentance is turning from the past to the future, from death to life, from the world to Christ. They are all players in the play and rely on one another to complete each other.
    None of them save us without Christ being the center and goal.
    A helicopter comes to mind. They have an engine and a propeller and yet the thing that holds them together is often called the “God pin” or a pin that binds the engine to the propeller and without it the propeller would fly off and yet while the pin seems to be a small part, it is a vital part.

  19. laymond says:

    Monty says:

    November 10, 2015 at 11:10 pm
    If Jesus told the man to go and wash in the Pool of Siloam then faith in Jesus meant he did just that. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.”

    Monty, why did Jesus tell the man to go to the pool? Do you think Jesus could not have healed this man where he stood, sure he could. So why did the man have to “work” for his own healing?

  20. laymond says:

    “Jesus saves” actually the bible said “God saves” “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
    I believe Jesus said, the judge of man is the “Word of God”. I do know that it is written there is only one savior, God Almighty.

  21. Monty says:

    Laymond said, “I do know that it is written there is only one savior, God Almighty.”

    OK then Laymond then what about 2 Timothy 1: 10 “but it is now been revealed through the appearance of our Savior, Christ Jesus”…..Paul calls God (Savior) in 1 Timothy and in his second letter he calls Jesus(Savior). OOps! Maybe Paul is confused on who the real Savior is? Will the real Savior please stand up? God is Savior. JEsus is Savior, I’m so confused. (OR) could it be that both are true(because Jesus is God(the Son)? Hum! Any other way leaves Paul misspeaking and we all know he did not.

  22. Monty says:

    Laymond.

    I do not understand your question to me and how it applies to my post.

  23. Dwight says:

    Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth and the light” and “no man comes to the Father except through me”, so while God did provide a way to Him, Jesus is the way. Jesus is the savior. Luke 1:47 “And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior” and Luke 2:11 “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
    Acts 5:31 “Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.”
    A savior is one who saves.
    Up to the point of Jesus coming God is accounted as the savior, then it switches to Jesus, because Jesus is the avenue for salvation.
    And yet if we sin, we pray to God through Jesus for forgiveness who gives us access.
    Both concepts of God and Jesus as saviors are true and valid.

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