Something I’ve been wrestling with for the past couple of weeks intrigues me. According to Romans 4, Abraham’s faith was counted to him as righteousness. Does this mean Abraham’s faith resulted in his justification?
If so, then there are ramifications that need to be considered. Since justification is being declared innocent, can we say that Abraham was saved? If so, then God imputed righteousness to Abraham because of his faith and his faith saved him. This seems to match Paul’s argument in all of Romans as he says we are justified by faith.
Here’s something else to consider. Works did not save Abraham. Abraham’s faith led him to work. The same can be said of all the heroes of the faith considered in Hebrews 11. By faith, Abraham responded to God and left Ur of the Chaldees. By faith, Noah built an ark. Would I be correct to say that throughout all time, it was faith that justified men? In the Old Testament, then, those who had faith kept the Law. The Law didn’t save, but because of an explicit trust in God they obeyed him. Further, those who trusted God for their salvation observed the sacrificial system because it took blood to remit sin and each sacrifice pointed toward Jesus whose blood washes away all sin for those who trust God. At the same time, going through the motions without confidence in God was empty ceremonialism. Over and over, God warned the people not to trust in the ceremonies, the Law, or the sacrifices. According to the Word, obedience is better than sacrifice because obedience is borne of faith.
In other words, God had no Plan B for a person’s salvation. Regardless of what the Roman church or the Orthodox church taught, no work could ever possess any merit. As Jack Cottrell says so often, works are only what we ought to be doing anyway. Good deeds can’t save simply because as a creation of God, every human being belongs to him and owes him obedience. Only explicit faith (belief plus trust) can do that. The only text of this sort of faith is obedience borne of faith. Therefore, it is never faith plus works that save. It is, however, faith that leads to justification and is demonstrated in one’s obedience and upright acts (Ephesians 2:8-10).
If, and I’m just presenting a chain of thought here, faith results in justification and has done so throughout time, what is the relationship of justification and the presence of the Holy Spirit. You see, here is the rub! If the Old Testament saints were indeed justified, or saved, by their faith they were saved without the presence of the Holy Spirit. Why do I say that? It is because the Holy Spirit never indwelt anyone in the Old Testament. The Holy Spirit “came upon” certain individuals to empower them for a task, but he never took up residence. Am I correct here? If so, then there is something remarkable to consider here.
Is it possible that God could justify a person prior to baptism without the immediate bestowal of the Holy Spirit? Alexander Campbell seemed to argue that a baptism was the formal indication of the remission of sins. Is it possible that the Holy Spirit takes up residence at the time God formally remits sin (see Acts 2:38 and Acts 5:32)? But is it also possible that a person is counted righteous by his or her faith?
If a person really, and I really mean really, had explicit trust in God, wouldn’t he or she do what God asked? Why would anyone who trusted Christ question the baptismal command? Why, if they truly trusted Jesus and his Word, wouldn’t they want to be baptized as soon as possible? Why would there be any argument? After all, the faith that justifies always leads to appropriate action!!
I’d really like feedback on this.