This is a dry, meaty, theological article intended for those of you who are deeper studiers of the Word of Elohim and want to understand how the deep things of YHVH relate to one another. The Word of Elohim does not contradict itself. Only the twisted and contorted humanistic philosophies of men turn the Bible into a confusing jumble of incongruent concepts. Make no mistake, the fault for this is not with Elohim, but rests squarely with carnal men and the false teachers among them. In this article, we show how both the Old and New Testaments are totally congruent on the subject of salvation, works, righteousness and faith as demonstrated by the life of Abraham and the writings of Paul. Please enjoy. — Natan
What is faith and how does it relate to salvation and the good works of Torah-obedience? Is a person saved by faith and grace alone, or by a combination of faith, grace and good works? Moreover, what is the nature of faith, how does it grow therefore deepening one’s spiritual relationship with YHVH Elohim? We will primarily study the example of Abraham, the father of the faithful and then see how Paul, the apostle, relates this to the basic salvation model of salvation by faith through grace leading to good works as stated in Ephesians 2:8–10. We also learn about the dynamic nature of faith as it relates to one’s relationship with the Creator.
First, let us define the word faith. The Epistle to the Hebrews 11:1 tells us that faith is “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” What does this mean? Faith is a biblical Hebraic concept and is rooted in the rich, concrete, and practical nature of the Hebrew language.
In Hebrew, the basic word for faith is emun from the root verb aman. The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (or TWOT) says this of aman: “At the heart of the meaning of the root is the idea of certainty. And this is borne out by the NT definition of faith found in Heb 11:1.” The TWOT goes on to state that the basic root idea of aman is “firmness or certainty.” In the qal form (the simple or plain form) of the Hebrew verb, aman expresses the concept of “support” and is used in the sense of the strong arms of the parent supporting the helpless infant. The idea is also seen in 2 Kings 18:16 where it refers to pillars of support. In the hiphel (causative) form of the verb, aman basically means “to cause to be certain, sure” or “to be certain about.” This verb form is used in Genesis 15:6 where we read that “[Abraham] believed in[ Heb. aman] YHVH; and he counted it to him for righteousness.”
The ArtScroll Bereishis/Genesis Commentary in its notes on Genesis 15:6 states of aman “It suggests total submission in the sense that one places his total confidence and seeks all his guidance and attitudes in God. In the same vein, when one responds amen to a blessing, he avows that he will be guided by the thought expressed in the blessing.”
The Jewish Torah scholar, Samson R. Hirsch in his commentary on Genesis 15:6 states, “Aman is not belief, by which word one robs this central idea of Jewish consciousness of its real conception. Belief is an act of the mind, is often only an opinion, is always only believing something to be true by reason of judgment and the assurance of somebody else. In making religion into a belief, and then making the cardinal point of religion believing in the truth of these quite untenable to the intelligence, religion has been banned from everyday life and made into a catechism of words of belief will be demanded as a passport for entry into the next world.” He goes on to say that to believe in the words of another is never expressed in the Hebrew word aman/believe in; it is not a mere submitting our theoretical mind to the insight of another, but rather is placing the full confidence, setting our whole theoretical and practical hold, or guidance, our strength and firmness on Elohim. Hirsch stresses the practical nature of aman. When Scripture says that Abraham believed in Elohim, Hirsch states that he had given himself over completely and unconditionally to the direct guidance of Elohim, who had raised him above the sphere of conditions on earth, where things are bound by the cause-and-effect laws of nature, to look at a concrete existence directly proceeding from the will of Elohim. This faith caused Abraham to believe YHVH’s promises which for them to come to pass would require supernatural intervention.
So what was the nature and dynamics of Abraham’s faith, so that Moses included Genesis 15:6 in the Torah, and David seems to reference it in the Psalms 32:1–2, and Paul uses it as the basis for his entire theology regarding a believer’s faith in Yeshua and salvation (see Romans chapter four)? The answer to this question is grounded in the living and dynamic faith Abraham had in YHVH. This is something worth studying, for it gives us insights into how to mature spiritually and to grow in one’s own faith walk and relationship with YHVH.
Abraham’s walk of faith is first mentioned in Genesis 12:1 where YHVH tells Abraham to leave his home in pagan Babylonia and to trek across the desert to a distant land that Elohim would show him. At the same time, YHVH gives him the hope of physical blessings (verses 2 and 3). Abraham takes that first step of faith and leaves Babylon for this remote country (verse 4). The dynamic we see here is that Abraham took the first step of faith to obey YHVH, and after the first step of faith was taken, YHVH revealed to him which land he would give him (verse 7). This was a giant step of faith for Abraham to take. He was an old man living in perhaps the most cosmopolitan city of the time. He was well-known, and a mighty prince such that his reputation even extended hundreds of miles from Babylonia all the way to Canaan (Gen 23:6). Additionally, he was a brilliant military leader and strategist as evidenced by his defeat of the five Babylonian king and their armies (Gen 14) with his own private army of 318 men. Abraham was willing to leave much behind in Babylon—his reputation, his family, and any material possessions that were not transportable and follow YHVH. Abraham’s walk of faith confirms James statement later that faith without works is dead (Jas 2:17). If Abraham had not left Babylon for Canaan (a difficult journey on foot of hundreds of miles), he would not have become the biblical giant of faith that we know.
Abraham’s literal journey because of his faith in Elohim’s promises teaches us that faith is not just mental assent or theoretical in nature, but is active and backed up by action as indicated by the Hebrew word aman, which describes the faith of Abraham (Gen 16:5).
Next we pick up Abraham’s faith journey in Genesis chapter 15. Here YHVH again reveals himself to Abraham and this time the focus of YHVH’s blessing on Abraham is not physical, but spiritual in nature, for YHVH states in verse 1 that he will be Abraham’s spiritual shield and great reward.
Little-by-little, Abraham is learning to walk with and to trust in YHVH. This is a process that has nothing to do with merely a theoretical belief system, but has everything to do with action. Biblical faith is a walk, not a thought! A thought can occur without subsequent action, while a walk requires not only thought, but action as well.Continue reading