Summary of passage: Abram received the word of the Lord in a vision: Do not be afraid for I am your shield and your very great reward.
Abram questions God as to where is this promised heir. God assures Abram he will have a son from his own body and his offspring will be as numerous as the stars in the heavens. God also reiterates to Abram that He brought him from Ur to give him this land.
Again, Abram questions God, asking for reassurances of this promise. God tells Abram to bring him a heifer, goat, ram, dove, and a pigeon. Abram cut these in half (except the birds). As Abram awaits God’s arrival, birds of prey come to feed on the carcasses so Abram drives them away.
8 ) No. Justification is being right with God. We achieve this through faith in Jesus Christ who eradicates our sins and allows us to be clean, right, and thus justified before God. We are given works by God to do while here on earth that James says proves our faith.
Here’s the crux: when you are justified you have the Holy Spirit within. When you have the Holy Spirit, you have no choice BUT to do good works for you are changed and now desire to do good works, which are a sign of your faith and your justification.
We discussed this James passage last year (see HERE) and my opinion is you can be justified with no good works for all that is required is faith. There is no “work” we must do to get to heaven and be justified for this is a gift from God. All we must do is accept Jesus as our Savior and we’re there.
As I have seen in the study of Genesis, everything is a gift from God. Man does absolutely nothing nor does he deserve what he gets.
9a) We are all dead unless we accept Jesus as our Savior. Then we are reborn with the Holy Spirit and only then will be have eternal life.
b) Personal Question. My answer: Life is meaningless without a purpose. If I didn’t have God, my life would be empty. It would be full of “busyness”, things to distract me, and an inner peace would not exist. Working for God’s-given purpose, gives life to the mundane, life to the evil, and life to the dead.
All those diapers are for a purpose. Those long days at a dead-end job are serving a purpose. When the most horrific thing happens to you such as the death of a loved one, rape, bankruptcy, abuse, loss of a job and every other evil, unfair thing in life and God is the only thing that remains, you have life–even if all you feel is dead.
10a) Abram believed in God’s promises and they were all fulfilled. He was strengthened by these promises and gave glory to God while he waited. He had faith. He obeyed. He acted. He took steps out of obedience.
b) Personal Question. My answer: The same. Believe in God, who He is, in His promises, and have faith they will come true in God’s timing. Have patience. Give God the glory. Be strengthened by my knowledge in Him. Obey God and what He is telling me to do. Take those little steps of faith.
Conclusions: I feel as redundant as when I teach my kids their letters but I’ll say it anyways: Didn’t like this lesson either. We didn’t once refer to the passage at the beginning, instead exploring Romans and James and we explored James last year.
That being said, I did like re-reading works and faith. And I did like the reminder we are not dead even though at times I feel dead, indifferent, lost, and immune to the world around me.
My qualm is this: if this is a study of Genesis, then let’s study Genesis. If it’s a study of works and justification in the Bible, then don’t bill it as “Genesis 15:1-11”.
End Commentary on Faith and Works taken from Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary by J D Douglas and Merrill C Tenney:
Being made in God’s image, human beings perform works as they live in God’s world. These deeds are based on the condition of the heart. Works can be done out of evil motivation or even done in order to earn favor with God. These are unacceptable to Him.
True works arise out of an inner gratitude to God for what He has done for us. These naturally spring from our faith in Him. Thus, Paul in Romans emphasized the need for faith in God for good deeds, James stresses that good works are evidence of true faith. (P. 1532)
I believe the point is this: you naturally do good works because God dwells inside of you. Works is not a requirement set forth by God in order to be loved, cherished, and accepted by Him. This is where history went awry in the Middle Ages with indulgences, the Crusades, and earning your way to heaven.
Works is a gift from God that we as Christians just do without thinking. We’re not trying to prove how Godly we are (for all of us would fail in that realm). We’re merely following the Holy Spirit and doing what Jesus would do. Because of our faith in Him.
It’s a simple as that.
Intellectual faith is not what God is seeking; He is seeking faith of the heart. It’s the difference between saying and doing something. Many say they are Christians; but is God in their hearts?
Salvation is a gift from God that is by faith alone. Yet we are created to do good works (Ephesians 2:10). It’s a two-fold process. One, you accept Jesus. Two, good works are produced. And if you truly have Jesus in your heart you have no choice: good works will follow. A life lived for Jesus.
The notes from BSF of Acts Lesson 27 have a great explanation on the James’ passage.