The Father of the Faithful
Romans 4:9-12
Comes this blessedness then on the circumcision only, or on the uncircumcision also?…

Two points are involved in this name.

I. ABRAHAM WAS HIMSELF FAITHFUL. In him was most distinctly manifested the gift of faith. In him, long before Luther, long before Paul, was it proclaimed that man is "justified by faith." "Abraham believed in the Lord and He counted it to him for righteousness" (ver. 13; cf. Genesis 15:6). Powerful as is the effect of these words when we read them in their untarnished freshness, they gain immensely in their original language, to which neither Greek nor German, much less Latin or English, can furnish any full equivalent. "He supported himself, he built himself up, he reposed as a child in his mother's arms" in the strength of God; in God whom he did not see, more than in the giant empires of the earth, and the bright lights of heaven, or the claims of tribe and kindred, which were always before him. It was counted to him for "righteousness." "It was counted to him," and his history seals and ratifies the result. His faith transpires not in any outward profession, but precisely in that which far more nearly concerns him and every one of us, in his prayers, in his actions, in the justice, the uprightness, the elevation of soul and spirit which sent him on his way straightforward without turning to the right hand or to the left. His belief, vague and scanty as it may be, even in the most elementary truths of religion, is implied rather than stated. It is in him simply "the evidence of things not seen," "the hope against hope." His faith in the literal sense of the word is only known to us through "his works." He and his descendants are blessed, not, as in the Koran, because of his adoption of the first article of the creed of Islam, but because he obeyed (Genesis 26:5; Genesis 18:19).

II. HE WAS THE FATHER OF THE FAITHFUL. In modern times it has too often happened that the doctrine of "faith" has had a narrowing effect on those who have strongly embraced it. It was far otherwise with Paul, to whom it was almost synonymous with the admission of the Gentiles. It was far otherwise with its first exemplification in Abraham. His very name implies this universal mission. "The Father" (Abba); "The lofty Father" (Ab-ram); "The Father of multitudes" (Ab-raham); the venerable parent, surveying, as if from that lofty eminence,, the countless progeny who should look up to him as their spiritual ancestor. He was, first, the Father of the chosen people, the people who by reason of their faith, though in one sense the narrowest of all ancient nations, yet were also the widest in their diffusion and dispersion — the only people that, by virtue of an invisible bond, maintained their national union in spite of local difference and division. But he was much more than the father of the chosen people. It is not a mere allegory or accidental application of separate texts, that justify St. Paul's appeal to the case of Abraham as including within itself the faith of the whole Gentile world. His position, as represented to us in the original records, is of itself far wider than that of any merely Jewish saint or national hero; and he is, on that ground alone, the fitting image to meet us at the outset of the history of the Church. He was "the Hebrew" to whom the Arabian no less than the Israelite tribes look back as to their first ancestor. The scene of his life, as of the patriarchs generally, breathes a larger atmosphere than the contracted limits of Palestine — the free air of Mesopotamia and the desert — the neighbourhood of the vast shapes of the Babylonian monarchy on one side, and of Egypt on the other. He is not an ecclesiastic, not an ascetic, not even a learned sage, but a chief, a shepherd, a warrior, full of all the affections and interests of family and household, and wealth and power, and for this very reason the first true type of the religious man, the first representative of the whole Church of God. This universality of Abraham's faith — this elevation, this multitudinousness of the patriarchal character has also found a response in later traditions and feelings. When Mohammed attacks the idolatry of the Arabs, he justifies himself by arguing, almost in the language of Paul, that the faith he proclaimed in one supreme God was no new belief, but was identical with the ancient religion of their first father Abraham. When the Emperor Alexander Severus placed in the chapel of his palace the statues of the choice spirits of all times, Abraham rather than Moses was selected as the centre, doubtless, of a more extended circle of sacred associations.

(Dean Stanley.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness.

WEB: Is this blessing then pronounced on the circumcised, or on the uncircumcised also? For we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness.

The Faith of Abraham
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