Faith is the depending upon the word of God only, and expecting that word only to do what the word says.
Justification by faith, then, is justification by depending upon the word of God only, and expecting that word only to accomplish it.
Justification by faith is righteousness by faith; for justification is the being declared righteous.
Faith comes by the word of God. Justification by faith, then, is justification that comes by the word of God. Righteousness by faith is righteousness that comes by the word of God.
The word of God is self-fulfilling; for in creating all things, “he spake, and it was.” [Psalm 33:9.] And when he was on earth, he stilled the raging sea, cleansed the lepers, healed the sick, raised the dead, and forgave sins, all by his word: there, too, “he spake, and it was.”
Now, the same One who, in creating, “spake and it was,” the same One who said, “Let there be light: and there was light;” [Genesis 1:3.] the same One who on earth spoke “the word only,” and the sick were healed, the lepers were cleansed, and the dead lived—this same One speaks the righteousness of God unto and upon all that believe.
For though all have sinned and come short of the righteousness of God, yet we are “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath sent forth … to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forebearance of God.” [Romans 3:24, 25.]
In creating all things in the beginning, God set forth Christ to declare the word which should cause all things to exist. Christ did speak the word only, and all things were. And in redemption, which is creation over again, God set forth Christ to declare the word of righteousness. And when Christ speaks the word only, it is so. His word, whether in creating or in redeeming, is the same.
“The worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” [Hebrews 11:3.] Once there were no worlds, nor was there any of the material which now composes the worlds. God set forth Christ to declare the word which should produce the worlds, and the very material of which they should be composed.
“He spake, and it was.” Before he spoke, there were no worlds; after he spoke, the worlds were there. Thus the word of God spoken by Jesus Christ is able to cause that to exist which has no existence before the word is spoken; and which, except for that word, never could have existence.
In this same way precisely it is in man’s life. In man’s life there is no righteousness. In man there is not righteousness, from which righteousness can appear in his life. But God has set forth Christ to declare righteousness unto and upon a man. Christ has spoken the word only, and in the darkness void of man’s life there is righteousness to everyone who will receive it. Where before the word is received, there was neither righteousness nor anything which could possibly produce righteousness, after the word is received, there is perfect righteousness and the very Fountain from which it springs. The word of God received by faith that is, the word of God expected to do what the word says, and depended upon to do what it says—produces righteousness in the man and in the life where there never was any before; precisely as, in the original creation, the word of God produced worlds where there never were any worlds before. He has spoken, and it is so to everyone that believeth: that is, to every one that receiveth. The word itself produces it.
“Therefore being justified [accounted righteous] by faith [by expecting, and depending upon, the word of God only], we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:1. That is so, bless the Lord! And feeding upon this blessed thing is cultivating faith.
“The knowledge of what the Scripture means when urging upon us the necessity of cultivating faith, is more essential than any other knowledge that can be acquired.” The Review and Herald, October 18, 1898.
Faith is expecting the word of God to do the thing which the word speaks, and the depending upon the word only to accomplish the thing which that word speaks.
Abraham is the father of all them which be of faith. The record of Abraham, then, gives instruction in faith—what it is, and what it does for him who has it.
What shall we say, then, that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the faith, has found? What saith the Scripture?
When Abram was more than eighty years old, and Sarai his wife was old, and he had no child, God “brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.” [Genesis 15:5.]
And Abram “believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness.” Genesis 15:2, 6. Abram accepted the word of God, and expected by the word what the word said. And in that he was right.
Sarai, however, did not put her expectation upon the word of God only. She resorted to a device of her own to bring forth seed. She said to him, “The Lord hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her.” Genesis 16:2.
Abram, for the moment, swerved from the perfect integrity of faith. Instead of holding fast his expectation and dependence upon the word of God only, he “harkened to the voice of Sarai.”
Accordingly, a child was born; but the whole matter proved to be so unsatisfactory to Sarai that she repudiated her own arrangement. And God showed his repudiation of it by totally ignoring the fact that any child had been born. He changed Abram’s name to Abraham, and continued to talk about making him the father of nations through the seed promised, and of making his covenant with Abraham and the seed that was promised. He also changed Sarai’s name to Sarah, because she should “be a mother of nations” through the promised seed. [Genesis 17:16.]
Abraham noticed this total ignoring of the child that had been born, and called the Lord’s attention to it, saying, “O, that Ishmael might live before thee!” [Genesis 17:18.]
“But God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him. And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation. But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year.” Genesis 17:15–21.
By all this, both Abram and Sarai were taught that, in carrying out the promise, the fulfilling of the word of God, nothing would answer but dependence upon that word only. Sarai learned that her device brought only trouble and perplexity, and delayed the fulfillment of the promise. Abram learned that in harkening to the voice of Sarai, he had missed the word of God; and that now he must abandon that whole scheme, and turn again to the word of God only.
But now Abraham was ninety-nine years old, and Sarah was eighty-nine. And, if anything, this seems to put farther off than ever the fulfillment of the word, and called for a deeper dependence upon the word of God—a greater faith than before.
It was perfectly plain that now there was no possibility of dependence upon anything, whatever, but the naked word only: they were shut up absolutely to this for the accomplishment of what the word said. All works, devices, plans, and efforts of their own were excluded, and they were shut up to faith alone—shut up to the word alone, and to absolute dependence upon that word only for the accomplishment of what that word said.
And now that the way was clear for “the word only” to work, that word did work effectually, and the promised “seed” was born. And so “through faith”—through helpless, total dependence upon the word only—“Sarah herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.”
And “therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand by the seashore innumerable.” Hebrews 11:12.
And thus was fulfilled the word spoken to Abram, when God “brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them … so shall thy seed be.”
This is a divine lesson in faith. And this is what the Scripture means when urging upon us the necessity of cultivating faith. For this was imputed to Abraham for righteousness, even the righteousness of God, which is by faith.
Yet “it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification.” Romans 4:23–25.
And all “they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.” [Galations 3:9] All they who, excluding—yea, repudiating—all works, plans, device, and efforts, of their own, depend in utter helplessness upon the word of God only to accomplish what that word says—these are they which be of faith, and are blessed with faithful Abraham with the righteousness of God.
O, “understanding how to exercise faith: this is the science of the gospel!” And the science of the gospel is the science of sciences. Who would not strain every nerve to understand it?
When Abraham and Sarah had cleared themselves of all the scheme of unbelief which had produced Ishmael, and had stood upon faith alone—dependence on the word of God alone—Isaac, the true child of promise, was born.
In harkening to the voice of Sarai (Genesis 16:1), Abram had swerved from the line of strict integrity to the word of God, from the strictness of true faith; and now that he had returned to the word only, to true faith, he must be tested before it could be certainly said of him that his faith was counted for righteousness.
He had trusted the naked word of God as against Ishmael, and had obtained Isaac, the true child of promise of God. And now, having obtained Isaac, the question must be determined whether he would trust the naked word of God as against even Isaac himself.
Accordingly, God said to Abraham, “Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.” [Genesis 22:2.]
Abraham had received Isaac from God, by trusting the word of God only; Isaac alone was the seed promised by the word of the Lord. After Isaac was born, God had confirmed the word by declaring, “In Isaac shall thy seed be called.” Genesis 21:12. And now came the word of God, Take thy son, thine only son Isaac, and offer him for a burnt offering.
God had declared to Abraham, Thy seed shall be as the stars of heaven for multitude; “In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed”; [Genesis 22:18.] “In Isaac shall thy seed be called”; and now, Offer Isaac for a burnt offering!
But, if Isaac is offered for a burnt offering, if Isaac is burned up, what will become of the promise of the blessing of all nations in him? What will become of the promise, Thy seed shall be as the stars of heaven innumerable? Yet there stood the word, Offer Isaac for a burnt offering. Abraham had trusted the word of God only, as against Ishmael; but this is more than trusting the word of God as against Isaac; it is trusting the word of God against the word of God!
And Abraham did it, hoping against hope. God had said: Thy seed shall be as the stars of heaven; In Isaac shall thy seed be called; Offer Isaac for a burnt offering. Abraham did not insist that God should “harmonize these passages.” It was all-sufficient for him to know that the statements were all the word of God. Knowing this, he would trust that word, would follow that word, and would let the Lord “harmonize these passages,” or “explain these texts,” if any such thing were needed.
Said Abraham: God has said, Offer Isaac for a burnt offering. That I will do. God has said, “In Isaac shall thy seed be called;” [Genesis 21:2.] and, Thy seed shall be as the stars of heaven for multitude. I interfered once in the promise, and hindered it till I repudiated all that I had done, and came back to the word only. Then, by a miracle, God gave me Isaac, the promised seed. Now he says, Offer Isaac, the promised seed, for a burnt offering. I will do it: by a miracle God gave him at the first; and by a miracle God can restore him. Yet when I shall have offered him for a burnt offering, he will be dead; and the only miracle that can restore him is a miracle that will bring him back from the dead. But God is able to do even that, and he will do it; for his word is spoken. Thy seed shall be as the stars of heaven for multitude, and, In Isaac shall the seed be called. And even the bringing back of Isaac from the dead will be to God no more than he has already done; for, as to offspring, both my body and Sarah’s were as good as dead, and yet God brought forth Isaac from us. He can raise Isaac from the dead, and he will. Bless the Lord!
It was settled. He arose, and took his servants and Isaac, and went three days’ journey “unto the place which God had told him.” And when on the third day he “saw the place afar off,” [Genesis 22:3, last part, 4.] “Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.” Genesis 22:5. Who will go?—“I and the lad will go.”—And who will come again:—I and the lad will go… and come again to you.” Abraham expected to have Isaac come back with him as certainly as that he went with him.
Abraham expected to offer Isaac for a burnt offering, and expected I to see Isaac rise from the ashes and go back with him. For the word of God had gone forth, In Isaac shall thy seed be called, and, Thy seed shall be as the stars of heaven for multitude. And Abraham would trust that word only, that it could never fail. Hebrews 11:17–19.
This is faith. And thus “the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness.” James 2:23. But yet above this, “It was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed; if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification.” Romans 4:23 25.
To trust the word of God only; to depend upon the word of God only; to depend upon the word of God, even as against the word of God,—this is Faith: this is the faith which brings the righteousness of God.
This is what it is to exercise faith. This is “what the Scripture means when urging upon us the necessity of exercising faith.” And “understanding how to exercise faith,” this is the science of the gospel. And the science of the gospel is the science of sciences. Lessons on Faith, 16–23.
©1995, TEACH Services, Inc.
Used with Permission