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Abraham’s Faith

When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. *

Abraham is about to destroy the promised child, the embodiment of the great promise. Yet the promise remains—eternal, untouchable, decisively executed—because this faith is eternally allied to the promise. At the destruction of the worldly accomplishment, still one thing remains so that all is not lost forever and rather all is eternally gained. What remains is not Isaac, for he is not this faith’s object. This faith has no ultimate regard for worldly accomplishments. Instead, it risks worldly failure, charges into it without pause, treads the knife-edge of the absurd existence—all for its eternal object, which is not Isaac but God.

It is written that faith without works is dead. It is well written. But this is from the same writer who warns us against double-mindedness, for he knows that any “faith” concerned with worldly success is doubtful before it has even begun to act. Faith without works is dead, but faith in success—that is, faith whose object is some success—is double-mindedness. What is success to Abraham? He considers it a great test to have success. His success is put on the altar, for the eternal success of the promise is not his success in the world, not the worldly success of Isaac.

Only this faith, which is worked out in obedience to the command, and which annihilates the worldly accomplishment in favor of its object—only this faith could stand eternally as an assurance of things hoped for.


* Genesis 22.9-10. English Standard Version.

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2 thoughts on “Abraham’s Faith

  1. Agree with success not being tied to this world, but I don’t believe that God would challenge us to attack another as a test of our faith. I think we are challenged to love the unlovable, forgive the unforgivable, and see the face of Christ in everyone. Faith enters when we can’t do this alone, but believe the Holy Spirit can guide us to it.

    • Again, we see the defining mark between us.

      Jesus himself speaks of Abraham as the great man of faith whose work is an example of utter obedience (John 8.39-40), and also as one who lives eternally in his faith (Luke 20.37-38). You see Abraham as a murderer, whereas God sees him as righteous. Worlds apart.

      The work of faith is not the action done in the flesh. That is not what is mimicked. We do not sacrifice our sons on the altars—not all of us. If faith were a matter of mimicking the action in the flesh, then faith would become as easy as habit, and some would even become faithful “by accident.” Rather, faith is mimicking Abraham’s spiritual action of annihilating even the worldly blessing in order to obey the spiritual command. The work of faith becomes various forms of self-sacrifice, as it was for Abraham to destroy the promised son—and the greatest work becomes self-sacrifice to the point of death.

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