Abraham’s Gospel Logic
If we define Gospel Logic as the mental act of interpreting life in light of God’s promises, the first major figure in the Bible who engaged in the activity was Abraham.
Called from worshiping idols in Ur, to become the father of God’s chosen race, Abraham was a man who must have grappled with God’s unfolding plan of redemption through his lineage. Coming out of his pagan background, Genesis 12-22 shows the unfolding of God’s covenant relationship with Abraham.
Genesis 12, 15 and Romans 4
In Genesis 12, YHWH gives Abraham a three-fold promise: a land, a people, and his blessing. The rest of Genesis, indeed the rest of the Bible, unfolds this tripartite promise. In Genesis 15, YHWH comes to Abraham, who is still childless, and he tells him again that he will have offspring. Genesis 15:6 records this pregnant statement: “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” God’s promissory word came to Abraham in power. The patriarch believed, and the rest of the Bible points to this man as the father of faith because of his trust in God’s word (offspring that would outnumber the stars), not his present circumstance (childlessness).
In this simple retelling, it is evident that Abraham had already started the activity of Gospel Logic. He looked at his body, as good as dead Romans 4 tells us, and in spite of his sagging skin and aching joints, he believes God. Romans 4:18 quotes from Genesis 15:5, and Paul comments, “He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barreness of Sarah’s womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised” (Rom 4:19-21).
Clearly, the way in which Abraham came to faith was not because of some magical experience which made him believe out of sheer serendipity. Rather, he wrestled with the promises of God in his mind, and he cast aside doubt on the basis of God’s greater word. Reality became God’s promise, not his own perception. This is Gospel Logic.
Genesis 22: An Unbelievable Test of Abraham’s Belief
Later, this kind of Gospel Logic would be tested again. In Genesis 22:1, Moses records the fact that God was going to test Abraham. In an event that baffles the modern reader, Abraham is requested to offer up his son as a sacrifice on Mt. Moriah. Without getting sidetracked on the ethics or repeatable nature of this passage (for the record: this is an inimitable request), Abraham clearly perceived God’s intention and command.
Promptly, the aged patriarch set off with his young son. Genesis 22:3-5 records,
So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.”
Now Moses obviously is selective in his record-keeping, but it is evident that something happened in Abraham’s mind between God’s initial command (v. 2) and Abraham’s statement to his caravan that he would return with the son whom he was intent upon killing (v. 5). What was it? What kind of mental process enabled Abraham to obey God, and with such confidence tell the world, that his son would live? Hebrews 11 tells us.
By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, ‘Thru Isaac shall your offspring be named.” He considered (logizomai) that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau (v. 17-19).
As in the case of Abraham’s justifying faith, Abraham’s obedience exhibited the same Gospel Logic. Abraham knew that God’s command was irrecovable, but he also knew that the salvation of the world (i. e. blessing to the nations) was dependent on his son of promise. Now, he did not know how these two things reconciled, but he knew that God would not overturn his promise. Thus, he reasoned that God could raise the dead, and as Hebrews says, “figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.”
There is an incredibly important lesson here: Christians are not called to obey based on what they see. They are called to obey what they hear. Today, we look not for God’s revelation through angelic visions or extra-biblical commands. No. But we do look to the word of God, and in God’s sufficient Scripture, we have many imperatives and wise counsel to live in a way that will call us to decisions that are based on God’s unseen promises, not our visible provisions.
This is the Christian life. And it demands Gospel Logic. Reasoning from God’s word unto our life circumstances in such a way, that we, like Abraham, believe that God will figuratively speaking raise us from the dead, as we daily carry our cross and die with Christ. In this way, the gospel of Christ comes alive to us, and the world around us sees a visible display of Christ’s sufficiency for us, even in our poverty.
Abraham’s examples is a powerful one. He helps us see what true faith is. It is not passive in any way. It is deeply Scriptural, and one that calls us to think deeply about God’s word, with the absolute confidence that what we think about, God will reveal to us, as his Spirit leads us by his Word.
Soli Deo Gloria, dss