“Abraham, the father of the faithful, came from a family of idolaters! And he would have continued the family tradition had not the Lord intervened. But God called Abram, commanding him to leave his people and his father’s household and promising to bless him, and through him all people (Gen. 12:1-3). Later, GOD PROMISED THAT ABRAM WOULD INHERIT GOD HIMSELF AS HIS ‘VERY GREAT REWARD’ (Gen. 15:1). In response to God’s promise of countless offspring, ‘Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness’ (Gen. 15:6)” (Robert A. Peterson & Michael D. Williams, “Why I Am Not An Arminian,” page 43).
I’ve started new work on the Calvin/Arminius debate. I’ve decided that, since this issue has gripped me so much for the last two weeks, that I would study it more intensely than ever before. As a result, I bought two books at the end of last week: one was “Why I Am Not An Arminian” and the other was titled “Why I Am Not A Calvinist.” I will be writing on both of these books in the weeks to come, sharing my thoughts with my readership about these two books.
In the meantime, just know that these two books will be the big talk of the blog this summer.
Now, back to the task at hand: the above quote is taken from the Calvinist defense, called “Why I Am Not An Arminian.” In the above quote, Peterson and Williams quote Genesis 15:1 as their “proof” that God was Abraham’s inheritance: “God promised that Abram would inherit God Himself as his ‘very great reward’.” However, this is smearing the text. Look back at Genesis 15:1 and you’ll find these words:
“After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, ‘Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; Your reward shall be very great.” (NASB)
The problem with Peterson and William’s interpretation of God as Abraham’s reward is indicated by Genesis 15:2—
“Abram said, ‘O LORD God, WHAT WILL YOU GIVE ME, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” (Gen. 15:2, NASB)
If God had told Abraham that He was Abraham’s reward, why would Abraham have been asking “What will you give me?” It seems then, by the context, that the Lord told Abraham that his reward would be great. It is then that Abraham asks about the promised child.
Peterson and Williams say above that, after Abraham hears of God’s blessings for him,
“Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness” (Gen. 15:6, NASB).
This same concept is used in Romans 4, but is further expounded:
“Is this blessing then on the circumcised, or on the uncircumcised also? For we say, ‘FAITH was credited to Abraham as RIGHTEOUSNESS.’ How then was it credited? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised;
And he received the sign of circumcision, a SEAL of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised, so that he might be the father of all who believe WITHOUT BEING CIRCUMCISED, that righteousness might be credited to them,
And the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham which he had while uncircumcised” (Romans 4:9-12, NASB).
As Paul tells us, Abraham’s righteousness does not come because God promises him a number of great blessings. No—Abraham’s righteousness comes BECAUSE HE BELIEVES GOD WILL DO WHAT HE PROMISED! The focus with Paul is on Abraham’s response, not God’s initiative.
Calvinists tend to pick passages in Genesis like this one to show that God picks and chooses whom He wills to go to heaven—but this isn’t true. God always initiates salvation; He always calls for people to come to Him. But God isn’t going to make a person believe in Him. No one is ELECTED by Him and THEN believes. Instead, God has given every man a measure of faith (Romans 12) so that every man has the ability to believe in Christ, whether or not they choose to do so.
There is another text of Scripture that tells us about Abraham:
“BY FAITH Abraham, when he was CALLED, OBEYED BY GOING OUT to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith HE LIVED AS AN ALIEN IN THE LAND OF PROMISE, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; FOR HE WAS LOOKING FOR THE CITY WHICH HAS FOUNDATIONS, WHOSE ARCHITECT AND BUILDER IS GOD” (Hebrews 11:8-10, NASB).
God Himself says the following regarding Abraham:
“Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who gave birth to you in pain; when he was but one I called him, then I blessed him and multiplied him” (Isaiah 51:2, NASB).
While this verse could be used for many things, I will say this one thing with it: God CALLED Abraham. He didn’t elect Abraham to be righteous BEFORE He answered the call, but after. And, like Abraham, we too, have a call to answer. The question is, “Will we answer the call by faith?”