1. In Romans 4:3 Paul says “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”.
  2. Later in Romand 4:10 he establishes that since the faith came before circumcision, the circumcision was a sign/seal and faith was key.
  3. In Romans 4:14 Paul says that if following the law could achieve this promise then faith is worthless.
  4. Lastly in Romans 4:16 Paul says because Abraham was promised to be the father of many nations, we as gentiles inherit the same promise by the faith that Abraham had.

Question: Is Paul saying that Abraham saw the promised fulfilled by faith alone or by having faith and obeying the law?

Romans 4:1 What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, discovered in this matter? 2 If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. 3 What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

Romans 4:9 Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. 10 Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before!

Romans 4:16 Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all.

The reason I ask is when I read Tanakh, G-d says he made a promise because Abraham keeps the law.

Genesis 18:18 Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. 19 For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”

Genesis 22:18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”

Genesis 26:4 I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, 5 because Abraham obeyed me and did everything I required of him, keeping my commands, my decrees and my instructions.”

  • Some historical context.
    – Lucian
    Commented May 16, 2021 at 5:53
  • @lucian, Thank you for the site link. I think this is a wiki on circumcision that you created. I have subscribed to it and will spend time reading the content there. Did not know there were Jewish forums. G-d Bless.
    – Yeddu
    Commented May 16, 2021 at 6:03
  • I don't know how Paul could possibly have been any more explicit than he was. That God blessed Abram further at later times in response to his obedience doesn't take away from the simple truth that Paul highlights that in Genesis 15 God declared Abram righteous because of his faith in God's promise.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented May 16, 2021 at 6:26
  • @curiousdannii♦ if you see Genesis verses, G-d says he will 1. He gave him the promise becuase he knew Abraham will keep his law, 2. G-d says because he kept my law I will fulfill my promise. I read this as both go hand in hand.
    – Yeddu
    Commented May 16, 2021 at 6:32

2 Answers 2


Galatians 2:16 ESV

Yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

Was Abraham justified by faith alone or works also?

By faith alone according to Galatians 2:16.

We can loosen the definition of work some as in John 6:29

Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent."

Matthew 19:17

"Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus replied. "There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments."

you want
θέλεις (theleis)
Verb - Present Indicative Active - 2nd Person Singular Strong's 2309: To will, wish, desire, be willing, intend, design.

Jesus addressed specifically to the questioner here.

Ezekiel 33:12c

The righteous person who sins will not be allowed to live even though they were formerly righteous.'

This is consistent with James 2:18

But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.

No one can physically see your faith because faith is not physical. However, people can see your works. That's is how you prove to others of your faith.

  • As per Paul, it seems faith is all we need, as per Moses faith + works are needed. I have noted a few more questions that will post where I THINK Paul says contradictory things. I would any day stick to Moses.
    – Yeddu
    Commented May 17, 2021 at 4:38
  • Good point. I added.
    – user35953
    Commented May 17, 2021 at 15:14
  • Following the law and justification are two distinct acts.
    – user35953
    Commented May 17, 2021 at 15:29
  • Tony, But Jesus himself that way to life is follow the law. Matthew 19:16 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” 17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”
    – Yeddu
    Commented May 17, 2021 at 15:30
  • I am seeing this message come from many people Tony. I think the thought is we will not be judged anymore by the sins we do but whether we believe in Jesus or not. I am still not clear as Tanakh says in Ezekiel 33:12 “Therefore, son of man, say to your people, ‘If someone who is righteous disobeys, that person’s former righteousness will count for nothing. And if someone who is wicked repents, that person’s former wickedness will not bring condemnation. The righteous person who sins will not be allowed to live even though they were formerly righteous.’
    – Yeddu
    Commented May 17, 2021 at 15:34

The context of Gen. 15:6 is God promising Abram an heir from his own offspring. Although such a promise seemed impossible, Abram believed God. Abram acted on his faith, showing a genuine trust in God, but his actions weren't perfect. In Gal. 4:21-31 Paul pointed out that Ismael was the product of human effort while Isaac was the son of promise (How was Jerusalem "in slavery with her children."? Galatians 4:25). Abram's actions demonstrated a faith that justifies, but his actions didn't justify him.

James discusses a different kind of faith/belief. The belief in God that the demons have is mental acknowledgement that God exists. That belief does result in an action, trembling, but not the action of a saving faith that trusts and depends on Jesus Christ.

But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. (James 2:18–24, ESV)

Paul and James seem to contradict, but both essentially say that a sawing faith produces actions demonstrating a lordship dependence on God in the Old Testament and extended to Jesus Christ in the New Testament. Look at Romans 6:

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? (Rom. 6:1–2, ESV)

What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 (Rom. 6:15–17, ESV)

What work did this man do to be saved? While a saving faith will express itself in action, that doesn't mean a person with faith and no opportunity for action is not justified.

But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:40–43, ESV)

This is the work that Jesus gave:

 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” (John 6:28–29, ESV)

While Paul and James seem to conflict, the difference is apparently differences in terminology, because the evidence is that they were in agreement:

 And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me. 7 On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised 8 (for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), 9 and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. 10 Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do. (Gal. 2:6–10, ESV)

And all the assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. 13 After they finished speaking, James replied, “Brothers, listen to me. 14 Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name. (Acts 15:12–14, ESV)

17 When we had come to Jerusalem, the brothers received us gladly. 18 On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present. 19 After greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. 20 And when they heard it, they glorified God. (Acts 21:17–20, ESV)

So, the answer depends on your terminology.

  1. A saving faith, which demonstrates itself through God's love in action, is a faith alone that justifies a person.

  2. A mental belief in God and Jesus Christ without their lordship and without love in action is not a saving faith. That kind of faith alone doesn't justify.

APPENDIX: Paul's faith that produces works

Jeremiah's prophecy:

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jer. 31:31–34, ESV)

Paul used flesh to mean actions based on human effort and desires. For example:

29 But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit (Gal. 4:29, ESV)

The Holy Spirit writes the law of the spirit in our hearts.

 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. (Rom. 8:2, ESV)

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. (Rom. 8:5–11, ESV)

The law of the Spirit is love.

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. (Rom. 13:8–10, ESV)

  • Please consider my inputs if possible...1. No human is expected to be perfect. We all try our best, we falter and we get up. Solomon rightly said for, though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again, but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes. 2. Your point about demons and trembling is a point James calls out to show that even demons tremble knowing there is one G-d, but he is very clear with his emphasis on the need for works. James 2:24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 3. I agree with you that we need to rely on G-d to be faithful.
    – Yeddu
    Commented May 17, 2021 at 4:46
  • 1
    James used the term faith with a different meaning from Paul and John.
    – Perry Webb
    Commented May 17, 2021 at 9:09
  • Is this based on the original Greek translations? Please can you share the word James uses and what he meant? I don't know greek so hope you will share the equivalent English word
    – Yeddu
    Commented May 17, 2021 at 9:13
  • 1
    Their words are identical. It's bases on how they are using the words.
    – Perry Webb
    Commented May 17, 2021 at 9:38

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