Hebrews 11 makes it very clear that Abram (later, Abraham) exercised saving faith from the time he left his home to go wonder in Caanan. He was justified at least from the time of the call in Genesis 12.1-3 on. Yet I keep reading people
- who think that any appeal to the fact that believers are justified in various events at various times repeatedly is an attack on “the doctrine of justification, and
- who treat Genesis 15.1ff as if it was Abram’s initial act of faith by which he was justified.
The two mistakes depend on one another. (1) forces people to adopt (2) and (2) is then used to support (1).
But the whole idea is wrong. Any reading of the text that takes the sequence from Genesis 12 to Genesis 15 seriously, and that also has regard for the inspired commentary on these events in Hebrews 11, has to reckon that Genesis 15 is the record of a special test of faith–much like, though not as intense as, the test in Genesis 22.
Just as the Westminster Confession assures us that “God doth continue to forgive the sins of those that are justified,” so also the Bible teaches that he continues to reckon as righteous and vindicate those that are justified. He does not do this by means of a mere assent, as James points out so emphatically in chapter 2 of his epistle, but on a basis of a true trust in God. This trust grows and matures as it passes through tests.