Friday, February 26, 2016

Mystery Jerusalem Rising Ch 3 - Abraham - the Pre-Gospel preached

While God communicated with people on an individual basis since Adam, it is with Abraham that the history begins in earnest. When God called Abraham, he called him not only as an individual but as the father of the people of God. Consider the call of Abraham:
“Get out of your country,From your family And from your father’s house,To a land that I will show you.I will make you a great nation;I will bless you And make your name great;And you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
- Genesis 12:1-3

God sought to both bless Abraham and make him a blessing. Abraham was to be a blessing to all of the families of the earth. There are two lessons often missed by those who study this passage. These are lessons which will be revisited throughout the remainder of this book. The first is that Jews missed the purpose of the Abrahamic covenant and turned it into a self-absorbed obsession. The second is that Abraham does indeed become a blessing to all of the families of the earth. He does this through his descendant, Jesus Christ, who “…redeemed us to God by Your bloodout of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth.” (Rev 5:9-10)

Eph 2:8-9 reveals two administrations of God: grace and faith. This passage tells us that salvation is “by grace through faith – and that [faith] not of yourselves.” What this text is saying is that God’s grace is the foundation of salvation and faith is the means that God ordained that man is to receive grace. Both of these administrations are manifested in the life of Abraham. While Abraham was not given specifically bio-graphical information about Jesus Christ, he was taught the core elements of the gospel almost two thousand years before it was revealed in the New Testament. Christ Himself is witness to the fact that Abraham received the gospel in advance when He said “Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad (John 8:56)”

Abraham saw that God’s grace, His provision, was the basis of salvation. God once tested Abraham by telling him to sacrifice Isaac. When Isaac asked Abraham “where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham replied “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” Abraham understood that salvation is by grace while his contemporaries were pursuing salvation by works and useless rituals.
Then He said, ‘Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you…’

“So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of them went together. But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, ‘My father!’And he said, ‘Here I am, my son.’Then he said, ‘Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?’And Abraham said, ‘My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.’So the two of them went together.
 “Then they came to the place of which God had told him. And Abraham built an altar there and placed the wood in order; and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, upon the wood. And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.
“But the Angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’So he said, ‘Here I am.’ And He said, ‘Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.’ Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son. And Abraham called the name of the place, The-Lord-Will-Provide; as it is said to this day, ‘In the Mount of the Lord it shall be provided.’ ”
- Genesis 22:2,6-14

The immediate provision for Abraham was a ram, but Abraham believed for a lamb. This foreshadows the coming of Christ as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

Abraham became the prototype for salvation by faith. Gen 15 records God commencing his covenant with Abraham. God gave Abraham a promise “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them…So shall your descendants be.”(Gen 15:5) In verse 6, it is written he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.”  God counted Abraham’s faith as righteousness. Abraham is the prototype for everyone to follow. Faith was established by God as the foundational method for people to attain righteousness.

In verse 6, it is written that Abraham (Abram) “believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.”  God counts one’s faith as righteousness. This is called in the New Testament Justification by faith. What does the Bible mean when it says that we are justified by faith? What happens in the Court of God. The Reformers taught that justification was merely a legal process (positional righteousness) without any connection to actual righteousness, but there are difficulties with that view. The Biblical teaching is that justification by faith follows similar principles to those involved in buying a house. Why?  God is buying back his creatures that were lost in sin.

There is a transaction that takes place when God justifies us. Faith is the pledge of ourselves to God. Through faith we pledge that we will follow Him and God gives us an earnest deposit-The Holy Spirit. Just as the buyer of a house pays earnest money to hold the property until the deal can be finalized God gives us the Holy Spirit to seal the deal on what He is buying-US
“Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.”
-2 Corinthians 1:22 KJV

“Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.”
- 2 Corinthians 5:5 KJV

“To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.  In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;  Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence;  Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:  That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:  In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:  That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.  In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,  Which is the  earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.”
-Ephesians 1:6-14 KJV

When a buyer gives earnest money, the seller commits to hold or reserve the property for the buyer until the deal is final. What does this mean for justification by faith? Since we must come to God by faith, faith is our pledge in the transaction. When the buyer-in this case God-pays the earnest -We must pledge our lives to God as His property. God then plants into us the Holy Spirit, who works in us so that faith becomes outwardly expressed as works of righteousness

Justification by Faith Prelude to Righteous Living
The Protestant Reformers taught that Justification by Faith was merely legal or declared righteousness without any connection to righteous living. This is false but there is a kernel of Truth: God counts us as righteous before we do any works. However, the Justice of God bars God from declaring one righteous if there no corresponding righteousness. Even by human standards a judge would be viewed as corrupt or treasonous if he were to grant amnesty to someone who was a habitual criminal who then continued to commit crimes after he was pardoned.

If the idea of a human judge declaring one just without regard to the law or the fact is outrageous then it is blasphemy to attribute that to God. Justification by faith must uphold God's Law and correspond to actual facts. Something must count as righteousness in order for a just God to declare one righteous. If a man is not justified by works, then what counts as righteousness?
And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.”
- Genesis 15:6

It is faith that counts as righteousness. Part of God’s grace is that He has given everyone a measure of faith. Faith is the seed of righteousness. When God sees that righteousness in seed form in one’s faith, He counts it as the mature righteousness that will emerge from it. We are justified by faith alone before we do any works, but the seed of those works are embedded in that faith are the works God has called us to do. This seed is the Holy Spirit given as earnest payment for us. The Holy Spirit “works in you [the believer] both to will and to do for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13).”  This is why Jesus said that faith is the work God requires:
“ ‘Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.’ Then they said to Him, ‘What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.’ ”
-John 6:27-29

 If faith is the work God requires, then the nature of living faith is the cause of works. Living faith is a pipeline through which the Holy Spirit works. James describes how faith works.

“ What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?  If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?  Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

“But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.  You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!  But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?  Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?  Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?  And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’And he was called the friend of God. 24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.

25 Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”
- James 2:14-26

James makes an analogy between faith without works and a dead body. According to this analogy, works is the spirit of living faith. The works that are the spirit of living faith are not the mature, outward works but righteousness in seed form. This is the Holy Spirit given as earnest to empower that faith to accomplish the works God has prepared (Eph 2:9). James describes this action as faith working together with works, meaning seed-form righteousness, to accomplish outward works. This process fulfills the implications of justification by faith. This is why James says of Abraham “And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ ”

Compare Gen 15:6 which says
“And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.”

With Gen 26:2-5 which says
“Then the Lord appeared to him and said: ‘Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land of which I shall tell you. 3 Dwell in this land, and I will be with you and bless you; for to you and your descendants I give all these lands, and I will perform the oath which I swore to Abraham your father.  And I will make your descendants multiply as the stars of heaven; I will give to your descendants all these lands; and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed;  because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.’ ”
Gen 15:6 describes the beginning of faith. God’s declaration that the believer is righteous, apart from any works requires that God “works in you [the believer] both to will and to do for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13).”  God’s declaration that Abraham was righteous resulted in God’s intervention in a chain of events that resulted in Abraham’s obedience, obedience that confirmed the covenant.

Abraham father of those who believe
One of the mistakes that the Jews, and many modern Christians, make is the thinking that the covenants are automatically extended to whatever group they reckon as the children of Abraham. The Jews, in particular, believed that they automatically inherited the promises given to Abraham. This was based upon the promise that the covenant with Abraham was with both Abraham and his descendants. God, however, has a different idea. Let’s consider this passage in Genesis. 

“Then God said to Abraham, ‘As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall beher name.  And I will bless her and also give you a son by her; then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall be from her.’

“Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, ‘Shall a child be born to a man who is one hundred years old? And shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?’ And Abraham said to God, “Oh, that Ishmael might live before You!”

“Then God said: ‘No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him. And as for Ishmael, I have heard you. Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall beget twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this set time next year.’ Then He finished talking with him, and God went up from Abraham.” 

-Genesis  17:15-22

When God said that Abraham’s covenant would apply to his descendants, He was not altering his genetic to pass on a biological trait to his children. We see clearly from this passage that mere paternity match was not enough. Ishmael was Abraham’s biological son, but he was flat rejected from inheriting the covenant. Isaac was to be the heir to the Abrahamic covenant.

Even with Isaac, it was not an automatic path put into his DNA that assured that he would actually receive this blessing. The Lord promised Abraham that “My covenant I will establish with Isaac.” God will establish the Abrahamic covenant with Isaac as His covenant with Isaac. The words ‘I will’ is also future tense. The Abrahamic covenant has not yet been confirmed in Isaac’s life. Isaac must embrace the Abrahamic covenant as his own covenant with God. As Abraham embraced his covenant with God through faith, so Isaac must also through faith embrace covenant with God. 

While Isaac was Abraham’s biological son, in terms of the covenant Isaac became the son of Abraham through faith. Because faith is the path to legally recognized relationship to Abraham in terms of the covenant, we can also come to Abraham through faith. I have more on this in chapter 10. In the next chapter, I will show that Abraham’s faith was just the beginning of God’s dealings with his people. Abraham’s obedience was not perfect, and it became necessary for God to bring about the next phase of His plan.

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