ďTHE IMPORTANCE OF ABRAHAMĒ

Romans 4.1

 

INTRODUCTION:

1.   Emphasize the importance of the patriarch Abraham in the Bible and no one will dispute your assertion.  But when Abrahamís importance is noted by pastors and Bible students he is usually noted in connection with eschatology, the study of last things, those portions of Godís Word that have to do with prophecy.

2.   Who can argue that Abraham is not important to any discussion of Biblical prophecy?  After all, what God will do at the end of this age will be done to fulfill what He promised to do in the covenant He established with Abraham.

3.   What is a covenant?  A covenant is an agreement, usually formal, between two or more persons to do or not to do something specified.[1]  The kind of covenant to which I refer are those formal agreements between God and mankind, or between God and a nation, or between God and an individual.

4.   There are two kinds of covenants that God has established with people; conditional covenants that are based upon human performance and obedience to secure blessings, and unconditional covenants that are based solely upon Godís divine plan and are not dependent upon human obedience to secure blessings.

5.   The Mosaic Covenant, which God established with the children of Israel after delivering them from Egyptian bondage in the Exodus, is an agreement whereby the Israelite nation was bound to obey Godís Law as a means of securing Godís blessings.

6.   Exodus 19.1-8 reveals the terms of this agreement:

1      In the third month, when the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they into the wilderness of Sinai.

2      For they were departed from Rephidim, and were come to the desert of Sinai, and had pitched in the wilderness; and there Israel camped before the mount.

3      And Moses went up unto God, and the LORD called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel;

4      Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eaglesí wings, and brought you unto myself.

5      Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:

6      And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.  These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.

7      And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the LORD commanded him.

8      And all the people answered together, and said, All that the LORD hath spoken we will do.  And Moses returned the words of the people unto the LORD.

 

7.   It is very clear from their response to Godís proposal, when they said ďAll that the LORD hath spoken we will do,Ē that they recognized this covenantal arrangement to be contingent upon their obedience.  In other words, the arrangement would be no obedience, no blessings.

8.   Deuteronomy chapter 28, where God explains His covenant to the Jewish people, shows very clearly this conditional nature of the covenant, that blessings derived from this covenant will only be secured by obedience in accordance with this covenant:

1      And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth:

2      And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God.

3      Blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed shalt thou be in the field.

4      Blessed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy ground, and the fruit of thy cattle, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep.

5      Blessed shall be thy basket and thy store.

6      Blessed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and blessed shalt thou be when thou goest out.

7      The LORD shall cause thine enemies that rise up against thee to be smitten before thy face: they shall come out against thee one way, and flee before thee seven ways.

8      The LORD shall command the blessing upon thee in thy storehouses, and in all that thou settest thine hand unto; and he shall bless thee in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.

9      The LORD shall establish thee an holy people unto himself, as he hath sworn unto thee, if thou shalt keep the commandments of the LORD thy God, and walk in his ways.

10     And all people of the earth shall see that thou art called by the name of the LORD; and they shall be afraid of thee.

11     And the LORD shall make thee plenteous in goods, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy ground, in the land which the LORD sware unto thy fathers to give thee.

12     The LORD shall open unto thee his good treasure, the heaven to give the rain unto thy land in his season, and to bless all the work of thine hand: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, and thou shalt not borrow.

13     And the LORD shall make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath; if that thou hearken unto the commandments of the LORD thy God, which I command thee this day, to observe and to do them:

14     And thou shalt not go aside from any of the words which I command thee this day, to the right hand, or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them.

15     But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee:

16     Cursed shalt thou be in the city, and cursed shalt thou be in the field.

17     Cursed shall be thy basket and thy store.

18     Cursed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy land, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep.

19     Cursed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and cursed shalt thou be when thou goest out.

20     The LORD shall send upon thee cursing, vexation, and rebuke, in all that thou settest thine hand unto for to do, until thou be destroyed, and until thou perish quickly; because of the wickedness of thy doings, whereby thou hast forsaken me.

21     The LORD shall make the pestilence cleave unto thee, until he have consumed thee from off the land, whither thou goest to possess it.

22     The LORD shall smite thee with a consumption, and with a fever, and with an inflammation, and with an extreme burning, and with the sword, and with blasting, and with mildew; and they shall pursue thee until thou perish.

23     And thy heaven that is over thy head shall be brass, and the earth that is under thee shall be iron.

24     The LORD shall make the rain of thy land powder and dust: from heaven shall it come down upon thee, until thou be destroyed.

25     The LORD shall cause thee to be smitten before thine enemies: thou shalt go out one way against them, and flee seven ways before them: and shalt be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth.

26     And thy carcase shall be meat unto all fowls of the air, and unto the beasts of the earth, and no man shall fray them away.

27     The LORD will smite thee with the botch of Egypt, and with the emerods, and with the scab, and with the itch, whereof thou canst not be healed.

28     The LORD shall smite thee with madness, and blindness, and astonishment of heart:

29     And thou shalt grope at noonday, as the blind gropeth in darkness, and thou shalt not prosper in thy ways: and thou shalt be only oppressed and spoiled evermore, and no man shall save thee.

30     Thou shalt betroth a wife, and another man shall lie with her: thou shalt build an house, and thou shalt not dwell therein: thou shalt plant a vineyard, and shalt not gather the grapes thereof.

31     Thine ox shall be slain before thine eyes, and thou shalt not eat thereof: thine ass shall be violently taken away from before thy face, and shall not be restored to thee: thy sheep shall be given unto thine enemies, and thou shalt have none to rescue them.

32     Thy sons and thy daughters shall be given unto another people, and thine eyes shall look, and fail with longing for them all the day long: and there shall be no might in thine hand.

33     The fruit of thy land, and all thy labours, shall a nation which thou knowest not eat up; and thou shalt be only oppressed and crushed alway:

34     So that thou shalt be mad for the sight of thine eyes which thou shalt see.

35     The LORD shall smite thee in the knees, and in the legs, with a sore botch that cannot be healed, from the sole of thy foot unto the top of thy head.

36     The LORD shall bring thee, and thy king which thou shalt set over thee, unto a nation which neither thou nor thy fathers have known; and there shalt thou serve other gods, wood and stone.

37     And thou shalt become an astonishment, a proverb, and a byword, among all nations whither the LORD shall lead thee.

38     Thou shalt carry much seed out into the field, and shalt gather but little in; for the locust shall consume it.

39     Thou shalt plant vineyards, and dress them, but shalt neither drink of the wine, nor gather the grapes; for the worms shall eat them.

40     Thou shalt have olive trees throughout all thy coasts, but thou shalt not anoint thyself with the oil; for thine olive shall cast his fruit.

41     Thou shalt beget sons and daughters, but thou shalt not enjoy them; for they shall go into captivity.

42     All thy trees and fruit of thy land shall the locust consume.

43     The stranger that is within thee shall get up above thee very high; and thou shalt come down very low.

44     He shall lend to thee, and thou shalt not lend to him: he shall be the head, and thou shalt be the tail.

45     Moreover all these curses shall come upon thee, and shall pursue thee, and overtake thee, till thou be destroyed; because thou hearkenedst not unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which he commanded thee:

46     And they shall be upon thee for a sign and for a wonder, and upon thy seed for ever.

47     Because thou servedst not the LORD thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things;

48     Therefore shalt thou serve thine enemies which the LORD shall send against thee, in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of all things: and he shall put a yoke of iron upon thy neck, until he have destroyed thee.

49     The LORD shall bring a nation against thee from far, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flieth; a nation whose tongue thou shalt not understand;

50     A nation of fierce countenance, which shall not regard the person of the old, nor shew favour to the young:

51     And he shall eat the fruit of thy cattle, and the fruit of thy land, until thou be destroyed: which also shall not leave thee either corn, wine, or oil, or the increase of thy kine, or flocks of thy sheep, until he have destroyed thee.

52     And he shall besiege thee in all thy gates, until thy high and fenced walls come down, wherein thou trustedst, throughout all thy land: and he shall besiege thee in all thy gates throughout all thy land, which the LORD thy God hath given thee.

53     And thou shalt eat the fruit of thine own body, the flesh of thy sons and of thy daughters, which the LORD thy God hath given thee, in the siege, and in the straitness, wherewith thine enemies shall distress thee:

54     So that the man that is tender among you, and very delicate, his eye shall be evil toward his brother, and toward the wife of his bosom, and toward the remnant of his children which he shall leave:

55     So that he will not give to any of them of the flesh of his children whom he shall eat: because he hath nothing left him in the siege, and in the straitness, wherewith thine enemies shall distress thee in all thy gates.

56     The tender and delicate woman among you, which would not adventure to set the sole of her foot upon the ground for delicateness and tenderness, her eye shall be evil toward the husband of her bosom, and toward her son, and toward her daughter,

57     And toward her young one that cometh out from between her feet, and toward her children which she shall bear: for she shall eat them for want of all things secretly in the siege and straitness, wherewith thine enemy shall distress thee in thy gates.

58     If thou wilt not observe to do all the words of this law that are written in this book, that thou mayest fear this glorious and fearful name, THE LORD THY GOD;

59     Then the LORD will make thy plagues wonderful, and the plagues of thy seed, even great plagues, and of long continuance, and sore sicknesses, and of long continuance.

60     Moreover he will bring upon thee all the diseases of Egypt, which thou wast afraid of; and they shall cleave unto thee.

61     Also every sickness, and every plague, which is not written in the book of this law, them will the LORD bring upon thee, until thou be destroyed.

62     And ye shall be left few in number, whereas ye were as the stars of heaven for multitude; because thou wouldest not obey the voice of the LORD thy God.

63     And it shall come to pass, that as the LORD rejoiced over you to do you good, and to multiply you; so the LORD will rejoice over you to destroy you, and to bring you to nought; and ye shall be plucked from off the land whither thou goest to possess it.

64     And the LORD shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other; and there thou shalt serve other gods, which neither thou nor thy fathers have known, even wood and stone.

65     And among these nations shalt thou find no ease, neither shall the sole of thy foot have rest: but the LORD shall give thee there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind:

66     And thy life shall hang in doubt before thee; and thou shalt fear day and night, and shalt have none assurance of thy life:

67     In the morning thou shalt say, Would God it were even! and at even thou shalt say, Would God it were morning! for the fear of thine heart wherewith thou shalt fear, and for the sight of thine eyes which thou shalt see.

68     And the LORD shall bring thee into Egypt again with ships, by the way whereof I spake unto thee, Thou shalt see it no more again: and there ye shall be sold unto your enemies for bondmen and bondwomen, and no man shall buy you.

 

9.   I will grant that this is a long passage to read, but it clearly shows the conditional nature of the Mosaic covenant, and the requirement for obedience to secure blessings from God.  Such is not the case, however, with unconditional covenants, such as the covenant that God made with Abraham.

10. There are a number of explicit unconditional covenants found in Godís Word, with each covenant varying in its importance and impact on manís condition.  In each case the formula differs from the conditional covenant with its ďif you will, I willĒ arrangement.  The unconditional covenant format is always ďI will,Ē with no provision for obedience on the part of the other party to the covenant.  Thus, God alone assumes responsibility for the fulfillment of the unconditional covenants He has established.

11. Far and away the most important of these unconditional covenants is the so-called Abraham Covenant.  Because the Abrahamic Covenant is so extensive, let me read a footnote from the Scofield Reference Bible to concisely explain its major features:

Abrahamic Covenant as formed (Gen. xii.1-4) and confirmed (Gen. xiii.14-17; xv.1-7; xvii.1-8) is in seven distinct parts:

(1) ďI will make of thee a great nation.Ē - Fulfilled in a threefold way: (a) In a natural posterityó ďas the dust of the earthĒ (Gen. xiii.16; John viii.37), viz, the Hebrew people. (b) In a spiritual posterity óďlook now toward heaven . . . so shall thy seed beĒ (John viii.39; Rom. iv.16, 17; ix. 7,8; Gal. iii. 6, 7, 29), viz, all men of faith, whether Jew or Gentile. (c) Fulfilled also through Ishmael (Gen. xvii.18-20).

(2) ďI will bless thee.Ē Fulfilled in two ways: (a) temporally (Gen. xiii.14, 15, 17; xv.18; xxiv. 34, 35); (b) spiritually (Gen. xv.6; John viii.56).

(3) ďAnd make thy name great.Ē Abrahamís is one of the universal names.

(4) ďAnd thou shalt be a blessingĒ (Gal. iii.13, 14).

(5) ďI will bless them that bless thee.Ē In fulfillment closely related to the next clause.

(6) ďAnd curse him that curseth thee.Ē Wonderfully fulfilled in the history of the dispersion. It has invariably fared ill with the people who have persecuted the Jew ówell with those who have protected him. The future will still more remarkably prove this principle (Deut. xxx.7 ; Isa. xiv. 1, 2; Joel iii.1-8; Mic. v.7-9; Hag. ii. 22; Zech. xiv.1-3; Mt. xxv.40, 45).

(7) ďIn thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.Ē This is the great evangelic promise fulfilled in Abrahamís Seed, Christ (Gal. iii.16; John viii.56-58). It brings into greater definiteness the promise of the Adamic Covenant concerning the Seed of the woman (Gen. iii.15).[2]

 

12. Among dispensationalists, which is to say among those of us who believe the Bible teaches a pretribulational Rapture of church age believers seven years before the premillennial second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ to earth in power and great glory, Abraham is a prominent and pivotal figure in human history, second only to the Lord Jesus Christ Himself in prophetic significance.

13. Therein lies the problem I am addressing this morning.  With Abraham playing such a significant role in the Bible because of his connection to the Abrahamic Covenant and his association with things prophetical, another association of Abraham is sometimes minimized or overlooked entirely by pastors and Christians; his association with what the Bible teaches about faith.

14. It is important to point out, however, that Abrahamís association with the subject of faith in the Bible is actually more important than his association with the covenant named for him.  Why so?  Good men have disagreed with each otherís understanding of the implications of the Abrahamic Covenant, but a miscue concerning Abrahamís relationship to the Bibleís teachings about faith has eternal consequences.

15. In last Sunday morningís message from Godís Word, I brought to your attention a number of verses in which Abraham is referred to as ďour father AbrahamĒ or ďAbraham our father.Ē  Those passages showed that Abraham must be recognized as being inextricably linked to any discussion of faith in the Bible.

16. This morning I want to show you the importance of Abraham in Scripture, but not his importance because of his connection to prophecy and the Abrahamic Covenant that God established with him.  Instead, I want to show you the importance of Abraham because of the role he plays in Godís Word as the prototype of a man who has faith.

17. Our text for today is Romans 4.1, which clearly shows Abraham to be the prototype of a man who has faith.  Turn to that verse and stand for the reading of Godís Word:  ďWhat shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?Ē  This speaks to Abrahamís discovery of the importance of faith when dealing with God.

18. What is a prototype?  Websterís New Universal Unabridged Dictionary defines ďprototypeĒ as follows:  1. the original or model on which something is based or formed.  2. someone or something that serves to illustrate the typical qualities of a class; model; exemplar: She is the prototype of a student activist.  3. something analagous to another thing of a later period.Ē[3]

19. Using this definition, Abraham the patriarch most definitely serves as the prototype of a man who has faith.  This is seen in five ways:

 

1A.   First, ABRAHAM WAS THE FIRST MAN REVEALED IN SCRIPTURE TO HAVE FAITH

1B.    I mentioned it last week, but it will serve well to remind you of it again today.  Abraham is the first man in Godís Word to be associated with faith.  The first mention principle in hermeneutics shows that in the mind of God there is a link between the man Abraham and the doctrine of faith.[4]

2B.    In Genesis 15.6, we read, ďAnd he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.Ē  No matter how prominently Abraham figures in anyoneís eschatological system, that theology which seeks to understand prophetic and future things foretold in the Bible, the connection of this friend of God to the righteousness which is by faith must be more important.  Why so?  Because faith more directly relates to an individualís well-being than does any system of theology concerning prophecy.

3B.    Notice, also, that this verse does not suggest that Abraham was a righteous man.  What this verse declares is that God counted Abrahamís belief in Him for righteousness.  This speaks directly to the issue of the righteousness which is by faith.  That, my friend, is profound, making Abraham, if for no other reason, an important man.

 

2A.   Next, ABRAHAM WAS IMPORTANT BECAUSE HE WAS THE KEY FIGURE IN PAULíS EXPLANATION OF JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH TO THE ROMANS

1B.    Turn to Paulís letter to the Romans.  A little background is in order before we read from Scripture.  Paul wrote to the Romans to introduce himself to Christians who had never met him.  His desire was to visit Rome on his way to Spain, and he sent this letter to inform them concerning the doctrinal foundation on which his ministry was built.  His purpose?  To secure both their prayers and their financial support.  Paul was a true missionary.

2B.    The first half of this letter to the Romans is built around two themes, the sinnerís need for justification and the nature of the justification the sinner needs.  In Romans, Paul explains that the nature of justification is such that it can only be acquired by faith.  And the prototypical example of justification by faith that Paul used to illustrate this truth?  Abraham.

3B.    Though the entire 4th chapter of Romans is given over to illustrating Abrahamís faith, with a few verses about David tossed in, let me read only the first five verses of the chapter to give you an idea of how Paul makes use of the example of Abraham:

1      What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?

2      For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.

3      For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.

4      Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.

5      But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.

 

4B.    If a person misunderstands Abrahamís faith he makes a very serious mistake, indeed, since the way Abraham was justified by faith is the way everyone who is justified by faith is justified by faith.  If you are not justified by faith in precisely the fashion Abraham was justified then you are not justified, you are still in your sins, you are lost.  That makes Abraham a very important man.

 

3A.   Third, ABRAHAM WAS THE KEY FIGURE IN PAULíS DEFENSE OF JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH TO THE GALATIANS

1B.    Turn to Paulís letter to the Galatian churches.  Paulís letter to the Galatians was written for a different reason than his letter to the Romans.  Romans was written to introduce his ministry and doctrinal position to the Romans in the hopes they would support his efforts to reach Spain for Christ.  Galatians, on the other hand, was written to Paulís own converts ďto counter judaizing false teachers who were undermining the central NT doctrine of justification by faithĒ that he had taught them.[5]

2B.    Look for Abraham as we read Galatians 3.6-29:

6      Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.

7      Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.

8      And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.

9      So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.

10     For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.

11     But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.

12     And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.

13     Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:

14     That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

15     Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though it be but a manís covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto.

16     Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.

17     And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.

18     For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise.

19     Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.

20     Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one.

21     Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.

22     But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.

23     But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.

24     Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.

25     But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.

26     For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.

27     For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

28     There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

29     And if ye be Christís, then are ye Abrahamís seed, and heirs according to the promise.

 

3B.    Is Abraham important to understanding this thing called faith?  You would be hard pressed to persuade the Galatian Christians otherwise, especially after reading what Paul said to them.  Amen?

 

4A.   Fourth, ABRAHAM WAS THE MOST PROMINENT ILLUSTRATION OF LIVING BY FAITH TO THE HEBREWS

1B.    You are familiar with Hebrews chapter 11, the faith hall of fame.  Beginning with Abelís faith, in Hebrews 11.4, and ending up 37 verses later with unnamed saints who were destitute, afflicted, and tormented, the chapter illustrates how Godís servants obtained a good report and pleased God by faith.  Remarkably, of the 37, twelve verses are taken up with Abraham.  That is more than one third!

2B.    Beginning with Hebrews 11.8, read with me through verse 19:

8      By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.

9      By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:

10     For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

11     Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.

12     Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable.

13     These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.

14     For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.

15     And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.

16     But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.

17     By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,

18     Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called:

19     Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.

 

3B.    Is Abraham, though his life is intertwined with Saraís, Isaacís and Jacobís, a prominent illustration of living by faith?  No doubt about it.

 

5A.   Finally, ABRAHAM WAS THE KEY FIGURE IN JAMESí EXPLANATION OF THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN FAITH AND WORKS

1B.    The relationship between faith and works has been a subject of dispute for 2000 years.  There are some who insist that works are a necessary compliment to faith as a means of securing justification.  Paulís letters to the Romans and the Galatians argues against that error, using Abraham as an example of justification by faith apart from works of righteousness.  It was on this single issue that Martin Luther and the Protestants parted company with the Roman Catholics.

2B.    On the other hand, there are some who insist that in addition to faith being sufficient in and of itself to secure justification, faith is also sufficient in and of itself to demonstrate vitality and life.  In the letter written by James we are shown that understanding to be faulty.  Though faith alone saves, faith that is alone does not save.  A faith that is real and saving is sufficient in itself to secure salvation.  But a faith that is real and saving is also a faith that will accompany genuine salvation with works.  Thus, a do-nothing Christian is really no Christian at all.

3B.    And who does James use as a prime example of this truth?  Abraham.  If you will keep in mind that Abraham was justified by faith in Genesis 15.6, and the passage we are about to read deals with an experience that occurred in Genesis 22, more than fifteen years later, then you will see how Abraham is used to illustrate the truth that genuine faith will produce works in a believerís life, showing his faith to be vital and alive.

4B.    Read James 2.14-24 with me:

14     What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?

15     If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,

16     And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?

17     Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

18     Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.

19     Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.

20     But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?

21     Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?

22     Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?

23     And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.

24     Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.

 

5B.    The lesson that Abraham teaches us here is that faith that saves is always faith that is accompanied by works.  Faith that is real is always faith that will change the way a man lives.  Faith that claims to trust God will always be accompanied by a visible demonstration that God is being trusted.  And if you have a faith that does not produce a corresponding change in the way you live . . . then the faith is not real.  James would describe it as dead faith.  Faith that is alone and without accompanying works is dead, being alone.

 

CONCLUSION:

1.   The purpose todayís message has not been to teach doctrine.  We skimmed over far too many doctrinal passages to entertain any hope of success in teaching doctrine.

2.   The purpose of todayís message has been to establish, with an avalanche of supporting Scripture, that Abraham is a profoundly important figure in Godís economy, beyond the importance he plays in Godís covenants and in Bible prophecy.

3.   If the just shall life by faith (and the Bible says again and again that the just do live by faith) then father Abraham is profoundly important as our Scriptural prototype of living by faith.

4.   Abraham was the first man mentioned in the Bible to believe in God.  He is the key figure to illustrate Paulís explanation to the Romans of justification by faith.  He is the key figure to illustrate Paulís defense to the Galatians of the doctrine of justification by faith.  He is the most significant of the numerous illustrations of living by faith found in Hebrews.  And he is the primary example used by James in his letter as an example of genuine faith producing corroborating works in the genuine believerís life.

5.   Is Abraham important to our study of faith?  Yes, he is.  To study faith without studying Abrahamís faith is a mistake.  To try to understand faith without seeking to understand Abrahamís faith is foolish.  When it comes to faith the importance of Abraham cannot be overestimated.


[1] Websterís New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1996), page 465.

[2] See footnote for Genesis 15.18 from The First Scofield Reference Bible, (Iowa Falls: World Bible Publishers, 1986), pages 24-25.

[3] Websterís New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1996), page 1555.

[4] J. Edwin Hartill, Principles of Biblical Hermeneutics, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1947), page 70.

[5] See introduction to Galatians from John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1997), page 1786.

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