Abraham—Our Spiritual Father

Abraham—Our Spiritual Father

In one cohesive whole, all Christians are saved by God’s gift of Christ’s righteousness. We look to the reading of God’s word if you join me in prayer.

Most gracious God, our heavenly Father, it is in you alone dwells the fullness of light and wisdom. And we ask them that by your Holy Spirit that you would continue to enlighten our minds to understand your word. That you would give us grace to receive it reverently and humbly. And Father, may it lead us to put our whole trust in you alone. And this we pray through Jesus, our Lord. Amen.

Reading verses one to eight. What then, shall we say, was gained by Abraham, our forefather, according to the flesh? For if Abraham was Justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the scripture say? Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness. Now, the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift, but as his due. And to the one who does not but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness. Just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one whom God counts righteousness apart from works.

Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, whose sins are covered, ‘Blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin. The War of the Lord. Thank you, God. Please be seated. Senator Schmou wants to take away your rights to long romantic walks on the beach. Senator Schmou eats puppies. He even voted to have his own grandmother removed from her quilting club. Schmou is bad for our country, bad for our state. A vote for Schmou is a vote for Pooh. Sound familiar? It’s the season right now for all the negative political acts. They’re everywhere. You can’t avoid them. Nobody likes them. So what makes them so effective that we keep getting them? They are polarizing. It turns everything into us versus them. An article titled, Is Everyone angry? Toxic Outrage Culture, Consuming Society Like Never Before. It spoke of a collective tendency to react with intense negativity to perceive transgressions. Our technology is making it worse. I appreciate how it referred to this collective reaction, because a part of what makes outreach culture, outreach culture, is it creates an us versus them. It’s polarizing. What makes us dislike Senator Schmou is that he belongs to that other terrible puppy-eating party.

He certainly has to be guilty of all those terrible things. But the negative add on our guy, that’s just a hit piece. Polarized, angry, fearful, anxious. How do we get off the crazy train? Paul lays it out for us in Romans 4. We’re justified by faith alone. It’s about justification by faith. Why? Because only this clear biblical teaching humbles us all into the same group. We’re all sinners in need of God’s gifts of grace and mercy. The us versus them, it comes from identifying whatever our group is as the good guys and that other group as the bad guys. Paul is saying, We’re all bad. There are no good guys. And yes, we’re all aware there are platform differences, to be sure. I’m talking about the disposition of our hearts. That it is here that no one can boast. I appreciate the remarks of John Newton, the wonderful author of Amazing Grace. He said, A man truly illuminated will no more despise others than blind Bartimaeus, after his own eyes were open, would take a stick and beat every blind man he met. How ludicrous the thought. Because our salvation is a gift, we cannot add anything by our efforts that makes it something we deserve or identifies us as special and different compared with everyone else.

Paul levels all humanity before the Lord. He cuts our proud hearts down. There’s no room for boasting in any special privilege or favorite nation status. All fall short of the glory of God. There are none righteous. All stand condemned before a righteous judge. The salvation that is offered to you, it comes through the person and work of Jesus Christ, not because of anything you’ve done. It’s not a wage that has been earned nor a religious act that has been performed. And now God’s work of sanctification is that process of our renewal. It flows out of and through God’s act of justification. We are justified first, but both are gracious gifts of God. The point that this is to build unity in the church, how? It does so by removing us versus them. We have the same gift, we have the same starting point. And we see that, we see the same gift given. Paul, very much, I’m sure, was the author of that great VBS song, Father Abraham had many sons. Many sons had Father Abraham, I am one of them, and so are you. That’s what he’s saying here. What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather, according to the flesh, according to biology?

You see, that was an integral part of Jewish identity was being an actual child child of Abraham. It was a point of pride, a point of nationality. And Paul goes on. He says, If Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. What does your scripture say? Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness. Paul’s quoting from Genesis 15:6, God chose the childless old man, Abraham, as a covenant partner. And this empty man was promised full descendants as numerous as the stars in the night sky. Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness. And that word counted, it’s a legal word, it’s an accounting word. It’s central to Paul’s argument here. He mentions it in verse 3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 22, 23, 24. He wants us to get the point. A legal status is counted to you. It makes you either guilty or not guilty. A financial status counted to you either puts money in your bank account or takes it away. And he says in verse 4, Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift, but his due.

And we know that your paycheck is earned. You have a legal right to it. It’s not handed to you in a gift envelope. You’re not writing thank you cards every two weeks to your boss. A gift, however, that’s not earned. You have no right to a gift. You cannot sue me for not giving you a Christmas present. Paul goes on. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness. Hear that again. The one who justifies the ungodly. I was like, Wait a minute, how can God justify the wicked? Clearly, in Exodus 23, he says, The Lord will not equip the guilty. The Lord will not justify the wicked. What we see is an exchange takes place. Someone does pay the penalty. Then Paul now uses another example from scripture from David, Psalm 32. Just as David speaks of the blessing to whom God counts righteousness apart from works, blessing ‘Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, whose sins are covered. ‘ ‘Blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sins. ‘ Now, Abraham was a positive example.

David was a negative one. Paul’s point of Psalm 32 Is that the ones who are blessed by the Lord are those who do not get the punishment they’ve earned, but those who have been given the grace they do not deserve. God grants forgiveness. He covers their sins. He does not count it against them. You think, how is that possible? I mean, if a judge acquits a guilty person, we’re rightly angry and we’re demanding that justice to actually be done. Roll back to Genesis 15. That’s where Paul started. Genesis 15, God comes to Abraham, and he makes a covenant with him. Animals are then divided in two as a sign of the oath, what would take place if this is broken, the consequences of breaking the covenant. And the animals were cut in two. So the one who violates the covenant, that would be done to him, the symbolism. And then we get this very unusual event that takes place. I’ll read it from Genesis 15. Says, When the The sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed through the pieces. On that day, the Lord made a covenant with Abraham.

Those were symbols of God alone walking through the piece. One commentator, Kyle in the Daily series, great comment. He said of this, he said, The transaction has reference to a covenant in which God came down to man. From the nature of this covenant, it followed, however, that God alone went through the pieces in a symbolic representation of himself, and not Abraham also. ‘For although a covenant always establishes a reciprocal relationship between two individuals. Yet in that covenant, the man did not stand on equality with God. But God established a relationship of fellowship by his promises, his gracious condescension to the man who is first purely a recipient, was only qualified and bound to fulfill the covenant obligation as a result of the reception of the gifts of grace. God makes the covenant, and God is willing for the maledictory oath to fall upon himself for failure of the covenant. Like these animals, if this is broken, let me be drawn and And we see that with the God man, Jesus, taking the punishment we deserve, and we are given his righteousness. Abraham couldn’t uphold his end. That’s why God walk through alone. Now, it’s very important that we don’t think of this like a swap, some prisoner exchange.

God does not swap his righteousness for my faith. That makes my faith a good work that I do in order to deserve the swap. You see, the Lord is not looking down from the highest of heaven, looking down to the muck and the mire, and he sees that I have this beautiful precious pearl of faith that brings a tear to his cheek He says, You poor little ugly duckling, I will swap my righteousness for your pearl of faith so that I can place it in my great salvation necklace that adorns my neck. And I will make you into a beautiful swan that you are deep, deep down inside. No. God justifies the wicked. It’s his free grace. The exchange is not a payment plan. My faith means is the means, it’s the channel by which God credits his righteousness. Paul is constantly saying in his letters, You have nothing to boast in. Galatians 6, Far be it for me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. If Eccesians 2, For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this, the faith, is not of your own doing. It is a gift of God, not a result of work, so that no one may boast.

You see, the pearl is Jesus. Jesus is the pearl, not your work of faith. You did not earn his righteousness by your religious performance, your religious status. And that’s good news for us because the value of the Father’s only begotten son is now counted to you. The value of Christ becomes yours. The acceptance of the Father to his Son becomes yours. And that means all are equal before the Lord, whether you’re Jew or Gentile, because all have received the same gift as Father Abraham, Jew or Gentile. And not only that, we have the same starting point. Verse 9, Paul says, Is this blessing an only for the circumcised, meaning the Jewish Christians, or also for the uncircumcised. For we say that faith is counted in Abraham as righteousness. Now, in the writings of the rabbis, they would often speak of Abraham’s 10 great works that Abraham performed, and they would always equate his faith with his circumcision. Paul is undoing that. He says in verse 10, How then was it counted to him, to Abraham? Was it before or after he was circumcised? It was not after, but it was before. Before he was circumcised.

You can see someone going, Wait a minute. Are you saying… Yes, that’s what he’s saying. He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. Verse 11. Paul wasn’t circumcised, actually, until Genesis 17, which timewise is some time later. The promise given in chapter 15, a lot goes by until chapter 17. Paul is making a point of this. He says in verse 12, to make him, Father Ham, the Father of the circumcised, who are not merely circumcised, but who also walk in the footsteps of faith that our Father Abraham had before he was circumcised. That was a bombshell for Jewish Christians. Remember back in Acts 15, some were expressly saying that Christians could not be saved unless they were circumcised. And that is what the early church debated. They said, Gentiles do not have to become Jewish in order to be saved. That made the apostle Paul hated by some of his own people for what he said. Their negative ads were, Senator Paul says that you should sin so grace may abound. He was even caught desecrating the temple with Gentiles. Paul, anti-Moses, anti-Israel.

They were saying that your religious status, it comes from being identified with the law of Moses. Circumcision was the identity marker of that status. It automatically creates an us versus them that the Lord did not intend. Because that status was still a gift of grace, and they were making it a work. And it was we’re superior to you. And Paul is saying, No, the sign came after the status change. Abel Abraham started at the same place that pagans start, where we all start. God’s gift of righteousness coming to him, the promise given to him before he did anything. And Paul takes a step further. The sign has changed. He doesn’t expressly say it here, but the New Testament makes it very clear that baptism is now the new sign and seal of what God has done through Jesus. Believers and their children are baptized. They are no longer to be circumcised. The bloody act has been transformed into a water act. Baptism then is not about your decision to follow Jesus. It’s not about your public declaration of faith. Like circumcision before you, baptism is what God has done to you. It’s a sign of his free grace extended to sinners.

You’ve been washed clean of your sins the blood of Christ who took the punishment you deserve. See, also, circumcision was given to infants. Why? Abraham believed as an adult, so why not make this an adult thing? Because it was a sign of God’s free grace as a gift to Abraham he did not earn, neither as an adult nor as the infant son Isaac. Neither of them earned this. It was a sign, a seal of God doing something on their behalf. You see, we’re constantly trying to smuggle in ways to make this about me. Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians, he’s saying, have no room for boasting They have the same spiritual Father in Abraham, the same gift, the same starting point. They are one in Christ, one in the new covenant of his blood, who have been washed and sealed with the waters of baptism, naming them as belonging to God. There’s a oneness there. It takes away all boasting, all superiority claims. It humbles all humanity. In a letter, John Newton wrote to a friend on the topic of controversy. I think it applies to many things. And this is what John Newton said. He says, As to your opponent, before you set pin to paper against him, commend him by earnest prayer to the Lord’s teaching and blessing.

This will move your heart to love and pity him. ‘ ‘If he’s a believer, the Lord loves him and bears with him, and therefore you must not despise him or treat him harshly, for the Lord bears with you. In a little while, when you meet in heaven, he will then be dear to you than the nearest friend you have upon earth now. ‘ And if he is unconverted, he is more proper and object to your compassion than your anger. Alas, he knows not what he does, but you know who has made you to differ. You are both blind by nature. Don’t hate him because the Lord is blessed to open your eyes and not his. Our part is not to strive, but in meekness to instruct those who oppose. See the heart that’s driving this? Not surprised, he wrote Amazing Grace. A sinner can’t change his own heart. A dead person in his sins can’t make himself alive or soften their heart. Jesus alone, walking through the sacrificial pieces, can do this. I have nothing to boast in other than the cross of Christ, and that changes everything. How I see the world around me, I can take off the us versus them glasses.

I can see with a new vision directed upward to a gracious God who has not counted my sins against me and who has counted, credited to my account, the righteousness of Christ. That’s a game changer. Think about it. We are swirling in a center of negativity. It just seems to be growing in our culture. This gravitational pull that’s just taking everyone in to just terrible dark, polarizing places. Here, by the power of the Holy spirit in us, Christ is able us to break free of that orbit. Just as your rocket’s breaking free of the Earth’s gravitational pull, the power of Christ takes you out of it. Not you, not me. It’s Jesus. And we don’t have to be stuck here in that pole. Wouldn’t that be a great ad? How you can be free? From the sucking of just gross darkness, polarizing anxiety and fear and anger? Can we get that on a bumper sticker? Because that’s what changes things, is Jesus. He frees us from that. And the struggle we have is our flesh that constantly wants to go back and to boast in some way that you’re terrible and I’m better than you because I have associated with a different group.

And the gospel comes in and says, You are no better because you didn’t set yourself free. That’s what Jesus did to you. And this person should be more an object of your prayer and pity, your compassion, than anything to do with your arrogance. When we confess, our arrogance is sin. We confess in our heart where we have just railed on people and have been a part of this and pulled people back into this sucking vacuum of despair and misery, which we have been set free from. Live in the good news. I don’t know what that will do in the broader culture and society. I don’t know, but I know it’ll do here for us. There’s a freedom and a joy that that brings. There’s such a need in the world around us that just is wallowing this. They’re saying, What’s different about you? How come you’re not sucked in like the rest of us? Well, let me tell you about the good news of Jesus, who’s rocketed me out of this pull, this gravitational pull of darkness, that we can now see the light and the glory and the magnificence of Jesus. The great pearl of Christ has been given to us.

And the value of Jesus becomes our value from the Father. That’s what we’re talking about. That’s what we’re sharing with one another. Pray with me. Father, as we come before you, we confess we don’t do this well. Lord, we do boast in our strength and our identities. And we ask, Lord, that you would forgive us, that your spirit would not only give us a heart of contrition, but, Father, that he would lead us along the path of Christ’s righteousness and freedom. Father, free us. Free us to joy, unspeakable joy. Set before us, Lord, the distant horizon that you are bringing forward in your son. And Father, we pray as well that you would give us a boldness, not only to proclaim, but to live in this reality. That your son would be glorified, the lives of your people, because we bear your name in our baptism. Blessed be God, forever and ever, we pray through Jesus. Amen. Please stand together.

Discaimer: This sermon text was generated by an automated transcription service.