Covenant Words
Covenant Words

Episode · 6 years ago

Christian Patriarchs (Romans 9:4-5)

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Rev. Christopher Chelpka

I'm going to have you sit this morning as I actually have a longer passage to read than is in your bulletin's going to continue in Romans nine, four through five, but after reading that I'm going to read a longest chapter in the book of acts, and I'll explain why in just a moment. I'm, as you're, turning to Romans nine, versus, for and five. Of course, if you've been with us for the last several weeks know that we've been moving through these verses. I'm sort of Noun by Noun and thinking and considering what it is that God has given to his people. And Paul says, there are these things that belong to the Israelites and we've been considering each one of them. Today we consider this word Patriarchs, or father's, and in doing so I want to focus on Stephens speech and acts seven and consider what that has to say about the Patriarchs. Stephen has actually quite a lot to say which will help us to understand what Paul means here and how things we ought to conclude from it. So, with that brief introduction, let's hear Romans nine, versus four and five. They are Israelites and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship and the promises. To Them Belong the Patriarchs and from their race, according to the Flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Men. Now we turn to acts chapter seven to hear a Stephen's speech. For those of you who aren't very familiar with the Old Testament, this is your golden moment. Stephen here in this speech gives an overview of the entire Old Testament. So that's why I say it's a little long, but it's a lot shorter than the old testament is. We have just one chapter here. Acts Chapter Seven, Stephen Thinks about who the fathers are of Israel and their relationship to God. You remember that Stephen was one of these early Christians greatly blessed by God. He was doing various signs and miracles, and the Jews, who had crucified Jesus, were not happy about this. They spread lies and false witnesses, brought him in before a council and demand him to speak. In Verse Fifteen of Chapter Six we read and gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel. Can you imagine? Now? Here's what Stephen says in Acts Chapter Seven. And the high priest said, are these things so? And Stephen said, brothers and fathers, hear me. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Harn, and said to him, go out from your land and from your kindred and go into the land that I will show you. Then he went out from the land of the Chaldeans and lived in Harn, and after his father died, God removed him from there into the land in which you are now living. Yet he gave him no inheritance in it, not even a foot's length, but promised to give it to him as a possession and to his offspring after him, though he had no child, and God spoke to this effect that his offspring would be sojourners in a land belonging to others who would enslave them and afflict them for four hundred years. But I will judge the nation that they serve, said God, and after that they shall come out and place me in this place. And he gave...

...him the covenant of Circumcision. And so Abraham became the father of Isaac and circumcised him on the eighth day, and Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob of the Twelve Patriarchs, and the Patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt. But God was with him and rescued him out of all his afflictions and gave him favor and wisdom before Pharaoh, King of Egypt, who made him ruler over Egypt and over all his household. Now there came a famine throughout all Egypt and Canaan with great affliction, and our fathers could find no food. But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent out our fathers on their first visit, and on the second visit Joseph Made himself known to his brothers and Joseph's family became known to Pharaoh, and Joseph sent and summoned Jacob, his father and all his kindred, seventy five persons in all. And Jacob went down into Egypt and he died, he and our fathers, and they were carried back to Shechem and laid in the tomb that Abraham had bought for a sum of silver from the sons of Hamor in Shechem. But as the time of the promise drew near which God had granted to Abraham, the people increased and multiplied in Egypt until there arose over Egypt another king who did not know Joseph. He dealt shrewdly with our race and forced our fathers to expose their infants so that they would not be kept alive. At this time Moses was born and he was beautiful in God's sight, and he was brought up for three months in his father's house. And when he was exposed, Fay rose daughter adopted him and brought him up as her own son. And Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and he was mighty in his words and deeds. When he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brothers, the children of Israel, and, seeing one of them being wrong, he defended the oppressed man and avenged him by striking down the Egyptian. He supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand, but they did not understand and on the following day he appeared to them as they were quarreling and tried to reconcile them, saying, men, you are brothers, why do you wrong each other? But the man who was wronging his neighbor thrust him aside, saying who made you a ruler and judge over us? Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday? At this retort, Moses fled and became an exile in the land of Midian, where he became the father of two sons. Now, when forty years had passed, an angel appeared to him in the Wilderness of Mount Sinai. In a flame of fire in a Bush. When Moses saw it, he was amazed at the sight and as he drew near to look, there came the voice of the Lord. I am the God of your father's the God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob, and Moses trembled and did not dare to look. Then the Lord said to him, take off the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and I have heard their groaning, and I have come down to deliver them, and now come I will send you to Egypt. This Moses whom they rejected, saying who made you a ruler and a judge? This man God sent as both ruler and redeemer by the hand of an angel who appeared to him in the Bush. This man led them out, performing wonders and signs in Egypt and at the Red Sea and in the Wilderness for forty years. And this...

...is the Moses who said to the Israelites, God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. This is the one who was in the congregation, in the Wilderness, with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our fathers, he received living oracles to give to us. Our fathers refused to obey him, but thrust him aside, and in their hearts they turned to Egypt, sang to Aran. Make for US gods who will go before us. As for this Moses, who let us out of the let us out from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him and the cat. They made a calf in those days and offered a sacrifice to the idol and were rejoicing in the works of their hands. But God turned away and gave them over to worship the host of Heaven at is, as it is written in the book of the Prophets. Did you bring to me slain beasts and sacrifices? During the forty years in the Wilderness, Oh house of Israel, you took up the tent of Moloch and a star of your God. Refen the images that you made to worship, and I will send you into exile beyond Babylon. Our Father's had the tent of witness in the Wilderness, just as he who spoke to Moses directed him to make it according to the pattern that he had seen. Our Father's, in turn, brought it in with Joshua when they dispossessed the nations that God drove out before our fathers. So it was until the days of David who found favor in the sight of God and asked to find a dwelling place for the God of Jacob, but it was Solomon who built a house for him. Yet the most high does not dwell in houses made by hands. As the Prophet says, heaven is my throne and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me? Says the Lord or what is the place of my rest? Did Not my hand make all these things? You stiff necked people, uncircumcised in your heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit, as your father's did. So do you. Which of you, which of the Prophets, did your father's not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the rock coming of the righteous one, whom you have now betrayed and murdered. You who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it? Now, when they heard these things, they were enraged and they ground their teeth at him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus Standing at the right hand of God, and he said, behold, I see the heavens opened and the son of man standing at the right hand of God. But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him, and the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit and, falling to his knees. He cried out with a loud voice, Lord, do not hold this sin against them. And when he had said this, he fell asleep and Saul approved of his execution. This ends God's word to us. May He bless it. This saul is the same Paul who wrote Romans Nine, four through five. That's a significant thing, I think. This Saul,...

...who unlikely heard this speech and was involved in this whole event, was there and Heard Stephens Speaking about the Patriarchs. He heard Stephen Talk about these promises and blessings that God had poured out on the Fathers, on the Patriarchs of Israel, but he also heard how the father these same fathers, over and over and over again, refused God and refused to obey him. Instead of receiving the promises, instead of enjoying those blessings, they turned away. And Saul was there participating, perhaps even enjoying, the things that were going on, the stoning of Stephen, approving of his execution. By the time, though, he writes Romans nine versus four and five, Paul Saul is a very different man. He understands things in a different way. He understands the Patriarchs not just in his way here that he belonged to them, as a child of Abraham is one belonging to their race. But he understood the promises that were given to them, and that's the place that I want to start this morning. Who Were these patriarchs? What distinguished them from any other father? The word there that Paul uses is potter father. Indeed, you could translate it father, and if you do that it might bring a kind of confusion, which is why English translations use the Word Patriarch. Because if you say to them, belong the fathers, well, what's so important about that? Who of us here doesn't have a father? All of us do, all of us have fathers. To all of us belong a father. So what does Paul mean when he says to them belong the fathers? He has a particular group of people in mind, and he has in mind the people that Stephen spoke about and that we heard about as he recounts this history, particularly Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. What was important about these people? What is it that distinguished them from all the rest? Well, as Steve and puts it, it was these promises. It all begins when God goes to Abraham and speaks to him and God calls him out of the land he belonged to into another land, and he promised Abraham many things, many things. He promised him children, he promised him land. He promised that he would be great, that God would make him a blessing to all the nations. He promised these things to Abraham and he promised them in a kind of unconditional way. He said, Abraham, I'm giving these things to you. And then, even in a vision, God, I'm goes through a kind of ceremony where these animals are cut apart and God walks through them and essentially as saying, if I don't fulfill these promises, may these cut animals represent what will happen to me? Of course that's not going to happen to God, because God keeps his promises. Well, this is what he says to Abraham, but it's not just to Abraham, as I mentioned, it's to Abraham and his offspring. Over and over again throughout the Old Testament we see that it's Abraham and it's offspring, Abraham and his offspring. You might understand the significance of that if you imagine what it would be like to be born into the most powerful family in a small town. Imagine you're born into a town...

...where your dad owns the grocery and he's the president of the bank and he's been serving as mayor for the last fifteen years, and your uncle is in charge of the feed store and your other uncle is in charge of of the postal system and every aspect of the town your family is involved in and you're born into that. What does that mean? That means you're born into all kinds of privilege and blessing and inheritance and power. That's what it meant to be a child of Abraham. Imagine if Your Dad, Imagine Your Isaac and Your Dad. You're growing up and as you you grow up, your parents tell them tell you things, important things, things that have happened in their life, things that are meaningful to you. Imagine that your father, whatever his name may be, imagine that your father sat you down at the dinner table and said, son, I need to tell you something important. I know we're living in tense and I know there aren't very many children here, but God has promised to me to give us this great land and that's going to be yours, and God has promised to be our God and to protect us and to watch over US and to keep us and bless us forever and ever. I would change your life, wouldn't it? Even more than if God had said to you or if your father came and said to you, son, I want to tell you that we're millionaires, we're going to be okay and you're going to be okay. It's much bigger than that. It's a much bigger announcement than that, because Abraham is given not just temporary earthly blessings, but eternal, everlasting spiritual ones. That's what it meant to be an Isaac and a Jacob and a Dan and a Reuben and a Levite, all of these men, all of these Patriarchs, who are born under this great promise. That's why Paul is proud to be a Jew, rightfully so, and that's why in Romans Nine, when he speaks to the Jews, he says this belongs to you. The Patriarchs belong to you. In America, especially if you've been here for many generations, we often don't think in these kinds of terms, or if we do, the it's not often seems like nation and and nation. Often trump's a family or race. At least in some instances here, family and race are focused on. He's saying, not only are you a nation that I've covenanted with, not only have I given you a law and a worship and these promises, but you are a family. You belong to a father other to you, Jews Belong the Patriarchs. To them that meant that they were themselves the blessing God promised Abraham Children. And if you're a Jew here, you are you are the present, you are the gift. It also meant to be recipients of the blessing, inheritors of God, of the land of the promised Christ. It also meant to have us right to spiritual blessings. Out of all the peoples of the world, God chose this particular people and he gave them this sign of circumcision. Stephen Mentions that sign is important because it's a cleansing sign. It's a sign that the Bible talks about as one in which sin is cut off. Its symbolizes cleanliness, a lack of defilement. Why is that important? It's important because all the peoples of the world were defiled ever since Adam. All...

...had fallen into sin they'd already gone through the Noah's flood to be judged for that sin, and following the flood, they had sinned throughout the world and fallen into all kinds of other transgressions. Now here. God selects a people and he cleanses them. He gives them this sign of cleansing. He's rescuing them out of sin. He's rescuing them out of the sin and misery of humanity. Paul tells us that this is what it means to be an Israelite. This is what it means when he says to you belong the Patriarchs. It means that God has blessed you above all other people. He has given you these gifts. To Be born a Jew is to be born into a special relationship with God, a holy relationship. It's a similar thing for you children who are here that have been born of parents who are believers. The Bible says that if even one of your parents are holy, you are considered holy. You are born into a family children, you're born into a family that already has a relationship with God. God places his mark on You, he makes his promises to you. But there's an important thing that we have to understand, and we get it from Stephen's speech and Paul's going to go on to explain this further in Romans nine. And that's this, that in order to receive those blessings, especially the spiritual ones, in order to enjoy walking with the Lord, enjoying his companionship, in order to be a true child of Abraham, we must believe, you must receive those promises and you must receive them by faith. The great example of this is, of course, Abraham. We have this, I think overused phrase, stepping out in faith. It sounds to me so cliche that I try not to use it, but with Abraham he really does that. He literally steps out of one land into another. Imagine you are Abraham and imagine the things that you would be required to do and believe. Trusting in God, you are required to leave your country, your people, your family, your father's you're required to leave your culture behind to a place that you don't know where you're going yet. Now, later God would reveal this to him, but for some time Abraham's just walking, following the Lord wherever he tells him to go. Abraham's just going. Most of us, especially as planners among us, don't like this kind of thing. We like to know where we're going, when we're going, how we're going to get there, what hotel we're staying at, how much it's going to cost, how much money we're saving, and on and on and on. Even those of us who don't like to plan must like, how must, I imagine, have some desire to know what's coming up, something to look forward to. Abraham certainly had that, but it was very vague. God didn't spell it all out to him. He just said get because I'm going to give you something wonderful. We often think about our relationships with God and such as the opposite way. If God will reveal to me what he's going to do, well then of course all believe him, of course I'll trust in him. That's not faith, though. Sometimes God does reveal these things, and as time goes on, more and more is revealed to Abraham. But faith is trusting in not the promises that are...

...received, but in the promises that are given, promises. It's trusting not in the things that we get from God, but in trusting in God himself. Abraham had to walk out to the Promised Land before he knew where it was. Abraham had to live his life before God. Abraham made love to his wife, waiting for a child year after year, with nothing happening, being told you will receive a promise Sarah. Sarah gets so desperate because things are not happening that she says, here, Abraham, take my slave, maybe you can have a child by her. He does and he takes this child and he goes to God and says, well, here my slave is able to bear children. Take Ishmael. God Says No, you will have a child through Sarah, and Abraham and Sarah are called to go on and wait. There's so many things Abraham does that, if you imagine it when he's doing it, it would be hard if you were not someone else in the situation. I think it would be hard to not imagine him as sort of an ancient near eastern version of Don Quixote, just kind of chasing things and running after things that don't really exist. Here's this man acting and moving and transferring his family and when he's an old man, but he's doing it not tilting it when mills, but trusting in the promises of God. Abraham was no fool. He had faith. That's why he did what God told him to do. For Abraham, life under the Covenant was not so much about receiving the promises as it was by living by them. I'll give you one more story. No, no, just a reminder, kind of like Stephen was doing. You remember the sacrifice of Isaac, after five finally being given the Sun. God tells him to take him up, take him up on this mountain and sacrifice him, and David did so, I'm sorry. and Abraham did so willingly. He did it because he was not trusting in the promises received, but in the very word of God. He was living by what God had said. As a Jew, this is a wonderful thing. This is your dad, this is your father Abraham, this great man of faith. Now, sure, he had errors, he fell into sin, he was not perfect, but he believed and he trusted God and God gave to him all of these things. Isaac was very similar. Jacob a little more complicated. Jacob was a rebellious person, a sinner, a trickster of the any ways, a very evil man. But we see in God's electing sovereign purposes that he will do what he wants to do, in choosing Jacob, in loving him, in wrestling him to the ground and causing him to have faith. All these things is what it meant to have the Patriarchs, it meant to belong to this family, to have these people as the head, to follow their example and to know in all of it that God had chosen you and your race in this special electing way, that he was in love, sovereignly watching over every aspect of your life, over your family...

...life. So you can see why Stephen, echoing the thoughts of God, is so frustrated with them when he says you stiff necked people, you uncircumcised people, Whoa to call the Jewish people uncircumcised is to say that they have rejected the covenant of God, to say that they have stood outside of the covenant. And that's exactly what they were doing. The proof is in his words. These Fathers, the Patriarchs, they sold Joseph into slavery, they didn't listen to Moses. When God is revealing to them, pouring out blessings, bringing them into their promises, what do they do? They make a calf, they make sacrifices, they go after other gods, molech and all the rest. This is what the fathers did. Now Paul would. He gives Romans nine, four and five in particular. He doesn't have this quiet in mind yet, the NITT this negative aspect, but he will move on to this. He says to the Jewish people and US gentiles on the outside listening, and he says to us, look, you've been given this great thing, but you must believe like Abraham believed. You must receive these promises. You can't crucify the Messiah, you can't reject the promises, you can't turn away to false gods and your own ways and expect to just be a child of Abraham. That's not what it means. In other words, Paul says, Steven says, God says, that to be a child of Abraham is not just to be a child biologically. What's most important of all is being a child spiritually. Now, Steven attempted to be a wakeup call and, like the prophets before him, he was put to death. This man of Saul, man named Saul, giving approval, tearing Christians from their homes, receiving the clothing of Stephen, approving of it all. But in Saul's example we come to see how great the love of God is Matthew Nine. We read God says that he can raise up children of Abraham from stones. That's an amazing thing. And Saul, who was a child of Israel but acted like he was not, was so proud that he belonged, thought he belonged as so firmly in the promises, but he didn't. Sure he was born to good families, sure he participated in worship, sure he tried to follow the law, but he forgot the element of faith until God saved him. Saul failed to grasp the most essential thing of it all, the thing that he will go on to explain to us in Romans nine, that no matter how many good works you do, no matter how much zealed you have, no matter how firmly you are imbedded biologically in the family, it does not save. Because Abraham wasn't saved that way, Isaac wasn't saved that way, Jacob wasn't saved that way. Saul sought to establish his relationship to God biologically through good works, through zeal, but the Covenant of Abraham was not about that. It was about receiving what God gave, especially this promised child who would come to rule and save the world. God can certainly raise literal...

...stones and make them children of Abraham, and he can do it figuratively too. He took this rock hard, stony heart of Saul, who was persecuting a man like Stephen and people, Christians who are following after the Lord Jesus, who are entering into all of these promises of Abraham. He took a heart that was that hard and turned it into the heart of Paul, the heart that we have been hearing pouring out these gospel promises. He can also take gentiles who are outside of these promises, worshiping false gods, and bring them in. Paul took this man. Are Sorry. God took this man, Paul, whose heart was as as hard as a stone, and he changed him. And then he took that Paul and he sent him and all the world to preach to hardhearted gentiles like you and me, and through him we have this personal invitation to all the world to belong to Abraham, to become children of the promise, and that all who believe in their children, along with them, would now belong to this family. You Imagine, for example, in your mind a family tree, a big chart, Abraham, Isaac Jacob, the twelve tribes, all going down throughout history, all these people. Now, next to that family tree, imagine all of these other family trees, all of these gentile family trees. What over here? What over here one? This one I'm from, this one you're from. You know what God takes. He takes those and through trusting in Jesus Christ, he joins them together, joins them together, joins them together in such a way that we connected in Christ. Now go I belong to Abraham. Father Abraham had many sons. Many sons had father Abraham. I'm one of them, and so are you. So let's all praise the Lord. We teach our children that song because it's true, because in Jesus Christ we belong to him and all the promises that are poured out on father Abraham belong to us. We're called to receive them by faith as members of that tribe. Kids, this means that your parents, who believe if, brought you in, made you part of the family by birth, but it also means that, as Abraham's children, you must personally receive these promises by faith, or else you end up just like the Jews, who were a Jew but not a Jew circumcised, but not on but not circumcised or uncircumcised. Each of us are called to receive these promises by faith. God pours them out on the world. He pours them out and offers them to us. This is the greatest invitation that has ever been made, and it's all made possible by this one who was murdered and crucified and put on the Cross. Jesus Christ is that promised child of Abraham. He is the one in whom all the blessings are poured out on humanity. When you hear his name, rejoice in God, rejoice that you belong to a family that is privileged and powerful. Rejoice...

...that you belong to family in which you will receive the inheritances of God. And be patient and wait. Abraham had to wait in the promised land without even having a foot's length of it. He had to buy the land for his own burial. We wait as well. We are privileged, we are powerful in God, we are given inheritances and blessing, but he calls us to trust in him. We wait for the Lord's return to bring all these things to their great and consummated end. Until then, let us walk by faith. Let us believe and let us pray. Our heavenly father, we thank you for being our great patriarch, for watching over US and calling us your own children. The way in which you have worked this out in time and space is truly astounding. When we consider the large the the big picture, the great overview of history, we see how um each moment and every turn, despite the obstinence and sin of your people, you continue on steadfast to your promises to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. You never let go, you never drop the ball. Despite our sin, you are always there, doing right and doing well. We ask, Lord, that you would help us to believe you when you say that these things you give to us. We asked that you would help us to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, in the salvation that we have through him, by believing, even as Abraham believed, in the promises that you have made. We thank you for our Savior, are our elder brother, who brings us into this family, who brings about the reason for our very own adoption. We thank you that we are children of Abraham and that in him, in Christ, we are blessed. We ask, Lord, that you would help us to understand these things and to distinguish them in our minds. We asked that you would cause us ought to go to the Old Testament often and to look for you there, to hear of your revelation, to see the ways that you work, in the ways that you keep your promises, and we asked that you would keep us in them. If it were not for your work, for Your Almighty and irresistible grace, we surely would be astray, as many, many have been. Help us not to take for granted the promises that you have given to us. May We teach them to our children and our children's children, and we ask that the Lord Jesus would come again soon. We pray this in his name.

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