Covenant Words
Covenant Words

Episode · 6 years ago

Walking In Abraham's Steps (Romans 4:9-12)

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Rev. Christopher Chelpka

Well, please remain standing and let's hear God's word. Now from Romans Chapter Four, Verses Nine through twelve. Just previous to these verses, on Paul has told us about the blessing that Abraham had received, namely the blessing of justification. And here he begins with a question of verse nine. Is this blessing then, only for the circumcised or also for the uncircumcised? We say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. How, then, was accounted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before, before he was circumcised. He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, and to make him the father of the circumcised, who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised. May God bless his word to us. Please be seated. Of all the families on the earth, of all the families on the Earth, God singled out Abraham for special attention, special privilege, special blessing we're given to this particular family. The book of Genesis tells us this story that recounts for us the history of how this began. The first eleven chapters, which of course include the creation of the world and the flood, also include long genealogies, which we went through a few months back and we saw that these genealogies all led us up to chapter twelve, this very specific chapter, and really on a new beginning in a way, because it's there that God separates Abraham from these genealogies and these things that had happened among his brothers, Nahor and Harn. God separates Abraham. It's a geographical separation, at least on the surface. And first of all, in Genesis Twelve, God says to Abraham, go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. Did you see? What I mean? Is this geographical separation. God removes Abraham, he takes him away from, in particular, his father's house, to the land that I will show you, not for a very particular reason that God's going to do this, and he tells Abraham what that is, namely it's that Abraham is going to become a father, he is going to become established his own household, and in a way that is different than just having more children and continuing on the family line. Know, this separation is of a quite a different magnitude. Do you remember the promises that God gives to Abraham? There's actually a lot of them. I'm if you. I I challenge you maybe to just write down a few and then be surprised at how many more there are, even after the ones you remember. God promises to Abraham to give him a land, in particular the land of Canaan. He promises to make...

...his name great, he promises to make him a father of many and even to bless all the families of the earth through him. He promises that this family will be so stablished and so blessed that anyone who blesses Abraham will in turn be blessed and anyone who curses Abraham will in turn be cursed. Immediately after these promises, as an aside, we see these things happening right away, even though Abraham hasn't quite reached the land he finds himself in Egypt, and this all this kind of playing out, and then that continues throughout the Bible. When people run a foul of Israel, they get in trouble, they have bad things happen to them, curses of God fall upon them. A many of large sections that you find in the prophets are devoted specifically to this point. You particular country who did X to Israel, this is what's going to happen to you now. And likewise, even foreign countries that don't often receive God's blessing are blessed because of their connections with Abraham and his family. In addition to these promises, we also have a promise that in Genesis fifteen one, that God would be a loving, compassionate, protecting God to Abraham. In fifteen one, God says, fear not, Abraham, I am your shield. Your reward shall be very great. God is not distant from Abraham. He's not just a power or a force. He has a particular relationship with Abraham, and it's one of blessing. God, in all of his divinity and all of his power, has decided to use those use himself to give gifts to this man and all this is it comes through a particular child that is also promised to Abraham. Through this child, these things would be accomplished. Now want you to imagine for a moment that this had been you. Imagine that God came to you and promised you these things. I'm going to give you a land, I'm going to make you a father, or mother, as the case may be, of many nations. I am going to bless all of the world through you, I'm going to protect you, I'm going to give you rewards. Those who bless you. I will bless those who curse you. I will curse God says this to you, would you believe him? It's not necessarily guaranteed that you would. We have other examples in the Bible of God promising to do things and people not believing him, of saying no, I'm not interested, I don't care, I don't trust you, I don't want you. Abraham does believe. However, the Bible explains to us that this itself is a miracle of God, God working in him to draw him to himself and bring a out this gift of faith that God gives. But let's consider the other option. Imagine the same situation these promises given to you. You believe them. How would that affect your life? If you're Abraham, what would you tell your wife if these things were promised to you? Oh, would you tell your kids as you were raising them? He Hey, the PAL, I've got some really good news for you. God is a God to us. He is protecting us. You, Isaac, are the promised son the God has given to...

...us, and he can give him examples of this. They can show him this. Thee it would talk of these things. All the events that would happen in their lives would be explained in this context. Well, we all know what happened to the Pharaoh in Egypt because of what God had said. We all know because this situation or that situation, because it's seen in this framework. Everything would change. You would live your life in a very different way if you believed these promises. For one, you would get up and go, God says, go, separate yourself from your country, your kindred, your father's house. This is not usually a safe thing to do, to go out on your own, to be off by yourself, away from your established relationships and connections. But Abraham trusts God and he goes. He changes his life because he believes these promises. Now imagine that you belong to such a family. Maybe you are born into a family that has been promised by God to receive all kinds of wonderful, wonderful blessings. I think that if you were born into such a family, you would feel honored, you would have a sense of privilege, of responsibility, of blessing. This is true of even our regular families and of just typical, run ofthemill families. If parents have a particular gift, let's say they're a crafts people, often it's the children who will learn those things, least to a certain extent. Maybe there are certain traditions in a family that get passed down. Maybe the family's been blessed with a lot of money. The parents feel the weight and responsibility good parents anyway, will feel the weight and responsibility of teaching their children how to deal with that. What the responsibilities are, the privileges that come with it, the things to be on guard for. That's just little things in life that we all deal with. How imagine this kind of promise, this kind of blessing. Imagine the kinds of the kind of holy pride that you would feel knowing that God himself is your shield and your strength. Imagine the kind of confidence that you would have moving about in the world, the kind of assurance that you would have that you would be protected and cared for and loved. Well's this kind of confidence and pride that the Jews have often felt because of their connection to Abraham, and that pride and honor and privilege is all very much centered around this particular sign of circumcision, this sign which marked them out as the sons of Abraham. But there's this question that Paul is bringing up, this really important question. If Abraham is justified by faith, if faith only or I or if justification comes only by faith, then is it only for those who are circumcised? It's a natural question, isn't it? If God has singled out this particular Er family and promised these particular blessings them, well, then verse nine makes a lot of sense to ask. Is this blessing then only for the circumcised or also for the uncircumcised?...

He answers. We say that faith was counted to Abraham is righteousness. So that's the first point. How, then, was it counted? Here's the historical question. Now, was it before or after he had been circumcised? Well, Paul then answers that question in the next sentence. It was not after, but before he was circumcised. Well, now we're on to something really interesting, and you see how Paul is building in his case and he's going to ultimately reach what may be an obvious point to you already, that these blessings that are given to Abraham, this status that he had before God, didn't come to Abraham by his works and his good deeds. It came to him by faith. And since it came to him by faith, this blessing is not just for the circumcised but for all who believe. It's in that sense most of all that he is the father. He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still UNCIRCUMIS sized you see what Paul Sang there? He's saying that God, in this particular sign of circumcision, placed this promise, this seal on him as a way to say, the things that I have promised you are guarantee he received the sign of circumcision, this thing that pointed to these blessings that, through his seed, a child would be born, that through his seed the blessings would be given. That's what the sign pointed towards. It would require cutting off, it would require purification, but it would happen. It would happen through his seed. But it wasn't only a sign. His circumcision was also a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. You see what he's saying then? Paul's not saying so Abraham went and circumcised himself and because he did this thing he became, he sort of entered into this status. No, he's saying that the circumcision was and, as US was, a sign and a seal of the status he already had while he was still uncircumcised, before he was Abraham as we know him. The promise came to him in that particular way, and not only and this wasn't haphazard. This was purposefully intended by God, Paul says. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, and to make him the father of the circumcised, who aren't merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of faith that our father Abraham had before he was before he was circumcised. One helpful way to understand what Paul saying here is to make a distinction about families and about this family in particular that God has desired to bless his this family that God would create through Abraham would very much be an earthly family. It would come through earthly means. There would be people with specific names, names that you can read in the Bible, people with particular characteristics, particular traits, but ultimately this would be a heavenly family. Ultimately,...

God was after not just a people that were sort of born and sharing the same genetic material. God was interested in having a people that had the same sort of spiritually genetic material, we might say people that had the Holy Spirit, in other words, people that were sons and daughters of God, that belonged to him in a way and that he desired one that would connect them in relationship that we would cry Abba father, and not only no god as a lawgiver, but also by His grace, God does this and creates this glorious heavenly family by his work. That's how God is glorified in it. He does this amazing thing. But how is Abraham glorified in all of this as he did, glorified by Abraham's work? No, Abraham receives all of these blessings and all of this glory as a gift. It's received, it's not earned, Paul says not. Ask You, how do you receive a gift? If, right now, I bring a nice shiny package with a bow on it and and I hand it to you, how do you receive it? Well, you would probably use verbs like you take it, grab it, you hold it, you receive it. Well, that's exactly what Abraham did with the pro promises that were given to him, except because their promises and not a box with paper, we use a different verb. We call it believing faith. We grasp hold of the promises in our hearts. It's like a heart grasping, a heart taking. We believe unbeliefs the opposite. Right, a promise is given to you and you walk away from it because you don't believe. If somebody says I'm going to give you a thousand dollars today and you believe it, you're going to take hold of it in your heart, you're going to look forward to it. You're going to ask him when am I going to get the money? If somebody says, however, I'm going to give you a thousand dollars today, and you don't believe it, then it means nothing to you. You didn't take hold of it, you don't grasp it, you don't receive that promise. Well, that is the work that Abraham did. That's the obedience of faith. It wasn't a work in the sense that we think of works usually. It was a work in the sense of receiving, of grasping, of holding, of taking a gift that was given. That's what Abraham did, and he did it while he was uncircumcised, and that's important because it says something about the nature of this particular blessed family. It defined is what it means to be a part of that family, what it means to walk in the footsteps of faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised. There's this distinction between being in the family and really being in the family. You've experienced this in your own families. I remember hearing a story on the radio. I can't remember where I heard it, though, so apologies to the one who told it, but it was a story that was a true story about this young man who grew up in somewhat of a chaotic household and there was this tenant, so that was always kind of living in their living room. But there were very strict rules on this tenant. He was not allowed to touch any...

...of the food in the fridge and his mother would actually put specific labels not for and I forget the man's name. WILL SAY MR F, not for Mr F, not for Mr F, and if there was milk that belonged to Mr F, then it had Mr F's name on it was all very separated and regulated and the boy would live in his household and kind of bump into him occasionally and step over him and move around him. Well, was he tells this story and by the time he gets to the end he reveals that Mr F, he finds out as an adult, is his dad. And what happened was, back when he was a kid, there was enough fair is gone. Got Really Mad and she couldn't kick him out of the house, so she kind of did it in the house and there he lived as Mr f. He wasn't a member of the family, though technically they never got divorce, though technically he was still his dad, he never even realized it until it was older. Why? Because he wasn't a member of the family anymore. The opposite can also happen, can't it? People that don't really belong can be brought in. Some of you here in this congregation have been adopted into your families. You don't share the same genetic material as your mom and dad, and yet they are your mom and dad. They belong to you and you belong to them. We could give other examples of what it means to be long to a family. The family of God has these kinds of distinctions as well. There is belonging to the family and then there's really belonging to the family. Paul makes this distinction specifically regarding to the Jews. Regarding the Jews in verse twelve, when he says to make him the father of the circumcised, that is, of the Jews who are not merely circumcised. You hear that word, he's saying there's a way in which you can sort of merely have this but not really have it, because they're not walking in the footsteps of faith. Listen to some of the things that Paul says in Chapter Nine, in nine, verse six, he says, but it is not as though the word of God has failed, for not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel. Not who are all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel. These points are made elsewhere, even by our savior, Jesus, says not all who take on his name actually belong to him. We saw this and they we see this an example of Judas there with the twelve disciples belonging to them, eating together, living together, working together, and yet ultimately not together, ultimately not belonging. But the flip side of this is just as there are Jews who aren't really Jews, there are gentiles who are Jews, there are those who are uncircumcised, who rightly can be considered circumcised, who can call Abraham my father, even when they have nothing genetically to do with him. Why? Because of the way this family is formed, because of the purpose that God intended for them, because of what he ultimately wanted. There is a physical way this family is formed, a visible way this family can be seen. The same as true in the Church today. There are those who are technically members of the...

...church who have been baptized, who call themselves Christians, and whom we call Christians but are not actually regenerated on the inside, don't actually belong because they haven't believed. They may say they believe, they may put a show on outwardly, but inwardly they know. Ultimately, God defines this family spiritually and though it has a visible aspect right now, it's somewhat hidden and mixed, not only because of the goal but also because of the means. Consider how this family is formed in history. How did the child that was promised to Abraham, how is he born? Miraculously, wasn't he? Do you remember how old Abraham was? Ninety nine years old. His wife, like all so and baron her life during her whole life. They were not expecting a child, they could not have a child, but they had a child. This would continue to happen all the way to the promised of promised children, Jesus himself. You remember how Jesus was born Virgin, the spirit of God hovering over her and causing her to conceive. This spiritual family was born literally by the Holy Spirit. And we, even though we are not a genetically connected to Jesus. Do you remember what the Bible says. We are given who. We are given all who believe that same Holy Spirit, God, our father, gives us himself. He annoints us, he saves us, he fills us with his spirit, he unites us together and creates a family by his spirit, and he pours out all these blessings on us. Now, those who fail to understand this distinction that Paul is making in these verses will find that their error is fatal. To assume that you belong to the family of God on the wrong assumptions, on the wrong basis, will ultimately kill you. It will bring you under the wrath and curse of God, because it means that you are going to God, you are calling yourself his child when you have no right to be. It's presumptuous, it's arrogant to reject the promises of God, to be given all of these blessings and say I don't want them, I'm going to come to you on my own terms. I want what I want and in the way that I want it. Do you think that God will bless that person? He says he will not. But to the person who understands what God is saying here, to those who do believe, we find ourselves doing more than imagining what it would be long like to belong to the family of Abraham, because the Bible says that we do belong to the family of Abraham. We don't have to merely imagine what it might be like to be a gentile and to have God's blessings pour out on us, all, received and grasped and taken hold of by believing and by faith, because, as Christians who believe, that's exactly what has happened. And even though we you may not necessarily be one who is of...

...the circumcised, or maybe you are a Jew but believe in Jesus. In either case, than you have these great joys and privileges of naming Abraham as your father. Those who believe are indeed members of his family, and that will affect our lives, won't it will change, and does change, the ways in which we act, the ways in which we live, the kinds of confidence we have, the one we go to when we need help and protection and shielding. We go to the God of Abraham, to the God of our fathers, because he is our God as well, received not by the virtue of our physical birth but because of our spiritual birth. May God grant us this, this privilege, this blessing, this honor. May he teach us to walk and with according accordingly and with that sense of responsibility. Maybe walk according to faith, even as Abraham walked, believing and trusting the promises of God. Let us pray.

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