Abraham and a Relationship With God
What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, discovered in this matter? 2 If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. 3 What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
4 Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. 5 However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness. 6 David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the one to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:
7 “Blessed are those
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
8 Blessed is the one
whose sin the Lord will never count against them.”
9 Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. 10 Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before! 11 And he received circumcision as a sign, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them. 12 And he is then also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also follow in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.
The last verse of chapter 3: sets the context:
31 Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.
Paul turns to the Old Testament to reflect on how it presents faith and keeping the law in terms of establishing righteousness.
Why is this question important? Because the Jewish people already have an extensive history with God. Because the Jewish people have not done well by and large in their relationship with God. And because God is hard. He is hard because our hearts blinded by sin.
When we speak about the value of the law as it relates to salvation, we are really talking about the value of our ability to keep the law. The law does not make us strong enough to keep it.
This morning I am going to try and do a deep dive into Abram’s life. The key passages in Genesis that relate to Abram, covenant and his relationship are Genesis 12, 15 and 17. These are extremely important passages because of who Abram is as a forerunner and because of how in all of Scripture he is the first to have a lot of information about his relationship with God.
- Abraham and the Blessing of God
Genesis 12:1-4 and the context of Gen 11:1-9
- The best Human effort leads to a curse
Genesis 11: Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. 2 As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.
3 They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”
5 But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. 6 The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”
8 So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why it was called Babel—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.
Old desires, new approaches
New technology: New works the best that man can do! We see their pyramids. We recognize the desire of people to reach to God by making their building projects tall. You need brick and mortar for this.
New cooperation! The punishment frustrates this.
- The strongest human desires are frustrated
- A tower that reaches to the heavens, (Reaching God. Discovering Who He is and gaining His favor so that we might guarantee… (This is knowing God for the purpose of manipulation)
- That we may make a name for ourselves; (a name with whom? With God or with people?) We can establish an identity, an enduring culture and positive impact on the earth.
- That we would be protected. We, our families and descendants might endure, be strong and make us proud!
otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”
God sees the potential in people cooperating in an endeavor that excludes Him and He frustrates their ability to cooperate.
People spend lots of time trying to gain trust, communicate and cooperate. Wasted time and effort.
- Abraham is gifted the promises of God in contrast
What do we see Abraham do before God makes these promises to Him? Now, God tells Abram to go and he goes, so there is that demonstration of faith in obedience.
The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.
2 “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you;
I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.
3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
4 So Abram went, as the Lord had told him;
- A great name: Greater now than ever before by the way (and not a name made for ourselves. A God given name and reputation.)
- God’s blessing given. Abundant life!
- I will make you a blessing. Real accomplishment of a lasting character!
- A promise of protection (bless, bless, curse, curse)
- All inhabitants of the earth will be blessed through Abraham
This is a reference to His relationship with God
This is a reference to Jesus Christ who is the singular seed of Abraham, through Whom the blessing of God is given to all who have the faith of Abraham!
Galatians 3: 7 Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. 8 Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” 9 So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
16 The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ.
This is what we learn from Abram in Genesis 11 and 12:
So, we can work together to make a name for ourselves, or God will give us the identity of being His children and being in Christ.
We can work hard to try and attain the good life, or we can trust Christ and follow Him and be gifted the Holy Spirit.
- Abram and the Righteousness of God
Genesis 15: After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision:
“Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.”
2 But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”
4 Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” 5 He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”
6 Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
Again God takes the initiative to communicate with Abraham.
- Abram is struggling with God
God makes promises, requires sacrificial obedience, and then we are required to wait.
During the waiting we can begin to wonder about whether or not we have heard God. If it gets really bad we wonder if God is even there!
Abraham is trying to sort out how God will fulfill His promises!
- God promises to act
No offense Eliezer,
but you are the natural state of things.
You are the backup plan of people.
You do not require God to act.
God will demonstrate His character through His actions in the life of Abram.
- Abram believed God and was declared righteous
God credits Abram’s faith to him as righteousness.
Abraham and faith. Is Abraham’s faith perfect? Not even in this chapter! Ishmael is still to come. Is perfect faith required? No. If you look at Abraham, do you see evidences of real faith? Sure. Abraham’s faith is obvious. He relies on God. The sacrifice of Isaac is the high point.
God drives home His promise to Abraham in the sacrifice story to follow. Abe splits the sacrifice, and God passes through. God will keep His promise to Abraham.
That promise keeping is fulfilled in Christ!
And it is fulfilled in you if you are in Christ.
III. Abraham and Circumcision
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. 2 Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”
3 Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, 4 “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. 5 No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. 6 I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. 7 I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. 8 The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.”
9 Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. 10 This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. 12 For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring. 13 Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. 14 Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”
- Circumcision follows righteousness v.9-10
Gen 12 promises given apart from any works
Gen 15 righteousness declared because of faith
Gen 17 circumcision requirement given after these others
Circumcision may precede the law and therefore be more fundamental to Old Covenant keeping, but it still follows God’s promises and His righteousness. They cannot be based on the fact that folks are circumcised.
- Circumcision is a sign of righteousness v.11-12
It is ridiculous to imagine that some physical change in the body would create righteousness. (Even a chopped off hand or a gouged out eye.) It is only as an act of obedience that circumcision would have any meaning.
- A fruitful life comes from God
Right after this covenant command in Genesis 17 God tells Abraham that within the year he and Sarai would have a baby.
God changes Abram and Sarai’s name.
And God opens up their ability to have the child of promise.
What ability to Abram and Sarai have to have the child of promise. They are without any ability. You see, they can’t make the promises of God come to fruition. (That’s a punny word in this context.) They are completely dependent on God.
They don’t even believe and it doesn’t matter! God will act and keep His promises. God will make Abram and Sarai fruitful. And this is the picture of salvation that we see in Christ and in Abraham!