Tag Archives: Abraham

“…Go From Your Country And Your Kindred And Your Father’s House To The Land That I Will Show You…”

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.”

Genesis 12:1 – Scripture of the Day (February 24, 2014)

And so begins Abraham’s awesome journey of faith.  There is a reason God promised that Abraham would be the “father of many nations” (Gen. 17:5).   The Hebrews came from him through his son Isaac, while Arabic Muslims regard him as their ancestor through Ishmael.  And of course, all Christians are spiritual descendants of Abraham through Christ (Gal. 3:29).  No wonder his name was changed from “Abram,” meaning “exalted father,” to “Abraham,” meaning “father of a multitude” (Gen. 17:5)!  A study of the various promises God made to this great man reveals his importance to the overall plan of salvation revealed throughout the entirety of Scripture.

For example, the Lord promised Abram that his descendants would be “a great nation” (Gen. 12:2; cf. 13:16; 17:6; 18:18).  This promise was fulfilled when Abraham’s descendants through his son Isaac and grandson Israel became a nation of great numbers during their time in Egypt (Gen. 46:3; Ex. 1:7; Deut. 26:5), a nation which would become great and powerful under the direction of godly leaders such as Moses, Joshua, and David who directed Abraham’s descendants to faithfully serve the Lord.

Along these same lines, the Lord also commanded Abram to leave his country and family and travel to “the land that I will show you” (Gen. 12:1), the land of Canaan (12:5-6).  At that point God promised Abram, “To your offspring I will give this land” (12:7), a promise he kept centuries later starting during the days of Joshua (Josh. 21:43-45) and ending in the days of Solomon (2 Chr. 9:26; cf. 1 Kings 8:56).  This promise was based on the condition that Abraham’s descendants remain faithfully obedient to Jehovah (Josh. 23:14-16; cf. Lev. 26:14-45; Deut. 28:15-68).  Old Testament history reveals how Abraham’s descendants repeatedly fell away from the Lord and as a result repeatedly lost control of their land and were taken into foreign captivity (Judges; 1-2 Kings; 1-2 Chronicles; Jeremiah; Lamentations; etc.), with the ultimate destruction of their claim to Canaan delivered to them by God through Rome after they rejected Christ as the Messiah (Matt. 21:33-46; 23:29-39; 24:1-34; Mark 13:1-30; Luke 19:41-44; 21:5-32; 23:27-31).  After the abominations visited upon them by Rome in the latter part of the first century AD, Abraham’s descendants through Israel could never again lay complete claim to the land possessed by their ancestors.  Even today, after the United Nations worked to reunite Jews with the land known in biblical times as “the Promised Land” in an effort to help them recover from the horrors visited upon them during the Holocaust of World War II, Abraham’s descendants through Israel daily fight numerous enemies from the nations surrounding them in order to hold on to just a small fraction of the land originally promised by God.  Since the days of the Truman administration, many in this country and elsewhere believe that the United States and other allies of Israel should help her retake Canaan’s land primarily because it is the will of God.  However, political pundits and commentators who claim that Israel currently has a divine right to the land directly east of the Mediterranean overlook the fact that God’s promise to Abraham was conditioned upon his descendants continued loyal obedience to him, a condition which they failed to keep (Jer. 31:32).

Abram and his wife Sarai, or Sarah as she would later be named (Gen. 17:15), were childless when Scripture first introduces us to them (Gen. 11:26-30).  By promising to make of him “a great nation” (Gen. 12:2), God in effect was promising Abram “offspring” (Gen. 13:15-16).  After Jehovah declared himself to be Abram’s “shield” and promising him that his “reward shall be very great” (Gen. 15:1), Abram pointed out that he was still childless and that his current heir was his servant Eliezer of Damascus (15:2).  The Lord then promised Abram that “your very own son shall be your heir” rather than Eliezer (15:4), and then declared that his offspring would be compared to the innumerable stars of heaven (15:5).  Abram “believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness” (15:6), a passage quoted by centuries later by Paul to prove to Judaizers that one under Christ’s covenant were not required to do the works of Moses’ law in order to be justified (Rom. 4:1-25), and quoted by James to show that a person is justified by works of obedience to the commandments of God in addition to faith (James. 2:20-24).

Abram’s faith in God’s promises to give him offspring was not always constant, however.  This is shown in the numerous times he dishonestly presented Sarai as his sister rather than as his wife in efforts to preserve his life from those whom he feared would take it (Gen. 12:10-20; 20:1-18).  It is sadly ironic that due to Abraham resorting to lying because of a lack of faith that God would keep him safe in order to keep his promise of granting offspring to him, the son God promised to him would eventually follow his father’s sinful example and lie about his own marital standing in order to save his life even after God made him a similar promise (Gen. 26:1-11).  May Christian parents today heed this lesson and be warned about the power of their own example and the influence it has on our children!

Abram and Sarai’s faith in God’s promise to give him offspring was shown to be weak on another occasion when Sarai convinced him to obtain a child through marriage to her servant, Hagar (Gen. 16:1-4a).  This polygamous union resulted in the conception and birth of Ishmael (16:15-16), which in turn caused considerable strife in Abraham’s family both then and in the years to come (16:4b-6; 21:8-11).  However, God was able to use their weak faith and the sin that resulted from it.  Centuries later, he would inspire Paul to use the polygamous marriages of Abram, Sarai, and Hagar and the two sons that resulted from them to allegorically illustrate the differences between the Mosaic covenant and Christ’s covenant in order to show the superiority of the latter (Gal. 4:21-31).  He also used this sinful episode to fulfill his promise to make Abraham “the father of many nations” (17:5) by causing Ishmael also to be the ancestor of a great nation (16:7-12; 21:12-21).    Yet, the strife resulting in Abram and Sarai’s lack of faith in God’s promise is felt even today as we see Isaac and Ishmael’s descendants still at war with each other.  One cannot imagine how different the world would be if Abram and Sarai’s faith had been stronger and they had decided to wait for God to fulfill his promise to them on his own time (Ps. 25:3; 27:14).

On yet another occasion, Sarah’s faith in God’s promise was shown to be lacking when the Lord and two angels visited Abraham and he prepared food for them (Gen. 18:1-8; cf. 18:22; 19:1ff).  Even though God had already specifically promised Abraham that Sarah would bear him Isaac in their old age (17:15-19), Sarah laughed to herself when she heard the Lord repeat the promise to Abraham and wondered how she and Abraham could conceive after menopause (18:9-12).  Jehovah called her on the lack of faith shown by her laughter, even though she initially denied that she had laughed (18:13-15).  A year later, God fulfilled his promise to them in spite of her laughter and she bore Abraham a son in their old age, naming him Isaac, which means “he laughs” (21:1-7).  Interestingly, by telling Abraham to give the promised son that particular name even before the episode in which Sarah laughed (17:19), God proved that he knew in advance that Sarah would laugh at his promise…and yet gave the promised and the blessing of children anyway.  What a testimony to his love, grace, and patience (Matt. 5:44-45)!

In spite of these lapses, Abraham and Sarah’s overall faith in the promises of God stand as an example for us today.  Their faith in God’s promises was what prompted him to obey his extremely difficult command to leave their home and family to travel to an unknown and distant land (Heb. 11:8-9; cf. Gen. 12:1-5).  Sarah’s faith in God’s promises, even though proven to be weak on at least two occasions as we’ve seen, was still the reason the Lord kept his promise to her (Heb. 11:11-12).  As a result, she is the spiritual “mother” of Christian women who follow her example of respectful, pure, modest, quiet conduct today (1 Pet. 3:1-6).  Likewise, Abraham’s faith in God’s promise of numerous offspring gave him the strength to obey the extremely burdensome command God gave to test his faith when he told him to sacrifice Isaac (Heb. 11:17; cf. Gen. 22:1-12).  His faith in God’s promises was so strong that he considered that God would resurrect Isaac  in order to keep his promise to him (Heb. 11:18).  Thus, his faith exemplifies what true obedience to God is all about (James. 2:14-26), and the times when their faith was weak also serve as a warning for us to be watchful when we think we are strong (1 Cor. 10:11-12).

Undoubtedly the most significant and important promise God made to Abraham is found in the statement, “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 22:18; cf. 26:4; 28:14; 12:3, NKJV).  Peter pronounced this prophecy fulfilled when Jesus, the Prophet foretold of by Moses, came to the Jews of his day (Acts 3:17-26; cf. Deut. 18:15-19).  Later, during the early days of the church, Judaizing Christians who believed salvation to be dependent upon adherence to the laws of Moses sought to limit this promise to those who were either physical descendents of Abraham or to Gentile Christians who were circumcised and kept the Mosaic commandments (cf. Acts 15:1ff).

This prompted Paul to address the issue in his letter to the Galatians by first stating those who have faith are “sons of Abraham” (Gal. 3:7), i.e., his true descendants.  God’s promise to Abraham that in him “all the nations” would be blessed was fulfilled when God justified the Gentiles by faith, proving that in a sense Abraham had had the gospel preached to him centuries earlier(Gal. 3:8; cf. Gen. 12:3) and that under the Christian covenant Jew or Gentile who believe in God as Abraham did are blessed just as he was (Gal. 3:9; cf. John 8:39; Rom. 4:11-12; Heb. 11:8-10).  Those Jews who tried to be justified by Mosaic Law (Rom. 9:31-10:13) would be “under a curse” (Gal. 3:10; cf. Deut. 27:26; Jer. 11:3; Ezek. 18:4; Rom. 3:10-19).  They would not find justification through works of the Mosaic economy which required perfect obedience, but rather through faith as the Old Covenant itself foretold (Gal. 3:11-12; cf. Hab. 2:4; Lev. 18:5).  Paul went on to clarify that true sons of Abraham would have faith specifically in Christ by pointing out how Christ “redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” via his crucifixion (Gal. 3:13; cf. Deut. 21:23; 1 Pet. 2:24; Tit. 2:14; Eph. 1:7).  Therefore, it would be only “in Christ Jesus” that “the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles” in order for them to “receive the promised Spirit through faith” (Gal. 3:14; cf. Gen. 12:3; John 7:37-39; Gal. 3:2; Acts 2:38-39).  This is why Paul would specify how the promises God had made to Abraham did not say “’And to seeds,’ as of many, but as of one, ‘And to your Seed,’ who is Christ” (Gal. 3:16; cf. Gen. 12:7).

Paul later taught that the true heirs of Abraham are those who have become sons of God through faith in Christ (Gal. 3:26; cf. John 1:12; Rom. 10:9).  This happened when they put on Christ via baptism into him (Gal. 3:27; cf. Rom. 6:3-8).  This is why Christians “are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:29).  May we preach God’s promise to Abraham to others so they may become heirs as well (Mark 16:15-16)!

You Are Peter, And On This Rock I Will Build My Church…

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Matthew 16:18 – Scripture of the Day (January 20, 2014)

Such an encouraging verse with a powerful, uplifting promise!  And yet, due to translation error and false teachings this powerful passage is misunderstood by so many!

For example, “the gates of hell” should be more accurately translated from the Greek “the gates of Hades.”  Hades and hell are actually two different words in the Greek which describe two different places, but many think they’re the same thing due to many English translations translating Hades as hell, which in turn is due to the translators being influenced by the erroneous teaching that Hades and hell are the same.  Hell is gehenna in the Greek (Matt. 5:22, 29-30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15, 33; Mark 9:43, 45, 47; Luke 12:5; James 3:6).  The word originally referred to the city of Jerusalem’s garbage dump, and then was used to symbolically refer to the eternal lake of fire reserved for Satan and his followers after judgment.  Hades is where the dead wait for judgment.  The rich man was in torment in Hades, although several translations erroneously translate the word as “hell” (Luke 16:23).  However, Jesus and the thief whom he forgave were also in Hades after they died, in the part referred to as Paradise or Abraham’s bosom or side (Acts 2:27; cf. Luke 23:39-43; 16:22-24) which is separated from where the rich man is tormented by a gulf or chasm (Luke 16:26).  Thus, Hades is a place where both the righteous and unrighteous dead are, unlike hell which is reserved for the unrighteous for all eternity.  On the day of judgment, Death and Hades will deliver up the dead that are in them and then be cast into the lake of fire which is hell, after which all who are judged by God to be condemned will also be cast into hell, along with Satan (Rev. 20:10-15).  Thus, Hades and hell are two different places.  By telling Peter that “the gates of Hades” shall not prevail against the church, Jesus was in effect promising that the church would not die.

Another misunderstanding many have about this passage revolves around the mistaken notion that one church is just as good as another.  This ecumenical mindset ignores several biblical points about the church:

  1. When Jesus spoke of building his church in this passage, notice that he spoke of the church in a singular fashion, not as pluralistic.  In other words, he said, “…I will build my church.”  He didn’t say, “…I will build my churches.”
  2. This is because the New Testament reveals that there in fact is only one church.  Paul spoke of the body of Christ as being his church (Eph. 1:22-23), and then specifically said that there is only one body, as well as only one faith (Eph. 4:4-5).  If the body is the church, and there is one body, then there is one church.  One church, one body, one faith.  Compare that to the thousands of different denominations, sects, and cults which all believe different things while claiming to all follow Christ…even though Christ’s New Testament specifically commands Christians that “…all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10; cf. John 17:20-23; Phil. 2:1-2).

Another misunderstanding many have about this passage revolves around the Roman Catholic doctrine of apostolic succession which teaches that Peter was the first Pope.  This verse is commonly cited by Catholicism to mean that Jesus was saying that the church was built on Peter.  However, this notion is mistaken for two reasons:

  1. Peter could not have been the first Pope, because Peter was married (Matt. 8:14-15; 1 Cor. 9:5) and Catholic doctrine teaches that the Pope and other bishops must be celibate, even though the New Testament specifically states that bishops must be married (1 Tim. 3:2; Tit. 1:6).  (With this in mind, compare Catholic doctrine to the prophecy of Paul in 1 Timothy 4:1-3.)
  2. It is well known that “Peter” means “rock,” and so the assumption is made that when Jesus said, “…you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church…”, he was saying that the church would be built on Peter.  However, a study of the Greek words used in Matthew 16:18 reveals that Jesus actually used two different words here.  When he said, “…you are Peter…”, he used the masculine Greek word Petros, which refers to a rock or stone.  However, when he then said, “…upon this rock…”, he used the feminine Greek word petra, which refers to a large rock or stone, or a cliff.  The two similar but different words show by definition that Jesus had two similar but different concepts in mind when he spoke this sentence.  The church would not be built upon the rock of the apostle Peter (Petros), but upon a large rock or cliff (petra).  Contextually, the only thing Jesus could have in mind in reference to the petra would be the confession Peter had just made that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God (Matt. 16:16), which of course we know is the foundation of faith upon which the church is built (cf. 1 Cor. 3:11).

Thus, today’s Scripture of the Day records a promise Jesus made to Peter, the other apostles, and us that gives me comfort every time I read it.  He promised to build his church, of which there is only one, upon the rock of the confession of faith in him as the Son of God, and that his church would never die and thus be overcome by the gates of Hades.

Are you a part of his church?  The Bible specifically states that he is the Savior of his church (Eph. 5:23).  Do you want Christ to be your Savior?  Be a part of his church, not some man-made denomination.  Make the same heart-felt confession of faith that Peter made (Matt. 16:16; Rom. 10:9-10), choose to repent of your sins (Luke 13:3; Acts 3:19), and wash your sins away via immersion into the body of Christ, his church (1 Cor. 12:13; cf. Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38).

Baptism: The Christian’s “Circumcision”

In Genesis chapter 17, we read of God making a covenant (agreement) with Abraham that the Holy Land, the land of Canaan, would always belong to Abraham’s descendants as long as they obeyed him.  The “sign of the covenant” would be the circumcision in the flesh of every male at least eight days old (Gen. 17:10-14).  Abraham immediately made sure that he and his entire family were circumcised that same day (Gen. 17:22-27).  This was the basis for the law which required that all Jews be circumcised (Lev. 12:3).

Thousands of years later during the early days of the church, Jewish Christians who had converted out of Judaism were trying to bring tenets of Judaism into Christianity.  Circumcision was one of these tenets (Acts 15; Gal. 1-6).  Paul made it clear that physical circumcision was not required to be a Christian like it was in order to be a Jew.  However, the Holy Spirit inspired him to use the Jews’ mindset of circumcision being a sign that they had a covenant with God to teach a very important lesson about baptism in the book of Colossians.

Much of Colossians dealt with Paul reassuring Gentile Christians that they did not have to obey all the laws of Judaism in order to be Christians.  While doing so, he told them that they, like all Christians, had been filled in Christ, who is the head of all rule and authority (Col. 2:10).  Notice what he said next in Colossians 2:11-12“In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.”

Think about this for a second.  We are not under the covenant God made with Israel.  That was taken out of the way at the cross (Col. 2:14), and we are under a new covenant (Heb. 8:6-13), Christ’s covenant.  But just like physical circumcision was required as a sign of the old covenant, God still requires “circumcision” of a sort as a sign in the new covenant.  But this is not a literal, fleshly, physical circumcision.  No, Paul says that it is a spiritual circumcision, “made without hands.”  He then clarifies it has having occurred when one was baptized – literally “immersed” in the Greek – in water.

From Abraham to the church, God and everyone else would know whether or not one was a Jew if they were physically circumcised.  Does God and everyone else recognize you to be a Christian?  Baptism preceded by repentance (Acts 2:38) which was brought on by faith (Mark 16:16) is the key, the key to salvation and forgiveness of sins.  It is only through baptism that one is spiritually buried with Christ to rise again to a new life (Col. 2:12; Rom. 6:3-4).  It is only through baptism that one puts on Christ and becomes a child of God (Gal. 3:26-27).  It is only through baptism that the Holy Spirit adds you to Christ’s body (1 Cor. 12:13), that body being his church (Eph. 1:22-23), of which there is only one in the sight of God (Eph. 4:4-6), not the many found in the numerous sects and denominations of Christendom today.

Have you been spiritually circumcised?  Are you truly a Christian in the sight of God?