What does GOD have to say about you? Can you imagine what it must feel like to have GOD reference you by name -- as HIS friend? What would it take to be known as a personal friend of GOD? Abraham is said to be a friend of GOD in two different passages, one of those spoken by GOD. Isaiah 41:8 But you, Israel, are My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, The descendants of Abraham----My friend. The other is found in 2 Chronicles 20:7 Are You not our God, who drove out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel, and gave it to the descendants of Abraham ---Your friend forever?
Romans 4:1-5 What then, shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." 4 Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. 5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness,
There is a natural resistance from world religions to the idea of “justification by faith.” Every “religion” has a works based agenda. My definition of “religion” excludes Christianity because I do not believe for a second that Jesus died on the cross to start another religion. Religions have people flying airplanes into buildings. Wars are fought over religions. Have you ever heard of someone shouting “In the name of Jesus”, then blowing up a crowded market? Jesus came so that we may have a personal relationship with HIM. Our salvation does not come by how many doors we knock on, or how many times we count beads on a necklace, or what foods we eat, or how many infidels we take down. Salvation only comes by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. It is complex only in its simplicity.
The argument that Paul, a first century Jewish scholar, expected from the Jewish converts is expressed in those 5 verses. 1st century Jews did not have a Batman or Captain America as a super-hero, but they did have a cultural champion & guardian; Abraham. Every Jew could trace his family lineage by tribe back to Abraham. He was a source of national & cultural pride.
Abraham was the core behind three world belief systems. Judaism & Christianity are two of those belief systems. The Jews viewed Abraham as the prime example of a man saved by his works. They believed that he was the perfect example of a faultless life. They believed that God had accepted and justified Abraham because Abraham earned it by his works and by the Law. We will see this was not the case.
If we break those verses we've read down into a more basic understanding, it would be something like this. -- How can Paul say that GOD will forgive a common non-Jewish person just for believing in Jesus, when the most wonderful of all Jewish people, Abraham, would not be accepted by GOD based on his works? Can you see what that would be hard for early Jews to stomach?
Now, lets rephrase it in a way that has meaning in our culture. How can we think that a convicted serial killer who repents & accepts Jesus as his savior at the last minute before he dies be justified by GOD, but a decent & moral non-Christian be found unrighteous? I bet if we were honest with ourselves, we have all questioned that at one point. I know I have a hard time with this idea. I believe it to be true,... but I still struggle with it. If you were a family member of one of the victims, it would be hard to accept. That is the same stinging reaction the Jews felt when they heard this.
Salvation by grace is rather hum-drum to modern society. Unfortunately, it is something I believe most people take for-granted. In Pauls time, this was cutting edge news, even heretical. Paul, in essence, calls Abraham to the witness stand. We can now examine the biblical evidence ourselves to see if or how Abraham was found righteous. Early Jews would have had the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible memorized. We get to spend some time flipping to the front of the Bible.
The first piece of evidence is found in Genesis 15:5-6. This chapter chronicles a conversation between God and Abram, as he was not yet known as Abraham. Then He (GOD) brought him( Abram ) outside and said, “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be. And he(Abram) believed in the Lord, and He (GOD) accounted it to him for righteousness.”
Lets go back further in Genesis to follow the line to see how the story began. Genesis 12:1-4 Now the Lord had said to Abram:“Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you. 2 I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” 4 So Abram departed as the Lord had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.
Abram had already left his his ancestral home-land of Ur. That would have been near modern day Babylon in Iraq and he had moved to Haran, a town in modern day Turkey. At the young age of 75 years, GOD asked Abram to move south to Canaan. Later in chapter 12, the town of Bethel is mentioned. This is now part of the territory north of Jerusalem in the West Bank.
Going totally off track for a bit, we know that Abram took Lot, his nephew with him from Turkey, but left other family members there. Genesis 27:43-44 deals with brothers Jacob & Esau. It says “When Rebekah was told what her older son Esau had said, she sent for her younger son Jacob and said to him, “Your brother Esau is planning to avenge himself by killing you. Now then, my son, do what I say: Flee at once to my brother Laban in Harran.”
Jacob, in chapter 32 of Genesis, is renamed Israel. His twelve sons become the founders of the 12 tribes of Israel. Totally off track, I know, but I get really excited when the Bible comes together coherently. To me, it gets smaller & easier to understand.
Back to Abraham's faith. First, Abram believed and trusted in GOD to move to a foreign land. And second, Abram believed & trusted in GOD that he would become the father of many nations. Keep in mind that he was 75 years old ---- and his wife, Sarah was barren. Abrams reaction was much better than mine would be. I do not want to be told when I'm 75 that I am to move south to Nicaragua & start changing diapers.
Another part of this argument is that Abraham could not possibly be justified by the law. The Law of Moses did not exist for at least another 430 years after Abraham. This is Missouri, our motto is the “Show-me” state. I learn by seeing, not by hearing. Keep a finger in Genesis and turn to Galatians 3:16-17: ----------- Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made.... And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God...
Would it be difficult to be accountable to a set of rules that did not exist for several hundred years after you lived? This would not be news to the Jews. They knew every minute detail of Abraham's life. They simply chose to ignore the facts. Similarly today, many in the Church know GODs rules, but simply choose to ignore them.
The next thing the Jews clung to is the religious ritual of circumcision. Surely Abraham was justified by his works of this religious ordinance. It has been a custom of Jewish males to this day since its inception. Unfortunately for the Jews who attempted to debate with Paul, this custom did not exist for another 24 years after Abram trusted GOD & left Haran. Abraham was 99 years old when that practice began. Lets all turn to Genesis chapter 17. We will read verse 1, 5, and 10.
And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. (5) Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. (10) This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised;
He was 75 years old when this began. Abraham is now 99 before the Jewish ritual began. 99-75 is 24, right? Abraham was righteous to GOD hundreds of years before the Law was given. He was righteous to GOD decades before the Jewish rite was instituted. Works had nothing to do with it. The Law had nothing to do with it. Abraham believed in the Lord, and GOD accounted it to him for righteousness.
Some of you like when I spend time on the history part and some of you don't. I am a history enthusiast. To me History brings everything together and completes the puzzle. I mentioned earlier that Abraham was at the core of 3 world faiths and listed Judaism & Christianity as two. What is the third one? Islam.
Islam comes the lineage of Abraham's illegitimate son Ishmael. Muhammad, the founder of Islam traces his roots to Kedar, the second son of Ishmael. Genesis 25:13 And these are the names of the sons of Ishmael, by their names, according to their generations: the firstborn of Ishmael, Nebajoth; and then Kedar …... This tribe is mentioned a dozen times in the Bible.
Going totally rogue again, but I think it is interesting, what color do you associate with ISIS, both in their flag and a majority of their clothing? Black. Kedar means dark or black. Song of Solomon 1:5 mentions the black tents of Kedar. “I am black, but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, black as the tents of Kedar, and as the curtains of Solomon.” Isaiah 21:17 refers to them in the same way that Nimrod was described. “And the residue of the number of archers,The mighty men of the children of Kedar, shall be diminished: For the Lord God of Israel hath spoken it.” In Psalms 120:5-7, we are told something even more telling about this tribe. “Woe is me, that I sojourn in Mesech, that I dwell in the tents of Kedar! 6 My soul hath long dwelt with him that hateth peace. 7 I am for peace: but when I speak, they are for war.”
Using our Bible, we have shown their historical affinity for the color black, as well as their warring nature. Again, that has nothing directly to do with today's message, but I find it interesting that after applying a little history to the Bible, every thing seems much smaller and simpler to understand.
Back to our original subject. What does GOD have to say about you? Do you have anything this morning you need to say to GOD? Are you a friend of GOD?