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Summary: The sermon examines the relationship between faith and works as God gives Abraham the rite of circumcision.

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Genesis 17

May 18, 2003

Which came first - the chicken or the egg?

It is one of those silly questions that the human brain can get a little silly with. You can’t have a chicken without an egg, yet you need a chicken to lay the egg in the first place. Of course science has solved the problem by concluding it was a dinosaur - a reptile that laid the egg that hatched into what would become the ancestor of our present day chicken. Of course that merely changes the question - which came first the dinosaur or the egg. In Genesis the book of origins we have answered this question. The chicken came first.

Well, today we have another question that has caused some major turmoil over the centuries. How do faith and works relate? Where better to get an answer to that question than the book of origins - Genesis?

Genesis 17

Structure Promise 17:1-8

Obedience required 17:9-14

Promise 17:15-22

Obedience rendered 17:23-27

1. Promise given 1-8

El-shaddai - almighty - used when power is the issue

2. Obedience required 9-14

3. Promise given 15-22

4. Obedience rendered 23-27

A. Which came first - faith or works?

15:6 Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

Romans 4:9 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 the sign of circumcision, 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 also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.

13 It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith.

B. What did circumcision do?

Sign of the covenant - participate in the outward blessing of the covenant - could be part of the corporate blessing of being associated with the covenant community.

Not baptism but the Lord’s Table is the sign of the New Covenant. Warning - we can outwardly participate yet inwardly be outside.

Romans 2:28 A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical.

29 No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God.


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