27 Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, 28 for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ 29 Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ (Luke 16:27–29, NKJV)
Previously, the rich man had called out to Abraham to send Lazarus to him with a drop of water to relieve his torment (Lk. 16:24). Now, he begs Abraham to send Lazarus to his brothers to bear witness of the torment awaiting them unless they repent (Lk. 16:28, 30). It is important for us to hear Abraham’s answer. The answer was “no,” he would not send Lazarus to them. The man’s brothers had God’s Scriptures to persuade them to live according to God’s will. The same principle is true today. The present truth – the gospel of Christ – is how God persuades sinners to repent and be saved. God does not send messages from the dead to the living. The living word of God, the inspired Scriptures, testify of the “place of torment” and of the place of comfort that awaits beyond the grave. We must hear and follow the word of God that was spoken and written by the apostles and prophets of Christ. This is how God speaks to us today (Heb. 1:1-2). This is how God persuades us to live so as to reap rest, not torment, when we die.
24 Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented.’ (Luke 16:24–25, NKJV)
Death does not end our existence. That is clearly implied here. Furthermore, we learn here that salvation is not universal. The rich man’s plea for mercy is understandable. Even momentary relief from the torturous flame would be better than nothing. But, not even a drop of water would come. How many billions of souls believe eternal bliss awaits all who pass from this life?! Yet, Jesus told of something very different. After death, each man received according to how he had lived on earth. We must take to heart this important, timeless truth, “Do not be deceived. God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life” (Gal. 6:7-8). For Lazarus, the pain was past. For the rich man, it had only just begun. How terrible it is to be lost! How comforting it is to be saved! The gospel will save you from your sins and show you how to live to be ready to die (Rom. 1:16-17; 6:17-18; Gal. 2:20; 2 Tim. 4:6-8). The rich man loved his money, and lost everything. Choose to love and follow Jesus. Live by His truth, and death will bring you blessed comfort.
11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also, 12 and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised. (Romans 4:11–12, NKJV)
God commanded circumcision of Abraham as a “sign of the covenant” He made with him (Gen. 17:1-14, esp. 10-11). The apostle calls attention to that historic moment. Like a seal marking authenticity, Abraham’s circumcision served as a sign or indicator “of the righteousness of the faith which he had” while still uncircumcised. This distinction is notable and confirms the blessings of Abraham are offered to all (Jews and Gentiles). It also confirms that faith is the means of justification, not the works of the law of Moses (Rom. 4:13). Verse 12 says Abraham is the father of those who “walk in the steps of the faith” he had before circumcision. Walking is active. Thus, faith is active – it involves steps. Faith obeys God, just like father Abraham. He did not earn the blessings of the covenant through keeping law. He was sinner, saved “by grace, through faith” (Rom. 4:1-5). His (obedient) faith expressed his trust in God, and his faith was accounted to him for righteousness. Obedient faith is the only kind of faith that saves us (Jas. 2:17, 20-24).
9 Does this blessedness then come upon the circumcised only, or upon the uncircumcised also? For we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness. 10 How then was it accounted? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised.” (Romans 4:9–10, NKJV)
The blessedness of which Paul speaks is the forgiveness of sins, given by God as He imputes righteousness to sinners by faith (Rom. 4:5-8). This blessed forgiveness is available to all, and is revealed in the gospel of Jesus Christ (Matt. 28:19-20; Rom. 1:16-17). Those who tried to define forgiveness through keeping the law of the circumcised (the Law of Moses given to the Jews) failed to recognize that Abraham’s faith was counted to him for righteousness while he was uncircumcised (Gen. 15:6). Binding any part of the Law of Moses as essential for salvation is inconsistent with this fact (Acts 15:5-11). When we “walk in the steps of the faith” that Abraham had (while he was still uncircumcised), our faith will also be accounted to us for righteousness. Justifying faith is active (it is a walk), it is obedient. We walk in the footsteps of Abraham when we obey the gospel by believing in Christ, confessing our faith, repenting and being baptized (Jno. 8:24; Rom. 10:9-10; Acts 2:37-38). God is not a respecter of persons. Whoever “fears Him” and “works righteousness” is “accepted by Him” (Acts 10:34-35). We are justified by faith when we believe and obey God like Abraham did (Jas. 2:20-24).
1 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, (Romans 4:1–5, NKJV)
Abraham is the great example of justification by faith and not by works of law. Remember, “works” in Paul’s context is sinlessness – never violating God’s law (Rom. 3:20, 23, 27-28). The boast of justification by works is sinlessness (v. 2). Just one sin forever eliminates the ability to claim justification by works of law. Only sinlessness make righteousness a debt owed (v. 4). Like us, Abraham was a sinner in need of grace. And so, his faith was counted to him for righteousness (v. 3, 5; Gen. 15:6). The nature of Abraham’s faith is described in James 2:21-24. There, Abraham’s works of faith (obedience) were essential to his belief (which was accounted to him for righteousness, cf. Heb. 11:17). Even so today, saving faith is obedient faith, not to earn salvation, but so that we have a complete faith – the kind of faith that is accounted to us for righteousness.
28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. 29 Or is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also, 30 since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.” (Romans 3:28–30, NKJV)
God’s promise to Abraham was that “in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 22:18). The seed of which He spoke was Christ (Gal. 3:16). In this age of inclusiveness it is vital to see the inclusive nature of the gospel is not about everyone deciding truth for themselves (whether that “truth” is Hinduism, Buddhism, Islamic, Judaic, Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, atheistic, agnostic, ad nauseam). God includes all of humanity in one blessed way of justifying sinners. The way of salvation is Christ and is revealed in His gospel. Israel was not justified by the law of Moses (Rom. 2). Gentiles were guilty and under wrath through their unbelief, idolatry and immorality (Rom. 1:18-32). There is one God over all humanity. God justifies Jews “by faith.” The gospel (the law of faith, Rom. 3:27), not the law of Moses, is how Jews are saved. God justifies Gentiles “through” faith. The gospel (the law of faith, Rom. 3:27), is how Gentiles are saved. We do not keep the law of Moses or add anything else to the gospel in order to be saved (see this applied in Gal. 5:3-6). God justifies sinners by “faith” – one faith, not many (Eph. 4:5). The gospel of Christ is sufficient to save sinners (Rom. 1:16). To include other “faiths” nullifies its power and forfeits grace (Gal. 1:6-9).
2 And he said, “Brethren and fathers, listen: The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran, 3 and said to him, ‘Get out of your country and from your relatives, and come to a land that I will show you.’” (Acts 7:2–3, NKJV)
We have heard people say that God would never expect them to leave (go contrary to) their family to do His will. Yet, that is exactly what God commanded Abraham to do. Abraham obeyed God without hesitation and went to a foreign land, all because God said to do so. This is the essence of God-pleasing faith. Listen to Hebrews 11:8: “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.” Genuine faith in Jesus Christ means loving Him more than we love our own family and our own country. Genuine faith obeys the word of God, even when relatives will not. Family is important, but family is not the most important thing (God is more important, see Matthew 10:34-38). Many people have a hard time with this simple but profound truth. The gospel of Christ calls us to make a fundamental choice of Jesus before family, before country, and before self. Without faith (the kind of faith Abraham had) it is impossible to please God. Why? Because “he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). Make sure Christ is always first in your life.