8 “Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. 9 And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Luke 3:8–9, NKJV)
It is tempting to trust in our spiritual heritage for divine approval. We can put our confidence in our parents’ faith without developing our own. Merely trusting in a spiritual heritage is a futile and fatal approach to our present faith and future hope. John the Baptist’s preaching reminded his audience to take a personal inventory of their hearts and lives. This reminder still holds. He warned the Jewish people not to put their confidence in their ancestral heritage. It was God who chose Abraham and blessed him for his faith (Gen. 12:1-3; 15:6). God must be trusted and obeyed because His purposes prevail. His judgment of Israel was imminent when John preached (“the ax is laid to the root of the trees”). God’s judgment destroys the unfruitful (those who do not repent and bear its fruits). Repentance is a change that takes place in the heart. It is a fundamental reordering of perspectives and priorities to put away sin and do God’s will (Lk. 3:10-14). Repentance is not being sorry for our iniquities; it results from godly sorrow (2 Cor. 7:9-10). Without repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ, we cannot bear good fruit (Acts 20:21). But, when we change our hearts toward God (repent), we will conform our lives to His will – “bear fruits worthy of repentance.”
By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised. (Hebrews 11:11, NKJV)
We observe a vital element of faith in this reminder of Sarah’s conception of Isaac. Faith judges God to be faithful and true to His word. God promised her husband, Abraham that of his seed, all the nations would be blessed. That promise would not come through Ishmael, the handmaid Hagar’s son, but Sarah herself (Gen. 17:15-21). Although now ninety years old (and Abraham was ninety-nine), Sarah judged God to be faithful. Sarah’s conception is a beautiful account of the power of faith in God to do what He said He would (Rom. 4:17-22). In like manner, we judge God to be faithful to His word. Such a judgment is the seed of faith that germinates into trustful obedience. Faith is not a blind leap into the dark. It is a confident step of following His word because He is faithful. We walk by faith because we know whom we have believed. We are sure He will keep what we have committed to Him until the day of eternity (2 Cor. 5:7; 2 Tim. 1:12; 1 Pet. 4:19). The strength of faith comes from trusting the integrity of God to do what He says (Titus 1:2). God will keep His word. Now, let us have faith to keep His (Jas. 1:21-25).
7 Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” 9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham. (Galatians 3:7–9, NKJV)
Keeping the law of Moses cannot save anyone from sin; it identifies one as a sinner (Gal. 3:10-12; Rom. 3:23). Salvation from sin comes “by the hearing of faith,” that is, by the gospel of Christ (Gal. 3:2, 5). Sinners hear that salvation comes by faith through the gospel, not through the law of Moses and its works. One’s faith is counted for righteousness by hearing, believing, and obeying the truth of the gospel of Christ (Gal. 3:1-2, 5-6). Before the law of Moses existed, gospel salvation “by the hearing of faith” was preached in the promise to Abraham: “In you all the nations shall be blessed” (3:8). This promised blessing is available in Christ. The gospel reveals the crucified Christ so we can receive the blessings of Abraham (Gal. 3:1, 13-14). The “blessing of Abraham” and “the promise of the Spirit through faith” is the salvation from sins preached to Abraham, fulfilled by Christ’s death, and heard in the gospel (Gal. 3:14, 2, 22-25). Every sinner who believes the gospel and obeys the truth is saved from sins, is a child of God, and an heir of the promise (Gal. 3:26-29). We preach the gospel of Christ so sinners can believe and obey the truth and be saved in Christ (Gal. 3:26-27).
7 But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” Then he said, “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” 8 And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” So the two of them went together. (Genesis 22:7-8, NKJV)
God will provide. He had previously provided Abraham protection from danger, victory over foes, and abundant blessings. God had given Abraham an heir in his old age, Isaac, the child God promised him. Now, Abraham’s faith is supremely tested by God’s command to “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you” (Gen. 22:2). With godly fear, Abraham obeyed the Lord (Heb. 11:17). God prevented Isaac’s death and provided a ram for the offering. Abraham named the place “The-Lord-Will-Provide” (Gen. 22:12-14). The imagery of this event shines brilliantly in the gospel. In love, God gave His only begotten Son to die for humanity as an offering for our sins (Jno. 3:16; Rom. 5:6-11; Heb. 10:5-10). God will provide for our needs. “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things” (Rom. 8:31-32)? Abraham did not forsake God, and God did not forsake him. God assures His faithful ones, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). Oh yes, God will provide.
17 Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, 18 that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. 19 This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, (Hebrews 6:17–19, NKJV)
God promised Abraham He would bless him and his descendants, and that all the nations of the earth through his seed. And, He confirmed His promise with an oath (Gen. 22:16-18). Jesus Christ is the Seed in whom God fulfilled His promise (Gal. 3:16). God’s promise and oath – two unchangeable things – give us relief from sin and the refuge of hope God has set before us. Our faith in Jesus (who entered the most holy place of heaven as High Priest with His atoning blood) gives substance to our hope (Heb. 6:20; 8:1-3; 11:1). In turn, our hope anchors our souls through the storms of life. Hope combines desire and expectation. Hope secures us when our faith is tested because our faith is in Jesus, not in ourselves. You can weather the storm of sin and the storms of life because God does not lie. His promise and oath are firm. His Son Jesus has opened the way for us to the presence of God (Heb. 10:19-21). So, live by faith and find solace in the living hope we have in Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 1:3-4).
6 But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, 7 nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, “In Isaac your seed shall be called.” 8 That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed. (Romans 9:6–8, NKJV)
God showed His faithfulness by fulfilling His promise to Abraham that “in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 22:18). The gospel of Christ reveals this promised blessing as salvation from sins “for everyone who believes, for the Jew first, and also for the Greek” (Rom. 1:16). The gospel also makes it clear the “children of the promise” are now the children of God. The promised blessing is obtained in Jesus Christ, not as a Jew under the Law of Moses (Gal. 3:16-19). Whether Jew or Gentile, “we are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus,” not through the Law of Moses (Gal. 3:23-27). The nation of Israel is no longer God’s chosen people. God chose us “in Christ” for redemption, regardless of race (Eph. 1:4; 2 Thess. 2:13). In Christ, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). Being a citizen of the nation of Israel does not make one a child of God. The church is now the “Israel of God” (Gal. 6:15-16).
18 Now for a time of about forty years He put up with their ways in the wilderness. 19 And when He had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, He distributed their land to them by allotment. (Acts 13:18–19, NKJV)
God keeps His promises. He had promised to give Abraham’s descendants the land of Canaan (Gen. 12:7; 13:14-15, 15:7, 18). Many believe God did not entirely keep His land promise. They expect Him to give Israel the land in the future. However, time and again, the Scriptures say God fulfilled His land promise. He has already given Israel the land He promised them. To expect God to do so in the future denies His word. Hear God’s word: 1) Paul said God distributed their land to them. “He distributed their land to them.” 2) Israel received the land under Joshua. “So the Lord gave Israel all the land of which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they took possession of it and dwelt in it: (Josh. 21:43, 4-45; cf. 11:23; 23:14). 3) Solomon’s rule corresponded with the promised land (Gen. 15:18; 1 Kgs. 4:21). 4) The psalmist confirmed God gave Israel “the lands of the Gentiles” (Psa. 105:11, 42-44). 5) Jeremiah said God gave them the land He swore to their fathers (Jer. 32:21-23). 6) Nehemiah records God’s fulfillment of the land promise (Neh. 9:7-8). In the face of multiple declarations that God fulfilled His land promise, millions of souls cling to the false hope of the false doctrine of premillennialism that God will one day keep His word. He already did. We reject the failed framework of false doctrines that force one to conclude God did not keep His word.
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).