3 Then Abram said, “Look, You have given me no offspring; indeed one born in my house is my heir!” 4 And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir.” 5 Then He brought him 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.” 6 And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:3–6, NKJV).
God accounted Abraham’s faith to him for righteousness (v. 6). All who have the faith of Abraham are his seed and heirs (Rom. 4:16; Gal. 3:8-9, 29). The nature of Abraham’s faith has long been disputed. Was his faith “faith only?” No, for James said Abraham’s works (obedience) completed his faith (James 2:21-24). His obedient faith was accounted for righteousness, as is ours. Such faith does not earn or merit the blessing, for we are sinners saved by grace (Rom. 3:23-24; 4:1-5). The apostle Paul used Genesis 15:6 in Romans 4:22, where its context gives us valuable insight into the nature of Abraham’s faith (Rom. 4:18-22). Abraham believed “in hope,” trusting God’s promise of a son, even though he and Sarah were past the age of having children. Instead of doubting God’s word, Abraham “did not waver” but was “strengthened in faith,” assured God would fulfill His word. And He did. “Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age” (Gen. 21:2). Abraham’s unwavering, active, obedient faith was accounted for righteousness. Like Abraham, our trusting, obedient faith will be accounted to us for righteousness.
Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad (John 8:56, NKJV).
How could Abraham, who lived almost two thousand years before Jesus, see and rejoice in the day of Christ? Obviously, not with physical eyes. Abraham saw the Messiah’s time (“My day”) with eyes of faith. He believed the promise of God that “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice” (Gen. 22:18). The writer to the Hebrews boldly says concerning Abraham (and others), “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Heb. 11:13). Abraham saw God’s fulfillment before it happened because he lived by faith in God. Indeed, God “preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed” (Gal. 3:8). Christians “are blessed with believing Abraham” because we are “of faith” (Gal. 3:7, 9, 1-2). The striking contrast Jesus made in John 8 is that Jews who claimed to be children of Abraham saw Messiah’s day, but instead of rejoicing, they did not believe. They did not do the works of Abraham; They tried to kill Jesus (John 8:39-40, 59). Furthermore, Abraham obeyed God’s word, even as Jesus did (John 8:54-55). They were children of the devil by refusing to believe and obey the truth Jesus spoke (John 8:31-32, 40-47). Christians walk by faith (2 Cor. 5:7). With eyes of faith, we “see Jesus” at God’s right hand of glory, the great I AM whose died, arose, and is exalted, blessing all “who are of the faith of Abraham” (John 8:57-58; Rom. 4:16).
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 (Hebrews 11:8, NKJV).
Many people move. They plan where they intend to move (sometimes years in advance). Perhaps to retire, maybe it’s a job reassignment or an educational opportunity. Perhaps it’s to start a marriage and life together. Belongings are packed and shipped (or hauled in a U-Haul) to the new residence. Moving is a lot of work! Imagine moving to a new location without any idea where you are going – except that it would be your inheritance. Because the Lord told you to go, you go. That is what Abram did. (Oh, and by the way, you are seventy-five years old and have no children at the time, Gen. 12:1-7.) He obeyed God “by faith.” Abram trusted God even though he did not see the outcome when his journey began. That is what obedient faith does. It follows the word of the Lord even when the end is not seen yet (1 Pet. 1:6-9). Obedience trusts God more than we trust ourselves and others. Faith without obedience is incomplete (James 2:17). Obedience without faith is an empty pretense (Matt. 15:7-9). The thing is, we know where we are going when we follow Jesus. We are going to the Father and our eternal inheritance (John 14:1-6; 1 Pet. 1:3-5). Christians are homeward bound. By faith, obey God’s word, and you are on your way to your eternal inheritance (Heb. 11:13-16).
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.