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The Calling of Abraham (20)

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The Calling of Abraham (20)

6 minuten leestijd

Rev. J.B. Zippro, Grand Rapids, MI

The faith of that promise

It is said of Abram that “He believed in the Lord; and He counted it to him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). At first it was impossible for him to believe; it was impossible to exercise faith. His complaint was, “Lord, what wilt Thou give me, seeing I go childless?” Now, however, it is so different—now he may believe in the Lord—and we see faith in exercise. There are many people who do not seem to have any struggles with unbelief. They can so easily believe, and they say, “You have to believe,” or “You have to accept.” There is a people, however, who cannot believe in and of themselves and are unable to believe even one of the promises which may be found in God’s Word.

By nature it is impossible to believe. As impossible as it is to reach the stars with our hands, it is that impossible to exercise faith and to believe, but, at times and moments, the Lord grants His people to believe and gives them to exercise their faith; we can also say this of Abram. When the sinner experiences nothing but sin and guilt, then salvation becomes impossible from his side, but if the Lord grants it, ah, then there are times that he may believe what the Lord has promised. Then it is impossible to reject the Word of God and impossible not to believe what the Lord speaks!

Abram believed in the Lord with his whole heart. Oh, that wonderful grace of faith, which Philpot calls “the queen of graces,” when we may believe in the Lord. When faith is in exercise, it comes with love and hope, and we may rest and lean upon Him with our whole heart. Then, for a moment, all unbelief must vanish. What a wonder it is when it happens. Abram believed the Lord. Notice how it is written not that he believed the promise but that “he believed in the Lord.” He believed in God Himself, who will fulfill that promise unconditionally. He did not say, “Lord, I will believe it when I see the child.” That is what man desires, and that is unbelief. Thomas, in bonds of unbelief after the resurrection, desired to see the prints in the hands of his Master and thrust his hand into His side, and then he said he would believe, but the Lord said, “Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed.”

Thus it was for Abram. He believed in the Lord, and that faith was counted for righteousness. Faith which is a gift of the Lord and exercised by the grace of the Lord, “is counted for righteousness.” This is the whole foundation of our doctrine and also what Luther realized at the time of the Reformation. It is all of grace; salvation is by faith only, and no words of man can or need to be added. We can observe this in what Paul writes in Romans 4 and in what is found in Genesis 15. These two portions of Scripture are connected to each other, and the whole New Testament is built upon this truth—faith is only by grace.

The Jews, during the time of Paul, believed that all males had to be circumcised. People were required to follow the law and observe all types of human conventions, and then they probably (not positively) could be saved. Paul said, “Away with it, it is only by grace.” He could found it on Scripture itself. In Genesis 15, was Abram circumcised? No, he was not. That took place later on, but here he was not yet circumcised. We read, however, that the Lord “counted it to him for righteousness.” It was only sovereign grace, as Paul writes. The entire message of Paul, and the entire message of the New Testament, is “only by grace,” free and sovereign grace. It is nothing of man but only of God who fulfills His promise and plan in sending His Son.

This is the richest content of the whole promise to Abram. The deepest reason why God called Abram was to make of him a great nation, and out of this nation the Messiah would be born. It was according to His eternal plan that the Messiah would come forth from this great nation. Here we see the great promise of the Lord and what He accomplished for His Church. He saved His Church from eternal destruction, wrath, and death. In Paradise, God had already promised that He would send the seed of the woman and that the seed of the serpent would be destroyed. This was God’s promise to Abram, and through grace, Abram was enabled to believe it.

What a wonder if we are also enabled to believe it for ourselves. “He counted it to him for righteousness.” Here stands Abram, without a son, but with the God of the promise who gave him a visible confirmation. Abram said, “Lord, Thou wilt fulfill that promise,” and the Lord counted it as righteousness. Here Abram stands as a child of God, free from all sin and iniquity, counted and reckoned, in Christ, as a righteous man. Oh, what an eternal wonder for Abram that he was justified by faith, because that is what happened here. He was justified by faith only through that imputed righteousness which, in the deepest sense, was the righteousness of Christ. He would come as the greatest Star, that Star of all stars, in the fullness of time, fulfilling all the commandments and promises of the Lord in that covenant of grace.

Are there readers who also must say, “Lord God, what wilt Thou give me, seeing I go Childless? I am without Christ in the world, and I must die and appear before Thee. How shall I appear before Thee, seeing I go Childless?” As Matthew Henry states, Childless here is Christless! I can only appear through Him, who is that Christ, that Savior in whom is full salvation and righteousness, and in whom is an eternal redemption and reconciliation with a righteous God. What an eternal wonder it is to exercise that faith, to rest upon the Lord, to give ourselves over to Him, and to find rest in His righteousness.

— To be continued —

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The Calling of Abraham (20)

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PDF Bekijken