Basket of Figs, July, 2008
“Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days. Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.” (Ac 3:24-26)
If you do not see what the problem is, you will be unlikely to discover the solution. Although they praised and honored the memory of the prophets, Israel did not understand nor believe the message of the prophets.
Man’s problem from the Garden of Eden has been sin. Not only is each man’s individual sin a problem for him, but every man bears the curse of God upon his soul because of Adam’s sin. Because of Adam’s sin men are born under the curse of sin and death and are alienated from God. Note:
“Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart:” (Eph 4:18)
“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:” (Ro 5:12)
“For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” (Ro 5:19)
Moses was not sent to remove the curse, but rather to make the curse obvious. The law of Moses is good but: “But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.” (Ro 7:13)
Hence the blessing of Abraham, if it was to have any meaning to the people of God had to include the forgiveness of sins and also the “turning away every one of” them from the love and power of sin. These two things, the theological terms are “justification” and “sanctification” and both are necessary if the soul is to be saved.
Justification is the forgiveness of sins, but more than that it is the legal standing that a man has in Christ because the Lord Jesus represents him before God has his mediator. All the wrath of God that the sinner deserves was received in the body and soul of the Lord Jesus so that there is “no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” and “blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not inpute iniquity.”
Those who receive forgiveness of sins do so because of the eternal decree of God; it is determined in heaven before the world began, and even all of Abraham’s children did not receive it, but “in Isaac shall thy seed be called.” Not even all of Isaac’s children received it, but Jacob was loved and Esau was hated, specifically to teach us that “the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth.” [Rom 9]
In general, [Romans 9:7,8] “Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.” This means that because it is of promise, it must be by faith, as in:
For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect: Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression. Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all,” (Ro 4:13-16)
Because of this, Abraham was not the head of his children in the same sense that Adam was the head of his seed and Christ is head of His. Every single one of Adam’s natural seed partake of the curse of his sin; every single one of Christ’s seed partake of the blessings of His obedience.
Abraham is head only by the example of faith. Because the enemies of Christ, though descended from Abraham, did not believe as Abraham believed, they did not received the blessing of Abraham and were not counted among the seed of God. Instead, Jesus said of them, “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lust of your father ye will do.” They were not saved because they had descended from Abraham unless they believed as Abraham believed.
Adam’s seed perished under the curse and death passed upon them, even in those years before Moses and even though they had not sinned in the same way Adam sinned. They perished because of Adam’s sin. In a similar way, those in Christ receive the gift of eternal life even though none of them is able to present to God the same kind of obedience that Jesus did. “As by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” Rom. 5:19. The effect of Christ’s righteousness is universal upon all in Christ; just as the effect of Adam’s sin was universal upon all those in Adam.
Therefore, the key was the faith of Abraham. Only those who believed as Abraham believed were saved and counted among the children of God. All others remained under the curse, and the Law of Moses only compounded their guilt and misery, for the law works wrath, it cannot take it away.
It is by faith, then, that sins are forgiven and the sinner is justified in the sight of God. The reason for this is that faith is not a work of the flesh, but is the work of the Spirit and is only found in connection with the preaching of the Gospel. “How shall they believe on Him of whom they have not heard?” Any who were saved in Old Testament times were saved because of faith in Christ and the Gospel must have been preached in the Old Testament, as Hebrews 11 witnesses.
This is exactly what the Scripture says. Sabbath Day rest and the rest in Canaan pointed to justification by faith: “Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.” (Heb 4:1-2)
Moses suffered because of Christ: “Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward.” (Heb 11:26) Acts 3:25,26, quoted above, specifically connects the promise of Christ with the promise God made to Abraham, and even more specifically to the taking away of sins. There are many other such places, such as Galatians 3, and Romans 4.
“That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” (Ga 3:14)
In this text, the blessing of Abraham is specifically equated with the receiving of the Spirit through faith. It is the Spirit that draws the soul to Christ, working faith and repentance, for the Spirit is the One who energizes the Gospel and applies the work of Christ of the soul. “If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die, but if ye, though the Spirit to mortify the deeds of body, ye shall live.”
This work of the Spirit is the first work of sanctification, the beginning of the putting off of the old and the putting on of the new. Justification does not depend upon sanctification, but sanctification depends upon justification. No man can be sanctified who is not justified; but those who have only the first beginnings of sanctification will be completed when we see Christ in glory. Until then, we walk by faith, for He that has begun a good work in us will perform it until the day of Christ. The same decree of God that elects us to faith and eternal life has also determined that we shall be conformed to Jesus Christ, according to Romans 8:29. It must be, for none of Christ’s sheep shall perish.
But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.” (Joh 10:26-29)
This is the blessing of Abraham that those who believe receive in Jesus Christ. It came first to Israel, in both the Old and the New Testaments. This was the message of the prophets and the apostles. The Great Prophet [Jesus Christ--Acts 3:22,23, predicted by Moses] would come and those who would not hear him would be cut off and perish.
The Promise is to the elect alone, and they alone receive it by faith. The Lord Jesus alone turns us by faith from our sins and miseries and joins us to Christ. All others are lost, even if within the church, for ““He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (Joh 3:18)
It is faith which saves. Not being born of the corruptible seed of a human father, no matter how godly; but being born of incorruptible seed, by the word of God which lives and abides forever. Sanctification depends upon justification and both rest upon the eternal decree of God. To make the decree depend upon sanctification, or to make justification depend upon sanctification is to make sanctification impossible and to deny the power of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh and must die, but the word of God abides forever.
Faith cannot make a man elect, for he cannot have faith unless he is elect, for the natural man who is dead in trespasses and sins cannot believe, for he cannot receive the things of God for they are foolishness to him.
However, the great power of the work of God is this: faith overcomes doubt and fear; it raises the soul from the death of sin and misery and makes him a new creation in Christ Jesus and sets him free from the bondage of sin’s guilt so that he may serve God with godly fear. Amen.