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THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF ABRAHAM

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Sometimes children’s songs have really good theology. One that comes to mind in regards for our passage today is the song titled FATHER ABRAHAM. How many of you remember that song? Why don’t we stand and sing it together:
Father Abraham had many sons, many sons had Father Abraham; I am one of them and so are you, so let’s all praise the Lord!
The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, was contending against a group of men who were referred to as Judaizers. These people believed that Paul was not properly representing the fullness of the gospel. Yes, salvation came by faith in Jesus as the Messiah, but in order to be part of the covenant community Gentiles needed to be circumcized — they needed to become Jewish converts. Philip Ryken, in his commentary on Galatians postulated that their verson of the song we just sang would go like this:
Many Son’
Father Abraham had many sons, many sons had Father Abraham; I am one of them, but you are not, so let’s all get together for a little procedure we like to call circumcision! Snip, snip!
In last weeks passage we saw that Paul appealed to the experience of the Galatian believers in regards to their justification. “Did you receive the Spirit by works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” In this weeks passage, , Paul refers to the example of Abraham as he argues against the direction in which the Galatian believers were heading. As we look at this passage we will look at the faith of Abraham, the sons of Abraham, the eternal plan of God, and Abraham — the believer.
Let’s read our passage together.
THE FAITH OF ABRAHAM (vs. 6)
A. FAITH IN THE PROMISE
Genesis 15:1–6 CSB
After these events, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield; your reward will be very great. But Abram said, “Lord God, what can you give me, since I am childless and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” Abram continued, “Look, you have given me no offspring, so a slave born in my house will be my heir.” Now the word of the Lord came to him: “This one will not be your heir; instead, one who comes from your own body will be your heir.” He took him outside and said, “Look at the sky and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then he said to him, “Your offspring will be that numerous.” Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
Romans 4:16–22 CSB
This is why the promise is by faith, so that it may be according to grace, to guarantee it to all the descendants—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of Abraham’s faith. He is the father of us all. As it is written: I have made you the father of many nations. He is our father in God’s sight, in whom Abraham believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls things into existence that do not exist. He believed, hoping against hope, so that he became the father of many nations according to what had been spoken: So will your descendants be. He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body to be already dead (since he was about a hundred years old) and also the deadness of Sarah’s womb.He did not waver in unbelief at God’s promise but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, because he was fully convinced that what God had promised, he was also able to do. Therefore, it was credited to him for righteousness.
Romans 4 CSB
What then will we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? If Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about—but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness. Now to the one who works, pay is not credited as a gift, but as something owed. But to the one who does not work, but believes on him who declares the ungodly to be righteous, his faith is credited for righteousness. Just as David also speaks of the blessing of the person to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: Blessed are those whose lawless acts are forgiven and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the person the Lord will never charge with sin. Is this blessing only for the circumcised, then? Or is it also for the uncircumcised? For we say, Faith was credited to Abraham for righteousness. In what way then was it credited—while he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? It was not while he was circumcised, but uncircumcised. And he received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while still uncircumcised. This was to make him the father of all who believe but are not circumcised, so that righteousness may be credited to them also. And he became the father of the circumcised, who are not only circumcised but who also follow in the footsteps of the faith our father Abraham had while he was still uncircumcised. For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would inherit the world was not through the law, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. If those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made empty and the promise nullified, because the law produces wrath. And where there is no law, there is no transgression. This is why the promise is by faith, so that it may be according to grace, to guarantee it to all the descendants—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of Abraham’s faith. He is the father of us all. As it is written: I have made you the father of many nations. He is our father in God’s sight, in whom Abraham believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls things into existence that do not exist. He believed, hoping against hope, so that he became the father of many nations according to what had been spoken: So will your descendants be. He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body to be already dead (since he was about a hundred years old) and also the deadness of Sarah’s womb.He did not waver in unbelief at God’s promise but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, because he was fully convinced that what God had promised, he was also able to do. Therefore, it was credited to him for righteousness. Now it was credited to him was not written for Abraham alone, but also for us. It will be credited to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.
John Calvin noted: “Faith does not mean any kind of conviction which men may have of the truth of God; for though Cain had a hundred times exercised faith in God when denouncing punishment against him, this had nothing to do with obtaining righteousness. Abraham was justified by believing, because, when he received from God a promise of fatherly kindness, he embraced it as certain.”
B. IMPUTATION OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
In theology we often use very big words. One of these words is “imputation.” It is a really important concept for us to grasp. Imputation is tied into the substitutionary work of Christ. In our text, the concept of imputation is found in verse 6 in the word “reckoned.”
Imputation is mentioned in the Scriptures in three distinct aspects. First the sin of Adam was imputed to all of mankind in such a way that God considers that we each were the one who ate of the forbidden fruit. Secondly, the sin of believers was imputed to Christ in such a way that on the cross He became sin for us. And third, Christ’s righteousness is imputed to believers in such a way that when God considers us He sees us as completely righteous.
Abraham was not righteous in and off himself.
Abraham was an idolater — coming from Chaldea were they worshiped the celestial bodies such as the sun and the moon.
Abraham was also a liar — frequently misleading people as to his relationship to Sarah.
Abraham was impatient with God’s plan and took for himself a second wife since Sarah was barren.
Though Abraham was not righteous in and of himself, he did fully rely on the promise of God. And therefore he was reckoned as righteous.
THE SONS OF ABRAHAM (vs. 7)
We can probably all state the name of Abraham’s two most famous sons — Ishmael who became the father of the Islamic peoples, and Isaac who became the father of two people groups as well — the Edomites and the Israelites. But I wonder how many of you can name the rest of Abraham’s sons?
Genesis 25:1–2 NASB95PARA
Now Abraham took another wife, whose name was Keturah. She bore to him Zimran and Jokshan and Medan and Midian and Ishbak and Shuah.
Just so you know, I had to look them up since their names are not prominently etched into my memory. But I did at least remember that there were more than just the two.
A. THE BASIS OF FAITH
Paul’s argument, however, is that the sons of Abraham are not based on physical descent, but on the basis offaith
Look at verse 7.
A. TRUE ISRAEL
Romans 9:1–8 NASB95PARA
I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen. But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: “through Isaac your descendants will be named.” That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants.
B. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE SONS OF ABRAHAM
There are at least four characteristics of the sons of Abraham:
The sons of Abraham are described as those who are of faith
John 8:39 NASB95PARA
They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you are Abraham’s children, do the deeds of Abraham.
The sons of Abraham are those who love Christ
John 8:42 NASB95PARA
Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me.
The sons of Abraham, like their spiritual father, are those who rejoice in Christ
John 8:56 NASB95PARA
Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.”
The sons of Abraham are those who are known by Christ and who follow Christ
John 8:56 NASB95PARA
Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.”
John 10:26–27 NASB95PARA
But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me;
THE ETERNAL PLAN OF GOD (vs. 8)
A. SCRIPTURE PERSONIFIED
Princeton Theologian, B.B. Warfield wrote:
“God and the Scriptures are brought into such conjunction as to show that in point of directness of authority no distinction was made between them.”
B. THE GOSPEL PROCLAIMED
What was the gospel that was preached to Abraham? Did he understand that his Seed would be the Redeemer? Some believe that he some sort of understanding of that. We don’t really know.
Abraham relied on the promise of God so much that when the Lord put him to the test and told to offer Isaac, the son of the promise, as an offering he readily set out to do so.
Abraham was confident that God would raise Isaac from the dead (so we are told in ).
ABRAHAM THE BELIEVER (vs. 9)
A. THE DIVINE SUMMARY
In verse 9 Paul gives what some see as a summary of verses 7-8. Abraham was reckoned as righteous because he had faith in the promise of God. This occured before he was given the covenant of circumcision, thus believing Gentiles are spiritual sons of Abraham.
Notice the way Paul refers the patriarch — Abraham, the believer. That’s what you and I are if we have fully relied on the promise of God that in Christ Jesus the debt of our sins has been paid in full.
Let’s pray.
Closing Song: No. — Jesus Paid it All
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