Monday, January 29, 2024

Jacob: From Selfish Supplanter to Surrendered Servant: Genesis 32

 

Jacob: From Selfish Supplanter to Surrendered Servant: Genesis 32

What can you say of someone who lived most of his life, up to our chapter of Genesis today, as what we would call a weasel. The Bible calls him supplanter and if he had lived by power and truth, that name would mean hero, but instead he lives his life by scheming and lying. So, in an ultra modern translation, instead of Jacob we would read about Esau and his brother weasel.

But that all changes in chapter 32, the weasel Jacob, becomes Israel the prince with God. That is a big change and the way it is achieved is a path of life that all of God’s people must walk. So all of us weasels can be winners. That is what I should have titled this sermon. Jacob from weasel to winner.

Jacob Draws Nearer To God – Genesis 32:1-2

And Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. 2 And when Jacob saw them, he said, This is God's host: and he called the name of that place Mahanaim. (Two Camps)

Two Camps

Up to this point Jacob has lived his life as he now expresses in by naming this place where he meets with God’s angels, two camps. In his mind and as seen in his life, he sees two camps, one where God is and the other where he, Jacob is.

God’s camp was over there. Real but separate and distant from Jacob’s camp. God was in visions and dreams. He dwelt atop the ladder that the angels ascended at Bethel. He was real, He was absolutely and fully God, but He was not in Jabob’s camp because Jacob wanted it that way.

Jacob throughout his life has kept God over there while he did things his own way in his life. With his mother, Rebekah, he schemed and stole his older brother, Esau’s, blessing. To accomplish that he deceived his aged, blind father by telling a lie to his father’s direct question and then giving the lie assurance with a kiss.

Genesis 27:21-27 And Isaac said unto Jacob, Come near, I pray thee, that I may feel thee, my son, whether thou be my very son Esau or not. 22 And Jacob went near unto Isaac his father; and he felt him, and said, The voice is Jacob's voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau. 23 And he discerned him not, because his hands were hairy, as his brother Esau's hands: so he blessed him. 24 And he said, Art thou my very son Esau? And he said, I am. 25 And he said, Bring it near to me, and I will eat of my son's venison, that my soul may bless thee. And he brought it near to him, and he did eat: and he brought him wine, and he drank. 26 And his father Isaac said unto him, Come near now, and kiss me, my son. 27 And he came near, and kissed him:

Jacob couldn’t wait for God to fulfill His promise giving to Rebekah and instead He lives up to his name and nature, Jacob, the supplanter. He steals from Esau. After all he could justify the action because God was in His camp and Jacob, in his, had to get things moving.

The Bible doesn’t give us a lot of detail on why Jacob such a sneak and schemer or why Esau was such so uncaring, and irresponsible when it came to his birthright. The Bible doesn’t tell us if Isaac tried to take Jacob hunting, to install a bit more manliness into him, to temper his mother’s influence. Or if Rebekah tried to not show so much favoritism to Jacob but also tried to care and love Esau. We can only guess at those things. We only know what the Bible tells us and we can see the outcome of the favoritism of the two parents.

I will say this much though. Parents and grandparents don’t show favoritism, ever. Love your children and grandchildren equally. Each of them must have you full time, must have your full attention, and your full devotion when they are with you. You may not think a young child can tell that you prefer one over the other but believe me they can, and it will hurt them. It will affect them; it will often twist their emotions and make them resentful and rebellious.

I think the Bible makes that very clear. believe it is the reason for the dysfunction and hate in the family of Isaac. Genesis 25:27-28 And the boys grew: and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents. 28 And Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison: but Rebekah loved Jacob.

After the deception and theft, Jacob flees from Esau’s rage and his broken-hearted father.  Then as he sleeps God speaks to him as part in the vision of the Angels climbing a ladder into heaven. After the vision he asks God to bless him as he travels to Laban, but it is a very quid pro quo kind of prayer.  Genesis 28:20-21 20 And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, 21 So that I come again to my father's house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God:

If God will do what I want him to do then I will let Him be by God. Really? Jacob. Really? Talk about keeping God in his camp and Jacob in his own.

Once he gets to his uncle Laban’s land, everything he has does is for himself, God’s plans don’t enter into Jacobs plans. He supplants his Uncles wealth and flees again now away from Padanaram back to Canaan.  From his birth to his marriages everything Jacob did had one goal, to supplant someone else. To take birthrights and blessings, camels and cattle from someone else and make it his own. But now, in chapter 32, things have changed. He has fled the camp of Laban but now he must confront both the coming of Esau and the Camp of God.

Taking God For Granted

Are we sometimes guilty of the same attitude as Jacob? Do we want to keep God in his own camp, while we take care of things in ours?

Do we like the idea of having the blessings of God but not the burden of God, His care but not His commandments. His salvation but not submission.

There is an old Blue Grass song that says, “Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.” It’s kind of the same thing.

Of course, the Bible plainly tells us it didn’t work that way for Jacob, and it won’t work that way for us.

Jesus said you must count the cost.

Luke 14:26-35 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. 27 And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? ... 33 So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.

The Rich Young Ruler - When the rich young man came and asked Christ how to earn eternal life. Do you remember how Jesus answered him?

It’s in Mark 10:17-22 And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? 18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. 19 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother. 20 And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. 21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. 22 And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.

Jesus wasn’t telling the man you can be saved if you sell your possessions, He was proving to the man, that he hadn’t kept the law for he loved his possession more than his neighbors and he didn’t love the Lord his God because he wouldn’t follow Jesus who was his God standing right before Him. The man wanted eternal life in one camp but his life and his wealth in another camp. Instead of repenting and trusting in the Lord, he walked away broken-hearted.

That is the same way any of us will walk away if we like Jacob or the rich young man try to compartmentalize the Lord in our life instead of giving him all our life.

What is the catalyst that bring the change to Jacob? It is facing the brother who he cheated and stole from. The brother who has promised to kill him.

Jacob Despairs Of Esau – Genesis 32:6-8

 And the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, We came to thy brother Esau, and also he cometh to meet thee, and four hundred men with him. Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed: and he divided the people that was with him, and the flocks, and herds, and the camels, into two bands;  And said, If Esau come to the one company, and smite it, then the other company which is left shall escape.

The Catalyst of Jacobs Change

Jacob is afraid, he is very afraid. In the grip of that fear he schemes and does everything in his own power to protect himself and in all his plans you see the same selfish supplanter. He sends the servants and the flocks first. He tries to appease Esau with gifts. Finally, he sends his family over the brook and he is left alone.

When he fled from home, he was alone and God visited him at Bethel (house of God), now he has given up everything, he is alone and once again God will visit him, this time at Penuel (facing God).

Jacob’s Prayer

Listen to Jacob’s prayer here at Penuel and compare it to his prayer at Bethel.

Genesis 32:10 I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast shewed unto thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands. 11 Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children. 12 And thou saidst, I will surely do thee good, and make thy seed as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.

Jacob isn’t bargaining with God anymore. He has nothing to bargain with. His life may end tomorrow when he meets Esau. Now in his emptiness, at the very dregs of his strength, all he asks for is deliverance and he knows that can only come from God.

Cataclysm to Catalysts

God often uses hard, hopeless situations in life to bring us to a place where we, like Jacob, must come face to face with God rather than keeping Him in a separate camp.

We see it all through the Bible. Joshua is facing the battle of Jericho, when the Lord appears as the captain of the Lord’s army. Samson keeps God in a camp very far away, until he is captured, blinded and tortured by the Philistines. Paul is blinded by a light from heaven while riding on the Damacus Road. Even Peter had to trying walking on the water without keeping his eyes on Christ.

They all came to a place where at the end of their own resources, strength, and plans, they all called out and surrendered to God.

David when he was running from Saul, an outcast and an outlaw from his own people wrote about this kind of experience in Psalm 18:4-6 The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid. 5 The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented (preceded) me. 6 In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.

“Don’t be overwhelmed by the cataclysms of life, because God often uses them to be the catalysts of change for Him in my life.”

Jacob’s catalyst of change brings him to not make a conditional deal with God, but to now desire God without conditions.

Jacob Depends Only On God – Genesis 32:24-32

And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob's thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him. And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed. And Jacob asked him, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, thy name. And he said, Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name? And he blessed him there. And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved. And as he passed over Penuel the sun rose upon him, and he halted upon his thigh. Therefore the children of Israel eat not of the sinew which shrank, which is upon the hollow of the thigh, unto this day: because he touched the hollow of Jacob's thigh in the sinew that shrank.

Selfish Supplanter To Surrendered Servant

Jacob prayed and God answers his prayer, but the answer was not in the way that Jacob could have expected. It may have begun as Jacob expected for we read in 32:24 And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.

Jacob stands alone  and he wrestles with a man, an angel. He may have begun in his strength, but the prayer isn’t answered by Jacob be made stronger. The deliverance, God’s salvation comes when Jacob is weakened to the point he can barely walk afterward.

Jacob wrestles with this “man.” The word means to grapple with, literally to get dusty by rolling in the dirt wrestling. Jacob in his physical strength grapples with the Angel of the Lord and will not let go. The Angel allows this last attempt of the supplanter to force his will, to take by force or cunning something that he desperately wants. He seeks to seize God’s blessing.

Jacob, alone on that mountain, is struggling with God, we know that this is God the Son. He is not yet unnamed, because that name will not be uttered until the angel tells the name to Mary. This is Jesus in a pre-incarnate, (before coming in human flesh), before his birth appearing to Jacob as the Angel, the messenger of God.

God is no longer in that other camp, no longer even at arm’s length from his life, but right there in the very center of Jacob’s life.

Jacob saw the face of God that night and it changed him to the core of his soul. Jacob knows who this is just as Moses knew who speaks from the burning bush, just as Gideon knew who ordered him to fight the Midianites or Samson’s parents knew who had told them of the birth of Samson. They all come to the same knowledge that Jacob does. We know this because in Genesis 32:30 Jacob called the name of the place Peniel (which means facing God) He says, “for I have seen God face to face.”

Jacob Is Broken - In the fight Jacob holds on, refusing to give up and let go. Finally, the Lord touches his thigh and cripples him for life. If Jacob had been standing in his own strength up to this point, he is not standing now. The sinews of his thigh are shrunk. His thigh is now disjointed, Jacob can no longer stand. All he can do is fall to his knees. And in that utterly broken state, he just clings the Lord. He just holds on to Jesus.

Now the Lord says, Genesis 32:26 “Let me go, for the day breaketh.” Now listen closely to the answer of Jacob, “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.”

This is not a man who has any power, plots or plans left. This is a broken man unable to do anything but hold on to the Lord, his God. Jacob now knows that only God can  bless him, only God can save him.

The Lord speaks in Genesis 32:27-28 And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob (the supplanter,) but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.

 

The Lord didn’t ask the question in order to get information, He knew Jacob’s name.  He asks “What is your name?” as a challenge.

 

Wiersbe says of the Lord’s question to Jacob,  “Are you going to continue living up to your name, deceiving yourself and others; or will you admit what you are and let Me change you?” - Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Authentic, “Be” Commentary Series, (Colorado Springs, CO: Chariot Victor Pub., 1997), 59.

 

Jacob Is Blessed - We usually translate the name Israel as A prince with God, a ruler with God, but its literal translation is “God prevails.” Yes, Jacob, now Israel, had prevailed and found God’s blessing but it wasn’t through his strength it was through his surrender. It wasn’t by his brazenness but through his brokenness. God had prevailed, Jacob had surrendered and that was where the blessing was found.

 

Brokenness to Blessedness.

 

Let me now state the most important part of this message. What happened to Jacob in finding the blessing of God is a struggle that all of us must undergo. God’s blessings begin with my brokenness.

 

First, my brokenness over the sin that God’s blessing of salvation may begin.

Then the brokenness of my own strength, my own will, my own plans for my life that God’s blessings for my life may begin.

 

And one day the final brokenness of this physical body at death so that God’s blessing of eternal life and heaven may begin.

 

None of us seek brokenness, it is always painful, always more than we can deal with in our strength. Only God knows where that breakpoint is. The place where that last store of my strength is drained away and all we have left is God.

 

The Bible shows this truth in book after book, life after life. We see it in Moses, as he flees Egypt, we see it Samson, standing blind between the pillars and calling out to God.  We see it in Peter after denying the Lord, bitterly weeping when the Lord coming from the Hall of Judgment, looks directly at him. And Paul tells us of his own brokenness in 2 Corinthians.

 

The Apostle’s Broken Blessedness.

 

Paul who was blinded, stoned, imprisoned and ship wrecked. This great Apostle to the Gentiles was used mightily by God because he was so utterly broken in his service to God.

 

2 Corinthians 12:5-10 I will not glory, but in mine infirmities. ... vs 7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

 

Paul understood God’s blessing are brought by brokenness. The greatest servants of the Lord both in the history of the Bible, in the history since the Bible was completed and in our own personal history of those we have known, the greatest servants are those who have suffered brokenness but, in that brokenness, found the great blessings of God.

 

Conclusion: Fanny J. Crosby’s blindness

 

I just want to give you one more illustration of this truth in the life of Fanny J. Crosby. She was blinded at an very early age by a well meaning doctor or nurse who put the wrong medicine in her eye and took away her sight.

 

Once Fanny J. Crosby was talking to a well meaning preacher who said, “Oh if only the Lord would have let you have your sight.” She replied, “Oh I would not want my sight back now.” The preacher was shocked and asked her how she could say such a thing. She told him, “Because one day when I die and go to heaven, Jesus’ face will the first face I will have ever seen.”

She wrote this poem and called it her “Soul’s Poem” she recited it a Bible conference once and brought the audience to tears. ‘Someday the silver cord will break, and I no more as now shall sing; but O the joy when I shall wake within the palace of the King! And I shall see Him face to face, and tell the story—saved by grace!’ - Paul Lee Tan, Encyclopedia of 15,000 Illustrations: Signs of the Times, (WORDsearch, 2004).

 

If you are here this morning and you are broken, broken in spirit, broken in hope, broken in health, broken in strength, then understand God wants to turn your brokenness into His blessedness. He can take what has defeated us and change it to joy and hope. He can take those broken pieces of your life and put them together in His power and you will find His blessings now and forever.

Friday, January 26, 2024

The Gates of Hell Shall Not Prevail: Lesson 2 - Founding and Corruption

The Gates of Hell Shall Not Prevail:
Lesson 2 - Founding and Corruption

The Founding of the Church

The first use of the work ecclesia in the New Testament is found in Matthew 16:18, however this is not the founding of the church.  The founding of the church took place much earlier in Mark 3:13, Luke 6:13 and Matthew 5:1

 Though the word is not used, the action Jesus is taking fits the definition of an ecclesia, a local called out assembly.

Mark 3:13 And he goeth up into a mountain, and calleth [unto him] whom he would: and they came unto him.  14  And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach,

Jesus called and they came, these first twelve were a called-out assembly.

Not only can we see this forming of the church in Mark 3:13 and Luke 6:13, but we also have the Lord's word that he would build his church during his ministry in Matthew 16:18

Matthew 16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Jesus personally would build His church during his earthly ministry according to this verse.  To wait until after His ascension would be to leave the founding of the church to another.

The First Church Was a Fully Functioning Church

We also can see that this assembly, though perhaps an infant church was nevertheless, a complete, functioning church.

The church, founded by Jesus during his ministry on earth, had preachers.

Mark 3:14 And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach 

The first church had a commission.

Mark 3:15 And to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils:

Luke 10:1 After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come.

The first church had offices.

Joh 13:29 For some of them thought, because Judas had the bag, that Jesus had said unto him, Buy those things that we have need of against the feast; or, that he should give something to the poor.

The first church had the ordinances.

John 4:1-2 When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,)

Matthew 26:26-27 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.   And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it;

The first church had the Holy Spirit.

John 20:21-22 Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.  And when he had said this, he breathed on [them], and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:

The first church had missions.

John 4:39 And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did. 

Matthew 8:13 And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, [so] be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.

Mark 7:26 The woman was a Greek, a Syrophenician by nation; and she besought him that he would cast forth the devil out of her daughter.

First Corruptions (100 -325)

Early Growth and Attraction

The post-apostolic churches, though persecuted, were often admired by some for their faithfulness. Even being willing to die for their beliefs and their way of life. Many became Christians and then met secretly for fear of their lives, first from the Jews and then the pagan Romans.

“It is a bad world, Donatus, an incredibly bad world. But I have discovered in the midst of it a quiet and good people who have learned the great secret of life. They have found a joy and wisdom which is a thousand times better than any of the pleasures of our sinful life. They are despised and persecuted, but they care not. They are masters of their souls. They have overcome the world. These people, Donatus, are Christians. . . and I am one of them.” - Cyprian

Early Corruption of Lifestyle

Unfortunately, as more of the world become Christian, more of the Christians become worldly. The pursuit of gaiety, entertainment and recreation were viewed as improper in the life of the early "sober" saints. But before too long there was more emphasis on the trappings and symbolism of Christianity than on the truths and simplicity of Christianity.

Early Corruption of Salvation

Before too long a sharp division arouse between those who understood that salvation was purely of grace through faith and those who believed that some external rite, like baptism, was also necessary. These first divisions were over what is called Baptismal Regeneration.

This deadly heresy teaches that you must be baptized in order to be saved.

What the Bible teaches about Salvation

Ephesians 2:8-10 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  Not of works, lest any man should boast.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Titus 3:5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;

John 3:36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.

John 5:24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.

Early Corruption of Baptism as a Memorial

What the Bible teaches about Baptism

Romans 6:3-5 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.  For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:

1 Peter 3:21 The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:

1 Corinthians 1:17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.

The Corruption of Believers Baptism

The doctrinal error of baptismal regeneration opens the door to more corruption making works a necessary part of salvation. Forms and rituals, many which were found in paganism were now being incorporated into a hybrid Christianity. Faith and repentance were being replaced or augmented with a physical rite or a work of faith. 

The Baptismal regenerationalist believed that since baptism was necessary for salvation then of course infants, who might die before they were old enough to understand faith, must be baptized. This heresy in turn led to the conclusion that anyone who would deny baptism to infants had to be stopped in order to assure infants would be saved by baptism.

Many of the so-called “Church Fathers” (really Catholic church fathers) taught error upon error and then began to call for harsh punishment on the “heretics” who didn’t agree with them.

Irenaeus (125-202 AD) promoted the office of a bishop as a ruler over many churches. He also taught that church traditions had authority equal to Scripture. (David Cloud, pg.69 History of the Churches)

Clement of Alexandria (150-230 AD) mixed Greek philosophy with Christianity and taught that there was a purgatory, a place of purging sin, and that most men would eventually be saved.

Tertullian (155-255 AD) taught church authority was greater than scriptural authority and that the bread of the Lord’s supper actually was the body of Christ. He believed that baptism was necessary for the forgiveness of sin. Sins were in three categories and that they should be confessed to a bishop. (David Cloud, pg.70 History of the Churches)

Cyprian (258 AD) taught infant baptism, the power of bishops over local churches and that it was not necessary for converts to show repentance and faith as long as they conformed to the rites of the church.

Jerome (340-420 AD) believed in the veneration of holy relics and the bones of dead Christians. Taught that Mary was the counterpart of Eve as Christ was the counterpart of Adam and Mary instrumental in helping to redeem the human race. Taught that she was perpetual virgin. He justified the death penalty for heretics.

Ambrose 33 to 3097 AD taught that Christians should be devoted to Mary, believed in praying to Saints, only the church could forgive sins. He taught the Lord's supper as a sacrifice of Christ he offered prayers for the dead.

Augustine 354 to 430 AD Augustine persecuted and believed in persecution for heretics. He taught that the sacraments on the means of saving grace. He was one of the fathers of infant baptism. And called on any who rejected him to the baptism to be killed. Believed in purgatory. Taught that Mary was sinless,  that she should be worshipped, the doctrine of celibacy for priests taught, that only the church could interpret scripture and that God had preordained some for salvation and others for damnation and that the grace of God is irresistible for the elect.

The elevation of Baptism from an ordinance to a sacrament meant that any who denied this error had to be stopped. Ultimately, this led to the so called heretics being persecuted, tortured in order to force them to recant and finally if they would not then death, often by burning in order to prevent the body from being resurrected.

These lies and errors became so widespread that Charlemagne, the king who ruled all of Europe during his lifetime, gave an edict in 789 AD that all in Europe would be baptized along with their children. - Christian pg. 33 A History Of The Baptists

The Corruption of Baptism by Immersion

Again, due to the lie that baptism was necessary to salvation it also became imperative to be able to administer it to any that were sick and might die before receiving the sacrament by immersion.

Those too sick to be moved to a place of "much water" were allowed to have water poured upon them.  This was called affusion.

The first such recorded case was Novatian in 250 AD. (see page 37 in AHOTB)

Later affusion gave way to sprinkling for infants as it was more convenient. Though in the Greek Orthodox Catholic church infants are still immersed.

Early Corruption of Polity (Authority)

A slow steady erosion of local church authority.

Individual pastors (bishops) assumed rights and authority not granted to them by Scripture over other churches. We see this starting even before the New Testament closes.

John and Diotrephes,

3 John 1:9-11 I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not.  Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.  Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God.

The Nicolaitans

Revelation 2:6  But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, (ruling over) which I also hate.

Revelation 2:15-16 So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.  Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.

Smaller struggling churches sought help and protection from larger churches and gave up their autonomy in exchange.

There was now a constant tendency toward centralization, until Rome, the political center of the world, becomes the religious center as well.

Constantine

Constantine is called the first “Christian” emperor. He by imperial command wedded the Christian church to the Roman government and made the growing Christian sect legal and powerful.    

Constantine I or Constantine the Great, 288?–337 (r.310–337), was born at Naissus (now Niš, Yugoslavia), the son of Constantius I and Helena. When Constantius died at York in 306, his soldiers proclaimed Constantine emperor, but much rivalry for the vacated office ensued. Before the battle at the Milvian or Mulvian Bridge near Rome in 312, Constantine, who was already sympathetic toward Christianity, is said to have seen in the sky a flaming cross as the sign by which he would conquer. He adopted the cross and was victorious. (The Concise Columbia Encyclopedia)

Constantine in 312 AD claims to have seen a vision in the sky of a luminous cross bearing the words In hoc signo vinces (By this sign thou shalt conquer). He will adopt the words as a motto. (The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition copyright)

It would now be a crime against the state to dissent with the "Christian religion." A.T. Christian says the first blood of heretics shed by a Christian ruler was by Maximus in 385 AD.  This murder was approved by the “bishops” in Rome.  The real Christian churches would never condone any murder, much less fellow Christians.  (AHOTB pg. 41)

Gregory the Great 590-604 AD.  He is considered the first of the proper popes.

There were others who claimed the title of Pope before him, but Gregory begins the line of absolute Mediaeval popes. All churches now must swear allegiance and submit to the head of the Church at Rome or face persecution, torture and death.

Conclusion

It was only a matter of a few decades before Satan began to corrupt the early church. His greatest tools then and now were those who claimed to be Christians but disregarded the plain teaching of scripture, especially the doctrines of salvation by grace and baptism of believers by immersion only.

These two essential beliefs would form the battle ground for the true church and ultimately would cost millions and millions of true disciples of Christ their lives, families and peace. This persecution would be carried out in the name of a Christ who was not the Christ at all, but actually Satan, in the guise of an Angel of Light, deceiving the weak, greedy and ambitious religious leader of the Roman Empire.

Monday, January 22, 2024

Abraham: Friend of God - Genesis 12-22

 

Abraham: Friend of God - Genesis 12-22

As we read and preach through the Bible chronologically this year, we are in the book of Genesis where we read the story of Abraham. His story runs from Genesis 12 to 25. Abraham’s story is a journey of faith. In fact, during Abraham’s life he never settled. He began because of faith, he traveled in faith, and He finished in faith.

Abraham’s faith and obedience to God’s calling made him God’s friend. Twice in the Bible Abraham is specifically pointed out as being God’s friend. First in Isaiah, where God tells the nation of Israel.  In Isaiah 41:8 But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend.

The in the New Testament James writes in his epistle 2:23 “ And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.”

There are 14 chapters in the Old Testament on the life of Abraham. He is by far one of the most important foundational followers of God. We trace our physical ancestry back to Adam, but we trace our faith ancestry back to Abraham. This morning  I want to think about that phrase “the friend of God.” And upon the faith that made that title true.

Let’s begin in our journey with Abraham in Genesis 12.

Abraham Believes When God Calls – Genesis 12:1-4

Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran.

God Calls Abraham

Abraham's journey of faith begins when he takes his first steps of obedience to God's calling, this showed his faith in the word of the One who had called him.

Faith’s Calling. The Calling of God to Abaham had three parts. A command to go, a blessing to Abraham and his future descendants, and finally a blessing to all the families of the earth, through Abraham. The NT book of Hebrews gives us greater insight into Abraham.

Hebrews 11:8-10 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

But to answer that call and be blessed by God, there was a cost.

Faith’s Cost: Abraham was to “get thee out of thy country, leave your family, leave your father’s house. He was to leave his country, leave family and friends and leave his father’s house. He left behind his culture, his comfort and his commitments. Stepping out to follow God’s calling was the beginning of everything with Abraham, the past and its hold on him was gone. From this day forward he would journey by faith alone.

But it was not cost without blessing. In fact, the blessings of God are far greater than anything we may give up.

Faith’s Comfort: Abraham’s faith in God’s word brought the blessings of God to him and then through him would come the blessing to others. First, to the future nation of Israel and ultimately to all the families of the earth. Abraham’s blessings of faith continue till today to all of faith’s family.  

Why did God choose Abraham? Not because he wouldn’t make mistakes or sin but because God knew Abraham had faith.  

Yes, Abraham’s obedience cost him but it could not compare to the blessing that would come from God. He gave up a land, a people and his future, but he gained the promised land, the heritage of the people of God and a sure eternal home.

It was these first steps of faith that also began Abraham's journey and he walked as a friend of God.

God Calls Us

The Bible tells us that like Abraham we are also called. All of us are called.

1 Corinthians 1:9 God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

Ephesians 4:4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;

1 Thessalonians 2:12 That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory. 5:24 Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.

2 Thessalonians 2:14 Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 2:9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:

When we hear the Gospel, we are called. Our response to that call must be like Abraham’s. We must trust in the Word of God and leave behind our old self, our old life, our old sin. We must step out in faith and begin our journey, “looking for that city whose builder and maker is God.”

Faith in God’s Word Bring’s His Blessings

 Abraham believed God’s promises that his faith and obedience would bring blessings. God’s word today promises us the blessings when we “trust and obey.”

Blessing of Salvation and Eternal Life - John 3:16-17 16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

Blessing of Reaping - Galatians 6:9-10 9 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. 10 As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.

Blessing of Giving - 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. 7 Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:

Blessing of Prayer - James 5:16 The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

Blessing of God’s Family - Galatians 3:6-9 6 Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. 7 Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. 8 And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. 9 So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.

Abraham was called and his faith could be measured by the steps he took as he journeyed toward the city of God. His faith was based upon God’s word given in  covenant. Let’s look at the Abrahamic covenant in Genesis 15

Abraham Believes When God’s Promises – Genesis 15:1-6

 After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward. And Abram said, Lord GOD, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus? And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir. And, behold, the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir. And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.

God Promises Abraham

In chapter 15 God speaks to Abraham and the covenant, begun in chapter 12, is more fully explained, expanded and entered into formally.

Vs. 6 says, that Abraham believed in Jehovah and He counted it to Abraham for righteousness. The Hebrew word translated “believed” means “to lean your whole weight upon.”

Abraham leaned wholly on the promise of God and the God of the promise. We are not saved by making promises to God but by believing the promises of God. - Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Obedient, “Be” Commentary Series, (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1991), 48.

This is what Abraham did, believed the promises of God. This is what faith is.

The rest of the details of the covenant are in vss. 7-18

Genesis 15:7-18 And he said unto him, I am the LORD that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it. And he said, Lord GOD, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it? And he said unto him, Take me an heifer of three years old, and a she goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon. And he took unto him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each piece one against another: but the birds divided he not. And when the fowls came down upon the carcasses, Abram drove them away. And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him. … 17 And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces. In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates:

You can see the importance of this covenant by what is described here. What takes place is what was called “cutting a covenant.” I think you can figure out why.

Abraham kills and prepares these clean animals for the covenant by splitting the carcasses in half. What normally happened next was that the two parties of the covenant would walk through the halved animal carcasses. This signified the absolute binding power of the covenant. If it should be broken then the person breaking the covenant deserved the same fate as the animals that had been slain.

There is a huge difference between our modern idea of a contract and the ancient idea of a covenant. To them it was much more solemn, much more binding than just signing a piece of paper. As you can tell from this cutting of a covenant.

But now, here in the Abrahamic covenant, the cutting covenant is altered because when it was time for the two parties to pass through the split carcasses, God put Abraham to sleep and then God alone passed between the pieces.

The burning oven or flaming torch symbolizes God. It reminds us of the Shekinah Glory that descended upon the tabernacle, filled the temple and the church in the upper room on the day of Pentecost. It is the presence of God in a form that man could behold.

By putting Abram to sleep and not allowing him to pass through the animals, this covenant become an unconditional, unilateral covenant meaning that only God would be responsible for keeping it. Fallible Abraham was covered by the covenant, and entered into it by faith, but this covenant could not fail because it would be kept by infallible God.

Though Abraham did nothing to keep this covenant, his faith in God’s promises entered him in the covenant, a covenant made with a friend.

God’s Covenant For Us

God works with mankind through covenants. There was a covenant with Adam which Adam broke. A covenant that covered Noah and all those who came after him, that can’t be broken for God gave it and sealed it with His rainbow. There was a covenant with Israel given at Mt. Sinai, which was broken even before Moses came down from the Mountain. In fact, every covenant that depended on man has failed.

Now, today, we are under the New Covenant. The covenant that covers us is as New Testament believers is, like the Abrahamic and Noahic, an unconditional, infallible covenant because it does not depend upon us but upon God.

This is our covenant, the covenant of grace and like Abraham we enter it by faith, but we do not keep it. It is kept by God’s power and not our own. We enter into the blessings of the New Covenant, but we are not the parties who agreed upon its points and provisions.

The New Covenant is between God the Father , God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.  We are blessed through the New Covenant of Grace but we didn’t sign on the bottom line when this covenant was arranged. Like Abraham our faith brings us into the Covenant of Grace, but it is kept by the power of God alone. It is unbreakable, unending, and unchangeable.

God oversaw this covenant; Jesus fulfilled it, and the Holy Spirit conveys its blessing to us. Faith places me under the covenant’s blessings and promises. I believe Jesus died for me and took my sins upon himself. That faith is my own departing from Haran and God sees that step of faith and covers me in the forgiveness, grace and promises of the New Covenant.

Hebrews 9:14-15 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, (these are the parties of the covenant) purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.

What does that sound like? It sounds like what Abraham did. Under the Abrahamic covenant those who believed like Abraham were blessed, though they had no part in keeping the covenant. The same is true of the new Covenant we are blessed under it but it is kept not by us but by the power of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

This is why we cannot lose it because we do not keep it. This is why we can’t ever be lost because God’s grace has found and will not let us go. This is one of the reasons we know that it is Once Saved Always Saved. It is eternal salvation or else there is no salvation.

Promises of the New Covenant:

 John 6:37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

John 10:27-30 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. I and my Father are one.

1 Peter 1:3-5 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

There is no sacrifice of animals, no passing through their spilt blood but something much greater that binds the New Covenant. Jesus shed his own blood, paying the price for the covenant of grace and you and I by faith are cleansed in that precious flow.

Also, like Abraham, our faith puts us in a special relationship with God.

John 15:11-15 11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. 12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. 13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. 14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. 15 Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.

What Jesus said to the disciples is directly applicable to us. He laid down his life for us and as we obey and follow Him, then we are to be called the Friends of God though Jesus Christ.

If it sounded incredible about Abraham, it sounds even more so talking about us. But there it is, Jesus said, “I have called you friends.” Entered by faith, Saved by faith and made friends by faith.

I’ve Found a Friend by James G. Small

I’ve found a Friend, oh, such a friend!
He loved me ere I knew Him;
He drew me with the cords of love,
And thus He bound me to Him.
And round my heart still closely twine
Those ties which naught can sever,
For I am His, and He is mine,
Forever and forever.

There is one more great act of faith, showing the unshakeable belief that Abraham, the Friend of God, had in the unbreakable promises of God.

Abraham Believes When God Tests - Genesis 22:1-14

 And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.

God Tests Abraham

Now this is familiar territory, as is most of the story of Father Abraham. Though it is familiar it is also far-reaching in its illustration of Abraham’s faith in God’s covenant.

I want you to notice the progression of faith in the narrative.

The Test of Faith Vs. 1 God did tempt (test, try, prove) Abraham. God in His infinite wisdom and, at this point, unknowable purpose puts Abraham’s faith to the test. Like Job that test has more to do with those who would in the future come after Abraham than with Abraham and Isaac in the present.

The Crisis of Faith Vs. 7 “And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?

The Foundation of Faith 8 And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.” This is an incredible example of the power of faith working in Abraham. We don’t know exactly what he is thinking but we know what he says and what he says to Isaac is a statement that is made based up the experiences of a man who has walked with God throughout his life. “God will provide.” He doesn’t know how, he doesn’t know when but he does know that whatever may happen God has already made provision. He told the men with him, “I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.” I and the lad will come back. How could he know that? Only by faith.

The Act of Faith Vs. 10  And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.11 And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. 12 And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. 13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.

The Statement of Faith 14 And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah Jireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen. The phrase Jehovah Jireh means Jehovah will see (to it).

Abrham’s statement of faith was in the name he gave to this place of testing.  Jehovah – Jireh, Adoni – Yireh, God will see to it. God will take care of it. God will provide.

God’s Test Is Met By Faith

God’s test of Abraham showed that only by faith could he pass. All of God’s tests can only by passed by faith.

Faith like Abraham’s.  In Hebrews we are given insight into just how great Abraham’s faith was.

Hebrews 11:17-19 By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.

Paul uses Abraham’s faith as an illustration to the Christians in Rome to prove that justification is through faith in God.  Romans 4:20-21 He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.

This is the test of God and it can only by met by faith. Can we believe in such a sacrifice, such a God, such a Savior?

And when we believe we can only step back say, Isn’t it amazing? Amazing the faith that Abraham showed? Amazing this picture of salvation? Amazing this test of faith. But most of all, isn’t the love of God amazing? Charles Wesley wrote of this amazement in the song, “And Can It Be?” we often retitle it “Amazing Love.”

And Can it Be? (Amazing Love) – by Charles Wesley

 And can it be that I should gain
An int'rest in the Savior's blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain?
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God, should die for me?

Conclusion

 How can it be? How can it be for me, my family, our futures? The answer is even older than the story of Abraham. The answer is it can only be by faith. Faith starts us on this journey, faith keeps on this journey, faith makes us friends with the One who called us upon this journey and faith sees us through the tests and trails and faith will see us home to that city built by God.

Hebrews 11:16 But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.

To end your journey there in that city, it must begin here in faith, you must through faith be a friend of God. You must though faith be in the family of God. You must believe in God’s promise, believe in God’s provision, and believe God’s power to save to the uttermost those who come to Him through faith in Jesus, His son.