Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 2 * PART 1 * BOOK 33
ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS
We always have to realize that these letters of the apostle Paul stand in the center of our New Testament pretty much by themselves because this is the part of the Word that is directed primarily to the Gentile Church, or as Paul puts it, “The Body of Christ!” Never forget that the Old Testament and the Four Gospels and the early chapters of Acts were all directed to the Nation of Israel. But when Israel continued to reject everything and would not believe that Christ was the promised Messiah then God moved in providentially and took away their Temple, took away the city of Jerusalem, uprooted the nation from the land and put them out into the nations of the world in what we call a dispersion.
God then turned to the pagan Gentile world beginning with the apostle Paul. We have just returned from the Mediterranean and more or less following in the footsteps of the apostle Paul it just behooves all of us that were together of what that man put up with to get the Gospel to us Gentiles, and never lose sight of that. It wasn’t just his suffering as he lists his sufferings back in II Corinthians but, it was just the nature of the area. You have all known about his ship wreck on the island of Malta, and how he said in the Book of Acts that he was actually three times in the deep. We, on this trip, could readily see, because we had happened to have had a week of rough weather, and even though we were on a pretty good sized ship it was pretty topsy turvy wasn’t it Lynn and Viola? It was quite a week but nevertheless we had opportunity to hold our classes morning and afternoon in spite of the adverse weather. But anyway it just gave us a glimpse of what the apostle had to go through in order to bring the Gospel to the Gentile world.
Now in the writings of Paul we can see how the Holy Spirit has laid out the format that He wanted them in. Now in normal thinking most people think that Galatians should have been in front of Romans because Galatians, in the terms of a Bible teacher in by gone days puts it, “Galatians, if you compare it to an artist, is more or less his pencil drawing of what he has in his own mind, and then Romans is likened to the final paint and oil on canvas.” Well I kind of like that, because that’s exactly like Galatians is. Galatians is so introductory. It doesn’t get down into the deep things of Romans, and yet it has its divine purpose for being exactly where it is following the two letters to the Corinthians.
Now most of you were with us as we taught I and II Corinthians where Paul had to deal not only with problems in the congregation, but a constant flow of attack on his person. His enemies were always decrying that he was an impostor, and he had something that he had drummed up on his own. They would also say, that he did not have the authority from Peter, James, and John, so remember in those 2 letters to the Corinthians he was always having to defend his apostleship. Now in Galatians the average reader probably can’t discern the difference, but in this Book he’s not defending his person so much as he is his doctrine.
Now that’s a word that I don’t want any to use loosely. Doctrine is something that has pretty much, in our day and time, gone by the board. But listen if you do not have doctrine, then you have nothing. We’re seeing so much today with the emphasis on “experience” and that’s well and good as far as that goes, but listen experience does not set your feet in concrete.It takes doctrine, and that’s the primary word as we’re seeing here in Galatians. Paul in this Book is refuting false doctrine, and teachings that had crept not only into the Galatians Churches, but every Church that he ever founded. But that problem is not just unique to Paul’s day, it has plagued Christianity up through the centuries, and is just a applicable today as it was the day Paul wrote it.
Most congregations today are still teaching the false teaching of legalism. Normally when you think of legalism as just simply the Temple worship, and Judaism. No, legalism comes in all kinds of shapes and forms, and it’s always so subtle. You see legalism appeals to the human concept, “I have to do something!” And Paul’s doctrine says, as I’ve stressed it over and over that, “we do nothing” “But we rest on and believe in only what God has says. That He has finished it on our behalf, and that of course is the Gospel of our salvation, and that is believing in your heart for salvation, that Jesus died for you, was buried, and rose again + NOTHING! (compare I Corinthians 15:1-4 and Romans 10:9-10.
Well maybe that’s enough for introductions. So this little letter of Galatians is to refute false doctrine which was primarily the inroad of legalism. Remember in chapter 3 Paul made the point of the fact that they didn’t come into this glorious position that they enjoyed now as believers by Law keeping, but how? By faith. By believing the Gospel. All right so now then again as an illustration of faith Paul goes back to the Old Testament and picks up Abraham once again.
“Even as Abraham believed God, and it (his believing God) was accounted to him for righteousness.” (Genesis 12:1)
Now contemplate that statement. Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Now ask yourself the question, how much else did Abraham do? Well nothing! He didn’t bring a sacrifice, he didn’t keep a set of commandments, he didn’t get baptized in the river Jordan, he didn’t do anything but believed God when He told Abraham to go to a land that he would show him. Now I’ve put this on the board before and will again, and that is to believe in God which 90% of Americans do, and to believe God. Now to believe in God is what the multitude of people around the world do. If it’s not the One True God then they’re believing in some god. But on the other hand to believe God then that’s faith. When we believe God then we’re taking Him at His Word, and we’re exercising faith. And that’s what God is looking for.
So when Paul again says here in Galatians that we are to believe God as Abraham did that sends us back first to the Book of Romans chapter 4, and then we’re going to go all the way back to Genesis and see how all of this has been building. You know I’m always making the reference to the fact that the Bible is a progressive revelation. In other words what was built back there in the Old Testament has not been thrown aside, but has rather been built upon, and we’re going to reconstruct that in a moment, but we’re going to go from the top down instead of from the bottom up. Let’s just compare scripture with scripture.
“What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? 2. For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. 3. For what saith the scripture? (and that’s what counts. It doesn’t matter what Paul says, or I say, but what matters is what does God say, and that of course is where the scripture comes in.) Abraham (believed not in God, but rather) believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.”
Now what does that tell you? God said something and Abraham believed it. Now you know that faith cometh by hearing, we looked at that in the last lesson. And that says, “that God has to say something before mankind can believe it.” So here it is. “Abraham believed God, and it was counted (or imputed) unto him for righteousness.” Now that brings another thought to mind, so maybe we had better deal with it as I trust the Spirit is leading this way. I hadn’t intended to do this, but let’s come on over the other way to the little Book of James. Here is one of those places where the scoffer especially and even a lot of well-meaning Christians will say, “Well the Bible contradicts itself, and I have problems with that.” Well come back to James chapter 2, and we’ll deal with it. I’m sure you are all aware of this verse. “Now Les how can you say that Abraham and we are saved by “Faith + Nothing? James says, “That if he doesn’t see works then he can’t see salvation.” Well let’s point it out.
“Was not Abraham our father (James was a Jew just like Paul) justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?” (this was some 50 years after the call of Abraham)
Now the first thing that I would say would be, when does God deal with the faith of Abraham? At the very beginning like He does with you and I or back here when Isaac is already on the scene which is some 50 years later? At the beginning. So James isn’t talking about Abraham’s origin, but rather he’s talking about something that took place some 50 years later which was at the offering of Isaac.
“Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was (his) faith made perfect? 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. 24. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.”
Is that a contradiction to what Paul says? On the surface it seems that way, but you see what is James really looking at? He is looking at the faith of an individual as man determines it. Now if you and I are to determine whether a person has saving faith or not then what’s the only criteria we have for that determination? Their works. But God doesn’t need works, God looks on the heart, and so Abraham was saved by faith + nothing because he didn’t have to show works to anybody, he was dealing only with God.
So the next time somebody jumps you and says, “well the scripture contradicts itself because James says, you can’t be saved without works, and Paul says you’re saved by faith alone.” But always remember James is looking at it from man’s point of view that absolutely if there are no works then you and I have no idea that a man has saving faith. But God looks at each of us like He did at Abraham and He sees our faith without works. I don’t have to do any works to prove to God that I have faith. But if I want to prove that to my neighbor then I’d better show some works. Do you see the difference? There is no controversy, no contradiction, but just simply two totally difference events. Now come back to Romans 4 for a moment, and then we will go back to Genesis.
“For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it (his believing) was counted unto him for righteousness. 4. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.” And we’re not under a debt economy. Oh maybe we are in politics, but not spiritually. We will never put God in our debt, and so we can’t work for salvation, not one iota. And now verse 5 says it all.
“But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. “
Now, since Paul uses Abraham as the epitome of faith, let’s go back to Genesis chapter 12 and check it out. The most important part of the whole Old Testament is the Abrahamic Covenant. It is the very bench mark of everything on which you and I rest by faith, and faith alone. And let’s look at it once again.
“Now the LORD had said (back in chapter 11) 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 then God makes these great covenant promises to him) 2. And I will make of thee a great nation, (the Nation of Israel) and I will bless thee, (materially as well as spiritually) and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: 3. And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee (Abraham) shall all families of the earth be blessed.”
Now we’ve got to go back to Genesis chapter 3 to pick up that benchmark of all the families of the earth being blessed. I’m coming from the top down instead of from the bottom up, but here we’re coming now all the way from Paul’s stipulation that as Abraham believed God so this is where we are with like faith today. Now then as faith was that which imputed righteousness unto Abraham, and that through him all the families of the earth would be blessed, then in chapter 3 we find that Adam and Eve have just eaten of the fruit, and have totally plunged the whole human race under the curse. And here is a covenant that God makes with Adam. Now it’s not a very pretty covenant because in this covenant God is promising all the ramifications of the curse, and how that everything would come under the curse. But in the very center of this covenant that God makes with Adam is a promise of a Redeemer. Let’s look at beginning with verse 15. Here God says –
” And I will put enmity between thee (Satan whom He’s addressing) and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; (here we pick up the seed of the woman from this who is Christ. All right then there would be a running battle between Satan and Christ) it (the seed of the woman, Christ) shall bruise thy (Satan’s) head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
Which of course Satan accomplished when he cause the suffering of Christ at Calvary. Now from this place in Genesis chapter 3 that we find God is going to promise a Redeemer through the woman. On that promise now we build the Abrahamic Covenant that it’s going to be through this man and his offspring that the Seed of the woman would come. Now am I making myself clear?
In Genesis 3 God promised Adam that one day the Seed of the woman would one day defeat sin, death, and Satan. Abraham is now given the promise that this Seed of the woman would come through his lineage through the Nation of Israel. So the Abrahamic Covenant then becomes the very foundation of everything as we come on up into the New Testament and the appearance of Christ and His earthly ministry, His rejection by Israel, and then we move on into the Church Age after the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. So all of our foundations of faith, not only the how, but also the why all rest on what God promised Abraham.
Maybe before we go back to the Book of Galatians we need to stop in Romans chapter 11. We should have caught this verse while we were there. Remember the last part of that Abrahamic Covenant was that in thee (Abraham) would all the families of the earth be blessed. Of course that comes primarily through Christ, the Seed of the woman coming through the seed of Abraham. But it is also a result of what God promised through the apostle Paul in Romans chapter 11, and this is an account of how Israel had rejected everything and God is going to literally strip the branches from the tree which is Israel that is rooted in Abraham, and He’s going to graft in the Gentiles. Now this all ties together. Let’s drop in at verse 15.
“For if the casting away of them (the Jew, the Nation of Israel) be the reconciling of the world, (the whole world.) what shall the receiving of them (the Nation of Israel) be, but life from the dead? “
And of course we saw that in our past teaching in Ezekiel 37 and 38 how that that valley of dry bones was shaking and finally came together, and finally the flesh came on and the skin on, and finally one day in the future now the nation is going to experience life. Well what is it but life from the dead. Now verse 16.
“For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches. (but Israel didn’t appreciate that position, and so God broke off in the next verse) 17. And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; “
Now what’s the analogy? Well when Israel rejected everything and God turned to the Gentiles through the apostle Paul and began to call out the Body of Christ what made it possible? As he removed Israel from feeding on the root and the fatness of their father Abraham, who has he now put in their place? The Gentiles. Remember we taught this, I thought, in our series on the Book of Romans. And so here we are, the whole Gentile world now in this place of privilege, this place of blessing that Israel had enjoyed all through the Old Testament.
But now we’ve also got to be careful. Just because Israel was resting on the root and fatness of Abraham, the man of faith, did that automatically make every Jew a believer? No way! Most of them weren’t. Well it’s the same way with the Gentiles. Here we are as Gentiles nations of the world. Everyone is in that place of privilege, and blessing and an opportunity to hear the Gospel and be saved. Now that doesn’t mean that every Gentile is going to be saved by no means. But what does it mean? That every Gentile has an opportunity. Every Gentile is going to be held responsible when they come to that Great White Throne Judgment lost.
They’re not going to be able to say, “Well I never had a chance.” God’s going to say, “Oh yes you did. You rested on the root and fatness of Abraham. You had just as much opportunity as the covenant people Israel did of the past, but you didn’t take advantage of it, you refused it.” You know I’ve been stressing for the past several lessons how that when Christ died, how many sins of the world did He take care of? All of them! Every human being that has ever lived has already been declared reconciled so far as God is concerned. They’ve been pardoned so far as God is concerned, but until they appropriate it with the kind of faith that Abraham had which was a relatively simple faith, then it’s all for nothing. You know this is what I’m always stressing. God doesn’t look for someone who knows the Bible from cover to cover before he can be saved. God isn’t looking for some primary example of Holy living before he can save, but what did Romans 4 say?
“But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” Now that’s where God works. Many people have the idea, “If I can just clean up my act, I’ll be saved.” NO. The ungodly person has to stay right where he’s at because that’s where God’s going to reach down and save him.