The Importance of Abraham

April 9, 2017
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These words in chapter 3 captivated me as I prepared to teach through the book of Galatians:

Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

Paul is telling this mixed group of believers in the churches located in Galatia that they all are sons of Abraham. Now imagine if you will a famous Anglo preacher telling a group of Syrian refugees that proclaim to be a follower of Jesus that they are sons of Abraham right along with a group of Congolese Africans. Picture the strange looks that preacher would get. Paul here is writing a letter not speaking to them in person, and yet while it’s being read the body language of the hearers is telling a thousand stories as they shift, abruptly move, completely change, or harden.

There’s something rather unique here in Paul’s words. Abraham is given a level of importance that he’s rarely allowed to have in Western churches. God the Father made a covenant with Abraham in Genesis 12. God told him that in you, Abraham, all the nations (people groups) shall be blessed. God told Abraham that because he was giving him a glimpse into the gospel message. This glimpse was small but good enough for Abraham because God knew what he was doing – he was saving gentiles by faith just like he was saving jews by faith!

This is key because of what we read Paul saying in Ephesians 1:4- even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.

So God chose Jews and Gentiles in him by faith before the foundation of the world. Then he gave Abraham a glimpse of this gospel reality by telling him that the nations would be blessed in him. The Holy Spirit helped Paul make sense of this as he wrote scripture. What a blessing! To cap this off, Paul says that those who are followers of Jesus are sons of Abraham. Paul definitely seems to be raising the importance of Abraham in the New Testament and it’s nigh time we do the same.

The desire of God to take Jews and Gentiles and form one new man in Christ by faith is something that was planned before the foundation of the world. Then God makes this announcement to the world to and through the covenant he made with Abraham. This is the beauty of transculturalism.


Missing The Picture

May 18, 2012
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Since there’s been a lot of talk about homosexuality lately, and what, if any, does the Bible have to say about it, I decided to investigate some of the points both sides have made. I’ve seen some allude to various texts in Leviticus to prove the error and fallibility of the Bible on one side, thereby showing the irrationality of those against gay marriage. I’ve seen others point out texts in Romans to show the consistency between two testaments and the manner in which God will judge those engaged in homosexuality activities, which no doubt take place now and supposedly take place without consequence in a marriage.

I’ve heard the story of Sodom and Gomorrah pop up more than any other instance mentioned. And being that I believe in the Bible with every fiber of my being, I’m unable to see how the smoke clouds ever get started. But then I realized that my understanding was simply due to all of the past teaching I had received on that story. Then I remembered how most sermons on that story would usually end with something moralistic, which usually never faded the non-believer in the chairs because it had nothing to do with Jesus, their sins, nor the saving grace offered. So I decided to give this story a fresh view and I discovered something….we have all been missing the picture and point of the story.

In Genesis 18:1-15, three men visited Abraham and Sarah to promise them the birth of their son. They had been waiting on this birth for some time. Lots of things had happened between the first time God told them about this son and these three men visiting. So Abraham is told about the birth to come in the next year, Sarah laughs, is confronted about laughing, and then the story shifts.

Starting at vers 16, Sodom is mentioned as the next destination for these three men. Genesis 18:16-33 tell us all we need to know about Sodom and Gomorrah. The Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? The Lord God was set on going to Sodom to destroy it. For I have chosenhim, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him. The phrase “righteousness and justice” are key here to understand what’s going on. Abraham shall become great, nations shall be blessed in him, and generations of Abraham’s family shall do righteousness and justice. However, that’s not what we see in Sodom.

Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know. Sodom is juxtaposed against Abraham. Abraham will bring about righteousness and justice; Sodom has brought about unrighteousness and injustice. What’s the first thing we read of Abraham doing? We see him pleading with the Lord on behalf of people. This may get tricky here. He’s not looking down upon God as if to call him hypocritical or unloving. He’s not even approaching God as if to say but what about everybody having free will and being able to live their own lives the way they see fit. He doesn’t even step to God with the notion that those people in Sodom don’t believe in my God so does it really matter what they do. He doesn’t do any of that. Yet we see Abraham pleading with God to consider the remnant.

Then Abraham drew near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Abraham is pleading with God to spare the city simply for the sake of the righteous who may be in that city! That should be blowing our minds. Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just? Now if more people read these few verses before jumping to chapter 19, I believe we’d have an entirely different fight on our hands, but maybe, just maybe, that fight would be about an entirely different issue altogether. In other words, Abraham is saying to God, just punish the righteous remnant with those wicked people of Sodom….far be it from you to do something like that. Why? Because it’s not just. Also notice that Abraham sort of nicknames God as “the Judge of all the earth” meaning that God can do what he wants with the earth and everything in it including people.

So Abraham is bargaining with God all the way down to verse 32. Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.” And the Lord went his way, when he had finished speaking to Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place. Abraham made his point and the Lord had made his promise. I will not destroy Sodom if there are but only ten righteous remnant people there.

So the big issue going on in Sodom is that God found no righteous people in the city. Yes, there was sin. Yes, there was homosexuality. Yes, the father (Lot) tried to sell off his daughters. Yes, the Lord spared Lot, his wife, and his two daughters. However, he destroyed the cities because the remnant wasn’t there, but unrighteousness and injustice were, and he’s a just Judge.

So the next time this issue arises in a conversation between family, friends, political debates, church members, or wherever else, please be sure to remember the preceding verses before chapter 19 to really understand that the Lord was doing and why. Genesis 19:29 says it all, So it was that, when God destroyed the cities of the valley, God remembered Abraham.