Category Archives: Abraham


Sunday, February 23, 2020

James 2:14-26 (NASB)


Striking a balance between faith and works has perplexed the Christian community from the very beginnings of the church. Because of its practical application of biblical principles, James has been a Christian favorite.  However, in James 2:14-21 we have difficulty reconciling his teachings with much of what the apostle Paul says in Romans and Galatians, for example. 


If understanding God’s word is difficult at times, we know that the problem is ours and our limited understanding. This is because we believe the Scriptures to be reliable, consistent and fully inspired: the very ‘breath of God’ (2 Timothy 3:16, NIV).  God’s word and His Holy Spirit are shaping and molding us to conform to God’s will. So, we desire to grasp the importance of our faith and the works that we do in response to what God has done–and continues to do–for us because of Jesus Christ.


Scripture often contrasts faith that saves us against faith that does not save us. These contrasts are pretty straightforward and important to us. For example, Jesus talks about Judgement Day and those who cry out “Lord, Lord” versus those who actually do His will (Matthew 7:21). Again, on Judgement Day, He refers to the separation of the sheep and the goats by pointing to the deeds done or not done while on earth (Matthew 25:31-46).

In 1 Corinthians 15:1-9, the apostle Paul points out this contrast as well. For example, there are those who received the gospel, have taken their stand in it and are holding firmly to the word Paul preached to them in contrast to those who “believed in vain.” In Romans 12:2, Paul is concerned about Christians who choose to conform to this world in contrast to those who are being “transformed” by the renewing of their minds (see also 2 Corinthians 3:18).

The works of the flesh are contrasted to the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:16-26. On the one hand, those Christians that choose to live by the works of the flesh “will not inherit the kingdom of God” (vs. 21) while those who live by the fruits of the Spirit, are actively crucifying their fleshly desires (vs. 24).

The simple truth is that, as Paul tells the Corinthians, we can come to belief in the Gospel that Jesus died, was buried and raised on the third day.

Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast [a]the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,

1 Corinthians 15:1-4 (NASB)Underlining by sp

It is at that point that the believer has a decision to make. He or she can choose to believe and grow or to believe in vain, never changing or transforming into the image of Christ. The resonance of this understanding is reinforced time and again in Scripture.

As a final example, John the apostle in his first letter letter speaks of those who say they are in fellowship with Christ; yet, they continue to walk in the darkness. This is contrasted to those who walk in the Light, have fellowship with one another and experience the continual cleansing of their sin by the blood of Christ (1 John 1:6-7).


The letter of James is filled with contrasts from start to finish. Written with Jewish believers in mind, one of the obvious contrasts he addresses is that of faith and works. It is between those who have a faith that saves and those with a faith that does not save.

In James 2:14-26, we see that James is concerned about those who have acknowledge the gospel of Jesus and believed in Him but have not been transformed. Essentially, their behavior is not moving towards alignment with the faith that they profess; no transformation. To validate his observation he gives three examples of bankrupt or vain faith.

Example 1: Unloving or Uncaring Faith (vss. 15-17)

Example 2: Disobedient or Demon Faith (vss. 18-19)

Example 3: Useless, Hollow Faith (20-24)

In verses 20-24, James cites the incident of Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac as an illustration of faith and action being perfected or brought to fullness or maturity. The fruit of Abraham’s faith points back to a saving faith that teaches him to trust in and to obey God.


John Piper* makes a wonderful observation about the purpose of faith when he refers to Paul’s assertion in Galatians 5:6, which says: “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.” Conversely, I believe Paul is saying that the only thing that matters is the love we demonstrate, fueled by our faith in Christ Jesus. Our love is the evidence of our faith!

This simple test is mentioned again, by Paul, in 1 Timothy 1:5. Here he states “the goal of our instruction” which is “love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” which contrasts sharply with the false teachers whose intentions are “fruitless” and without understanding (vss. 6-7).

The fruits of saving faith in Christ are love as it shapes our lives, moves us to behave differently and transforms us from the inside, manifesting itself outwardly. May we all strive to know that transforming faith that leads us to a closer walk with Christ in the light of His love.

Deeds – The Fruit of Faith

*The contrast between John Piper’s Calvinist teachings and N.T. Wright are fascinating as they continue the Protestant debate over ‘imputed righteousness’ and works righteousness. The conversation continues!

By Faith

Sunday, February 19, 2020

Hebrews 11:1-19 (NLT)

One of the most powerful chapters in Scripture is in Hebrews 11. Here, the author lists many of the great people of the Bible who lived by faith. 

Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see. Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation.

Hebrews 11:1-2 (NLT)

In verse 6, the writer underlines the importance of faith as the critical element for the person who wishes to walk with God.

And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.

Hebrews 11:6 (NLT)


Abraham’s walk in faith was against impossible odds and he made many mistakes along the way.  When his faith was ultimately tested, however, he had learned how to trust completely the God Who is faithful to His promises.


God’s promises to Abraham began when he was 75 years old (Genesis 12:1-9). Within the next ten years, God would underline the promise, assuring Abraham that a child would come from his own gene pool (Genesis 15:1-6). The time from the initial promise until it’s fulfillment in Sarah’s barren womb would be 25 years (Genesis 25:1-7). Nine months later their son of promise, Isaac, would be born.


Perhaps Isaac was a teenager or young adult. Abraham would have been around 115 years of age by Genesis 22:1-19. The parallels between the event of Abraham and Isaac’s experience and God’s beloved Son on Golgatha are written for our benefit (Romans 4:20-25). They lived out the reality of the cross to show us God’s purposes before the Law and 2,000 years before the cross. Looking back 2,000 years after the cross we see God’s unfolding purposes and believe

20 Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. 21 He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises. 22 And because of Abraham’s faith, God counted him as righteous. 23 And when God counted him as righteous, it wasn’t just for Abraham’s benefit. It was recorded 24 for our benefit, too, assuring us that God will also count us as righteous if we believe in him, the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God.

Romans 4:20-25 (NLT)

Some of the parallels between the story of Abraham and Isaac on Mount Moriah lay the groundwork for understanding God the Father and the sacrifice of His One And Only Beloved Son, Jesus. In both events Isaac and Jesus chose to obey their Father’s will as they allowed themselves to be sacrificed. Isaac could have easily outrun his aged father. Jesus could easily have called ten thousand angels to rescue Him (Matthew 26:53). Of course, God rescued Isaac (Genesis 22:9-19) while, for Jesus, His love for us led Them to follow through (John 3:16). Note some of the parallels that the Scriptures allow us to ponder:

New Testament REFERENCE
Take your son, your only son, whom you love2Matthew 3:17, 17:5; Mark 1:11, 9:7; Luke 3:22; John 1:14, 3:16, 18.
Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you22 Chron.3:1; John 19:17-18
Abraham cut the wood for the offering 3John 19:17-18
3-day journey (vs. 4)4Mark 10:34
We will worship…we will come back to you (vs. 5)5Resurrection Faith
Hebrews 11:17-19
Abraham ‘placed the wood on his son’ (vs. 6)6John 19:17-18
Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood (vs. 9)9John 19:17-18
Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” (vs. 12)12Hebrews 11:17-19
By Faith – The Sacrifice


Sunday, February 9, 2020

Galatians 3 (NLT)

Paul had a serious problem with the church in Galatia.  Some were teaching that people must become good Jews in order to be Christians.  Paul had planted this church on his first missionary journey (see Acts 13-14).


When Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch they were forced to confront this heresy directly. Finally, the church asked them to consult with the other apostles and elders in the Jerusalem church for a definitive answer (Acts 15:1-5).

As soon as they came together in Jerusalem the Jewish believers “who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees” stood up and asserted this very challenge:

“The Gentile converts must be circumcised and required to follow the law of Moses.”

Acts 15:5 (NLT)

With Peter and James’s approval the other apostles and elders of the church in Jerusalem made three simple requests for the sake of unity: 1) avoid meat sacrificed to idols, 2) avoid blood and meat from animals that had been strangled and 3) avoid sexual immorality (Acts 15:1-35, NLT).


To confront this challenge to the gospel in Galatia, Paul reaches back to the faith of Abraham. The promise God made to him was before the rite of circumcision and the Law of Moses. He wanted to assure the Galatians that it was their simple faith in Christ that made them ‘heirs’ of Abraham, not their obedience to Jewish laws and regulations.

 For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.  And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes.  There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.  And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.

Galatians 3:26-29 (NLT)
Heirs of the Promise


Sunday, February 2, 2020

Romans 4

In our series on Abraham we started at the beginning according to the Scriptures.  We learned that mankind is incapable of saving itself (Genesis 1-11).  So, God chose Abraham to start a family through whom He would save mankind (Genesis 11-25). 

Jesus expanded this family beyond Abraham’s descendants to now include those who believe in Him and obey His commands (John 8).  Sandwiched between Jesus’ two “I AM” statements (John 8:28, 58) Jesus makes a clear statement that there is a difference between being Abraham’s ‘seed’ and his children (John 8:28-58).

Stephen accuses the Jews of intentionally rejecting God’s plan and, even, killing “the Righteous One” (Acts 7).


The apostle Paul builds upon Jesus’ teachings to make it explicit: those whose faith is in Christ are now Abraham’s true descendants—his children–regardless of their genetic connection (Romans 9:8-9).

In today’s lesson we reach back from the apostle Paul’s point from Romans 9 to chapter 4 where he talks about the importance of our faith in contrast to our works, the Law of Moses or our ancestral heritage.  As Paul says,  “Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all” (Romans 4:16).

Abraham – Faith


Sunday, January 26, 2020

Acts 7 and Romans 9

Jesus started it. It was now time to redefine what it meant to be Abraham’s children. This was to fulfill God’s promise to Abraham that he would father a great nation (Genesis 12:1-3).

To his religious-ruler audience, being a child of father Abraham meant that a person had come from Abraham’s gene pool (John 8:31-47). In fact, Jesus agrees that this is a true statement in verse 37. This genetic connection is still true today as people identify themselves as Jewish or, for those outside of the Abrahamic gene pool, non-Jewish Gentiles.


In John 8 Jesus re-frames the world’s understanding of “Abraham’s children” from God’s perspective. Here, Jesus makes the distinction between Abraham’s descendants (literally: “seed”) and his ‘children’ (John 8:31-47). Abraham’s children are now including all who live by faith, believing in Jesus as God’s Son and obeying Him.


When Stephen gave his final sermon before the Sanhedrin he was speaking to a purely Jewish audience; genetic ancestors of their father Abraham. Stephen’s concluding statements led to his violent death at the hands of the Jewish religious leaders (Acts 7:51-60). These same leaders were the very Jews who had denied Jesus as God’s Son, actively worked in opposition to Him and, finally, killed Him.

Among the points of Stephen’s sermon was that God is not limited by time and space. So, He spoke to Abraham in Ur, Haran, Canaan and Egypt (Acts 7:1-8). Nor has God ever been limited to buildings ‘made with human hands’; a direct reference to the Temple (Acts 7:48-50). And the Law? Their disobedience to it was enough to blind them to “the Righteous One” (Acts 7:52-53) and to deny God’s appeal to the nations through Him in line with God’s promise to Abraham (Genesis 22:17-18).


The Apostle Paul Writing Romans
Apostle Paul: The children of the promise are counted as the seed.

Stephen states that the Jewish rejection of Jesus as the prophesied Messiah was deliberate disregard for the Law to which they claimed allegiance (Acts 7:53). Years later, in Romans 9, Paul begins to build upon Jesus’ teaching in John 8. Taking it one step further, Paul makes a direct connection between the faith of the true ‘children’ of Abraham actually becoming his “seed” or genetic equivalents!

…those who are the children of the flesh,

these are not the children of God;

but the children of the promise are counted as the seed.

Romans 9:8 (NKJV)

What a powerful assertion that connects the promises of God to Abraham. These promises are still being realized every time someone turns to the Lord by faith in Jesus Christ. In fact, realizing the detailed nature of God’s plan over the generations is wonderfully illustrated in the first chapter of Ephesians according to The Message.

Father – Abraham’s Children


“…before Abraham was born, I AM!” (John 8:58, NIV)

Sunday, January 19, 2020

John 7:1-53; 8:12-59 (NIV)

At the burning bush, Moses asked God for His Name.  God said to Moses, “I am who I am” (Exodus 3:13-15). For our God–who created time and matter from nothingness–there is no past and there is no future.  Our God is eternally present.  He is known as “I AM.”

The Pharisees thought that their salvation rested in being genetically related to the man, Abraham (John 8:31-47).  They were so focused upon their ancestry that they did not recognize the one who created their heritage and gave it meaning: Jesus Christ, I AM.   


John shows us that many different perceptions of Jesus’ identity were being debated in Jerusalem. In John 7 we see that Jesus’ own brothers did not believe He was who He said that He was. The crowds are all over the Messianic map, trying to discern between Jesus’ words the rumors about Him. The religious rulers were convinced that Jesus needed to be arrested and killed as a false Messiah. They even sent temple guards to arrest Jesus and bring Him before them. When the soldiers came back empty handed, however, their only explanation was ” “No one ever spoke the way this man does” (John 7:46).


The distinction is subtle but the implications are profound. Embroiled in debate with the religious rulers of the day Jesus affirms that they are, indeed, descendants of Abraham. Literally, they are of Abraham’s ‘seed’ (John 8:33, 37). But, father Abraham’s ‘children’ were different. They would receive Jesus in faith as their forefather had done (John 8:39).


Abraham's Three Visitors
Abraham’s Three Visitors

In Genesis 18-19:1 we have the story of three visitors who come to Abraham’s tent. In this passage, one of the visitors is identified as “the Lord” with whom Abraham has an extended conversation first, about the child of promise and secondly, about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. At the conclusion of Genesis 18 the Lord leaves Abraham at the end of their conversation and by Genesis 19:1 the two other visitors are now revealed as angels who enter the city of Sodom to rescue Lot and his family and to destroy the city.

Moses would later discover that no one may look at God and live (see Exodus 33:18-33). So, it is reasonable to assume that Jesus Christ, Himself, was “the Lord” to whom Abraham was speaking for He alone would be the one to show us God’s face (John 1:18).


For Jesus, it is enough for Him to testify about Himself (John 8:12-15) and the testimony of His Father backs Him up (John 8: 16-30). But his final claim to have been before Abraham–because of His unique identity as I AM–was enough to cause them to pick up stones to kill Him (John 8:58-59).

True children of Abraham recognized Jesus as God’s Son, believed in Him and were obedient to His word. As our future studies about Abraham will show, this understanding was amplified by Paul and other New Testament writers for our benefit today.

I AM – Before Abraham Was


The Struggle Between Our Faith and Failures

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Genesis 11:10-25:11 (NIV)


The time between God’s promise to Abraham and its fulfillment spanned twenty five years!  During that time, Abraham made several wrong attempts to help God fulfill His promise.  There were times, also, when Abraham made decisions that revealed a lack of faith and trust in God. 


Abraham is a wonderful example of a man who lived by faith but continued to make mistakes in judgement.  The bottom line is that God continued to remain faithful to His promises to Abraham, even in the midst of Abraham’s bad decisions and faithless choices. 


As Abraham’s descendants today, God’s faithfulness in the face of our failures is still true.  For His promise to us is still, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6; Hebrews 13:5).

Is this not what the apostle Paul is saying in Romans 8:31-39? Our failures do not deter God’s promises!

Abraham – Faith & Failure
Concluding Video From the Sermon

NOTHING Video | The Skit Guys


Sunday, January 5, 2019

Introduction – Genesis 11-25 (NLT)


For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.

Galatians 3:26-29 (NLT)


Genesis 1-11 documents mankind’s self-destructive nature when left to his own choices. From the events of the Garden of Eden when man chose to become his own God (Genesis 1-3) through the time of Noah (Genesis 4-6), the downward spiral was reset with the flood (Genesis 7-10). Tragically, man’s descent only repeated itself with man’s desire to be great in his own eyes with the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9).


Just as God had created a universe from a time when matter was “formless and void” (Genesis 1:1-2) so God would choose to create a chosen people from an older couple who were unable to have children (Genesis 11:30). God’s promise to Abram would set a course for mankind, providing a way to rescue man from his own brokenness (Genesis 12:1-3). It all began with the faith of a man who heard the command to “Go;” so, he went (Genesis 12:4).


The apostle Paul was emphatic about the spiritual heritage of those who know Christ. The cross reaches back before the Law of Moses to the heart of a man who followed God’s lead without knowing the destination (Genesis 12:1). Paul assures us that Abraham is, indeed, the father of all who believe (Romans 4; Galatians 3).

Abraham – Introduction