CMF eZine The online magazine of the Christian Military Fellowship. 12 November Romans 4:12 - Abraham the Father of Circumcision By Bob Flynn Romans 0 Comment "and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham which he had while uncircumcised." (NASB) "And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised." (KJV) "And Abraham is also the spiritual father of those who have been circumcised, but only if they have the same kind of faith Abraham had before he was circumcised." (NLT) "And he is also the father of the circumcised, who are not only circumcised, but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham possessed when he was still uncircumcised." (NET) Though it can be said that Abraham is the spiritual father of the circumcision, this is true only if they share the same saving faith. The Lord of Lords peers into the heart. If external things like circumcision and baptism are not a reflection of the heart then they are useless. However, if the heart be true, then the outward sign is a God-given seal. Matthew Henry asserts: Now we may hence observe, (1.) The nature of sacraments in general: they are signs and seals - signs to represent and instruct, seals to ratify and confirm. They are signs of absolute grace and favor; they are seals of the conditional promises; nay, they are mutual seals: God does in the sacraments seal to us to be to us a God, and we do therein seal to him to be to him a people. (2.) The nature of circumcision in particular: it was the initiating sacrament of the Old Testament; and it is here said to be, [1.] A sign - a sign of that original corruption which we are all born with, and which is cut off by spiritual circumcision, - a commemorating sign of God's covenant with Abraham, - a distinguishing sign between Jews and Gentiles, - a sign of admission into the visible church, - a sign prefiguring baptism, which comes in the room of circumcision, now under the gospel, when (the blood of Christ being shed) all bloody ordinances are abolished; it was an outward and sensible sign of an inward and spiritual grace signified thereby. [2.] A seal of the righteousness of the faith. In general, it was a seal of the covenant of grace, particularly of justification by faith - the covenant of grace, called the righteousness which is of faith (Romans 10:6), and it refers to an Old Testament promise, Deuteronomy 30:12. Now if infants were then capable of receiving a seal of the covenant of grace, which proves that they then were within the verge of that covenant, how they come to be now cast out of the covenant and incapable of the seal, and by what severe sentence they were thus rejected and incapacitated, those are concerned to make out that not only reject, but nullify and reproach, the baptism of the seed of believers. "and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham which he had while uncircumcised." (NASB) "And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised." (KJV) "And Abraham is also the spiritual father of those who have been circumcised, but only if they have the same kind of faith Abraham had before he was circumcised." (NLT) "And he is also the father of the circumcised, who are not only circumcised, but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham possessed when he was still uncircumcised." (NET) Though it can be said that Abraham is the spiritual father of the circumcision, this is true only if they share the same saving faith. The Lord of Lords peers into the heart. If external things like circumcision and baptism are not a reflection of the heart then they are useless. However, if the heart be true, then the outward sign is a God-given seal. Matthew Henry asserts: Now we may hence observe, (1.) The nature of sacraments in general: they are signs and seals - signs to represent and instruct, seals to ratify and confirm. They are signs of absolute grace and favor; they are seals of the conditional promises; nay, they are mutual seals: God does in the sacraments seal to us to be to us a God, and we do therein seal to him to be to him a people. (2.) The nature of circumcision in particular: it was the initiating sacrament of the Old Testament; and it is here said to be, [1.] A sign - a sign of that original corruption which we are all born with, and which is cut off by spiritual circumcision, - a commemorating sign of God's covenant with Abraham, - a distinguishing sign between Jews and Gentiles, - a sign of admission into the visible church, - a sign prefiguring baptism, which comes in the room of circumcision, now under the gospel, when (the blood of Christ being shed) all bloody ordinances are abolished; it was an outward and sensible sign of an inward and spiritual grace signified thereby. [2.] A seal of the righteousness of the faith. In general, it was a seal of the covenant of grace, particularly of justification by faith - the covenant of grace, called the righteousness which is of faith (Romans 10:6), and it refers to an Old Testament promise, Deuteronomy 30:12. Now if infants were then capable of receiving a seal of the covenant of grace, which proves that they then were within the verge of that covenant, how they come to be now cast out of the covenant and incapable of the seal, and by what severe sentence they were thus rejected and incapacitated, those are concerned to make out that not only reject, but nullify and reproach, the baptism of the seed of believers. Related Abraham’s Offering Up His Son Isaac Abraham’s offering up his Son Isaac Genesis 22:12 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. THE great Apostle Paul, in one of his epistles, informs us, that "whatsoever was written aforetime was written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the holy scripture might have hope." And as without faith it is impossible to please God, or be accepted in Jesus, the Son of his love; we may be assured, that whatever instances of a more than common faith are recorded in the book of God, they were more immediately designed by the holy Spirit for our learning and imitation, upon whom the ends of the world are come. For this reason, the author of the epistle to the Hebrews, in the xith chapter, mentions such a noble catalogue of Old Testament saints and martyrs, "who subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, stopped the mouths of lions, &c. and are gone before us to inherit the promises." A sufficient confutation, I think, of their error, who lightly esteem the Old Testament saints, and would not have them mentioned to christians, as persons whose faith and patience we are called upon more immediately to follow. If this was true, the apostle would never have produced such a cloud of witnesses out of the Old Testament, to excite the christians of the first, and consequently purest age of the church, to continue stedfast and unmoveable in the profession of their faith. Amidst this catalogue of saints, methinks the patriarch Abraham shines the brightest, and differs from the others, as one star differeth from another star in glory; for he shone with such distinguished lustre, that he was called the "friend of God," the "father of the faithful;" and those who believe on Christ, are said to be "sons and daughters of, and to be blessed with, faithful Abraham." Many trials of his faith did God send this great and good man, after he had commanded him to get out from his country, and from his kindred, unto a land which he should shew him; but the last was the most severe of all, I mean, that of offering up his only son. This, by the divine assistance, I propose to make the subject of your present meditation, and, by way of conclusion, to draw some practical inferences, as God shall enable me, from this instructive story. The sacred penman begins the narrative thus; verse 1. "And it came to pass, after these things, God did tempt Abraham." After these things, that is, after he had underwent many severe trials before, after he was old, full of days, and might flatter himself perhaps that the troubles and toils of life were now finished; "after these things, God did tempt Abraham," Christians, you know not what trials you may meet with before you die: notwithstanding you may have suffered, and been tried much already, yet, it may be, a greater measure is still behind, which you are to fill up. "Be not high-minded, but fear." Our last trials, in all probability, will be the greatest: and we can never say our warfare is accomplished, or our trials finished, till we bow down our heads, and give up the ghost. "And it came to pass, after these things, that God did tempt Abraham." "God did tempt Abraham." But can the scripture contradict itself? Does not the apostle James tell us, "that God tempts no man;" and God does tempt no man to evil, or on purpose to draw him into sin; for, when a man is thus tempted, he is drawn away of his own heart’s lust, and enticed. But in another sense, God may be said to tempt, I mean, to try his servants; and in this sense we are to understand that passage of Matthew, where we are told, that, "Jesus was led up by the Spirit (the good Spirit) into the wilderness, to be tempted of the devil." And our Lord, in that excellent form of prayer which he has been pleased to give us, does not require us to pray that we may not absolutely be led into temptation, but delivered from the evil of it; whence we may plainly infer, that God sees it fit sometimes to lead us into temptation, that is, to bring us into such circumstances as will try our faith and other christian graces. In this sense we are to understand the expression before us; "God did tempt or try Abraham." How God was pleased to reveal his will at this time to his faithful servant, whether by the Shechinah, or divine appearance, or by a small still voice, as he spoke to Elijah, or by a whisper, like that of the Spirit to Philip, when he commanded him to go join himself to the eunuch’s chariot, we are not told, nor is it material to enquire. It is enough that we are informed, God said unto him, Abraham; and that Abraham knew it was the voice of God: for he said, "Behold, here I am." O what a holy familiarity (if I may so speak) is there between God and those holy souls that are united to him by faith in Christ Jesus! God says, Abraham; and Abraham said (it should seem without the least surprize) Behold, here I am. Being reconciled to God by the death and obedience of Christ, which he rejoiced in, and saw by faith afar off; he did not, like guilty Adam, seek the trees of the garden to hide himself from, but takes pleasure in converting with God, and talketh with him, as a man talketh with his friend. O that Christ-less sinners knew what it is to have fellowship with the Father and the Son! They would envy the happiness of saints, and count it all joy to be termed enthusiasts and fools for Christ’ sake. But what does God say to Abraham? Verse 2. "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 shall tell thee of." Every word deserves our particular observation. Whatever he was to do, he must do it now, immediately, without conferring with flesh and blood. But what must he do? "Take now thy son." Had God said, take now a firstling, or choicest lamb or beast of thy flock, and offer it up for a burnt-offering, it would not have appeared so ghastly; but for God to say, "take now thy son, and offer him up for a burnt-offering’ " one would have imagined, was enough to stagger the strongest faith. But this is not all: it must not only be a son, but "thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest." If it must be a son, and not a beast, that must be offered, why wilt not Ishmael do, the son of the bond-woman? No, it must be his only son, the heir of all, his Isaac, by interpretation laughter, the son of his old age, in whom his soul delighted, "whom thou lovest," says God, in whose life his own was wrapped up: and this son, this only son, this Isaac, the son of his love, must be taken now, even now, without delay, and be offered up by his own father, for a burnt offering, upon one of the mountains of the which God would tell him. Well might the apostle, speaking of this man of God, say, that "against hope he believed in hope, and, being strong in faith, gave glory to God:" For, had he not been blessed with faith which man never before had, he must have refused to comply with this severe command. For how many arguments might nature suggest, to prove that such a command could never come from God, or to excuse himself from obeying it? "What! (might the good man have said) butcher my own child! it is contrary to the very law of nature: much more to butcher my dear son Isaac, in whose seed God himself has assured me of a numerous posterity. But supposing I could give up my own affections, and be willing to part with him, though I love him so dearly, yet, if I murder him, what will become of God’s promise? Besides, I am now like a city built upon a hill; I shine as a light in the world, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation: How then shall I cause God’s name to be blasphemed, how shall I become a by-word among the heathen, if they hear that I have committed a crime which they abhor! But, above all, what will Sarah my wife say? How can I ever return to her again, after I have imbrued my hands in my dear child’s blood? O that God would pardon me in this thing, or take my life in the place of my son’s!" Thus, I say, Abraham might have argued, and that too seemingly with great reason, against complying with the divine command. But as before by faith he considered not the deadness of Sarah’s womb, when she was past age, but believed on him, who said, "Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed;" so now, being convinced that the same God spoke to and commanded him to offer up that son, and knowing that God was able to raise him from the dead, without delay he obeys the heavenly call. O that unbelievers would learn of faithful Abraham, and believe whatever is revealed from God, though they cannot fully comprehend it! Abraham knew God commanded him to offer up his son, and therefore believed, notwithstanding carnal reasoning might suggest many objections. We have sufficient testimony, that God has spoken to us by his son; why should we not also believe, though many things in the New Testament are above our reason? For, where reason ends, faith begins. And, however infidels may stile themselves reasoners, of all men they are the most unreasonable: For, is it not contrary to all reason, to measure an infinite by a finite understanding, or think so find out the mysteries of godliness to perfection? But to return to the patriarch Abraham: We observed before what plausible objections he might have made; but he answered not a single word: no, without replying against his Maker, we are told, verse 3. that "Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt-offering, and rose up and went unto the place of which God had told him." From this verse we may gather, that God spoke to Abraham in a dream, or vision of the night: For it is said, he rose up early. Perhaps it was near the fourth watch of the night, just before break of day, when God said, Take now thy son; and Abraham rises up early to do so; as I doubt not but he used to rise early to offer up his morning-sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. It is often remarked of people in the Old Testament, that they rose early in the morning; and particularly of our Lord in the New, that he rose a great while before day to pray. The morning befriends devotion; and, if people cannot use so much self-denial as to rise early to pray, I know not how they will be able to die at a stake (if called to it) for Jesus Christ. The humility as well as the piety of the patriarch is observable: he saddled his own ass (great men should be humble;) and to shew his sincerity, though he took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, yet he keeps his design as a secret from them all: nay, he does not so much as tell Sarah his wife: for he knew not but she might be a snare unto him in this affair; and, as Rebekah afterwards, on another occasion, advised Jacob to flee, so Sarah also might persuade Isaac to hide himself; or the young men, had they known of it, might have forced him away, as in after-ages the soldiers rescued Jonathan out of the hands of Saul. But Abraham sought no such evasion, and therefore, like an Israelite indeed, in whom there was no guile, he himself resolutely "clave the wood for the burnt-offering, rose up and went unto the place of which God had told him." In the second verse God commanded him to offer up his son upon one of the mountains which he would tell him of. He commanded him to offer his son up, but would not then directly tell him the place where: this was to keep him dependent and watching unto prayer: for there is nothing like being kept waiting upon God; and, if we do, assuredly God will reveal himself unto us yet further in his own time. Let us practice what we know, follow providence so far as we can see already; and what we know not, what we see not as yet, let us only be found in the way of duty, and the Lord will reveal even that unto us. Abraham knew not directly where he was to offer up his son; but he rises up and sets forward, and behold now God shews him: "And he went to the place of which God had told him." Let us go and do likewise. Verse 4. "Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off." So that the place, of which God had told him, was no less than three days journey distant from the place where God first appeared to him, and commanded him to take his son. Was not this to try his faith, and to let him see that what he did, was not meerly from a sudden pang of devotion, but a matter of choice and deliberation? But who can tell what the aged patriarch felt during these three days? Strong as he was in faith, I am persuaded his bowels often yearned over his dear son Isaac. Methinks I see the good old man walking with his dear child in his hand, and now and then looking upon him, loving him, and then turning aside to weep. And perhaps, sometimes he stays a little behind to pour out his heart before God, for he had no mortal to tell his case to. Then, methinks, I see him join his son and servants again, and talking to them of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God, as they walked by the way. At length, "on the third day, he lifts up his eyes, and saw the place afar off." And, to shew that he was yet sincerely resolved to do whatsoever the Lord required of him, he even now will not discover his design to is servants, but "said, verse 5. to his young men," (as we should say to our worldly thoughts, when about to tread the courts of the Lord’s house) "Abide you here with the ass; and I and the lad will go up yonder and worship, and come again to you." This was a sufficient reason for their staying behind; and, it being their master’s custom to go frequently to worship, they could have no suspicion of what he was going about. And by Abraham’s saying, that he and the lad would come again, I am apt to think he believed God would raise him from the dead, if so be he permitted him to offer his child up for a burnt-offering. However that be, he is yet resolved to obey God to the uttermost; and therefore, Verse 6. "Abraham took the wood of the burnt-offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and they went both of them together." Little did Isaac think that he was to be offered on that very wood which he was carrying upon his shoulders; and therefore Isaac innocently, and with a holy freedom (for good men should not keep their children at too great a distance) "spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father; and he (with equal affection and holy condescension) said, Here am I, my son." And to shew how careful Abraham had been (as all christian parents ought to be) to instruct his Isaac how to sacrifice to God, like a youth trained up in the way wherein he should go; Isaac said, "Behold the fire and the wood; but where is the lamb for a burnt-offering?" How beautiful is early piety! how amiable, to hear young people ask questions about sacrificing to God in an acceptable way! Isaac knew very well that a lamb was wanting, and that a lamb was necessary for a proper sacrifice: "Behold the fire and the wood; but where is the lamb for a burnt-offering?" Young men and maidens, learn of him. Hitherto, it is plain, Isaac knew nothing of his father’s design: but I believe, by what his father said in answer to his question, that now was the time Abraham revealed it unto him. Ver. 8. "And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a Lamb for a burnt-offering." Some think, that Abraham by faith saw the Lord Jesus afar off, and here spake prophetically of that Lamb of God already slain in decree, and hereafter to be actually offered up for sinners. This was a lamb of God’s providing indeed (we dared not have thought of it) to satisfy his own justice, and to render him just in justifying the ungodly. What is all our fire and wood, the best preparation and performances we can make or present, unless God had provided himself this Lamb for a burnt-offering? He could not away with them. The words will well bear this interpretation. But, whatever Abraham might intend, I cannot but think he here made an application, and acquainted his son, of God’s dealing with his soul; and at length, with tears in his eyes, and the utmost affection in his heart, cried out, "Thou art to be the lamb, my Son;" God has commanded me to provide thee for a burnt-offering, and to offer thee upon the mountain which we are now ascending. And, as it appears from a subsequent verse, Isaac, convinced that it was the divine will, made no resistance at all: For it is said, "They went both of them together," and again, when we are told, that Abraham bound Isaac, we do not hear of his complaining, or endeavouring to escape, which he might have done, being (as some think) near thirty years of age, and, it is plain, capable of carrying wood enough for a burnt-offering. But he was partaker of the like precious faith with his aged father, and therefore is as willing to be offered, as Abraham is to offer him: And so they went both of them together." Ver. 9. At length "they came to the place of which God had told Abraham. He built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood." And here let us pause a while, and by faith take a view of the place where the father has laid him. I doubt not but the blessed angels hovered round the altar, and sang, "Glory be to God in the highest," for giving such faith to man. Come, all ye tender-hearted parents, who know what it is to look over a dying child: fancy that you saw the altar erected before you, and the wood laid in order, and the beloved Isaac bound upon it: fancy that you saw the aged parent standing by weeping. (For, why may we not suppose that Abraham wept, since Jesus himself wept at the grave of Lazarus?) O what pious, endearing expressions passed now alternately between the father and the son! Josephus records a pathetic speech made by each, whether genuine I know not: but methinks I see the tears trickle down the Patriarch Abraham’s checks; and out of the abundance of the heart, he cries, Adieu, adieu, my son; the Lord gave thee to me, and the Lord calls thee away; blessed be the name of the Lord: adieu, my Isaac, my only son, whom I love as my own soul; adieu, adieu. I see Isaac at the same time meekly resigning himself into his heavenly Father’s hands, and praying to the most High to strengthen his earthly parent to strike the stroke. But why do I attempt to describe what either son or father felt? It is impossible: we may indeed form same faint idea of, but shall never fully comprehend it, till we come and sit down with them in the kingdom of heaven, and hear them tell the pleasing story over again. Hasten, O Lord, that blessed time! O let thy kingdom come! And now, the fatal blow is going to be given. "And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son." But do you not think he intended to turn away his head, when he gave the blow? Nay, why may we not suppose he sometimes drew his hand in, after it was stretched out, willing to take another last farewell of his beloved Isaac, and desirous to defer it a little, though resolved at last to strike home? Be that as it will, his arm is now stretched out, the knife is in his hand, and he is about to put it to his dear son’s throat. But sing, O heavens! and rejoice, O earth! Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity: for behold, just as the knife, in all probability, was near his throat, ver. 11. "the angel of the Lord, (or rather the Lord of angels, Jesus Christ, the angel of the everlasting covenant) called unto him, (probably in a very audible manner) from heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham. (The word is doubled, to engage his attention; and perhaps the suddenness of the call made him draw back his hand, just as he was going to strike his son.) And Abraham said, Here am I." "And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now know I that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me." Here then it was that Abraham received his son Isaac from the dead in a figure. He was in effect offered upon the altar, and God looked upon him as offered and given unto him. Now it was that Abraham’s faith, being tried, was found more precious than gold purified seven times in the fire. Now as a reward of grace, though not of debt, for this signal act of obedience, by an oath, God gives and confirms the promise, "that in his seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed," ver. 17, 18. With what comfort may we suppose the good old man and his son went down from the mount, and returned unto the young men! With what joy may we imagine he went home, and related all that had passed to Sarah! And above all, with what triumph is he now exulting in the paradise of God, and adoring rich, free, distinguishing, electing, everlasting love, which alone made him to differ from the rest of mankind, and rendered him worthy of that title which he will have so long as the sun and the moon endure, "The Father of the faithful!" But let us now draw our eyes from the creature, and do what Abraham, if he was present, would direct to; I mean, fix them on the Creator, God blessed for evermore. I see your hearts affected, I see your eyes weep. (And indeed, who can refrain weeping at the relation of such a story?) But, behold, I shew you a mystery, hid under the sacrifice of Abraham’s only son, which, unless your hearts are hardned, must cause you to weep tears of love, and that plentifully too. I would willingly hope you even prevent me here, and are ready to say, "It is the love of God, in giving Jesus Christ to die for our sins." Yes; that is it. And yet perhaps you find your hearts, at the mentioning of this, not so much affected. Let this convince you, that we are all fallen creatures, and that we do not love God or Christ as we ought to do: for, if you admire Abraham offering up his Isaac, how much more ought you to extol, magnify and adore the love of God, who so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son Christ Jesus our Lord, "that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life?" May we not well cry out, Now know we, O Lord, that thou hast loved us, since thou hast not withheld thy Son, thine only Son from us? Abraham was God’s creature (and God was Abraham’s friend) and therefore under the highest obligation to surrender up his Isaac. But O stupendious love! whilst we were his enemies, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, that he might become a curse for us. O the freeness, as well as the infinity, of the love of God our Father! It is unsearchable: I am lost in contemplating it; it is past finding out. Think, O believers, think of the love of God, in giving Jesus Christ to be a propitiation for our sins. And when you hear how Abraham built an altar, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood; think how your heavenly Father bound Jesus Christ his only Son, and offered him upon the altar of his justice, and laid upon him the iniquities of us all. When you read of Abraham’s stretching forth his hand to slay his Son, Think, O think, how God actually suffered his Son to be slain, that we might live for evermore. Do you read of Isaac carrying the wood upon his shoulders, upon which he was to be offered? Let this lead you to mount Calvary (this very mount of Moriah where Isaac was offered, as some think) and take a view of the antitype Jesus Christ, the Son of God, bearing and ready to sink under the weight of that cross, on which he was to hang for us. Do you admire Isaac so freely consenting to die, though a creature, and therefore obliged to go when God called? O do not forget to admire infinitely more the dear Lord Jesus, that promised seed, who willingly said, "Lo, I come," though under no obligation so to do, "to do thy will," to obey and die for men, "O God!" Did you weep just now, when I bid you fancy you saw the altar, and the wood laid in order and Isaac laid bound on the altar? Look by faith, behold the blessed Jesus, our all-glorious Emmanuel, not bound, but nailed on an accursed tree: see how he hangs crowned with thorns, and had in derision of all that are round about him: see how the thorns pierce him, and how the blood in purple streams trickle down his sacred temples! Hark how the God of nature groans! See how he bows his head, and at length humanity gives up the ghost! Isaac is saved, but Jesus, the God of Isaac, dies: A ram is offered up in Isaac’s room, but Jesus has no substitute; Jesus must bleed, Jesus must die; God the Father provided this Lamb for himself from all eternity. He must be offered in time, or man must be damned for evermore. And now, where are your tears? Shall I say, refrain your voice from weeping? No; rather let me exhort you to look to him whom you have pierced, and mourn, as a woman mourneth for her first-born: for we have been the betrayers, we have been the murderers of this Lord of glory; and shall we not bewail those sins, which brought the blessed Jesus to the accursed tree? Having so much done, so much suffered for us, so much forgiven, shall we not love much? O! let us love Him with all our hearts, and minds; and strength, and glorify him in our souls and bodies, for they are his. Which leads me to a second inference I shall draw from the foregoing discourse. From hence we may learn the nature of true, justifying faith. Whoever understands and preaches the truth, as it is in Jesus, must acknowledge, that salvation is God’s free gift, and that we are saved, not by any or all the works of righteousness which we have done or can do: no; we can neither wholly nor in part justify ourselves in the sight of God. The Lord Jesus Christ is our righteousness; and if we are accepted with God, it must be only in and through the personal righteousness, the active and passive obedience, of Jesus Christ his beloved Son. This righteousness must be imputed, or counted over to us, and applied by faith to our hearts, or else we can in no wise be justified in God’s sight: and that very moment a sinner is enabled to lay hold on Christ’s righteousness by faith, he is freely justified from all his sins, and shall never enter into condemnation, not withstanding he was a fire-brand of hell before. Thus it was that Abraham was justified before he did any good work: he was enabled to believe on the Lord Christ; it was accounted to him for righteousness; that is, Christ’s righteousness was made over to him, and so accounted his. This, this is gospel; this is the only way of finding acceptance with God: good works have nothing to do with our justification in his sight. We are justified by faith alone, as faith the article of our church; agreeable to which the apostle Paul says, "By grace ye are saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God." Notwithstanding, good works have their proper place: they justify our faith, though not our persons; they follow it, and evidence our justification in the sight of men. Hence it is that the apostle James asks, was not Abraham justified by works? (alluding no doubt to the story on which we have been discoursing) that is, did he not prove he was in a justified state, because his faith was productive of good works? This declarative justification in the sight of men, is what is directly to be understood in the words of the text; "Now know I, says God, that thou fearest me, since thou hast not withheld thy Son, thine only Son from me." Not but that God knew it before; but this is spoken in condescension to our weak capacities, and plainly shews, that his offering up his son was accepted with God, as an evidence of the sincerity of his faith, and for this, was left on record to future ages. Hence then you may learn, whether you are blessed with, and are sons and daughters of, faithful Abraham. You say you believe; you talk of free grace and free justification: you do well; the devils also believe and tremble. But has the faith, which you pretend to, influenced your hearts, renewed your souls, and, like Abraham’s worked by love? Are your affections, like his, set on things above? Are you heavenly-minded, and like him, do you confess yourselves strangers and pilgrims on the earth? In short, has your faith enabled you to overcome the world, and strengthened you to give up your Isaacs, your laughter, your most beloved lusts, friends, pleasures, and profits for God? If so, take the comfort of it; for justly may you say, "We know assuredly, that we do fear and love "God, or rather are loved of him." But if you are only talking believers, have only a faith of the head, and never felt the power of it in your hearts, however you may bolster yourselves up, and say, "We have Abraham for our father, or Christ is our Saviour;" unless you get a faith of the heart, a faith working by love, you shall never sit with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, or Jesus Christ, in the kingdom of heaven. But I must draw one more inference, and with that I shall conclude. Learn, O saints! from what has been said, to sit loose to all your worldly comforts; and stand ready prepared to part with every thing, when God shall require it at your hand. Some of you perhaps may have friends, who are to you as your own souls! and others may have children, in whose lives your own lives are bound up: all I believe have their Isaacs, their particular delights of some kind or other. Labour, for Christ’s sake, labour, ye sons and daughters of Abraham, to resign them daily in affection to God, that, when he shall require you really to sacrifice them, you may not confer with flesh and blood, any more than the blessed patriarch now before us. And as for you that have been in any measure tried like unto him, let his example encourage and comfort you. Remember, Abraham your father was tried so before you: think, O think of the happiness he now enjoys, and how he is incessantly thanking God for tempting and trying him when here below. Look up often by the eye of faith, and see him sitting with his dearly beloved Isaac in the world of spirits. Remember, it will be but a little while, and you shall sit with them also, and tell one another what God has done for your souls. There I hope to sit with you, and hear this story of his offering up his Son from his own mouth, and to praise the Lamb that sitteth upon the throne, for what he hath done for all our souls, for ever and ever. Whitefield, G. (1772). The Works of the Reverend George Whitefield (Vol. 5). London: Edward and Charles Dilly. (Public Domain) Show Us the Father Show Us The Father Philip saith unto Him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known Me, Philip? He that hath seen Me, hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father? John 14:8, 9. Great S. Mary’s Church, Advent Sunday, 1868. The opening of S. John’s Gospel speaks of One, Who has been with God from eternity, Who is God Himself. This Being, so described, the Evangelist calls the Logos—the Divine Reason, the Divine Word. He is the Divine Reason, for He is the expression of God’s will in the creation and government of the Universe. He is the Divine Word, because through His operations alone God reveals Himself, God speaks, as it were, to our finite capacities. This Word of God is His Agent in all His words and works, howsoever and whensoever He manifests Himself. This is no less true of the natural world, than of the spiritual world. All things were created, all things are sustained, through Him. Here is the Evangelist’s starting-point. And having thus with eagle eye swept the whole field of the Universe in one comprehensive glance, he gradually narrows his range of view and concentrates his gaze, until it is fixed on the very focus of light, the visible presence of the Shekinah on earth, the Incarnation of this Word of God. (1) First, from the material creation he passes to the intellectual and moral creation. Whatsoever of knowledge, whatsoever of wisdom, whatsoever of invention, whatever discernment of physical facts, whatever insight into human affairs, whatever yearning after heavenly truths, has been vouchsafed to mankind in any age—to the savage in the first dawn of intellect and conscience, and to the sage in the full noontide blaze of his heightened faculties—all these, the first germ and the latest development, are the gift, are the indwelling, of the Divine Word. He is ‘the life,’ and He is ‘the light of men.’ The mental and moral growth of individuals and societies and nations alike are due to Him. He originates, He inspires, He developes, He ripens into maturity. His dominion is as complete in the region of mind and spirit, as in the region of physical growth and physical change. (2) This—the passage from the material to the moral and intellectual world—is the first stage in the Evangelist’s progress towards his goal, the first contraction, the first intensification, of his vision. And then comes another. This Word of God has indeed illumined and quickened all men and all races in their several degrees, Buddha and Confucius and Zoroaster, Zeno and Pythagoras, Indians and Persians, Babylonians and Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. He has been present in universal history, as He has been present in every individual soul of man. But nevertheless He has specially visited one family, one race. There was a prerogative tribe selected in due time from the rest, a firstfruits of the nations of the earth, a peculiar people consecrated to God. Though there be many tributaries, the main stream of religious history runs in this channel. To this nation the Word of God came as to His own inheritance, spake as to His own household—spake by lawgivers and prophets, by priests and kings, spake in divers stages and divers manners, spake with an intensity and a power and a directness, with a continuity and a fulness, with which He spake to no other nation besides. In neither case was the response equal to the appeal. Among the nations at large ‘the light’ shone ‘in the darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not:’ to the descendants of Abraham ‘He came as to His own’ vineyard; yet ‘His own received Him not.’ Nevertheless among both—among the nations whom He approached through the avenues of the natural conscience, and among the Israelites to whom He spake in the piercing tones of Inspiration, there were those who did feel His presence, did hear His voice; and these were rescued from their grovelling, material, earthly life, were born anew in Him, were made sons of God through God the Word. (3) And having thus passed by successive stages first from the physical world to the moral world, from universal nature to universal history, and next from universal history to the records of the one prerogative race, the Evangelist lastly concentrates our thoughts on a single incident in these records, a single link in the chain of the Divine dispensation. He has just directed us to the one conspicuously bright line which traverses the plane of the world’s history; and now he guides our eye along this line, till it is arrested at one intensely brilliant point, in which are concentrated the illuminating rays of the Word of God, which is the focus of the spiritual development of mankind. The Word, Whose voice was not unheard even by Gentiles, Who spoke still more clearly in the writings of the Old Covenant and the career of the chosen people, ‘was made flesh and dwelt among us’—not only spoke through man, but identified Himself with man. The dream of Jewish doctors, who looked forward to the advent of Messiah’s kingdom, the day of redemption when the Divine glory should rest once more on the mercy-seat, was here fulfilled, though they discerned it not. The Shekinah was restored once more to the Temple. The bright light—brighter far than of old—did rest once more over the Sanctuary. The Word of God ‘tabernacled’ among men. ‘And we,’ adds the Evangelist, the beloved disciple, the familiar friend of the Word Incarnate, speaking with the intensity of a strong, unchangeable, personal conviction, ‘we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father.’ Such is the Divine philosophy of creation and history and religion, as sketched by the pen of S. John. He views the Gospel of Christ, the Incarnation of the Son of God, not so much in contrast, as in connexion, with the natural heavenward aspirations of man, with the other religions of the world. The Incarnation is not an isolated fact, not the one only operation of the Divine Word. It is indeed unique, is paramount, does transcend, far transcend, all other operations. The lesson is higher, but still the Teacher is the same. It is the explanation of the past, the culminating point of human history, the consummation of God’s revelation to man. For now first the Divine and the human are united in immediate and inalienable contact. But it does not stand alone; nor does it profess an affinity only with the Jewish dispensation. God has revealed Himself also in nature and in history, in the workings of the individual conscience and in the education of the whole race. The folds of the veil in each case may be more or less dense. But to those who have eyes to read and hearts to understand, though it may partially screen, it cannot conceal, the Divine Presence behind, the awful majesty of the Eternal Father. And I cannot but express my own strong conviction that, if Christian apologists and Christian divines were more ready to accept the teaching of S. John in this respect, and to survey the religions of the world from the commanding ground which he has marked out for them; if, instead of accentuating the contrasts and dwelling only on the follies and wickednesses, they would investigate more diligently and recognise more gladly the elements of the Divine teaching in all, even the more degraded, forms of heathen worship; if they would track out the foot-prints of the Word of God impressed now faintly, and now more vividly, on the sands of universal history, they would find not only that numberless objections to Christianity founded on the partial resemblances, the imperfect graspings after truth, in other religious systems, would melt away in the process, but that a flood of new light would at the same time be shed upon the significance and the power of the Gospel. It was not however with any intention of dwelling at length on this general question, that I have thus called attention to the main bearing of the opening paragraphs of S. John’s Gospel. But this introduction is the key to the meaning of the whole narrative. Our Lord’s words related therein require to be read by the light of this prologue, if we would enter into their full meaning. They are the utterances not only of Jesus the Deliverer, the Redeemer of His people, the long-expected Christ of Israel; but they are the utterances also of the very Word of God, Who was in the world from the beginning, and now in these last days speaks to men in the flesh. So it is with the expression in the text. The Master has just foretold to His little band of followers, that He and they must soon part. With this severance in view He bids them cling closer to one another, love one another as brothers. He warns them that He must go alone, that they cannot follow Him. The announcement fills their hearts with dismay. He seeks to allay their sorrow. Let them trust in God. He is going to prepare an abode for them. He will come again, and take them home with Him. ‘Whither I go,’ He adds, ‘ye know, and the way ye know.’ Thomas here breaks in, doubtful and desponding as ever. Half reproachfully he asks, ‘Lord, we know not whither Thou goest, and how can we know the way?’ Then Jesus declares Himself to be the Way, the only Way, to the Father. Knowing Him, they must know the Father. ‘And,’ He adds, ‘henceforth ye know Him, and have seen Him.’ It is not now Thomas, but Philip, who takes up the conversation—a different man and a different temper. In the records of the other Evangelists, Philip the Apostle is a name only. In S. John’s Gospel, he appears as something more than a name, as a well-defined character. Very early tradition represents him in later life residing in Asia Minor, in the same region as the beloved disciple himself. It may be therefore that the Evangelist had local reasons for dwelling on those few incidents in which Philip takes a prominent part. At all events, few though they are, these incidents seem to reveal the man’s character very clearly. His is a precise, careful, matter-of-fact mind. He is wanting in spiritual insight, but he is prompt and ready in action. It may be, as some have thought, that he was the steward of the little company, just as Judas was the treasurer. If so, we have an easy explanation of the fact that our Lord puts to him the question how the five thousand are to be fed. If so, again, we may see how on another occasion some Greeks, when they wish to obtain access to our Lord, would naturally come in contact with him, and address themselves to him first. At all events, whether or not he had a business vocation connected with his discipleship, he had at least a business turn of mind. There is a precision and minuteness in the few sentences ascribed to him by the Evangelist, which cannot be quite accidental. ‘We have found Him, of Whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’ ‘Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little.’ He is anxious for himself, and he is anxious for others, that everything should be subjected to the faithful testimony of the eyes. In answer to Nathanael’s question in the opening of the Gospel he says eagerly, ‘Come and see.’ In reply to our Lord’s declaration in the text, it is his first impulse to seek ocular proof, ‘Shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us.’ A very ancient tradition relates that this Philip was the disciple who in another Gospel pleads, ‘Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father,’ and is answered by the rebuke, ‘Let the dead bury their dead; but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.’ This tradition is true to character, and I can well believe it true to fact. It is not so much the request, as the temper which dictates the request, that our Lord there rebukes. And such a temper is Philip’s. ‘Only let us see the Father,’ he says, ‘and we ask nothing more. Then there will be no more hesitation, no more vagueness, no more cowardice, no more repining. This will console us, will strengthen us, will inspire us. We shall not shrink from being left alone. We shall bear our severance manfully, cheerfully. We shall be ready to do and to suffer anything. Vouchsafe us one glance, one glance only. We ask nothing more. To see is to believe.’ The demand may be made, and doubtless is made, in many different tempers. There are those who, like Philip, make it in the earnest desire to find a surer standing-ground for their faith, who eagerly wish to dispel the last shadow of doubt, who are prepared to follow up their belief, once confirmed, are ready to live and to die for it. Only they must first be certified, must first have seen. There are others who, consciously or unconsciously, have persuaded themselves that by the mere act of making the demand they have thrown off a load of responsibility, that, until they get an answer, they are free to act as they like, free to live as though there were no Father in Heaven, because they do not see Him. And, lastly, there are some who make it in a temper directly opposed to Philip’s, who demand to be shewn the Father in the same spirit in which Pilate asked to know, ‘What is truth?’ mocking while they interrogate and determined to accept no reply. Or they refuse to make the demand at all, because they have persuaded themselves that it is an absurdity. There is a dark, impenetrable veil, they say, separating the seen from the unseen, the world of sense from the world of spirit. At least there is a dark, impenetrable veil; but whether it conceals anything or nothing, they do not care to ask. It may, or it may not, screen the awful form of an Eternal, loving Father. It may, or it may not, separate us from a life of immortality, a world of spirits, a heaven of bliss. You cannot raise the veil; you cannot see through it. It is easier, better, wiser to desist from the attempt—to rest content to play your little part on this world’s stage creditably and comfortably, and to leave the rest—not to faith, not to God: here would be the old delusion again—but to blind chance, to blank uncertainty. But in whatever temper men may make the demand—in eagerness or in apathy or in mockery—the fundamental error is still the same. They look for a kind of proof, which the subject does not admit. They appeal to organs which are not cognisant of spiritual things. If it is not by the senses, so neither is it by theological and scientific faculties, that we can apprehend God, can see the Father. These faculties may verify, may explain, may systematize; but they cannot give the insight, cannot create the belief. I doubt whether the most elaborate proofs of the being and attributes of God, the most subtle expositions of the evidences of Christianity, have done very much towards establishing even an intellectual assent. I am quite sure they have been all but powerless in commanding a living, working belief. It is by the Spirit alone that spiritual truths are discerned. ‘Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard … but God hath revealed.’ Every man has this spiritual faculty. He may deal with it, as he may deal with any other faculty. He may enfeeble it by disuse, he may crush it by main force: or he may educate and quicken and intensify it. And according as he does the one or the other, so will be his spiritual insight, his consciousness of the Father’s presence. And this is the force of our Lord’s reply in the text. ‘Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known Me, Philip? He that hath seen Me, hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?’ You ask for an external, tangible demonstration which will not, which cannot, be granted to you. You entirely mistake the nature of the knowledge which you seek, of the means by which it is attained. Meanwhile all the elements of this knowledge are open before you. The Father has unveiled His face to you, and you have not seen Him. In His Word throughout all ages, in His Word incarnate in these latter days, He has spoken to you, and you have not heard Him. Now for these three years He has shewn Himself to you twelve men, as He has never shewn Himself before. And this is the end, this is the misapprehension even of those to whom His glory has been most fully and nearly revealed—this dissatisfaction, this blindness, this ignorance, this demand, ‘Shew us the Father?’ To ourselves, as to Philip, the rebuke is addressed. ‘Have I been so long time with you, and hast thou not known Me—not known Me, the Word of God, Whose seal is set on all nature and all history; not known Me, the Incarnate Son, Whose personal ministry is written in the Gospels, and Whose name is stamped on the life of the Church?’ And now on this Advent Day, when once again the great fact in the history of man, the most perfect unveiling of the Father through the Incarnation of the Word, is brought before us; and, starting from this, we are bidden to gaze into the future, and to realise the second more terrible, more glorious coming, when the veil of the Heavenly Temple shall be torn aside for ever, and the awful Presence shall be revealed to us in all His majesty, all His holiness, all His power, all His love, when we shall know, even as we are known—now on this day it is not unfitting that we should ask ourselves, how far our spiritual organs have grown used to the brightness of His presence, in what temper we have made the demand, ‘Shew us the Father,’ and whether we have deserved the rebuke, ‘Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known Me?’ ‘Have I been so long time with you in the studies of this place, I, the Word of God, the expression of the Father’s mind?’ Have you busied yourselves with the manifold relations of number and space, and have the order, the simplicity of principles, the variety of results, the inexhaustible combinations, the infinite possibilities, chained and entranced you without striking one chord of religious awe, without inspiring one feeling of reverence towards the mind of the Eternal Word? Or has your time been spent on the investigation of external nature? Have you studied her in her grander developments, traced the motions of the heavenly bodies, the fluctuations of tides, the changes of seasons, followed the many divergent phenomena to the one, grand, comprehensive, all-pervading law, but have you stopped here? Has this law veiled, or has it revealed to you, the Eternal Word, of Whom it is the very sign-manual? Might it not be better, like the untutored barbarian, to see God in the clouds and to hear Him in the winds, than to refuse to see Him in the dynamic laws by which the clouds are shaped and reshaped, and to refuse to hear Him in the acoustic principles which give their voices to the winds? Or has your mind been directed to the investigation of more minute, but not less wonderful, processes of nature—the marvels of the vegetable world, for instance? What has ‘a yellow primrose’ been to you? A yellow primrose only, or something more? Yes, a little more; something of which you may count the stamens and the petals, something of which you may name the class and the genus and the species, of which you may investigate the structure and the functions and the geographical distribution. But has it, or has it not, been to you a revelation of the beauty, the order, the power, the love, of the Eternal Word? ‘By Him all things were made, and without Him was not anything made that was made.’ Has He been so long time with you, and yet have ye not known Him? Or again; have you traced the intricate subtleties of language, examined its vocabulary and analysed its syntax, speculated on its origin, its development, its decay? And have you seen only adaptations of human organs, only processes of human thought? Have you found no traces of the Father’s presence here? Have you spent hour after hour on the literature of the two greatest nations of antiquity? And have you listened, as though only Greeks and Romans are speaking to you? Have you heard no echo of the Divine Word, sounding above and through the din of human voices; seen no impress of the Divine Mind—blurred and partial though it was—in the philosophic penetration of the one and the legal precision of the other? Have you pored over the long roll of human history—so much lengthened out for you in these later days by the discoveries of the ethnologer and the antiquarian—have you traced the successions of epochs, the divergences of races, mapped out their several provinces in the development of humanity, marked the lines of progress running through the ages, floated on the stream of knowledge and civilisation broadening slowly down? And has all this opened out no revelation of the Word, though the scroll is written over with His name within and without? He is the light and the life of men. These were records of continually enlarged life, of ever-increasing light. ‘Has He been so long time with you, and have ye not known Him?’ I have spoken of the Word in nature, and the Word in history—of the Word in mathematical conceptions, and the Word in human speech. I have done so because to ourselves, as students, these applications of the text seem to appeal with peculiar force. It is here that we should learn to know the Word, and to see the Father. Yet once again I would not be mistaken. Neither philology, nor mathematics, nor nature, nor history will of themselves teach this lesson. But the Spirit will speak through these studies to the spiritually-minded: will quicken them with a higher life; will impart through them a revelation of God. But to us, and to all alike, the Word of God has spoken in other and clearer tones. He became flesh, and He dwelt among us. He has lived on earth with us in the Gospels, and He lives still by His Spirit with us in the Church. He came to open the grave, to redeem us from sin, to sanctify our lives through His life. He came to quicken our natural yearnings after heaven, to enlighten our imperfect conceptions of deity. He came to bring home to our hearts the all-embracing love of God, Who sent His only-begotten Son to die for us, and to be a propitiation for our sins. He came to shew us, not the Omnipotent, not the Avenger, not the Judge, but the Father. ‘And we have seen His glory’—seen it in the record of those three short years which speak to us in the pages of the Evangelists with a freshness and a force which no time can tarnish or decay; seen it in the long lapse of those eighteen centuries of Christian History, in which He has lived again in the lives of His saints, and died again in the sufferings of His heroes. Has He then been so long time with us, and yet have we not known Him? Do we still ask to be shewn the Father? To have seen the Father—this is comfort, this is strength, this is joy, this is life. Have we seen Him—not we vaguely, but have you individually, have I individually? To those who have, such language will be felt to be no exaggeration. If only for a moment we have caught His shadow resting on our chamber wall, as He has passed by; if only in a fleeting glance we have arrested the glory streaming from the fringe of His mantle, then this one revelation has been to us a source of infinite satisfaction and strength—better far than months and years of our earthly, selfish, sinning life. When sorrow overclouds, when temptation assails, when sickness prostrates and death closes over us, this and this only—this sense of a Father’s presence—can animate and sustain us, can give us energy to act and courage to bear. Is it not worth while to strive hard for the attainment of this, worth while to pursue it with something more than the zeal of the athlete in pursuit of victory, or the student in pursuit of knowledge—with something of the desperate, pertinacious, absorbing passion, which the miser devotes to his hordes of gold. Without such earnestness it will not be attained. The loftiest crags are the hardest scaled. And this is the topmost crest of all, whence all the heights of human ambition are dwarfed into insignificance. It is not by listless aspirations, not by decent observance of religious forms, not by dutiful acquiescence in orthodox creeds, not by minute and painful criticism of the Scriptures, that the crown will be won: but by wrestling with the angel of God in prayer, and forcing a blessing from him; by cultivating to the utmost all your faculties of mind and soul, that you may offer to God a less unworthy gift; by sustained and rigorous discipline exerted over your passions, your desires, your sluggish neglects, your perverted activities; by the unreserved surrender of self to Him. So, and so only, may you hope that the Father will unveil Himself before you, will speak with you face to face, as a man speaketh with his friend. For the young man, who is prepared to do this, who is ready to surrender not this or that desire only, but himself to God, a great work is in store—a work which may well fire the divinest ambition of youth, a work which is only possible at long intervals and in stirring times like the present. This is confessedly a great crisis in the history of the Church, in the history of the world—a crisis full of hopes, and full of fears. Of these hopes, these fears, you young men are the heirs. Our time is passing rapidly; our day is far spent. Something ere the end may perhaps yet be done—something, but very little. On you the future depends. When your call from God may come, what your commission from Him may be, I cannot tell. This is hidden in the depths of His counsels. But the preparation, the discipline, the self-surrender, must begin at once. Even now you must hasten to your Father’s presence, and fall at your Father’s feet. Do this, and wait patiently. The great work, it would seem, of your generation is to reconcile the present and the past. Study therefore the present in the light of the past, and the past in the light of the present; but study both in the light of the Divine Word. See in both, see in all things, the Father’s presence. Take your commission directly from Him. Seek instruction directly from Him. He is the only infallible teacher. I know only too well, that he who speaks to you now has no claims from anything he has done, or anything he has suffered, to be heard on so lofty a theme; but I know this also, that, if he were allowed to indulge one hope only, it would be this; that a chance spark thrown off from his anvil should have burnt into the soul of some young man here present, and lie smouldering there, until hereafter it shall burst out into a flame, which shall rise ever higher and burn ever brighter, when he himself has passed away and is forgotten. Lightfoot, J. B. (1890). Cambridge Sermons. London; New York: MacMillan and Co. (Public Domain) Romans 4:10 - Credit Crunch? "How then was it credited? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised;" (NASB) "How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision." (KJV) "But how did this happen? Was he counted as righteous only after he was circumcised, or was it before he was circumcised? Clearly, God accepted Abraham before he was circumcised!" (NLT) "How then was it credited to him? Was he circumcised at the time, or not? No, he was not circumcised but uncircumcised!" (NET) I suppose the argument here portrayed is similar to the ordinance of Christian baptism. One must consider whether one is credited before or after baptism/circumcision. But the Apostle has already dispatched this thought in Chapter Two: For a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision something that is outward in the flesh, but someone is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is of the heart by the Spirit and not by the written code. This person's praise is not from people but from God. (Romans 2:28-29 NET.) As to the time line, the distance between Genesis 15:6 and Genesis 17:1 is about 13 - 15 years. As to the possible objection by the Hebrew, there is none because Abraham's faith was expressed long before the rite of circumcision. There are a great many lessons that could be provoked from this passage. However, the one that comes to mind is that we must not rest upon the physical act of baptism (nor any other) but cling to the faith that has set us free in Christ Jesus. We are creatures of now and cannot hold to past successes or circumstances. Who we are today is who we are! That is why Christ has created a new day and called it today whereby we may enter into His Sabbath rest. If we are hard hearted or arrogant we will fail and lose out on a daily blessing. If we recognize that we are still living in this fallen fleshly container and have need of the renewing of our minds by the Holy Spirit in order to face the challenges of each and every minute, then we will be able to enter this rest. Faith was reckoned to Abraham for justification, as we read Genesis 15:6, (see the note on Genesis 15:6); but circumcision was not instituted till about fourteen or fifteen years after, Genesis 17:1, etc.; for faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness or justification at least one year before Ishmael was born; compare Genesis 15, and 16. At Ishmael’s birth he was eighty-six years of age, Genesis 16:16; and, at the institution of circumcision, Ishmael was thirteen, and Abraham ninety-nine years old. Dr. Adam Clark Abraham’s age when he was declared righteous (Gen. 15:6) is not stated. But later when Hagar bore him Ishmael, he was 86 (Genesis 16:16). After that, God instructed Abraham to perform the rite of circumcision on all his male descendants as a sign of God’s covenant with him; this was done when Abraham was 99 (Genesis 17:24). Therefore the circumcision of Abraham followed his justification by faith by more than 13 years. Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983-c1985). The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures (Ro 4:9). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books. And Abram believed the LORD, and the LORD counted him as righteous because of his faith. (Genesis 15:6 NLT) When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, "I am El-Shaddai—'God Almighty.' Serve Me faithfully and live a blameless life. (Genesis 17:1 NLT) Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised, and Ishmael, his son, was thirteen. (Genesis 17:24-25 NLT) Romans 3:30 - One God - One Faith - One Salvation "since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one." (NASB) "Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith." (KJV) "There is only one God, and He makes people right with Himself only by faith, whether they are Jews or Gentiles." (NLT) "Since God is one, he will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith." (NET) Rom 3:30 Seeing it is one God - επιπερ εις ο θεος. This has been rendered, Seeing God is one. It however makes little difference in the sense: the apostle’s meaning most evidently is, it is one and the same God who made both Jews and Gentiles, who shall justify - pardon, the circumcision - the believing Jews, by faith; and the uncircumcision - the believing Gentiles, by the same faith; as there is but one Savior and one atonement provided for the whole. It is fanciful to suppose that the apostle has one meaning when he says, εκ πιστεως, By faith, and a different meaning when he says, δια της πιστεως, Through faith. Both the prepositions are to be understood in precisely the same sense; only the addition of the article της, in the last case, extends and more pointedly ascertains the meaning. It is one and the same God who shall justify the believing Jews by faith; and the believing Gentiles δια της πιστεως, by That Same faith. Dr. Adam Clarke Rom 3:30 Seeing it is one God,.... God is one in nature and essence, though there are three persons in the Godhead, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; whence it appears, that he that is the God of the Jews, is also the God of the Gentiles, or there would be more gods than one; and that these are justified in one and the same manner, or God must be divided; for God, as he is one in nature, so he is one in will, in his promises, and in the methods of his grace: which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith. The objects of justification are "the circumcision", the circumcised Jews, and "the uncircumcision", the uncircumcised Gentiles; the circumcision of the one does not forward, and the uncircumcision of the other does not hinder, nor neither of them effect the grace of justification: the justifier of them is one and the same, who is God; and the matter of their justification is the same, which is the righteousness of Christ; and the manner of it, or the means of their comfortable apprehension of it, is the same; for those phrases, "by faith", and "through faith", mean one and the same thing; see Philippians 3:9. Dr. John Gill So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law. (Romans 3:28 NLT) Circumcision was a sign that Abraham already had faith and that God had already accepted him and declared him to be righteous—even before he was circumcised. So Abraham is the spiritual father of those who have faith but have not been circumcised. They are counted as righteous because of their faith. And Abraham is also the spiritual father of those who have been circumcised, but only if they have the same kind of faith Abraham had before he was circumcised. (Romans 4:11-12 NLT) Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on Him. For "Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved." (Romans 10:12-13 NLT) When I saw that they were not following the truth of the gospel message, I said to Peter in front of all the others, "Since you, a Jew by birth, have discarded the Jewish laws and are living like a Gentile, why are you now trying to make these Gentiles follow the Jewish traditions? "You and I are Jews by birth, not 'sinners' like the Gentiles. Yet we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law." (Galatians 2:14-16 NLT) What's more, the Scriptures looked forward to this time when God would declare the Gentiles to be righteous because of their faith. God proclaimed this good news to Abraham long ago when He said, "All nations will be blessed through you." (Galatians 3:8 NLT) Now a mediator is helpful if more than one party must reach an agreement. But God, who is one, did not use a mediator when He gave His promise to Abraham. (Galatians 3:20 NLT) There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28 NLT) For when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, there is no benefit in being circumcised or being uncircumcised. What is important is faith expressing itself in love. (Galatians 5:6 NLT) It doesn't matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation. (Galatians 6:15 NLT) For we who worship by the Spirit of God are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort, (Philippians 3:3 NLT) So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority. When you came to Christ, you were "circumcised," but not by a physical procedure. Christ performed a spiritual circumcision—the cutting away of your sinful nature. (Colossians 2:10-11 NLT) I was much surprised by a recently published poll to find that only 35% of Evangelical Christians believe that Christ is the only way! It is pretty hard to miss the doctrinal implication herein described. The New Living Translation pretty well reiterates the reformation mantra: Salvation by Grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Romans 4:03 - Abraham Believed "For what does the Scripture say? 'ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.'" (NASB) "For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness." (KJV) "For the Scriptures tell us, 'Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.'" (NLT) "For what does the scripture say? 'Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.'" (NET) What a great way to start a sentence! "What does the Scripture say?" We often try to come to logical conclusions that are not substantiated by Scripture. Certainly we do not want to build on any foundation but that which is clearly delineated by Holy Writ. We must remember that salvation is an accomplished fact, a present process and a future prospect! (Arthur W. Pink, A Fourfold Salvation — paraphrase mine) I heard a rather brusk and bohemian "comedian" (his assessment not mine) say, displaying his utter contempt, that Christian salvation is all about when you die. Nothing could be further from the truth! It is about eternity that starts for our conscientiousness in the here and now. I heard the Speaker of the House of Representatives say the other day that the Roman Church does not know when life begins (another bold misrepresentation). The Scripture says the Lord knew us before we were in our mother's womb and that He chose us before the foundation of the world. From His perspective, when does life begin? Life is eternal! Salvation is eternal! The door to salvation is "belief." Many would argue what this concept entails, but it is belief nevertheless. This gift of Grace is available to everyone who believes! Romans 4:16 - Justified by Faith "For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all," (NASB) "Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all," (KJV) "So the promise is received by faith. It is given as a free gift. And we are all certain to receive it, whether or not we live according to the law of Moses, if we have faith like Abraham's. For Abraham is the father of all who believe." (NLT) "For this reason it is by faith so that it may be by grace, with the result that the promise may be certain to all the descendants — not only to those who are under the law, but also to those who have the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all" (NET) The conclusion of this argument: the salvation and justification of the posterity of Abraham (that is, of the Church which is composed of all believers) proceeds from faith which lays hold on the promise made to Abraham, and which promise Abraham himself first of all laid hold on. (Geneva Bible Translation Notes) The real children of Abraham, then, are those who put their faith in God. What's more, the Scriptures looked forward to this time when God would declare the Gentiles to be righteous because of their faith. God proclaimed this good news to Abraham long ago when He said, "All nations will be blessed through you." So all who put their faith in Christ share the same blessing Abraham received because of his faith. But those who depend on the law to make them right with God are under His curse, for the Scriptures say, "Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the commands that are written in God's Book of the Law." So it is clear that no one can be made right with God by trying to keep the law. For the Scriptures say, "It is through faith that a righteous person has life." This way of faith is very different from the way of law, which says, "It is through obeying the law that a person has life." (Galatians 3:7-12 NLT) For example, there was God's promise to Abraham. Since there was no one greater to swear by, God took an oath in His own name, saying: "I will certainly bless you, and I will multiply your descendants beyond number." Then Abraham waited patiently, and He received what God had promised. Now when people take an oath, they call on someone greater than themselves to hold them to it. And without any question that oath is binding. God also bound Himself with an oath, so that those who received the promise could be perfectly sure that He would never change His mind. So God has given both His promise and His oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to Him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God's inner sanctuary. (Hebrews 6:13-19 NLT) Comments are closed.