Genesis 061 – Life’s Most Important IssueGenesis 15:1-6 • Dr. Andy Woods • December 5, 2021 • Genesis
Genesis 061 – Life’s Most Important Issue
By Andy Woods – 12/5/2021
Alright! Is the… children are being dismissed? Let’s take our Bibles if we could and open them to the book of Genesis chapter 15. Genesis chapter 15 and verse 1 (Gen 15:1) The title of our message this morning is “Life’s Most Important Issue”. See, I always got to figure out a way to get people to listen. So why not call the sermon “Life’s Most Important Issue”? In fact, that’s not just a marketing scheme, this is reality. There is no more important issue to think about, involving the eternity of the soul than what we’re going to speak up this morning in Genesis, 15, verses 1 through 6 (Gen 15:1-6) and as you’re turning to Genesis, Ed did a great job mentioning all of the announcements, just a couple of other things to add to the list is May 14th and 15th, we’re going to be hosting a Prophecy Conference here at Sugar Land Bible Church and you say: Well, why are you picking May 14th? Does anybody know? May 14th is the day of Israel’s birthday and so, we’re going to be having a Prophecy Conference here, Saturday and then extending into our services here on Sunday dealing with the subject of the nation of Israel and so on your way out on the CD table, there’s a little flyer to kind of give you some familiarity of the Conference and the speakers we’re going to have and speaking of Israel, I had a chance to contribute in an article to Arnold Fruchtenbaum’s, I guess he knows I quote him a lot (laughs) in his magazine and there’s a copy of that on the CD table on your way out if you’re interested. If we run out, don’t panic, we’ll have plenty more next week. 2:24
Well, we have been moving through the book of Genesis verse by verse. We have finished Genesis, 1 through 11 which is the beginning of the human race
- Beginning of the Human race (Gen, 1‒11)
Genesis, 1-11 (four events)
- Creation (1-2)
- Fall (3-5)
- Flood (6-9)
- National dispersion (10-11)
- Beginning of the Hebrew race (Gen, 12‒50)
Genesis, 12-50 (four people)
- Abraham (12:1–25:11)
- Isaac (25:12–26:35)
- Jacob (27–36)
- Joseph (37–50)
featuring four events, creation, fall, flood, national dispersion and as that has been unfolding, there’s been the tracing of a promise. Genesis, 3, verse 15,(Gen 3:15) the first prophecy of the coming Messiah given in the Bible and you want to keep that in your mind cause that’s going to become a very big, big, big, big deal here today as we look at our verses, verses 1 through 6 and we moved away from the beginning of the human race to focusing on the special nation that is going to bring forth this Messiah, the nation of Israel and so Genesis, 12 through 50 focuses now on this special nation that God is starting and it begins with this patriarch named Abram.
Genesis, 12‒14 – Abram’s Early Journeys
- Unconditional promises (Gen 12:1-3)
- From Haran to Canaan (Gen 12:4-5)
- In Canaan (Gen 12:6-9)
- In Egypt (Gen 12:10-20)
- Abram and Lot Separate (Gen 13:1-13)
- Reaffirmation of Abram’s promises (Gen 13:14-18)
- Abram Rescues Lot (Gen 14:1-24)
- Abrahamic Covenant (Gen 15:1-21)
Had God not dealt with Abram, we would not have the nation of Israel. If we did have the nation of Israel, we would not have Jesus Christ. We would really have nothing to celebrate this month at Christmas, but we have been tracing the early life and journeys of this man Abram and we now come to which I think is, and I’ll try to make this case as we go through these verses today and the subsequent weeks, this probably is the most important chapter of the Bible, because if you can understand Genesis, 15, you can understand everything that God is doing in the Bible but without this background, a lot of the things God does in the Bible are sort of a strange happening to us, they are a mystery. 4:26
So the chapter really has two parts to it, verses 1 through 6 (Gen 15:1-6), the seed promise.
Genesis 15:1‒21 – Abrahamic Covenant
- Seed Promise Clarified (Gen 15:1-6)
- Land Promise Ratified (Gen 15:7-21)
Remember Abram was told that he would have many seed or children, that promise is clarified verses 1 through 6 (Gen 15:1-6) and then the land promise, Abram was told that he would possess one day all of the land of Canaan, that promise is now ratified into an official covenant verses 7 through 21 (Gen 15:7-21) but this morning we’re only going to have time to take a look at, Lord willing, verses 1 through 6. There’s our outline of verses 1 through 6, as we look at it this morning.
Seed Promise Clarified – Genesis 15:1-6
- God’s Promise (Gen 15:1)
- Abram’s misunderstanding (Gen 15:2-3)
- God’s clarification (Gen 15:4-5)
- Abram’s response (Gen 15:6)
God’s promise verse 1 (Gen 15:1), Abram’s misunderstanding of the promise verses 2 and 3 (Gen 15:2-3), God’s clarification verses 4 and 5 (Gen 15:4-5) and then you get this response from Abram (Gen 15:6). Notice if you will Genesis chapter, 15, verse 1 (Gen 15:1) where the promise is reiterated. Look at this, it says in verse 15 chapter 15, verse 1 (Gen 15:1): After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; and Your reward will be very great… Notice, first of all, this expression “After these things” After what things? After the things that just happened in chapter 14 and chapter 13 and when you take chapter 13 and you take chapter 14 and you put them together, what you learn is that Abram separated himself. He separated himself from Lot, chapter 13 verse 11 (Gen 13:11), he separated himself from the king of Sodom, he would take no spoils or wealth from the king of Sodom because he didn’t want the king of Sodom to think that the king of Sodom made Abram rich and now that this man Abram has separated himself through sanctification, he is willing and able to receive one of the greatest revelations that has ever been given to the human race. 6:50
So this is sort of an interesting pattern to us because we oftentimes wonder why the Lord is not blessing. Lord, why are you not blessing this? or why you’re not blessing that? Why are you not blessing me? Why am I not enjoying the intimacy that I once had with you? And the question is, well, have you separated yourself unto the Lord? Or are we still holding on to worldly values, worldly thinking, perpetually dwelling on the world’s way of doing things? Those things will stifle the grace of God, the voice of God, the leading of God, the guidance of God, the illumination of God in your life more than any other single thing. So, Abram is in this position of being able to receive a tremendous blessing because he had separated himself unto God. After these things the word of the lord came to Abram in a vision. Now, Abram is blessed by God. We know that because Genesis, 12, verse 2 (Gen 12:2) God says to Abram: I will bless you… and one of those blessings is he received seven times, direct communication from God. This particular communication that he’s about to receive apparently took the form of a vision. If you look at verse 1 (Gen 15:1), you’ll see the word vision there. It’s something that Abram, I think, saw and what does God say to Abram? After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, Do not fear… Now, this issue of “do not fear” must be very important because this is what God said to Abram here and it is what God will say to Isaac his son, Genesis, 26, verse 24 (Gen 26:24) and it’s what God is going to say to Jacob, Genesis, 46, verse 3 (Gen 46:3). God keeps saying over and over again to these fountainheads of Israel, the patriarchs, “Do not fear” “Do not be afraid”. Solomon in the book of Proverbs says this (Prov 28:1): The wicked flee when no one is pursuing but the righteous are as bold as the lion. Fear, anxiety is not a condition that is to habitually characterize the life of the child of God. All of us are afraid of different things, but God tells us over and over again, not to yield to fear. In fact, to young Timothy, who was pastoring the church of Ephesus, Paul would write these words: For God… 2nd Timothy, 1, verse 7 (2 Tim 1:7)… has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and self-discipline… If you find yourself today as a child of God constantly in fear, those feelings and thoughts aren’t coming from God, they’re either coming from Satan and his falling angelic realm or they are coming from the sin nature, because God says “Do not fear”. In fact, it’s interesting that when you look at the book of Revelation chapter, 21, verse 8 (Rev 21:8) sometime, it describes unbelievers in the lake of fire and it begins to give their characteristics, what are unbelievers like, and the very first characteristic of unbelievers in Revelation, 21, verse 8 is the cowardly. You know, even before it mentions immoral, sorcerers, murderers, God says the very first thing that characterizes an unbeliever is cowardice, fear, because God has not given us, as His children, a spirit of timidity. 11:02
In fact, when you search out how many times in the Bible does it say “do not fear”? The number I come to is 365 times. Hey, that’s interesting. That’s once for every day of the year. Every day of the year God is telling His people “Do not fear” “Do not be afraid” and there’s a lot of things happening in the world today with shutdowns, lockdowns, government tyranny, loss of jobs, inflation, I mean, there’s a lot of things from the human perspective to be afraid of and yet, God’s word to us is the same yesterday, today and forever. What does God say? Do not fear, do not yield to the emotion of fear but stand on My word and My truth and My promises because what is God going to do for Abraham? Then called Abram? He says there in verse 1 (Gen 15:1): I am a shield to you… What is a shield? A shield is a protector. We certainly saw that protection going on in Genesis, 14 where a seventy five year old man won a military conflict against an eastern conglomeration of nations that he should have never won. So God says, I’m a shield to you and you saw that, Abram, as I interacted with you in Genesis, 14. You know, it’s interesting that when Job was tested, we learn in early Job, Job chapters 1 and 2 that Job had placed a hedge of protection around Job where Satan could not get into Job’s life without divine permission. That same protection is around me, that same protection is around you. Anything that’s happening in your life is being allowed by God himself for a greater purpose and if therefore, nothing in my life comes into my life without the divine design of God, then why am I always nervous, why am I always fearful? Why are we always afraid? And Abraham, Abram was told “do not be afraid”. You continue on verse 1 (Gen 15:1) and it says: … Your reward shall be very great… God is in the rewarding business, and it’s interesting Abram could have rewarded himself. I mean, Genesis, 14, he could have taken the spoils of war all for himself because of the right of conquest, yet he did not and you see that same pattern in Abram’s life in Genesis, 13 where he tells Lot: Look, whatever land you don’t take, I’ll take, you go west, I’ll go east, you go east, I’ll go west… and it’s interesting that Abraham was not in a posture in his life where he was always looking out for himself, trying to enrich himself and God sees that and tells Abraham: Don’t worry about rewarding yourself, I’ll reward you. Don’t worry about making your name great as they were doing at the Tower of Babel, I’ll make your name great… and so many times we lose sight of that, we think that somehow, if we don’t look out for number 1, who will? And yet, the Biblical truth is the words of Christ. Matthew, 6, verse 33 (Matt 6:33): But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things… What are these things? What are we going to eat? What are we going to drink? What are we going to wear? What are we going to put on? How much money is in my retirement account? What’s the interest rate? What’s the inflation rate? God says: Forget about all that, you know be a good steward but seek me first and all these other things I’ll add to you… Abram is rewarded by God because Abram wasn’t trying to reward himself, and you continue on here in verses 2 and 3 where we move away from the promise to a misunderstanding.
Seed Promise Clarified – Genesis 15:1-6
- God’s Promise (Gen 15:1)
- Abram’s misunderstanding (Gen 15:2-3)
- God’s clarification (Gen 15:4-5)
- Abram’s response (Gen 15:6)
Look at verses 2 and 3 (Gen 15:2-3): Abram said, O Lord GOD, what will You give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus… Verse 3: And Abram said, Since You have given no offspring to me, the one born in my house is my heir… Abram says: I’m childless and that’s a problem because the last time we checked in with his age it was 75, his wife Sarai was no spring chicken either, she’s ten years behind him, she’s 65 and Abram is saying: Lord, you just told me I’m going to be rewarded but what good is it if I have no heir, if I have no child, I mean, What good is being blessed by you if I have no one to transmit the blessing to? In other words, Abram is sort of complaining: Lord you promised me prosperity but where’s my posterity? I mean, what good does it really do to be the richest person, if you have no one to transfer your blessings to? So, Abram said: Well, I guess Eliezer of Damascus will have to do. 17:21
Now, this gentleman, Eliezer of Damascus, where did he come from? Well, remember that Abram was called from Ur of the Chaldeans? He was called up to an area called Haran up north, another name for that is the area in and around Damascus and we believe that’s where Eliezer of Damascus joined the household of Abram and then Abram begins to move down south into the land of Canaan, the land of promise which eventually would be called the land of Israel.
So he has someone in his household, who is not his natural child and not his natural son and so his assumption is: Well, you know Lord, I guess all of these rewards and blessings you promised me, I guess it’s going to be Eliezer of Damascus who’s going to be an heir to all of these things… It is interesting that when you get into biblical archeology, somebody actually asked me a question there at the break on biblical archeology, it is interesting to me that the archeological record does not contradict the teachings of the Bible. In fact, the archeological record is filled with evidence that the stories that we’re reading about here are not just stories. These are historical events. This is how it worked in the ancient Near East. Everything we know about the ancient Near East, especially during the time of Abram, works according to what he thinks is going to happen here in verses 2 and 3 (Gen 15:2-3) because the heir, if you didn’t have a natural child, always went to the lead servant in your household. Arnold Fruchtenbaum writes:
Dr. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum – The Book of Genesis, 273
“The inheritor Abram had was one of his servants: He that shall be possessor of my house is Eliezer of Damascus, who was his chief servant. This statement is in accordance with the Code of Hammurabi and the Nuzi Tablets: A childless husband and wife were free to adopt their slave in order to have an heir to inherit their possessions.”
The inheritor Abram had was one of his servants: He shall be the possessor of my house is Eliezer of Damascus, who was his chief servant. This statement is in accordance with the Code of Hammurabi… Now, the Code of Hammurabi is a legal code that predates the Law of Moses by at least four centuries… This statement is in accordance with the Code of Hammurabi and the Nuzi Tablets: A childless husband and wife were free to adopt their slave in order to have an heir inherit their possessions… So what you are reading about here in terms of what is in Abram’s mind is exactly what we know from the archeological record. This is how it always worked, you have no natural son, you have no natural heir, then your wealth, your prosperity went to your chief servant. 20:29
I find this very interesting because the liberals have dismissed Genesis, 15 a long time ago. Oh, it’s just a bunch of fables, it never actually happened. Don’t you know that Moses really didn’t write this? They say, these things are the compilation of somebody long after the time of Moses, they deny Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch. This all started in Germany in a movement called Higher Criticism in the 19th Century and look at the state of the church is in Germany today, and Europe, and you can see exactly where this liberal thinking leads, it leads into a dead end. As a pastor when I tour Europe, I’m not so much worried about or concerned about all of the liberal thinking that came in through the seminaries, I’m concerned about the churches because the churches there are dead. Christianity by all intents and purposes from the human perspective, Christianity is over in Europe. Europe was the cradle of the Protestant Reformation. What destroyed the churches in Europe? What destroyed it was one attack after another on God’s word, particularly Genesis and yet with the discovery of the Code of Hammurabi, the Nuzi Tablets, all of these things that we have, everything that has happened in Europe could have been avoided if they had consulted the archeological record. If they had the knowledge of archeology that we have today, it’s very doubtful whether Higher Criticism would have ever gotten off the ground and I share these things with you because when you’re watching Mysteries of the Bible, A&E, The History Channel and someone comes on there and they start to spout the party line or the party narrative that the book of Genesis is just a bunch of myths, your children are watching that and your grandchildren are watching that and you need to be in a position to say: Well, that’s not true what they said there through the television. Let me tell you what the archeological record actually says, so I go into these things not to bore you with a bunch of information about archeology, I’m trying to show you that the archeological record is in harmony with the Bible, if anything. It creates a scenario whereby you can say: You know what? The biblical stories make sense therefore, they are not myth and you’ll have an answer. 23:31
As 1st Peter, 3, verse 15 (1 Pet 3:15) commands us to give every man an answer for the hope that lies within us with gentleness and respect and we’re in a time in church history in the United States of America when we start needing to be equipped to give answers and you may not have some vast apologetics ministry but I’ll show you where you do have it, you have it in your own house, with your own children, with your own grandchildren who are hearing things from teachers, hearing things from cable, hearing things from television, hearing things from media that simply aren’t true and if you allow those thoughts in those little minds to go unchecked and unfettered then Christianity in the United States will become just like it became in Europe. That’s why these kinds of things matter. So what Abram is saying here makes perfect sense from an archeological perspective, it’s totally consistent with the Code of Hammurabi and I think what you’re seeing here in Abram although he’s seen the hand of God over and over again, is you’re seeing some worldliness still in his thought process, because when God saves us and begins to move us through phase two of our salvation, the middle tense, progressive sanctification, that’s a process. Justification occurs in a nanosecond as we’ll see later, but growth in Christ is a process and there are highs and there are lows and there are ups and there are downs and you might have had some great success with the Lord last week as Abram had in Genesis, 14 but the Lord says: You’re still a work in progress, you’ve still brought into your mind a lot of worldly type things which were there before you were saved and I’m going to have to teach you how to think rightly about this because what we’re going to see is God has a totally different way of doing things. God is not limited by the legal standards of the ancient Near East. He’s the God of the impossible and we’re going to see God speak to that in just a bit. Colossians, 2, verse 8 (Col 2:8) says: See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ… Abram is still thinking with elementary principles. He’s thinking in terms of this is how the world works and we learn in Genesis, is there anything too hard for the Lord? There’s nothing too hard for the Lord. This issue of childlessness is not a problem as we’ll see. This is why the book of Romans chapter, 12, verse 2 (Rom 12:2) says: And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is acceptable and perfect… that’s the growth process of the Christian, the mental renewal that we’re constantly under and Abram despite these great promises and past successes, is still under that process because he’s still thinking here in a worldly way. This is how the world operates and consequently, verses 4 and 5 (Gen 15:4-5), God then gives a clarification. 27:31
If you look there in Genesis, 15, verse 4 (Gen 15:4), it says: Then behold, the word of the LORD came to Abram… Now, this is the second time in the span of just a few verses where God talks again and Abram as we’ve said was blessed unto God because he’s receiving direct revelation from God. So what did God say to Abram misunderstanding that Oh, I don’t have a child so obviously it’s going to be Eliezer of Damascus who is going to gain the inheritance? God says Genesis, 15, verses 4 and 5 (Gen 15:4-5): Then behold, the word of the LORD came to him, saying, This man… Eliezer of Damascus… will not be your heir; but one who will come forth from your own body… a natural son, in other words… he shall be your heir… Verse 5 (Gen 15:5): And He took him outside and said, Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them. And He said to him, So shall your descendants be… (close quote), coming from your own body, not from Eliezer of Damascus. I mean, the clarification couldn’t be clearer. This business of innumerable descendants coming from your own body, it is in harmony with what we learned earlier in Genesis, 13, verse 16 (Gen 13:16) where God said: I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth… It’s in harmony with Genesis, 15, verse 5 (Gen 15:5) which says they’ll be as innumerable as the stars, it’s in harmony with Genesis, 22, verse 17 (Gen 22:17) when He says your descendants will be as the sands of the seashore, look at the imagery that’s being used here. Dust of the earth, stars of heaven and sands of the seashore. That’s how many descendants you’re going to have coming from your 75 plus old body. 29:53
It’s interesting that God says to Abram here, look at the heavens and count the stars, if you can count them. You have to understand that a statement like that it’s completely ahead of its time. It’s absolutely scientifically prescient in what it says, because as you go through the different philosophers of the different ages, all of them, thought that they can count the stars, you know, they came up with, you can see it in Greek literature, Roman literature, I don’t care what era you’re in, they all thought they were the smartest people of the room, smartest people in the world because they knew how many stars there were. So here we are now in the 20th century… 20th century, 21st century where now we have the Hubble Telescope and as you look through the Hubble Telescope, you suddenly learn that don’t waste your time counting the stars because there are so many of them, it would defy human computation just to come up with a number. Now, how will little old Abram receive this without even the advent of the Hubble Telescope? Because God who designed the universe does not need the Hubble Telescope. He designed it and that’s why as you go through the Bible you’ll see a plethora of statements that are made that are way, way ahead scientifically. There’s wonderful books written about this and I bring these kinds of things up because what people want you to believe is: Oh, well you’re a Christian, you believe in the Bible, you must be kind of an ignoramus, you must be scientifically illiterate… The fact of the matter is the opposite is true. The Bible is revealing things about so-called science long before human beings should have known these things because God is the one that designed this universe. This universe is a ball, a sphere, the book of Job says, the oldest book of the Bible. I think it’s in Job, 26, verse 7 (Job 26:7) “that hangs suspended in space.” You want to talk about scientific accuracy? Compare it to what the Quran says, where the earth sits on the back of an elephant (laughs) and that’s why we have earthquakes, cause the elephant is walking (laughs) and people want to say, we are scientifically illiterate and yet the Quran and Islam gets a free pass? And you’ll find these kinds of things over and over again in the Bible, count the stars if you’re able to, hahaha, you can’t count them. Well, how would God know, well, He designed it all. He knows their innumerable character, and God here makes a statement to Abram that seems from the human perspective, and remember Abram’s mind is largely operating still on HVP, human viewpoint, not DVP, divine viewpoint, for the simple reason that he thought his heir was going to be Eliezer of Damascus. 33:33
From the human viewpoint, the whole promise of God seemed absolutely on its face absurd. I mean, it didn’t make any sense. I’m 75 or more, my wife is 65 and here God is telling me that from the womb of Sarah is going to come a nation of people that will be so numerous they’re going to be like stars of heaven, the dust of the earth and the sand of the seashore. I mean if God… put yourself in Abram’s shoes and God said that to you through direct revelation. What would you do with that? Most of us, I fear to say, would scoff at it. I mean, most of us would probably be so afraid of being ridiculed that if God said that to us we wouldn’t advertise what He said. The whole thing doesn’t make any sense and yet, look at the response of Abram, verse 6 (Gen 15:6): Then he… that’s Abram… believed in the LORD… I mean, he, at some point, put aside human viewpoint, human way of doing things and he said, you know, if God believes it… if God said it, that settles it. I don’t know if I have to have an explanation for everything. God said it, God can deliver, therefore, I will believe it. Is that you in your walk with the Lord? Some people, I’m sort of envious suddenly, have a lot of faith, a lot more than I have and they will just believe things that they think are from God despite the fact that what they just said makes no sense concerning how the world operates. Abram was one of those types of people, and what exactly did Abram believe? That’s a great question. He believed in the disclosure of God, he believed in the power of God, he believed that God against all odds from the HVP, human viewpoint, could pull it off because after all, He is God and is anything too hard for the Lord? Abram didn’t know how, how God was going to do this, but he knew what God said and he was taken outside, he was given this counting lesson, he was told what he was told by God. It obviously was absurd on its face. I mean, how could I have a child at my age? Why wouldn’t Eliezer of Damascus be my heir? Oh, you know what? It doesn’t matter what I think, the only thing that matters is what God just said, and I believe it, I trust it. Now, most commentators stop the story there. What did Abram believe? Oh, it was just a generic promise of innumerable descendants and I’m here to tell you that the story is a lot more complicated than that. I believe that because Paul the Apostle interprets this story for us in Galatians, 3, verse 16 (Gal 3:16). I don’t know of any better commentator on the Old Testament than the New Testament, amen? I mean, you’re studying a story like this, don’t run off to your favorite commentator, run off to the inspired New Testament and see what the New Testament has to say and Paul the Apostle makes this statement in Galatians, 3, verse 16 (Gal 3:16). Hey! Chapter 3, verse 16, that’s kind of a salvation number, isn’t it? Reminds me of John 3:16. It’s kind of interesting, in our verse divisions of the Bible, two of the most important verses on the issue of salvation are in a chapter 3, verse 16. Easy to remember. 38:05
Paul commenting on what Abram just experienced here in Genesis, 15, verse 6 (Gen 15:6) says: Now the promises were spoken to Abram and to his seed… He does not say “ and to seeds” as referring to many but rather to one “and to your seed”, that is Christ. Paul picks up on the idea that seed, here’s our fancy word for the day, is a collective singular. You say, well, what is a collective singular? A collective singular is a noun that can be used in the singular or the plural. You say seed, are you talking about an individual sunflower seed, or are you talking about a whole bag of them? The word seed covers both, right? Singular or plural. It’s like the word sheep, when you use the word sheep, you could be referring to a flock or you could be referring to an individual animal. Same with the word hair, by the way. People say: Andy, you need a haircut.. and I don’t say: Oh, what hair are you talking about. I can pull it out right now… Because hair can be a singular strand or it can be everything on your head, that’s the word seed. What Abram believed according to the commentary of the Apostle Paul in a chapter 3, verse 16 of the Bible was not just a generic promise of many seed being born to him in his old age. Most commentators teach just that and they stop right there cause they don’t factor in the whole counsel of God’s word. Did Abram believe that through his body would come seed as numerous as the stars? Yes, he believed that, but that’s not all, he believed something else. He believed that through this mass amount of seed or descendants would come a seed, an individual coming from a nation. 40:40
So when Abram believed the promise of seed, collective singular, he had in his mind the promise of God that through his aged body and that of his wife would come an innumerable nation but from that innumerable nation would come an individual who would be the Savior of the world. Well, where did Abram get the idea that an individual was going to come? Aren’t you glad that we’ve been studying the book of Genesis verse by verse? Because all the way back in Genesis, 3, verse 15 (Gen 3:15) this singular individual is predicted: I will put enmity Between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel… Eve from your lineage is coming somebody who’s going to crush Satan, an individual. That’s why when Cain was born, Genesis, 4, verse 1 (Gen 4:1) it says: The man had relations with his wife Eve, she conceived and she gave birth to Cain, and said, I have gotten a manchild with the help of the LORD… with the help of is in italics in the English translation meaning it’s not there in the original. What she actually said is: I have begotten a manchild, the Lord… She thought she’d given birth to the Messiah. Why would she think such a thing? Because his coming was announced in Genesis, 3, verse 15 (Gen 3:15). That was the reason for her case of mistaken identity and then we read what Lamech said to Noah his son (Gen 5:29): Now he called his name Noah, saying, This one will give us rest from our work and from the toil of our hands arising from the ground which the Lord has cursed… Noah is the one that’s going to fix the curse. Why would Lamech think that about Noah? Why the case of mistaken identity? Because the coming of the Messiah is predicted in Genesis, 3 verse 15 (Gen 3:15) and then we learn that Noah has three sons and this Messianic channel is going to come through the lineage of Shem (Gen 9:26) and then the lineage of Shem was ultimately traced to Abram, the patriarch of the nation of Israel where God says concerning Abram (Gen 12:3): Through you the whole world will be blessed… Meaning that this coming one who’s going to crush Satan’s head is coming through your lineage and that’s why there’s this Messianic chart starting with Genesis, 3, verse 15 going through Seth, going through Noah, going through Shem, ultimately coming to Abram.
God’s Messianic Purposes Beginning in Genesis
- Proto-evangelium from Adam & Eve (Gen 3:15)
- Seth (Gen 4:25)
- Noah (Gen 5:29)
- Shem (Gen 9:26)
- Abraham (Gen 12:3)
- Isaac (Gen 21:12)
- Jacob (Gen 25:23)
- Judah (Gen 49:10)
This is why they all had a knowledge of this coming Messiah and you wouldn’t believe the Old Testament scholars that are extremely critical of this interpretation. Oh, you’re reading the New Testament back into the Old, they say. No, I’m not, I’m simply following what the Messianic expectation was in Old Testament times. They all knew this Messiah was coming and Paul says, Abram knew… and so when God made to Abram a promise that seemed absolutely ridiculous, you have to understand what Abram believed. He didn’t just believe in the generic promise of many seed, he believed in the promise that there’s coming “a seed”, who’s going to fix the world’s problems related to sin and he believed it. The truth of the matter folks is the plan of salvation, as you go through the Bible, it’s always the same. It’s always faith alone in Christ alone. It’s just Abram was looking forward and didn’t know the name Jesus. We look backward and we do know the name Jesus. We are looking backward two thousand years, Abram is looking forward two thousand years, but it’s the exact same person of Jesus Christ. That’s who Abram was trusting in, or relying upon and what did God do? Because Abram believed this promise? It’s at the end of verse 6 (Gen 15:6), it says: Then he… that’s Abram… believed in the LORD; and He… that’s the Lord… reckoned it to him for righteousness… and of course, the Bible is obviously Texan because it uses this word “reckon”, right? In fact, there’s no doubt in my mind that Paul could not be Texan because Paul said he was content no matter what state he was in (laughs), but the thing to understand here is the moment Abram believed in that promise is the moment God reckoned it to him for righteousness. Watch this very carefully cause if you miss this, you miss the whole point of Christianity. Abram was righteous cause God made him righteous positionally. 46:48
The Protestant Reformers called this “alien righteousness” Why is it alien righteousness? Because it’s coming from a source outside of ourselves. It’s transferred to us at the point of faith. Paul in the New Testament talks about this in the book of Philippians chapter, 3 and verse 9 (Phil 3:9) and he says: …may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own… Did you hear that?… not having a righteousness of my own as derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God… See that? it’s alien, it’s foreign, it’s something that’s transferred to you… on the basis of faith… I don’t know about you but I’ll tell you this much about myself. I have no desire or interest in standing before God one day in my own righteousness, which when you think about it it’s not worth that much anyway. God does not call us to stand before Him one day through our own loin coverings and our own self-righteousness and our own religiosity and our own good intentions. If that’s what you’re going to do, best of luck to you. We stand before God through His righteousness which was alien, which was foreign, it was transferred to us at the point of faith. The NIV has a very interesting translation of this, it says: Abram believed in the LORD, and He… that’s God… credited it to him as righteousness… Now, we all know what credit is, right? Particularly this time of the year, we love credit, because credit allows us to get goodies with no payment. The day of payment is postponed. Abram got this whole package from God, transferred righteousness on credit. Why did he get it on credit? Because it hadn’t been paid for yet. When would it be paid for? Two thousand years later in the person of Jesus Christ. Abram, looking forward by faith, not knowing the name Jesus, trusts in a promise of God which seems irrational and God gave Abram righteousness on credit even though it hadn’t been paid for. It’s the exact same way that we’re saved today, the difference is we look backward, we do know the name Jesus and we don’t receive it on credit, because it’s already been paid for and what you’ve stumbled into here in Genesis, 15, verse 6 (Gen 15:6) is the Apostle Paul’s favorite Bible verse. I mean, Paul, of all of the things in the Bible he could have quoted, he quotes this all the time. Romans, 4, verse 3 (Rom 4:3), Romans, 4, verse 9 (Rom 4:9), Romans, 4, verse 22 (Rom 4:22), Galatians, 3, verse 6 (Gal 3:6). Paul keeps quoting Genesis, 15, verse 6: Abram believed God and it was credited to him for righteousness. 50:42
Why does Paul like this verse so much? The answer is Paul was dealing with Pharisees. You say well, what’s a Pharisee? A Pharisee, in the time of Paul, was somebody trying to mix obedience to the law with faith to be justified before God. The Pharisees were always mixing the two together. Everywhere Paul went he dealt with Pharisees and that’s why Paul keeps quoting this verse, because when you study this verse in context, in chronology, which is what you do when you move through the Bible verse by verse, is you learn that Abram could not have been justified by faith plus circumcision. Well, why not? Genesis, 15 comes before Genesis, 17, you guys agree with me on that? Genesis, 17, circumcision is implemented amongst the Hebrews. We’re not even there in Genesis, 17 or in Genesis, 15. How could Abram be justified by circumcision when there was no such thing in terms of implementation from God? How about people that say: Hey! You’ve got to be justified by believing but you’ve also got to keep the law. What does Paul do? He quotes Genesis, 15, verse 6 (Gen 15:6) because he says: You’re not paying attention to the chronology of the Bible because the law of God would not be handed down for another six hundred years. So if the law of God is not handed down for another six hundred years, obviously Abram wasn’t justified before God by the law, there was no law. He wasn’t justified by circumcision, because there is no circumcision.
What does justify mean? It’s a forensic declaration of righteousness, that’s what it is. It’s a legal term. It’s what a jury does. Your honor, not guilty. How could heaven itself declare you not guilty? Because you don’t stand before God in your own righteousness, that’s why you’re not guilty. You stand before God in alien righteousness, transferred righteousness, righteousness from outside of yourself and when we understand this, we understand very quickly how Phariseeism is, we don’t have the Pharisees exactly like the Bible describes them, but we’ve got them. It’s the world of religion, who’ll always tell you something like this: Well, I’m glad you trusted in Christ for salvation but you’ve got to live a certain way, you’ve got a give a certain way, you’ve got to do this, you’ve got to do that and my response to that is: Get your “but” out of the way! (laughs) We don’t say: You believe in Jesus but… Get your “but” out of the way (laughs) Am I saying this from a pulpit in the church? Because there is no but. Do you see a conjunction “but” here? Is there anything in this verse that says but? All it says is he believed in the Lord, generic promise of seed, individual seed coming, and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness. This is so easy. How have we mess this up? I’ll tell you how we’ve messed this up. Because if you believe this you don’t get any credit. You don’t get to stroll into heaven as proud as a peacock saying Lord, look at what I did for you. This is why the world of religion thrives, because it feeds on the pride of men. If anything that will abase you and bring you to humility in the Bible, nothing will do it faster than this doctrine here, because you get no credit, it was credited to you, it was given to you, it was transferred to you as a gift because someone else paid the price that we memorialize today at the Lord’s table. 55:39
Galatians, 3, verse 29 (Gal 3:29) therefore calls us Abraham’s descendants. We are Abraham’s seed, the Greek word translated “seed” is “sperma” where you get the word obviously “sperm” Why in the world is little old me called the seed of Abraham? Is it because that we, as the church, have taken over Israel’s position? The reformed community will tell you that. They will tell you that’s what this verse means. The truth of the matter is, we’re not the seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, which is what is necessary to be Israel. We are the seed, singular, the word promise there, singular. We are the seed of Abraham, he does not call us, Paul the Apostle in Galatians, 3, verse 29 (Gal 3:29), the seed of Abraham because suddenly we’ve taken over Israel’s position. He calls us the seed of Abraham for this very simple reason and he uses the singular noun promise there for this reason: We’re justified before God personally, the exact same way Abraham was. The only difference is Abraham was looking forward by faith not knowing the name Jesus and what he received from God, he received it on credit. We are justified before God the exact same way. The only difference is we’re looking two thousand years backward, where Abram was looking two thousand years forward. We do not receive it on credit because it’s been paid in full and we do know the name Jesus Christ. Other than those dissimilarities, the plan of salvation is exactly the same. We are the seed of Abram. This is why Lewis Sperry Chafer tells us that:
Belief – God’s One Condition for Justification
“…because upwards of 150 passages of Scripture condition salvation upon believing only (cf. John 3:16; Acts 16:31).”
Lewis Sperry Chafer, vol. 7, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1993), 265-66.
…upwards of 150 passages of Scripture condition salvation upon believing only… A hundred and fifty times the New Testament tells us this, not circumcision, not the law, not Phariseeism, not obedience, not religiosity, not good intentions, but because you put your faith in a person. That’s what saves you. There are many, many classic examples of this: You know John 3:16: For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life… Easy. How about this? Life’s most important question from the Philippian jailer, what must I do to be saved? Can you think of a more important question to ask than that? I can’t. Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said: Circumcision, law, Phariseeism, church attendance, giving regularly, it doesn’t say anything like that. I mean, my goodness! He didn’t even tell the Philippian jailer to walk an aisle. What kind of evangelistic school did Paul and Silas go to? Didn’t even tell them to fill out a card? He didn’t even say: Okay, bow your head, close your eyes and repeat after me. He just simply said: Believe, because that’s all the Bible requires. Sirs, what must I do to be saved? They said (Acts 16:30-31), Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, the seed, in this case, He’s already come, and hang in there and be tough and I hope you make it in the end, No. He gave him immediate assurance of salvation: You will be saved. See, a lot of times when I’m teaching verse by verse, I try to give the Gospel at the end and it’s kind of hard sometimes to cram it in there, cause sometimes it doesn’t always exactly relate to the passage. 1:00:10
I don’t think I have that problem today, because you just saw in these verses the most crystallized clear articulation of the Gospel that you could find. So there’s really no need for me to rearticulate the Gospel, it’s already been articulated. The only thing you need to do is believe it. “Believe” is another way of saying trust, reliance upon, dependence upon a person and in this case it’s the person of Jesus Christ who came two thousand years ago that we memorialized at the Lord’s table. I hope as the spirit of God takes these truths and convicts people either in the building or online or listening or viewing in archive format after the fact or reading the transcript that they would respond to this simple message and secure their future by believing or trusting in the Lord.
Shall we pray? Father we’re grateful for this man Abram, we are grateful for learning about his successes and even some of his shortcomings and we know Father that the way you work is different than the way the world does. Help us to walk out this week even as we move now into the Christmas season, focused on the birth of your son, that Jesus has been born. He has paid the penalty for all of our sins and by receiving what He did by faith as a free gift, we receive the alien transferred imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ where God the Father looks at us as if we’re just as pure as His Son. What a message to proclaim, to think about and to share at this time of the year. We pray you’ll do this great work. We’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ name and God’s people said, Amen.