Thursday, January 21, 2010

Faith and God's Provision

Genesis 22 is a marvelous passage of Scripture. We call passages like this "Messianic" passages because they anticipate, foreshadow, or predict the Messiah/Christ in some way. Genesis 22 is so sweet because it anticipates the death of the Lord Jesus as a substitute, atoning sacrifice for our sins. On Mount Calvary Jesus Christ gave Himself as our sacrifice for sin, as God the Father's sacrifice for sin. Just as God provided the ram for the sacrifice on Mount Moriah for Abraham, so God provides Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, for our sins on the cross. Wow! Just thinking about this is glorious! Indeed Calvary is God's provision for the sinner. In the cross of Jesus Christ, we see God's provision for the sinner.

1. God provides forgiveness for our sins.
2. God provides cleansing for our sinful guilt and shame.
3. God provides justification whereby the sinner in Christ is wonderfully acceptable to God and clothed with divine righteousness.

But there is also a teaching on Christian faith in Genesis 22 as well. Using sanctified imagination I wonder if Abraham struggled when God told him to sacrifice his son, his only son, Isaac. Surely Abraham wondered why God would give to him a son of promise, and then ask Abraham to sacrifice Isaac on the altar. And yet, Abraham demonstrates absolute, undeniable, and unwavering confidence in God. He did as God commanded. Whew, that must have been tough! But Abraham did it, and he did it because he believed God that much!

Hebrews 11:17-19 says, "By faith, Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; it was he to whom it was said, 'In Isaac your descendants shall be called.' He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type."

Two main ideas are given here: 1) Abraham's faith in Genesis 22 is a type of Christian faith, as is indicated in Hebrews 11, and 2) The essence or core of Abraham's faith, and Christian faith, is the belief that God is able to save us in Christ. Thus, the critical component of Christian faith is not the faith itself, rather, it is that God is able to do what He has promised in Christ.

OK, I want to draw some relevant and associative connections between Abraham's faith and true, Christian, saving faith, such as...

1. True faith is based in the revelation of God.
Abraham believed what God had said to him. He believed God's word and promise. Today we must believe God's word which is God's Word, the Bible. The Bible is the focus of our faith today. God has spoken today, but not in dreams or visions or prophetic thoughts in our heads (see Hebrews 1:1-3). Rather, God has spoken in His Son (Jesus) and the Scriptures; we are called to believe God's Word, the Bible.

2. True faith is real hard.
In fact, true faith is impossible for people to provide. This is why God gives faith as a gift (see Ephesians 2:8). If one has faith, true faith, then God is operative in his life to provide this as a gift to him. It must have been very hard for Abraham to have faith in God when God asked him to sacrifice his son. But Abraham did the hard thing; that is faith.

3. True faith is sacrificial and life-changing.
Faith in Abraham's life radically changed him completely. It changed where he lived, what he wanted in life, and what his life was all about. This is true of true faith. Faith in Christ is not a "ticket" to heaven or a "fire insurance" policy to keep us from hell. True faith is certainly the means by which we are brought into a saving relationship with God, and thus avoids hell and gains heaven, but this is not mean that faith leaves us unchanged. True faith transforms our will, our affections, and our mind. This is so radical in our lives that Paul calls Christians "new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17)."

4. True faith is convinced of God's ability and promise.
True faith does not look at itself; true faith looks at God. It depends upon God. It takes God at His Word; it rests upon the veracity and integrity of God alone. This is true faith.

Now for a final caution: Be careful to not misinterpret a non-prescriptive biblical passage and make it prescriptive. For example, some might read Genesis 22 and say, "Well, God called Abraham to sacrifice his son, therefore God calls all of us to do the same." No, no, a thousand times NO! The text in Genesis 22 is not prescriptive, that it does not command us to do the same as Abraham did. Rather, the passage is DESCRIPTIVE and ILLUSTRATIVE. The passage is descriptive in that it describes what God told Abraham to do, not us. But it is illustrative of true saving faith. The application of Genesis 22 has nothing to do with offering one's children to the Lord as sacrifices. It is about how God provided a type or foreshadowing of Christ in a remarkable moment and event in the life of a man long ago. If a biblical passage is prescriptive and exhortative, then it will be clearly seen all through the Scripture. Just a word of caution...

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