Wednesday, July 08, 2015

“Abraham: The First Missionary”

Insight #2 July 11, 2015

Third Quarter 2015 Adult Sabbath School Lessons "Abraham: The First Missionary" For the week of July 11, 2015         

While we may take exception to the title of our lesson this week that Abraham was the first missionary, he truly was a missionary. His mission was to believe and to spread the gospel. In the memory passage for this week, we observe 5 points:   1. Abraham believed God and He counted it to him for righteousness 2. Only those who believe are children of Abraham 3. Justification by faith for Gentiles 4. God preached the Gospel to Abraham 5. In Abraham, all nations shall be blessed      

Paul references two scriptures in this passage. The first comes from Gen 15:6 which states God's promise of righteousness to Abraham who believed His promise. Later in the same chapter God gave Abraham strong assurances regarding His promise. He told Abraham to sacrifice various kinds of animals. All the animals were cut in half and placed on the sides of a pathway in which God walked as He passed between the animal pieces. In this, God made a covenant with Abraham. Verse 18 states that "the Lord made a covenant with Abram." The word "made" (karat) means to "cut" or to "cut off." God assured Abraham that if His promise should fail He would call death upon himself – the same fate which befell the animals. God pledged His life for the fulfillment of His covenant promise.              

This same word "to cut off" is used of Christ in reference to the prophecy of His crucifixion in Dan 9:26 – "Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself." It was "not for Himself" but for us. His blood is the "blood of the everlasting covenant" shed for us (Heb 13:20; Matt 26:28). In Dan 9:27 the promise was given that Christ "shall confirm the covenant with many for one week." This week is a prophetic week which means one day stands for one year, thus this is the last seven years of the prophecy of Dan 9:24-27.       

Paul wrote that the "covenant…was confirmed before by God in Christ" (Gal 3:17).      

The other scripture Paul referred to in the memory passage is Gen 12:3 in which God promised to bless "all nations" through Abram. This is the gospel of Christ and it is the promise of "justification by faith" to all nations who believe as did Abram (Gal 3:8). When God told Abraham that in his seed all nations of the earth should be blessed, he was preaching the gospel to him (Gal. 3:8), therefore Abraham's faith in the promise of God was direct faith in Christ as the Saviour of sinners. This was the faith which was counted to him for righteousness (E. J. Waggoner, Signs of the Times, Oct 13, 1890).     

 How does this blessing come to us? It comes through the Seed of Abraham, which Seed is Christ: "Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, 'and to seeds,' as of many, but as of one, 'and to your Seed,' who is Christ" (Gal 3:16). Christ is both the Promise and the recipient of the promise to Abraham. And further, Abraham could receive the promise only in Christ. "There was therefore never any promise made to the fathers which was not to be obtained only through Christ, and therefore through the righteousness which is by him" (E. J. Waggoner, Signs of the Times, Sept 10, 1896).      

Monday's lesson teaches us that the righteousness of Christ given to Abraham was not cowardice. When Sodom was attacked and many of its inhabitants were taken prisoners - including Lot: Abraham's nephew - righteous Abraham went after the warlords and their armies who had devastated Sodom and its inhabitants. He won the war, by God's grace, and restored the stolen goods while refusing to share in the "booty" or the spoils of war. "Righteousness is not cowardice … Abraham's religion made him courageous in maintaining the right and defending the oppressed" (PP 135).      

Neither Abraham nor his faith was perfect. But God called him to be the father of the faithful. Developing the kind of faith in Abraham took God about 50 years. This was not because of any lack of ability on God's part, but it was because of Abraham's weaknesses. He was a liar and a bigamist. Twice Abraham lied making his wife, Sarah, lie to two kings by saying that she was his sister and thus not his wife (Gen 12:11–13, 20:2). He did this to save his own hide.      Next Abraham married Hagar, and thus through the works of the flesh, he thought he would help God fulfill His promises. Years later, on Mt Moriah God's faith in Abraham was exhibited as Abraham offered up his son Isaac. Abraham fully and finally believed that even though Isaac should die, God would raise him up from the grave to fulfill His promise (Heb 11:19). Abraham believed not only in the absence of his feelings, but against them.      

Forever after Abraham passed the test of His faith on Mt. Moriah God never brought up his past sins to him. Abraham was then considered by God just as though he had never sinned; just as if he had always believed; just as if he had always obeyed. This is how God looks at you when you accept Christ as your Redeemer: "If you give yourself to Him, and accept Him as your Saviour, then, sinful as your life may have been, for His sake you are accounted righteous. Christ's character stands in place of your character, and you are accepted before God just as if you had not sinned" (SC 62).      

Abraham "believed God and it was accounted for righteousness." Through His Seed all the promises were given to the fallen race. Abraham's mission was to proclaim the gospel promise of the righteousness of Christ. This is our mission too. 

---Jerry Finneman

Raul Diaz