Meeting the Test
INTRODUCTION Faith that saves is faith that works. Before God we are justified by faith, but when faith is put to the test our claim to faith is justified by works, and faith that will not work is not saving faith. So ROMANS 4 and JAMES 2, GALATIANS 3 and 5, along with other Scriptures, present a perfect harmony of truth on this subject. If too many people fail to make the proper distinctions, it is no fault of God's Word. So the time came when the faith of Abraham was put to a most severe test. He passed that test: "And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness" [James 2:23]. For an outline of the Scripture included in this lesson we note: 1. Decree, Genesis 22:1-2. a. Test of attention, 1. b. Test of affection, 2. 2. Direction, Genesis 22:3-5. a. Journey of faith, 3-4. b. Jeopardy of faith, 5. 3. Determination, Genesis 22:6-8. a. Together in work, 6. b. Together in word, 7. c. Together in worship, 8. 4. Devotion, Genesis 22:9-12. a. Ready for sacrifice, 9-10. b. Ready for salvation, 11-12. 5. Deliverance, Genesis 22:13-14. a. Substitute provided, 13. b. Substitute prefigured, 14.
NOTES ON THE TEXT:
DECREE, Genesis 22:1-2. Faith in God necessitates unquestioning obedience to His decrees. Counterfeit gods of false religions may safely be ignored or worshipped according to the convenience of the worshipper, but the true God, the Author of the Bible, the Creator of heaven and earth, demands first place in the hearts and lives of His people. Test of Attention, 1. Of course God does not tempt man in the sense of inducement to sin, but He does "tempt" in the sense of testing. We may note also that God always knows in advance what the outcome will be; the testing is designed to instruct man, not God. One test of our faith is the degree of attention that we give when He speaks to us in His Word and through His Spirit. Test of Affection, 2. By divine command, Ishmael had been practically disowned; so far as inheritance of the spiritual promise was concerned, all of Abraham's hopes now were in Isaac, his only (legitimate) son. God had told him, "In Isaac shall thy seed be called" [Genesis 21:12]. How could this be, if Isaac now must die? Well, thought Abraham, maybe God would bring him back from the dead [Hebrews 11:19]! Anyway, this would be God's problem; Abraham's duty was to do what God told him to do. Whom or what do we love most in life? God must be first in our affection. We are only stewards of His most precious gifts; our dearest possessions are still His to leave with us or to take away at His good pleasure.
DIRECTION, Genesis 22:3-5. Abraham showed his faith by obeying divine direction, and again in the words, "I and the lad will go yonder, and worship, and come again to you." As earlier he had believed in hope against hope before the birth of Isaac, so now he believed in hope against hope in the face of impending death. Journey of Faith, 3-4. Like Abraham, "We walk by faith, not by sight" [II Corinthians 5:7]. Maybe on the third day, or maybe after many years, we shall see afar off the place of which God has told us; and finally we shall arrive in His presence. Jeopardy of Faith, 5. Faith must risk all in commitment to God, or it is not saving faith. We must have no reservations, no holding back of anything from God. If we cannot trust Him, we cannot trust Him; if we do trust Him, we must trust Him with all that we are and have.
DETERMINATION, Genesis 22:6-8. Abraham had long ago determined not only himself to "keep the way of the Lord" but also to "command his children and his household after him" [Genesis 18:19], and he continued in this determination. Together in Work, 6. Vain hopes of "togetherness" in the family can never be realized by infantile parents. Children do not need parents who act like children; if parents cannot act like responsible adults they cannot help their children to become such. Abraham and Isaac "went both of them together," together in work because the responsible father assigned their respective tasks and the obedient son did what he was able to do. Together in Word, 7. Proper respect for parental authority is no bar but rather a help to conversation in good fellowship between father and son. Isaac's respectful manner of speaking to his father was far different from the rude, selfish, and insulting talk of spoiled brats whose parents do not command respect. Together in Worship, 8. "My son"! No one could describe the turmoil of thoughts and emotions that must have filled Abraham's mind and heart. The burnt offering -- his only son -- the great joy of his old age -- the sum of all his hopes and dreams for a promised posterity -- what could he say? "My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together" -- to worship God together. Commentators have suggested that these were empty words, intended only to delay telling Isaac the truth. No! I can- not believe it. Abraham might lie to Pharaoh, he might lie to Abimelech -- but to Isaac his son? No! Deep in his heart there must have been a lingering hope against hope: he must do what God commanded, but God was his Friend: maybe God had not told him everything yet!
DEVOTION, Genesis 22:9-12. Regardless of inner emotional conflicts, Abraham continued to show his faith by his works, giving himself in utter devotion to obedience in every detail. Unless and until he received further orders from God, he would carry out the command already given in the manner in which he understood it. Ready for Sacrifice, 9-10. Finally the time came for the final act of this thrilling and terrible test. From later revelation of Scripture, we know that, apart from the sacrifice of His own Son, the literal sacrifice of human life in the supposed worship of God is an abomination in His sight; but Abraham did not have this Scripture. He knew only what God had commanded him, and so he "stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son," ready to sacrifice a life most dear to him. Ready for Sa1vation, 11-12. Yet his ear was still open toward heaven; in the moment of his most complete surrender to the will of God he was most ready to receive salvation from the necessity of making the sacrifice he was willing to make. The angel's urgent repetition of his name -- "Abraham, Abraham" -- indicates divine use of appropriate means to get the attention of the faithful.
DELIVERANCE, Genesis 22:13-14. Temporal salvation from various enemies, difficulties, etc., is often referred to in the Bible to illustrate eternal salvation from sin, or different aspects of that salvation. Just when Abraham was saved in the sense of regeneration and justification as the beginning of an experience of eternal salvation is not explicitly stated in the Bible, though it was probably before he ever left Ur. But now he was saved or delivered from the loss of his son. Substitute Provided, 13. Here we have clearly stated the principle of substitution. God provided a substitute for Isaac, "and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son." The ram died as Isaac's substitute, and so Isaac went free. Substitute Prefigured, 14. "Jehovah-hireh" means "Jehovah will provide." Thus by the name of this place Abraham commemorated God's provision of a temporal substitute for Isaac, and at the same time prophesied the coming of a greater and eternal Substitute for all the redeemed in the offering of Christ at Calvary.
CONCLUSION [Hebrews 11:17] "By faith. . . By faith. . . By faith " This whole chapter of Hebrews emphasizes the fact that saving faith is not mere theory or intellectual assent: it is faith that works. If we would claim the salvation of Abraham's God, let us be sure that our faith has the quality of Abraham's faith. ================
[From Ashland Avenue Baptist paper, October 17, 1975, pp. 2-3. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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