I. Our Spiritual Heritage (v. 11)
A. Family heritage is important.
1. I have heard many from the older generation tell of how they no longer have family reunions or of how many from the younger generation no longer attend the reunions.
2. We no longer have family reunions in my family on either my paternal or maternal side for this very reason.
3. As the matriarchs and patriarchs of the family died, no one seemed interested in taking over.
4. It is quite common for a person not to appreciate their family heritage until they reach mid life.
5. For some reason, when reaching mid life they suddenly get very interested in where they came from and who their ancestors were.
6. Unfortunately, by that time, many of their ancestors have died, and they suddenly realize many of the questions they have could only be answered by those who are no longer here.
7. While I listened intently to the stories told by my grand and great grandparents, I wish now I had written down more of them.
8. I did have the wonderful privilege of working on a Wiles’ history with a cousin, and that was a rewarding endeavor.
9. Like with any history, family history reminds us of our roots and helps us understand who we are and why.
B. Spiritual heritage is even more important.
1. Having dealt with those who felt having Abraham as their progenitor made them acceptable to God, Paul now concludes that Abraham is the spiritual father of all who have faith in Christ. (v. 11)
2. We may not be in the actual Jewish line, but that is not nearly as important as being in the spiritual line.
3. The spiritual line determines our eternity while the physical line has no real bearing on anything at all.
4. He is the spiritual father of those who have been circumcised as well as those who have not undergone the rite.
5. As Paul has already mentioned, circumcision without faith, has no bearing on a person’s spiritual state.
C. Abraham’s two fold purpose. (vv. 11, 12)
1. Abraham was more than just an individual in history.
2. He is a pivotal historical figure for he is the father of all who have faith in God.
3. He was chosen to be the father of all who believe, whether or not they have been circumcised, and whether or not they are of the Jewish race.
4. His example of faith, as well as when and how he was accepted by God, reminds us of some important truths.
5. In today’s age, his faith reminds us we don’t have to begin to go to church before we can find salvation.
6. His example also reminds us we don’t have to get religious to be saved. As the song says, we come “Just As I Am.”
7. Nor do we have to be ritualized before God will save us. We can compare the ritual of circumcision with baptism. Just as circumcision has no saving power, neither does baptism. As circumcision was a sign of belonging to the covenant community, so baptism is a sign of belonging to the Church but more importantly to God.
D. Right Versus the Wrong Way To Justification (vv. 13-16)
1. Paul seems to painstakingly belabor the point of how we are accepted by God, but his journey is important, for if we come the wrong way we are in eternal trouble.
2. Jesus reminds us that many will say to him on judgment day, “Lord, Lord…” only to be reminded he never knew them. (Matthew 7:21-22)
3. This serves to remind us that those in Paul’s day will not be the only ones who are disappointed and disillusioned.
4. Until the end of time, it is necessary for us to proclaim the true way to God and to be firmly grounded in the foundation of what the Bible has to say about faith versus works.
5. Paul concludes that God’s promise to Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore had nothing to do with his obedience to God’s law but had everything to do with faith. (v. 13)
6. Looking at this in this light is important because it reminds us we are heirs to the promises made to Abraham whether we are of the Jewish race of not.
7. God’s promise is not through the law but through the righteousness of faith in Christ.
8. Believing obedience to God’s law or that one is good enough is the way to God nullifies faith for it opens up another avenue to God other than through Christ. Jesus said he was the way to the Father (John 14:6), and he also reminded us there was a broad path many would follow to their own destruction. (Matthew 7:14)
9. Placing merit in the above makes our faith useless and also makes the promise made to Abraham meaningless. (v. 14)
10. Since the righteousness of the law is only given to those who perfectly obey it, no one has a chance of coming to Christ by it. This also voids our being a recipient of the promise made to Abraham.
11. In fact, the law brings punishment or God’s wrath on those who try to obey it. (v. 15)
12. Trusting in the law leads to a legalistic view of God. Some of you have experienced this type of preacher or teacher at some point. Or perhaps you attended a Christian school that preached this message.
13. This distorted view of God has consequences, for it causes us to view him as angry, demanding, vengeful and always hovering over us waiting for us to do something wrong so he can punish us.
14. Such a view of how God accepts us keeps us in a state of tension and wrapped up in knots. It is like the child who knows they are never going to please their parents but they wear themselves out trying anyway.
15. Living with this mindset prevents us from enjoying the love relationship God wants with us and keeps us constantly wondering whether we have done enough to please God or whether we have done something wrong we are not aware of.
16. Living this way takes away our sense of meaning and purpose and prevents a feeling of fulfillment and completeness.
17. It also builds a strained relationship with Christ. But the Bible reminds us God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (II Timothy 1:7)
18. Living with this mindset keeps our focus on the law rather than on God. We miss the joy of the relationship which is what Christianity is all about.
19. Life becomes about the rules rather than the relationship.
20. Perfect obedience to God’s law as a basis for his acceptance is an impossible existence. The only way to avoid this situation, according to Paul, is to have no law to break. (v. 15)
21. There is a paradox in Paul’s argument.
22. If there was no law, there would be no laws to break. God gave the law because he had established certain rules and regulations he wanted us to obey because they reflect his nature and because he has expectations of us.
23. If there was no law to break, it would mean we would not have to worry about transgressions, which would mean we are acceptable in God’s sight. This is contrary to the message of the Bible. We are not acceptable in our state of sin and rebellion. Therefore, there is a need for the law.
24. A further purpose of the law is to help us see our true nature. Our nature includes our bent to stretch or break the law. This is perfectly evident in human nature. Make laws and watch people try and break them. Establish guidelines and see if there are not some people who will try to stretch the limits. Our children provide wonderful examples of this as do students at school.
25. We like to fulfill our desires, ambitions and passions as we want to without anyone telling us what to do.
26. Next time you are on the interstate, see how many people obey the speed limit.
27. “The grass is always greener on the other side.”
28. While the law cannot save but only reveal our true nature, it does condemn as guilty those who break it. It can accuse but not deliver. It can and does point out sin but has no power to deliver us from its consequences.
29. Trying to gain favor by obeying God’s law leaves us hopeless and helpless.
30. The law defines right and wrong.
E. Faith Plus Nothing (v. 16)
1. While there is a common grace all receive from God simply by being a created child of his, believers enjoy saving grace as well as sustaining grace.
2. Faith is the initiator of God’s grace. It flows because we acknowledge our sin and run to him.
3. The Greek word for grace is charis (ha’ ris) and refers to that which brings joy, pleasure, and delight.
4. More importantly, it refers to the merciful kindness of God by which he turns us to Christ.
5. It is this same grace that keeps and strengthens us in our spiritual journey.
6. Grace puts God in the center of our lives and salvation experience and takes all the glory from us.
7. Faith makes the promise God has made to us sure. We respond as God commands and he keeps his promise to accept us based on our response of faith.
8. Faith also makes the promise this acceptance by God is available to all in the same way no matter their race or culture.
9. I recall the Andy Griffith episode where Andy and Barney were invited to an exclusive club at the capital with the possibility of joining as members. The term “exclusive” defines itself. It means not all are accepted.
10. God’s promise of grace only excludes those who refuse to come that way. Otherwise, it is available to all. If it was only for those given the law, then many people would have been excluded (such as the heathen, handicapped and mentally ill).
F. The Wonder of God’s Grace
1. From a human standpoint, grace can mean several things: a thing of beauty (kind deeds or beautiful flowers), anything that has loveliness, or a favor we might extend to a friend.
2. After observing what God had done in Christ, early Christians had to add a deeper meaning.
3. Grace became the kindness God shows his enemies.
4. No other word so adequately describes the heart and mind of God than does grace.
5. While we might do gracious acts for others, no one does what God did for us in allowing his only Son to die for our sins.
6. God’s grace is not earned but is a free gift given to those who ask.
7. More importantly, it is the only way we can come to Christ.