|Preacher||Rev. David Silversides, Loughbrickland|
|Sermon Title||Abraham's Faith in Christ (Young People's Weekend, Arbroath) (Poor audio quality)|
|Text||John ch.8 v.56|
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"Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad" (John 8, 56).
Unbelieving Jews - not Abrahams children spiritually nor the children of God, but of their father the devil
This evening we look at Abraham's faith in Christ, and love to Christ. This, the first of three addresses - and at the two tomorrow - we shall be looking at Abraham: at his Saviour, at his faith, and at his work.
1. ABRAHAM TRUSTED IN THE COMING CHRIST
2. ABRAHAM WAS CONTENT TO BE SAVED GOD'S WAY
3. ABRAHAM LOVED CHRIST
The context of this verse is that the Lord Jesus has shown that the unbelieving Jews, though physically descended from Abraham, are in fact not spiritually his children. Nor yet are they the children of God. First they make much of being Abraham's children and then Christ shows that though yet physically descended from Abraham, yet, in fact, they were not spiritually the children of Abraham because they sought to kill him. They say that God is their Father and Christ tells them that that is not true either because, in fact, if they were the children of God they would love Him (Christ). Their response is to feel confirmed in their view of the Lord Jesus, that He is a heretic and demon-possessed. So we see: "Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?" (v.48). The Samaritans were despised by the Jews because their religion was a mixture of Judaism and Paganism. They are effectively saying that the Lord Jesus is virtually a Pagan and that He is demon-possessed. Him telling them the truth was not an option that they really wanted to consider.
Christ insists that He is honouring the Father whom they profess to love, and if they love the Father as they claim, they will love the Son also instead of trying to kill Him. He asserts that those who keep His word will not see death. They take this literally, as they always did. When Christ spoke of destroying the temple and building it up, He was speaking about His body, but they took it literally. Constantly this happened - they took things literally and physically. In that context they say that Abraham died, the prophets died and You are saying that those who keep Your words will never die! "Are you greater than Abraham and the prophets?" In responding, the Lord Jesus Christ tells them that Abraham understood that He was to come as the Christ, as the Saviour, and he was glad that it was so (text). He goes on to show that He as the Christ, existing long before Abraham: "Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am" (v.58). The Lord Jesus was eternally God the Son, and so He existed from eternity in His divine nature. Without ceasing to be God, He became man in the fulness of time in order to redeem sinners.
Thirdly He shows that He is the eternal, self-existent Jehovah, because He not only existed before Abraham, but He says "Before Abraham was, I am" (text). There He is referring to Exodus 3, 14 where God declares Himself "I am that I am" - that He is eternal and self-existent; that is, not created: God exists eternally. Whereas everything and everyone else has a beginning when God creates them.
But it is especially our text which I want to look at: "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad" (John 8, 56). Firstly then, Abraham trusted in the coming Christ. The Lord Jesus says "Abraham rejoiced to see my day" (text). What He is saying is that Abraham saw that the day was to come when the Lord Jesus would come to redeem His people. He grasped, we do not know how much he grasped, but he grasped at the promises that in his seed all the nations of the earth would be blessed and would be fulfilled in one Saviour, the Lord Jesus. The promise in Genesis 3, 15 was expanded and amplified in the days of Abraham: "And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel" (Genesis 3, 15).
There then is the promise of the seed of the woman - that is Christ - that He would crush the head of the serpent, that is, the devil. That promise of conquering evil was the first announcement of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is telling us that Christ, and His people in Him, will triumph over Satan and those who belong to him. That promise of a Saviour in the seed of the woman was later narrowed down, that he would come out of the tents of Shem. Then it was narrowed down further, that he would be of the seed of Abraham. The blessing promised to Abraham and his descendents - the many - were all focussed in the one seed, the Lord Jesus Christ. That promise being narrowed down to Abraham's seed - the Saviour would come of his seed - it was then narrowed down to Isaac's seed, then to Jacob's seed, the to Judah's seed; then that He would be the son of David; and then that He would be born in Bethlehem Ephratah (Micah 5, 2). So the seed, the promise, was being narrowed down as God's Word was given as the revelation of Himself and His plan was unfolded.
Christ the Saviour of sinners would come to triumph over Satan and destroy the works of the devil. So Abraham had the Gospel made know to him. In Galatians 3, 8: "And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed". So that the Gospel was preached to Abraham, that when God told Abraham indeed, using his seed, all nations would be blessed, that is called the Gospel because it was telling Abraham of the coming Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. The literal seed, the descendents of Abraham, were blessed but they were blessed in the one seed, the Lord Jesus Christ: "Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ" (Galatians 3, 16). Here the argument isn't from the word 'seed' because the word 'seed' in English can be singular or plural; the word 'seed' can refer to one or to many. That is true also in Hebrew and true also in Greek.
The argument is not about the word but the intention of the promise, namely that all the blessings that would come to the seeds, the children of Abraham, they were blessed with saving blessings. They were blessed in the One Seed, the Lord Jesus Christ. The same blessing of salvation that was given to Abraham was to come upon the Gentiles. So again in Galatians: "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith" (Galatians 3, 13). "...in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed" (Genesis 12, 3), has and is and will be fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ, the seed of Abraham. That is why we were singing in Psalm 72, 17
Men shall be bless'd in him, and bless'd
all nations shall him call.
The giving of the Law on Mount Sinai did not alter the promise of God in Christ. "And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that is should make the promise of none effect" (Galatians 3, 17). The promise of God was made in Christ. The promises to Abraham were promises in Christ. So throughout the Old Testament, salvation was in the Lord Jesus Christ, even though He was still to come. The sacrifices offered by Aaron and his sons, and the priesthood of the tribe of Levi, those sacrifices were not intended to save anyone. The sacrifices of the Old Testament were never intended to save anybody. But they were intended to teach of the Saviour who was to come, the Lord Jesus Christ. They were to teach of the things concerning Christ. That is why in Hebrews we read: "For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins" (Hebrews 10, 1-4).
He says it is impossible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. They were never intended to be a way salvation in themselves. They were intended to teach the people concerning the Lord Jesus Christ, who was to come as the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world. "Christ our Passover is sacrifice for us", is the testimony of God's people. We are told in chapter 9 of Hebrews that the Old Testament of priesthood, sacrifices and altar, were a pattern of heavenly things: "It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ is not entered into the holy place made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us" (Hebrews 9, 23-24): for a pattern, to teach concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. The book of Hebrews expounds those Old Testament sacrifices and the priesthood and shows us how they point, and were intended to point, to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Sometimes in Hebrews the argument is from the parallel that the things themselves pointed to Christ. There were priests; Christ is the High Priest. There was sacrifice; Christ was the sacrifice to which they pointed. There was a holy place where God manifested His presence; Christ's sacrifice makes us accepted, not in an earthly holy place, but in a heavenly holy place. So it pointed to Christ and to His sacrifice for sin. But some teach about Christ, not by directly pointing to the thing but by contrast. So the Old Testament sacrifices were offered many times - Christ liveth to make intercession (Hebrews 7, 25) and has the power of an endless life. Christ offered Himself once to take away sin. The Old Testament priests offered sacrifices that were distinct from themselves. They took the blood of others into the most holy place, whereas Christ offered Himself, a Lamb without spot, to God. So there is contrast. The Old Testament priests were many, Christ is one; the Old Testament sacrifices were repeated, Christ offered Himself once; the Old Testament priests offered a sacrifice distinct from themselves, but Christ was both the Priest offering and the Offering itself. He offered Himself to God. So sometimes it's the picture pointing to Christ, sometimes it's the difference that teaches us about Christ.
But the same Gospel was taught in the Old Testament as is taught in the New. That is why in Hebrews - speaking about the children of Israel who fell in the wilderness - it says: "For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it" (Hebrews 4, 2). Why did many fall in the wilderness? Because they rejected the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ which was taught to them by the ordinances of worship that God appointed in the Tabernacle. They rejected the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. And how were sinners saved in the Old Testament? - through the Lord Jesus Christ, the promised Saviour yet to come, and through faith in His Name. That is why it tells us: "Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward" (Hebrews 11, 26).
Old Testament believers were either saved through Christ or not at all. Even the Promised Land was for some a full inheritance of God's people, ultimately a new heavens and a new earth. God made it clear that aside from Christ, outside of Christ, they had no right even to the land of Canaan. That is why they fell in the wilderness, because of unbelief: unbelief of the Gospel. That is why when they had gone into the land, and they began to mix paganism with true religion; they were afflicted by their enemies until eventually God drove them out of the land and into Babylon, into captivity, and a purified remnant returned. God promised Israel nothing outside of Christ, the Saviour of sinners. This means that whether we are talking about Abraham's time, Moses time, David's time or New Testament times, Apostolic times, our times - there has only ever been one way to God, and that is through the Lord Jesus Christ. We reject what is known as dispensationalism. We reject the idea that there must be a number of different ways to God. As evangelical people we reject the idea that there are many ways to God. Christ said: "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John 14, 6).
But we must insist, not only that there is only one way to God now, but that there has only ever been one way whereby sinners can be accepted with God, and that is through the Lord Jesus Christ. We reject what is often called 'chronological multifaith'. If we are Christians we reject the idea of there being many ways to God; but we should be equally indignant at the idea that sinners could ever have approached God on any other footing than through Jesus Christ the Saviour. There is only one way; there only ever has been one way, and there only ever will be one way. From the fall of man to the end of the world, sinners are saved through Jesus Christ or not at all. Abraham trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ and those who trust in Him today go to the same glorified kingdom as Abraham did: "When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 8, 10-12). The Gentiles through faith in Christ would go to the same glorified state of the kingdom as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Those who were children of the kingdom, that is, those who were brought up under the promises of the covenant and within the church and kingdom of God, yet despised the truth, they would be cast into outer darkness.
Secondly, and this much briefer, Abraham was content to be saved God's way. "Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad" (text). He rejoiced. He not only perceived that the Saviour would come but was glad, not only because of the benefit to him, but because he rejoiced in what God would do. Devil's can know what is true. In James we read: "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble" (James 2, 19). The devils can know what is true. In Mark we find the legion of devils, of demons, recognising Christ: "And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not" (Mark 5, 7). The devils recognised who Christ was, and if devils can know what is true, and yet still hate Him, so can unsaved men; they can know that the Gospel is true and yet still hate it. "And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved" (2 Thessalonians 2, 10). "They received not the love of the truth": the damned in hell will forever know what the true Gospel was, but they will still hate God for ever.
But those who are saved by the Lord Jesus Christ - those who have saving faith in Him because they've been born again of the Spirit of God - they are content with God's way of salvation. They love God's salvation. They rejoice in the way that God saves. They don't just say because their upbringing and their conscience wouldn't let them do otherwise - "Well I suppose it's true!" but wishing that it wasn't. Those who are saved by Christ, not only know what the true Gospel is, they are glad that it is the true Gospel. They are glad that God saves the way He saves, and no other way. They don't just shrug their shoulders and say, "Well I suppose it's true!" wishing that it wasn't. They love His glory, which is displayed in the way that He saves. God's attributes are displayed in all His works, but above all, in the way that He saves sinners: the crucified Redeemer bearing the wrath of God in the place of guilty sinners. God's holiness, His justice, His power, His love - are for all displayed. That's why the Apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 1, 11 calls the Gospel the "glorious gospel of the blessed God", because God's glory is shown in the way that He saves sinners. The angels love the way that God saves sinners because they are holy angels; they love God and they love His glory to be displayed. Those who are saved by Jesus Christ, they love the way God saves. They would not have it otherwise.
"Abraham rejoiced to see my (Christ's) day: and he saw it, and was glad" (text). Are you glad that God saves through Jesus Christ alone, and that God is glorified in the way that He saves sinners through Christ? Or, would you rather be saved some other way because you have never been born again of the Spirit of God. You heart has never been changed so you don't love God and you don't love the way He saves through Jesus Christ. But those who are born of the Spirit, those who are saved by Jesus Christ, they rejoice and are contented with the way God saves.
But then, thirdly, Abraham loved Christ. In John 8 from which our initial text is taken, earlier on in verses thirty-eight to forty-two, we have this exchange between Christ and the Jews. "I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father. They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham. But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham. Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God. Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me" (John 8, 38-42).
The development here is quite straightforward. Christ says, "I do what I have seen of my Father; you do what you have seen of your father". They say, "But Abraham is our father!" Christ says, "No, spiritually speaking, He is not, because you're not like Abraham. Abraham did not try top kill me." You say, "But Christ wasn't there." The point is that what Christ is saying is that Abraham's heart was not at enmity with the coming Christ but, rather, he rejoiced in the coming Christ. Whereas, they, now that Christ had come, wanted to kill Christ: "This did not Abraham" (v.40).
So then they changed tack. Let's forget about Abraham - "We have God as our Father. We are children of God." But Christ says, "No, that's not true either. If you were children of God you would love me. I came from God - the eternal Son of God. I came from the Father. If ye loved the Father, ye would love me - and you don't!" That tells us that they did not love Christ as Abraham. So Abraham trusted in Christ. His faith in Christ was as the One who would come and bear the punishment of sin in the place of guilty sinners. His sins were forgiven for Christ's sake.
This is what we look at tomorrow, God willing: Abraham was saved through faith alone, in Christ alone. Abraham trusted Christ; Abraham was forgiven through Christ as a believer in Him. But Abraham's faith brought with it love to the Saviour, and so it does to all those who belong to the Lord Jesus Christ.
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