Theme: Faith (Part 1)
(Key verses: Gen 11:26-28)
We all descended from Adam through the three sons of Noah whose offspring were distributed and separated by God according to diverse languages after the global flood (Gen 9:1; Gen 10:5; Gen 11:1-9). The first eleven chapters of Genesis prepare us for what the rest of the Scriptures will focus on. From chapter 12 of Genesis and for the next fourteen chapters the Bible brings one man and his generation into our focus, namely Abraham and his family. Through Shem, the one son of Noah, Abraham is the person whom God will use to introduce the vital aspect of faith in our spiritual life which will be the theme of our discussions for the next few weeks, God willing:
1Ch 1:24 Shem, Arphaxad, Shelah,
1Ch 1:25 Eber, Peleg, Reu,
1Ch 1:26 Serug, Nahor, Terah,
1Ch 1:27 Abram; the same is Abraham.
Abraham’s father, Terah, had three sons of which one, Haran, died even before His father died. But Haran’s death opened the door for Lot, one of Haran’s three children, to be associated with Abraham. Lot also played an important role with regards to this aspect of how faith in Abraham’s life developed, for our learning:
Gen 11:26 And Terah lived seventy years, and begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran.
Gen 11:27 Now these are the generations of Terah: Terah begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran begat Lot.
Gen 11:28 And Haran died before his father Terah in the land of his nativity, in Ur of the Chaldees.
Abraham and his other brother, Nahor, then took wives and they all lived in Ur of the Chaldees, which was in the region of Shinar (later known as Babylonia) from where God also dispersed all nations according to diverse languages from the city of Babel (Gen 11:1-9). Marrying your blood relative was not at that stage prohibited:
Gen 11:29 And Abram and Nahor took them wives: the name of Abram’s wife was Sarai; and the name of Nahor’s wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran, the father of Milcah, and the father of Iscah.
Gen 20:12 And yet indeed she [Sarai, later Sarah] is my [Abraham’s] sister; she is the daughter of my father [Terah], but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife.
Interesting to note at this stage is the fact that through Nahor and Milcah the generational line for the birth of Leah was established who will marry Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, at a later stage (Gen 24:45-47). But our attention is first focussed on Abraham who was used by God to typify what “the faith of Christ” is all about and this foundational theme helps us to see how we can please God and be accepted by Him, and even more so when that gift of faith is taken through a fiery process in us (Php 3:9; Heb 11:6; Eph 2:8-9).
Rom 4:16 Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all.
Gal 2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
The faith of Abraham is also the type of what the righteousness in Christ is all about and in the life of Abraham this long process of spiritual sanctification and justification is introduced and further developed later through the life of His son Isaac and his offspring:
Gal 3:6 Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.
Gal 3:7 Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.
Gal 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.
Gal 3:9 So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.
Gal 3:22 But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.
Gal 3:29 And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
No one in the first Adam has the faith of Christ by nature – it only comes in a prepared heart with the acceptance and receiving of the preaching of the Word of God only:
2Th 3:2 And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith.
Rom 10:17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
It is very significant that this type of faith and the path and growth of that faith through Abraham’s life was revealed in a much deeper way after the global flood. It points out that the gift of the faith of Christ is intimately linked with fiery trials and much tribulations. Faith needs trials and the fiery judgement of God to make it grow stronger to full maturity to produce fruits of righteousness to the praise and glory of God (Jer 5:14; 1Co 3:13-15; Heb 11:6):
Php 1:9 And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment;
Php 1:10 That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ;
Php 1:11 Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.
1Pe 1:7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:
1Pe 1:8 Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:
1Pe 1:9 Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.
Through the life and pilgrimage of Abraham we can learn so much of our own journey and growth in terms of the faith of Jesus in us:
Heb 11:8 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.
Heb 11:9 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:
Heb 11:10 For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
Faith is indeed one of the “the principles of the doctrine of Christ” or what is also labelled the ‘milk doctrines’, which we are told to leave if God permits. But that is causing confusion in some if you must have faith to please God all the time, and yet also leave it (Heb 11:6):
Heb 6:1 Therefore leaving [this verb is in the Greek aorist tense meaning a progressive process is to be understood]the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,
Heb 6:2 Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.
Heb 6:3 And this will we do, if God permit.
To understand the concept of the “leaving” of the principles of Christ, we also need to see how we ourselves, and the church of God in general, is typified in Scripture. Two of the metaphors used in Scripture in that regard are that of a garden and a building, and these types will also help us to understand the concept of “leaving” of the principles of Christ:
1Co 3:6 I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.
1Co 3:7 So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.
1Co 3:8 Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.
1Co 3:9 For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.
1Co 3:10 According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.
1Co 3:11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
These two concepts used here, a plant and a building, have a few things in common, and one of these relates to the roots of the plant or the foundation of the building which is invisible, yet it supplies the important substructure on which the whole superstructure grows and develops. As a plant cannot grow strong (towards the light) without proper grounding, even so a building cannot stand without a solid foundation. There is a false doctrine that claims that we should totally let go of and even despise the ‘milk doctrines’ of Christ which allows for a false appearance of maturity in Christ, and even the unwise “comparing themselves among themselves” in the church through the years (2Co 10:12). This is why this following admonition is so important to see because we are naturally haughty and think we have arrived at the destination long before we really do, as the life and journeys of Abraham also reveals (1Co 10:13):
Rom 14:1 Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.
Rom 14:2 For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.
Rom 14:3 Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.
Rom 14:4 Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.
Both these opposing views have one thing in common – immaturity in one sense or another. Everything we have is received from God (a gift), and despising or judging before the time (or before the beam is removed from our own eye) have both a false sense of maturity and fleshly perfection (Mat 7:1-5; 1Co 4:5-7). As Noah and His offspring were given meat to be added to the initial “green herb” diet after the flood, so both are still applicable as we grow and mature in different areas of our own life at different stages “until the harvest” (Gen 1:29; Gen 9:3; Mat 13:30). This harvest or judgement is also subjected to a multifaceted and progressive process (Exo 23:30; 1Co 15:31):
Isa 28:27 For the fitches are not threshed with a threshing instrument, neither is a cart wheel turned about upon the cummin; but the fitches are beaten out with a staff, and the cummin with a rod.
Isa 28:28 Bread corn is bruised; because he will not ever be threshing it, nor break it with the wheel of his cart, nor bruise it with his horsemen.
Faith, as one of the foundational or roots of the doctrine of Christ, gives us a wonderful picture of how each of these so-called “milk doctrines” (and those who are still limited to those doctrines) should be handled throughout a Christian’s growth process (Exo 23:19; Rom 14:1-13; 1Co 4:5; 1Co 5:12). Although a baby’s initial diet is exclusively based on milk intake, milk still needs to be consumed for the rest of earthly life to guarantee, among other benefits, strong bone structure and even good healthy teeth to chew the solids and the meat (Num 13:27; Deu 6:3). Faith “abides” always and is essential in the whole process, especially to those who will be “faithful” to endure every day and to eventually also be there at the end of the process (1Co 13:12-13):
Rev 17:14 These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.
The first thing we get to know about Abraham and his walk of faith in us, is something interesting about his wife which links to this initial stage in Christ in our lives:
Gen 11:30 But Sarai was barren; she had no child.
Sarai could not conceive children initially and had to wait until after she was ninety years old before that could happen (Gen 17:15-21). Ninety has the number nine multiplied with the number ten, emphasizing again that spiritual fruit comes through the judgement (9) on the flesh (10). The proper noun “Sarai” is the feminine version of a ruler or a person who has dominion. As with Sarai’s initial barrenness, sterile faith cannot produce or take hold on God’s spiritual promises. In our delusion when we think we are mature in faith, those carnal convictions will be the instrument God uses to get us into a position where we will take wrong advice. Like with Eve in the garden of Eden, the spiritually immature flesh, will always take the lead to draw the weak husband to follow the wife’s leadership and doubtful disputations – all as God ordained it for our personal learning (Gen 3:1-6; Rom 14:1). Although we naturally follow the wrong leadership of flesh, we are admonished to learn from those mistakes and then turn from around and convert from those wrong models to be diligent in doing what is right – “wherein dwelleth righteousness” (2Pe 3:13-14):
2Co 11:3 But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
The carnal faith of Sarai and her “doubtful disputations” convinced Abraham to obtain a fleshly offspring and then, God willing, to be despised and be dragged to our desired haven in the faith of Christ (Psa 107:23-32):
Gen 16:1 Now Sarai Abram’s wife bare him no children: and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name wasHagar.
Gen 16:2 And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the LORD hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai.
Gen 16:3 And Sarai Abram’s wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife.
Gen 16:4 And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived: and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes.
Gen 16:5 And Sarai said unto Abram, My wrong be upon thee: I have given my maid into thy bosom; and when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her eyes: the LORD judge between me and thee.
By Godly design and plan, the faith of the flesh will indeed produce miracles in the physical realm and that is one of the most powerful delusions from which few escape in this age. To receive something from God in the physical realm is always of a temporary nature and will be taken from us only through severe trials which few can receive now (1Pe 4:12-19). Ishmael, the first born of Abraham, represents our firstborn and our attachments to our earthly faith in its fleshly solutions:
Gen 16:15 And Hagar bare Abram a son: and Abram called his son’s name, which Hagar bare, Ishmael.
Gen 16:16 And Abram was fourscore and six years old, when Hagar bare Ishmael to Abram.
Gen 17:18 And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee!
Sarai is the symbol of our time in the beliefs of the false church in us with all its delusions and counterfeits of the real faith of Jesus. This time of barrenness in the lives of God’s elect relates to our time when the Lord’s wife, the church in us, is unfruitful and clinging to its own fleshly answers and beliefs. We are overwhelmed by our own convictions according to “the wisdom of men” – a kind of natural or carnal orientation of faith when we also know Christ “after the flesh” (Joh 8:15; Joh 20:25; 1Co 2:5; 1Co 3:1-3; 2Co 5:16; 2Co 11:17-18). Natural or carnal faith in God (or what is perceived to be God) is also what is given to all evil spirits (Mat 8:29; Luk 4:34; Act 16:17; Act 19:15):
Jas 2:17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
Jas 2:18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
Jas 2:19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
Jas 2:20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
Many people talk about “their” faith and that can be an indicator of carnal orientated faith which cannot produce spiritual fruit, but indeed perform natural wonders and physical miracles through which the whole world is deceived by God. This is also what the religious beast on the earth is well known for:
Rev 13:13 And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men,
Rev 13:14 And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live.
It is only at a later stage that Sarai’s name was changed to Sarah which coincides with the name change of her husband Abram who became Abraham. This is when Sara obeyed Abraham and the Godly order is establish in us and even the deadness of a womb is no obstacle to the faith of Christ in us (Gen 17:15-16; 1Pe 3:1; Rom 9:9).
1Pe 3:6 Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.
Rom 4:19 And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara’s womb.
The new name, Sara, means “noblewoman” and princess of the true doctrine of Christ in us. This name change connects with the covenant cutting between Abraham and God which also relates to the new covenant and the faith of Christ in which all nations of the whole earth will be blessed:
Gal 3:14 That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
Gal 3:15 Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though it be but a man’s covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto.
Gal 3:16 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.
It is only after the name change and after the failure of bringing forth the true seed, that the following words can be said of the faith of Sara when she was “past age” (at the proper time of her maturity in that respect):
Heb 11:11 Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age [Greek: “kairos” = proper time + “hēlikia”= maturity], because she judged him faithful who had promised.
This “past age” also indicates the end of the carnal age of our old man and how that reflects on all the Old Testament proponents of faith who all “died in faith” (1Co 10:11):
Heb 11:13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
Carnal orientated faith is dead faith because it comes from the spiritually dead natural mind:
Rom 8:6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
Carnal faith causes a strong conviction in many to be brazen and actually believe they can present that faith to God to obtain spiritual salvation to enter the spiritual kingdom of God!
Mat 7:22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
Mat 7:23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
Jas 2:14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?