Theme: Faith (Part 6)
(Key verses: Gen 15:1-6)
We are focusing on the life and journeys of Abram (later called Abraham) who is used in the Scriptures as the symbol of how God uses the gift of faith in our lives. The faith that Abram displayed from his initial calling in Ur in the land of the Chaldees is a type of the faith of Jesus Christ which we receive to please God and to gain access to his spirit and his mind (Rom 4:1-12; Heb 11:6; Mar 11:20-26). Through the faith and life of Christ in us we are given guarantees through His word that we will be overcomers and be faithful until the end (1Ti 6:12; 1Jn 5:4; Heb 12:2; Gen 15:1):
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.
Rom 4:17 (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.
Gal 3:29 And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Flesh and its natural mind cannot receive the spiritual things of God, but the faith of Christ brings to us spiritual enlightenment even as it is approved through fiery trials (1Co 2:14; 1Co 2:5; 1Pe 1:7). Everything we have is from God, and faith also is a gift from God which produces the good works of God or the fruit of God’s spirit in us (Rom 11:33; 1Co 4:7; Rom 10:17; Joh 6:63; Gal 5:22-23):
Eph 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
Eph 2:9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Eph 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
The life and pilgrimage of Abraham was written down to admonish us in terms of how the faith of Christ will facilitate our spiritual growth to maturity as we also are called to “bring forth fruit unto God” (Rom 7:4):
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.
God is truly sovereign, and that means no creature has a free will – it is God who is causing everything and everyone to “live, and move, and have [their] being” in Him (Act 17:22-29). That encompasses everything in our own life and the lives of others, good and evil, for those who can receive this truth (Job 2:10; Pro 16:4; Pro 20:24; Pro 21:1). Even when we cannot acknowledge God as such and He is unknown to us, He still controls every aspect of our lives (Rom 1:21; Jer 10:23; Psa 139:1-16). God speaks to us in “divers manners” (even through His “dark sayings”) first before He speaks to us clearly though His “express image” of His Word, Jesus Christ (Psa 78:2-3; Pro 1:5-7):
Heb 1:1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,
Heb 1:2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;
Heb 1:3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.
We get to know Abram as a man with a tent and an altar openly witnessing to his detachments to any idea of physical permanency as he also obeyed God above all. Abram indeed learned how to fight the good fight of faith through the many tribulations he had to endure since his calling in Ur, which included separation from loved ones and familiar environments in Ur, a severe drought in a foreign land (Canaan), a humiliating rebuke from the Egyptian pharaoh (and a Philistine king at a later stage), getting involved in a war to save his nephew Lot, and the temptation of gifts from the king of Sodom (1Ti 6:12; 2Ti 4:7; Act 14:22). But many more tests and trials were still waiting in the future for Abram:
Gen 15:1 After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.
Faith comes by hearing the word of God, and that is also how faith will grow stronger (Rom 10:17). Throughout his life “the word of the Lord came unto Abram” to strengthen and reassure him of God’s plan and purpose for his life, even through God’s servants (Gen 12:1; Gen 13:14; Gen 14:18; Gen 17:1; Gen 18:1; Gen 22:1; Gen 22:15). No one comes to God, and no one can do anything unless God initiates and maintains it (Jer 10:23; Joh 6:44; Rom 9:16; Rom 11:36; Eph 1:11).
“Fear not, Abram”
God admonished Abram to “fear not”. God is making it clear to Abram (and to us) that fear is a definite obstacle to faith, and this is the aspect of faith we will mainly focus on in this discussion, as God leads. Although we touched on this theme of fear in (Study 25), in this discussion we want to juxtapose fleshly fear in terms of the faith of Christ, as these two work as opposing spiritual forces in our lives. Faith is an assurance of the things we hope for and a strong conviction of the spiritual things of God which our natural mind cannot receive (Rom 8:24-25; 1Co 2:14):
Heb 11:1 (ASV) Now faith is assurance of things hoped for, a conviction of things not seen.
God knows our natural makeup because He made us of “the dust of the ground” – weak and fragile and devoid of the life of the spirit of God (Gen 2:7; Psa 103:14; Rom 8:20). It is not news for God that we are fearful creatures, full of darkness and insecurities – we are indeed being marred in the hand of the Potter (Gen 1:2; Jer 18:4). But although this is our initial status, all in the generation of the first Adam will be eventually inhabited by the spirit of God in Christ (1Co 15:22):
Isa 45:18 For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else.
But in our spiritual state of darkness and death, fear is a negative and strong force which controls the natural mind (in photography we learn that negatives are developed in a dark room). This world knows how to bring fear to the natural mind with all the reports they focus on. The expression to “fear not” appears 62 times in the KJV in various contexts, but here is one example to help us understand how fear not only has a negative application, but also a positive application. In this positive application of fear we will learn, God willing, to see how we can be strong when all around us fail:
Mat 10:28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
God’s word to Abram was to not fear “them which kill the body”, but to fear Him who works all things after the counsel of His will (Eph 1:11). If we obey the word of God and do His commandments, then we fear Him and we will understand that all things, good and evil, are sent by God for our good (2Co 11:23-28; 2Co 12:7-10; 1Pe 3:13-14):
Jer 29:11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
Jer 29:12 Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.
Jer 29:13 And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.
When we fear God, we do not resist the very things He sends to fulfill His good plan for our lives:
Mat 5:38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:
Mat 5:39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
Heb 13:6 So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.
Here is another way to see how we submit to this truth when we can indeed see that God is sovereign over everything in this creation:
Rev 1:17 And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:
The flesh is spiritually dead from its creation from the hand of the Potter, and that is also how carnal fear is to be understood – it operates when death and darkness rule in our minds:
Rom 7:24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
Rom 8:6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
Jesus Christ, through His revealed spirit life in us, sets us free from the fear of death as we associate intimately and truthfully with His suffering and death (Joh 6:63; Mat 10:36-39; Gal 2:20; 2Ti 2:11-12; Rom 6:3-18):
Heb 2:14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;
Heb 2:15 And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
Heb 2:16 For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.
“I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward”
“…the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” is a powerful truth of what the faith of Christ in us is doing. The faith of Christ is active through the application of His word (Heb 4:12). While we are in this flesh we will always struggle with human fear, even after glorious victories over our enemies in the flesh – as Abram achieved over the four worldly kings we discussed in our last study (57). Even Elijah, that great man of faith, was running for his life after God proved him in front of the world to be a servant of God in the killing of the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal on mount Carmel (1Ki 18:17-40):
1Ki 19:1 And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had slain all the prophets with the sword.
1Ki 19:2 Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by to morrow about this time.
1Ki 19:3 And when he saw that, he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beersheba, which belongeth to Judah, and left his servant there.
1Ki 19:4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.
Fear is an evil spirit from the Lord and is an integral part of the human condition because we all cannot see God’s purposes through our natural observations and earthly sensors (Heb 12:9; Isa 45:7). Subjection to God, who is the Father of spirits, is what releases us from the “spirit of bondage…to fear” from this physical creation (Gen 2:7; Rom 8:20; Gen 3:9-10). Natural fear wanted to cause an obstacle to Abram’s faith, and it wants us to consider a short cut to spiritual glory. This is what is revealed in Abram’s natural heart as we all consider short term earthly solutions to avoid the enduring trial of our faith:
Gen 15:2 And Abram said, Lord GOD, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus?
Gen 15:3 And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir.
But Eliezer was not in God’s plan to bring forth an offspring for Abram – it would have been the easy route. Although God works all things in this natural creation, He indeed specializes in what humans perceive as impossible (Luk 1:37):
Gen 15:4 And, behold, the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir.
The flesh and its works shall not bring forth God’s spiritual offspring in us in any shape or resemblance. But these fleshly solutions and earthly images are strong delusions which God brings to all who are still attached to the earth in their appointed time (1Co 15:46-50; Rom 1:21-23):
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.
Rom 13:15 And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.
All fleshly miracles are temporary, and it is only through the faith of Christ that His elect are enabled to resist the inward worship of physical signs and miracles. The elect of God are looking for a healing which is much deeper – the healing of their hearts as they want all the seven heads (the complete carnal mind) of their beast to be killed with the sword of His Word. God promised Abram that his offspring “shall come forth out of thine own bowels” which connects both to the physical and spiritual application – God’s work in this creation brings both to apply in our lives at the appointed times (Exo 14:19-20; Isa 45:7). The last time God spoke to Abram about his offspring it was equated with “the dust of the earth”:
Gen 13:14 And the LORD said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward:
Gen 13:15 For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever.
Gen 13:16 And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, thenshall thy seed also be numbered.
Gen 13:17 Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee.
In one way the earthly seed pointed to Ishmael, the firstborn of Abram, who was Abram’s offspring through an Egyptian slave, Hagar (Gen 16:1-16). But even through Abram’s physical offspring via Isaac, the physical Jews were not the true spiritual application of what God had in mind, which few can see in this age of much deception. This is what the apostle Paul wrote about all the physical Jews who came through Isaac:
Rom 2:28 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:
Rom 2:29 But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.
So even the Jerusalem “which is now” is in spiritual bondage with her children, even as all the multitudes who are under the rulership of “the tutors and governors…under the elements of the world” (Gal 4:1-3). So this earthly offspring of Abram has various levels of applications with a deeper delusion within each application, even including the multitudes that follow the “other Jesus” or the “Christ after the flesh” in the spiritual whore Babylon with her enticing provisions (Gal 4:25; 2Co 5:16; 2Co 11:4; Rev 17:1-18):
Joh 6:2 And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased.
Joh 6:26 Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.
All natural fears cause us to rather hide in the safety of our tent, even as Adam and Eve hid away from God and thought God’s view is limited to what they perceived (Gen 3:9-10). For Abram to get a better and deeper idea of what God was talking about, God had to bring Abram out of his tent – out of his natural limitations and perceptions – to see beyond the veil of flesh, even to see Christ as the Saviour of all:
Gen 15:5 And he brought him forth abroad [Hebrew: “chûts” = separate/outside], and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.
This time God pointed Abram’s attention in another direction. It is only when we are given the faith of Christ to see beyond the “dust of the earth” with all its fear and delusions that our heavens will be opened to see what the heavenly Jerusalem is all about and how the fear of God operates (Gal 4:26-27). Then we can see how God is our shield and our protection through Jesus and His offspring, even His church (Rev 21:1-4). The spirit of God, which is His word, brings the faith of Christ that destroys even our natural fears and releases us from earthly bondage (Isa 61:1; 1Co 15:50; 2Co 3:17):
Rom 8:15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
2Ti 1:7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
A “sound mind” is anchored in the Word of God and fearless in proclaiming the truth. This is what brought forth the faith in Abram to believe God and this is what counts for righteousness, even before Abram was circumcised:
Gen 15:6 And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.
Outward circumcision is not a prerequisite to receive God’s righteousness, except the circumcision is of the heart – which is the removal of the fleshly heart to be replaced with the spiritual heart or mind of Christ (Col 2:11; Php 3:3):
Gal 6:15 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.
Gen 6:16 And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.
The life of Abram shows us how he even obeys God’s commandment: “fear not”. Faith activates the fear of God in us as Abram trusted God and His words and diligently heeded God’s commandments. Abram had this unwavering belief in God’s promises despite overwhelming testimonies to the contrary:
Rom 4:18 [Abram] Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be.
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:
Rom 4:20 He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;
Rom 4:21 And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.