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LESSON THREE * PART I
In these next lessons we’re going have a real in-depth study of the Abrahamic Covenant, which I have mentioned in previous lessons is so basic to understanding all the rest of God’s program for the ages and the change of God’s dealing with the human race as we come into Genesis chapter 12.
But before we start that I would like to address a few remarks to our television audience that it’s going to be so hard to cover as much as I would like to cover in just thirty-minutes. And I’m always afraid that if I’m not rightly understood and if these things don’t really come by us in an understandable way that you’d be prone to just turn me off. And so I would beg with those of you watching us on television to not give up on us even though we may not get as far as we’d like to get in this first thirty-minutes, but bear with us and over time I think, as most of my class people have over the years, you’ll begin to see how beautifully all of this comes together.
Christendom is a mass of confusion tonight. We’ve got so many different ideas and groups and the problem is they just don’t take the time to see what does the Word really say, and we also have to realize what it does not say.
Now I’m one of those creatures, and I was just telling my wife as we were driving up, even the national magazines are beginning to realize that there are legions of people, like me, and that is whenever I pick up a book or a magazine, I immediately go to the back page. Do you know people like that? I just can’t help it and you know what they’re doing now, they’re putting their editorials on the last page. Well, now I’m going to do that same approach before we go back to Genesis 12 and start our study on the Abrahamic Covenant, I’m going to start at the tail end of it in Ephesians chapter 2.
Now this is one of the letters of Paul written to the predominately Gentile churches there and the Ephesian letter was more or less in encyclical. In other words, it was written more or less with the idea that it would be passed around to all the other churches in the area. But it was predominately to the Gentiles that he writes, beginning in verse 11 for sake of time. And again those of you watching on television, if possible, find a Bible and take down these verses. Take down some notes and if it should leave you with your head swimming, you can go back and see what the Word says.
"Wherefore remember, that you (now that’s a personal directive) being in times past Gentiles in the flesh, who were called Uncircumcision by those who are called the Circumcision…" In other words, that’s the way the Jew referred to the Gentile – the uncircumcised ones.
"That that at time, (while Israel was almost in a snide way referring to Gentiles as the uncircumcised dogs) you (Gentiles) were without Christ being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, strangers from the covenants of promise,..." Now underline that word covenants because this is going right back to the Old Testament. But Gentiles were "strangers from the covenants of promise" and now the last is almost unbelievable to a lot of people if they don’t understand why Paul is inspired by the Holy Spirit to write it. And that is that our Gentile forefathers were in this situation.
"…having no hope, and without God in the world:" Now that seems shocking doesn’t it?
And people are prone to say, well that wasn’t fair. How could God do that?
Well, we’re going to cover all that if not in this half-hour, well certainly in the next one. But this was the state, you want to remember, of our forefathers back in the pre-Christian era. Now after all we’ve all got forefathers that go all the way back you know, to Adam. And so our forefathers, back there before these revelations that were especially given to the Apostle Paul, our forefathers were in this set of circumstances. They were not part of the nation of Israel. They were Gentiles. They were in no way associated with the Covenants that God made with Israel and consequently then, they were without Christ, "they were without God in this world." That was their lot.
But don’t stop there. The next verse. That three-lettered word that I always say is so crucial if you’re going to be a Bible student. "But now." Now, is a time word. Even though this was the lot of our forefathers for hundreds, yes thousands of years – 2000 years and then some now it’s different. We are no longer under those circumstances of being outside the Covenants and aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, without hope and without God, now Paul says:
"But now in Christ Jesus you who were at one time far off (what did he mean by far off? They were without hope, without God in this world) are made nigh by the blood of Christ." The death, burial and resurrection are what make all the difference in the world.
Now while we’re mentioning death, burial and resurrection; it’s been quite a while since I’ve referred to it and like I’ve always stressed, I don’t claim to be an evangelist. I’ll leave the evangelizing up to them. I ’m not a preacher and so I don’t constantly preach at people, but nevertheless, even though I’m basically trying to teach, we do want to bring periodically the Gospel of salvation as plainly as we know how to bring it so that there will be – as I told one of my classes the other night. I guess my most fervent prayer day in and day out is "that no one will ever come to my classes over a period of time and slip out into eternity lost."
Because that to me is just horrifying to have someone sit under what I think is good solid teaching and yet miss God’s salvation. I think that would be awful and so that’s my fervent prayer. So periodically I’ll just make a point to come in and make as clear as I know how to make it, the Gospel, or the plan of salvation, or as Paul just said in Ephesians "that we’ve been made nigh by the blood of Christ."
All right, now turn if you will then to I Corinthians 15 the first four verses. I use them often enough in my nightly classes that I trust people can almost just see these words in their sleep. Here Paul is writing to the Corinthian church, which was Gentiles predominately, so he’s writing to you and I today. He says:
I Corinthians 15:1-2
"Moreover brethren, I declare unto you the gospel, (the gospel, not a gospel) which I preached unto you, and which also you have received, and wherein you stand; (that is positionally) 2. By which also you are saved, (now there’s only one Plan of Salvation in our Bible for us today and that is by believing this Gospel we’re about to share in verse 3 and 4) if you keep in memory what I preached unto you, (in other words, you’ve got to know what you believe) unless you have believed in vain." In other words, a lot of people believe, there’s no doubt about it, but they’re not believing the right thing, they’re just believing something, and anything and they think they’re going to get by. But the Scripture is so adamant that we have to know what we believe and that’s what Paul uses is the word know – K-N-O-W – from the Greek word, epignosis – full knowledge. We have to know what we believe. But we’d better know the Plan of Salvation. We’d better know why God is able to save a sinner. Now here comes the Gospel in the next 2 verses that saves you if you truly believe it for your salvation.
I Corinthians 15:3
"For (he says) I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that (here it comes) Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures." Now, that means that it wasn’t just all of a sudden an afterthought. God didn’t just all of a sudden find Himself in a jam and He had to do something. No. It was all preplanned from eternity past. It was all considered before man even came on the scene.
I Corinthians 15:4
"And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:" He really died for our sins, and rose from the dead! Now that’s the Gospel of salvation we must believe, plus NOTHING.
"I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it (the Gospel) is the (what’s the next word?) power of God unto salvation to everyone that (what’s the next word?) believeth;" Doesn’t say to everyone that repents and is baptized. It doesn’t say to everyone that does such and such and such and such. But it says, very plainly that if we believe this Gospel, "that Christ died, was buried and rose from the dead" – when we believe that with all our heart that Gospel becomes the very power of God Himself. The very power that created the universe is released on us, to us, in us and we by that power of God then become a child of God.
I mean it’s beyond human understanding, so what do we do? We take it by faith. We can’t comprehend it, but the Bible says that’s what it is and when we believe it, God, as Paul says over and over, accounts it as righteousness. By believing. But we’ve got to be careful what we believe.
Now all of this coming back then to what we just saw in Ephesians 2, that we have been made nigh by the blood of Christ. Now you can’t separate the blood of Christ from His death, and resurrection, because they’re just tied together, and can’t be separated.
I usually don’t fault the men behind the sacred desk, that’s not my job, but one of the couples in one of my classes were rather upset the last time we met and their pastor had made the statement that there is nothing in Scripture that indicates that Christ died a sacrificial death. How in the world can anyone say that, when the Bible is full of the fact "that without the shedding of blood there is no remission?"
And then Paul comes along and is constantly referring to Christ as our Passover. He is the One who died for us, who shed His blood for us, He is the sacrifice and the only sacrifice that God was satisfied with.
Paul also, as he wrote Hebrews, and I’m sure he did, said, "that the blood of bulls and goats couldn’t take away sin, (but what could?) The blood of Christ!" Because He was the supreme, the prefect sacrifice. So that’s all wrapped up together the fact that "His blood was shed, He died, He was buried and He rose again from the dead" and now then we have been made nigh by virtue of that tremendous act of God and when we believe it the very power of God moves in on a life and we become as again Paul says, in II Corinthians and other places, "we become then a new creation."
But, like I said, now that’s starting more or less on the back page. Now let’s come back to Genesis chapter 12. We touched on it just a little bit last week, but now in chapter 12 of Genesis, we come to a place where once again, God is seeing the human race time after time utterly rebel and reject Him.
Now just for a moment of review. Adam wasn’t in the Garden very long until he did what? Well, he rebelled. He sinned. He was disobedient. Now when Adam moved from that Garden experience, to living out of the Garden, in our present day vernacular couldn’t we very easily call that "a whole new ball game?" It was a whole new ball game, it was a whole new set of circumstances. It was a new set of regulations that God had now given, instruction or whatever you want to call it, was just totally different from life in the Garden. All right, under that set of circumstances then we found the human race just utterly rebel until it got so bad God had to bring in the flood.
Now again watch what happens. When the flood is finished, as we’ve been seeing the last several weeks and Noah and his family comes out of the Ark, what have you got again? Another new ball game. A whole new set of circumstances, and again God gives even more or different rules and regulations to live by. Remember we pointed out how that He gave instruction that they could kill animals and eat the flesh thereof. They couldn’t do that before. And so there was all these things that just made life after the flood totally different than life before the flood.
But God hasn’t changed. Human nature hasn’t changed. But yet, the circumstances change. Now they hadn’t come very long after the flood and we saw here a few weeks ago where were they? At the Tower of Babel, and now Satan’s influence comes in and they end up going after other gods – the introduction of idolatry. Remember? Paganism. At the Tower of Babel paganism just permeated the whole human race. Everyone. We have no indication that now we know Noah lived through a lot of that period of time, we don’t know what happened to him, but Noah aside, we have nothing to indicate that anyone had any knowledge of the one true God. They had all flocked after idolatry and paganism.
Now what does God have to do? For almost 2000 years, and I want to bring this out, from Genesis 1:1 through chapter 11, covers 2000 years of human history. But beginning with chapter 12 verse 1, we’re going to cover the next 2000 years and it takes up the biggest part of our Bible, all the Old Testament and well into the New are now going to be in those next 2000 years.
But here God is with a human race that again has totally rejected His offer of salvation. They have totally rejected His authority and they have followed other gods; they’re steeped in idolatry and remember idolatry’s god is Satan himself. And it just seems as though there’s no hope for that human race. And then we can use that three-lettered word again – "But God"
God says I’m going to do something different. I’m going to take a new approach. Now it wasn’t again that He got caught by surprise. This was all preordained and as we were discussing the other evening with just a small group, you know there’s a fine line between the Sovereignty of God and the free will of man. And it’s so hard to define those two and not get them crossed over because God is absolutely Sovereign. We know that. He has laid the whole line of human history out ahead of time. And yet He has never taken the free will away from man to accomplish it.
And so you come on to this whole business of foreknowledge and all that, but we don’t want to get confused on these things that God is never caught by surprise. So now with the human race totally saturated in idolatry, He says:
"I’m going to take a new approach. I’m going to take one little group of people. I’m going to take one man and out of that one man I’m going to bring about a small nation of people. And with that nation I’m going to work, I’m going to teach them, I’m going to reveal Myself to them in a way that the human race has never had revelation before. And I’m going to take that little nation of people and sometime down the road I’m going to funnel them back into the other nations of the world in order to bring them to Myself."
Now the best way I can picture it on the chalk board and we’re not going to have time this half-hour to bring it to fruition, but if I can help you to mentally see – let’s take a wide line, and call that the main stream of humanity. The human race. Humanity. Now this wide line come all the way from Adam 2000 years back. And it’s been one catastrophe after another, hasn’t it? Now at the end of that first 2000 years, like I said a moment ago, God is going to do something different. He’s going to call out one man. His name to start with is Abram and we get to know him better as Abraham. Now out of that mainstream of humanity, He’s going to pull off with a little narrow line beginning with this one man Abram, the nation of Israel. The Jew.
And here is what Paul was referring to in Ephesians. While God is going to be dealing with this nation of people coming out of this one man, Abram, He’s going to let the rest of humanity just sort of drift along in their godless state to their eternal doom, having no hope as Paul says.
And I’ve seen it in my classes over and over where they’re almost aghast and they say, "Well they didn’t have a chance! God wasn’t fair." You know what I always have to remind you? What had God been doing for 2000 years? He’d been dealing with the whole human race with no one segmented. With no one left off, they all had knowledge of what He expected of them, what did they do with it? They stepped it under foot. They ignored it for 2000 years so what makes mankind think they would have changed?
They rebelled and so now God in His foreknowledge can see that this wouldn’t have changed one bit, humanity would have continued to do as they did the first 2000 years. They would just constantly live in rebellion and it would go gradually from bad to worse. So He is perfectly just, as Paul says in Ephesians, to leave these people now to take their course of human history "without God," without anything to do with this little nation of people that God is going to be working with particularly now until some future time. He was going to send that prepared people back into the main stream of humanity to bring them the knowledge of Abraham’s God, as God will reveal Himself to Abram.
Now am I making myself clear? So He’s going to take this little nation and He’s going to make covenants with them and if you remember a few weeks ago I explained that a covenant is always one way. From God to man. So even though these covenants are seemingly broken and forgotten, (but since they came from God they’ll never be broken) they’ll never be forgotten. Sooner or later these covenants are always going to come to fruition. Never lose sight of that.
And so as God makes these covenants now with the nation of Israel, always keep uppermost in your thinking it’s because of this mass of humanity that God is doing what He’s doing because He’s going to prepare these people, hopefully, for the time when they can come back in and reveal a knowledge of their God, the Scripture calls it "the God of Abraham." So that he can give a revelation of the God of Abraham to these pagan godless Gentile nations. Has God forgotten them? Not at all.
He’s doing everything for their benefit, albeit there will be generations in here who pass in the scene and out of the scene and they’re lost. That’s just something that we can’t reconcile in human thinking but God knows what He’s doing. So the first thing I want folk to get in their mind is the reason the little nation of Israel has survived the millennia against all odds, in spite of all the times that people of this world have tried to obliterate them, it’s because they’re God’s Covenant People.
Now granted, as we can already see, they didn’t succeed in doing what God really wanted them to do. Because before they got to the place where God could now take them into the Gentile nations and use them as His missionaries or His evangelists, what did they do? They crucified the Lord of Glory. But again, Satan may have thought that he was the victor by seeing the very Son of God dying on that Roman cross. But what Satan and the rest of the world never comprehended, God wasn’t defeated at the cross, who was? Satan was.
So even though the favored Covenant People blew it, (that’s the best expression I can use), they just totally blew it, they didn’t recognize the one who had come to fulfill these covenants, they rejected Him, they crucified Him, but God went ahead and brought the Gospel to the Gentiles without Israel by bringing on the scene one little Jew. Saul of Tarsus.
And what’s the first thing that God revealed to Ananias concerning Saul of Tarsus? "He’s a chosen vessel unto me and he’s going to take the Word to the Gentiles." And Paul tells us in Romans 11:13 "I am the apostle of the Gentiles." And if you’re careful as you read Paul, you’ll notice that he’s always saying, "to you Gentiles." Watch for it as you read his letters.