Are you impressed with someone who is willing to stand up for what they believe no matter the cost? Listen to this lesson to learn that it’s the content of what we believe that makes it meaningful, not just standing up for it. See the importance of teaching children the gospel. Learn when Abraham proclaimed the name of the Lord and gained many people on his side. Find out the difference between positional and experiential righteousness.
During this class Dr. Dean mentioned a blog by Scott Aniol. You can view it here.
Worship Lessons from Abraham—Part 2
1 Chronicles 15:1-16; Genesis 14, 17, 28
Samuel Lesson #145
September 4, 2018
“Our Father, as we are conducting this study on worship, we are just impressed with Your majesty, Your greatness. We are in awe of all that You are and all that You have done in grace and mercy to us.
“And Father, we come now to take time to focus upon Your Word, to put aside the details of life—the concerns, the everyday issues that crowd into our consciousness, the worries—and to focus on that which has eternal value, eternal significance; that which shapes our character, who we are; that which focuses us on our purpose in this life, which is to serve You.
“Father, now we pray that You would open our eyes to understand what we are studying today, and that it will be very clear to us. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
We’re going to do something a little different at the beginning of class. We’ve been studying about worship. But every now and then, there is something contemporary of significance, something that has happened in our culture, something that has happened in our news, and you just want to take the time to talk about it and how we respond from a biblical or Christian perspective.
It’s an opportunity, because it’s an application of a verse I talked about on Sunday morning: Deuteronomy 6:7. We are to talk about God’s Word as we rise up, as we sit down, as we come, and as we go.
This is primarily directed to parents, in terms of teaching children, when you have opportunities all throughout the day, to reinforce a divine viewpoint in your kids, and help them understand how to look at life from a scriptural viewpoint.
And that’s the same thing here. We get something that comes up—and in this case, it involved somebody in the congregation texting me something and asking me a question. So, we went through a little process of how to deal with this, and I thought, “Well, this is not just good for this individual. It’s good for the congregation.”
As many of you are probably aware today, if you’ve looked at anything in relation to the news, an extremely controversial ad came out over the weekend with Colin Kaepernick.
I’ve got this up on the screen for us. This is a Nike ad. There are a lot of different ways that you may want to respond to this Nike ad. But let me suggest that this is a great tool to use for witnessing: asking the right questions.
In this particular situation that I’m talking about, someone who was in pastoral ministry posted this on a Facebook page, talking about how admirable this is. And so, I was asked about how I would respond to this.
Now, here’s the trap. When many conservatives look at this, their reaction is very negative towards Kaepernick because of what he has done, because of his stand in kneeling at the National Anthem.
Most people have lost sight of why he was kneeling. It wasn’t really clear how kneeling for the National Anthem related to his social concerns. But I want to point this out, because this is something that is at the heart of shifts that are taking place in our culture.
What this ad says, because you may not be able to read it at the very back, is (across the center of the picture of Kaepernick): “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”
Now think about that a minute. The individual who posted this is a minister of the gospel. Think about that. That person who posted this is representing the gospel of Jesus Christ. That’s their calling, that’s their job, that’s their vocation, that’s their avocation.
But you may run into something like this from somebody you know, somebody in your family, and somebody may make some comment and say, “Well, isn’t that great? Isn’t it admirable? We need to respect him because he stands up for that which he believes.”
Now this is a great opportunity not to get in somebody’s face, but in the right situation, the right circumstances, to ask some questions. That’s what I was asked about. And I said, “Okay, we have to be very careful in this situation that the issue here is clearly defined.”
What’s the issue here? It has nothing to do with Kaepernick or his personality. It doesn’t have anything to do with his kneeling or not. That’s immediately what people want to go to.
But this ad makes a statement about belief. That’s what this is about.
There’s an article that came out in the Washington Post comparing Kaepernick with Tim Tebow. It made some interesting observations, and I want to address a couple of those things because, as Christians, we’re living in the midst of a “crooked and perverse generation,” as Paul says—just as they did in the Roman Empire. We’re supposed to “give an answer for the hope that is in us.” So, we have to think about how we’re going to do that in a way that makes it a spiritually profitable conversation.
That doesn’t mean that the person is going to respond positively to us, because Jesus took advantage of lots of spiritually profitable situations, and all He did was really anger the Pharisees and the Sadducees.
So sometimes when we ask questions with motives as pure as we can come up with, the reaction from somebody may be pretty hostile, because we’re exposing something that is wrong or that is sinful. And at some level they may know that.
A statement is made here: “Believe in something.” Is that a proposition that can stand up to the scriptural view of faith, or the scriptural view of belief?
Now, let’s back up just a minute. What are the ways in which the world system and Satan have attacked the concept of faith? You know, it doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you believe. It’s your sincerity.
That doesn’t work at all when you’re in court. It doesn’t matter if you believe you were not in a school zone. If you’re in a school zone, you’re going to pay a $500 fine. And if you’re really going fast, you’re probably going to go to jail. It doesn’t matter how sincere your belief is.
Sincerity in a belief system doesn’t matter. The Pharisees and Sadducees were pretty sincere, but Jesus said that they were of their father the devil. So, the belief system in the Bible is one that is not focused on belief—as if belief, in and of itself, is significant.
That comes out of liberal Christianity. That’s how you hear a lot of discussion about faith. “They are a person of faith.” I don’t care. I want to know what their faith is in, because that’s the Bible.
In the Gospel of John, you have the word “faith” used over 95 times. But it’s always in relation to belief in Him, belief in Jesus. “For God so loved the world that whosoever believes in Him [emphasis added] should not perish but have everlasting life.” It’s not belief itself that’s important, but belief in Him.
So, you have somebody who is a Christian, especially somebody who is in a Christian ministry, and they look at something like this and say, “Isn’t this wonderful?” What you should do, then, is ask questions like—and this is what was done in this conversation—“In what way does this impress you?”
What you’re trying to do is get to the point where you’re exposing and getting the person to state what their concept of faith is, what their concept of belief is, and what they’re believing.
Of course, in the course of this conversation, the response was always related to shifting the focus to Kaepernick’s stand. It didn’t matter how the question was posed. “How do you, as a minister of the gospel, advocate this kind of faith over against the kind of faith that’s evidenced in the Bible?” The response was, “Well, what’s your problem with Kaepernick? What are you trying to get at?”
See, the topic here isn’t Kaepernick. That happens a lot when you’re in a witnessing situation; people want to change the subject. What you have to do is gently ask questions that keep them on the subject. You don’t want to get diverted by nonessentials.
The issue here isn’t really Tim Tebow. The issue isn’t really Kaepernick. It isn’t their beliefs, or what they’re doing. The issue is “How do you understand faith? Do you understand belief in a biblical way or nonbiblical way?”
Now, what came up in this conversation is something that is not unusual, something that would be expected. The response was, “Well, he believes in this and we should support him, because he is willing to give his life for this, and that’s what Jesus did.”
Is that what Jesus did? See, you have to understand a little bit theologically and the history of theology. There are different ways in which the Atonement has been understood in history.
The early view of the Atonement was that it was substitutionary. We’ve taught this, and you can go to the index, or to the search feature on the Dean Bible Ministries website, and you can find the lessons where I’ve taught on substitutionary Atonement and all the various verses that emphasize that. One of the clearest—we’ve talked about it several times in the 1 Peter studies—is found in 1 Corinthians 15.
In 1 Corinthians 15:1, Paul is focused on the denial of the resurrection, on the part of the Corinthians. But as he introduces the topic, he says, “I declare to you the gospel which I preach to you, which also you received, and in which you stand; by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.”
So, what he’s talking about at the very beginning is the gospel, the content of the gospel. He says, “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.”
If you go back to Isaiah 53, you can find a number of statements that talk about the fact that this Suffering Servant would come, and that He would die for the sins of His people. He would be punished for their sins: “… by His stripes we are healed.” Those phrases are all phrases of substitution.
You can go back to the Old Testament imagery of a sacrifice—as we’re looking at tonight—that when you put your hands on the animal, your sins are transferred to the animal symbolically, and the animal is then sacrificed because of your sins. It’s all substitutionary.
That was the view of the early church. Then in the late medieval period, around AD 1000 (about a thousand years ago), a view came out by a man named Abelard. And Abelard had the idea that it was moral influence. In other words, Jesus wasn’t dying for our sins; He was showing us how we should live.
This gets modified in several ways later on. There was a very famous lawyer in Holland in the 1600s named Hugo Grotius, who called it a governmental theory. He contended that God was demonstrating His government—that He must punish sin. It had nothing to do with justification or the payment of a sin penalty. That’s the issue here.
So, the idea that we give ourselves to something we believe in—that that’s what Jesus did—comes out of core liberal theology. It’s a rejection of the truth of God’s Word.
As I was helping this person work through that, I was trying to give her questions to use to ask this person, because I wanted her to expose the fact that [the minister who posted this] is a rank liberal and in a denomination that is putatively conservative, and that she’s denying substitutionary atonement.
After a while, she quit answering. So that seems to indicate that the individual who had posted this didn’t want to expose the fact that a heretical view of the gospel was being presented, was at the core.
That’s what we have to do when we talk to people. Ask questions. What we’re trying to do is get to an understanding of what they really believe. Then we can talk about that in terms of what the Bible says.
So, the Bible is always the authority. When we ask questions, it’s not done in an argumentative way, or a way that tries to put somebody down. But they’ll take it that way. That’s what happened with the Pharisees. Jesus would ask them questions, and they would just go ballistic, because it exposed their unbelief.
That’s what this is. This is espousing a philosophy. It’s the philosophy in the ad that is the issue for us, as believers, not Kaepernick or any of these other things. And yet it exposes something else.
In this [Washington Post] article by Michael Frost, which came out about a year ago, he makes some interesting comments as he’s contrasting Tim Tebow with Colin Kaepernick. He says (very astutely), “It seems to me that Tim Tebow and Colin Kaepernick represent the two very different forms that American Christianity has come to.”
Now that’s insightful, because we live in a culture-conflict where there is one branch of Christianity—what I would call conservative, fundamental Christianity—that is biblical, that is consistent with the inerrant, infallible nature of the Bible.
And then we have a new view that has come along that is heavily influencing evangelicalism. It has bought into many of the world’s assumptions; does not believe in an inerrant, infallible Scripture; and is being heavily influenced today by social justice.
Now, two things we ought to note about social justice. One, it’s a term that is amorphous. That means it has no definition, no form.
All kinds of people are using the social-justice tag to relate to whatever it is they’re doing. It’s like the word “evangelical.” It can mean just about anything to anybody. You have to be careful with terms like that.
But [the concept of social justice] comes out of, and is consistent with, a basic worldview of socialism or communism, which isn’t consistent with the biblical principle of private ownership of property.
The best way to demonstrate that the Bible holds to private ownership of property is in the Ten Commandments. “Thou shalt not steal” affirms the right of property ownership and land ownership. This runs all the way through the Mosaic Law.
But let me just point out a couple of things that [Michael Frost] points out. He says, “This division—these two different forms of Christianity—is not just in the United States. In many parts of the world, it feels as though the church is separating into two versions. One that values personal piety …”
Now what he means by that is your personal relationship with God. Don’t get caught up in the use of the word “piety.” What he’s talking about is a personal walk with the Lord.
“… gentleness [Dr. Dean: part of the fruit of the Spirit], respect for cultural mores, and an emphasis on moral issues like abortion and homosexuality.”
So that’s one side. Then he says,
“Another [version] values social justice, community development, racial reconciliation, and political activism.”
Now those terms are really nuanced, in terms of what we would call the radical left, or liberalism. If you’re going to interact with people in a way that’s edifying—trying to move people towards biblical truth—I think we need to come to understand what these terms mean and how they’re being used.
There’s very little that’s written from a social-justice viewpoint. If you want to investigate a biblical view of this social-justice movement, go to Scott Aniol. He has a blog that has to do with righteousness, and culture, and things like that. You can sign up for his newsletter.
He’s been writing some things recently, where he’s doing a good job. There are a couple of others [doing the same thing]. I understand John MacArthur is starting to blog on his website about dealing with social justice.
I talked to Scott about five or six weeks ago. He sent me a paper he’s written on dispensationalism and social involvement, which is very, very good.
He points out how the “Kingdom-now” philosophy—that we’re in some form of the Kingdom—is being taken over by, “If we’re living in some form of the Kingdom, then it’s the role of the church to bring in Kingdom righteousness.”
Now, how many evangelicals believe in a dispensational viewpoint? It’s a minority. Everybody else believes we’re in some form of the Kingdom.
That means they are being attracted to social justice. When I talked to Scott, I was asking him some questions—because of some other things that came up while I was in Israel—about what happened at the Southern Baptist Convention this year.
At the Southern Baptist Convention this year—here’s the most conservative denomination, won back by the conservatives about 35 years ago, having taken a stand for inerrancy and infallibility—the liberals are coming back. Scott said that the sub-theme of everything at the Southern Baptist Convention this year was social justice.
Russell Moore, the head of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, has really been pushing this. He’s all about social justice. He’s been a lifelong liberal, a lifelong Democrat.
His predecessor, Dr. Richard Land—who had his PhD from Oxford, was extremely articulate, brilliant, and very conservative. He had been highly influenced by the positive teaching of Francis Schaeffer.
He was at the forefront of many good things. But when he retired, he’s replaced by a guy who is at the opposite end of the spectrum, who is liberal and holds to all this social justice. This is really coming in in a big way.
We have to understand what social justice is, what they mean by this, what these social-justice warriors are all about, because they’re distorting the gospel. They’re bringing this in to major denominations. And evangelical conservatives are being sucked into this, because they’ve already bought into the “already-not-yet” view of the Kingdom.
I haven’t had the time, and I don’t want to take the time, to go through and do a chorus-by-chorus analysis of contemporary Christian songs. But my personal experience and viewpoint is that about 60 or 70% of them all talk about the Kingdom and Jesus as King in a wrong way.
Most of these songs—you can go back to the very popular chorus in the 1980s called Majesty—are all about Kingdom authority. “Kingdom authority” is the second phrase in the chorus.
We have no Kingdom authority. We are not in the Kingdom. There is no way, shape, or form that there is any Messianic Kingdom today. That’s what “Kingdom” means. And yet that’s what’s driving this kind of thinking is that, as the church, we need to culturally change society because of these things.
And that’s what [Michael Frost] is pointing out. He’s pointing out these contrasts. He said, “One version is kneeling in private prayer.” That’s what Tim Tebow was doing.
“The other is kneeling in public protest.” That’s what Kaepernick was doing.
They both may have kneeled, but they were doing it for radically different reasons.
He said, “One is concerned with private sins like abortion; the other is concerned with public sins like racial discrimination.”
That’s always been part of liberalism. Liberalism has always been concerned with public sins. Now, they are sins. They are problems—such as slavery; women’s rights; child labor; and temperance, the abuse of alcohol, back in the 19th century. But you have to understand the framework, because the framework is all-important.
The framework for that, in the early 19th century, was an assumption that man was basically perfectible. See, at the core of the social-justice movement is the idea that we can bring in some sort of utopia.
It’s borrowed from communism and socialism—that we can have a perfect society. But what the Scripture teaches is there can be no social perfection until Jesus is on the throne of David ruling in Jerusalem.
It’s not the motivation of Christians to reform society today. We cannot do that. But what we can do, we can be involved politically for a totally different reason. [Our reason] is because we love our neighbors, and we want to restrain evil. That’s our motivation. We’re not trying to bring in the Kingdom or solve all social problems.
But the core of this, on their side, was this idea in the 19th century that man is basically good. Therefore, man is perfectible, because he starts off good, not evil. Man is perfectible; therefore, if man is perfectible, society is perfectible.
That was very much a part of the teaching of probably the greatest known evangelist of the Second Great Awakening: Charles Grandison Finney. He was a great promoter of social change. In fact, he was a major abolitionist, and he founded Oberlin College and Seminary, which was the seat, the heart, of the abolitionist movement.
There were many other people who held to abolitionism, who did not hold to his philosophy and framework. That’s what makes the difference. You have William Wilberforce and John Newton, who understood that all human beings are created in the image and likeness of God, and should not be enslaved by others. Therefore, we should end slavery.
It wasn’t designed on the arrogant assumption that we can create a perfect society. That’s what makes the difference. See, folks, it’s not just the surface issue. You have to understand the underlying, philosophical framework. Two people can do the same thing—like Kaepernick and Tebow—but it’s the content of what they’re doing [that matters].
It seems like we talked about that in reference to worship at the end of the last class, when we were talking about Abraham. Abraham would go on one side of the road in Shechem, and he would construct a stone altar, and he would build a fire, and he would sacrifice an animal.
And you might have a Canaanite on the other side, who constructs an altar and burns an animal. The only way you know the difference [between them] is not through the symbolism and the ritual, but because you go listen to what they say.
Abraham is announcing his God, the one-of-a-kind Creator God of the Universe, and he’s describing His attributes. But that’s not what’s being said by the Canaanite on the other side. He’s talking about all of these different gods and goddesses, and it’s a totally different framework.
So, it’s not what you see on the surface that makes the difference. It’s what it represents. You have to have those words of content.
Well, this article goes on to say regarding the contrast, “One preaches the gospel of personal salvation; the other preaches a gospel of political and social transformation.”
Now, where does that idea of political and social transformation come from? Its root is the idea that man is perfectible and society is perfectible, apart from Jesus Christ and the solution to sin. So, you don’t talk about substitutionary sacrifice, because that brings in a robust concept of sin, and assumes that man is totally depraved.
You have these differences. And they’re important, critical differences. That’s why—in the questions I was proposing that this person be asked—I was asking questions to try to expose their concept of belief, and what they believe in, and that their concept of this belief was contrary to what the Scriptures said. They did not believe in a substitutionary atonement of Jesus as the gospel. And that came across in some of the answers.
Then, this is really interesting. This article [goes on to say], “One is reading the epistles of Paul; the other is reading the minor prophets.”
Now, why is that important? It’s not just the minor prophets; it’s also the major prophets. You look at Isaiah and Jeremiah, and they are confronting Israel with their unbelief and their idolatry. As a result of that, the poor are suffering.
What happens in communism and socialism is that these passages that are dealing with their abuse of the poor are misinterpreted. The challenge is that under the Law of Moses, there were collections that were taken that went to the temple. And that money was to be used as a small safety-net for the poor, the widows, and the orphans.
In Malachi, people were not giving the tithe. So there’s no money. It is an indictment of their disobedience to the Law, which was their constitution. God totally provided for these kinds of situations. But because of their rejection of God, and their rejection of God’s Law, and their personal responsibilities, they were involved in this kind of selfishness and hoarding. They were not loving their neighbors as themselves.
And so, the consequence was part of the judgment. But the judgment wasn’t just about that. The judgment was that they were rejecting the Mosaic Law, and they were rejecting God. That’s why you had the destruction of both the Northern Kingdom and the Southern Kingdom.
So, the minor prophets [as well as the major prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel] are used to indict the culture.
We’re not under the Mosaic Law. We’re not in that kind of scenario. It’s also a total misunderstanding of why they are being indicted for injustice, and why they are being indicted for lack of righteousness.
This author goes on to say, “One is listening to Eric Metaxas [Dr. Dean comments: And if you don’t know who he is, he’s written several good books dealing with Christianity, the history of Christianity, and also on the Constitution] and Franklin Graham. The other is listening to William Barber and John Perkins.”
I don’t know the first name, but the second name. These are guys are social liberals. They have a social gospel. The idea of social justice goes with a social gospel.
The social gospel came out of the theology of a man named William Rauschenbusch in the late 19th century. For him, the Kingdom is now, in some form. And it’s the role of the Christian and the church to bring in a perfect society. But see, that assumes a nature of man that is basically perfectible.
So, Michael Frost has done a good job of stating what he calls “the bifurcation of Christianity” into two distinct branches. What I would say is the fundamental difference is one side takes the Bible literally, believes in the authority of Scripture, and believes in the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture.
The other side believes the Bible is basically a human book, believes the Bible contains errors, and believes it is not the absolute source of truth. They don’t believe in a literal interpretation of Scripture.
That is the split that is occurring in contemporary Christianity. The issue is that—as several people have pointed out just within the last year—with the various things that have happened in our culture, this issue of social justice has now, like a locomotive, burst to the forefront of our society’s thinking.
It’s coming at us from the news media, it’s coming at us in various films, and it is nothing more than a Trojan Horse for socialism and communism. It’s built on the idea that goes back to the Tower of Babel, that man can establish his own perfect kingdom and make a name for himself.
That is why we need to learn how to “give an answer for the hope that is in us.” You’re going to have kids and grandkids who are learning these ideas, who are being force-fed these ideas in their school classes and in university classes.
They’re getting it in all kinds of different things. It’s dominating social media, and it’s brainwashing people, because this is what is acceptable. It changes the whole focus of our nation.
We’re the only ones who have an answer, and we need to learn how to “give an answer for the hope that is in us.”
So, I took a little longer in that than I had anticipated, but I think that it’s very important that we understand that.
Now, the next thing I want to talk about, before we get into our basic study tonight, is an e-mail that came in this week. This came in just yesterday. Some of you have been here a little while, and you remember John Skone-Palmer.
I remember Skone from when I was a kid, when he moved to Houston. Skone was one of the founding members of West Houston Bible Church. He was here from its inception in 2004 until the Lord took him home in 2008.
This is an e-mail that came in from his sister. We had his memorial service here at the church, and she talks about that a little bit. But it tells us why what we do here is really important. Our numbers may not seem large to a lot of people, but the impact through the Internet is just phenomenal.
I hear things like this every now and then, and I’m just floored. I’m humbled by it, because God is using us in some incredible ways. I just want to read this to you, because we don’t always realize what the impact is that we have.
It’s occurred to me that I should share this story with you [Dr. Dean: She’d sent this to Sandy], and perhaps you might think it’s worth sharing with Robby Dean. It’s a little long; I’ll try to be concise.
I have to start by telling you that my cousin, David McReynolds [Dr. Dean: You can Google him, too; I Googled him last night], died three weeks ago. David was the oldest of us ten cousins, and was pretty much our elder statesman.
David and I were on opposite sides of every fence you can think of. He was a socialist, he ran for President twice on the socialist ticket, he was a pacifist, a homosexual, and an alcoholic (though recovered). I guess they say “recovering,” because you can never be quite certain.
I really didn’t realize, until he died and I Googled him, quite what a big deal he was in some circles. In spite of all of our differences, we loved and respected each other. We emailed and exchanged ideas. … [Dr. Dean: And then she talks a little bit more about him.]
When Skone died in 2008, it was two weeks before our cousin reunion in California. Skone was the first of the cousins to die, and it left a big hole in our family. He was only 71.
At that reunion, I asked all of my cousins to indulge me in one thing. They knew where my brother and I stood on our Christian belief, but agreed to hear me out.
I simply asked, “Would you please tell me if at any time in your life you believed in Jesus as your Savior?”
I knew we had all been raised in church, although some as adults had declared themselves atheists, including David. But as we went around the circle, each one said that yes, as a child, they had believed. That’s all I needed to know.
That’s the first lesson. Child evangelism is important. It’s been disappointing that last year and this year, we were not able to continue our involvement in Child Evangelism Fellowship. This shows how important it is.
Parents, you need to be telling your children the story of salvation from the time they’re infants. They may not understand everything, but I believe that their brains are responding to that, and building the networks that will enable them to understand it more quickly as they get older.
Tell them the story over and over again. I know of kids as young as 2-1/2 or 3 who have believed in Jesus. [They] clearly understood the gospel.
Grandparents, give those kids the gospel over and over and over again.
She then says,
But here’s the important part. After Skone died, I sent the information about the funeral at West Houston to all my cousins, although I knew they would not be able to attend.
A couple of days later, I got an e-mail from David saying, “I went on the church’s website and noticed that they believe ‘Once Saved, Always Saved.’ So maybe there’s hope for me.”
See, we just don’t know what the impact is. I can’t tell you how many times I hear this story about people—that they were believers when they were children. But then as they grow up, they reject God, they go carnal, they become atheists, they get overwhelmed with all of the assaults and attacks on Christianity, and they reject it. And so, we think of them as not really saved, because all we know are their heretical views, their atheism, whatever it may be.
And yet we believe in eternal security—that when a person believes in Christ as Savior, they are adopted into God’s royal family immediately, and they are given a new life in Jesus that can’t be taken away from them. No matter how much they reject God and reject Jesus later in life, they are secure.
Jesus said, I hold them in My hand and they will never get loose. They will always be secure.
So, she goes on to say a few other things. But that is our blessed assurance. That is our certain hope of our salvation. And that is why we do what we do as a church.
A church exists for two reasons. Reason #1 is to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. Reason #2 is to help people understand all of the implications of that gospel after they are saved, and its significance for the Christian life, and how to tell others about Christ.
That is what we do. And we have a website that announces this.
Who would think that some atheist/socialist/homosexual would go look at our doctrinal statement and see that we believe that “Once Saved, Always Saved?” If they’re saved, the Holy Spirit is in there knocking on the basement door that He’s been consigned to in their souls. And you hear it right here: “Maybe there’s hope for me.”
How can you say that, if you’re really, consistently an atheist? You can’t. And that’s why I always contend there’s no such thing as a real atheist, because Romans 1:18–20 says we all know God exists.
Well, that’s taken up most of class tonight, so let’s go back and just review some things on worship, and then we’ll try to move forward a little bit.
What we’ve seen, in terms of our review, the same thing I covered last time, is that failure to know the Word leads to a breakdown in worship.
When we don’t know the Word, we don’t know about sin. We don’t know who God is. We don’t know what God has provided for us. And we can’t worship the God of the Bible if we don’t know who the God of the Bible is.
I’ve said for 40 years in ministry that the problem most Christians have is that they’re so ignorant of Scripture that they have constructed in their heads a false view of God and Jesus. It’s an idol. It’s a mental idol. And they worship that mental idol. That means that they are idolaters. They’re not worshipping the God of the Bible.
When we have a church culture that doesn’t understand who God is and who Jesus is, then that becomes reflected in the songs they produce, the choruses they produce, in the Bible studies, in the art—all of these things that they produce—and they produce a false view of Jesus.
That’s what leads to people being deceived and sucked into social-justice movements. There’s a breakdown in worship. We can only worship the true God of the Bible. Anything else is idolatry.
So, one of the things we learn from Scripture is that sin must be dealt with before worship can take place. That’s what we see at the Fall. Sin had to be dealt with before Adam and Eve could be restored to a place where they could worship God, because a barrier had been erected between them.
Third, we see that worship is on God’s terms and not man’s terms. God tells us how to worship. God tells us what the problems are, and how we can worship Him.
Fourth, worship is based on sacrifice, because of sin. That’s introduced at the end of Genesis 3. There is a sacrifice. There is the death of the animals.
Death must take place to pay the penalty for sin. So, all the Old Testament sacrifices were merely training aids to teach about the future sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
And then last, worship leads to a proclamation of God’s character. That’s where we are right now in Genesis 12.
So, if you turn in your Bibles to Genesis 12, we’ll try to make a little forward progress tonight and get to Genesis 14. Genesis 12 is where we were last week, and we stopped there. We talked about sacrifice—that sacrifice is substitutionary, as I talked about in the introduction.
Jesus died for our sins. What we have in the Greek is a very specific nuance in the Greek construction—the preposition HUPER plus the genitive. We also have another preposition, PERI, that’s used.
What this talks about is substitution—that this is done in place of that. The lamb is sacrificed in place of the death of the sinner. That is crucial to understand who Jesus is.
So, I’ve changed these up a little bit, added a little bit, from last week.
Fundamentally, worship is not to be seen by men. Later it will be, but initially, up until you get to Abraham—to some degree Noah, but Noah is seen by everybody, which is seven other people, so we’re not talking about a huge group—the first time you see anybody publicly proclaiming at a sacrifice is Abraham in Genesis 12.
Before that, the sacrifice is personal. It’s between the individual and God, or maybe between a family group and God. It’s a sign of submission to exalt God, a sign of obedience to God, and done so that the sinner can come before God. It is recognized that that sacrifice is necessary to deal with sin.
The second thing we pointed out was that sacrifice is a gift to God. It is something we’re bringing to God. I’ve pointed out that if you’re bringing a firstborn lamb, you have to really pay attention to when the first lamb is born.
And then you have to take care of the lamb. You have to raise it. You have to make sure it’s going to be without spot or blemish, if it’s going to be a Passover lamb. You have to nurture it. You have to set it off from the rest of the flock, because you don’t want to lose it. Uh-oh, one lamb looks like another. I’ll lose sight of my firstborn. So, it costs something—a sacrifice does.
Third, as such, we see that sacrifice is the basis of fellowship with God. Genesis 8:20–21 [describes] the burnt offerings offered when Noah and his family got off of the ark. It is how we get to God.
Fourth, with Abraham, we see the sacrifice becoming a basis for proclamation of the character of God. This is new from last week, based on what we covered last week.
With Abraham, we see sacrifice becoming a basis for proclamation of the character of God, and how to have a relationship with Him. “Calling on the name of the LORD” has evangelistic tones to it.
So, what we see is that sacrifice is not something we do to impress God, but it’s made so that we can come into God’s presence. Sacrifice is not made because God needs us, but it is made because we desperately need God.
Last time I talked about Genesis 12:8. Genesis 12:8 and Genesis 21:33 are the two verses that [constitute] the parameters of Abraham’s life. [They extend] from what we know of his beginning in Genesis 12, when he calls on the name of the Lord, until we get towards the end of his life, or the end of the story, and he’s learned a lot about God in those 50 years, and he calls on “the name of the LORD, the Everlasting God.” So, he’s learning about the character of God, and proclaiming something about the character of God.
Before we go any further—and I’m just going to wait and cover this next time, because we’re already about out of time—I want to point out something else that I have learned as I’ve been thinking and dwelling on what’s going on here.
Last time I pointed something out in Genesis 12:5. “And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people whom they had acquired in Haran, and they departed to go to the land of Canaan. So they came to the land of Canaan.”
Now, here’s what’s going on, to bring it back into your mind. Abraham was not a Sumerian. Sumer is located down near the Persian Gulf, where the Tigris and Euphrates come together and then dump into the Persian Gulf. That’s where Ur of the Chaldees was. That’s where Abram is living when he is called to God.
But he is not a Sumerian. He is an Aramean. The Arameans lived up in Haran, which is northern Syria, near the border with Turkey today.
So, God appears to Abram and tells him to get out of his country, to leave his father’s house, and go to “a land I will show you.” So he left, but he took his father with him, and he took his nephew with him, and he’s going back to Haran.
So, he’s going across the Fertile Crescent. He’s going up north and west, and he goes to Haran. That’s not where God is taking him.
As far as we know, God doesn’t say anything to him again. I think for a couple of reasons. He’s not fully obedient to the Lord—he’s taken his father with him—and so he has to wait until his father dies.
His father dies while he’s there in Haran, and he departs from Haran, and he heads down south, which takes him to the Levant, which is the area on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean. And he comes down into the land of Canaan. That is where God will speak to him again.
But what I want to point out here is this statement that they had acquired these people in Haran. Literally the word for people—I pointed this out last time—the word for people is nephesh, which means their souls, their lives.
It’s just like we often talk today about—if there’s a wreck of some kind, or like when the Titanic went down—so many souls were lost.
And so, it says that he had so many souls that they had “made,” literally. It’s not that they had been “acquired.” That’s a different Hebrew word, like the Hebrew word from which the name Cain comes from: qanah. That would indicate slaves, or servants, and that’s how this is normally interpreted.
But that phrase is saying, “The souls that they had made in Haran.” That’s not the term for either purchasing slaves or having babies. Now we know they didn’t have any babies, because he and Sarah are childless. So, in what sense did they “make” souls?
They made souls by proclaiming the name of the Lord. Now this is really important. What I’m saying here is that while he’s in Haran, before God appears to him in Canaan, before you have the events of Genesis 15, Abram is already proclaiming the name of the Lord and winning converts.
By the way, this is considered the key verse, by rabbis, in the intertestamental period for Jews proselytizing to bring people into the faith. They would go to, “This is what Abraham did in Genesis 12.”
Now I want you to turn over to Genesis 15:6. This is an important verse that is often misunderstood. “And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.”
What is it that Abram believed? When did Abram believe it? This is the key verse for Abram’s salvation. He believed in the Lord, and He accounted it—God accounted it, He imputed it, or reckoned it—to Abram for righteousness.
The word here in the Hebrew is the word that refers to a calculation. It is a word that refers to adding up a series of numbers and coming to a conclusion. It’s the Hebrew word chashab, which interestingly enough in modern Hebrew refers to computers and computing. So, it’s the idea that God adds up the numbers or computes [to account righteousness] to Abraham.
Now there’s a huge discussion that goes on as to when this happened. Does this happen in Genesis 15:1–6? “After these things the Word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.’ But Abram said, ‘Lord GOD, what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?’ And behold, the word of the LORD came to him, saying, ‘This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir.’ ”
It’s not going to be Eliezer, Genesis 15:4. Then God makes a promise to Abram. He takes him outside, tells him to look at all the stars in the sky, and says, “Your descendants are going to be as innumerable as the stars in the sky.”
Then it says, “And he believed in the LORD.” Now in English it looks like what Abram is doing is he is believing God’s promise at this point, and now it is imputed to him as righteousness.
But you go to Romans 4, and Paul uses this as the benchmark passage in the Old Testament for imputation of righteousness and justification by faith alone. So, if that’s true, then you’d be forced to say, this is when Abram gets saved, which is what a lot of people say.
However, what did we just say? That’s in Genesis 15:6. Abram is making proclamation about the nature, and essence, and attributes of God in Shechem in Genesis 12:7 and 8, “… and called on the name of the LORD.”
But prior to him building that altar in Shechem, prior to his calling on the name of the Lord at Shechem, Abraham for the last 25 years in Haran has been calling on the name of the Lord and making proclamation—evangelistic proclamation in the name of the Lord—so that he has probably 1,000 people with him when he leaves Haran.
Now, how do we know that? We know that because when we get into the passage we’ll begin with next time in Genesis 14, when you have the invasion of the four kings of the east, headed up not by Chedorlaomer, but by Amraphel, who is the first one mentioned, the king of Shinar—that’s Babel, Babylon—they invade and defeat the five kings of the valley, which includes the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah.
When they go through—this army from the east comes through and ravages and destroys these towns, and takes captives, and takes booty and plunder, and heads to the north—Abram is going to go after them.
In Genesis 14:14 it says, “… he [Abram] armed his 318 trained men ….” These are warriors. So, he’s got 318 trained warriors who are of fighting age. They’re roughly between 20 and 40.
There are 318 of them. That doesn’t account for the female servants that he has, that doesn’t account for any of the old people that he has, it doesn’t account for all of their flocks and herds.
So, to have 318 trained men to serve as your private army means that you’ve probably got close to 1,000 people. It’s huge how wealthy Abram is.
Not only that, but there’s a split that occurs in Genesis 13 between Lot and Abram. Why? Because the land isn’t big enough to handle all of their flocks and their herds. They’ve got to split up and go in different directions, because they are so numerous. This is a huge group of people—Lot’s people and Abram’s people.
In Genesis 13 and 14 here, it talks about Lot. And then we’re going to get to Lot in Genesis 17. But in Genesis 15, we learn that Abram has been declared righteous by God. So, he understands what justification by faith is.
Later on, when we get to Genesis 18, God and two angels show up. They are entertained by Abraham, and they are fed and everything. Then, God has this conversation with these two angels, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I’m doing? …”
So, He discloses to Abraham what He’s going to do. He’s going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah for the depravity of their sin, which was sexual perversion, homosexuality. But that was secondary, probably, to idolatry and rejection of God, which caused them to go into all of those areas.
And Abraham starts talking to God, and he says, “Do you really have to do this? What if there were 50 righteous people in Sodom?” God says, “Well, I would save them for the 50 righteous people.” “What if there were 25, what if there were 20, what if there were 10, what if there were 7, because there’s Lot and his wife and their daughters, there’s like 4 or 5 of them.” And God says, “If there are just 5 or 6 righteous people, I will deliver them.”
Now Lot is not experientially righteous. Yet he is called “righteous Lot” in 2 Peter 2:7. Lot has compromised with the culture in the city of the plains. He hasn’t stood his ground and been separate. He’s what today we would call a “carnal believer,” and he’s in rank carnality.
But how does Abraham refer to him? As righteous. How does Peter refer to him in the New Testament? He’s righteous; he’s positionally righteous.
So, Abraham has learned that what makes the difference in the world is you have those who are declared righteous by God positionally, even though their lives may be terrible. And on the other hand, you have the wicked.
That’s how you see this contrast all through the Psalms. You have the righteous and the wicked. The righteous are righteous because of their position. We have to take it from Genesis. What makes Abraham righteous is not how good he is, but because God has imputed the righteousness of Christ to him.
That made Lot righteous also. He was immoral, he had all kinds of problems, and he compromised with the world. But he’s righteous because he, too, had trusted in the Old Testament gospel, and God had credited it to him as righteousness.
So that’s just one of our insights here as we talk about worship. It is only the righteous who can come and worship God. The sin problem has to be dealt with.
So, we’ll come back next time, and we’ll look at the new development in worship that occurs at the end of Genesis 14. That has to do with giving, and tithing, and trying to understand what is going on here in relation to this whole concept.
“Father, thank You that we can talk about these things, and we can come to understand how to interact with the culture around us on the basis of Your Word. As Peter says in 1 Peter 3:15, we need to give ‘an answer for the hope that is in [us] with gentleness and humility.’
“It is not about winning a debate—it is not about getting that debate won, and showing how right we are and how wrong somebody else is—but about helping them to understand the issues, to shed light on the fact that there is a belief system undergirding church statements, and that God is the only One who has the real answer.
“And so, the issue is never about the superficial issues, like this thing with the football players. It’s not that. It’s what do we believe? It’s focusing on what we believe, and do we believe that which counts for eternal life? We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”