READ | SERMON NOTES
Summary l Abraham, the father of all believers, led a life that is not totally blameless. Following God’s call and promise to make him into a great nation, at 75 years of age, Abraham left in obedience to God’s call but took matters into his own hands when his wife Sarai did not conceive. At 86, he fathered a child through Hagar, Sarai’s maidservant. Eventually at 99, God’s promised son to Abraham through Sarai was born. Twice he lied about Sarai being his sister to save himself. Abraham saved Lot, gave Lot the first choice of land, and bargained with God to spare Sodom and Gomorrah from destruction. Abraham was not justified by what he did but because he believed God, it was credited to him as righteousness (Rm 4:3, Gen 12:6). What God promised to Abraham still stands for us today (Rm 4:23).
Two words appear many times in Paul’s writings and the New Testament:
1) Credit – an accounting term which means reckon, account, compute, calculate
2) Righteousness – generally means a condition or state that is acceptable to God. Characterised by integrity, virtue, purity of life, uprightness, and correctness in thinking, feeling and acting, it is a character of God that belongs to God, which is bestowed on Christians impartially.
Righteousness cannot be earned through good works or obedience to the Law (V4,5) because we can never do enough or be good enough to meet God’s standards. Righteousness is God’s gift to those who trust God, the only one who can justify the ungodly by His grace.
Circumcision is not a condition for our salvation. When Abraham received God’s promise and favour, he was not circumcised (V11). He received circumcision later as a sign of the righteousness God gave him. Likewise, we receive water baptism as commanded by Jesus in response to His grace and to proclaim our commitment to Him. Even those raised in Christian homes need to make their personal commitment to God and not rely on their parents’ faith for salvation. Infant baptism is practised in the Methodist church for parents to undertake commitment to raise their children in the fear of the Lord. When the children reach the age of 16, they are to undergo confirmation to personally affirm their faith in God.
Teachings that one can qualify for heaven by being and doing good, or naming and claiming God’s promises without consideration for the cost of discipleship, are contrary to the Bible’s teachings. We do good and seek holiness as a response to God’s grace, and to honour God, and not to earn a place in heaven. God’s promises to His disciples entail the cost of discipleship, which is bearing the cross of suffering and sacrifice.
Abraham is an example of faith and obedience. Let us boast not in what we can do apart from God but in God’s righteousness imputed to us when we humbly acknowledge our sinfulness and need for God.
(Sermon notes by Woo Choi Yin)
PONDER | REFLECTION QUESTIONS
- In Romans 4:3, the Apostle Paul quoted Genesis 15:6 & 12 that “Abraham believed God, and it was credited (Greek: ἐλογίσθη elogisthē) to him as righteousness” (NIV). What do you think are the common difficulties and struggles in accepting this truth for yourself?
- A recent survey mentioned in the sermon showed that among the U.S. adult Christians affiliated with churches whose official doctrine is “eternal salvation comes only from embracing Jesus Christ as saviour”, large proportions of them believe that a person can qualify for heaven by being or doing good. Do you agree or disagree with this perception? Why or why not?
- What are the implications of faith for a person born in a family with a ‘noted’ Christian legacy, e.g. whose parents or forefathers are serving or served in prominent Christian ministry roles?
- In this season of your life, has God called you to serve Him in a new or broader ministry capacity? What are some of the ‘humanly impossible realities’ that you need to trust God to work through?