Part Two


The standard for identifying the kind of faith that God wants people to have is the faith that is seen in Abraham. Rare is the person who equals the faith that Abraham developed. No one surpasses the faith that Abraham developed.

That fact is incredible for two reasons. First, Abraham had none of the advantages of Israel in the Old Testament or Christians in the New Testament. Abraham had no scripture. Not one book of the Bible had been written at the time that Abraham lived. He could not develop faith by reading or studying what God had said.

Abraham had no history of God's activity. Israel could look back at the plagues in Egypt, the Passover, the Red Sea crossing, the wilderness experiences, and the conquest of Canaan. Abraham had no such history to look at. Christians can look back at the birth of Jesus, the ministry of Jesus, the death of Jesus, the resurrection of Jesus, and the early church. Abraham had nothing to look back upon. God spoke to Abraham, and he placed his trust and confidence in God and His promises.

Second, from our perspective, Abraham would make an incredible example of obedience. He left his home and homeland. He wandered as a nomad in a dangerous land. He had the willingness to sacrifice Isaac, the son God promised him, on an altar. Yet, only the book of James uses Abraham as an example of obedience, and even James uses Abraham's obedience to help his readers properly understand faith.

In Romans chapter four, Paul used Abraham as the basic proof that God makes a person righteous through the person's faith.

Last week we examined two of the four statements that declare the righteous shall live by faith: Habakkuk 2:4 and Romans 1:16,17. Tonight we want to look at the two additional statements that affirm the righteous shall live by faith: Galatians 3:11 and Hebrews 10:38.

  1. Consider the context and point of that statement in Galatians 3:11.
    1. First, consider the situation that moved Paul to write this letter to these congregations.
      1. Shortly after Paul left the area, Jewish Christians visited these non-Jewish congregations and told these non-Jewish converts that they were not God's children.
        1. It was easy for Jewish Christians to make these converts question their salvation.
        2. Many of the converts knew nothing about the scriptures that we call the Old Testament, knew little about the living God prior to conversion, and did not have the Jews' rich religious heritage.
        3. Their Jewish teachers had seemingly everything--knowledge of scripture, knowledge of God, and religious heritage.
        4. The Jewish Christians could easily overwhelm and intimidate these new converts.
      2. As a result, the new converts left the message of Christ for the law of Moses.
        1. They were told that the law of Moses was the starting point for salvation.
        2. And they believed these teachers--their credentials and backgrounds were impressive.
    2. Please follow the flow of Paul's thoughts in the letter; his argument is very easy to follow.
      1. (1:6-10) I am astounded that you were so easily moved away from the message about Christ to a different, counterfeit message.
      2. (1:11-24) What I taught you came to me directly from Jesus, and these facts are the proof (he then gives them factual information).
      3. (2:1-10) In Jerusalem, the apostles themselves acknowledged that God sent us to the non-Jews just like He sent Peter to the Jews.
        1. At that time, the apostles gave us the right hand of fellowship (full approval) regarding our work among the non-Jews.
        2. They did not ask us to change a single thing that we were teaching.
      4. (2:11-21) Later, the apostle Peter visited the non-Jewish congregation in Antioch of Syria.
        1. As long as he was by himself, he treated those Christians who are also non-Jews as equals.
        2. But when other Jews from Jerusalem came, he treated those Christians as though they were second-class Christians.
        3. I confronted him to his face and told him that he was wrong.
        4. I told him that he had no right to expect non-Jewish Christians to follow Jewish ordinances that he himself had rejected.
        5. The law does not justify any person; faith in Jesus Christ justifies every Christian.
        6. I have been crucified with Christ.
        7. He lives in me.
        8. I live by faith in him.
      5. (3:1-14) Who cast a spell on you and blinded you to the crucified Jesus?
        1. You need to consider the answers to some questions.
        2. Did you receive the Spirit from the law or by faith?
        3. Are you foolish enough to believe that your spiritual existence begins in the Spirit and achieves maturity by the deeds of your fleshly body?
        4. We taught you a great personal sacrifice; did we make our sacrifices for nothing?
        5. Give serious consideration to the presence of the Spirit and the miraculous works that are occurring among you--have they happened because of the law or because of faith in Christ?
        6. Don't you understand that God regarded Abraham to be righteous because of his faith?
          1. Please understand that the person who has faith in Christ is the true descendant of Abraham.
          2. God has always intended to justify non-Jews through faith in Christ.
          3. Faith is the avenue to blessings.
          4. The law is the avenue to the curse.
        7. This fact is clearly evident: no one can be justified by the law.
          1. The righteous shall live by faith.
          2. Living by the law places a person under the curse.
          3. Christ redeems us from the curse when we live by faith in him.
          4. When the non-Jew has faith in Christ, all the blessings God promised Abraham come to the non-Jew.
        8. Then Paul made these points in 3:23-29:
          1. The law has served the purpose God intended and is no longer needed.
          2. We don't need the law because we have Christ.
          3. Faith in Christ produces children of God.
          4. Baptism into Christ destroys all distinctions.
          5. Belonging to Christ makes any person a descendant of Abraham.

  2. Now consider the use of, "The righteous shall live by faith," in Hebrews 10:38.
    1. The situation that prompted the message of Hebrews:
      1. Long-term suffering as Christians caused these Christians to consider forsaking Christianity and returning to Judaism.
        1. They were considering leaving Jesus Christ but remaining with God.
        2. They would belong to the same God, but they would serve Him through Judaism.
      2. The declaration of this writing:
        1. You can't do that--if you leave Christ you leave God.
        2. The first nine chapters to verify that Jesus was superior to Judaism, the Levitical priesthood, and the law, and that Jesus was essential.
    2. Consider the thought flow in chapter ten.
      1. The chapter begins with the shadow illustration (10:1-9).
        1. A shadow is not the object, not the reality.
        2. The shadow only tells you that the object, the reality exists--even if you cannot see it.
        3. The law was the shadow.
        4. Christ was the reality.
      2. Then the author contrasted the sacrifices commanded by the law on the Jewish day of atonement (Leviticus 16) with the sacrificial death of Jesus.
        1. The sacrifices on the day of atonement, again, were the shadow.
          1. They had to be offered without fail every year on the same day.
          2. They could not permanently solve the problem of sin in the lives of the people.
          3. They could not produce permanent forgiveness.
        2. Jesus' sacrifice of his life and blood on the cross was the reality.
          1. He offered it once and sat down by the King, God.
          2. With the one sacrifice of himself he made holy, permanently, all those who accept his sacrifice.
          3. God promised before Jesus came:
            1. That God would put His laws in people's hearts and minds.
            2. That God would not remember those people's sins.
          4. Since this perfect forgiveness exists, there is no need for another sacrifice.
      3. When Christians understand this, they will make closeness to God their first priority (10:19-25).
        1. Because of Jesus' blood, we can enter God's personal holy place with confidence.
        2. Jesus himself opened the way into God's holy place.
        3. Jesus himself is our high priest in that holy place.
        4. Because this is true:
          1. Let us draw near God in the full assurance of faith because we have been cleansed.
          2. Let us refuse to turn loose of the confession of our hope.
          3. Let us stimulate each other to love and to good works.
          4. Let us not withdraw from Christians--let us assemble with Christians.
      4. Apostasy, the decision to reject and forsake Christ, was unthinkable (10:26-31).
        1. If we reject Jesus and return to our pre-Christian life, we forfeit Jesus' sacrifice for our sins.
        2. If we do that, the only thing we can expect from God is fiery vengeance.
        3. Under the law of Moses a person was executed on the testimony of two or three witnesses (that seemed harsh).
        4. How much worse will the punishment be for a Christian who rejects Christ? By the act of rejecting Jesus:
          1. He treats Jesus' dead body with contempt.
          2. He treats Jesus' blood with contempt.
          3. He insults God's goodness, His Spirit of grace.
          4. This person's punishment will be too severe to imagine!
          5. He will fall into God's hands and suffer God's vengeance.
      5. Please remember your Christian past (10:32-39).
        1. Remember your willingness to suffer when you became a Christian.
        2. It was okay:
          1. To be laughed at and ridiculed in public.
          2. To be insulted and abused.
          3. To stand with those who were treated with contempt.
        3. You were not ashamed of fellow Christians who were sent to prison.
        4. You rejoiced when your property was confiscated.
        5. You knew that you had something better, something eternal.
        6. Don't throw away your confidence (your faith in Christ)--that is the path to your reward.
          1. You just need to endure.
          2. When you have done God's will, you will receive the reward that He promised.
        7. Remember: the righteous shall live by faith.
          1. They don't shrink back.
          2. We are not shrinkers.
          3. We are people of faith.
      6. They needed to remember that the real issue was not finding a painless way to be religious; the real issue was faith in Christ.

  3. Someone asks, "Does James in James 2:14-26 contradict what Habakkuk, Paul, and the book of Hebrews said?"
    1. No, James does not contradict the fact that the righteous shall live by faith.
    2. In some ways, people have not changed.
      1. There always have been religious people who wanted to place their confidence and trust in themselves and their works.
        1. The majority of the people of Israel in the Old Testament and New Testament fit that category.
        2. These people placed their faith in what they did as they obeyed the commandments of the law.
        3. Paul and the book of Hebrews was speaking to them: their faith must be in Christ, not in themselves.
      2. There are always those who accept the statement that the righteous shall live by faith, but draw the wrong conclusion from that fact.
        1. They conclude, since righteousness comes by faith, that a person has no responsibility to serve and be obedient.
        2. Their concept of faith is just as much in error as the first group.
        3. James spoke to these people to inform them that the faith that makes one righteous is also the faith that reveals its existence and life by working.

The faith that makes a person righteous is the faith that places its trust and confidence in God, not in oneself, not in what one does.

But the faith that makes a person righteous is also living, active, serving, obedient, expressive. Because I trust God, I serve God. Because I trust Christ, I serve Christ.

The most obedient Christian is the person who understands that he or she is righteous through faith. The hardest working Christian, the dedicated servant, the most committed believer, the most sacrificial child of God is the person who understands that he is righteous through faith.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 27 April 1997
previous next in series

 Link to next sermon

 Link to other Writings of David Chadwell