Genesis 15:1-6 After
these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, "Do not
fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; Your reward shall be very great." Abram said,
"O Lord God, what will You give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my
house is Eliezer of Damascus?" And Abram said, "Since You have given no
offspring to me, one born in my house is my heir." Then behold, the word of the
Lord came to him, saying, "This man will not be your heir; but one who will come
forth from your own body, he shall be your heir." And He took him outside and
said, "Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to
count them." And He said to him, "So shall your descendants be." Then he
believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.
Psalm 32:1-7 How blessed is he whose
transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered! How blessed is the man to whom
the Lord does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit! When
I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away Through my groaning all day
long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was drained
away as with the fever heat of summer. I acknowledged my sin to You, And my
iniquity I did not hide; I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the Lord";
And You forgave the guilt of my sin. Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray
to You in a time when You may be found; Surely in a flood of great waters they
will not reach him. You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble; You
surround me with songs of deliverance.
Romans 4:1-1 What then shall we say that
Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? For if Abraham was
justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For
what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him
as righteousness." Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a
favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him
who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, just as David
also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart
from works: "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, And whose
sins have been covered. "Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take
into account." Is this blessing then on the circumcised, or on the uncircumcised
also? For we say, "Faith was credited to Abraham as righteousness." How then was
it credited? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised,
but while uncircumcised; and he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the
righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised, so that he might be
the father of all who believe without being circumcised, that righteousness
might be credited to them, and the father of circumcision to those who not only
are of the circumcision, but who also follow in the steps of the faith of our
father Abraham which he had while uncircumcised.
- One of the reasons we think religious acceptance is so tough today is
this: We have a poor understanding of how tough religious acceptance was in
the first century.
- Jewish Christians simply could not accept as truth and fact that God
could accept idol worshippers in a forgiveness relationship without going
through Judaism, the law, and proselytism.
- If you will consider a little insight into a huge problem, listen to
the difficulty voiced in these three statements from the Bible.
- Acts 11:1-3 Now the apostles and the brethren who were throughout
Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. And
when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those who were circumcised took issue
with him, saying, "You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them."
- This was the manner in which Peter was greeted by Christians when
he returned to Jerusalem after baptizing the non-Jew Cornelius.
- Cornelius was a god fearer--a devout man who feared God, gave alms
to poor Jews, and prayed to Jehovah God daily. This was not a man who
worshipped idols and did not know who God was!
- The issue was more fundamental than baptism: "You had table
fellowship with him--you know no Jew can do that!"
- If Jews cannot even associate with them, how can God forgive them?
- Acts 15:1-5 Some men came down from Judea and
began teaching the brethren, "Unless you are circumcised according to
the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved." And when Paul and Barnabas
had great dissension and debate with them, the brethren determined that
Paul and Barnabas and some others of them should go up to Jerusalem to
the apostles and elders concerning this issue. Therefore, being sent on
their way by the church, they were passing through both Phoenicia and
Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and were
bringing great joy to all the brethren. When they arrived at Jerusalem,
they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders, and
they reported all that God had done with them. But some of the sect of
the Pharisees who had believed stood up, saying, "It is necessary to
circumcise them and to direct them to observe the Law of Moses."
- Paul and Barnabas returned from their 1st missionary journey
[which God directed them to go on] in which they converted gentiles.
- They returned to a huge argument in the gentile church who sent
them out: the argument was from Jewish Christians from Judea [likely
Jerusalem] with Christians [the church] in Antioch [likely the first
- Paul and Barnabas could not settle the argument!
- The matter had to be referred to the apostles in Jerusalem.
- When the matter was discussed, some Pharisee Christians said
gentile Christians must be circumcised and keep the law of
Moses! Such compliance was not an option!
- Acts 21:17-26 After we arrived in Jerusalem,
the brethren received us gladly. And the following day Paul went in with
us to James, and all the elders were present. After he had greeted them,
he began to relate one by one the things which God had done among the
Gentiles through his ministry. And when they heard it they began
glorifying God; and they said to him, "You see, brother, how many
thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed, and they
are all zealous for the Law; and they have been told about you, that you
are teaching all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses,
telling them not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to
the customs. What, then, is to be done? They will certainly hear that
you have come. Therefore do this that we tell you. We have four men who
are under a vow; take them and purify yourself along with them, and pay
their expenses so that they may shave their heads; and all will know
that there is nothing to the things which they have been told about you,
but that you yourself also walk orderly, keeping the Law. But concerning
the Gentiles who have believed, we wrote, having decided that they
should abstain from meat sacrificed to idols and from blood and from
what is strangled and from fornication." Then Paul took the men, and the
next day, purifying himself along with them, went into the temple giving
notice of the completion of the days of purification, until the
sacrifice was offered for each one of them.
- Paul and his company were well received by the leadership of the
Jerusalem church--the leader obviously had an understanding of
evangelism among gentiles that many of the typical members did not
- The leaders also had a problem: how were they going to dispel
false rumors about Paul's work among gentiles?
- They encouraged Paul to demonstrate his Jewish ways [which he did
not bind on gentiles] to try to dispel false accusations believed by
the Christian community among the Jews and in Jerusalem.
- Paul did as they requested, and there is no note of objection.
- Jews did not have to stop being Jews and gentiles did not have to
stop being gentiles [culturally] for either of them to be Christians.
- In his letter to the Christians living in Rome, Paul affirmed there was
[and always had been] a relationship with God in which God ignored some
- That had been the case in the lives of two of the most prominent
Israelite ancestors the Jewish nation celebrated.
- It was true in Abraham's life before he was circumcised.
- It was true in King David's life when he had his affair with
- It was true in David's life when he had Uriah killed.
- Leviticus 20:10 If there is a man who
commits adultery with another man's wife, one who commits adultery
with his friend's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely
be put to death.
- Leviticus 24:17 If a man takes the life of
any human being, he shall surely be put to death.
- Yet, the prophet Nathan told David:
- 2 Samuel 12:13 Then David said to Nathan, "I
have sinned against the Lord." And Nathan said to David, "The Lord
also has taken away your sin; you shall not die."
- "Wait a minute! We are talking about adultery and murder here!"
- Yes, but it clearly stated God took his sin away, and he would not
- Were there consequences from his act? Absolutely! And they were
- Yet, God forgave him.
- God can forgive an offense against Him [and does!] but the offense
can set in motion consequences in the world that continue even when
forgiveness is given.
- If you doubt God's ability to forgive by refusing to acknowledge
sin, take note of two facts.
- David kept Bathsheba as a wife.
- The next king of Israel was Solomon who was the son of David and
- There is a relationship with God in which God ignores a
person's sins [which is what forgiveness is basically about!]
- Rules keeping is not relationship.
- Relationship is much deeper than rules keeping.
- Obedience involves much more than keeping some rules.
- Repentance is about relationship.
- Repentance involves the realization of an injustice that hurts and
offends the God who loves you.
- Repentance involves returning love to Someone who loves you dearly.
- Repentance is not about 'jumping through hoops' to complete some
divine obstacle course.
- Repentance is about loving enough to regret offenses, about
redirecting life because 'I have been offensive to Someone who has
treated me kindly.'
- Who needs this forgiveness in which God does not hold us accountable for a
- We all do!
- Do you actually think you are aware, fully knowledgeable of every way
available to you to offend God?
- Have you never learned something in which you did evil that previously
you did not realize any evil was involved?
- John acknowledged God's solution to our sinfulness in 1 John 1:5-10 when
he declared that God cleanses us from ALL sin through Jesus Christ and
cleanses us from ALL unrighteousness if we confess our sins (that which we
know to confess).
- Who needs God's solution?
- We all do!
- Thank God He forgives me of matters I am yet to realize! If He did
not, none of us would stand a chance!
- Does that give me a license to knowingly be irresponsible in matters
- It gives me hope as I seek to follow God's will.
- I cannot be perfect, but I can be honest when I fail God.
- To whom does God attribute righteousness?
- To the person who in faith repents!
- We do not live as we please deliberately remaining in ignorance so we
can do as we please!
- We seek God's will!
- Life for every Christian is a constant redirection as we understand
more completely what a godly life is about.
- Only people who understand God brings the best out of them repent!
God has a special appreciation for the man or woman [Christian] who: (1)
assumes a sense of personal responsibility when he or she fails [guilt]; (2) is
honest about his or her failure [confesses the mistake!]; and (3) learns from
the failure [redirects life, repents]. That special appreciation from God is
expressed in His forgiveness that refuses to acknowledge the sin.
Our commitment must be to develop that type of relationship with God!
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 2 April 2006
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