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ABRAHAM – A TYPE OF REAL CONVERSION

(SERMON #62 ON THE BOOK OF GENESIS)

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, July 3, 2011

“Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee” (Genesis 12:1).

“And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:6).

“And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect” (Genesis 17:1).


Dr. A. B. Simpson (1843-1919) said that “Abraham’s faith...is indeed, the archetype of faith for all time. Hence the patriarch has been called ‘the father of all who believe,’ Romans 4:11” (A. B. Simpson, D.D., The Christ in the Bible Commentary: Old Testament, Wing Spread Publishers, 2009 reprint, p. 78).

I agree with Dr. Simpson on this point. Abraham is “the archetype [the main type and example] of faith for all time.” The Apostle Paul spoke of those “who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham” (Romans 4:12). That is my subject tonight, “Abraham – a Type of Real Conversion.” By the “steps of faith,” I mean what Spurgeon said, “We come to faith by degrees...usually we reach faith by stages” (C. H. Spurgeon, Around the Wicket Gate, Pilgrim Publications, 1992 reprint, p. 57).

In this sermon I will give the three main texts in Genesis that show the real conversion of the patriarch Abraham.

I. First, the call of Abraham.

Please turn to the first text again, and read it aloud,

“Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee” (Genesis 12:1).

God called Abram “when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran, And said unto him, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall shew thee” (Acts 7:2-3).

God had called Abram out of the dark, pagan idolatry of Ur of the Chaldees. But Abram had not fully obeyed God. Genesis 12:1 says, “Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house...” (Genesis 12:1). Instead, Abram only partly obeyed God. He left Ur, but he did not leave behind his idol-worshipping father. Instead he took Terah and his nephew Lot with him. And instead of going to Canaan, he stopped at Haran, and stayed there until his father died (see Genesis 11:31-32). Arthur W. Pink said, “The call of Abram shows us the starting point of the life of faith. The first requirement is separation from the world...There is no record of Abram receiving any further revelation until [God’s] call had been fully obeyed...It is not until there is real separation from the world that fellowship with God [through Christ] is possible” (Arthur W. Pink, Gleanings in Genesis, Moody Press, 1981 edition, pp. 141, 143, 144).

What an example this is for us today! In Pilgrim’s Progress John Bunyan told of an unsaved man who was called, like Abram was, but he had to leave the “City of Destruction,” and his own family, on his pilgrimage toward salvation in Christ.

God has “called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (I Peter 2:9). “Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4). “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate... and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (II Corinthians 6:17-18). This, of course, does not mean joining a monastery, or having no contact whatever with the world. Jesus said,

“I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil” (John 17:15).

Many times we see young people wavering back and forth, as Abram did. They want to live in two worlds, with a set of lost friends during the week, and a set of Christian friends on the weekends. Then they wonder why they remain unconverted! The reason is simple. They must say with Fanny Crosby (1820-1915), “Take the world, but give me Jesus.” Sing it!

Take the world, but give me Jesus,
   All its joys are but a name;
But His love abideth ever,
   Through eternal years the same.
(“Take the World, But Give Me Jesus” by Fanny Crosby, 1820-1915).

You must have that attitude, “Take the world, but give me Jesus,” or you will never be converted!

Jesus said, “Many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14). Only those who are effectually called, as was Abram, will be part of “A chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (I Peter 2:9). To the “many” the call of God falls on deaf ears. “For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14). As A. W. Pink put it, “There is no record of Abram receiving any further revelation from God until His call had been fully obeyed” (Pink, ibid., p. 143).

II. Second, the justification of Abraham.

Please turn to our second text, in Genesis 15:6. Let us stand and read it aloud,

“And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:6).

You may be seated. I cannot take time in this brief sermon to give you all the details of Abraham’s life. I am just lifting out the three most important verses in Genesis, to show “the steps of that faith of our father Abraham” (Romans 4:12).

Here, in Genesis 15:6, we come to the moment when Abram was justified. This is an extremely important verse. It is quoted three times in the New Testament, in Romans 4:3; Galatians 3:6, and James 2:23.

Many commentators say that Abram was justified by believing the promise in verse five. But Abram believed that promise enough to obey God’s call long before Genesis 15:6, for we are told in Hebrews 11:8,

“By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed [though he was not yet saved]; and he went out, not knowing whither he went” (Hebrews 11:8).

But in Genesis 15:6 we are told something new. Before this, Abram had believed in the existence of the Lord, and had even haltingly obeyed the Lord by the dim light of the faith that he had, which Spurgeon called “faith before faith” – that is, enlightenment or illumination before one is actually regenerated and converted.

Yet in Genesis 15:6 we have something new. Abram not only believed the “promise.” More importantly, “He believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). He did not just believe the promise! Oh, no! “He believed in the Lord.” C. F. Keil translates the Hebrew as, “He believed in Jehovah, and he counted it to him for righteousness.” Dr. Keil also said that Abram did not just assent to what God said, but actually trusted the Lord, “as a firm inward, personal, self-surrendering reliance upon a personal being... ‘to believe on the Lord,’ to trust Him” (C. F. Keil, Ph.D., Commentary on the Old Testament in Ten Volumes, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1973 reprint, volume I, p. 212).

It is not enough to believe things about God or Christ. You must actually believe in Christ Himself to be justified in the sight of God. As the passage in Romans four puts it,

“For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” (Romans 4:3-5).

When you believe “on him” your faith is “counted for righteousness” (Romans 4:5).

This is what Abram did that day, but not before that day, for we read in Genesis 15:18, “In the same day [the same day ‘he believed in the Lord’] the Lord made a covenant with Abram.”

In John 3:18 we read these words, “He that believeth on him is not condemned” (John 3:18). The Greek word translated “on” is “eis.” It means “motion into a place or thing” (Zodhiates). Your faith must be moved into Jesus, at the right hand of God in Heaven. Again the Bible says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved (Acts 16:31). The Greek word translated “on” here is “epi,” It means “upon” (Strong). The idea here is that you throw yourself upon Jesus. Literally “Believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31). To have your sins pardoned, and to be counted righteous, you must be drawn “into” Jesus (union with Christ), and believe “upon” Him. Throw yourself on Jesus as a man throws himself out of the window of a burning building “into” and “upon” the net that firemen have spread below to catch him as he falls. Throw yourself “into” and “upon” Jesus Christ! “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31). That is what Abram did that day. “He believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:6).

My faith has found a resting place,
   Not in device or creed;
I trust the ever living One,
   His wounds for me shall plead.
(“No Other Plea” by Lidie H. Edmunds, 1851-1920).

Although I disagree with Dr. John MacArthur on “incarnational Sonship” and the Blood of Jesus, I agree with his note on Genesis 15:6. He said that when Abraham “believed in the Lord,” “Abram was regenerated [born again] by faith!” (The MacArthur Study Bible, Word Bibles, 1997, p. 36; note on Genesis 15:6). He’s exactly right on this! But there is one more point to be brought out about Abram, from our third text in Genesis.

III. Third, the sanctification of Abraham.

God effectually called Abram. God regenerated and justified Abram. And then God “appeared” to Abram again and called him to live a sanctified life. Please stand and turn to Genesis 17:1, and read it aloud.

“And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect” (Genesis 17:1).

You may be seated. Spurgeon gave this explanation of Genesis 17:1. He said,

      We [began] our exposition of the life of Abram with his calling, when he was brought out of Ur of the Chaldees, and separated unto the Lord in Canaan. We then passed on to his justification, when he believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness; and now...we continue the same subject to a further stage...In the chapter before us [Genesis 17] we see his sanctification unto the Lord...as a vessel fitted for the Master’s use. All the [effectually] called are justified, and all the justified are by the Holy Ghost sanctified...
      Let me remind you of the order in which these blessings come. If we should speak of sanctification or consecration, it is not as a first thing, but as an elevation to be reached by preceding stepping stones. In vain do men pretend to be consecrated to God before they are called [by] God’s Spirit... They must learn what this meaneth, “Ye must be born again,” for assuredly until men are brought into spiritual life [by] the Holy Spirit, all their talk about serving God may be answered by Joshua, “Ye cannot serve the Lord.” I speak of consecration, but it is not as a first thing, nor even as a second thing, for a man must be justified by faith which is in Christ Jesus, or he will not possess the grace which is the root of all true sanctity; for sanctification grows out of faith in Jesus Christ. Remember holiness is not a flower but a root; it is not sanctification that saves, but salvation that sanctifies. A man is not saved by his holiness, but becomes holy because he is already saved...Consecration to God follows calling and justification (C. H. Spurgeon, “Consecration to God – Illustrated by Abraham’s Circumcision,” The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Pilgrim Publications, 1976 reprint, volume XIV, pp. 685-686; on Genesis 17:1-2).

A person who has had a false conversion cannot “walk before God, and be...perfect [upright, sincere, Scofield].” Sooner or later it will become evident that he never experienced a real conversion. Only those who have been effectually called, and justified by real union with Christ, will be able to walk before God, and grow by the grace of God into men and women who are enabled to live for God throughout their lives. Those who only “got the words right” in their “testimonies” will eventually fall away, and become Christians in name only, or worse. Do not try to learn the “right words”! Do not even try to have the “right feelings.” “Right” words and “right” feelings cannot save you! Not at all! Seek for Jesus Himself! Only Jesus Himself can justify you and give you grace to live the Christian life. No one made this clearer than the Apostle Paul in Romans 5:1-5,

“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Romans 5:1-5).

(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Romans 4:1-5.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“No Other Plea” (by Lidie H. Edmunds, 1851-1920).


THE OUTLINE OF

ABRAHAM – A TYPE OF REAL CONVERSION

(SERMON #62 ON THE BOOK OF GENESIS)

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee” (Genesis 12:1).

“And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:6).

“And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect” (Genesis 17:1).

(Romans 4:11, 12)

I.   First, the call of Abraham, Genesis 12:1; Acts 7:2-3; I Peter 2:9;
James 4:4; II Corinthians 6:17-18; John 17:15; Matthew 22:14.

II.  Second, the justification of Abraham, Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:12;
Hebrews 11:8; Romans 4:3-5; Genesis 15:18; John 3:18; Acts 16:31.

III. Third, the sanctification of Abraham, Genesis 17:1; Romans 5:1-5.