“According to the eternal purpose” (Ephesians 3:11)

By Bob Myhan

Review of Parts One through Five

In the timeless recesses of eternity past, God purposed to create a being with both physical and spiritual natures that could freely choose whether or not to love its Creator. Knowing that such a being would sin against Him, He also purposed in eternity past to save him from his sins giving him eternal life.

The apostle Paul wrote,

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, to which I was appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles. (2 Tim. 1:8-11)

Paul, a bondservant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's elect and the acknowledgment of the truth which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began (Titus 1:1-2).

When man sinned, God began to reveal His eternal purpose.

Moses wrote,

So the Lord God said to the serpent: "Because you have done this, You are cursed more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you shall go, And you shall eat dust All the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel." (Gen. 3:14-15)

The seed of the serpent are the enemies of Christ (John 8:31-44) and the seed of the woman is Christ (Gal. 4:4). When God promised to put “enmity” between the serpent and the woman, He was not speaking of women being afraid of snakes. To be at enmity with Satan and the world is to be friends with God (James 4:4). Thus, He was speaking of reconciling her unto Himself.

As if the sin of Adam and Eve were a light thing, their firstborn son murdered his brother (Gen. 4:1-8).

Man continued to degenerate morally.

Now it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose. And the Lord said, "My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years." There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown. Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the Lord said, "I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them." But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. (Gen. 6:1-8)

 After the flood, man degenerated both morally and religiously (Rom. 1:18-32). God called Abram and promised to bless “all the families of the earth” in him (Gen. 12:3). This blessing would be spiritual in nature (Gal. 3:8-29).

While his father, Terah, “served other Gods” (Josh. 24:2), Abram proved himself to be a man of faith. When he was ninety-nine years old, God changed his name, Abram [“exalted father”] to Abraham [”father of a multitude”] (Gen. 17:1-6). Let us now look at...

The Faith of Abraham

There are three main statements concerning the faith of Abraham. First, He believed in [or trusted] the Lord.

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 ?" Then Abram said, "Look, You have given me no offspring; indeed one born in my house is my heir!" 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." Then He brought him outside and said, "Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them." And He said to him, "So shall your descendants be." And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness. (Gen. 15:1-6)

To fully appreciate this aspect of Abraham’s faith, consider how faith differs from knowledge and opinion.

Knowledge is derived from experience and/or reason. We know that which we have learned through our physical senses and/or mental faculties. As stated in an earlier lesson, it is through the use of his physical senses that man knows matter exists. He can handle it, taste it, see it, smell it, and hear the sounds produced by it. And it is through use of reason that man knows spirit exists. A man knows that he is not his body; there is matter—the elements which compose his body and there is spirit—the man within the body.

Faith is derived from dependable testimony. Jurors in a criminal trial, for example, do not know whether the defendant committed the crime with which he has been charged but have to decide—on the basis of evidence—whether a verdict of guilty beyond a reasonable doubt is warranted. What they decide is a matter of faith, rather than knowledge. That is, they either come to believe that he is guilty or they continue to have reasonable doubt as to his guilt.

Opinion is a position that is held in the absence of sufficient evidence to warrant knowledge or faith; there is no experience to evaluate, no premises from which to reason conclusively, and no reliable testimony to accept. To continue the analogy, one or more jurors may have an opinion as to whether or not the defendant committed the crime but can neither know nor believe that he did so, prior to hearing the testimony or seeing the evidence. A Bible example would be the case of Nicodemus. I know the Bible says he “came to Jesus by night” (John 3:1-2). I believe he “came to Jesus by night” because the Bible says so. But I do not know why he “came to Jesus by night.” Nor does the Bible provide testimony sufficient for me to believe he had this or that particular reason, though he must have had one; no sane person acts without reason.

Abraham had no earthly reason for thinking [and could not possibly have known] that his descendants would be as innumerable as the stars in the sky.

Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all (as it is written, "I have made you a father of many nations") in the presence of Him whom he believed--God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did; who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, "So shall your descendants be." And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah's womb. He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore "it was accounted to him for righteousness." ( Rom. 4:16-22)

Second, faith worked together with his works. He forsook his home, his family and his religion (Josh. 24:1-2; Acts 7:2-3; Heb. 11:8). He sojourned in the land of promise, never owning any of it during his lifetime (Heb. 11:9-10), except for the cave of Machpelah , which he purchased as burial place for Sarah (Gen. 23:1-20). He offered up the son of promise without question (Heb. 11:17-19). Though Isaac was not in fact killed, he was as good as dead till the angel stopped Abraham’s hand (Gen. 22:10-12).

Third, by works was his faith made perfect. There are degrees of faith: dead faith (James 2:14-20, 26); little faith [or weak faith] (Matt. 14:25-31; Rom. 4:19) and great faith, which is made perfect through works of obedience (Matt. 8:5-10; 15:28; James 2:21-23). This is the faith of Abraham. We, too, must have this faith.

And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also, and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised. ( Rom. 4:11-12)

[To be continued]