Sacrifice: The Sign of Justification and Belief

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Rome. More specifically today’s passage is found in the fourth and fifth chapters of this New Testament book. “What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. 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 jusfiieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? For we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. How was it then reckoned? When he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also: and the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised” (Romans 4:1-13).

 

            “For the promise, that he should be heir of the world, was not to Abraham , or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect: because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression. Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is oof the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all, (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were. Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations; according to that which was spoken, so shall thy seed be. And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was  about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara’s womb: he staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; and being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification” (Romans 4:14-25).

 

            “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. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement” (Romans 5:1-11).

 

            “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification. For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 5:12-21).

 

            When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find the apostle Paul shifting the epistle written unto the saints of Rome to discussing the life of Abraham. Up to this point the apostle Paul had emphatically and unreservedly declared unto the saints of Rome that men and women were not justified according to works of the Law of Moses. What’s more is the apostle Paul also declared and wrote unto these saints that circumcision of the flesh avails absolutely nothing in terms of justification in the sight of the living God. There would be those who would think and even believe that circumcision was necessary in order for one to be saved and would even teach and preach such a reality. When the apostle Paul and Barnabas returned unto Antioch after their missionary journey throughout the region preaching and teaching the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus there were certain Jews who entered in among them preaching that unless one was circumcised they could not be saved. Luke writes and records how there was a great dispute and dissension that arose between the brethren in the midst of the church at Antioch and how as a direct result of this they would send Paul and Barnabas unto Jerusalem and unto the apostles and brethren concerning the matter. When the apostle Paul and Barnabas came unto the city of Jerusalem and spoke of them of the wonderful works the Lord Jesus had done among the Gentiles we find certain of the Pharisees which believed also declaring that unless one was circumcised in the flesh they would and could not be saved.

 

            This concept of being circumcised in one’s flesh as a means of salvation is a concept we must needs recognize and understand for it would be part of the main and underlying teaching of the apostle Paul during his life in Christ. The apostle Paul would teach and preach in the cities and places he journeyed that circumcision did in fact avail nothing in the sight and presence of the living God. For the apostle Paul circumcision was not something which was needed for one to be justified in the sight of the living God and he would spend a considerable amount of time preaching unto both Jews and Gentiles concerning this reality. Pause for a moment and think about what it would have been like for a Jew to hear such words concerning circumcision knowing that you had been circumcised all your life. Imagine being a Jewish male who knew that you had been circumcised in your flesh and actually believed that it had merit in the sight of the living God only to find and discover that it was not necessary for justification. Moreover I can’t help but imagine what it was like to be a Gentile to hear these words the apostle Paul would preach and come face to face with the tremendous truth that one could be justified without having to take upon themselves the mark of circumcision in the flesh. Even more than this the apostle Paul would declare that true circumcision was not that of the flesh in one’s outward appearance but was inward and found in the heart according to the Spirit. For the apostle Paul the only true circumcision that was necessary was the circumcision of the heart which was performed within and upon the inner man.

 

            The more you read the words which are found in the epistles written by the apostle Paul the more you will not only get a sense of that which he taught and preached during his missionary journeys but you will also catch a glimpse of both how and why certain Jews in the cities and regions he journeyed took such great offense to his preaching. If you read the New Testament book of Acts you will how unbelieving Jews in certain of the cities whereunto the apostle Paul journeyed not only blasphemed but also opposed themselves upon hearing the words which the apostle Paul preached. There were certain Jews in some of the cities the apostle Paul journeyed who heard the apostle preach that circumcision availed nothing in matters of salvation and justification in the sight of the living God and were absolutely outraged and infuriated by the thought. There were certain Jews in the cities and regions the apostle Paul journeyed who would be completely and utterly incensed at the apostle Paul whom they felt was personally attacking circumcision in the flesh and thus attacking and assaulting generations of teaching and belief among the Jews. Ever since Abraham Jewish males were circumcised in their flesh and they viewed and understood it as a mark of pleasing the living God. During the days of the New Covenant, however, the apostles would preach and teach that circumcision availed little to nothing in the kingdom of God and that it was not necessary for one to be saved. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous truth surrounding the teaching and preaching of the apostle Paul concerning circumcision in one’s flesh. For the apostle Paul circumcision was neither necessary nor appropriate for salvation and justification in the sight of the living God and mattered little in the kingdom of heaven.

 

            As I continue in this New Testament epistle which was written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Rome I am brought face to face with the incredibly powerful truth surrounding the words of the apostle Paul concerning the Law of Moses. For the apostle Paul he believed, taught and preached that one was not justified according to the Law of Moses nor according to works of the Law. The apostle Paul believed that man was not justified according to works of the Law and that the Law was indeed a schoolmaster intended to pronounce men guilty in the sight of the Lord rather than actually offer salvation for them. From the time of Moses all the way through the time of the judges, the kings, the prophets, and even Jesus and the apostles the Law would be at the very center of the Jewish psyche as they would devote their entire lives—not only to reading and studying the Law but also adhering to and following it. For the Jews the Law of Moses—and not only the Law of Moses—but also adhering to and obeying the Law of Moses would and could place one in right standing in the sight of the living God. The truth of the matter, however, is that under the new covenant after the sacrifice and offering of the Lord Jesus Christ man would and could not be justified according to works of the Law. With this being said it’s absolutely necessary we recognize and understand that Jesus summarized the Law of Moses into two distinct commandments. The first and greatest commandment was to love the Lord thy God with all one’s heart, with all of one’s soul and with all of one’s strength. The second commandment was just like the first—namely to love one’s neighbor as themselves. The truth of these commandments were entirely and altogether necessary to recognize and understand for even in the gospels there was an understanding that these were the two greatest commandments. What’s more is that even within the gospels men understood that the entire Law of Moses could be summarized in these two commandments.

 

            I am absolutely convinced we must needs recognize and understand these two commandments as the summation and conclusion of the Law of Moses for it is at the very heart of the gospel of the Lord Jesus. What’s more is that it is not only at the heart of the gospel of the Lord Jesus but it was also at the very heart of the kingdom of God itself. If you take the time to read the four gospels in their entirety you will find and conclude that one would and could truly walk in a manner that pleased the living God by simply loving God and loving people. The entire Law and the prophets could be summarized in two single commandments which seem so utterly simple and yet are perhaps two of the most difficult things to do with all of our heart, with all of our soul and with all of our strength. It wasn’t merely commanded that one love the Lord their God but also that they love the Lord their God with all their heart, with all their soul and with all their strength. In other words one was to love the Lord their God with their entire being and just as the Lord their God was one so also must man be one with their love for the living God. It would be written in the Law of Moses itself that man must needs love the Lord their God with all their heart, with all their soul and with all their strength. Oh we must needs pay careful and close attention to this for it calls and draws our attention to what true obedience to the Law of Moses looks like. True obedience to the Law of Moses—and not only obedience to the Law of Moses but also to the gospel of the Lord Jesus—is and has always been loving the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our strength and loving our neighbor as ourselves. If we wish to truly understand the Law of Moses we must needs recognize and understand that it can not only be summarized but also fulfilled through our simply loving God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength and loving our neighbor as ourselves.

 

            With this being said I find it absolutely remarkable and incredible to think about the words which the apostle Paul would teach and preach unto both Jews and Gentiles alike. The apostle Paul would declare unto both Jew and Gentile alike that man was not justified according to works of the Law but rather through faith in the Lord Jesus. It would be later on in this epistle the apostle Paul would declare that if one confessed with their mouth the Lord Jesus and believed in their heart that God raised Him from the dead they would be saved. Moreover it would also be declared in the Scripture that those who call upon the name of the Lord would be saved. Oh we must recognize the scandal surrounding the gospel of the Lord Jesus which the apostle Paul preached among the Jews and Gentiles. As if it wasn’t enough for the words and teaching which Jesus Himself taught and preached during those three and a half years to be considered scandalous we now have the apostle Paul seemingly preaching against the Law of Moses as well as against circumcision. If you read the epistles and writings of the apostle Paul you will seemingly come to the conclusion that he was preaching against the Law of Moses and even against circumcision. Two of the greatest tenants of the Jewish faith and heritage were the Law of Moses and circumcision and many would spend and devote their entire lives to reading, studying and obeying the Law of Moses. There would be countless Jews throughout the years who would place such a great and heavy emphasis on the Law of Moses—and not only upon the Law of Moses but also upon adhering to the Law of Moses as means of salvation. This is what must be understood concerning the scribes, the Pharisees, the chief priests, the elders of the people and the Sadducees for they believed wholeheartedly and heavily in the Law of Moses as means of being in right standing before and in the sight of the living God.

 

            As I sit here this morning thinking about and considering the words which are found in this first epistle of the apostle Paul found in the New Testament I am brought face to face with the tremendous truth surrounding the gospel the apostle preached. The apostle Paul would indeed preach and teach among both Jews and Gentiles alike that circumcision did in fact avail little in the kingdom of heaven and according to the gospel of the Lord Jesus. The apostle Paul preached that circumcision was not necessary for one to find salvation in the Lord Jesus—a declaration and teaching that would have been entirely and altogether scandalous in the sight of many Jews during those days. There is not a doubt in my mind that much of the resistance the apostle Paul faced from the Jews was their resistance—not only against his teaching but also against generations of teaching, practice and understanding. Here came the apostle Paul seemingly undoing much of what they had believed all their lives—something which had been in existence since the time of Abraham and Moses. It would be from the time of Abraham circumcision would be performed among the Jews and it would be from the time of Moses the Law would be in place among the Jews. It would be unto the Jews that both circumcision in the flesh and the Law of Moses would be the very heart and soul of their heritage and faith—something that would be incredibly hard to separate themselves from. Of course know the apostle Paul did not teach nor did he preach there was any way to undo circumcision in the flesh, however he did in fact preach and teach that circumcision in one’s flesh availed nothing in the kingdom of heaven. The apostle Paul taught and preached that man was not justified according to works of the Law but rather through faith in the Lord Jesus.

 

            Upon coming to the fourth chapter of this New Testament epistle you will find the apostle Paul appealing to Abraham to not only demonstrate that circumcision was not necessary to be justified in the sight of God but neither was the Law necessary to be justified in the sight of the living God. I am absolutely convinced there is a great need to pay attention to the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for the words which are presented here highlight and underscore the life of Abraham and how this patriarch and father of faith was justified and made righteous in the sight of God apart from circumcision and apart from the Law. If you begin reading with and from the second verse of the fourth chapter you will find the apostle Paul declaring that if Abraham were justified by works he would have something to glory in but not before God. For the apostle Paul he believed that if Abraham had indeed been justified and made righteous in the sight of the living God according to works of the Law and even circumcision he would have means of boasting and means of glorying. The truth of the matter, however, is the apostle Paul recognized and understood that Abraham had absolutely no means of boasting and glorying in his own flesh as means of being justified in the sight of the living God. The apostle Paul recognized and understood that Abraham was justified and made righteous in the sight of the living God apart from and without circumcision and the Law. What’s more is that the apostle Paul would even go on to declare that Abraham’s justification in the sight of the living God without and apart from the Law of Moses as well as circumcision would wonderfully and powerfully demonstrate the tremendous that neither were necessary for one to be truly justified in the sight of God.

 

            Pause for a moment and consider how entirely and altogether provocative this is for the apostle Paul was appealing to the life and narrative of Abraham himself to demonstrate the truth that man is not justified according to works of the Law. Moreover the apostle Paul appealed to the narrative and life of Abraham to demonstrate the tremendous truth that Abraham was justified and considered righteous in the sight of God without and apart from circumcision itself. Although it would be unto Abraham circumcision would indeed be given the rite of circumcision would come AFTER Abraham believed and that belief was considered unto him as righteousness in the sight of the living God. In the third verse of this passage of Scripture the apostle Paul asks his readers and audience what the Scriptures say concerning Abraham and then goes on to declare that Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand it’s that these words which the apostle Paul wrote in this epistle weren’t his own words. It wasn’t the apostle Paul who somehow came up with the truth that Abraham believed God and it was credited unto him as righteousness. The apostle Paul wasn’t the one who spoke of Abraham that he believed and it was credited unto him as righteousness. Instead we find these words and this declaration being written by Moses himself when writing the Old Testament book of Genesis. Stop and think about the fact that it wasn’t the apostle Paul who spoke of Abraham believing God and it being accounted and credited unto him as righteousness but it was Moses himself who wrote those words in the Old Testament book of Genesis. How absolutely astonishing and incredible it is to think about the very one whose name is synonymous with the Law would be the very one who would write concerning Abraham that he believed God and it was counted and credited unto him as righteousness.

 

            It is with this in mind I now invite you to consider the words and language which is found in the fifteenth chapter of the Old Testament book of Genesis. That which we find in this particular passage of Scripture is the Lord entering into covenant with Abraham and essentially swearing on oath unto him that He would make his descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand of the sea. What we find in the fifteenth chapter is the Lord appearing unto Abraham and making him a great and wonderful promise—a promise to which Abraham would inquire of the Lord since he had no heir. For Abraham he thought that Eliezer of Damascus would be his heir for the Lord had not granted unto him a son. The Lord, however, would promise unto Abraham that a son would indeed be born from his own loins and that this Eliezer of Damascus would not be his heir. Oh it is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the fifteenth chapter of the Old Testament book of Genesis beginning with the first verse:

 

            “After these things the word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward. And Abram said, Lord God, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus? And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, oner born in my house is mine heir. And behold, the word of the Lord came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir. And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. And he believed in the lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness. And he said unto him, I am the Lord that brought thee out of the Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it. And he said, Lord God, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it? And he said unto him, Take me an heifer of three years old, and a she goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon. And he took unto him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each piece one against another: but the birds divided he not. And when the fowls came down upon the carcases, Abram drove them away. And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, and horror of great darkness fell upon him. And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; and also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance. And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age. But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full. And it came to pass, that when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between the pieces. In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates: The Kenzites, and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites, and the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girgashites, and the Jebusites” (Genesis 15:1-20).

            It is absolutely necessary we pay close attention to the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for within it we are not only brought face to face with the truth surrounding Abraham believing God and it being credited and accounted unto him as righteousness. What we find in this passage of Scripture is indeed a powerful witness and testimony to the fact that Abraham did in fact believe God and how it was credited unto him as righteousness. What makes this particular passage of Scripture so absolutely remarkable is that on this particular day the Lord would enter into covenant with Abraham and not only speak unto him of inheritance but also of bearing a son. With this being there is still more that is found within this passage—namely, that which the Lord instructed Abraham to do and that which the Lord spoke unto him. As you continue reading the words which are found in this passage of Scripture you will find the Lord instructing Abraham to take unto him a heifer of three years old, a she goat of three years old, a ram of three years old, and a turtledove and a young pigeon. Abraham would do as the Lord said—after he believed and it was credited unto him as righteousness—and would not only take unto himself these living things but would also divide them in the midst minus the turtledove and pigeon. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand concerning this is that what the Lord instructed Abraham to take unto himself would indeed be the same vessels which would be presented as a sacrifice and offering in the sight of God during the days of Moses and the children of Israel. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for what we find here in the fifteenth chapter of the Old Testament book of Genesis is indeed a strong and powerful picture of the sacrifices which would be made by the descendants of Abraham in the days to come.

 

            I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found in this passage and I am brought face to face with the fact that AFTER Abraham believed God and it was credited unto him as righteousness he would be instructed of the Lord to take unto himself a heifer of three years old, a she goat of three years old, a ram of three years old, as well as a pigeon and a turtle dove. Abraham would do as the Lord had spoken and would slaughter these living things and divide their carcases in the midst. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it’s almost as if as a sign of Abraham believing God and it being credited unto him as righteousness sacrifice itself would be made in the sight of God. SACRIFICE CAME AFTER BELIEF! SACRIFICE CAME AFTER RIGHTEOUSNESS! SACRIFICE WAS A SIGN OF BELIEF! SACRIFICE WAS A SIGN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS! If there is one thing I can’t help but think about and consider when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture it’s that Abraham appears to have been asked to sacrifice these offerings before and in the sight of the living God as a sign and symbol—not only of his belief but also of that belief being counted as righteousness. What’s more is that it might very well be said that Abraham was the first “Jew” to offer a sacrifice before and in the sight of the living God. It might very well be said that what Abraham did on this particular day would begin the sacrifices which would later be commanded of the children of Israel according to the Law of Moses which was given atop the mountain of God in the wilderness. Within this chapter we find Abraham believing God and that belief being counted unto him as righteousness and it would be from that place of righteousness Abraham would then make sacrifice before and in the sight of the living God. Oh it’s almost as if sacrifice itself was not merely a sign of covenant but also a sign of righteousness and belief in the living God. It is with this in mind I invite you to turn and direct your attention to the words which are found in the opening chapters of the Old Testament book of Leviticus concerning the sacrifice(s) the children of Israel and descendants of Abraham were commanded to present before the Lord:

 

            “And the Lord called unto Moses, and spake unto him out of the tabernacle of the congregation, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, If any man of you bring an offering unto the Lord, ye shall bring your offering of the cattle, even of the herd, and of the flock. If his offering be a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish; he shall offer it of his own voluntary will at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the LORD. And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering; and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him. And he shall kill the bullock before the Lord: and the priests, Aaron’s sons, shall bring the blood, and sprinkle the blood round about upon the altar that is by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And he shall flay the burnt offering, and cut it into his pieces. And the sons of Aaron the priest shall pout fire upon the altar, and lay the wood in order upon the fire; and the priests, Aaron’s sons, shall lay the parts, the head, and the fat, in order upon the wood that is on the fire which is upon the altar: but his inwards and his legs shall he wash in water: and the priest shall burn all on the altar, to be a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the Lord. And if his offering be of the flocks, namely, of the sheep, or of the goats, for a burnt sacrifice; he shall bring it a male without blemish. And he shall kill it on the side of the altar northward before the Lord: and the priests, Aaron’s sons, shall sprinkle his blood round about upon the altar. And he shall cut it into his pieces, with his head and his fat: and the priest shall lay them in order on the wood that is on the fire which is upon the altar: but he shall wash the inwards and the legs with water: and the priest shall bring it all, and burn it upon the altar; it is a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the Lord. And if the burnt sacrifice for his offering to the Lord be of fowls, then he shall bring his offering of turtledoves, or of young pigeons. And the priest shall bring it unto the altar, and wring off his head, and burn it on the altar; and the blood thereof shall be wrung out at the side of the altar: and he shall pluck away his crop with his feathers, and cast it beside the altar on the east part, by the place of the ashes: and he shall cleave it with the wings thereof, but shall not divide it asunder: and the priest shall burn it upon the altar, upon the wood that is upon the fire: it is a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the Lord” (Leviticus 1:1-17).

 

            Oh please don’t miss the tremendous language that is found within this passage of Scripture for within it we find a picture of that which we witnessed and beheld in the fifteenth chapter of the Old Testament book of Genesis. I have to admit that I have spent several years reading and studying the scripture and I have never seen this strong and apparent connection between the fifteenth chapter of the Old Testament book of Genesis and the first six chapters of the Old Testament book of Leviticus. It is in the fifteenth chapter of the Old Testament book of Genesis we are brought face to face—first and foremost with Abraham believing God and it being credited and accounted unto him for righteousness. What we must needs understand is that within the same chapter—and not only within the same chapter but also within the same interaction between Abraham and the Lord—the Lord would command Abraham to divide in the midst sacrifices before Him. It would be after Abraham believed and it was accounted unto him as righteousness that he would be instructed and commanded of the Lord to take unto himself a young bullock of three years old, a ram of three years old, a she goat of three years old and a turtle dove and a pigeon. Although Scripture doesn’t specifically declare it we must assume and conclude Abraham killed each of these living beasts and birds of the air in the sight and presence of the Lord before dividing their carcases and parts in the midst thereof.

 

            What I so absolutely love about the words and language found in the fifteenth chapter of this Old Testament book of Genesis is that it almost seems and appears that sacrifice itself was in and of itself a sign of belief—and not only of belief but also of belief and that belief being counted and credited unto Abraham as righteousness. Abraham believed the Lord and it was counted and credited unto him as righteousness and immediately thereafter Abraham would be invited into a place of sacrifice. Oh it might even be said that Abraham was the first one among the Jews to make sacrifice before the Lord. We know from Scripture that Abraham was a man of the altar and the tent for he was a man who lived in constant communion and fellowship before the Lord. Abraham would be one who would journey from place to live dwelling in tents and in those places whereunto he journeyed and settled he would build an altar before and unto the Lord. With this being said we must needs recognize and understand that there was something different about what we find in this passage of Scripture. That which we find here is Abraham believing the Lord and that belief being credited unto him as righteousness. It would be AFTER Abraham believed the Lord and that belief was counted unto him as righteousness he would be instructed of the Lord to take unto himself these living beings and divide them asunder in the midst of both he and the Lord. Abraham would believe the Lord and that belief would be counted unto him as righteousness and immediately afterward he would be invited into a place of sacrifice before the Lord. Oh it’s almost as if sacrifice itself would be a sign and symbol of belief and righteousness for sacrifice would come after belief and even after Abraham was credited as being righteous in the sight of the living God.

 

            I feel a tremendous need to pause here and call your attention to what we find in this passage of Scripture for it would have been one thing for Abraham to have obeyed the voice of the Lord and taken unto himself a bullock of three years old, a ram of three years old, a she goat of three years old, as well as a turtle dove and pigeon and divided them in the midst before and between himself and the Lord AND THEN it being credited unto him as righteousness. The truth of the matter, however, is that this was not the case for Abraham first believed and it would be after he believed that it would be credited unto him as righteousness. Abraham would indeed believe the Lord and would believe the word of the Lord and that belief would be counted unto him as righteousness. Oh I find it truly incredible to read the words found in this passage of Scripture and encounter the tremendous truth that Abraham did not arrange the sacrifices before the Lord nor did Abraham make these sacrifices before the Lord prior to being credited as righteous in the sight of the living God. Scripture makes it perfectly clear that Abraham believed the Lord and that belief was credited unto him as righteousness. Abraham would believe the word of the Lord and that belief would be credited unto him as righteousness. It is with this in mind we must needs get the sense that this being justified and made righteous by faith would not only come before circumcision which would come in just a couple chapters, but it would also come before the Law which was given unto Moses atop Horeb in the wilderness. Moreover this being justified by faith would even come before Abraham would make sacrifices before the Lord. Abraham would believe the Lord and it would be counted unto him as righteousness and it’s almost as if the Lord would implement sacrifice as a sign and symbol of that righteousness which came by faith.

 

            Oh the more I read and consider the words which are found in the fifteenth chapter of the Old Testament book of Genesis the more I am brought face to face with the awesome and incredible truth concerning Abraham believing God and that belief being counted unto him as righteousness. Abraham would indeed believe the Lord and that belief would be counted unto him as righteousness and it would be after and essentially in response to that belief Abraham would be invited into a place of sacrifice. It’s almost as if after Abraham’s belief was credited unto him as righteousness the Lord would invite Abraham to experience a sign and symbol of that belief and righteousness which his descendants would themselves experience. It would be on this particular occasion the Lord would go on to declare unto Abraham that his descendants would surely be a stranger and servant in a strange and foreign land whom they would serve. SACRIFICE AND SLAVERY! Perhaps two of the greatest truths that is found and contained within this passage of Scripture are that of sacrifice and slavery as Abraham was invited into a place of sacrifice and was brought into the place of revelation concerning his descendants and their being slaves in a strange and foreign land. It would be on this particular occasion Abraham would believe the Lord and that belief would be counted unto him as righteousness. This belief and credit of righteousness before and in the sight of the living God would indeed be followed by Abraham’s being invited into a place of sacrifice before the Lord. What’s more is that it’s almost as if the Lord was inviting Abraham to enter into that reality which his descendants would know for generations after they would emerge from their slavery, bondage and oppression in the wilderness.

 

            What we find in this passage of Scripture is an incredibly strong and powerful picture of Abraham believing the Lord and it being credited unto him as righteousness before circumcision and before the Law. With this being said, however, we must needs recognize the importance of sacrifice for I would dare say the sacrifice Abraham was invited to partake in on this occasion not only pointed to the sacrifices his descendants would offer upon the altar in the Tabernacle and Temple of the Lord but also the ultimate sacrifice which would be made by the Lord Jesus centuries and generations later. We must needs recognize and understand this for Abraham himself would seemingly be invited into that place of understanding—at least in part—the ultimate sacrifice that would take place generations and centuries later when one who would take upon Himself the seed of Abraham would carry the wood for the sacrifice upon His back and shoulders and would come to the place of the skull. I absolutely love the narrative of Abraham for not only did Abraham believe and that belief was credited unto him as righteousness but Abraham was also invited into the place of sacrifice—not only the sacrifices which his descendants would offer for countless generations but also the very sacrifice which the Lord Jesus Himself would offer upon Calvary two thousand years ago. I am convinced we must needs recognize and understand this for it’s almost as if Abraham believing God and that belief being counted unto him as righteousness would point to and would be a portent that would point to sacrifice before and unto the Lord. In fact I would dare say that sacrifice itself was given unto the descendants of Abraham because he believed the Lord and that belief was credited unto him as righteousness. Not only this but I would also dare say that circumcision would itself be given unto Abraham and unto his descendants as a sign and symbol of a belief that is credited as righteousness.

 

            CIRCUMCISION! SACRIFICE! THE LAW! In all reality there are three specific tenants found within and among the Jews throughout the generations from the time of Abraham unto the time of the Lord Jesus—and not only unto the time of the Lord Jesus but also unto the time of the apostles. These three tenants found among the Jews were indeed circumcision which was first given unto Abraham as a sign of covenant relationship and fellowship with the Lord, sacrifices and the Law which was given unto Moses atop Horeb in the wilderness of Sinai. I am absolutely convinced that if we want to truly understand that which the apostle Paul preached and taught during those days it is absolutely necessary to recognize the words and language found and contained within the fifteenth chapter of this Old Testament book. It would be in the fifteenth chapter of this book we find Abraham believing the Lord and His word and that belief being credited and accounted unto him as righteousness. What makes this all the more remarkable and astounding is when you consider the fact that it almost appears that it was from that place of righteousness before and in the sight of the living God Abraham would be invited into a place of sacrifice before the Lord. There is not a doubt in my mind that the instruction given unto Abraham after his belief was credited unto him as righteousness not only demonstrated that sacrifice was itself a sign and symbol of righteousness according to faith in the living God but also that sacrifice is a direct outworking, manifestation and demonstration of what one believed within their heart and soul. Perhaps one of the greatest truths surrounding the sacrifices which would later be commanded and instructed by Moses is that sacrifices would more often than not be offered from a place of belief and from a place of righteousness before and in the sight of the living God.

 

            I sit here today and I can’t help but think about the fact that what made the sacrifices and offerings of the children of Israel so valuable and important before and in the sight of the living God was their belief in the Lord. What’s more is I would dare say that what gave their sacrifices and offerings full meaning and significance in the sight of the living God was not only their faith but also their obedience. I am convinced that at the very heart of sacrifice and offering is belief within one’s heart as well as obedience before and in the sight of the living God. The sacrifices which Abraham offered and presented before the Lord would have at the very heart and center of them belief and obedience in the sight and presence of the Lord. Abraham believed the Lord and it was credited unto him as righteousness and Abraham would obey the voice and command of the Lord to take unto himself a young bullock of three years old, a she goat of three years old, a ram of three years old, as well as a turtle dove and pigeon. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous truth surrounding Abraham being invited into a place of sacrifice and offering before the Lord from a place of righteousness as the Lord would enter into covenant with him. It is truly something worth considering when reading this passage how we not only find faith, we not only find righteousness, we not only find obedience, we not only find sacrifice, but we also find covenant. Within this particular chapter we find all of these tenants and all these truths within the life of Abraham as Abraham would first believe God and that belief would be credited unto him as righteousness. From that place of righteousness Abraham would be invited into a place of sacrifice—and not only sacrifice but it’s almost as if the Lord was inviting Abraham into a place where he would partake in those sacrifices and offerings his descendants would themselves present before the Lord.

 

            As you read the scripture you will find that sacrifices and offerings would be a regular practice among the descendants of Abraham in the earth—particularly and especially after the Law was given unto Moses atop the mountain of God in the wilderness of Sinai. It would be through and unto Moses the living God would give the ordinances for sacrifice and offerings which were to be presented before and unto him upon the altar at the Tabernacle and later in the Temple. For generations the descendants of Abraham would bring their offerings and sacrifices before and unto the Lord—first in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple—and what makes this all the more astonishing and remarkable when you take the time to consider it is when you think about Abraham seemingly being the first one among the Jews to present these sacrifices and offerings before the Lord. What’s more is I would dare say that it would be on this particular day the living God would ordain and appoint those sacrifices and offerings which would later be presented to Him upon the altar of burnt offering. I would dare say that what we witness and behold here on this particular occasion was the Lord—from a place of righteousness in the life of Abraham—ordaining and appointing sacrifice and offering. Moreover, I would dare say that what we find here in this particular passage of Scripture is the Lord ordaining and appointing those living creatures which would be accepted in His sight as an offering and sacrifice—not only as a guilt offering and not only as a sin offering but also as a burnt offering. Oh there is something truly awesome and powerful about the words we find here for it would be from a place of belief and from a place of being justified by faith the sacrifices of God would be ordained and appointed in the life of Abraham. I would dare say that it would be in the life of Abraham the sacrifices and offerings of the Lord which would later be commanded of his descendants to offer upon the altar would first be ordained and appointed by the Lord.

 

            Oh the more I read and consider the words which are found in the fifteenth chapter of the Old Testament book of Genesis the more I am brought face to face with the powerful truth that Abraham believed the Lord and as a direct result of that belief the Lord credited it unto him as righteousness. This righteousness would be credited unto Abraham before the Law was given unto Moses atop the mountain of God in the wilderness. This righteousness would be credited unto Abraham before circumcision was given unto Abraham when he had himself, Ishmael and his entire house circumcised according to the command of the Lord. This righteousness was credited unto Abraham before the Tabernacle was given unto Abraham and before the ordinances for the sacrifices and offerings were given unto Moses in the wilderness. It is absolutely unmistakable when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture that Abraham believed the Lord and believed the word which the LORD had spoken unto him and as a direct result of that belief it was credited unto him as righteousness. It would be this belief—and not only this belief but also the righteousness that was credited unto him—that would position Abraham to present sacrifices before the Lord and even grant unto him the rite of circumcision. There is a great need for us to recognize and understand the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for the words presented here serve as the foundation for the doctrine which the apostle Paul preached—the doctrine that both Jews and Gentiles would be justified apart from and without the Law. It would be the apostle Paul who would emphatically declare and proclaim unto both Jews and Gentiles alike that one could be justified without and apart from works of the Law and even without and apart from being circumcised.

 

            Stop and think about the tremendous truth that is found in the words the apostle Paul taught and preached for what the apostle Paul was speaking unto the people was that they could be justified in the sight of God absent works of the Law and absent being circumcised. The apostle Paul would use Abraham as the model for this incredibly awesome truth for the apostle Paul would clearly show forth Abraham as being justified before and finding righteousness in God before the Law was ever given. Not only this but Abraham would find justification and righteousness before the living God before circumcision would be given unto him. Abraham would believe the Lord and it would be that simple belief and that simple faith that would allow him to be justified and find righteousness in the sight and presence of the living God. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it would even serve as the foundation for the words which David himself would declare when writing what we know to be a portion of the Psalms. The apostle Paul would speak of how those who work not but believe on him that justifies the ungodly their faith is counted unto them as righteousness. The apostle Paul would go on to speak of the words which David wrote concerning the blessedness of the man unto whom God imputes righteousness without works and would quote these words from David: “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” What an incredibly beautiful and captivating truth this truly is when you take the time to think about it for David would write these words during the days of the Old Covenant and during the days when the Law of Moses, circumcision, the sacrifices and offerings, and even the Tabernacle were all it work in the midst of the children of Israel. David—several generations prior to the salvation, justification and righteousness that would come through the Son of David which is the Lord Jesus—would speak of that man whose iniquities are forgiven to whose sins are covered. David would go on to speak of that man being blessed unto whom the Lord does not and will not impute sin. Oh that we would truly recognize and understand this truth for at the very heart of our justification is belief in the one who justifies knowing that belief is credited and accounted as righteousness.

 

            The more you read the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the fourth chapter of the New Testament epistle written unto the Romans the more you will find him emphatically declaring unto his audience how this blessedness of being justified in the sight of God and this blessedness of being righteous in the sight of God is not only for the Jews but also for the Gentiles. The apostle Paul would use Abraham’s being justified in the sight of God and his belief being credited unto him as righteousness BEFORE the Law was given and before the rite of circumcision was given to illustrate how Abraham would not only be the father of all those who believed but would also demonstrate how man can indeed be justified in the sight of the living God without works of the Law and apart from circumcision. The simple fact that Abraham was justified before the Lord and his belief was credited unto him as righteousness before the Law and circumcision was given strongly demonstrates and illustrates the tremendous truth that unto Gentiles this blessedness would also be made available. What’s more is that the gift of the Holy Spirit coming unto and upon the Gentiles was in and of itself another powerful witness that man is justified in the sight of God absent and apart from works of the Law and circumcision. Cornelius and his entire house, the Philippian jailor and his entire house and the disciples in Ephesus are all powerful witnesses and testimonies concerning the gift of the Holy Spirit coming unto and upon men absent and apart from works of the Law and apart from circumcision.

 

As I bring this writing to a close it is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand the words and language found in these two chapters. Within these two chapters we find the find the apostle Paul looking back—not only unto Abraham but also unto Adam. The apostle Paul would look back unto these two patriarchs—each in their own respect—to illustrate the justification and righteousness that is found in the Lord Jesus. The apostle Paul would appeal to Abraham to call and draw the attention of his readers to the place where they would understand that justification comes not from the Law nor from circumcision but from faith in the Lord Jesus. The apostle Paul would appeal to Abraham to show that death has reigned upon the earth among men from the time Adam first sinned and transgressed the commandment of the Lord in the garden. Through Adam we not only see that sin was made possible without and apart from the law but also that death would be made possible without the law. It would be through Adam apart from the Law given unto Moses that sin and death would reign among men within and upon the earth. From the time of Adam throughout the generations men would be subjected to sin in their mortal bodies as well as death as a result of it. In fact it would be in the very next chapter the apostle Paul would emphatically declare the wages of sin being death but the gift of God being eternal life. The apostle Paul used Adam to illustrate how sin and death have plagued men since the very beginning and how both reigned within the mortal bodies and flesh of men. We dare not miss and lose sight of this for the apostle Paul would go on to declare that just as through one man sin and death reigned so also through one man would life, salvation, freedom, justification, righteousness and so much more be manifested. Although sin and death would be transmitted through Adam throughout the generations it would be life and freedom that would be transmitted by and through the Lord Jesus Christ. Oh it is absolutely necessary we recognize and understand this particular truth for it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous truth surrounding our being justified by faith—and not only being justified by faith but also finding life, freedom and salvation in and through the person of Jesus Christ.

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