(originally published November 11, 2012)
Today we continue exploring the age-old debate: faith vs. works. Last week I shared with you that I have struggled greatly over the years with works. It has been a painful, yet beautiful process God has brought me through to operate out of faith and grace as opposed to works, works, works (and ultimately, legalism). I'm here to tell you today that it is possible to be transformed, by the grace of God! Lets jump into today's portion in v. 8-13:
"Do you think for a minute that this blessing is only pronounced over those of us who keep our religious ways and are circumcised? Or do you think it possible that the blessing could be given to those who never even heard of our ways, who were never brought up in the disciplines of God? We all agree, don't we, that it was by embracing what God did for him that Abraham was declared fit before God?
Now think: Was that declaration made before or after he was marked by the covenant rite of circumcision? That's right, before he was marked. That means that he underwent circumcision as evidence and confirmation of what God had done long before to bring him into this acceptable standing with himself, an act of God he had embraced with his whole life."
Here we enter that part about works, or in Abraham's case, circumcision. The question is posed: was Abraham deemed righteous because of his obedient act of circumcision?
V. 9 says that Abraham was declared fit before God because he embraced what God had done for him. Now was this declaration made before or after he was circumcised? BEFORE. Abraham wasn't circumcised till at least 14 years after the promise God had given to him, and 24 years after his relationship with God began. Abraham's circumcision was evidence of his faith and came after believing.
"And it means further that Abraham is father of all people who embrace what God does for them while they are still on the "outs" with God, as yet unidentified as God's, in an "uncircumcised" condition. It is precisely these people in this condition who are called "set right by God and with God"! Abraham is also, of course, father of those who have undergone the religious rite of circumcision not just because of the ritual but because they were willing to live in the risky faith-embrace of God's action for them, the way Abraham lived long before he was marked by circumcision.That famous promise God gave Abraham—that he and his children would possess the earth—was not given because of something Abraham did or would do. It was based on God's decision to put everything together for him, which Abraham then entered when he believed."
In v. 13, Paul says that the promise given to Abraham was not given because of something Abraham did or would do. It was given based off of God's grace...His decision to put it all together.
The promises God has given us: that He will supply all our needs, unconditional love, life abundantly (just to name a few) aren't promises we can earn; they are promises God makes to us out of His grace. We simply enter into it.
The word "promise" that is used in this verse comes from the Greek word "epangelia." It represents that God's promise was not based on merit, but grace alone. There was no work involved in order to obtain Gods promises. (I think it's incredible how one word can sum up an entire passage!)
So here's a question for you today: are your works evidence of your faith?
Works are my no means null. In fact, James 2.14-16 says, "What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?"
Works should be an overflow of our faith in God. Does an act or deed come out of a task, to mark it off, or as a natural part of your relationship with God?
To fail to believe God's promise for YOU is to fail in trusting God completely. We must embrace God's promises. Key word embrace, not earn. We could never earn God's promises...there is nothing we have done or ever will do that will secure God's promises for us.
Wow. Praise God it's out of grace He has chosen to put it all together for us!