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
- 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
- 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
- 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
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
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 have.
- 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 people's sins.
- That had been the case in the lives of two of the most prominent Israelite
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 Bathsheba.
- 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
- 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 die.
- Were there consequences from his act? Absolutely! And they were severe!
- 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
- 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
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
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
- 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
- We all do!
- Do you actually think you are aware, fully knowledgeable of every way
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 of evil?
- 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
- 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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