Sunday, June 15, 2008

Grace scorned... Grace abounds!

Genesis 21 paints a great picture of the gospel, one that will be magnified in Genesis 22.

1-8. After years of waiting God's promises are kept. The LORD visited Sarah. God did as he had promised. His word didn't return empty. And God did it at the time he had promised. At exactly the right time. He kept the promise for Abraham to have a Son, as he would 1400 years later when the ultimate Son of Abraham was born. God's Son incarnate come to save us... but more on that in Genesis 22. Good news and great joy. God keeps his gospel word to his people.

9-10. The son of Abraham's self-religion responds to this with laughter, mocking Isaac. This grieves Sarah - only the Son of Promise should inherit, not the slave boy too. Calvin notes:

"...nothing is more grievous to a holy mind, than to see the grace of God exposed to ridicule. And this is the reason why Paul calls his laughter persecution; saying, ‘He who was after the flesh persecuted the spiritual seed.’ (Galatians 4:29.) Was it with sword or violence? Nay, but with the scorn of the virulent tongue, which does not injure the body, but pierces into the very soul. Moses might indeed have aggravated his crime by a multiplicity of words; but I think that he designedly spoke thus concisely, in order to render the petulance with which Ishmael ridicules the word of God the more detestable." Commentary on Genesis
Abraham is rightly distressed by this situation. Self-religion always opposes gospel grace, it's to be expected. Nonetheless, it's lies should not be tolerated. God's people should remain in freedom, the freedom of being inheriting sons of God with Jesus. The great hope of inheriting all things, most of all, access back into the greater Eden of the new creation where God dwells with his people, intimately and personally forever.

All this is a great treasure magnified in my heart after an hour this afternoon talking with J.W.'s - not only does their twisted version of the story of salvation not tie up with what the Bible plainly says about God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and his people, it's also a rubbish hope. All they have is the hope of a patched up world, not a return to walking with God.

Key questions to engage with here, reflecting on the ways they tried to make out that there isn't much between us (and if you ignore The Trinity, the Deity of Jesus and the nature of the new Creation then there's not much difference!!):
  • why does it matter that Jesus is God, or put the other way, what's lost if we say he isn't?
  • would these J.W. guys have been happy in our church meeting this morning?(were we distinctively Christian...
  • is my preaching sufficiently Christian? (or would a J.W., a Muslim, a Non-Messianic-Jew etc be able to agree with the content without changing their existing beliefs)
  • how many genuine Christians wouldn't see the difference?
Back to Genesis 21...

11-13. Nonetheless, Ishmael is a son of Abraham and so will be blessed. The sin is not approved but the grace keeps abounding. This a postscript of grace produced from Abraham & Sarah's unbelief. God's overflows in abundant blessings. Blessings that can reach even J.W.'s and others who consider themselves to be part of the church, if they'll come and freely receive grace from Jesus who is God.


  1. hi Dave,
    Sounds like an encouraging encounter. Minor point:

    "is my preaching sufficiently Christian? (or would a J.W., a Muslim, a Jew etc be able to agree with the content without changing their existing beliefs)"

    - there are now more Jews who can agree with the content than there have been at any other time since Acts. A better way of saying what you mean is "a non-believing Jew" or "non-Messianic Jew". See here for more

  2. I take your point and I agree there is both ethnic and religious identity to being Jew. Clearly here I'm using the religious definition.

    I've no real problem with the term Messianic-Jew but why not just use 'Christian'... there is no Jew or Gentile in Christ...

  3. Thanks for making the change.

    Flippant response: no male or female either, but I still go to the gents :-)

    Serious responses: the word "Messianic" qualifies the word "Jew"; Romans 3 - "much benefit in every way in being a Jew" - the gospel is not about the neutering of Jewish (or Gentile) identity; the term "Messianic Jew" lends itself more than the term "Christian" (or even "Jewish Christian") to long-term, low key incarnational evangelism within the Jewish community (forgive the clutch of evangelical cliches)... See for more.