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Waggoner on Romans

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    The Blessing of Abraham

    February 20, 1896

    In our lesson last week we began the study of Abraham as a special illustration of the doctrine of justification by faith. We found that Abraham could not glory before God, because he was justified by faith only, and not at all by works. But the verses which follow will involve a sufficient review of the first part of the chapter, and therefore we will at once proceed to the study ofWOR 72.1

    The Inheritance and the Heirs

    “For the promise, that he should be the 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.” Romans 4:13-15.WOR 72.2

    Questioning the Text

    What promise was made to Abraham?WOR 72.3

    “That he should be the heir of the world.”WOR 72.4

    To whom was this promise made?WOR 72.5

    “To Abraham” and “to his seed.” “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made.” Galatians 3:16.WOR 72.6

    Who is the seed?WOR 72.7

    “He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, and to thy seed, which is Christ.” Galatians 3:16.WOR 72.8

    Is Christ in his own person the only seed?WOR 72.9

    “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Galatians 3:29.WOR 72.10

    Of what are Abraham and his seed heirs?WOR 72.11

    “Of the world.”WOR 72.12

    On what basis was this inheritance promised?WOR 72.13

    “The promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.”WOR 72.14

    If they which are of the law be heirs, what is the result?WOR 72.15

    “Faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect.”WOR 72.16

    Why so?WOR 72.17

    “Because the law worketh wrath.” WOR 72.18

    If there were no law, what would there not be?WOR 73.1

    “Where no law is, there is no transgression.”WOR 73.2

    Why is it, then, that the law worketh wrath?WOR 73.3

    Because “by the law is the knowledge of sin.” Romans 3:29.WOR 73.4

    Where Is the Promise?

    A very natural inquiry upon reading the thirteenth verse would be, Where is there any promise that Abraham and his seed should be heirs of the world? Many think that no such promise is contained in the Old Testament. But there can be no doubt about the matter, for the apostle says that there was such a promise. If we have not found it, it is because we have read the Old Testament too superficially, or with minds biased by preconceived opinions. If we consider the connection, we shall have no difficulty in locating the promise.WOR 73.5

    Of what is the apostle speaking in this connection? Of an inheritance through the righteousness of faith, and also of the fact that circumcision was given to Abraham as a seal of this righteousness which he had by faith, and therefore as the seal of the inheritance which was to come thereby. Where in the Old Testament do we find the account of the giving of circumcision, and of a promise in connection therewith? In the seventeenth chapter of Genesis. Then that must be the place for us to look for the promise that Abraham should be the heir of the world. Let us turn and read:WOR 73.6

    “And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee and to thy seed after thee. And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.... And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.” Genesis 17:7-11.WOR 73.7

    The reader will at once say: “Yes; it is plain enough that there is a promise here; but what we are looking for is the promise that Abraham and his seed should inherit the earth; and I do not see that here. All that I can see is a promise that they should inherit the land of Canaan.” But it is certain from the connection in Romans that we are on the right track, and we shall soon see that this is indeed the promise that Abraham and his seed should be heirs of the world. We must study the details of this promise. And first let us note the fact that the inheritance promised in this place isWOR 73.8

    An Everlasting Inheritance

    The Lord said to Abraham, “I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession.” Note well that both Abraham and his seed are included in all the promise. The inheritance is not to be merely in the possession of Abraham’s seed forever, but Abraham himself is to have it for an everlasting possession. But the only way in which both Abraham and his seed may have everlasting possession of an inheritance, is by having everlasting life. Therefore we see that in this promise to Abraham we have the assurance of everlasting life in which to enjoy the possession.WOR 73.9

    This will appear still more clearly when we consider that the inheritance isWOR 74.1

    An Inheritance of Righteousness

    “For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.” Romans 4:13. That is just what we have in the promise recorded in the seventeenth of Genesis. For that covenant was sealed by circumcision (see verse 11), and circumcision was the seal of righteousness by faith. See Romans 4:11.WOR 74.2

    Someone may say that this does not appear from the Old Testament itself, and that therefore the Jews could not be expected to have understood it; we have the New Testament to enlighten us. It is true that in studying the Old Testament we owe much to the New Testament, but it is also a fact that there is no new revelation in it. One may see from the Old Testament alone that the inheritance promised to Abraham and to his seed was only on the condition of righteousness by faith.WOR 74.3

    This is the natural conclusion from the fact that the inheritance is to be an everlasting possession. Now the Jews well knew that everlasting life belongs to the righteous alone. “The righteous shall never be removed; but the wicked shall not inhabit the earth.” Proverbs 10:30. “For evildoers shall be cut off; but those that wait upon the Lord, they shall inherit the earth.” Psalm 37:9. “For such as be blessed of him shall inherit the earth; and they that be cursed of him shall be cut off.” Verse 22.WOR 74.4

    The fifth commandment reads, “Honor thy father and thy mother; that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” The keeping of the commandments has never made any difference in the length of men’s lives in this present world. But the inheritance which God promised to Abraham is one that will be everlasting because of the righteousness of its possessors.WOR 74.5

    The Promise and the Resurrection

    Another point from the promise is recorded in Genesis, if we read carefully. The promise was to Abraham and to his seed. Now Stephen stated as a well-known fact that Abraham did not have so much of the promised land as he could set his foot on. Acts 7:5. We may learn this from the Old Testament record, because we are told that he had to buy from the Canaanites, whom God had promised to drive out, a spot of land in which to bury his wife. As for his immediate descendants, we know that they dwelt in tents, wandering from place to place, and that Jacob died in the land of Egypt.WOR 74.6

    Further than this, we read the words of David, whose reign was at the time of the highest prosperity of the children of Israel in the land of Canaan: “Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear unto my cry; hold not thy peace at my tears; for I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were.” Psalm 39:12. See also his prayer at the consecration of the gifts to the temple, when Solomon was made king. 1 Chronicles 29:15.WOR 75.1

    Still further, and this is most positive of all, we have the words of God to Abraham when he made the promise. After telling him that he would give the land of Canaan to him and to his seed, the Lord said that his seed should first be slaves in a strange land. “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.” Genesis 15:7, 13-16. Thus we see that Abraham was plainly told that he should die before he had any inheritance in the land, and that it would be at least four hundred years before any of his seed could inherit it.WOR 75.2

    But Abraham died in faith, and so did his seed. See Hebrews 11:13. “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” They died in faith, because they knew that God could not lie. But since God’s promise must be fulfilled, and they did not receive the promised inheritance in this present life, we are shut up to the conclusion that it can be obtained only through the resurrection from the dead.WOR 75.3

    This was the hope that sustained the faithful Israelites. Abraham had faith to offer Isaac upon the altar because his faith was in God’s power to raise the dead. When Paul was a prisoner on account of “the hope and resurrection of the dead” (Acts 23:6), he said, “And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers; unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come.” And then, to show the reasonableness of this hope, he asked, “Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?” Acts 26:6-8.WOR 75.4

    The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the pledge and surety of the resurrection of those who believe on him. See 1 Corinthians 15:13-20. The apostles “preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead.” Acts 4:2. And one of them says for our benefit, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” 1 Peter 1:3-5. And then he adds that this faith is tried that it may “be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.”WOR 75.5

    And this brings us to the conclusion of the matter, namely, that the promise to Abraham and to his seed that they should be heirs of the world, isWOR 75.6

    The Promise of Christ’s Coming

    The apostle Peter says that it is necessary to remind us of the words that were spoken by the holy prophets because “there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.” Therefore they do not believe in the promise at all.WOR 76.1

    But they do not reason well, “for this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water, whereby the world that then was being overflowed with water, perished; but the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” 2 Peter 3:5-7.WOR 76.2

    Take notice that not only has the promise something to do with the fathers, but it concerns the whole earth. The complaint of the scoffers is that since the fathers fell asleep all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. But the apostle shows that when they say so they shut their eyes to the fact that the same word that in the beginning made the heavens and the earth, also destroyed the earth by the flood. Also the earth is by the same word now preserved until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men, when it will be destroyed by fire. “Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” 2 Peter 3:13.WOR 76.3

    According to What Promise?-Why, according to the promise to the fathers, which was that Abraham and his seed should inherit the earth. It has been a long time, as men count, since that promise was made, but “the Lord is not slack concerning his promise.” It has not been so long since it was made that he has forgotten it; for “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” The reason why he has waited this long is that he is not willing that any should perish in the fires that will renew the earth, but he desires that all should come to repentance.WOR 76.4

    And so we find that we have as great an interest in the promise to Abraham as he himself had. That promise is still open for all to accept. It embraces nothing less than an eternal life of righteousness in the earth made new as it was in the beginning. The hope of the promise of God unto the fathers was the hope of the coming of the Lord to raise the dead, and thus to bestow the inheritance. Christ was once here on the earth, but then he did not have any more of the inheritance than Abraham had. He had not where to lay his head. God is now sending his Holy Spirit to seal the believers for the inheritance, even as he did to Abraham; and when all the faithful shall have been sealed by the Spirit, “he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you; whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.” Acts 3:20, 21. WOR 76.5

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