Abraham’s Offering for God’s Building
To hold on to
God Himself we must
eventually let go of
In this series of Notes we have considered the distinction between the fact and the experience of how we are made righteous, or “justified,” in Christ.
Romans 3 shows us the once-for-all fact of our justification by faith in Christ. Romans 4 then goes on to show us how we actually experience this justification in our daily living; unlike the fact, this is not once for all, but is in stages. (See The Three Stages of Justification 1, and The Three Stages of Justification 2)
In Romans 4 Paul explains the experience of our justification by using the picture of Abraham having a son; first, Abraham had the promise of a son (4:3), and then he actually possessed the son whom God had promised (4:19-22). In the same way, we first have the promise that we will be justified, but we must not settle for that; we must go on to actually experience something of Christ as our righteousness in our daily living. (Isaac, Abraham’s son, is a type of Christ; Matt. 1:1).
As we also noted, the fact of our justification is for our sake, that our sins may be forgiven. The experience, however, is for God’s sake, that is, for the sake of His desire to have His kingdom on the earth.
This brings us to the third and final stage in our experience of justification, namely, Abraham’s offering up of Isaac. This is not in Romans 4, but in James 2:
Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God.
— James 2:21-23
James is in no way contradicting Paul here, but rather, is adding to what Paul said in Romans 4 about our experience of justification. That chapter ended with Abraham having a son, but here, at a much later point in his life, Abraham is offering that very son back to God. Thus, “he was called the friend of God.”
We can understand this offering when we consider our own experience. Yes, God may have genuinely blessed us, and even given us something that really is of Christ Himself. Eventually, however, He will come to us, as He did to Abraham, and tell us to put our Isaac, the very Christ whom He has given us, on the altar.
This will be a real test to us. What are we for? The blessing God has given us? Or God Himself? If we hold on to the blessing, we must let go of the Lord. But, if we surrender the blessing to God, He will have a way, as He did with Abraham, to bring something of His kingdom to the earth through us. And today, of course, that kingdom is in the church.
In brief, if we are willing to let go of our blessing and offer it up to God, He will have a way to build up His church through us. What a privilege this is to us!
It is quite important to note that the very first time “worship” is ever mentioned in the Bible is in connection with Abraham’s offering:
And Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.”
— Genesis 22:5
Christians today may consider worship to be a kind of emotional experience, but genuine worship involves a real cost. Specifically, it means we offer back to God the very blessing of Christ that He has given to us.
I appreciate Watchman Nee’s booklet, “Worshiping the Ways of God,” very much. In it he speaks of Hanna’s experience, which was so similar to Abraham’s; when she offered her son to God, she also worshiped the Lord (1 Sam. 1:28). Brother Nee states:
It is not the person who wants God’s grace, but the person who wants God Himself, who can worship Him worthily….As Samuel passed out of [Hannah’s] hands into God’s hands, worship issued from her heart to God’s heart. And not until our Samuel has passed out of our hands into the hands of God shall we begin to know the meaning of worship.
He also states, concerning Abraham’s words in Genesis 22:5, the verse quoted above:
To Abraham the offering up of Isaac was not a matter of sacrifice; it was a mater of worship.
When we do offer to God and worship Him in this way, the blessing we have received will be multiplied in resurrection. The Old Testament pictures this in quite a marvelous way; have you ever noticed the place where Abraham made his offering? God had said to him:
“Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”
— Genesis 22:2
Later the Bible tells us that, centuries after this offering,
…Solomon began to build the house of the LORD at Jerusalem on Mount Moriah….
— 2 Chronicles 3:1
So, in the Old Testament, the temple, God’s dwelling place, was built on Mount Moriah, the very place where Abraham offered up Isaac to God. Abraham had worshiped there by himself, but many generations later the multitudes of his descendants would worship there together three times a year.
The principle is the same in the New Testament age. That is, God will build the church, His dwelling place today, for His worship and His praise, in the very place where we offer our Christ back up to Him for the sake His desire.
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— 4 May 2022 —