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Verses of Genesis 25

5

Genesis 25:5 Commentary - Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae (Old and New Testaments)

DISCOURSE: 24
ABRAM JUSTIFIED BY FAITH

Gen 25:5-6. And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them. And he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness.

THE enjoyment of the divine presence is truly satisfying to the soul. In having the light of God’s countenance we have all that we can desire: we are elevated above earthly things; the possession of them cannot add to our happiness; the want of them cannot diminish it. Yet, in another sense, the soul is not satisfied: the more it has of God, the more it desires; nor will it ever be satisfied, till it shall have attained the full, uninterrupted, everlasting fruition of him. Unspeakably blessed was the state of Abram, when God, in return for his active and disinterested zeal in rescuing Lot from captivity, gave him that promise, “I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.” This was sufficient to dissipate all fear with respect to confederacies that might be formed against him, and to confirm that contempt of lucre which he had shewn in refusing to accept even a thread of a shoe-latchet of all the spoil that he had taken. But was Abram contented with this promise? No. God had before promised that he should have a child, from whom in due time the Messiah should spring. He had waited already ten years, and had no child: and as he and his wife were far advanced in years, the prospect of issue became, daily, more dark and discouraging. He therefore could not be completely happy till he could see this great point accomplished. Hence, notwithstanding the declaration which God had just made to him, he expressed his regret at not having an offspring to inherit his substance, and to confirm his expectations of the promised Messiah; “Lord God, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus? Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and lo, one born in my house is mine heir.” We cannot suppose that it was merely an anxiety to have an heir to his fortune, that produced this reply to God: that, though natural enough, would have been unworthy of so eminent a saint, and especially at the very moment when he was receiving such communications from God. But, if we suppose his anxiety to have respect chiefly to the Messiah, then was it every way worthy of his high character. Indeed the answer which God gave to him in the text, clearly shews that Abram’s views extended not to an immediate progeny, so much as to a remote posterity, who should “be blessed through him.” And in this view the conduct of Abram strongly exemplifies our introductory observation.

We do not apprehend that he doubted whether the promise formerly given him would be fulfilled; but, that he began to be impatient for its accomplishment. The repetition of the promise, however, with all its attendant circumstances, confirmed his faith; in the exercise of which he obtained renewed testimonies of his acceptance with God.
We shall endeavour to set before you,

I.

The faith he exercised—

The promise which was now given him, was very extensive—
[It being early in the morning before sun-rise, God “brought him forth abroad, and bade him count, if he could, the stars of heaven;” and then told him that “his seed should be, like them,” innumerable. This doubtless respected, in the first instance, his natural seed: and though he waited fifteen years longer for the birth of that child from whence that numerous progeny was to spring, yet it was accomplished, as Moses repeatedly declared, previous to their taking possession of the promised land [Note: Deu 1:10; Deu 10:22.]. But the promise, taken as it must be in connexion with that which had been before given him [Note: Gen 12:2-3.], and that which was afterwards given [Note: Gen 17:4-7; Gen 22:17-18.] (for they were all either different parts, or only repetitions of the same promise), had an ulterior, and more important view. It assured to him, that he should have a spiritual seed; that the Messiah himself should spring from his loins; and that multitudes, both of Jews and Gentiles, should, through faith in the Messiah, become his spiritual children.

That the promise had this extensive meaning, we cannot doubt: for we are told, that the seed promised to Abram, was Christ [Note: Gal 3:16.] ; and that in this promise the Gospel was preached unto him [Note: Gal 3:8.]. Now the Gospel includes every thing respecting the work and offices of Christ, and the call of the Gentiles to believe in him: and therefore these were the things to which Abram was taught to look forward when this promise was given him.]

The faith which he exercised, had respect to the promise in all its parts—
[He believed that he should have a numerous progeny: yea, fifteen years afterwards, when it was more plainly declared that he should have a child by Sarah, notwithstanding he was about an hundred years old, and Sarah ninety, and both the deadness of his own body and of Sarah’s womb forbade all hope that a child should be born to him in the natural way, “he, against hope, believed in hope:” God had said to him, “so shall thy seed be;” and “he staggered not at the promise through unbelief, but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; being fully persuaded, that what he had promised he was able also to perform [Note: Rom 4:18-21.].” At the same time, in this progeny he beheld the promised seed, the Lord Jesus Christ. Of this we can have no doubt; for our blessed Lord himself said to the Jews, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day; he saw it and was glad [Note: Joh 8:56.].” What can be the meaning of this? can it mean only that he foresaw that this progeny could continue so many hundred years? In truth, he had no reason to rejoice, if that were all; for the terrible destruction that was speedily to terminate their political existence, had far more in it to make him weep, than the prolongation of it to that period had to make him rejoice. There can be no doubt but that by “the day of Christ” is meant, the whole scheme of Christianity as promulged by the great Founder of it, together with its establishment throughout the world by the ministry of his apostles. In this he might well rejoice, because he himself was to be saved by what Christ should do and suffer; and myriads even to the remotest corners of the earth should be made partakers of the same salvation. That his faith thus terminated on the Lord Jesus, seems intimated even in the very words of our text: for when the promise was given him, it is not said merely that he believed the Lord, but that “he believed in the Lord.” We do not indeed mean to lay any great stress on this; because we are aware that to believe, and to believe in, may be considered as synonymous expressions: but, as agreeing with the universal testimony of Christ and his apostles, it ought not to be overlooked. The faith of our father Abraham is constantly said to be the same with ours [Note: Rom 4:12; Rom 4:16.]: but if his had not respect to Christ, it is essentially different from ours: if it related only to the power of God, it agreed as much with the faith of those who crucified the Lord Jesus, as of those who trusted in him for salvation; and therefore we are sure that, like the faith of all his believing children, his faith terminated upon Christ.]

It is this view alone of Abram’s faith that can account for,

II.

The benefit he obtained—

Every exercise of faith on God’s word insures the accomplishment of that word to the believing soul: “God cannot deny himself.” But as the faith of Abram respected in this instance the whole of God’s promises relating to the work of redemption, it brought not merely one single benefit, but all the blessings of redemption into his soul: “it was counted to him for righteousness.” This expression is the foundation of much and important reasoning in the New Testament: we shall endeavour therefore to state to you what we apprehend to be its precise import.

1.

It does not mean that the act of faith constituted Abram’s righteousness, or that he was in any way justified by it as an act

[Faith, considered as an act, is the same as any other act of the human mind. As hope, or love, or fear, or any other grace, is a work of man; so faith, considered as an act, is a work of man: and if Abram was justified by it in this view, he was justified by works: but the whole Scripture positively contradicts this, and affirms that he was justified by faith as opposed to works. St. Paul, referring to the words of our text, says, “What saith the Scripture? Abraham believed God; and it was counted unto him for righteousness [Note: Rom 4:3.]:” then explaining himself more fully, he adds, “We say that faith was counted to him for righteousness [Note: Rom 4:9.] ” He afterwards calls it “the righteousness of faith,” as opposed to the works of the law [Note: Rom 4:13.]: and repeats again, respecting his faith, that “it was imputed to him for righteousness [Note: Rom 4:22. See also Gal 3:6.].”

Moreover if the mere act of faith constituted Abram’s justifying righteousness, he had whereof he might glory before God: he could say, ‘I performed an act which was the true and proper ground of my-salvation; so that my salvation was not altogether a gift of free grace, but, as far at least as respected that act of mine, it was a debt paid to me in consideration of the work which I had performed.’ But this idea also St. Paul expressly controverts; and maintains, in opposition to it, that Abram “had not any thing whereof to glory before God,” but that the reward given him was of grace, and not of debt:” and from thence he deduces this general position, that “to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted to him for righteousness [Note: Rom 4:2-5.].”]

2.

The meaning is, that his faith, as laying hold of Christ and of his righteousness, was the mean or instrument whereby he was justified—

[Much has been said on the subject of imputed righteousness; and controversies have been raised about the words, while in substance the same thing has been intended. That we should “contend earnestly for the faith,” is certain; but “strifes of words” we should avoid: and if we hold fast that which we have stated to be the import of the expression, we hold that in which all good men are agreed, without relinquishing one atom of important truth.

We have before shewn, that Christ and his salvation were contained in the promises made to Abram; and that Abram’s faith had respect to them. Now we say that by his faith Abram became interested in all that Christ did and suffered, precisely as we do at this day. The only difference between Abram and us is this: Abram believed in a Saviour that should come; and we believe in a Saviour that is come. As to the efficacy of Christ’s death, there is no difference at all between those who preceded, or those who followed him: he was “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” The righteousness of Christ also availed as much for the justifying of believers under the Old Testament, as of those who were his more immediate followers. The parallel drawn by St. Paul between the sin of the first Adam and the righteousness of the second Adam, is equally just, whether it be referred to Abram or to us: it designates the way in which Abram was justified, as well as the way in which we are justified: “By one man’s offence death reigned by one: much more they which receive the gift of righteousness, shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.” “As by the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation, even so by the righteousness of One the free gift comes upon all men to justification of life.” “As by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of One shall many be made. righteous [Note: Rom 5:17-19.].” In a word, “Christ, who had no sin of his own, became a sin-offering for” Abram, just as he did for us: and Abram, by believing in Christ, became, as all other believers do, “the righteousness of God in him [Note: 2Co 5:21.].”]

Application—

We intreat you, Brethren,

1.

To bear in mind in what way you yourselves are to be saved—

[You have heard how Abram’s faith “was counted to him for righteousness.” But was this only an historical fact; a fact in which you have no personal interest? Far from it: St. Paul assures us, that “it was not recorded for Abram’s sake only, but for ours also, to inform us, in what manner we are to be justified, and to assure us that righteousness shall be imputed to us also, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; who was delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification [Note: Rom 4:23-25].” Now in this passage there is an express parallel drawn between the manner of Abram’s justification, and of ours. “While therefore it proves on the one hand that Abram had respect to the death. and resurrection of Christ, it shews us, on the other hand, that we must seek for justification, not by our works, but by faith in Christ Jesus. For if so eminent a man as Abram, who had forsaken his country and kindred, and sojourned willingly in a strange land where he had not the smallest possession, and even offered up his own son, at the command of God, if he was not justified by his works, but by his faith in the promised Messiah, then it must be madness indeed for us to dream of justification by works, or to hope for acceptance in any other way than through the blood and righteousness of the Lord Jesus.

It is worthy of observation also, that as his being justified by his faith before he had performed any of the good works for which he was so eminent, proves that he was justified by faith only; so its being spoken of him after he had performed these acts, proves that he was justified by faith only from first to last. This it is of great importance to notice: for it shews us, that we also must be justified from first to last in the very same way. It is true that God will reward our works; but the reward will be of grace, and not of debt: the only meritorious ground of our acceptance from first to last must be the righteousness of the Lord Jesus. We must exercise the faith of Abram, if we would be numbered amongst his children [Note: Gal 3:7; Gal 3:9.].

It may be objected indeed that St. James says, “Abram was justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar [Note: Jam 2:21.].” But Abram was justified by faith twenty-five years before Isaac was born [Note: See notes b and c.]: which alone is an absolute demonstration that St. James did not speak of the same justification that St. Paul did, since that mentioned by St. Paul had taken place at least fifty years before. The truth is, St. James speaks of Abram’s works as manifesting the truth and excellence of his faith: for the whole scope of his argument is to shew, that we are not saved by a dead faith, but by a living and operative faith: in confirmation of which he observes, that the perfection of Abram’s faith was displayed by that consummate act of his obedience: and that it was this faith, and not a dead faith, that was imputed to him for righteousness. There is therefore no real opposition between the two apostles, nor any argument to be derived from St. James that can in the smallest degree invalidate the foregoing statement.

We recur then to what we have before said, and urge you to believe in Christ for the salvation of your souls [Note: Heb 10:39.].]

2.

To be concerned about nothing so much as the manifestation of Christ to your souls—

[Nothing dwelt so much upon the mind of Abram as the promise given to him relating to the Messiah: Nor could any thing that God himself could say to him allay the thirst which he had after that unspeakable gift. His longing after Christ arose, as we should think, even to impatience and ingratitude. But God approved of it; and instantly renewed his promises to him in a more plain and express manner than before. And thus will he do towards us, if we manifest the same holy ardour after the knowledge and enjoyment of Christ. He will permit us to say to him, ‘What are all thy gifts to me, or all thy promises, if I go Christless [Note: See.], or have not assured hopes of an interest in him!’ Yes, he would be pleased with such apparent ingratitude; and would speedily return unto us an answer of peace. Let then every thing which you possess, appear as nothing in your eyes in comparison of Christ: let nothing comfort you while you are destitute of Christ: let it not satisfy you to have embraced the promises which relate to Christ; but endeavour to obtain brighter prospects of their approaching accomplishment. Like the holy Patriarch of old, entreat of God that you may not die till you have embraced Jesus in your arms, and can confidently say, “Mine eyes have seen his salvation [Note: Luk 2:28-30.].” This is the boldness which Jacob exercised when he wrestled with the angel [Note: Gen 32:26.]: and similar importunity shall surely be crowned with similar success.]


Verses of Genesis 25

5

Consult other comments:

Genesis 25:5 - Joseph Benson’s Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Genesis 25:5 - The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

Genesis 25:5 - Adam Clarke's Commentary and Critical Notes on the Bible

Genesis 25:5 - College Press Bible Study Textbook Series

Genesis 25:5 - Discovering Christ In Selected Books of the Bible

Genesis 25:5 - Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary

Genesis 25:5 - John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

Genesis 25:5 - Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae (Old and New Testaments)

Genesis 25:5 - Jamieson, Fausset and Brown's Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Genesis 25:5 - Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament

Genesis 25:5 - English Annotations on the Holy Bible by Matthew Poole

Genesis 25:5 - John Trapp's Complete Commentary (Old and New Testaments)

Genesis 25:5 - The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Genesis 25:5 - Whedon's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae (Old and New Testaments)