Robert Jeffress - The Night Abraham Was Saved
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". Two thousand years ago Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins so that we could spend eternity in heaven with him. But what about people who lived before Jesus's time on earth? Did they have the same opportunity to be saved? Today I'll show you how Abraham's story gives us the answer. My message is titled "The Night Abraham Was Saved" on today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".
Many of you may have seen that movie "The Last Emperor". It really is a fascinating story of the last emperor of China who was anointed as he was a young child. He lived in the lap of luxury. He had 1,000 eunuch servants around him. And one day his brother came to visit with him and said, "What happens when you do something wrong"? And the young emperor said, "Oh, that's easy. When I do wrong, one of my servants is punished". And to illustrate that, he takes a jar. He drops it on the marble floor. It shatters into millions of pieces, and then he has one of his servants beaten for what he did. You know, Jesus our king reversed that pattern. When we his servants do wrong, it's King Jesus who suffers in our place.
You know, sin is a real problem we all face. It can't be ignored. It can't be glossed over. Somebody has to pay for our sin. As Philip Yancey said, grace is only free because the giver of grace is the one who bore the cost himself. How is it that God takes our wrongdoing and exchanges it for his righteousness in us? That's what we're going to talk about today. Today we have come to the single verse in the entire Old Testament that best explains how a person who is sinful can be right before God. If you have your Bibles, turn to Genesis chapter 15 as we discover the night Abraham was saved.
God came to Abraham in Genesis 15:1, and he said, "Do not fear, Abraham. I am your shield. I'm the one who's going to protect you, and I'm your reward. Anything that you've given up for my glory is going to be more than paid back to you". Now, Abraham could have said, "Oh great, Lord. I trust you". But Abraham wasn't going to let the matter rest. Look in verse 2. He said, "Lord, what will you give me since I'm childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus"? Basically he was saying, "God, for these 15 years now you've been promising that you were going to give me a land, you were going to make me the father of a great nation, and through me all the nations of the world would be blessed. But where's that child you promised"?
You know, Abraham knew that to be a father of a great nation he had to first of all be the father of one, one single person, and yet he hadn't been able to do that yet. So he asked the question, "Lord, is this servant of mine, Eliezer is he the one who is going to fulfill the promise"? Verse 4, "Then behold, the word of the LORD came to Abraham, saying, 'This man is not your heir, but one will come forth from your own body. He shall be your heir.'" "There's still a son to be born. You are going to be the father of a great nation". And then he takes Abraham outside. It's beginning to grow dark. He says, "Abraham, look up and look at the stars, see if you can number them". And the sky was filled with stars and Abraham begins counting, "One, two, three, four. God, I can't count all those stars". God says, "Exactly. So shall the number of your descendants be". And then we get to that key verse, verse 6. And then Abraham believed in the Lord and it was counted to him, it was reckoned to him as righteousness.
Now, I want you to notice two key phrases in that verse. First of all, he believed God. He believed God. It's not that he believed that God exist, it's that Abraham believed the promises of God. That's what the context is. Abraham believed what God had said, that he would make him a father of a great nation, that he would give him a land that through him all the nations of the earth would be blessed. He believed in God. And, you know, in the final analysis it doesn't matter how much Abraham knew because it wasn't Abraham's faith that saved him. Did you know nobody is saved by faith? You can't have enough faith to earn salvation. We are saved by God's grace that is received through our faith, and that leads to the second phrase here. He reckoned it as righteousness. God took Abraham's faith and he reckoned it as righteousness.
And today how are we saved? The same way. We look not toward the death of Christ, we look backward at the death of Christ believing in our hearts that when we trust in what Christ did for us on the cross our sin is exchanged for his righteousness. It's always been the same. We are saved by God's grace received through our faith, paid for by the death of Christ. Paul talks about this in Romans chapter 4. Hold your place here and turn to Romans 4 for just a moment. You know, Paul was making the point that we are saved not by works but by God's grace, and he uses Abraham as an example of that. In chapter 3, verse 28 he says, "For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the Law".
And then he keeps going. There was no chapter transition. It just kept going. Chapter 4, verse 1, "What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, did according to the flesh"? The Jews objected to this idea of salvation by grace. They thought it was works and they said, "Look at Abraham, Paul. Surely, he was saved by his works. Think of what he did. He uprooted his family, went to the Promised Land, was willing to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice. Surely that's enough to be saved. Isn't that what saved Abraham"? Paul says in verse 2, no, "For if Abraham was justified," that is made right with God, "by works, he has something to boast about for, but not before God".
But what does the Scripture say? And then he quotes Genesis 15:6. Abraham believed God and that was credited to him as righteousness. And then Paul adds in verse 4, "Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due". What he's saying is if you work for something and are paid for it, what you get is not grace. It's an obligation. How many of you every 2 weeks when you get your paycheck go into your employer and say, "Oh, thank you so much. That is so gracious of you. I can't imagine that you would do such a thing for me, is to give me this check". Do you do that? I don't have one staff member who does that. You know why? Because what we give them is not a gift. It's what they earn. Your boss gives you not a gift. He gives you a wage. It's what you've earned, and that is why God refuses to allow us to work in any way for our salvation.
If we are allowed to work for our salvation, then salvation is not a gift. It's an obligation. And, ladies and gentlemen, God refuses to owe any man or woman salvation. It is a gift. It is a gift of grace. That's how salvation comes. And then that verse, "But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness". And then Paul goes on to quote David. Here's another example. David speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works, and he quotes from the psalms, "Blessed," happy, "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".
What's the application for us? Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness. What's the application for us? Here's the application. You get to choose how you want God to judge you. You can get him to judge you if you want to on the basis of your goodness, your righteousness; or you can choose to allow him to judge you on his righteousness. It's one or the other. You know, Paul is a great example, his own life of that. He thought growing up in most of his adult life that he had enough spiritual resources to get into heaven.
In Philippians chapter 3 he says in verses 5 and 6, "I thought I had what it was necessary to get into heaven. I was a Jew. I was of the tribe of Benjamin. I was circumcised on the eighth day. I was a Pharisee. I was a keeper of the law. I was zealous for God". But then verse 7 he said, "I came to that realization on the road to Damascus, that what I was counting as gain was actually loss". Literally he said, "Whatever things were gain to me, those I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ". "What I thought were spiritual assets were in fact spiritual liabilities because they were keeping me from receiving the righteousness of God". And in Philippians 3:9 he says, "And now this is my prayer, that I might be found in him not having a righteousness of my own derived from the law but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith".
And so here's the bottom line question for you. What are you trusting in for God to allow you into heaven, your righteousness or the righteousness of Christ? Abraham believed what the Lord said and his tiny bit of faith in the great accounting room of heaven was exchanged for the righteousness of God. Now, Abraham had some questions. When God said that, Abraham thought, "This is too easy. This is too easy. I just simply believe God and somehow I'm made right with God? God, how can I know you will keep your promise to me"? Notice the confirmation of the transaction. "How can I know"? Look at verse 8. He said, "Oh, Lord, how may I know that I will possess the land"? God said to him, "Bring me a 3-year-old heifer and a 3-year-old female goat and a 3-year-old ram and a turtledove and a young pigeon".
Then Abraham brought all of these things to God and he cut them in two and laid each half opposite the other, but he did not cut the birds. What in the world is going on there? In Abraham's day, now listen to this. This is the best part of this sermon. In Abraham's day when two kings were going to make a contract with one another, a bilateral contract, the way they ratified that contract was by taking these animals, slicing them down the backbone. It was a bloody mess. And they would put one half of the animal on one side, the other half of the animal on the other side, and then the two kings would each take a torch and they would walk side by side between those animal pieces; and it was a way of signifying that each king had a responsibility to keep that contract intact.
And if one of the kings failed to keep his end of the deal; well, the blood represented what would happen to him. He would lose his life. He said, "May I lose my life if I don't keep my end of the bargain"? So God had made a contract with Abraham. How did Abraham know that God was going to keep his end of the bargain? God tells Abraham, "Okay, get the animals. Slice them down the back. You know the drill". So Abraham does that. But then before Abraham and God walked through the animal pieces together, notice what happens. Verse 12, "Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, terror and great darkness fell upon him. And it came about when the sun had set, that it was very dark, and behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a flaming torch which passed between the pieces".
In other words, after Abraham sliced those animals up, God put Abraham to sleep... Abraham was over in the corner in a deep sleep when God took the torch and he walked between the animal pieces by himself. Why did he do that? He was signifying that the fulfillment of this covenant didn't depend upon what Abraham did or didn't do. It was an unconditional promise. It depended upon the faithfulness of God. God made this contract, this promise not with Abraham but with himself. "Oh, preacher, you're reading way too much into that". You think so? Listen to what the writer of Hebrews said. Hebrews 6, verses 13 to 14, "For when God made the promise to Abraham, since He himself could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying, 'I will surely bless you and I will surely multiply you.'"
You say, "Well, that's great for Abraham. It all depended upon the faithfulness of God. What does that mean for me? How do I benefit from that"? Listen to this. God has made an unconditional contract, a covenant with you and with me; and it's simply this. If we will confess our sins before God, acknowledge our spiritual bankruptcy, and believe with all of our heart that Jesus Christ was the payment for our sins, then God will take all of the righteousness that belongs to Jesus and he will deposit them in your spiritual bank account so that when you die... not if you die, when you die you will be welcomed into heaven not based on your spiritual financial statement but on the righteousness of Jesus himself.
"Oh, pastor, that's just too easy. Don't I have to do something to ratify that, to earn my salvation"? No. The fulfillment of that unconditional promise from God depends upon God and God alone. He is not only the one who can save you, he's the only one who can keep you saved; and you see that over and over again in Scripture. John 10:28 Jesus said, "And I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish. No man shall snatch out of my hands those whom the Father has given me". Romans 11 and 29, "For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable". They can't be taken back no matter what you do or don't do. Hebrews 7:25, he is able to save the uttermost, those who draw near to him. Or think about Jesus's own words in John chapter 3:14 and 16. "For as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him has eternal life. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but shall have everlasting life".
"But, pastor, what if I falter in my belief? What if I quit believing"? 2 Timothy 2; even when we are faithless he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself. That's how we are saved; by simply believing, trusting, and clinging to the death of Christ for our forgiveness. Charles Haddon Spurgeon was perhaps the greatest Baptist preacher in all of history, and he often told the story of the night he was saved. He had wandered in to a primitive Methodist church and the pastor was gone that evening and a layman was standing up, an uneducated layman preaching that evening. He butchered the King's English. He didn't have much education. But he announced his text: Isaiah 45, verse 22. "Look, look, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth".
Look, be ye saved all the ends of the earth. And then he launched into his message. He says, "Notice what the text says here. It says look, look. It don't take no effort to look. It's not like raising your hand or lifting your foot. All you have to do is look, and you don't have to be educated to look. You don't have to earn £1,000 a year to look. All you have to do is look. But it not only says look, it says 'Look unto me. Look unto me and be ye saved.' It doesn't say look to yourself. There's no comfort in looking to yourself. You have to look unto God, look unto Jesus. Look unto Jesus and be ye saved". And then he noticed young Spurgeon there on the front row and notice how uncomfortable he was getting. He said, "Son, you look miserable. And guess what? You're going to stay miserable in this life and into the next life. You're going to be miserable now and after you die if you don't obey my text". "Look unto me and be ye saved all the ends of the earth".
And then lifting up his Bible, that lay preacher said, "Look, look, look unto Christ. All you must do is look and live". And Spurgeon says, "That night I looked at Jesus Christ and received his gift of salvation". Let me ask you the most important question of all. What are you looking to to save you when you die? Are you looking to yourself? You're going to be disappointed one day. None of us is righteous enough to earn salvation. Are you looking at other people thinking, "Well, I may not be perfect, but I'm better than they are"? God doesn't grade on the curve. He said it's not enough to be better. You have to be perfect. The only way to be assured of heaven is to looking to Jesus Christ. And the Bible says when you look one time and put your faith and trust in the Savior, God takes your little amount of faith and he credits it for righteousness. Abraham believed God and his faith was counted as righteousness.