CHILDREN OF PROMISE
WHEN we read the portions of Scripture known as the Epistles we are reading someone else’s mail. While that is something normally frowned upon there is no prohibition in this case, because Paul’s writings are the inspired word of God, recorded to make us wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (2 Tim. 3:15)
Paul wrote these letters to various churches of his day to teach them the truth, correct creeping error, and to encourage God’s children to avoid what is evil and cling to what is good. Many things change over time but not spiritual truth, so these letters are as invigorating today as they were when Paul wrote them twenty centuries ago. In this little verse we just heard, St. Paul wants Christians to understand that our new birth as children of God is no less miraculous than Isaac’s, who was born to an elderly couple because God had promised it to them.
We learn in Genesis that God called Abraham when he was seventy-five years old and promised to make him the father of a great nation. But nearly a quarter century after the fact Abraham was still without a single child! How was the promise to be fulfilled? When the time was right, God who never breaks His Word came to visit the aged couple. He informed them that Sarah, who was now 89 years old, would soon have a son. She laughed, but Abraham did not. His faith never staggered because he knew that nothing is too hard for God.
We are Christians. By faith in Christ we have become children of God and spiritual sons of Abraham. We have forsaken our unrighteous thoughts, received the Lord’s abundant pardon in baptism and eaten the heavenly bread in holy communion. To hear the voice of popular religion tell it becoming a Christian is easy. If you Google the question, “how to become a Christian” you will find over twenty seven million sites. With all that guidance how could it be hard?
But what many consider a simple matter is neither simple nor natural, but altogether miraculous, because three natural enemies conspire against us: the devil the world and the flesh (sinful nature).
Scripture states that: The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Cor 4:4) The devil is no amateur. He knows how to make Jesus appear unimportant and himself as an angel of light, and the answer to all our problems. There is no earthly cure for this kind of blindness but only a heavenly one, namely, the words and promises of God given us in Holy Baptism, which gives us new birth into the family of God and delivers us from death and the devil.
Not only does satan plot against us but so does the world. The world is on tilt today. Desperate people, both great and small, do desperate things to make sure that the party never ends. Our leaders are delusional. They tell us the way out of debt is to spend more money. They promise us a bright tomorrow where first class medical care will be available to everyone without money and without cost. (Isaiah 55:1) With the advent of mass communications the lunacy has reached a feverish pitch. Is it any wonder that everyone is on medication?
But even if there were no devil or worldly influence, the deadly sin of Pride is powerful enough keep to us in spiritual slavery with Hagar. Human conceit will not seek the Lord, especially where He wishes to be found in the Word and Sacraments. It is too busy defending its castle from assault, indulging itself, worshiping itself, congratulating itself and pampering itself to think about the things of God.
With all these forces conspiring against us the fact that we have been born anew as children of God is more stunning than Isaac’s birth. We have other similarities to Isaac as well. Isaac bore the cross and so must we. When Isaac was a young man God told Abraham to take his beloved son to a mountain top and offer him there as a sacrifice. Abraham obeyed because experience taught him that no matter what God asked, it would turn out good. Scripture tells us that Isaac carried the wood for the sacrifice to the top of Mount Moriah, even as Jesus carried the wooden cross on which He would be sacrificed to Mount Calvary. When they reached the top Isaac was fastened to it and about to be killed but the Lord called off the test.
The death of Isaac would do no good! It could not forgive a single sin. Instead the entire event was designed by God to teach men to look to a future date when God’s Son would be the Victim, to a time when the sacrifice would not be called off, to a time when Jesus would pour out His life-giving blood to gain salvation for sinners. We are those sinners, so saved by the blood of Christ and so our rejoicing knows no bounds!
Yet there’s no avoiding the cross dear Christians. At times God leads us to places that look like they will be the end of us, but they will not! Because in all trials, tests and temptations we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. And nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31ff)
There’s another way we are like Isaac. In Genesis 26:12 we read that “Isaac harvested a hundred times more than he had planted because the Lord blessed Him.” Now this, too, is amazing and against all odds because Scripture teaches that men reap what they sow, and it can be no other way…except, of course, where God is involved. In His mercy Jesus reaped the consequences of the sins we sow, and we reap the everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness He gained by His perfect obedience, death and resurrection.
Trust this promise Dear Christians because like Isaac we too are children born as the result of a promise: that all who believe in and are baptized will be saved. (Mark 16:15) Thus born of water and the Spirit be certain that you will receive every blessing from Him now, and all that He promises forever. Amen.
~Rev. Dean Kavouras