Greater Than Abraham in the Fortitude of Faith
In the earlier part of John chapter 8 the Lord Jesus Christ is seen exhibiting grace and truth in one holy harmony. The woman taken in adultery is accused before Him: not that the scribes and Pharisees had much of a conscience about the guilt of the poor sinner whom they had brought; but they desired to catch our Lord in His speech so that they might have a reason to accuse Him. They insisted on the execution of the law’s requirements which meant that if the sin could be proven then this woman was worthy of death by stoning. Christ stooped and with his fingers wrote on the ground. The rulers persisted in claiming that the law’s demands should be met, but Christ raised Himself and said, “He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone at her.” Without waiting for a reply from the accusers, Christ again stooped down and wrote on the ground. Why did He write twice?. It was surely a forcible reminder to those religious zealots that the law was written twice by the finger of God. Consequent upon the first writing, Moses smashed the tables on which the law was written at the foot of Mount Sinai. God then asked Moses to “hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first: and I will write upon these tables the words which were in the first tables, which thou brakest” (Exodus 34:1). In the first giving of the law there was no indication of divine grace or mercy; and had Israel been under pure law, they should not have survived for five minutes. At the giving of the law the second time the Lord proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth” (Exodus 34:6).
What an effect had the silent acts of our Lord on the scribes and Pharisees? They, “being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest” (verse 9).
The gracious remark of the Saviour must have touched that woman’s heart— “hath no man condemned thee? Her reply is unique, — “No man, Lord.” To this the Lord replied “Neither do I condemn thee.” Oh! the matchless grace of the Saviour! Then he added “go, and sin no more” — Now all the demands of truth have been satisfied and the words from the lips of Jesus left her without any doubt as to the perfect blend of grace and truth — (see John 1:17). The Lord, in making His statement to this woman “neither do I condemn thee,” was not condoning her guilt, but His remark proved the veracity of the statement found in John 3:17, “God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved.” Christ was not here as a Judge, but as a Saviour.
The Lord now indicates that He is the light of the world, and to follow Him is to be in the enjoyment of the light of life. This observation produced protest from the Pharisees, for they accused Him of bearing record of Himself, and they attributed to the flawless Son of God the art of deceit. Christ indicated that He and His Father bare witness of Him. The guilt of the leaders of the people was in fact that they rejected the words and works of the Lord, and then they crucified Him. He had brought every possible evidence to prove His identity, yet they rejected Him. They accused Him in John 5:18 saying that He made Himself equal with God. Though the rulers testified that He did many miracles, yet they persisted in their refusal of Him and His testimony. They denied all their national hopes and expectations when they declared, “We have no king but Caesar.” Pilate would have let Christ go, but in passing judgment on Him he yielded to the passionate demands of the Jewish leaders.
Christ reveals that the Jews would crucify Him: “When ye have lifted up the Son of Man, then shall ye know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself.”
The subject changes at verse 33 of John 8 by the claim on the part of the Jews — “We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man.” Christ did not let this statement go unchallenged for He said, “If ye be Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham.” Abraham was the father of the faithful. Faith was the main characteristic in that man’s life.
This discussion as to the patriarch Abraham produced the challenge of John 8:53, “Art Thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead?”
In the question which they ask there is the proof of the superiority of the Christ of God. Abraham is dead: the Lord Jesus Christ states in Revelation 1:18, “I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore.”
The most outstanding feature in the life of Abraham was faith. This blessed theme is treated in Hebrews 10 where the principle of faith is emphasized. In verse 19 the ground of faith by which means we approach to God is “the blood of Jesus,” and through that we have communion with God. The gateway to the knowledge of God is found in the verse which follows — “Through the vail, that is to say, His flesh.” The guarantee of an audience with God is affirmed in the verse which follows —”Having an high priest over the house of God.”
Faith was the dominating factor in the life of Abraham — faith evidenced in obeying God: in honouring God: in the friendship of God. While all these are blessedly true and can be experienced by men and women of faith of today, there is One whose faith shone out supremely like a sparkling gem in His words and acts. Hebrews 12:2 attests that Christ is the author and finisher of faith. Often throughout that perfect life was this great principle brought into relief. The dependent Man sought only the honour of His Father whom He glorified on the earth. The principle of faith may be seen in the prophetic expression of Christ in the opening Words of Psalm 16 — “Preserve Me, O God: for in Thee do I put My trust.” The first man was wholly independent; he defied the authority of God, and brought disappointment into God’s fair creation. The Second Man, the Lord out of Heaven, was ever the dependent One. They cast this in His teeth on the cross, “He trusted in the Lord.” Faith ever shone through the gloom and shadow of this world’s obstinacy and rebellion and it was the only bright light in the darkness of human insubordination. The Lord tarried two days in the place where He was when the news of the sickness of Lazarus reached. Him. The glory of God was the paramount factor with Christ, and faith will never move before the time: moreover, faith will never be behind time.
Faith, in Abraham, rejoiced to see Christ’s day: he saw it, and was glad. This blessed preview of the perfections of faith which were demonstrated in the pathway of obedience, and consummated in the supremacy of Christ, brought gladness to the heart of the Patriarch. Should a consideration of such faith not bring profound delight to us men and women of faith today?
Christ consummated this talk on Abraham, in which He declared the fortitude of faith which He Himself personally revealed, by saying, “Before Abraham was, I am.” The eternity of His being is affirmed in this observation. He declared, “Thou wilt show Me the path of life.” The path of life to our Lord Jesus Christ lay through death, and now on high He lives in the power of an indissoluble life. That path of life has far-reaching ramifications; for, to the believer, the path of life is experimentally owned, and it has opened the vista of eternal delights on the principle of hope.
Our Lord Jesus Christ has left us an example that we should follow His steps. He was governed by the fortitude of faith: How about ourselves? He could say prophetically, “Thou didst make Me to hope when I was upon My mother’s breasts” (Psa. 22:9). In Christ there was that unique blend of faith, hope, and love —a threefold cord which is not quickly broken (Ecc. 4:12). The writer to the Hebrews says, “Looking unto Jesus” — that is, gaze upon Him with undivided attention who is the beginner and completer of faith. His counsel and command ring down the ages afresh as He says, “Follow Me!” Follow men, and you will be a failure; follow Christ and you will have a life of faith, hope, and love in which He will be glorified.
May we each allow faith to have its true place in our lives that we may grow into the likeness of the One who is the author and finisher of faith!