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The Faith of Abraham
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Genesis 15:6; 2 Samuel 11; 12; Romans 3:20, 31; 4:1–17; Galatians 3:21–23; 1 John 3:4
November 4, 2017

The celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation took place this week on October 31. Most scholars agree (though it has not been proven) that Martin Luther probably chose this date to nail his Ninety-five Theses to the door of the All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg. It has been confirmed that Luther sent his work to Albert of Brandenburg, the Archbishop of Mainz on this date.

Lutheran and Calvinist churches place a lot of emphasis on Reformation Day, though on this special anniversary many Protestant churches are acknowledging the historic date. In Germany it will be considered a lawful holiday. In the United States, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is hosting an event to commemorate the date in the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. [1]

It is interesting, especially to Seventh-day Adventists, that a key text describing the prophetic message of the last days has been interpreted as referring to Luther. “I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach…” (Revelation 14:6) is commonly preached during Reformation Day services. Certainly, Martin Luther was a champion in upholding the gospel of grace.

How appropriate that our Sabbath school lesson this week focuses on the faith of Abraham. Romans 4 moves right into the heart of defining salvation by faith through grace. Paul uses the life of the greatest of the patriarchs to illustrate how we can never be saved by works. If Abraham could not be saved by works, then how can we ever think to enter the kingdom of heaven by our good deeds?

Actually, when you carefully study the life of this first and highly revered son of Terah and descendent of Shem, Abraham didn’t live such a perfect life. The Bible is frank about some of the mistakes made by the father of the Israelite nation. He obeyed God and left Ur, but while in Egypt he lied to Pharaoh about this wife. He graciously let Lot pick the best of the land in Canaan, but bore a child through an Egyptian maidservant in spite of God’s promise that Sarah, his wife, would conceive.

Abraham, the great man of faith, struggled at times with doubt. At his age and under his circumstances, wouldn’t you be tempted to think that the promise of a child would be nearly impossible? Yet that is the message of salvation. We who are sinners have been forgiven and saved by a gracious God who sent Jesus to willingly die on a cross in order to pay the penalty of our transgressions. How can this be?

That’s the almost unbelievable truth that Martin Luther held up and that Paul presents to us in this week’s lesson.

~ cr

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reformation_Day