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The Sign and Seal of Faith

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
March 15, 2021 12:00 am

The Sign and Seal of Faith

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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March 15, 2021 12:00 am

What was the point of circumcision in the Old Testament? Many Jews believed it was a sign of salvation and that without it you couldn't have a relationship with God. Were they right? Stephen answers that question and many more in this message.

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We frankly don't know how much God told Abraham about the coming Messiah, but we do know that God announced the Gospel to Abraham. Listen to this verse in Galatians 3, rather interesting revelation. Paul writes the Scripture foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the Gospel beforehand to Abraham so that those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham the believer.

Can you imagine that? God is the preacher using the Old Testament Scripture reveals to Abraham the Gospel. When I was much younger, there was a song we would sing in children's church called Father Abraham.

It was an active song with a lot of motions, and I think my teachers wanted us to sing it primarily to help me and my classmates get rid of some of our energy. However, there is an important truth in that song. Abraham is the father of our faith. As Stephen mentioned a moment ago, God preached the Gospel to Abraham.

But fast forward to now. How is what we experience different from what Abraham experienced? For example, when God initiated his covenant with Abraham, it was accompanied by a sign. God commanded that among all his people, all of the males were to be circumcised. It was a sign. It was evidence that they were in a covenant relationship with God.

How does that relate to us? Are Christian males required to be circumcised? And if not, has God given a new sign to his people to indicate that they are in a covenant relationship with him? And if so, what is that sign? All of this is our theme today here on Wisdom for the Heart with Stephen Davey. Stephen's working through a series called Father Abraham. Today's lesson is called The Sign and Seal of Faith.

What we'll learn today is that there is a sign, but it's not something physical in our bodies. It's spiritual. Stay with us today as Stephen explains this and more from God's Word. Would you take your Bibles and turn to Romans chapter 4. In Romans 4, we have seen Paul is attempting to illustrate that justification is not earned.

It's not deserved. It's a result not of a perfect life of obedience, but the work of God in the life of a sinner who comes by faith alone to Christ. Paul has illustrated this by using two very prominent men in Jewish history, Abraham, the greatest patriarch, and David, the greatest monarch. And he has shown us we have taken time to go back into the Old Testament and rediscover the lives of these men and have discovered sin, haven't we? Abraham, who lied on two occasions, putting his wife at risk. He disobeyed God's instruction. When God told him to leave his family and his land, he took along his idolatrous father and his nephew. They would cause great division and delay in his obedience.

When the famine came early on in his departure, he, instead of trusting in God, trusted in Pharaoh and went and lived in Egypt. So certainly he was a man who did not deserve heaven. He was a sinful man. David, we have also rediscovered, was guilty of adultery and murder and lying and hypocrisy. Paul is simply attempting to prove by way of illustration that these two men do not deserve heaven. Something must happen to them as an act of God's justifying grace whereby they would be capable of entering the gate of that wonderful city. Now, Paul is anticipating the response of his Jewish audience, who would naturally at this point say, okay, Paul, you've proven that our great Abraham and our great David aren't good enough to get into heaven.

However, we can fall back on this fact. They have both been marked by the covenant sign. Don't forget Paul, Abraham was circumcised.

And Paul will respond to that then in this next portion of the text in Romans chapter four, verse nine. Is this blessing then upon the circumcised, this blessing of justification or upon the uncircumcised also? For we say faith was imputed, reckoned to the account of Abraham as righteousness.

How then was it reckoned? While he was circumcised or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith, which he had while uncircumcised that he might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised that righteousness might be also imputed or reckoned to them. So what Paul does, first of all, is simply remind the Jew of the timeline of history.

Go back to see what the scriptures say. That's what he encouraged them to do at the beginning of this chapter. Go back and look at what the Bible says about his circumcision and its relationship to his justification. Now, the declaration that he was righteous before God. Well, if you go back to the text, you go back to the book of Genesis, you discover that he was circumcised as a 99 year old man, God giving the mark of that future Jewish people to Abraham, first of all. But if you go a few chapters earlier, you discover in chapter 15 verse six, Abram believed in the Lord and God reckoned it to him as a righteousness. The same thing we've just read in Romans chapter four, verse nine through 12. So in other words, what Paul is reminding the Jewish people of is that Abraham was justified when he was 85 years old, circumcised when he was 99 years old, which means he was considered righteous before God, justified, saved 14 years before he was circumcised. But all of the Jewish rabbis and readers would scurry back to the Torah to check out the timeline again and they would come up with, oh goodness, Paul is right again.

We're wrong. So verse 11 tells us that Abram received the sign of circumcision, a seal of righteousness that he had while he was uncircumcised. In other words, circumcision didn't give Abraham righteousness before God. Circumcision was simply the sign and the seal that he was in fact considered righteous already. Now the problem is, of course, by the time of the apostle Paul, the Jewish nation had forgotten the purpose of the sign, the authority and the meaning behind the seal.

They had simply fallen in love with the sign. The rabbis taught circumcision saves from hell. In the Midrash, a Jewish commentary, it's recorded, quote, God swore to Abraham that no one who was circumcised would ever be sent to hell. In fact, it was further developed that just in case somebody slipped through the cracks and a Jewish or a circumcised believer was headed for hell even though he was circumcised. Another Jewish commentary taught, quote, Abraham sits before the gates of hell and does not allow that any circumcised Israelites should enter there. So poor Abraham is confined to sit at the gate of hell to make sure none of his descendants go in.

Imagine that kind of existence. Here's the great patriarch, the one who ought to be enjoying the greater part of paradise, confined to sit at the gateway of hell to make sure no Jew gets in accidentally. What about a Jew that was so despicable and sinful that everybody said, well, he has to go to hell? What about that one who's also been circumcised but despicably sinful? Well, the rabbis took care of that little problem by teaching that if a Jew was so bad, he just had to be condemned by God, that there was an angel whose job it was to make these men uncircumcised again before they went to hell.

There was so much confusion about this issue that in the early church in Jerusalem, by the time you get to Acts 15, the church is divided and they're factious and they're disagreeing. They're wondering, do we make Gentiles who come to faith in Christ circumcised? Do we make them Jews in order to fulfill all the ramifications of what salvation needed?

Of course, the answer was no. You don't make them Jews, you receive them because the mark is the mark of faith. So circumcision here, according to Paul, was just a sign and a seal.

Let me give you a couple of thoughts along that line. It was a sign. Circumcision was, first of all, a sign that the Jew is a distinct race of people. Jew is simply a derivative of the word Judahite, transliterated to refer to these people who are marked in this way, a sign, secondly, that the Jew had a covenant with God.

Wonderful truth there. And third, a sign that the Jews were separate from all other nations unto God. But listen, sign isn't of itself what God intended it to be. It points to something deeper. It points to something wonderful. It isn't the sign that we focus on. It's what the sign points to.

That's the critical thing. If you've ever traveled across country, maybe you've been in the car. If you've got kids, they've been in the backseat asking, when are we going to be there? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?

Are we there yet? And you're driven nearly to the point of insanity. But finally, you see the first sign with the word Raleigh on it.

Raleigh, 135 miles and you begin to rejoice. You don't pull your car over, get out, go over, hug the sign and say, we're home. Well, no, you did reach that point of insanity and you need help. No, you keep driving.

You keep moving. The question for Paul in Romans 4, 9 is not was circumcision important for Abraham? The question was, did circumcision save Abraham and what was it a sign to say? It was a sign that said Abraham belonged as a word of God.

Let me try to clear it up this way. I wear a sign on my hand. It's a wedding ring. And I've been married now for 21 years and it's been a sign wherever I go, whether it's somewhere here in the area or I get on a plane and go to some other state or some other country, I wear this and this tells people that I'm married. Now, if I took this ring off, if I could take this ring off, it wouldn't mean that I am suddenly unmarried.

It simply points to something deeper. I am not married because I am wearing a wedding ring. I wear a wedding ring because I am married. And the truth is I could wear a wedding ring and not be married. I could be a single fellow and just not want to have any trouble and so I put this on when I travel around. Some of you single guys ought to think about that.

It's not a bad idea. No, I wear it as a symbol that there is in fact something deeper and there is a reality, but I haven't fallen in love with a sign. Oh, I love my ring. I'm in love with my ring.

I've been in love with it for 21 years now and I asked it to marry me. No. Again, I need help if I'm saying the kind of thing. No, it's a symbol. It's a sign. Likewise, with or without circumcision, a person can be a true believer in God through Jesus Christ. Paul also said in verse 11 that circumcision was a seal.

What does he mean? A seal in biblical times was that melted wax placed on a document. You remember even the tomb of Christ was sealed, those cords drawn across that stone and that wax planted there and into that wax placed and printed pressed the seal of authority representing the Roman government. I recently got a passport for my youngest that you saw, a little charity. She's going to travel with me as I've tried to take all of my kids overseas. She'll be going with me to the island of Malta as I ministered to missionaries from Eastern Europe and the Middle East in a few weeks. And so we had to go through the process of getting her passport.

It arrived this past week in the mail and there was great excitement. They're stamped on top of her photograph was the seal of the United States of America. Behind that is the authority of this great country.

It communicates a message that she is a citizen recognized by the authority of the United States and the United States of America stands behind her as she travels abroad. Just as Abraham was given a physical seal, communicating the fact that he was a citizen of the Jewish nation, a covenanted people to God. So by the way, we have also been given a seal of our faith.

You know what it is? It isn't a physical mark. It isn't anything you do to your body or with your body by no means is to ever be equated with baptism. That is something you do, which is nowhere in the New Testament equated with circumcision. That would become a works part of salvation.

No, ours isn't a physical mark. It is a person who when dwells us, the third person of the triune God we refer to as the Holy Spirit of God. He is our seal and behind him is all of the authority of heaven that declares you are a citizen of heaven. Listen, as Paul writes in Second Corinthians, now he who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us as God who also sealed us, giving us the spirit in our hearts as a pledge and Ephesians one in him.

You also after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation, having also believed you were sealed in him with the Holy Spirit of promise who was given as a pledge of our inheritance that is a down payment with a view to the redemption of God's own possession to the praise of his glory and the old covenant. The seal was temporary and the new covenant. The seal is permanent and the old covenant. The seal was physical and the new covenant.

The seal is spiritual. And here is the stunning application to this paragraph. As the Jewish reader read it, Paul is basically saying Abraham is not the father of just those who've been circumcised, in fact, circumcised or uncircumcised.

He is the father of those who have also placed their faith in the words of a coming redeemer or in our case, one who has already come. Here's the shocking truth that frankly, for us in the 21st century, we miss it. It really doesn't mean as much to us, but here's what he's telling them. We know it to be true, but it was it was shocking to them.

He was saying this. A Gentile does not get into heaven by becoming a Jew. A Jew gets into heaven by becoming a Gentile. Just like that old Gentile, Abraham. He was a Gentile until God intersected his life with Revelation. And then 14 years after his conversion of faith to God gave him the mark, he's the father then of both Gentile and Jew.

Now, what does it mean when Paul calls him the father of those of faith? Well, we call William Carey the father of modern missions. Why? He was the first among others to leave and go to a foreign land. We can refer to Martin Luther as the father of the Reformation.

Why? Because he was the figurehead of a protesting church, risked his life and following the scriptures alone. In this way, Abraham is the father of faith. He was the first one who would become a nation of followers. And he also blazed this trail of faith, so to speak, risking his own life out of obedience to the words of God. So Paul uses this wonderful phrase to illustrate now for both Gentile and Jew in verse 12, the middle part, those who follow in the steps of the faith of our father, Abraham. How do we emulate our father Abraham in this way of faith?

Let me give you a couple of reasons or ways. Number one, Abraham believed in God's word without ever experiencing the fullness of its promises. Now even though Abraham would see his son born miraculously, he and Sarah were decades beyond conception and childbearing ages.

Yet that promise did come true. But think about the promise of the land. Go back to Genesis in the early part and there's always the land. The amazing thing about Abraham is he never owned any of the land except for that one parcel of land that had in it or on it the cave of Machphela in which he buried his beloved Sarah. That's all he had. He spent his life walking through the promised land, wandering through the promised land as a nomad.

But he never possessed it. In fact, it would be over 500 years after Abraham that his descendants would possess it. But he believed in the promise. Well that ever having the full benefit of the promise given to him, Hebrews 11 10 tells us that Abraham was looking forward to a city with foundations whose architect and builder is God. Do you know what Abraham was looking forward to? The future kingdom of God. Do you know what you're looking forward to?

The future kingdom of God. Have you realized it yet? No. Have you seen the full benefit of it yet?

No. And you know one of the greatest challenges to us as we walk this path of faith is the challenge that Abraham so well emulated for us. He believed God's word without experiencing the fullness of his promises.

Isn't that a challenge for you? To read the Bible? To read the promise? And to know, to say, you know, that isn't happening in my life right now.

I may never see that particular thing happen. And yet by faith, believe the words of God. Secondly, Abraham not only believed in God's word without ever experiencing the full expression of its promises. Secondly, he believed in Jesus Christ without ever seeing him face to face.

He's a lot more like you than we thought, huh? Even while Abraham knew a lot less about Jesus Christ than those of us who have the New Testament, we know all the details of his birth and his life and his death and his burial and his resurrection. We frankly don't know how much God told Abraham about the coming Messiah, but we do know that God announced the gospel to Abraham. Listen to this verse in Galatians 3, a rather interesting revelation. Paul writes, the scripture foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham so that those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham the believer.

Can you imagine that? God is the preacher using the Old Testament scripture reveals to Abraham the gospel. And what is the gospel?

The death, burial and resurrection of who? Of Jesus Christ. So Abraham heard the story of Jesus Christ and believed without ever seeing him face to face. Wouldn't it be great? Have you ever thought in your life? I know I have.

It'd be great if I could just get five seconds where I could just see, just see, if I could just see it. By not seeing and believing, you become like your father, Abraham. Remember when Thomas in the upper room had doubted, of course, the risen Lord and Jesus Christ appeared, just sort of materialized on the other side of that door and there they sat and Thomas, I imagine, stood and seeing Jesus Christ gave that great exclamation, my Lord and my who?

My God. And Jesus mildly rebuked him and then gave us a great promise. Oh, Thomas, you believe now because you've seen me.

Oh, but how much more blessed are those who without seeing me believe. Those who become in a way like father Abraham, who believe without seeing. So Abraham becomes according to Paul here, the father of all those who walk in his footsteps of faith.

And I just been reading this week and studying and putting my feet up on my desk and thinking about what this would mean. That would mean that he would become the forerunner of faith, followed by men like Caleb. Caleb is an older man, saw the mountain that God had promised him and he said, I want that mountain. And by faith began to pursue it, trusting God to defeat the enemies. He would follow in the footsteps of faithful Abraham, even Mary and Joseph, who on that particular day walked by faith to Bethlehem, bewildered and amazed at what God had said that God was going to do.

They simply believe the word. You go back earlier than that and you discover that Abraham would be the father of Rahab, who desperately wanted to leave her sordid past of prostitution and cling to the people of God. And so she risking everything said to Joshua and the others, I want to go with you. Taking a great step of faith, he would become the father of Ruth, the Moabitess who would leave her family and her land and cling to Naomi and say, I want your God to be my God. Abraham would become the father of the Magi who would leave Persia seeking the one who had been born king of the Jews. He would become the father of the Ethiopian, another Gentile who reading Isaiah was troubled about his soul and God sent to him, Philip the evangelist to explain it and he believed Abraham would be the father of Cornelius, the Roman Gentile soldier who risked everything, including his career and even his life, who dared Caesar's wrath to follow Jesus Christ. Abraham would be the father of Luke, the Gentile who wrote the gospel by his name and also the book of Acts. He would become, in fact, the father of a man named Tertius who wrote the passage we just studied as Paul dictated it to him.

But that's just the beginning. My friend, those who've come to Christ, who've placed their faith in his work alone, who believe without seeing, who believe without experiencing, you are sons and daughters of Abraham. Not because of some physical mark, but because of a spiritual life brought about by the Spirit of God in the hearts of all those who've placed their faith in the Son of God. You are sons. You are daughters of Abraham. Saying that you are the son or daughter of Abraham is to say that you have been saved by God and that you are a spiritual descendant of Abraham's faith in God.

I certainly hope that's true of you today. You're listening to Wisdom for the Heart with pastor and author Stephen Davey. Stephen's working his way through a series from a section in Romans called Father Abraham. Today's lesson is called The Sign and Seal of Faith. In a couple of moments, I'm going to share with you some ways that you can connect with us. But let me first share with you what some other listeners wrote to say.

Here's one. Thanks for taking care of getting your resource to me. I wanted you and your team to know that I've used your materials for years in my own personal Bible study and in my group studies I host in my neighborhood. Three years ago, I invited my entire building, which consisted of 10 total apartments to our study and seven of the 10 showed up. In every case, none of them had ever opened up a Bible. It was their first study.

In a few weeks, about half remained due to time and interest and commitment, some left. However, my next door neighbor accepted the Lord last year as a result of this study. The material that I used focused on the Gospel of John and I used your materials from John to teach the lessons. Thanks again for what you and the ministry does to spread the word. That came from Vince in Williamsburg, Virginia.

Here's another. I especially enjoyed your message I heard on the broadcast this morning. I've used your sermon outlines when I present devotions to the trustees in the county jail. I plan to add the sermon I just heard to the list. Thank you for preaching the word and being biblically correct. You are an inspiration to all of us who believe in walking with God and not bowing to the world. That was from George.

And then one more. Your reminder in a past issue of Heart to Heart magazine gave me additional confirmation that God was in control when he called my baby brother into his presence. Thank you for your timely message of love, hope, and faith. You are a blessing to me and countless millions around the world. And that's from Shirley in San Antonio, Texas. Well, thank you, Shirley, Vince, and George.

It was great to hear from you. And if you, friend, would like to send Stephen a note as well, here's the three best ways to do it. You can write to us at Wisdom for the Heart P.O. Box 37297 Raleigh, North Carolina 27627.

I'll give you that again in case you want to jot it down. It's Wisdom for the Heart P.O. Box 37297 Raleigh, North Carolina 27627. If you want to email us, the address to use is info at That's info at And finally, we have a form on our website that you can use to communicate with us. Visit us online at And there's a form there. The magazine that Shirley mentioned is something we'd like to show you if you haven't seen it before. You can call us at 866-48-Bible, and we'll sign you up to receive the next three issues as our gift. Thanks for joining us, and please be back tomorrow for more wisdom for the hearts.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-06 00:35:31 / 2023-12-06 00:45:35 / 10

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