The Present Truth : July 9, 1896
The sacrifice had been made; Abraham’s faith had been tested and found perfect; “And the angel of the Lord called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, and said, By Myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son; that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply5 thy seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea-shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of His enemies; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed My voice.” Genesis 22.15-18
In the Epistle to the Hebrews we learn the significance of the fact that God swore by Himself. The reader will at once see that the following Scripture has direct reference to that which has just been quoted: —
“When God made promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no greater, He swear by Himself, saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee. And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. For men verily swear by the greater; and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife. Wherein God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath; that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us; which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.” Hebrews 6.13-20
The oath was not for Abraham’s sake. His belief in God was complete without the oath to back the promise. His faith had been shown to be perfect, before the oath was given. Moreover, if it had been given for his sake, there would have been no necessity of putting it on record, since he was dead long before the record was written. But God was willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, and so He confirmed the promise by an oath.
5“Blessing I will bless,” and “multiplying I will multiply,” is the literal translation of a very common Hebrew idiom. Emphasis in the Hebrew is denoted by repetition. Put into ordinary English, the text would read, “I will surely bless thee, and I will surely multiply thy seed.” Similar instances may be seen in the margin of Genesis 2.16, 17, “eating thou mayest eat,” and “dying thou shalt die,” for “thou mayest freely eat,” and “thou shalt surely die.” In Exodus 3.7, “I have surely seen,” the same idiom occurs, “Seeing I have seen.’ In Acts 7.34, this emphatic repetition is preserved in “I have seen, I have seen.”
In Christ Alone
And who are heirs of the promise? —The next clause tells us. The oath was in order that “we might have a strong consolation.” The oath was given for our sakes. This shows that the covenant with Abraham concerns us. Those who are Christ’s are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise; and this oath was given to be an encouragement to us when we flee for refuge to Christ.
How plainly this last reference shows us that the whole of the covenant with Abraham, with all of its included promises, is purely Gospel. The oath backs the promise; but the oath gives consolation to us when fleeing for refuge to Christ; therefore the promise has reference to that which is to be gained in Christ. This is also shown in the text, which has so often been repeated, “If ye are Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” The promise had nothing else in view but Christ and the blessings, which are bestowed through His cross. Thus it was that the Apostle Paul, whose determination was to know nothing but “Jesus Christ and Him crucified,” could also say that he stood and was judged “for the hope of the promise made of God unto the fathers.” Acts 26.6. The “hope of the promise made of God unto the fathers,” is “the hope set before us” in Christ, and which is made “more abundantly” sure by the oath of God to Abraham.
The oath of God confirmed the covenant. The oath by which the promise was confirmed gives us strong consolation when we flee for refuge to the sanctuary where Christ is priest in our behalf, after the order of Melchizedek. Therefore that oath was the same as the oath that made Christ priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. This is clearly set forth in the statement that Christ was made priest “with an oath by Him that said unto Him, The Lord swore, and will not repent. Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 7.21), and that He is able therefore to save them to the uttermost that come to God by Him.
Still further, The oath by which Christ was made priest after the order of Melchizedek was the oath by which He is made surety of a “better covenant,” (verse 22) even the new covenant. But the oath by which Jesus was made priest after the order of Melchizedek was the same as the oath by which the covenant with Abraham was confirmed. Therefore the covenant with Abraham is identical in its scope with the new covenant. There is nothing in the new covenant that is not in the covenant with Abraham; and no one will ever be included in the new covenant, who is not a child of Abraham through the covenant made with him.
What wonderful consolation is lost by those who fail to see the Gospel and the Gospel only in the promise of God to Abraham. The “strong consolation” which the oath of God gives us, is in Christ’s work as “a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.” As a priest He presents His blood, through which we have redemption, even the forgiveness of sins. As a priest He not only provides mercy for us, but “grace to help in time of need.” This is assured to us “without respect of persons,” by the oath of God.
Here is a poor, timid, trembling soul, cast down and despondent by a sense of sins committed, and of general weakness and unworthiness. He is afraid that God will not accept him. He thinks that he is too insignificant for God to notice, and that it would make no difference to anybody, not even to God, if he were lost. To such the Lord says, “Hearken to Me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the Lord; look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged. Look unto Abraham your father, and to Sarah that bare you; for I called him alone [when he was but one, R.V.], and blessed him, and increased him. For the Lord shall comfort Zion; He will comfort all her waste places; He will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody.” Isaiah 51.1-3
Look to Abraham, brought up a heathen, and see what God did for him and what He promised to him, confirming it with an oath by Himself, for your sake. You think that it would make no difference with the Lord if you were lost, because you are so obscure and insignificant. Why, your worthiness or unworthiness has nothing whatever to do with the matter. The Lord says, “I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for Mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.” Isaiah 43.25. For His own sake? Yes, certainly; because of His great love wherewith He loved us, He has placed Himself under bonds to do it. He swore by Himself to save all that come to Him through Jesus Christ, and “He abideth faithful; He cannot deny Himself.” 2 Timothy 2.13
Think of it; God swore by Himself! That is, He pledged Himself, and His own existence, to our salvation in Jesus Christ. He put Himself in pawn. His life for ours, if we are lost while trusting Him. His honor is at stake. It is not a question of whether or not you are insignificant and of little or no worth. He Himself says that we are “less than nothing.” Isaiah 40.17. He says that “we have sold ourselves for naught,” (Isaiah 52.3), which shows our true value; but we are redeemed without money, even by the precious blood of Christ. The blood of Christ is the life of Christ; and the life of Christ bestowed upon us makes us partakers of His worth. The only question is, Can God afford to break or forget His oath? And the answer is that we have “two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie.”
Think of what would be involved in the breaking of that promise and that oath. The word of God, which brings the promise, is the word which created the heavens and the earth, and which upholds them. “Lift up your eyes on high, and see who hath created these, that bringeth out their host by number; He calleth them all by name; by the greatness of His might, and for that He is strong in power, not one is lacking. Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, my way is hid from the Lord, and my judgment is passed away from my God?” Isaiah 40.25-27. The preceding part of this same chapter speaks of the word of God, which has created all things, and that it shall stand for ever, and the words are quoted by the Apostle Peter, with the additional statement, “And this is the word which by the Gospel is preached unto you.” 1 Peter 1.25
It is the word of God in Christ that upholds the universe, and keeps the innumerable stars in their places. “In Him all things consist.” If He should fail, the universe would collapse. But God is no surer than His word, for His word is backed by His oath. He has pledged His own existence to the performance of His word. If His word should be broken to the humblest soul in the world, He Himself would be disgraced, dishonored, and dethroned. The universe would go to chaos and annihilation.
Thus the entire universe is in the balance to ensure the salvation of every soul that seeks it in Christ. The power manifested in it is the power pledged to the help of the weak. So long as matter exists, so long will the word of God be sure. “Forever, O Lord, Thy word is settled in heaven.” Psalm 119.89. It would be a sad loss to you if you should fail of salvation; but it would be a far greater loss to the Lord if you should fail through any fault of His.
Then let the aforetime doubting soul sing: —
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.”