For the first Sunday of Advent our pastor Clay Thompson launched into a study of the Lord Jesus’ human genealogy as recorded in Matthew chapter 1. “The son of David, the son of Abraham.” This amounted to one of the best sermons Clay has delivered. His theme was, “the coming of Christ frees us from the fear of what we are in the flesh.” There is nothing quite like the holiday season to remind us of the sin and dysfunction that exists in our families. Tackling this subject headlong, Clay pointed out - beginning with Abraham and the story of Ishmael’s conception - that the genealogy of the Lord is strewn with human frailty and sin.
That line of frailty did not thwart the Redeemer. In His coming Christ redeems all that came before Him; for us He redeems all that comes after. There is no situation, no predisposition, nothing inbred that is too hard for Him. As Clay pointed out, the apostle Paul came to this conclusion at the end of Romans 7, an experience that brought him to the end of himself, his religion, his ancestry. The redemption of the body to come in Christ releases him from the fear of his own body of death.
C.E.B. Cranfield would add that Romans 7 is the experience of the believer this side of the redemption of the body. The more mature the believer, the more he feels the anguish of “what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do” (NKJV). There is now no deliverance from the present condition. There is, however, the joy of knowing that Christ will deliver us from this body of death (7:24-25). “The joy of the LORD is your strength.” Moreover, there is power from on high. As Cranfield puts it, the believer is given power to “rebel” against the flesh. This we do, day in and day out, as the Holy Spirit animates us to study the Scriptures, to pray, to share the Gospel, and to do the good works the Father has placed before us.
Clay made the point that Abraham’s faith was entirely in response to God’s promise and power. “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted unto him for righteousness.” There was no merit in Abraham’s faith per se; rather, it laid hold of God’s specific promise. In the weakness of his own wisdom he acquiesced to Sarai’s suggestion to conceive through Hagar. But Abraham’s confidence, his faith, was strengthened by God’s demonstration of power at various critical junctures in his life, particularly through the miraculous birth of Isaac: “[not considering] his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb” (Rom. 4:19). By the time he came to the foot of Mt. Moriah, Abraham’s faith had come to maturity by God’s exercises.
It is confidence in the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things which did not formerly exist that sustains and empowers the believer through this life. The coming of Christ frees us from the fear of what we are, left to ourselves.