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Msindisi # 122

December 5, 2014

SALVADOR AND DIANNE’S MSINDISI MONTHLY

Number:122.     Dec 2014

P.O. Box 1481

Vryheid 3100

KwaZulu Natal

South Africa

+27 (0) 728311008

+27 (0) 723843786

Email: msindisi@gmail.com

salv.di@gmail.com

KwaZulu Mission Website: http://www.kwazulumission.com

KwaZulu Mission Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/kwazulumission

Phumulani headed away to Stanger this month for a few days visiting Calvin and the Stanger fellowship. Calvin asked him if he would be willing to come and teach some of the Zulu speaking people in the congregation. He returned with a big smile and enjoyed it. In the future he will return.

This month we continued sorting as much of the paper work as possible for Sal’s visa transfer and Di’s renewal application. Before we went to Durban is that we stopped in for a night in Dundee to catch up with Shane and Chrissy Van Niekerk en route to checking if Di’s visa transfer had arrived in Newcastle. Before reaching them we visited Isandlwana where the British lost against the Zulu. In the middle of the month we took a trip down to Durban to submit Sal’s application for his transfer. This involved two trips as the information that he was given was incorrect and another form needed to be completed. After much driving about to search for an Internet place, the form was completed, so we could return the next day for the interview.

While in Ballito we also had a quick catch up with believers from Coming King Ministries along with some of the Stanger believers. Sal was asked to bring a teaching for the Monday night meeting. Our visit was short and busy as this month we will be returning again to collect Sal’s successful transfer document and to submit Dis renewal for visitors visa for another 3 years even thou she still has not received her transfer from Home Affairs. We will have to return again or we may submit Sal’s visitors visa renewal for another 3 years in Pretoria depending on the time of arrival of Sal police clearance from the UK.

The two Pre school crèches that we sing and teach the children at in Vryheid had their end of the year concerts this month. Joyland had theirs first, where Sal got to share with the parents. Then Carebear was at the end of the month. Each year this is always such a special time for us as well as the kids.

Di has continued, when time has permitted, to help Celani learn to sew. She has been so eager to learn. So far she has completed 3 dresses for her daughters, a fleece jacket for herself, a skirt for herself and now she is in the process of starting a dress. She absolutely loves her machine. Next year Di has been asked to teach others.

Kids club has its end of the year party this coming Saturday, this was kindly provided by Glenys in New Zealand who had given some funds earlier in the year. Sal is finishing off the New Tribe Mission material particularly for Zuzu and Zanele, as Sal’s group was put on hold for many weeks while Zanele and Zuzu had to attend school during weekends to study for their matric exams. They did their last two lessons today. Both girls will be leaving Saturday morn teaching for the kids as they are older now.

Ibandla Lendlela Eyodwa (name of the church Phumulani teaches and we attend) got to visit another small group of believers at their sunday morning gathering at Cibilili. Everyone piled into the truck and on the back, the scenic drive their is beautiful. Phumulani    is making time to speak more with the pastor there to get a better understanding of their understanding of scripture. Sal and Phumlani have just finished evangelizing the area of Cibilili and have started in an area called KwamaThema. They did their first preaching there and while Sal preached Phumlani was approached by two men in the community. They asked who gave us authority to preach in their area and asked why we didn’t go to the leaders of their area. Phumlani explained that we had already asked the chief who gave us permission to do the Lord’s work throughout the various areas under his jurisdiction. They warned Phumlani to stop Sal preaching for there would be people who would beat Sal and Phumlani up as they are influencing the children to stop ancestral traditions. Please pray that the Lord may grant us peace in that area so that the word of God may continue unhindered. We do get people who do not like our preaching but they generally ignore the message. But we must continue to preach the message. It is not a big area to work through and pray that the Lord will touch the hearts of people living there.

We are pleased to say Tholakele has now got her floor laid in her hut with cement and her door will attached soon. It has taken a long time to complete but as we have been able, it is now nearly finished. She has truly been blessed and is most grateful for the help she has received. Thank you to all those who have contributed to this whether through finances or labour.

Prayer needs:

Sal and Di are both mindful of the anniversary of Bhabekile’s murder that is almost here. Please keep the family in prayer. Both her children are doing well with their Gogo.

For Zuzu and Zanale as they finished their time in kids club.

Safe travels as this month will involve a lot of traveling and meeting up with people.

Di and Sal’s visitors visa renewal for 3 years.

For the area of KwamaThema and that the Lord will do a work in the people’s lives.

Thank the Lord for our 7 years of marriage

Thank the Lord for the wonderful opportunity  to serve and share the gospel here in

South Africa. May He continue to bless the work of His hand and may it produce much fruit.

FOUR

 

THE EVIDENCE OF JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH

ROMANS 4

 

 

Acts 17:11

11 Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.”

Before we start looking at Romans 4, I want to ask a question. When Paul preached the Gospel to the Bereans, which scriptures did they search daily to see if these things were so? Obviously, it was the Old Testament. Now herein lies a great truth. The Truths of the Gospel are right there in the Old Testament scriptures and were not a complete innovation of the Apostles. This chapter could be entitled ‘The Evidence of Justification by Faith.’ Before we continue, we need to remember a few things:

Firstly, remember that God had a unique relationship with the Jewish people and set them apart from every other nation. He gave them His commandments with the promise that ‘He who practices them shall live by them.’ So how could Paul disregard 2000 years of a relationship between God and Israel by saying that they had nullified their circumcision and that the Mosaic Law would not give them a right standing before God? How could he substitute obedience to the Law with simple faith as the means of their justification?

We should call two considerations to mind from the last chapter. The first consideration was to do with the word ‘Law’. The Law of Moses was not Moses’ invention it but was God’s law. So how could Paul speak of it in the way that he does? The second consideration was the Abrahamic covenant that God made with Israel as a nation. God made this covenant and God took sole responsibility for its fulfillment. One cannot simply disregard circumcision because it is a symbol of a perpetual covenant. The Abrahamic covenant guaranteed the land of Israel as their possession but the Mosaic covenant regulated their dwelling in the land.

Paul had and still has some explaining to do. In the last chapter, Paul explained that there is great advantage in being Jewish because their relationship with God was unique. From the viewpoint of its heritage, circumcision had great value, but from the viewpoint of righteousness, it was nullified. Like us Gentiles, all of Israel were sinners. Paul goes further to say that, God did not introduce the Law to justify the Jew but to show him his sin. Therefore, Jesus had to pay the debt of his sin and it is faith in Him that justifies the believer. Faith is not contrary to the Law. Rather, by having faith, we establish the Law because we place our faith in the one who is the perfect embodiment of all that the Law requires. In this chapter, Paul presents the evidence that God always intended to impute righteousness based on faith. To do this he goes right back to the father of the Jewish nation, Abraham. The Jews are not betraying Moses and Abraham by accepting Yeshua. Rather, by doing so, they are following in Abraham’s footsteps.

We will examine Romans 4 in three sections.

1,         The nature and the result of Abraham’s faith.

2,         The invitation of Abraham’s faith.

3,         The reality of Abraham’s faith.

VERSES 1 – 8:

THE NATURE AND THE RESULT OF ABRAHAM’S FAITH

Paul already taught that the righteousness of God is apart from the Law, and that the Law and the prophets even attest to this. However, Paul did not proceed to prove this specifically. Paul just finished the last chapter by saying that we do not nullify the Law through faith, rather we establish it. I can imagine the response to Paul from the Jew would be, “Is that the case? Well, prove it!” Note in verse 1, Paul speaks as a Jew to the Jews because Abraham is not the father of the Gentiles according to the flesh. He is not our physical father. Some commentators say that Paul is not speaking as a Jew, but the phrase ‘according to the flesh’ refers to the words, ‘has found’. That is to say “What has our forefather, Abraham, found according to the flesh?” Yet this does not make sense. This chapter is not looking at Abraham in regards to his works done in the flesh, but rather it is looking at his faith. Secondly, the term ‘our forefather’ has to relate to physical Israel because Paul has not yet taught that Abraham is the father of the believing Gentile as well as of the physical Jew. Why is this an important point? If we do not recognize the ongoing context of this epistle, and if we strip it of its Jewish elements, then we will misunderstand Paul’s arguments about election and the salvation of Israel in later chapters.

HOW WAS ABRAHAM JUSTIFIED?

Now concerning Abraham, the father of the Jew, we must make a note of the following. In whatever way Abraham was justified is the prototype for the justification of all his descendants. That Abraham was justified before God there is no argument, he most definitely was. In Isaiah 41: 8, God called Abraham His friend. The question is not, ‘Was Abraham justified?” Of course he was. Rather, the question is “How was he justified? Was it by his doing, his works, or was it by his faith?” Paul argues that if Abraham was justified by his own works he would have something to boast about. But how could he boast before God? God says in Isaiah 51: 1 – 2, “Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness, Who seek the LORD: Look to the rock from which you were hewn And to the quarry from which you were dug. Look to Abraham your father And to Sarah who gave birth to you in pain; When he was but one I called him, Then I blessed him and multiplied him.”

In other words, if you are looking for righteousness, remember this. Abraham was nothing when God chose him. He was not naturally great. God blessed him and multiplied him. He had nothing to boast of before God. Rather, on the contrary, Paul tells us in verse 3 that Abraham’s righteousness was credited to him because of his faith in God. Paul takes this from Genesis 15: 6. Yet Acts 7: 2 (ff) tells us that God called Abraham when he was living in Ur of the Chaldees, before he lived in Haran. He told Abraham to leave his country and his relatives and to go to the land that God would show him. Abraham obeyed, but he obeyed partially. He left his country but not his relatives. He went with his father’s household to Haran. It was when his father died that God called him again in Genesis 12: 1 – 3 and told him to leave his country, his father’s household and his relatives and to go to the land that God would show him. Abraham obeyed but again he obeyed partially. Although he left Haran, and his father’s household, he still took one of his relatives with him; his nephew Lot. It was not until Lot and Lot’s servants had departed from Abraham to settle in Sodom, and after Abraham had delivered Sodom and Gomorrah that God made the covenant with Abraham that we call the ‘Abrahamic covenant’. It shows us the patience of the Lord! How often are we like Abraham? However, God understands. He takes us at the point that we are at and then He leads us on. Abraham either discounted or spiritualized the promise that God made in Genesis 12. God said He would make Abraham into a great nation. Abraham was going to fulfill it himself in his own cleverness because he had appointed Eliezer, his servant, as his heir. God contradicted him and said that one from Abraham’s own body would be born and he shall be heir. And then the scripture says in verse 6 “Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.” Paul quotes from this verse and it teaches us a handful of things about Abraham’s faith.

  • Firstly, it tells us that Abraham’s faith was informed. It was informed by God’s word. It was not Abraham’s imagination. He did not sit around doing mantras, or thinking about what he would like to bring into being. He did not visualize it or confess it. God spoke it and Abraham believed it.
  • Secondly, and this is linked to the first point. Abraham’s faith was objective, i.e. Abraham placed his faith in something. He did not believe in the power of his own faith. He did not have faith in his own faith. He had faith in something far greater than himself that was powerful enough to bring the promise to pass.
  • Thirdly, Abraham’s faith was relational. Abraham placed his faith in a person, namely God. He did not place it in a force or in a law. God is a person and, as such, He has feelings, intellect and a will. Thus, God can make decisions. Therefore, we cannot treat Him in a way that thinks that if we press the right buttons then we can get the right results. As Francis Schaeffer wrote in his excellent book, ‘True Spirituality’, “We can never deal with God in a mechanical sense, and we shouldn’t deal with him on a merely legal basis, though there are proper legal relationships. Our relationship with God after we become a Christian must always be centrally a person-to-person relationship.” The minute we think we can snap our fingers at Him, then we dishonor our Creator and Lord and therefore we derive our fourth point.
  • Fourthly, faith is subservient to God. It accepts whatever He says and willingly submits itself to the will of God. Abraham had to lay aside his own ideas concerning Eliezer being heir. He had to lay aside his own will and fully accept what God said without manipulating it to serve his own agenda.
  • Fifthly, Abraham’s faith was effectual. Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. Simply put, Abraham’s faith resulted in righteousness being credited to him.
  • Sixthly, Abraham’s faith made an imprint in outside, real life. What I mean by that is that it did not simply stay in his head. It was not only a professed belief but it was a real belief that affected his whole life. I say this because Abraham had nominated Eliezer as heir but now God had promised Abraham a son. We definitely know that Abraham told Sarah about God’s promise because she was the one who suggested him having a son through Hagar and word spreads. ‘What! Abraham is to have a son? How is this possible?’ It would have sounded crazy. Yet faith is something that faces up to reality and affects the decisions we make in reality. This is the quality of the faith that God accepted and, because of it, declared Abraham as righteous. It is to whole-heartedly trust in God’s promises.

Therefore, righteousness is a gift. It is not based on what we have done but is solely based on God’s promises. Righteousness is credited. The word for ‘to credit’ here is the Greek word ‘logizomai’ which means, “to take an inventory” i.e. an estimate, to count, to compute, to calculate, and to consider. It is God’s equation that equals ‘free gift’. As soon as works go into the equation then the equals sign is followed by the word ‘wage’.

TWO DIFFERENT KINDS OF WORKS

The works of someone who has salvation and the works of someone who is trying to attain salvation are different. The one who is trying to attain salvation works because he is his own man, employed to carry out a task. He is aware of his own rights. At the end of the day, he seeks a wage packet. Then he can go home and do whatever he wants to do. This is the attitude we find among some remnant of the religious in the world. ‘I go to church, I do my bit, do not tell me what it is to be a Christian, I will do what I want!’ Conversely, the believer works because he is a servant. Jesus bought him with the price of his blood and he willingly remains in his master’s house, working his master’s will. Concerning righteousness, the Master declared us righteous when we believed in Him, not because of our goodness. As Paul says in verse 5; ‘God justifies the ungodly’. Even David attests to this in Paul’s quote in verses 7 – 8.

7 “BLESSED ARE THOSE WHOSE LAWLESS DEEDS HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN, AND WHOSE SINS HAVE BEEN COVERED. 8 BLESSED IS THE MAN WHOSE SIN THE LORD WILL NOT TAKE INTO ACCOUNT.””

This is at the very heart of what it means to receive Christ’s righteous. What stops God from counting us righteous? Is it not our sin? Therefore, when God takes away our sin, what then stops Him from counting us righteous? Nothing. Paul takes this quote from Psalm 32: 1 – 5. What was the quality of David’s faith in this psalm?

  • Firstly, he stopped hiding his sin.
  • Secondly, he confessed his sin to the Lord.

There are things in my life that I would never share with someone unless I wholeheartedly trusted them. Yet that is what we must do with God. David had to trust the Lord and open up to Him. What was the result of David’s repentance? The result was not eternal punishment from God but the forgiveness of sins.

VERSES 9 – 15:

THE INVITATION OF ABRAHAM’S FAITH

Paul has not yet proved that there is no need for circumcision. Rather, we could argue that he has proved the opposite. Who was it that God declared righteous? Was it not Abraham, who was circumcised and whose descendants were to be circumcised? If we are exhorted to follow Abraham’s example in order to be counted righteous, then does it not stand that we should also be circumcised too? In addition to this argument, we must acknowledge that God brought circumcision in before the Mosaic Law. Thus, one could argue that Circumcision is a separate issue to the Mosaic Law and is part of ones identification with Abraham in his righteousness. Therefore, would it not stand that circumcision is part of the new covenant as well as the Mosaic one? This is what Paul addresses next. God credited faith to Abraham as righteousness. However, Paul asks in verse 10, “When was Abraham counted as righteous? Was it while he was circumcised or while he was uncircumcised? It was while he was uncircumcised.” Thus, Paul proves that circumcision has nothing to do with one’s righteous standing before a Holy God. Can you see how amazing God’s timing is? God knew that one day a circumcision party would try to compel circumcision on Gentile believers. Therefore, in His providence, God brought about Abraham’s justification before He instituted circumcision. Abraham did not even have a clue about all this but we can see it in hindsight. We do not understand why God does things the way He does, why He lets things happen the way they do, but when we look back with the eyes of faith, we will understand it in hindsight. There is more on God’s agenda than you or I even realize. So what was the point of circumcision?

CIRCUMCISION IS A SIGN

In verse 11, Paul says that Abraham received the sign of circumcision. In other words, circumcision is not the reality in itself; it is a sign pointing to something else. To what does circumcision point? It was pointing to the fact that Abraham was already circumcised in heart and that he was already set apart. This sign was God’s seal on the fact that Abraham had already been declared righteous. Therefore, the righteousness that Abraham received can be extended out, not exclusively to the circumcised, (Jew or proselyte), but also to those who have the same faith as Abraham. The bible calls these people the ‘God fearers’ from among the Gentiles. When we believe, and are justified, we immediately identify with Abraham. His experience has become our experience and therefore God counts us as his children. Before Christ, we were alienated from God and His people but when we were saved, we became part of a community. This was not the case in the old covenant, even for Proselytes. Proselytes were Gentiles that adopted Israel as their people and Israel’s God as their God. According to FF Bruce in his commentary on Romans, “Even Proselytes, who might have been regarded as Abraham’s children by adoption, were not permitted to call him (Abraham) ‘our father’; in the synagogue liturgy they called the patriarchs ‘your fathers’ when Jews by birth referred to them as ‘our fathers’.” The idea that Abraham could be the father of uncircumcised people was completely revolutionary. Paul is taking pains in this whole epistle to cover his steps and to thoroughly prove the truth of the Gospel.

In verses 13 – 15 Paul demonstrates the necessity of righteousness being imputed by faith and not by the Mosaic Law. The Law was only for the Jew and was conditional upon obedience. One had to gain merit that would be weighed in the balances with ones sins. But a little foolishness is heavier than wisdom (Ecc 10:1). Therefore, how could anyone have perfect assurance of salvation without perfect obedience? Perfect obedience was impossible and therefore the absolute guarantee that God’s promise to save me would be nullified. Yet does God really promise something that cannot come to pass? The promises of God are yes and amen in Him and therefore faith is the only way God can fulfil this promise.

VERSES 16 – 25:

THE REALITY OF ABRAHAM’S FAITH

What do I mean when I say, ‘The reality of Abraham’s faith’? I mean that Abraham’s faith was not an illusion or a mind trip. It withstood the testing and the trial of faith (James 1). Faith is not only a reality but what it hopes for is a reality too. As Hebrews 11: 1 says, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Faith is not the ultimate reality, though it is real. Faith speaks of a future hope as fact and equates what is future as if it is a present reality. We will look at this in Romans 8, where it says, “in hope we have been saved.” But for now we will say that the difference between false faith and true faith is the difference between one person having a vague hope that something will come to pass and another person having utmost certainty that the promise must not only come to pass, but by faith is already here. Paul claims in verse 16 that justification has to be by faith. The reason for this is not only that it must be a free gift, but also that the promise will be guaranteed to Jew and Gentile who believe. Faith gives us the guarantee of the promise. Paul takes this as the fulfillment that Abraham would be the father of many nations. Other nations were descendants of Abraham, such as the sons of Ishmael and the sons of Keturah. However, these nations only had Abraham as their father in the physical sense of the word. The other aspect of being someone’s son lies in the practice of walking in his father’s ways. As Jesus said to the Jews in John 8: 42 “If God were your Father you would love me.” And again, in verse 44, “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father.” We are the children of Abraham, who walk according to the faith of Abraham. Abraham’s faith was real because it is rooted in the God who is real. Paul writes in verse 17, “God who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist.” We do not call into being, He does. One can interpret this text on different levels.

  • Firstly, it takes us back to Genesis, back to creation. The same God who framed the heavens and the earth, who brought it about out of nothing, is the one in whom we are putting our faith.
  • Secondly, Abraham was as good as dead, for he could not have children, but God brought life out of death.
  • Thirdly, it speaks on the level of our salvation and the salvation of those around us. God brings life out of those who are dead in their sins. Maybe you have friends and family who are not saved. They may be hard-hearted when you speak of the Gospel. They are dead. Have faith, because God is the God who brings life out of death.
  • Fourthly, as verse 24 shows, it speaks of the reality of resurrection. In Hebrews 11: 19 we read that Abraham believed that God could raise his son up from the dead. His faith speaks, in type, about Jesus’ resurrection.

GOD’S HOPE OVER OUR HOPE

In verse 18, Paul says, “in hope against hope Abraham believed.” This verse is speaking about Abraham’s experience in Genesis 15. In one hope against another hope, Abraham believed. But in verse 19, speaking as if referring to the same situation, Paul is actually speaking about Genesis 17 for he says that Abraham was about 100 years old (Gen 21: 5 says that Abraham was 100 when Isaac was born). How can Paul deal with two different situations as if they were the same? This is because, in essence, they were the same. In Genesis 15, Abraham held up the hope that Eliezer would be his heir and in Genesis 17 Abraham held up the hope that Ishmael would be his heir. Both represented Abraham’s attempt at fulfilling God’s purpose according to his own cleverness, according to the strength of his own flesh. In both situations, God puts forth the hope of bringing forth a son from Abraham’s own body. In hope against hope, Abraham believed. This belief was not a leap in the dark, because verse 19 shows that Abraham considered the problem, his own body. Abraham was well aware of the human impossibility. As a former pastor of mine, Paul Wilkinson, said, “Abraham did not rebuke his old age. He did not say ‘I rebuke you old body, you will become younger, and I confess it’”. He faced up to the reality and in the midst of it, he believed in God. His faith was real.

Verse 21 says that Abraham was fully assured that what God had promised He was also able to perform. It does not matter what obstacles, or obstacles were in the way Abraham was fully assured. He did not waver in unbelief. Abraham resorted to the flesh at times but he never rejected God’s promise. He was quick to obey and grew strong in faith. The word ‘to grow’ speaks of a process. Abraham was not made strong in a moment of time. Faith was something that grew.

  • First his obedience was in merely leaving his country.
  • Then he left his father’s household.
  • Then he shed himself of his nephew.
  • Then he accepted the promise of a son coming from his own body.
  • Finally, he accepted the promise of the son coming from his union with Sarah.

It was not all there in one day. He grew strong in faith. Lastly, Abraham gave thanks to God. This is the opposite of the Pagan nations’ attitude towards God, in Romans 1: 21. They did not give thanks to God nor did they honour Him. Therefore, they moved away from knowing God and turned to idolatry and wickedness. Abraham, on the other hand, with his attitude of faith and thankfulness drew near to God in righteousness, given to him as a gift. What is the final evidence that this righteousness can be a reality in our lives too? The answer lies in verse 25.

25 He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.

The answer is the empty tomb. Jesus rose again in real history. We do not trust in a fairy tale. It is reality and it is sure. Therefore, we may have absolute confidence that when we believe in God’s promise of Salvation, by real faith, God will also declare us righteous. Because it happened to Abraham, it can happen to you and me today.

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