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10-9-22 Great Themes of the Bible–Special Grace

Great Themes of the Bible–Special Grace

David Peterson / General

Great Themes of the Bible / Special Grace / Genesis 12:1–7; Galatians 3:7–14

Sermon Type: Textual-Topical

Proposition: Special grace is personal (vs. common and general). It is a call to come out of the darkness into the light so that you may be formed into a person who will be a light for others.


I. Special Grace is a Call from Darkness into the Light (Genesis 12:1)

1. The Paradigmatic Case of Abram

The Lord called Abram out of idolatry (Jsh 24:2) — (LSB)

Joshua 24:2-3 NIV1984

2 Joshua said to all the people, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Long ago your forefathers, including Terah the father of Abraham and Nahor, lived beyond the River and worshiped other gods. 3 But I took your father Abraham from the land beyond the River and led him throughout Canaan and gave him many descendants.

2. We are no longer in the Dark about God. Faith is what illumines us.

Helen Keller was physically blind but she saw infinitely more than most people with good eyesight who are blind in soul. She wrote:

Dark as my path may seem to others, I carry a magic light in my heart. Faith, the spiritual, strong searchlight, illumines the way, and although sinister doubts lurk in the shadow, I walk unafraid toward the Enchanted Wood where foliage is always green, where joy abides, where nightingales nest and sing, and where life and death are one in the presence of the Lord.

Hobbs, H. H. (1990). My favorite illustrations (p. 42). Broadman Press.

3. In the Cross of Christ the truth about God is revealed

II. Special Grace is a Call to Leave All in Order to Receive the Promise (Genesis 12:4)

1. Abraham’s call/life the paradigm for the life of faith

Leave your father’s household (v. 1). Like the “Follow me” call of Jesus to his disciples, God’s summons to Abraham required leaving family and the service of all idols (cf. Mark 10:28f.; John 12:25; 1 Thess 1:9). Terah’s household had worshipped idols (Josh 24:2). Through an arrangement of divine grace, not human works, the Abrahamic Covenant entailed human obligations. The salvation it provided is unto holy life and loving service (cf. Gen 18:19).

Kline, M. G. (2016). Genesis: A New Commentary (J. G. Kline, Ed.; p. 55). Hendrickson Publishers.

2. God’s purpose is blessing. Blessing can only be experienced in living God’s way.

The MT preserves the original reading: “the one who treats you lightly.” The point would be a contrast with the lavish way that God desires to bless many. The second change is in the vocabulary. The English usually says, “I will curse those who curse you.” But there are two different words for curse here. The first is קָלַל (qalal), which means “to be light” in the Qal, and in the Piel “to treat lightly, to treat with contempt, to curse.” The second verb is אָרַר (’arar), which means “to banish, to remove from the blessing.” The point is simple: Whoever treats Abram and the covenant with contempt as worthless God will banish from the blessing. It is important also to note that the verb is not a cohortative, but a simple imperfect. Since God is binding himself to Abram, this would then be an obligatory imperfect: “but the one who treats you with contempt I must curse.”

Biblical Studies Press. (2006). The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Ge 12:3). Biblical Studies Press.

Blessing stands as a gift of God (mediated through a human or nonhuman agent) that issues in goodness and well-being in life. It involves every sphere of existence, from spiritual to more tangible expressions. Blessing manifests itself most evidently in fertility and the multiplication of life, from herds and flocks, to field and forest, to new human life; it embraces material well-being, peace, and general success in life’s ventures (see the list in Deut 28:3–15).

Fretheim, T. E. (1994–2004). The Book of Genesis. In L. E. Keck (Ed.), New Interpreter’s Bible (Vol. 1, p. 425). Abingdon Press.

3. Christian discipleship is a leaving one way for another

A Christian is a mind through which Christ thinks; a heart through which Christ loves; a voice through which Christ speaks; a hand through which Christ helps.

Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (p. 336). Bible Communications, Inc.

4. We are the product God is working on

When it comes to syrup, there’s a reason the real stuff is pricy. Through a slow and painstaking process, the traditional Native American art of maple sugaring takes large quantities of an essentially useless substance and turns it into something worth stretching your grocery budget to buy.

First, the workers venture deep into the woods—called the “sugar bush”—and use hand drills to make small holes in the trunks of maple trees. A metal tube called a “spile” is tapped into each hole, and a bucket is hung on each spile. The sap that begins to drip into the buckets is thin and clear, like water, with only a hint of sweetness. On a good day, 50 trees will yield 30 – 40 gallons of sap.

As the buckets fill, they are emptied into large kettles that sit over an open fire. The sap comes to a slow boil. As it boils, its water content is reduced and its sugars are concentrated. Hours later, it has developed a rich flavor and golden-brown color. Then it must be strained several times to remove impurities before being reheated, bottled, and graded for quality. The end product of those 30 – 40 gallons of sap? One gallon of maple syrup. No wonder it’s so expensive!

When we came to Christ, like raw, unfinished sap, we could have been tossed aside as worthless. But God knew what he could make of us. He sought and found us, and his skillful hands are transforming us into something precious, sweet and useful. The long and often painful refining process brings forth a pure, genuine disciple easily distinguished from cheap imitations.

Source: Michele Straubel, Red Lake, Minnesota

III. Special Grace Is a Call to Mission for God (Genesis 12:3)

1. The Pattern of Genesis

Each of these sinful acts is followed by a corresponding act of judgment. In the garden God curses the ground, the woman is to experience painful childbirth and be ruled by her husband, and the serpent is condemned to crawl on its belly and be in constant conflict with humanity (3:14–19). Cain’s punishment involves an increased curse on the ground and banishment (4:11–14). The great flood follows the illicit union of the “sons of God” and “daughters of men” (6:5–8:19). Finally, Noah curses Ham’s son (9:25–27) and God scatters the people of Babel and confuses their tongues (11:8–9).

But that is not all there is to the pattern. After each act of divine judgment there are corresponding acts of grace. In the garden Adam and Eve do not immediately die as God warned; furthermore, God clothed them with animal skins before expelling them from the garden (2:17; 3:21). Though Cain’s brutal murder was deserving of capital punishment, God precluded this ultimate penalty by marking Cain (4:15). Even with the great flood, grace was manifest in that God preserved Noah, his family, and representatives of the animal world (6:8, 18–19). Likewise, Noah’s cursing of Canaan did not prevent God from repopulating the whole earth through Noah’s progeny (9:26–27; 10:1).

Spina, F. A. (2001). Second Sunday in Lent, Year A. In The lectionary commentary: theological exegesis for Sunday’s texts, volume one (p. 22). Eerdmans.

It needs to be kept in mind that the Babel story and the Abram/Sarai story are connected by the reference to a “great name.” Also, the two stories are connected by a genealogy that runs from Shem to Abram. Thus the Abram/Sarai story is the corresponding act of grace to the Babel story. Since the Abram/Sarai story is the beginning of the “history of salvation,” it turns out that the entire remainder of the biblical story is an “answer” to the questions posed by the Babel episode. God’s people Israel are the “answer” to Genesis 1–11.

Spina, F. A. (2001). Second Sunday in Lent, Year A. In The lectionary commentary: theological exegesis for Sunday’s texts, volume one (pp. 22–23). Eerdmans.

2. Collectively We are the Light and Salt of the Earth

Christians are the Light of the World

In his recent documentary titled Light On Earth, David Attenborough tells of an unbelievable experience of the S.S. Lima. On January 25, 1995, as this British Merchant vessel sailed the waters of the northwestern Indian Ocean, the seas beneath them began to glow.

On a clear moonless night, while 150 miles east of the Somalian coast, a whitish glow was observed on the horizon. And after fifteen minutes of steaming the ship was completely surrounded by a sea of milky white color with a fairly uniform luminescence. It appeared as though the ship was sailing over a field of snow or gliding over the clouds.

While stories of glowing seas have been a part of maritime folklore since the 1700’s, they have never been scientifically confirmed. But a group of scientists had an ingenious idea. Using a Defense Meteorological Satellite, Dr. Stephen Haddack and his team discovered a large luminescent area. Roughly the size of Connecticut (110 miles long), the phenomenon was identified in the exact area where the captain had reported his ship that night. Marine biologists discovered that the glowing sea was caused by massive swarms of bioluminescent bacteria feeding on large populations of algae.

Imagine that for a moment. Bacteria are microscopic. But when they congregate together, these tiny creatures, that cannot even be seen by the naked eye, can suddenly radiate their light 600 miles into orbit.

David Attenborough, “Light On Earth” (5-9-16)


1. Good gives the great name


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