“And Abraham journeyed from there to the South, and dwelt between Kadesh and Shur, and stayed in Gerar. Now Abraham said of Sarah his wife, ‘She is my sister.’ And Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah. But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, ‘Indeed you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man’s wife.’ But Abimelech had not come near her; and he said, ‘Lord, will You slay a righteous nation also? Did he not say to me, ‘She is my sister’? And she, even she herself said, ‘He is my brother.’ In the integrity of my heart and innocence of my hands I have done this.’ And God said to him in a dream, ‘Yes, I know that you did this in the integrity of your heart. For I also withheld you from sinning against Me; therefore I did not let you touch her. Now therefore, restore the man’s wife; for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you shall live. But if you do not restore her, know that you shall surely die, you and all who are yours.’ So Abimelech rose early in the morning, called all his servants, and told all these things in their hearing; and the men were very much afraid. And Abimelech called Abraham and said to him, ‘What have you done to us? How have I offended you, that you have brought on me and on my kingdom a great sin? You have done deeds to me that ought not to be done.’ Then Abimelech said to Abraham, ‘What did you have in view, that you have done this thing?’ And Abraham said, ‘Because I thought, surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will kill me on account of my wife. But indeed she is truly my sister. She is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife. And it came to pass, when God caused me to wander from my father’s house, that I said to her, ‘This is your kindness that you should do for me: in every place, wherever we go, say of me, ‘He is my brother.’’ Then Abimelech took sheep, oxen, and male and female servants, and gave them to Abraham; and he restored Sarah his wife to him. And Abimelech said, ‘See, my land is before you; dwell where it pleases you.’ Then to Sarah he said, ‘Behold, I have given your brother a thousand pieces of silver; indeed this vindicates you before all who are with you and before everybody.’ Thus she was rebuked. So Abraham prayed to God; and God healed Abimelech, his wife, and his female servants. Then they bore children; for the LORD had closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham’s wife.”
When we look at the Word of God, especially the Book of Genesis, there are many passages that are difficult to understand. The passage that we have read together today is one of those difficult passages. As we can see here, Abraham the father of faith, referred to his wife as his sister. Wherever he went, he called his wife his sister, and he had Sarah call him her older brother. Because Abraham referred to his wife as his sister, he caused many kings to try to take his wife, and because of this, they suffered much hardship or calamity. Nevertheless, although he lied so much out of fear, Abraham later received much blessing from God. Why this happened is, humanly speaking, very difficult for us to comprehend.
We cannot treat this story lightly as a laughing matter. This is because God’s Word has profound implications making it difficult to understand. When we look at Abraham from a worldly point of view, he was an amoral person who obtained riches through selling his wife off, but through this God is teaching us a great truth.
As we read the Bible, we can see that a similar thing happened to Abraham’s son, Isaac as well. The Bible says that Isaac like his father would say wherever he went that his wife was his sister as well. Gentile kings tried to have Isaac’s wife each time he said that his wife was his sister. Despite this, God blessed Isaac and allowed him many riches. There are many passages in the Bible that cannot be understood easily by the human mind.
I am getting ready to publish a couple of sermon books on Ephesians. The Book of Ephesians is an epistle that deals with how God saved us and what purpose and plan He had in saving us. Among the Pauline Epistles, the Book of Galatians deals with Paul’s message saying that if there is anyone who preaches any gospel other than what he taught and preached, then such a person must be cursed even if that one is an angel. The Apostle Paul suffered extreme headaches because of the Circumcisionists of his days. The Book of Galatians is an epistle that was sent to the Church in Galatia because the Circumcisionists who had sneaked into the Church and did not preach the correct gospel.
However, the Book of Ephesians deals with a different subject matter. The Epistle of Ephesians deals with God’s plan of salvation for us and how God had fulfilled this plan in His Son Jesus Christ. It also mentions how He made us His people through that plan. And so, in Ephesians chapter 4 it says, “One Lord, one faith, one baptism,” which means that we can know and be certain that there is only one faith; the Church is one, that there is one gospel and one salvation. Thus, Ephesians explains to us how the plan of God’s salvation began, and it tells us that those who have received the remission of sins must fight off the devil by having faith in the Word of God. If I continue to talk about this any longer, my sermon will only get sidetracked. So, I want to stick to the point of today’s sermon shortly, but the Epistle to the Ephesians can be briefly summarized in this manner.
There were two Churches mentioned here, both were the Churches of God; but the Church at Ephesus and the Church at Galatia were different from each other. Then what should the Church of God be like? There is a lot to be said about this. But if we are going to talk about the Church of God, then we must first discuss God’s plan and purpose towards us as human beings. We must first speak about which gospel the Church of God was created or formed by, and who these people are that believed in this gospel. In order to describe the Church of God, we must discuss God and Jesus Christ the Son of God, the Father and God’s plan and purpose in its entirety. This must be done so that everything about the Church of God is explained in its substance.
Abimelech Took Abraham’s Wife Sarah
Because those of you seated here are already born again saints, I did not want to discuss these things with you because I was worried that you might feel bored with such issues. However, really there are a lot of things like this that you and I must discuss. Today’s Scripture message is also speaking about the Church of God; it deals with God and His Church and the relationships of those of us who are in the Church.
Let’s take a look at today’s Scripture passage: “And Abraham journeyed from there to the South, and dwelt between Kadesh and Shur, and stayed in Gerar. Now Abraham said of Sarah his wife, ‘She is my sisterAnd Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah. But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, ‘Indeed you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man’s wife’” (Genesis 20:1-3).
This incident was caused by and came about because Abraham did not call Sarah his wife but called her his sister. It is true that Sarah was Abraham’s half sister. In the Old Testament, there are numerous instances of marriage between close relatives. The institution of forbidding marriage between close relatives was constructed by people later on in history. If we think about it, we are all Adam’s descendants and are all close relatives. We are really one big family. The Bible says that through Noah’s family of eight the world was populated, and since they were one family, the people in the whole world can be said to be related to each other.
Anyway, because Abraham referred to his half sister Sarah, who was already his wife, as his sister, King Abimelech took her for himself. Abimelech was going to invite people, have a grand feast and take Sarah as his wife the next day, but God appeared that night in his dream. And, in this dream God said, “Why did you take another man’s wife? Do you know who he is? He is a prophet. What are you planning to do by taking the wife of a prophet? If you do not return her immediately, you and your household will surely die.”
To be honest, dreams are not something that can really be trusted. However, a long time ago, God would speak through dreams and through visions. Before the Bible was completed, God would speak to humans through dreams and visions. Therefore, when King Abimelech woke the next morning, he called his advisors and told them about the dream. When they heard this they all trembled with fear. And then King Abimelech quickly called Abraham and asked him, “What have you done to us? How have I offended you, that you have brought on me and on my kingdom a great sin? You have done deeds to me that ought not to be done.” Abimelech then said to Abraham, “What did you have in view, that you have done this thing?”
Abraham Was Trying to Protect Himself through His Wife
In verses 11 and 12, Abraham says, “Because I thought, surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will kill me on account of my wife. But indeed she is truly my sister. She is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife.”
What does this Word mean? Abraham was trying to protect himself through his wife Sarah. Although Abraham was our father of faith, he was a person in the flesh with weaknesses just like us. If you or I were in his shoes, we probably would have also sold our wives if we found ourselves in a similar situation. The fact that Abraham did this is rather good comparatively speaking. In his time that society was territorial and tribal. Small tribal nations were formed in every tribal village or settlement. And, in order to pass through such a region, one had to possibly fight against the people of that land. In order to survive, one had to either submit or be victorious in battle. Even though Abraham was being led by God, he still was not immune to these types of disputes. At that time, Abraham did not have any specific abode and God had not instructed him to stay at any specific place. So he had to wander from place to place fighting with other tribes.
As for Abraham he had no other choice other than choosing to fight to proceed on his journey. The reason was that his family was not large in number and he was a stranger without much strength. If he had not been careful, he could have been attacked and killed. These tribes, on the other hand, were already well settled in and had many stockpiled weapons, and so Abraham was no match for them. Abraham was afraid that he might be killed. The biggest source of his fear was actually his own wife. This was because his wife Sarah was exceptionally beautiful. She was a woman of unparalleled beauty that people would just be smitten over. It is obvious he felt that his life was in danger because on top of having to compete with other tribes, many people became aggressive towards him because they coveted his wife. You and I would probably have done the same thing if we found ourselves in Abraham’s situation.
Our country is rather safe nowadays and people do not treat others indiscriminately, but in times past when I was a child, in order to go through another town, it was not uncommon to be bullied by gangsters of that town. If they did not harm you then they would not let you pass through. Travelers would have to give everything they had over to the natives. They took money arbitrarily as a toll from travelers. The society of Abraham’s day was probably similar to this.
Nevertheless, after King Abimelech found out that Sarah was Abraham’s wife, he sent sheep and cows to Abraham as a peace offering and returned Sarah to him. And he said to Abraham, “See, my land is before you; dwell where it pleases you.” King Abimelech paid Abraham back for the embarrassing thing that he had done. God who was also angered by this did not allow Abimelech’s wife to conceive. But later on in the passage we read how Abraham prayed and Abimelech’s wife was able to conceive and all their problems worked out well.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this sermon, a similar thing also happened to Isaac. Isaac like his father, called his beautiful wife Rebekah his younger sister before a certain Gentile king, and through that he obtained much wealth as well. Anyways, there are many passages in the Bible that we cannot comprehend fully with our human mind. And so, it is impossible for a person who is not born again of water and the Spirit to comprehend the Bible properly and preach it to others. If someone who is not born again by the water and the Spirit teaches from the Word, then you can know that everything that person says is untrue.
This Scripture Passage Is Speaking about God’s Church
Genesis chapter 12 verses 10 to 20 says, “Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to dwell there, for the famine was severe in the land. And it came to pass, when he was close to entering Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife, ‘Indeed I know that you are a woman of beautiful countenance. Therefore it will happen, when the Egyptians see you, that they will say, ‘This is his wife’; and they will kill me, but they will let you live. Please say you are my sister, that it may be well with me for your sake, and that I may live because of you.’ So it was, when Abram came into Egypt, that the Egyptians saw the woman, that she was very beautiful. The princes of Pharaoh also saw her and commended her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken to Pharaohs house. He treated Abram well for her sake. He had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male and female servants, female donkeys, and camels. But the LORD plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abrams wife. And Pharaoh called Abram and said, ‘What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister’? I might have taken her as my wife. Now therefore, here is your wife; take her and go your way. So Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him; and they sent him away, with his wife and all that he had.”
Here, the same thing is happening again. Abraham called his wife his sister once again. To be honest, the reason why Abraham lied like this was because his faith was not strong and because he wanted to spare his own life. He felt that he might be killed, so he called his wife his sister, and by doing this he tried to spare his life. He did not have a strong faith so he called his wife his sister.
Dear brothers among you, what is a wife? She is your other half that you have mixed your body with. You and she are one. Although Abraham thought that he would be killed because of his wife, instead he was protected and received much blessing because of her. Whenever he was in a dangerous situation, he was not attacked thanks to his wife but instead became a richer man.
It is clearly wrong that Abraham called Sarah his sister when she was in fact his wife. Wouldn’t this be something wrong that even nonbelievers shouldn’t do? But the Bible says that Abraham received much blessing because of Sarah.
There is one important fact here. As Abraham’s wife is Sarah, the bride of Jesus Christ is you and I, the Church of God. Those of us, who have become children of God by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit and have received the remission of sins according to the will of God and through Jesus Christ the Son of God, are God’s people. And the place where the people of God gather is called the Church of God. The Church of God is the place where brothers and sisters who have received the remission of sins by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit gather together to worship and do God’s work. Those who have this proper faith before God are themselves the Church of God. The Church is the place where those who have been born again by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit become one with Jesus Christ. The born-again saints are the brides of Jesus Christ and His Church. Those of us who have received the remission of sins by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit, who have become the children of God, have become one with God and with Jesus Christ; and those who have become the righteous, are indeed the Church of God.
After Receiving the Remission of Sins, You Must Set Your Heart towards God’s Will
I know that there are some saints who are ashamed to call the Church of God their church. Just like Abraham lacked faith and called his wife his sister, such saints also are lacking in faith. As Abraham was not able to call Sarah his wife, there are people who are not able to clearly state that they have received the remission of their sins through God and that their church is the Church of God. This is the same for you and me. If you do not affirmatively decide this in your heart before God then you will not be able to confess that the Church of God is your family or that they are your brothers and sisters. For you to say, “This Church is the Bride of Jesus Christ and they are my family” is not something that you can say with conviction if your heart has not been fixed by faith.
Dear fellow believers, as we live out our faith, we must set our hearts properly before God. Of course, Abraham was clearly wrong for calling his wife his sister. However, God looked upon His Church, Sarah, and caused all things to work together for good. Abraham had a weakness in his flesh, but God looked upon His Church, Sarah, and gave him blessings.
Do you and I then clearly believe in our hearts that the Church of God is our church; they are our family and our people? Beware of this. If you do not decide and affirm this in your hearts, then when circumstances turn bad, you will become a flip-flop person.
To Know about the Church Is to Have Great Faith
We have received the remission of sins by trusting in the Word of God, but after that, it is real and proper faith to know and believe in the Church of God and to unite oneself with His Church. You and I must have this kind of faith. We must know about the Church of God, and we must know that this Church that we are a part of is our body and our life. We must believe the fact that this Church is the place where the people of God who have been born again of the water and the Spirit are gathered together. And we must believe that we are part of this Church, the people of God. Without this faith, even if one is saved, it will be of no use. The end of such a person is destruction.
Today’s Scripture passage says that Abraham’s wife was very beautiful. In the same way, God’s Church is also very beautiful. And so, if we leave this beautiful Church of God out in the world by itself it receives persecution and suffering. If things go wrong, we can be put to death and be injured by other Christian sinners. As people were entranced by the beauty of Abraham’s wife when she was left out in the world, so likewise when God’s Church is placed out in the world, people do not believe the reality of God’s Church, thinking, “Such a church is too good to be true.” Only the saints who have become righteous by God may believe in the true nature of the Church, but the people of this world do not believe this. Instead they try to harm the Church and deny the existence of God. If we say to them that we the ministry workers in the Church of God are earning money by running businesses in order to spread the gospel, they do not believe this, thinking to themselves, “You’re only pretending to do this, and your leader is probably taking all the money.”
The Bible says that the Church of God is extremely beautiful. Truly, the Church of God is very beautiful. However, those who try to take the Church of God without having faith of believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit will be cursed, just like Abimelech was cursed by God in today’s Scripture passage. Thus, not anyone can be a part of the Church of God, nor can anyone claim that the Church of God is his or her church. God has clearly established the qualifications of His bride so that only the true bride of Christ can call the Church of God their church. God has approved that only those who have cleansed all their sins away by believing in the gospel Truth of the water and the Spirit are His brides. Only these people can say that the Church of God is their church. But, what will happen to those who are not born again and just try to take the Church of God saying arbitrarily, “I also believe that way; I have the same faith and I like that faith.” They will for sure not be able to take the Church of God, but instead will be cursed.
A soul that does not truly believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit in the heart and tries to obtain this faith intellectually—will surely come to ruin. I mean that if one does not believe in this genuine gospel in the heart with absolute sincerity, only curses will rain down on such a person. God will not leave wicked people like these alone. They will also be cursed like King Abimelech who tried to take Abraham’s wife by force. They do not believe properly in God with their hearts but just try to take the Church of God as theirs, and as a result, they will bring fearful calamities upon themselves both physically and spiritually.
It Is a Tremendous Blessing to Be a Part of the Beautiful Church of God
The Church of God is truly beautiful. And, the level of its beauty is not something that can be rationally measured or ascertained by humans. People say that Yangguifei (719~756AD) of the Tang Dynasty of China and Cleopatra of ancient Egypt were the most beautiful women in human history, but compared to the Church of God, the level of their beauty cannot compare. God’s Church is so magnificently beautiful. And no one can take away from its beauty. Now, you and I are a part of this beautiful Church of God. The place where those who have been cleansed from their sins by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit gather together and worship God is called the Church of God.
God spoke to Abraham, “I will be your God. I will be the God of your descendants, and my promises will be with them throughout their lives.” The sign that confirmed this promise was circumcision. At that time, every male child who was eight days old was circumcised. Like circumcision, you and I have the scars in our hearts that our sins have been cut away by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit that Jesus Christ gave us. There is a scar of faith for each one who has become the true people of God. The scar of faith that enables us to become the children of God is clearly within our souls. We have a mark of faith that testifies that “All of our sins have really been placed on Jesus Christ; and He has borne all our sins, cleansed us from them, received the judgment for them and saved us.” This Church of God is the gathering of such people. And, this is why we say that the Church of God is a truly beautiful place. The Church of God cannot be taken away by the people of this world, and it is not a place that someone can join simply because he or she wants to. One can only belong to the Church of God by truly and fully trusting in the pure Word of God.
Abraham became very rich because of this Church. King Abimelech gave him herds of cattle and sheep and much land. I believe that this Word of blessing applies to both you and me. We receive God’s blessings through this beautiful Church of God. You and I belong to God’s Church for we have received the remission of sins. I want to tell you how great this blessing is and how wonderful our lives of faith in His Church are. Really, it is such a precious and great secret that I almost feel that it is too good to share with others. The Church that God established is so beautiful that I want all the others to believe in this truth; and if they truly believe, I want them to believe in the correct way.
How were we able to become a member of this Church of God? How could we who are so lacking become the Church of God itself? We were wretched sinners who were destined to hell deserving to be destroyed and be cursed, but we have become the children of the King of Heaven by His salvation. We were just normal people, but now we have become the children of God, more precious than a child of the President. We were sinners who were cursed and deserved destruction, but we have been completely saved from all our sins. Even salvation itself is overwhelming, but we have indeed become God’s children and His people. We ourselves have become the Kingdom of God. Is this fact wonderful and something to be very thankful for? Those of us who have become righteous have gathered together and formed the Church of God and that became the Kingdom of God on this earth. No matter how much I think about it, this is a great blessing and something to be very grateful for.
The people of this world who listen to our gospel say, “It’s really great and I believe too.” They try to make this Church their own Church, but their faith is superficial and so they are absolutely not able to enter into this Church. This Church of God is not a place where anyone can just arbitrarily enter in. Those who do not have the highways to Zion in their hearts (Psalm 84:5) absolutely cannot enter into this Church. Those who have not received the grace of salvation which God has provided have not been truly saved and so they cannot be God’s people. The Church of God is truly beautiful and so many people want to make this Church their own church, but not just anyone can claim the Church as their own.
If anyone takes the Ark of the Covenant into their possession, calamity will follow that household. It is written in 1 Samuel chapter 5 that the Philistines took the Ark of the Covenant from the people of Israel and placed it into the house of Dagon, their god. Then, Jehovah God made this idol Dagon fall down by cutting off its hands and feet. As a result, only Dagon’s torso was left. Disaster came about. In this way, not anyone can have the Ark of the Covenant of God in their midst or in their homes. Only those who acknowledge the law of justice and love of God can have the Ark of the Covenant in their midst and be blessed for it. And thus, no one should attempt to make beautiful Church of God as their own or try to rule over it. It is not possible for sinners to do so in the first place, but if it does happen, God’s curse will certainly be placed upon them.
Through today’s Scripture reading, we have learned several things. Among these things we have come to acknowledge again the fact that, as God gave Sarah to Abraham, He has given the Church of God to those of us who have received the remission of sins by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit, and this is the greatest blessing. We believe that the Church of God is the very Kingdom of God. Through God’s Church where His people, that is, our brothers and sisters are gathered, God’s will is proclaimed to every corner of this earth. The believers in the gospel of the water and the Spirit belong to this Church of God, and they will receive a great reward in the future. This will happen when the gospel is preached to all the nations and God’s will is fulfilled in its entirety through His Church.
Dear fellow believers, I admonish you to trust in the fact that God accomplishes His will through His Church. Being saved is not the end of everything. This is of no use if a born-again saint does not understand what the Church of God is all about and the truths that are contained in it.
God called Abraham a prophet. God said that Abraham was His servant. Not anyone can be called that. The fact that Abraham was able to keep his life because of his wife and also became rich through this whole situation, teaches us that God gives us blessings through His Church and also it lets us know that His Church is indeed a wonderful entity.
I give thanks to God the Father who has reminded us of these kinds of truths once again. I hope all of you place this faith in your hearts.