And Abram believed God, and it was accounted to him as righteousness. –Genesis 15:6
It’s easy to forget, living in the New Testament era, that these words were spoken of Abram (later called Abraham) before the first Passover, before the 10 Commandments were carved in stone. They describe a simple man sharing a unique relationship with the Creator of the universe, who, when told while in his 80s that he would father a nation as innumerable as the stars in the heavens – believed. According to Paul’s letter to the Galatians, this statement from Genesis is the foundation of Christendom’s claim to the gift given to Abram for his belief…righteousness, or a right standing before God Almighty:
Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. –Galatians 3:7-9
This passage begs us to ask an important question: Who are the sons of Abraham? Both the Jews and the Muslims trace their lineage back to Abraham – the Jews being the sons of Sarah’s child Isaac; the Muslims being the sons of Hagar’s child, Ishmael. In both cultures, blood lines are of extreme importance. For Jesus – a man born a son of David yet also fully Divine – family blood lines were not nearly as important as spiritual inheritance. He made this crystal clear in his conversations with the socially upright, yet spiritually depraved Pharisees, whom He called sons of the Devil. If the Pharisees, whose life goal was to keep the law of Moses to the letter, were not righteous sons of Abraham, is such an inheritance possible for anyone?
I love Pastor/author John Piper’s response to this question:
The Word of God from [Galatians 3] for us today is that anyone—Jew or Gentile,
rich or poor, male or female, white or black or brown, quick-witted or slow, old
or young—anyone can be a child of Abraham and inherit the blessings promised to
Abraham’s children, if you live by faith.
Something more than elementary belief is necessary (James made this clear in his letter when he wrote that even the demons believe, and tremble in the knowledge of who Jesus is). Faith is the key: an abiding trust that your soul is safe under His care alone, and a willingness to place your life and future into His hands.
Okay, faith is one thing. But what’s this about being a child of Abraham? As a red-blooded Christian American, why should I care about this? That’s a really good question. Tons of believers are content in the knowledge that their souls will go to heaven, with nary a concern over the jots and tittles that make their salvation possible.
Hopefully by the end of this discussion you’ll want to care. Think about it, and come back again for the next installment.