The point of Abraham as a father figure in Scripture is that he is a father of the faith and an example to us all of believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. So then we who believe in Christ are following in the path of that father in the faith and the very fulfillment of the promise to Abraham more than 4,000 years ago that in him all nations of the earth would be blessed. We who believe in Christ are the promised children of Abraham who are like the stars of the sky in number. But notice, Abraham is an example of faith, but Abraham is not the author or the object of faith.
And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Galatians 3:29 *
All those Jews and Gentiles who put their trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation are the children of Abraham, the Israel of God, and members of the body of Christ.
Since college one of the most common questions I have experienced Christians wrestling with is the relationship between blood relatives of Abraham (Jews) and Christians. Is God saving the Jews differently than non-Jews? Should Christians think of Jews as closer to God than anyone else? What is the relationship between the people of God in the Old Testament and the people of God in the New Testament? Do Jews go to Heaven by nature of their being Jews? Are any of the promises to Abraham helpful for us today?
The goal of this short article is not to critique my brothers and sisters in Christ who hold to a dispensationalist view. The goal rather is to demonstrate to Christians that the answer is not as complicated or mysterious as it may sometimes appear to be. That which God would have us to know about ourselves and our brothers and sisters in Christ through history is set down very clearly in Scripture so that we can rejoice in the Lord who brings all His elect to salvation by faith.
A discussion of the children of Abraham naturally begins with Abraham. Abraham’s name was not always Abraham as history generally remembers him but for the first ninety-nine years of his life he was named “Abram “(Genesis 11:26). Then in Genesis 17, God changed Abraham’s name from Abram to Abraham for a specific purpose:
No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations.
From the introduction of Abraham’s name to history, God tells us that his name is significant because it reminds us that Abraham was never to be the father of just one nation but many nations. The children who would have the Lord as their God (Genesis 17:7-8) would be children not limited to one nation but a multitude of nations united by one faith in one Lord Jesus Christ.
From the beginning of Scripture, the Lord helps us to discern the children of Abraham with the very name of Abraham. Whenever we hear the name Abraham we should think “Father of many nations.”
Abraham’s Faith in Christ
Abraham believed God and His promises. Hebrews 11 ties together the Old Testament church and the New Testament church by the Hall of Faith telling us that as of old so now we live by Faith. Even Abraham obeyed God not by his own will but “By faith” (Hebrews 11:1). Abraham didn’t look for God to fulfill His promises in an earthly kingdom in the Middle East but “waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (11:10).
Sometimes we are tempted like the Jews in John 8 to think that Abraham didn’t know anything about Jesus 2,000 years before Jesus was born. But we find in Scripture something very different. Abraham had faith in the promised Messiah to come. Jesus tells us in John 8:56, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” Two thousand years before Christ, Abraham believed in and was looking for the coming of the Messiah, the Christ! Jesus who was before Abraham tells us, and Abraham saw Christ’s coming by faith! Abraham is remembered above all as a man who had faith in Christ alone for salvation – a faith that God calls all men, Jews and Gentiles, to share.
And he [Philippian jailor] brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
The Promise of God to Abraham
God’s promise to Abraham to be his God and the God of his seed after him, to justify him, to give him eternal life, was not through the law or by blood but by faith. From the beginning, the promise was through the righteousness of faith.
Does this blessedness then come upon the circumcised only, or upon the uncircumcised also? For we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness. How then was it accounted? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised?