Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children[sons] of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.
Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also: And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised. For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect: Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression. Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all,
B2.1 What is a father?
Abraham is referred to as being the father of all those who have the same faith as he had. We can all understand this with regard to the physical descendants (ie. the nation of Israel), but what about those of us who have no inheritance amongst the physical nation, how is Abraham our father? It is important for us to see this because of the difference of Spirit and flesh that we have been emphasising from Galatians.
First, let us deal with this phrase the ‘father of”. Scripture uses the word father in many ways. it can mean the obvious such as when Solomon spoke of David as his father (II Chr. 1:8). It is also used to mean one’s family line in general (eg. Dan.5:18, Nebuchadnezzar was Belshazzar’s actual grandfather) But there is another sense in which the term is used. And for this we go back into Genesis.
And Adah bare Jabal: he was the father of such as dwell in tents, and of such as have cattle. And his brother’s name was Jubal: he was the father of all such as handle the harp and organ.
Now it is clear that Adah is not literally the father of all tent dwellers, nor Jubal the literal father of all musicians. For that to be the case they would have to be alive until the end of the age and father many children. And in any case the line which they belonged to was from Cain, and this was destroyed in the flood, only Seth’s line was saved, through the family of Noah. No, it is a term meaning something else. It simply means the first type of that occupation. So someone who is a tent dweller today, who is not a literal son of Adah, would be called his son in the sense that he followed Adah’s occupation. And it is in this sense that we must consider the scriptures when it says that Abraham is the father of us all.
From what we have already considered, in Galatians, it should be plain to us by now, that we are referring to Abraham’s faith. if we, whether circumcised or not, have the same faith as he then he is our ‘father Abraham’; only the true sons of Abraham share his faith, and only true believers are his sons. This has major repercussions, for we are dealing with spiritual things, so what about the fleshly descendants of Abraham?
B2.2 Of the flesh
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.
John the Baptist comes along and reveals the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and Sadducees, calling them a generation of vipers, he then goes on to say that they ought not to think themselves children of Abraham because God could make children of Abraham from the stones. Imagine the effect of this on the hearers!
The Jews prided themselves in being the physical descendants of Abraham, because of that they considered themselves the true heirs of all the promises of God and others had no part of it. And now they are told in no uncertain terms that this counts for nothing!
Before we go any further, this needs to be made clear. Whilst Abraham had genuine faith it is clear that his descendants didn’t have it just because they were of his line; they had to have a personal encounter with God. And how many people today rely on being born into a Christian family for salvation? Grace is not transmitted in the genes. If anyone is to have genuine faith in God they have to do business with God individually, no reliance on family, nation or denomination, or any other physical connection. As has been emphasised time and again, anything added to sole faith in God through the Lord Jesus is NOT salvation but deception. Relying on ones natural birth, national belonging or church affiliation is, by definition, of the flesh and therefore CANNOT save anyone, none of this has any merit before God and has to be abandoned if one is to be saved.
B2.3 Self deception
We a have a remarkable passage in John’s gospel.
As he spake these words, many believed on him. Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
They answered him, We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?
Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. I know that ye are Abraham’s seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you. I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father.
They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father.
Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham. But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham. Ye do the deeds of your father.
Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God.
Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me. Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not. Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me? He that is of God heareth God’s words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.
Then answered the Jews, and said unto him, Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?
Jesus answered, I have not a devil; but I honour my Father, and ye do dishonour me. And I seek not mine own glory: there is one that seeketh and judgeth. Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.
Then said the Jews unto him, Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and thou sayest, If a man keep my saying, he shall never taste of death. Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? and the prophets are dead: whom makest thou thyself?
Jesus answered, If I honour myself, my honour is nothing: it is my Father that honoureth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God: Yet ye have not known him; but I know him: and if I should say, I know him not, I shall be a liar like unto you: but I know him, and keep his saying. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.
Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?
Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am. Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.
The first thing to note is what the audience Jesus was speaking to: the passage makes it clear that it was to the Jews, in general and to those who believed on him in particular, but it wasn’t the true belief as we shall see. Note very carefully that the whole passage is a dialogue between Jesus and the Jews who believed, and not just the Pharisees.
There is a big hint as to the self deception of these people when they say we …were never in bondage to any man. The facts plainly contradict that: they were bondslaves in Egypt; then in various bondages during the period of the Judges; then there was the long 70 year period in exile; and at the time of this conversation they were in bondage to Rome, paying the taxes imposed on them. Such was their clear understanding of truth!
They, were deceived in the simple things, and it is no wonder they were deceived in the major things. Here is a valuable lesson for us. If ever we are to know the truth we must not be deceived, and especially self-deceived – do we have a true valuation of our own condition? In relation to the subject of Galatians: are we in the flesh or Spirit? To be the former is to be in bondage (Gal.5:1), to be in the latter means true freedom. We must be truthful before God if ever we are to be set free, only the truth will set us free – Jesus is the Truth – and as we stand before Him do we recognise our true standing, or are we like the Jews refusing to see the obvious?
B2.4 The works of Abraham
One of the key points we read is that if these Jews were truly Abraham’s children then they would do his works. Abraham believed God Gen. 15:6, he saw Christ’s day, and he didn’t seek to kill those who told him the truth. Jn. 11:40.
The Jews didn’t believe God, for they didn’t believe Jesus, even though the facts were open before them. In the parable(?) of the rich man and Lazarus, the former went to teh place of torment and asked if a messenger could be sent to warn his brethren. Abraham said this;
They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.
Jesus in John’s gospel says;
I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only? Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?
Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed. Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work? Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat. Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not.
Jesus was the one who was raised from the dead, and clearly many didn’t believe Him, indeed Jesus in these passages implies that these Jews, to whom He was talking, didn’t really believe Moses either! For if they had they would have believed Jesus. In fact many of them followed Jesus only for what they could get out of him Jn.6:26, and then had the cheek to ask for a sign so they could believe Jn.6:30!
We read that Jesus said that Abraham saw Christ’s day from afar, Jn.8:56, such was Abraham’s belief in God; yet the Jews of Jesus’ day could not see it when it was close to them Lk. 19:41-44! True faith will keep our spiritual eyes open; the Jews were in the flesh and not the Spirit, hence their missing the obvious when God put it right in front of their eyes. Let us beware that we do not fall into the same trap.
Our works will tell who our father is. By their fruits, as Jesus said on one occasion, ye shall know them. No matter how hard they protested they were Abraham’s children, the Jews’ works betrayed them. The words Jesus used should have given them a clue: He acknowledged they were of Abraham’s seed but said they were not his children. They had missed the point, for Jesus was getting down to what really mattered: the Spirit and not the flesh. Had they not considered that Ishmael was Abraham’s seed, nor that Abraham had descendants from his second wife Keturah? It is plain that they had completely missed the point of Spirit and flesh, the question is: do we?
B2.5 The works of the devil
These Jews also claimed to have God as their father, but once more Jesus pointed out that if they were of God they would love Him, for He came from God, the Father. Instead Jesus tells them that they neither had Abraham or God as their father, instead the devil was.
Now, again, it is obvious Jesus did not mean that they were procreated after the flesh by the devil, rather He was talking of spiritual things, and origins. And because the devil was their father they would be doing his works, and Jesus pointed out that they were doing the lusts (=desires) of the devil. Now the word will here has to do with their volition: that is what they desired to do, and they desired the same things as the devil, and this is the point that Jesus was making.
The devil, and they were murderers in disposition. The devil, from the beginning, set out to destroy what God had created, and indeed his rebellion in heaven against God, that resulted in his being cast out, was an attempt to murder God, for in his heart there was anger and hatred. The Jews were now doing the same, they hated Jesus without a cause Jn.15:25 and sought to kill and destroy Him, the one who was the God-man on the earth. Satan couldn’t kill God in heaven, so he got his children to try and do it on earth.
Secondly, the devil does not abide in the truth, but rather he departed from it because there was no truth in him. We only need to look at the temptation in the garden of Eden to see this: he twisted God’s words and lied to our first parents. He has no interest in the truth at all. And what of the Jews of Jesus’ day? They didn’t believe Jesus and he told the truth, they refused to accept what He said, preferring to remain in their self deception. The Jews like the devil had no truth in them.
Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth. But I receive not testimony from man: but these things I say, that ye might be saved. He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light. But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me. And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape. And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not. Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life. I receive not honour from men. But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you. I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only? Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?
The Jews were not of the spiritual seed of Abraham, they did the works of the devil, not of Abraham; and they refused to believe the works of the Lord Jesus. Their actions of trying to destroy the Lord show that they were doing the works of their father, the devil.
B2.6 Who is your father?
For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.
Paul takes this further and shows that a true descendent of Abraham is one who is circumcised in the heart, which is another term for new birth. We have to remember that Abraham had many children, but only one was of the spirit, that is by promise, the others were of the flesh. No matter what our flesh connections are, whether we were born into a Christian home, country or of some other flesh connection they are of no use to us at all, we have to be born of the Spirit.
Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again [= from above], he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it comeh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.
The question is: as you read this, are you born again? What do your works say of you? Who do you have as your father: God or the devil? In spiritual things it is one or the other. Do you have the circumcision of the heart? if not then listen: you must abandon all hope of salvation by the flesh, whatever that may mean in your life, and believe God alone, only then can you be called a true son of Abraham, but more importantly, a child of God.