Can You Be a Child of Abraham?


Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. Gal 3:7

The Word of God tells us that ANYONE can be a child of Abraham and inherit the blessings promised to Abraham BY FAITH. The Apostle has been arguing to this point (vss 1-6 of Galatians 3) that believers receive the Spirit of God, not by human merit, but by faith in Christ. The Apostle sums up this argument with an appeal to Father Abraham in verse 6 – “Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Here, Paul demonstrates his point by providing an indirect quotation of Genesis 15:6, that Abraham, the father of all the Hebrew peoples and the one to whom the blessings of the Abrahamic Covenant were made, was reckoned (or accounted) righteous on the basis of faith ALONE. Abraham, then, was justified on the grounds of Christ’s merit and substitutionary atonement, and that this justification was received through the instrument of faith (Rom 3:19-21, Gal 2:16) – just as we receive it!

Paul follows this statement with a most unusual inference. Since Abraham was justified by faith, and since we have been justified by faith, we are the spiritual offspring of Abraham – “Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.” (Gal 3:7). The logical conclusion then, is that the blessings which have been promised to Abraham (and received by faith) are passed along “spiritual lines of descent” to those of us who are not Hebrews only (Rom 9:24), but all that have the faith of our father Abraham.

Paul goes on to further justify his position by appealing to the Abrahamic Covenant itself (see Gen 12:3, 18:18). Verses 8 and 9 read – “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.” So, the understanding that non-Hebrews would receive the blessings of the Covenant (Matt 8:10-12) with Abraham was not hidden, but was proclaimed in the very covenant itself. Paul refers to this as the preaching of the gospel to Abraham.


John Piper, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, MN, preached a sermon on this passage (Gal 3:6-9) on March 20, 1983 entitled “Those Who Have Faith Are the Sons of Abraham”, which you can find linked below. Some brief notes from his sermon follow.

Those Who Have Faith Are the Sons of Abraham

Brief Notes:

“I can think of at least two reasons why most modern people would simply shrug their shoulders at this announcement. One reason is that they have no idea what it means to be a son of Abraham and no sense of the stupendous value of the blessing promised to Abraham’s children. And the other reason is that they can’t see how a 20th century American who doesn’t have a Jewish cell in his body can be called a son of Abraham. In other words, if this promise in Galatians 3:6–9 is going to strengthen our faith and increase our joy, we have to dig in and see what it means and how it is grounded in the Old Testament…”

I. Not Dependant on Physical Descent

 Paul is teaching us that to be an heir of Abraham is not tied to physical descent. Verses 7 and 9 state that those who are of faith are children of Abraham and in accordance with the covenant are blessed WITH Abraham (see especially vss 28-29 and compare Romans 9:6-7).

II. Was Paul’s View Biblical?

 

Abrahamic Covenant: “Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” Gen 12:1-3

Here, we see that the Hebrew people are being selected for a special purpose – to be a special nation separated unto God and to make them a blessing to the world (see Gen 18:18). Further, when Abraham was 90 years old, the LORD appeared to him again, with the following words,

“I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly. And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying, ‘As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee.'” Gen 17:2-4

Piper acknowledges that Abraham was physically the father of nations such as Israel, Ishmael, and Edom, but do these constitute the “many nations” God spoke to Abraham about? Piper points out that Paul understood God to have meant all the Gentile nations to whom the gospel came, as evidenced by the following:

“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, ‘As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,’ before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.” (Rom 4:16-17)

III. Must Be Like Abraham

 Next, Piper asserts that to be a son of Abraham is to follow in the faith of Abraham. From Piper’s sermon:

In John 8:39 the Jews defend themselves against Jesus’ criticisms by saying, “‘Abraham is our father.’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were Abraham’s children, you would do what Abraham did.'” Jesus shows us two things in this response. First, he shows us that they are not Abraham’s children, even though they are Jews—and so he confirms our first point, that being a child of Abraham is not the same as Jewishness. And the second thing he shows us is that being a child of Abraham means being like Abraham—doing what he does

IV. Heirs of Blessing of Abraham

Most importantly, to be a son of Abraham means to inherit the blessing given to Abraham.

That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith… For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. Gal 3:14, 26-29

Sadly, Piper falls short of ascribing all the Abrahamic blessings to ALL of Abraham’s seed and describes our inheritance in terms of: 1) The fear of meeting an infinitely holy God loaded with all your sin; and 2) the fear of death.

V. The Promise of Justification

Piper says:

Notice Galatians 3:8, “And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘In you shall all the nations be blessed.'” This verse teaches that the reason the Scripture promises blessing to the nations through Abraham is that God intended to justify people from every nation. “Since the Scripture saw God justifying the Gentiles . . . therefore the Scripture promised blessing to the Gentiles through Abraham.” So the promised blessing of Abraham must involve justification. And you recall from the connection between Genesis 12:3 and 17:4 that the reason the nations will be blessed is because Abraham becomes their father. They become his sons. Therefore, justification is part of our inheritance as children of Abraham…

 

The Promise of the Spirit

Piper says:

…Galatians 3:14 says that Christ became a curse for us “that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles, in order that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” This verse teaches that part of Abraham’s blessing which we Gentiles can inherit is the gift of the Spirit. One of the marks of the children of Abraham is that they are indwelt by the Spirit of Christ (Gal 4:28-29)…

Conclusion

The only way to be a son of Abraham, i.e. to inherit the blessing of God, is through faith in the Son of God!

And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Matt 8:11-12

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