In the first century there was a great deal made of being one of the “children of Abraham.” The Jews would oft proclaim their heritage as the seed of Abraham, many times to their own detriment (John 8:33-40; Mat. 3:9). Let us examine who the “children of Abraham” are in reality and whether or not this statement has any validity for mankind today.
The physical children of Abraham. It is not implausible to assume that those who read this article know well the promises of God to Abraham in Genesis 15:4-5. The promise is there made that Abraham, though he and his wife Sarah were well past the normal age of bearing children, would have a son, and from that son would arise a great nation (Gen. 17:3-5, 19-21).
Through Isaac, the son of promise, every word would be fulfilled which God promised Abraham. God’s rewards would truly be great to this man of great faith. There would be a number of nations which would spring up from the children of Abraham, the greatest of which would be the nation through which the Messiah would come, the nation of Israel. These people were direct descendants of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob.
Because of the people of which they were a part, and the role Abraham played in the Old Testament accounts, there was a great deal of pride among the Israelite people. This, in many cases, was their downfall when it came to hearing the words of God, especially in the time of Christ. By the time our Lord comes on the scene, the pride had risen to a level of belief that, because they were of the seed of Abraham, God automatically accepted them (John 8:31-43).
Even after the church had been established there were those Jews who recognized they were under a new law. However, they still wanted to hold to the tenets of the old law and the pronouncement of being the physical seed of Abraham as if that still played some role in where they stood with God. With such attitudes, these individuals were causing divisions within the body of Christ (Acts 15). Because of this, Paul will then make reference to the role of “children of Abraham” as found within the New Covenant in a number of his writings (Rom. 9:7-8; et al).
The spiritual children of Abraham. Instead of the emphasis being placed upon the physical lineage of Abraham, Paul shows the importance of being children of Abraham in the spiritual sense. Notice Galatians 3:26-29: “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.”
In this passage, Paul emphasizes the most important aspect which makes us all children of Abraham: obedience to the law of God. However, we must be careful not to assume this statement carries with it any sort of mystical importance. The simple fact that Paul is seeking to relate to these Christians is this: by their obedience to God they are walking in the faithful footsteps of Abraham and are therefore worthy to be heirs of the promise, offered by the Savior, of salvation.
It is a wondrous thought that we today can still walk as Abraham did so many centuries ago. However, if it is to be accomplished, it must be done through faithful obedience to Christ and his Word. There is no other way for man to be held up before God as a faithful servant. Therefore, may it ever be our endeavor to be children of God; that on the glorious day of judgment we may be able to stand with faithful Abraham.