What does it mean to be children of Abraham? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
A few nights ago, I was reading in Matthew’s Gospel and got to the appearance of John the Baptist. If you remember, John warns the Jewish leaders to not say they have Abraham as their father and therefore they will be safe when God’s wrath comes. God could raise up children of Abraham from the very stones. It’s quite a fascinating remark and one that we don’t think about often, but as I read it this time, my mind went back in time decades ago to Sunday School and Vacation Bible School.
“Father Abraham had many sons, and many sons had Father Abraham. I am one of them, and so are you, so let’s just praise the Lord.”
Yeah. Many of us remember that song and remember the silly motions that we all did with it so much so that we were in hysterics, and yet I look back and see it as a wasted moment in many ways. Did we ever stop to think about what we were singing? I didn’t. (And it sure is a good thing when we reach the level of adulthood we start really thinking about all those songs that we sing and take the message of them very seriously!) Did any of my teachers bother to teach me how important the message of that song is? Not that I remember. Unfortunately, this doesn’t usually change as we grow in the Christian faith if we are raised up in it. Education never gets serious.
What would it have been like if we had thought about that little song?
First, we would have thought that Abraham was a Jew, but it’s clear in Scripture that not everyone is a Jew, yet we’re supposedly children of Abraham? How does that work? Does that mean that we become Jewish? Perhaps in a sense we do. Look at 1 Cor. 10:1-5.
For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. 2 They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3 They all ate the same spiritual food 4 and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.
Some of you might be looking and saying “Yeah, and?” Well look at how it starts. “Our ancestors.” Paul is writing to a church consisting of Jew and Gentile both and yet he refers to the Israelites as our ancestors. In fact, some translators look at 1 Cor. 12:2 when it speaks about once being pagans as once being Gentiles. These people are no longer outsiders to the message of Christ. They are included in the one body that Paul speaks of in that same passage and the one tree that is spoken of in Romans 11. This should strike us also as a great call to unity not only with those of us who are Gentiles and Christians, but Jews who embrace Jesus as the Messiah of Israel.
You see, Paul says in Gal. 3:29 that if we belong to Christ, we are children of Abraham. We are inheritors of the promise that he received. If we are not, then we do not. Being a child of Abraham is incredibly important then. It means we are recipients of the promise that was made to Abraham. We are part of the covenant made so long ago and then part of the new covenant in Christ. This is how we are all one.
John the Baptist had a serious warning for the people of the time. Show yourselves to be true children of Abraham. It’s a shame the Jewish leaders would have been stunned back then and we hardly even think about it today. How far we’ve fallen from a good Biblical education. By all means, teach the song to your youth at church and have some fun with it. There is no objection to that. Make sure that fun is a vehicle to learning. There is much to be known about the way of Christ and that includes knowing how the promises found in the Old Testament thousands of years ago apply to us today thousands of years later.