Father Abraham had many sons…
Are you one of them? Find out in Romans 4
"Father Abraham had many sons,
Many sons had father Abraham–
I am one of them
And so are you,
So let’s all praise the Lord."
I was lucky enough to grow up with Christian parents. While I don’t remember Sunday School all that well (I was four at the time, so go figure), I do remember the songs we sung. “Father Abraham” was easily one of my favourites – if only because it was one I could sing and “dance” (do the actions) along with.
Maybe you also grew up in a Christian home – if you did, you might recognise this song. Problem was, for me at least, I had no idea what the words actually meant; “I’m Abraham’s son? But I’m Daddy’s son!” – it must have been even worse for the girls!
Thankfully, Romans 4 makes sense of this idea. On top of that, it shows us one of the biggest reasons we should read the Old Testament – it still has things to teach us.
Paul has just laid out the fact that, because we have all sinned against God, we all deserve his anger and punishment. But God gave Jesus, who died in our place and bore our punishment, so that we might escape his wrath and be called “right” before him. This forgiveness is not something we can earn (the only thing we earn on our own is condemnation) – it is something given to those who trust God and what he’s done for us in Jesus.
Now, to back up what he said, Paul appeals to Abraham, a big player in the Old Testament and a hero in the eyes of the Jews. Abraham, Paul says, is the perfect example of this idea of “salvation by faith alone”.
God promised Abraham three things in Genesis 12:1-3:
2. Many descendants
3. That he would be blessed and all nations would be blessed through Abraham’s descendants
This was in spite of the fact that he was over a hundred years old, with no children and with Sarah, his wife was barren. Abraham believed God even though it seemed impossible (4:18, 20-21).
Then Paul picks up on a key verse from Genesis 15:6 – “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness” (Romans 4:3, 22). Abraham was the ancestor of the Jews (4:1) – the ancestor of those who said you had to earn salvation – yet he was called right with God not because he did anything (4:4), but because he trusted God.
If you were a Jewish male, you were circumcised. The Jews were given God’s Law in the Old Testament, and so circumcision became a symbol of people who kept the law - i.e. if you are circumcised, you are a law-keeper.
However, Paul picks up on these symbols and applies them to Abraham: Abraham was counted righteous before he was circumcised (Romans 4:9-10). Therefore, righteousness cannot be from law-keeping or circumcision, but must be from faith alone.
Therefore, Paul says, all who trust God are counted as righteous (4:23-25). Because of that, we too can be blessed with God’s forgiveness (4:5-6). But whom did God say would be blessed in Genesis 12? Abraham’s descendants. In this way, Abraham is the “father” of all who have faith in God (Romans 4:11-12, 16-17).
Therefore, because of Abraham’s example, we can be sure that righteousness and salvation do not come from keeping rules, but through trusting God (4:13-15). This faith leads to works, certainly (see how James 2:20-24 looks at Abraham). However, we can be sure of this: if we trust God, we are made right with him by Jesus – nothing more is necessary – and we are saved from his wrath into his family (to be covered later!)
So, are you a son of Abraham?