Have you ever seen a great deal, or identified a fun adventure that you wanted to take part in, only to be told that it only applies to a special group? Whether an opportunity is restricted to members of a certain club, or a certain group of people, it can be a real disappointment to find out that you’re not invited to participate. Sometimes, we have the ability to join the privileged group (like buying a membership), but other times we cannot.
While there is – regrettably – still too much unfair discrimination in this world (which we should actively work against), there are also times when we’re legitimately not part of a certain group, and don’t qualify to participate in certain activities (like when we grow too tall for the kiddie rides at the amusement part). In some cases, it’s something as simple as, “appointments are by reservation only, and we’re all booked up for today”.
Centuries ago, Abraham and his descendants (the Hebrew, Israelite, or Jewish people, in particular) were given a number of promises. For a long time, it seemed that they were the special recipients of God’s favor, as His chosen people. Even when they experienced the consequences of bad choices, God continued to keep them around (whether in their homeland, or scattered abroad).
When Jesus came, though, He brought good news for those of us who can’t trace our ancestry back to Abraham:
Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.
Romans 4:16-17 NIV
While being physically descended from Abraham isn’t something that we can control, we can each have faith. As a result, we can all be children of Abraham – not by blood, but by having the same kind of righteousness that he did, through faith. And, certain promises made to Abraham and his descendants can be claimed by those who have his faith in God, regardless of their DNA.
In fact, this isn’t the only place that the Bible talks about this concept.
In Genesis 17:4-8 (verse 5 of which seems to be cited in Romans 4:17, above), God gives Abram (“exalted father”, per NIV footnote) the name Abraham (probably “father of many”, per NIV footnote). In the first century, some people might have thought of the twelve tribes of Israel as the nations that came from Abraham, and perhaps even included the descendants of Ishmael (whom God also blessed). But more than that, God seems to have had in mind an even wider scope of nations to become children of Abraham.
John the Baptist also said something interesting in Luke 3:7-8, “For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.” While I don’t think that any rocks were turned into children of God that day, there were more children of Abraham (in terms of righteousness through faith) to be welcomed in, even though they were outside of the Jewish nation.
And, who is God (i.e., the God who we can believe in, and who Abraham believed in), as described in verse 17? He is “…the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.”
That’s the God I want to serve, especially since I don’t need to be part of a certain group to become part of His family! I hope that you do, too.
From Sunday School lesson prepared for January 16, 2022
- The Lookout, January 16, 2022, © 2022 Christian Standard Media.
- Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
- The College Press Commentary, Romans, Volume 1, by Jack Cottrell. College Press Publishing Company, © 1996.