4000 YEARS AGO a faithful servant of God named Abraham lived. His life and times are recorded in Genesis, the very first book of the Bible.
Abraham was one of the most significant characters in the Old Testament era. Chosen by God for a special purpose, he was asked to leave his homeland and journey to a far country.
God made some very important promises to this man, and Abraham proved to be an individual worthy of the confidence that was placed in him.
We would think that no matter how great this man was, he would remain only as a historical character in an ancient world that has been long forgotten.
The incredible thing about Abraham is that he had a lasting place in the plan of God, and his significance extended far beyond his lifetime.
The verse quoted at the top of this page is only one of some seventy references in the New Testament about Abraham
We must certainly wonder what there was about Abraham, that made his name a byword, thousands of years after he fell asleep in the grave?
Galatians 3 provides us with some very significant information about the importance of this man.
Abraham is linked with Christ. The promises that were made to Abraham 4000 years ago, had reference to Christ, as we are told in verse 16:
"Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring; it does not say, "And to offsprings," as of many; but it says, "And to your offspring," that is, to one person, who is Christ." ( NRSV)
Christ was not only the son of God. He was also a direct descendant of Abraham, through his mother Mary. The promises made to Abraham in the Old Testament, are to be fulfilled through Christ. Once we understand this connection, we can appreciate the significance of the man Abraham.
The promises made to Abraham have special meaning to us also. When we are baptized into Christ, we are told that we become a part of the same family connection. "If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to the promise."
If we hope to be joint heirs of these great and precious promises, sharing them with Abraham and Christ, it would seem logical that we would want learn all that we can about them.
(Romans 4:13 NRSV)
In Romans 4, the Apostle Paul provides us with some important information about the promises that were made to Abraham, (and to Christ, and us).
When we look at the promise that related to certain land that he would receive for an inheritance, we are presented with some vagueness about the extent of that land.
Abraham was told that it would be all of the land that he could see, north, south, east and west. His position was an undefined point in the land of Canaan. ( see Genesis 13: 12-17)
Initially, the promise related to the "land of promise" which was understood to be a large section of the Middle East, centered in Israel, but much larger than her current borders.
As time passed, more information about the extent of this promise was provided through the Hebrew prophets. What was originally the kingdom and territory of Israel, was expanded to include the entire world. Christ, the true offspring of Abraham, would inherit all of the kingdoms of this world, and become the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Daniel spoke of Christ as a stone, that would smite and destroy all of the kingdoms of men. God's Kingdom would replace all kingdoms, becoming a great mountain, filling the entire earth. ( see Daniel 2: 44-45)
Daniel also spoke of the inheritance for those who are Abraham's seed, "in Christ." This group is identified in Daniel's prophecy as "the people of the saints of the most High."
"But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end. And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him." ( Daniel 7:26-27)
Abraham was promised that he and his descendant (Christ) would inherit the world through the righteousness of faith.
Abraham was the father of the faithful. He demonstrated tremendous faith during the trials of his life.
His faith was an example for us and we are told that "ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus." ( Gal 3: 26)
Faith is a very significant part of the hope that we have to inherit the promises made to Abraham. We read from Galatians 3: "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."( Gal 3:8-9)
This promise to Abraham is very important. All nations will be blessed through Christ, the offspring of Abraham. In Christ, they receive the blessing of the forgiveness of their sins, and they live in the hope that they will also be blessed with eternal life in God's Kingdom.
It is always difficult to understand the proper balance in the application of faith and works to our hope of salvation.
Some of the NT writings appear to emphasize the importance of faith only. James, on the other hand, teaches us that "faith, if it hath not works, is dead being alone." (James 2:17)
It is Abraham that has been chosen to teach us about both faith and works. His life is an example of the two, working together, with the right balance.
We know that Abraham had faith.
We are told in both portions of the Bible that Abraham believed God and that it was reckoned unto him for righteousness. James refers to this truth in verse 23 of his 2nd chapter. (It also appears in Gen. 15:6, Gal 3:6, and Rom. 4:13)
Abraham's faith was incredible. He waited 25 years after the promise that he would have a son before Isaac was actually born. He then exhibited his great faith when God tested him by asking asked him to sacrifice Isaac.
We are told: "And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah's womb: He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness." (Romans 4: 19-22)
This great faith of Abraham was manifested in more than words. In Hebrews 11 we read:
"By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went." ( verse 8)
"By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son. Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure." ( verse 17-19)
Abraham did more than believe in the promises of God. He showed that he believed by taking action in his life, doing things that were the work of faith.
James magnifies this great example that Abraham provided as the father of all the faithful. He tells us:
"Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only." ( James 2: 21- 24)
Abraham's faith was made perfect through his actions, and it is this perfected faith that, through the grace of God, may ultimately prove worthy of justification for us also.
No matter how great the building, all of the works of man are corruptible. Their foundation is subject to the erosion of the sands of time. The great Colosseum in Rome was built in 75-80 AD. The crumbled remains provide only a hint of the former glory.
Abraham was a man who would rather dwell in a tent, as a stranger and pilgrim, than to place his trust in the false security of the great city of Ur.
"By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles (tents) with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God." (Hebrews 11:8-10)
Abraham established the example for all who would live by faith. "Without faith it is impossible to please him (God): for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." (Hebrews 11:6)
Abraham looked for something that would last forever. He looked forward, through the eye of faith, to the establishment of a city built by God; one that would be founded on a rock.
Abraham is said to have rejoiced as he envisioned the coming day of Christ, the descendant that God had promised him. His descendent that would be the rock, a sure foundation for the city of God. (See John 8:56)
Jesus reflected the understanding that Abraham displayed when he spoke the parable of two men, one who built on sand, and the other on rock ( Matthew 7:24-27)
"Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:" Our Choice?
Abraham was a wise man and he made the right choice. Now it is our turn. We can put our trust in the princes of this world, and build a temporary house on the shifting sands; or, we can build an everlasting house on Jesus Christ, our rock.
Christ is the sure foundation for the city of God that we also look for.