I remember, as a child, singing the song “Father Abraham” at Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, and church camps. We always loved it because it was goofy and enabled us to get up and wiggle around. However, this song contains a truth that we find in Scripture. It tells us that we are the children of Abraham.
When the name of Abram was changed to Abraham, God said that he would be the father of many nations. Now, this is true in a physical sense. Through Isaac came the people of Israel, who eventually split into two nations. Abraham’s son through Hagar, Ishmael, also became a great people. Isaac’s son, Esau, eventually became the nation of Edom. However, when we read Romans 4, we see that God’s promise referred to more than only the physical nations that descended from him.
In Romans 4, starting in verse 13, Paul says: “For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression. That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring-- not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, as it is written, "I have made you the father of many nations"-- in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.”
If it were through the law, if it were through our obedience and good deeds, that we were counted righteous in the eyes of God, his promise would be empty. It would be void because the law brings wrath. Because we’re sinful, the law brings to us the condemnation that we deserve. It does nothing to guarantee the promise God has given.
In order for God’s promise to be guaranteed, it had to rest on faith. Because it’s a free gift, given to us by God, we can be assured of the hope it gives us. We can be assured because it doesn’t rest upon our ability to measure up to God’s standards, which is impossible for us to attain. It rests instead upon the faithfulness of God.
Because it’s given by faith, God’s promise can be guaranteed to all of Abraham’s offspring. It can be given not only to the physical descendants of Abraham, to those who live under the law. It can be given also to us, to those who share the faith of Abraham.
Paul says that, in this way, Abraham is the father of us all. He then points us back to the promise God gave to Abraham, that he would be the father of many nations. So he’s the father not only of those who’ve physically descended from him, but of those who share his faith.
As believers, then, we are all the children of Abraham. We’re not less than those who were born of him in the physical sense. We are inheritors of the promise that God gave to him so long ago.
Knowing this, that Abraham is our father, may we then continue in the faith he displayed. May we trust in God’s promise knowing that, in this way, we too will be counted righteous in his sight. And may we seek to share this promise with others, that the Lord might draw them to faith, and that they too might become the children of Abraham, inheritors of the promise of God.