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Who are Abraham's children?

By: Le Roy Caudell

God made promises to Abraham and his seed.  There is a family tree of his physical descendants given in the Bible.  Does being a physical descendant of Abraham entitle a person to inherit the promises made to Abraham?  The answer is central to understanding the work of Christ during both his first and second advent.

At the time of Jesus' birth Jewish religious leaders believed the messiah would come to rule earthly Israel as a restored sovereign nation.  They looked for and sought a messiah to restore the kingdom of Israel and free them from Roman rule.  Their theological views were man centered and earth bound.  They thought only in terms of the temporal kingdoms of this earth.  Present day Jewish religious leaders and most evangelical Christian leaders suffer from the same earth centric views.  The Jewish leaders of Jesus' time did not look for a messiah whose mission was spiritual instead of political.  They did not expect messiah to offer himself as a sacrifice and die in place of those who would have faith like Abraham.  Their evil hearts entertained political aspirations which blinded them to eternal life and the meaning of the messianic prophesies.

"For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in."  (Romans 11:25, KJV)

Today Christian evangelicals are following similar misleading paths in their quest to understand messianic prophesies.  Their discussion of prophesy centers around Abraham's physical descendants and the physical nation of Israel.  They fail to distinguish between the lineage of faith and the lineage of flesh.  This failure causes them to view messianic prophesies with an earth bound political focus similar to the Jewish leaders of Jesus' time.  Along these specious paths are false teachers who have set up "TV ministries" (sic) which sensationalize news about earthly Israel's politics to feed the emotions of those who keep sending money to keep it all going.  Entertaining it may be but truth it is not.  Turn off the voices of falsehood and read the Bible while relying upon the Holy Spirit who alone gives understanding.

John chapter 8 records Jesus teaching in the temple where he engaged the Pharisees in a dialogue about ancestry.  I encourage all to read the full chapter.  This chapter is an essential text to understanding the distinction between the lineage of faith and the lineage of flesh.  Jesus' teaching was not welcomed by the pharisees because his doctrine stripped away the veneer of credibility covering their corrupt and false theology.  Their theological views were founded entirely on the genealogy of the flesh.  They felt secure as children of Abraham but Jesus' words placed them in danger of eternal damnation.  They suddenly found themselves supported only by their kinship to their earthly forefather who, according to Jesus, does not make one Abraham's child.

Let's examine the dialogue recorded in John chapter 8.  The Pharisees were children of Abraham through Isaac the physical seed of Abraham but Jesus said to them, "Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world. (John 8:23, KJV)   Jesus acknowledged in verse 37 of this chapter that the Pharisees were the children of Abraham but in verse 39 he declares they are not the children of Abraham.  "I know that ye are Abraham’s seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you.  I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father.  They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, if ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham.  But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham.  (John 8:37 - 40, KJV)  Jesus declares them to be children of the devil, "Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it."  (John 8:44, KJV) 

How is it possible for descendants of Abraham to be children of the devil rather than Abraham's children?  Because they did not possess true lineage to Abraham.  Their lineage was in flesh and blood but what is needed is the lineage of faith.  The lineage of the flesh is not a valid passport to heaven nor does it provide understanding of the work of the messiah in bringing salvation and complete redemption to those who share Abraham's faith.  The lineage of flesh is temporal.  The lineage of faith is eternal.

Jesus acknowledged the pharisees were children of Abraham but said they were not children of Abraham but children of the devil.  They understood only physical ancestry.  Spiritual ancestry, which is inherited by faith, was unknown to them as shown in the conversation between Nicodemus and Jesus in John chapter 3 verses 1 through 21 (please read in your Bible).  Nicodemus asked, "How can these things be?"   "Jesus answered him, Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?  (John 3:10, ESV2011)  Nicodemus and the other pharisees understood physical birth and lineage but had a complete lack of knowledge and understanding of spiritual matters.  This lack of understanding is still present among the Jews.   Something other than physical ancestry is needed to be a child of Abraham and inherit the promises made to him.  This article examines who are the children of Abraham.

The Pharisees were born as physical children of Abraham through Isaac the promised physical seed.  However Jesus clearly said the Pharisees  were not the children of Abraham.  The Pharisees claimed Abraham as their father during the discourse with Jesus and Jesus acknowledged this to be true.  The Pharisees valued their ability to trace their physical ancestry back to Abraham.  God made promises to Abraham and Jews claim these promises based exclusively upon  their physical kinship to Abraham.  This claim is the root of the ownership controversy between Jews in the modern day state of Israel and others who also are physical descendants of Abraham by Ishmael (son of Hagar) who was a son by flesh but not promise.  Jesus made it absolutely clear that to be Abraham's child is not determined by being physical descended from Abraham.  This fact must be believed and accepted in order to understand who are Abraham's children and inherit the promises made to him.

The Apostle Paul addressed this issue in his letter to the church in Rome.  "I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, that I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart.  For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:  who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises;  whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.  Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.  That is, they which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed."  (Romans 9:1 - 8, KJV)

Paul taught the same when he wrote to the church in Galatia.  I suggest reading the entire 3rd chapter of Galatians.   "Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.  Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.  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."  (Galatians 3:6 - 9, KJV)  Faith (believing God's word) determines who are Abraham's children, NOT being a descendant by flesh.

Paul continues in Galatians chapter 3 to teach that the giving of the law to the physical nation of Israel did not annul or invalidate the promises made to Abraham.  The promises to Abraham, who received the same by faith, came 430 years before the law given on Mount Sinai.  The promises to Abraham were to those who demonstrate faith like Abraham, not those who only share physical kinship with Abraham.  Being a physical descendant of Abraham does not obtain/receive the benefits of the promises to Abraham.  The church in Galatia was composed of Gentiles and Jews.  Some of the Jews taught circumcision plus faith for salvation.  Paul set the record straight.  "And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise."   (Galatians 3:29, KJV)  To be a child of Abraham does not involve the flesh.  Anyone, Jew or Gentile, who demonstrates faith in Christ is Abraham's child and inherits the promises made to him.

"That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.  Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though it be but a man’s covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto.  Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, and to seeds, as of many; but as of one, and to thy seed, which is Christ.  And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.  For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise."  (Galatians 3:14-18, KJV)  The covenant of the law did not cancel nor supersede nor replace the promises made to Abraham who received it by faith.  The blessings of Abraham are for all his children, Jew or Gentile,  who receive the gospel by faith.

"Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: and I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed."   (Genesis 12:1-3, KJV) 

God promised blessings to ALL families of the earth through Abram.  This includes the Gentiles as Paul said in Galatians 3 as quoted above.  Those who bless those who have faith like Abraham will be blessed;  those who curse those who have faith like Abraham will be cursed.  This blessing or cursing pertains to those who, like Abraham, believe God's word, not to the physical descendants of Abraham.  God's promises to Abraham preceded the covenant of the law made with the physical nation of Israel through Moses.

"And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed [Christ] will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him."  (Genesis 12:7, KJV)  God promised Abraham an heir from his own body; a physical seed.  "And, behold, the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir."  (Genesis 15:4, KJV)  Isaac was Abraham's physical seed and the physical Jews are descended from him.  Jesus was from this lineage.

"In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed [Christ] have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates:"  (Genesis 15:18, KJV)  God promised Abraham's seed land on this earth.  The writer of Hebrews tells us Abraham looked for something other than the land of Canaan.  Abraham was seeking a city designed and built by God, not a city designed and built by man.

"And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever."  (Revelation of John 11:15, KJV)

"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 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 KJV)

If the land of Canaan was the fulfillment of the promises God made to Abraham then why did Abraham look for another city designed and built by God himself?  The writer of Hebrews also states that the promises were not fulfilled during Abraham's life.  "These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth."  (Hebrews 11:13, KJV)

The apostle Paul wrote the following to the Galatians.  "For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman.  But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise.  Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar [Hagar].  For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.  But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.   For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband.  Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise."  (Galatians 4:22-28, KJV)  Here Paul distinguishes between the covenant of law given to the Moses and the Israelites on mount Sinai and the Jerusalem which is not of this earth but is above.  The covenant of the law corresponds to this present earth; Jerusalem, mount Sinai.  The covenant of promise made to Abraham corresponds to the heavenly Jerusalem.  Paul was indeed a pharisee of the pharisees but after he passed from death unto life in Christ he was instructed by Christ himself in these matters.

Isaac and Ismael were both physical children of Abraham.  Ismael was conceived because Sarah and Abraham conspired to fulfill God's promise through the flesh.  Their human reason did not understand how God could fulfill his promise any other way.  Be careful of the sin tainted human intellect. Man's intellect has reason and logic but God is the creator who can and does all things after the counsel of his own will.  Isaac was conceived because God fulfilled his promise supernaturally, not through the flesh.  The promised seed was Isaac not Ishmael.  Jesus was physically descended from Isaac.  Jesus is the promised seed through which the promises to Abraham are fulfilled.  Faith is not part of the lineage of the flesh.

The key which unlocks the understanding and bestows the blessings of Abraham is the seed.  Paul writes the "seed" is Christ.  Christ is the seed of promise; the seed of Abraham; the seed through whom the promises are fulfilled.  All who are in Christ are Abraham's children and heirs of the promises made to Abraham.  These are children by faith, not flesh.  These children in Christ are not distinguished by any fleshly attribute.  "For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.  For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.  And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise."  (Galatians 3:26 - 29, KJV)  Theological systems invented by men obscure the simplicity of Abraham's seed and confuse the covenant of bondage (law) and the covenant of promise (faith).  Believe God's word as written not the confusion created by man's theology.

Jesus said,  "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me."   "In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you."  "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." (John 14:1-3, KJV)

The revelation given to the apostle John tells of a city whose designer and maker is God (sought by Abraham) and comes down out of heaven to earth.  "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.  And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God."  (Revelation 21:1-3, KJV)  "Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away."  (Luke 21:33, KJV)  (Parenthetical note:  those who believe heaven will be on this earth do not believe the words of Jesus)

The apostle John also wrote in Revelation 21 that this present heaven and earth will pass away.  The apostle Peter wrote,  "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.  Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?  Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness."  (2 Peter 3:10-13, KJV}

The promises to Abraham will not be fulfilled on this present earth but under the new covenant in a new earth, a new heaven and a new Jerusalem in which God dwells among his people.  The theology of physical ancestry is not part of God's eternal plan.  Those who share the faith of Abraham share in the promises made to him not those of physical lineage nor any other physical attribute.  All families of the earth will share in these blessings through faith.

Those who look for the old covenant of law with temple worship to be restored with the physical nation of Israel in the earthly Jerusalem will be disappointed.  "In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away."  (Hebrews 8:13, KJV)  "Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second."  (Hebrews 10:9, KJV)  When Christ died the temple in earthly Jerusalem was no longer needed because the work of the law (the school teacher) was finished.  The temple was destroyed in 70 AD.  Christ nailed the law to his cross therefore another temple will not be needed.  A new covenant secured by the blood of Jesus Christ, a new heaven, a new earth and a new Jerusalem for the children of Abraham who receive Christ by faith.

24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.
26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.
27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
29 And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
(Galatians 3:24-29, KJV)