“Now, is this blessing only for the Jews, or is it also for uncircumcised Gentiles? Well, we have been saying that Abraham was counted as righteous by God because of his faith. But how did this happen? Was he counted as righteous only after he was circumcised, or was it before he was circumcised? Clearly, God accepted Abraham before he was circumcised! Circumcision was a sign that Abraham already had faith and that God had already accepted him and declared him to be righteous—even before he was circumcised. So Abraham is the spiritual father of those who have faith but have not been circumcised. They are counted as righteous because of their faith. And Abraham is also the spiritual father of those who have been circumcised, but only if they have the same kind of faith Abraham had before he was circumcised.”
Romans 4:9-12 NLT
The Jews claimed that Abraham was their spiritual father. We read recently Luke 3:8, “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God. Don’t just say to each other, ‘We’re safe, for we are descendants of Abraham.’ That means nothing, for I tell you, God can create children of Abraham from these very stones”. Somehow most of the devout Jews, such as the Pharisees, generally believed that their ancestry was important enough to ensure their salvation. But John the Baptist was not politically correct at all when he lambasted them for their attitudes. Just to rub it in, we read what John next said in Luke 3:9, “Even now the axe of God’s judgment is poised, ready to sever the roots of the trees. Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire”. In other words John said to his listeners that they had to re-orientate their thinking, away from their heritage to their hearts. And his warning to them was graphic – if they didn’t shape up they would find that their lives would get rather warm, and not in a good way at that.
Paul, in our verses today from Romans 4, reminded his readers that Abraham was their spiritual father, because he became righteous before God because of his faith. And Abraham was not only the spiritual father of the Jews. He was also the spiritual father of all, circumcised or not, who put their faith in God.
Some time ago, when I finally put my faith in Jesus, believing Him for my salvation, I experienced what it means to have a spiritual father. He was the pastor of the church I attended at that time. I remember that after my decision and baptism he turned up at my house one day with a Bible and some Bible notes. And we had a long chat about the next steps I would be taking on my Christian journey. This was a new experience for me, because my upbringing was dominated by a strong mother, and a not so strong father. So I confess my initial reaction to my pastor was not as positive as it should have been, not having been used to fatherly guidance. But he persevered and he helped me greatly to get established in my faith. He, and his family, even invited me and my family to join them on a camping holiday, where I learnt even more from his example. I would go as far as to say that all Christians need a spiritual father through their pilgrimage in life. My early pastor wasn’t the only one to help me There have been others, and I have been fortunate enough to have been able to thank those faithful and committed men who fathered me in my early years as a Christian.
We pilgrims will soon fall by the wayside in our Christian journey if we deliberately cut ourselves off from our fellow brothers and sisters. We need our “Abrahams”. They may not tell us what want to hear. But hear them we must. And act upon what we hear.
Dear Father God. We give You thanks for all the faithful brothers and sisters who help us day by day. We name them before You, asking for Your blessings to fall upon them. In Jesus’ name. Amen.