Four millennia ago, one man, a Babylonian by birth, an Assyrian by nationality, and an idol maker by trade, responded in absolute faith to the divine call by crossing over the River Euphrates both literally and figuratively to become the first Hebrew. This was but the first act of faith and faithfulness for Avram, who was to become the father, both naturally and spiritually, of all those who would believe in the God of the Bible by accepting his covenant and his Word. In successive leaps of faith, he believed God, obeyed God’s commands, and discovered that the court of heaven credited his faith to him for righteousness, the status of complete acceptance before God.
Avram abandoned his polytheism to embrace monotheism. He forsook his career as an idol maker to embark upon a search for the city of which God, himself, is the architect. As a result, his name was changed by God to Avraham, “the father of many nations,” and he was given title, first to “this land,” then to “all that your eye can see,” then to the real estate “from the Euphrates to the River of Egypt,” and finally to “the world.” Interestingly enough, Avraham personally inherited none of these entitlements and died in faith still searching for the divine city he envisioned. His inheritance of the land contracts are to be fully realized only through his natural progeny, and his entry into the divine city that is to “come down from God out of heaven” will be fulfilled only through the one who uniquely is the Son of Abraham, the Son of God: the Rabbi from Nazareth, the Messiah of Israel, and the Saviour of the world.
Because of his faithfulness, Abraham became the “father of us all,” the patriarch of everyone who imitates his faith and faithfulness by embracing covenantal relationship with God. Paul, the apostle to those who like Abraham were “in times past Gentiles according to the flesh,” said it well: “If you are Messiah’s, then are you Abraham’s children and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29). How does one become B’nai Avraham and an heir of God’s covenant? How is one saved from idolatry and sin and brought into right relationship with the living God? Salvation and covenantal relationship with the Creator are acquired precisely as Abraham and his natural descendants achieved it: solely “by grace, through faith.” Everyone who has ever been “saved” has come to acceptance before God, not by fleshly lineage, not by works (even of obedience to God’s commandments), and not by knowledge or understanding, but by the dispensation of God’s grace through his word that generates the faith in the hearts of believers that is manifest in obedience to God’s call. It is not by works, “lest any man should boast,” and it is not by genealogy, for “they are not all Israel that are of Israel.” Jesus said it well, “If you are Abraham’s children, you will do the works of Abraham,” the works of faith and faithfulness.
What are the “works of Abraham”? Unequivocal faith manifest in instant obedience. Absolute trust in the immutability of divine promises. Deference to others and confidence to include and even prefer others in blessing (cf. Lot). Intercession for those snared in the web of sin (cf. Sodom). Recognition and submission to divine leadership (cf. Melchizedek). Transmission of truth to descendants. Complete and non-preferential hospitality. Unquestioning obedience to every divine command, ordinance, statute, and law. Living on the cutting edge of divine revelation.
Nowhere in this list of Abrahamic works is reliance on fleshly lineage, rites of self-abnegation, attachment to material structures (the edifice complex), cultic elitism, separatism and exclusivity, trust in esoteric knowledge, or a host of other soulish emphases that have entrapped so many Jews and Christians in history in a web of glorified self-importance and exaltation. Abraham was saved not by knowledge, pedigree, or works. He became the father, not of the exalted few, but of the faithful millions, those who trust in the loving kindness, mercy, and grace of the God who has chosen them.
While people of widely different traditions around the world seek to establish some status for themselves before God by various soulish means, we who seek to restore the Hebrew foundations of Christian faith must emulate the life of the father of the Hebrew faith, our father Abraham. And, we can do so only when we, like Abraham, become a new creation by being in Messiah, trusting only in his grace and provision for our salvation. We are not Abraham’s children and heirs of God’s promises to that ancient patriarch by virtue of our genetic connection. We are Abraham’s children solely because we belong to Messiah, and we prove our patrimony, not by genetic testing, but by doing “the works of Abraham.”