Much is said in both the Old Testament and the New Testament about the faith of Abraham, and rightfully so. Almost from the beginning of the Bible record of Abraham, one witnesses his faithfulness to follow the commands of God. This is seen in his response to a call he received from God. God appeared to Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia telling him, “…Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land I will show thee” (Gen. 12:1). Though not so long when counted by pages of scripture, the life, travels and events of Abraham covered a lengthy period of time. He died at the age of one hundred seventy-five years (Gen. 25:7). His success in faithfully serving the Lord can be seen in that when Lazarus died and went into paradise, it is said that he was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom (Luke 16:22). If we could but follow in his footsteps we would ever be blessed. There is a very real sense in which we can.
First, as Abraham received a call from God, so does each and every person on the face of the earth. Not by a direct appearance, as it was with Abraham (Acts 7:2), but we are nevertheless called by God. The apostle Paul wrote, “Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (II Thess. 2:14). Abraham was not called to preach, but called to become a separated people for God (Gen. 12:2). In like manner, we are not specifically called by God to preach, but to become a people that make up a spiritual nation, peculiar and separate from the world around us.’
When Matthew penned the words of Jesus saying, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28), it was a calling by God for one to become a child of His.
The apostle Peter wrote, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (I Pet. 1:9). Friends, we have been called, it is our response to that calling that we need to give thought to.
Secondly, note that which Abraham had to leave behind. He was instructed to leave behind, country, kindred and his father’s house. In this Christian age, it is likewise required of us to leave some things behind, even our kindred to a certain extent. Jesus stated, “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matt. 10:37). It is not a matter of not loving our family, but a matter of loving the Lord more than all else. The physical aspects of life are needed, but they are to come after faithfulness to God. Jesus said, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33).
The Hebrew writer spoke of those in days gone by as having, “Confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Heb. 11:13).
Peter writing to Christians said, “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul” (I Pet. 2:11), showing the need for the stranger and pilgrim mindset.
As we sometimes sing, “This world is not my home, I’m just passing through,” let us keep in mind that all things physical are temporal (II Cor. 4:18).
Thirdly, contrary to the belief of many, Abraham’s faith did not negate the requirement that he be obedient to the commands of God. The Bible recorded concerning that promise of God to Abraham and the great nation he would found, “And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness” (Gen. 15:6). The apostle Paul used this statement in his teaching concerning salvation coming through faith in Christ rather than the works of the old law of Moses (Rom. 4:3). Yet, we would all agree that even if Abraham believed God, if he had not gotten out of his country and gone into the land God instructed him to go to, he would never have become the great nation he would become.
James explains the connection between faith and works of obedience when he said, “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…” (James 2:21-23). When Abraham had received the command from God to offer his son Isaac as a burnt offering, he set out to carry out those orders, believing that God would raise him from the dead in order to fulfill the previous promises He had made (Heb. 11:17-19).
However, it was not until he put his obedience into motion that the Lord stayed his hand and said, “…for now I know that thou fearest God…” (Gen. 22:12). His obedience was proof of his faith. No amount of faith will relieve one of his or her responsibility to obey the word of God.
Thus if we desire to enjoy the end result that Abraham is currently enjoying, we must follow in the footsteps that he left. Let us follow in his steps of separation from the world, faith in the word of God and obedience to the gospel of Christ.
Robert Oliver is a long time columnist for The Sampson Independent.