Abraham is one of the most famous and important people in the Bible. God makes him lofty promises that come at steep prices. In spite of the cost, he responds in faithful obedience and becomes the founding father of the nation of Israel. His relationship with God and his faith in God’s promises are important topics in the New Testament. He is more than an Old Testament hero; he is a pattern of saving faith in Jesus Christ. In fact, the gospel can be presented through the lens of his life and legacy. This Bible Biography looks at an Old Testament person from a New Testament perspective.
Old Testament Person
Abraham is the Bible’s man of faith. At the age of seventy-five, God commands him to leave his home in Mesopotamia and move to Canaan. Although his wife is barren, God promises to give him numerous descendants and that his descendants will possess the land and become a great nation. At the age of one hundred, God gives him a son by his wife through whom these promises will come true. He trusts God to keep His promises and is thus brought into a right relationship with God. This trust works itself out in his life as he consistently does what God tells him to do. You can read his story in Genesis 12 – 25.
Abraham and Jesus
Two main passages from Abraham’s story apply to Jesus. The first passage is God’s promise to Abraham (then “Abram”) in Genesis 12:3. God tells Abram to leave his home and go to the land He will show him. God promises to bless Abram and make him into a great nation. At the end of this promise He says, “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” He later expands this promise to say, “Through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed” (Gen. 22:18). The second passage is Genesis 15:6. Abram is unsure how God can fulfill His promises since he has no son. God promises to give him a son and offspring as countless as the stars. “Abram believed the LORD, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
Paul applies these passages to Jesus and the salvation available in Him. He explains that “the promises were spoken to Abraham and his seed…who is Christ” (Gal. 3:16). He concludes, “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:29). Jesus is the “seed” (offspring, descendant) of Abraham. When you identify yourself with Jesus, you too become Abraham’s descendant and receive the blessing promised to him. What is this blessing? “That God would justify the Gentiles by faith.” Through this promise God “announced the gospel in advance to Abraham” (Gal. 3:8)! Jesus “redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit” (Gal. 3:14). God credited righteousness to Abraham for his faith and will do the same “for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead” (Rom. 4:24). This promise of justification by faith is “guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring…those who are of the faith of Abraham” (Rom. 4:16).
Abraham and Christians
Hebrews 11:8-19 highlights three episodes from Abraham’s life as examples of faith. By faith he: 1) leaves his home to live as a stranger in a foreign land; 2) believes God will give him a son although he is old and his wife is barren; and 3) offers his son through whom God will fulfill His promises as a sacrifice. Therefore, he is a member of that “great cloud of witnesses” that inspires us to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Heb. 12:1). James offers Abraham as “evidence that faith without deeds is useless” (2:20). When he sacrificed Isaac, “his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did” (2:22).
New Testament Perspective
Abraham is so much more than a Bible character you learn about in Sunday school – he is our spiritual father. Because of his faithfulness and obedience to God, you and I are justified by faith in Jesus Christ today. God did bless Abraham with offspring and make his offspring into a great nation. From this nation descended his greatest offspring who offers better promises to all who receive Him by faith.