Sunday, January 26, 2020
Acts 7 and Romans 9
Jesus started it. It was now time to redefine what it meant to be Abraham’s children. This was to fulfill God’s promise to Abraham that he would father a great nation (Genesis 12:1-3).
To his religious-ruler audience, being a child of father Abraham meant that a person had come from Abraham’s gene pool (John 8:31-47). In fact, Jesus agrees that this is a true statement in verse 37. This genetic connection is still true today as people identify themselves as Jewish or, for those outside of the Abrahamic gene pool, non-Jewish Gentiles.
In John 8 Jesus re-frames the world’s understanding of “Abraham’s children” from God’s perspective. Here, Jesus makes the distinction between Abraham’s descendants (literally: “seed”) and his ‘children’ (John 8:31-47). Abraham’s children are now including all who live by faith, believing in Jesus as God’s Son and obeying Him.
When Stephen gave his final sermon before the Sanhedrin he was speaking to a purely Jewish audience; genetic ancestors of their father Abraham. Stephen’s concluding statements led to his violent death at the hands of the Jewish religious leaders (Acts 7:51-60). These same leaders were the very Jews who had denied Jesus as God’s Son, actively worked in opposition to Him and, finally, killed Him.
Among the points of Stephen’s sermon was that God is not limited by time and space. So, He spoke to Abraham in Ur, Haran, Canaan and Egypt (Acts 7:1-8). Nor has God ever been limited to buildings ‘made with human hands’; a direct reference to the Temple (Acts 7:48-50). And the Law? Their disobedience to it was enough to blind them to “the Righteous One” (Acts 7:52-53) and to deny God’s appeal to the nations through Him in line with God’s promise to Abraham (Genesis 22:17-18).
Stephen states that the Jewish rejection of Jesus as the prophesied Messiah was deliberate disregard for the Law to which they claimed allegiance (Acts 7:53). Years later, in Romans 9, Paul begins to build upon Jesus’ teaching in John 8. Taking it one step further, Paul makes a direct connection between the faith of the true ‘children’ of Abraham actually becoming his “seed” or genetic equivalents!
…those who are the children of the flesh,
these are not the children of God;
but the children of the promise are counted as the seed.Romans 9:8 (NKJV)
What a powerful assertion that connects the promises of God to Abraham. These promises are still being realized every time someone turns to the Lord by faith in Jesus Christ. In fact, realizing the detailed nature of God’s plan over the generations is wonderfully illustrated in the first chapter of Ephesians according to The Message.