Abraham Encyclopedia

Abraham. Perhaps the most prominent individual in connection with the Jewish people is Abraham. In fact, all three of the great monotheistic religions trace their origins to Abraham. But we must be clear, that when Abraham is called "the father of all them that believe" (Rom. 4:11) it does NOT mean "the father of religion". He is the father of genuine, living, personal faith in the One True God. For this reason, Abraham is called "the friend of God" (James 2:23). Yet Abraham did not start out as God's friend. He began as an idolater named "Abram" in Ur of the Chaldees (Josh. 24:2), and would have remained a servant of the moon-god there except "the God of glory" appeared to him, and called him out of everything he had known. Abram was sent on a journey of faith, trusting God for the future. His life therefore is full of lessons relating to faith, many of which he learned through failures. In Genesis 17, God entered into a covenant relationship with Abram, and changed his name from Abram, which means "father", to Abraham, which means "a father of many nations". Throughout Abraham's life, God gave him a number of special promises; promises connected with the Messiah, the land and nation of Israel, as well as many other nations. These promises were unconditional in that they are secured in Christ, and do not depend on man. To summarize, we have the following broad themes exemplified in Abraham's life: election, calling, promises, faith, stranger-ship, and communion.

Abraham as an Example of Faith. In Hebrews 11, the Spirit of God sets Abraham forth as an apt type of the Christian, who is called to a life of faith. Abraham was called individually by God, just as the believer today is called. Abraham walked without a visible, tangible object before him. The Christian does too. Abraham was promised the land of Canaan as an inheritance for his children, yet "by faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles" (Heb. 11:9). As Christians, we are co-heirs with Christ, and we know that this world as well as the whole universe is our inheritance! Yet we are left here to live as "strangers and pilgrims" (1 Pet. 2:11), living in tents, so to speak, without putting down roots. We are NOT to live here as kings, although we are royalty. We are fully persuaded of the promises, yet we are willing to confess that, as our Savior was rejected, we are strangers and pilgrims on the earth. But like Abraham, we "desire a better country, that is, an heavenly". Though we have a material inheritance, we have a higher aim still; and it is because of this heavenly character that "God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city" (Heb. 11:16). And so, the believer can look into the life of Abraham with great interest, because it typifies the pathway of faith. The dangers and failures, the successes and joys, are full of meaning for us who look for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.