And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.
(Matthew 3:9 ESV)
Today we continue reading about the confrontation between John the Baptist and the religious leaders who came to him to be baptized. Yesterday John exposed them for being hypocrites who had not really repented of their sin as is necessary for forgiveness.
Many Jews back then (and even today) believed that hell was only for Gentiles. They believed that they were going to spend eternity in heaven with God simply because they [had] Abraham as [their] father. But this is faulty logic. Abraham was saved by faith [Genesis 15:3-6; Romans 4:1-3]. There was no logical reason to conclude that any of his descendants were saved any other way.
Interestingly Jesus’ story about the rich man and Lazarus addressed this issue [Luke 16:19-26]. Notice that the rich man addresses Abraham as “father” and Abraham addresses him as “child”. This man was clearly a descendant of Abraham. Yet he was not in heaven. He was in hell. His heredity did not save him.
This story would have shocked Jesus’ Jewish audience. A child of Abraham being in hell was inconceivable to them. Hell was for Gentiles – those outside God’s family. In fact, Jews often referred to Gentiles as “dead stones” which may be why John says God can raise up children for Abraham from stones.
In addition, Abraham was not only the father of the nation of Israel but also of several Gentile peoples. Abraham had two grandsons, Jacob and Esau. Jacob was the primogenitor of the Jewish people. In fact, his name was later changed to “Israel” from which the nation derived its name [Genesis 35:10].
Esau, on the other hand, became the forefather of Arabs, Muslims, and other Gentiles through his marriage to Mahalath, Ishmael’s daughter [Genesis 28:8-9]. If being a child of Abraham meant automatic entry into heaven, then the Jews should have considered these Gentiles “heaven bound” too. But they didn’t.
What the Jews didn’t realize was that God was always planning on offering salvation to the Gentiles. We learned this in our study of Ephesians earlier this year. If they had put their own beliefs to the test they would have seen the flaws in their logic.
This very same thing still happens today. People still arrive at erroneous conclusions about God, Jesus, and the Bible because they don’t think enough. They think that good people go to heaven. Or they dismiss the Bible as not being from God. Or they claim the Bible promotes hate. These, and many other misconceptions, are easily proven wrong if one just takes the time to explore them.
Sadly, though, people spend more time decorating their house or watching sports than making sure they have the necessary and correct information about eternity. Just like the rich man in Jesus’ story – relying on faulty information will have terrible eternal consequences.
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