ATP Blog #59 Abe’s Works
Since we know that our works don’t save us, we (Christians) often de-emphasize the importance of good works. Yet, do not our works demonstrate what is in our hearts? Ephesians 2:8-9 reminds us “By grace you have been saved through faith, that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” The grace of God blesses us with salvation when we exercise the faith that He has given us. Jesus Christ did the work necessary for salvation. So, what place do works have in our faith? The next verse explains (2:10), “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” God did the work of salvation, and now is doing the work of sanctification (making us like Jesus) in us. This work is demonstrated according to our willingness and submission, by our good works. James (2:18) further explains, “I will show you my faith by my works.”
Abe’s Kids ... or not? The scribes and the pharisees had been indoctrinated in a different philosophy than what Jesus Christ presented, so they were quite confused by what He was teaching. At least they were willing to interact with Jesus to come to an understanding. If you remember from last time, the teachers of the Old Testament claimed knowledge of the truth by stating that they were descendants of Abraham, as if that was significant (v33). Jesus turned it around, by saying that they were wrong about never being in bondage ... they were slaves to sin (v34), and that freedom could only come by the truth that God provided through His Son, Jesus Christ (v36). Then Jesus makes an interesting statement: “I know that you are Abraham’s descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you.” He recognized their special place, being born into the covenant people of Israel, God’s chosen nation, yet He also pointed out that their decisions in rejecting the truth demonstrated that God’s word (as presented by Jesus Christ) was not in them. Oh oh!!!
Who’s your daddy? The people of Israel lived under the assumption that God was their Father, because they had been born into the covenant of Abraham, yet their lives did not demonstrate obedience to that covenant! Jesus’ next statement reveals that the true father of the religious leaders was different than who they thought, and explained why. He said, “I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father.” (v38) They knew very clearly that Jesus was referring to God as His Father, so who was He referring to as their father? Notice that Jesus said that what He spoke was from what He had seen, not just heard. This is significant! Who has seen God except the Son of God? So, the leaders responded again by saying, “Abraham is our father.” (v39a) They are getting frustrated, and not understanding what Jesus was getting at. So, once again, Jesus patiently explains what He was getting at. “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham.” (v39b) In other words, to be a descendant of Abraham (and to claim the inheritance of that privilege), one had to be born of both blood and obedience. This is similar to what Jesus taught Nic back in chapter 3 (born of water and spirit).
Works of Abe So, what were the works of Abe that his descendants should be following as an example? Jesus told them, “Now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this.” (v40) Thus, one could say that the works a person does demonstrate whether or not they have accepted the truth, which God has given them. Abraham believed, and demonstrated that belief by faith and works (see Hebrews 11:8-12). He obeyed God, even when it didn’t seem to make sense, like going to sacrifice the promised son, assuming that God would either provide an alternative sacrifice, or raise his son from the dead. It is always a safe assumption that God will keep His promises!
Alternative? “You do the deeds of your father.” (v41) So, what is the alternative, if someone does not accept the truth of God, as demonstrated by his or her works? When God is not the Father, then “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks of his own character, for he is a liar, and the father of lies.” (v44) Any works that demonstrate character of destruction and deception, show obedience to Satan! “He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.” (v47) These words sound harsh, especially when presented to the teachers of God’s Word, but they needed to hear this. Somehow, they had gotten distracted by the devil’s lies, away from the truth.
So, how about you? Do your works demonstrate a heart of truth and life, or a heart of destruction and deception? Your works demonstrate who you serve as father.