Seven Attributes of Abraham describe Christian Faith

To establish necessary faith, we can be guided by the under-listed attributes of Abraham, also removing wrong assumptions in regarding Abraham as having been spiritually superior. Abraham is our father, only because grace, leading to our salvation, begins with him. Righteousness is a virtue that cannot be associated with physical humans. Abraham obtained favour due to belief and faith.

“What does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness’” (Romans 4:3 NIV). “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29 NIV).

Nevertheless, Abraham should never be taken as model on Christian living. He had tests, though not identical to ours, as living in a different historical background. We are Abraham’s seed only on one factor—belief in true God of the universe, whose living model is Jesus.

Some Christian communities pursue polygamy citing scriptures that project Abraham, or his grandson Jacob having been polygamous. However, all biblical characters should be viewed ordinarily like all of us. Some of them may carry good record, but with their own share of human frailties, lacking in perfection. We identify with them, only in our human frailties and not necessarily spiritual conditions.

By faith Abraham received grace. By faith true Christians have also received grace. God is not a respecter of persons (Acts 10:34-35 and 1 Peter 1:17). Some of Abraham’s attributes reveal how God’s grace takes care of human inadequacies when exercising similar faith. If God’s favour was not taken away on account of Abraham’s shortcomings, the same applies to everyone else, regardless of possible shortcomings. Being preferred with the term “Abraham’s seed” entitles us with privileges accorded to Abraham.

Attribute #1: Direct Call

Abram was directly called to go to a place which only God knew to be good for him and his descendants (Gen. 12:1-4). He did not need to be familiar with that land, known only by God, avoiding all opposing opinions, as long as God had spoken. God’s voice carried utmost authority, even though common reasoning showed no beneficial value. As to why God specifically called Abraham, instead of any other, we are not told. But the reason could not have been to do with Abraham’s righteousness, as only God holds attributes of righteousness.

Christians are similarly called. “No-one can come to me unless the father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:44 NIV). The calling is without consideration of virtuous acts, necessarily. Belief and faith, acknowledging the truth as a virtue that comes from God can set people free.

The uncertainties of spiritual jungles that a convert faces, when yielding to God’s calling are similar to the experiences of Abraham. Who committed himself to follow God through hazards imposed by idolaters in foreign lands. The world in which a Christian lives practices lifestyles opposed to Godly principles. The monumental question is: How can practicing Christianity be possible within the sinful world? It is extremely impossible, except when Christ takes over.

Our Christian calling does not give room for other options, as God’s word is final. Abram was also not given room for other options after God had spoken. The promised land of Canaan, as shown to Abraham, did not immediately reveal signs of advantageous qualities. A Christian, having been led to the conditions of heavenly promises, hardly sees any advantages. What is promised cannot be seen by physical eyes.

Attribute #2: Unconditional Promises

After arrival at the scene depicting the land of promise, nothing was appealing, except that the land had been designated by God (Genesis 12:6-9). Stiffer challenges of starvation were more than imagined, prompting Abram to succumb, instead of seeking God’s counsel. Where could God have been, in whom Abram had originally shown allegiance as the distressing famine devastated him?  Moving to Egypt became irresistible.

God had to intervene, delivering him out of that self-imposed predicament (vs. 10-20). Faced with options between life and death, human flaws prevailed. His wife Sarai had to be surrendered. Such behaviour shows lapses, being weaknesses of human nature also inherent with Abram. God did not use that wrongness as valid to annul His affirmed unconditional decrees. Abraham’s blunder had not been deliberate, but being weakness as common to all men.

Christians are not spared. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9 NIV). Our points of weaknesses are good reasons why we should celebrate the marvellous grace of Jesus. Through Paul, Christ surmises that such weaknesses are necessary—to remain in a state of humility.

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Cor. 10:13 NIV).

Our personal weaknesses cannot prevail against God’s marvellous grace. Christ availed Himself to rescue Peter, having lost faith due to imposing tempestuous sea, after achieving the impossible––strolling upon sea waters, (Matt. 14:30-31). Peter had faith, but like the patriarch Abraham’s starvation episode, the stormy sea caused the lapse leading to drowning.

Christ was right there, as He is always there for believers in similar spiritual predicaments. Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6 NIV).

Walking in grace, though, requires avoiding judging others, as the appreciation of grace implies being fully aware of own short-comings. Obviously, judging other people becomes mischievous when it is Christ carrying burdens on all causes of sinfulness (Matt. 7:1-5 and James 4:11-12). God tolerates one’s shortcomings, except when one fails to tolerate other people’s shortcomings (Matthew 6:14-15).

Attribute #3: Exposure to human reasoning

God promised a nation from Abraham’s offspring (Gen. 15:2-6) without specifying how possible that would happen. Abraham was later exposed to human reasoning, as the promise seemed overdue (Gen. 16:1-6). Ishmael, whose offspring later became a thorn in the flesh, on Isaac’s offspring––was a product of human reasoning. Isaac was to be the child of promise, not Ishmael. With his wife, Abraham was exposed to an idea facilitating the attainment of what had been promised unconditionally.

There are also instances through which Christians behave, supposing it to please God, yet leading to the opposite. Before ascension, Jesus instructed the disciples to wait for The Holy Spirit, needed for empowering them to do God’s work. One of the principal virtues of Christianity is to obey (1 Samuel 15:22).

Those disciples reasoned out that since their numbers had been reduced to eleven, the gap needed filling, thereby appointing Mathias. It appealed for prudence to choose from those, faithful in walking with them as Jesus’ disciples. They carefully considered merit, for the position of apostleship. Nothing appears amiss with that resolution:

“….Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among usSo they proposed two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they prayed, ‘Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.’ Then they drew lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles” (Acts 1:12-26 NIV).

This bears no precedent, as all of them were appointed by Christ. Peter and Andrew had been fishermen (Matt. 4:18-20), unlike those religiously devoted in Jerusalem. The same applied to the sons of thunder––James and John (Matt. 4:21-22). Matthew was a tax collector, also without anything to do with God (Matt. 9:9).

The background of Judas Iscariot is not given, but there is no doubt that God knew Judas’ character and how he would be used by Satan. How then did those apostles come up with, even the idea of casting lots to appoint an apostle? They were following human reasoning, instead of waiting for the Holy Spirit, as instructed (Luke 24:49, and Acts 1:4). What they did was not associated with waiting. Meanwhile, Christ was focusing on Paul, a Jewish scholar from Tarsus.

Though inaugurated with pomp and fanfare, Matthias’ name does not go further than mentioned in Acts 1:26. This is not suggesting that Matthias was not a Christian. But the eleven apostles had overlooked the fact that the church was led by Christ, though not seen physically.

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Paul also succumbed to the same error, instructing young Timothy to apply different standards from his own (1 Tim 3:1-13). Paul was called while on his unsavoury mission to Damascus (Acts 9:1-16). But, as in Abraham’s case, human reasoning did not limit God in accomplishing great works through the Apostles.

Attribute #4: Gentleness

Abraham displayed gentleness in handling factional disputes between shepherds associated with Lot on one hand and those associated with Him on the other (Gen. 13:5-11). As a leader in that entourage, Abraham had every right to dictate allotments; according himself with the favourable choice. His behaviour shows a mind-set, different from how ordinary humans predictably handle such issues. Abraham allowed Lot to make the first choice.

True Christians—with the fruit of the Spirit whose other component is gentleness (Gal. 5:22)—apply the same principle. An ordinary person finds Abraham’s behaviour foolish. How could a leader fail to take advantage, according himself with preferable choice?

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3-4 NIV).

What makes one a Christian, is the ability to exercise altruism. Keeping laws and other virtues, as considered necessary, without appreciating the principle of treating the other person as one would like to be treated is inadequate (Matthew 7:12). See [Christianity is defined in one word: Altruism].

Attribute #5: Testing

Confirmation of promises to Abraham was ratified in passing the test of faith, requiring Abraham to forego that which was attached to his heart, in favour of God’s directive. His wife, whom Abraham had originally surrendered to the Egyptians, was not closest to him and God knew that.

The test required offering Isaac as burnt offering on one of the hills in the region of Moriah. This, ideally, spells the crux of the Christian faith, giving the best to God, as confirmed in Abel’s offering—approved ahead of Cain’s (Gen. 4:4). Abraham could not have contemplated doing such an abominable thing as to sacrifice the life of his own child.

But the voice of the Lord had spoken. Human reasoning could not cross his mind at that stage. It may have come, but not to prevail against the clear voice of the Lord (Gen. 22:1-10). After passing the test, God unequivocally declared: “Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son” (Gen. 22:12 NIV).

Christians are vehemently assured: “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life” (Matt. 19:29 NIV).

A rich young man succumbed, on account of love for personal riches, yet having been determined to receive the esteemed eternal life (Matt. 19:16-24). Having failed the test, the young man could certainly not be associated with Abraham at that stage. Many people suppose that mere keeping the law is what is required; as the rich young man had also assumed. Christ revealed how wrong that assumption was.

Attribute #6: Futuristic Promises

Having passed the test did not mean an instant acquisition of promised blessings (Gen. 22:15-18). Isaac was redeemed. But Abraham was to be devastated by the subsequent death of his wife, Sarah, with Isaac still not having obtained a wife to guarantee the establishment of Abraham’s dynasty.

There was no way Abraham could physically witness promised blessings, due to ageing. But, the certainty of acquiring what God had promised could not be erased, as confirmed:

“By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, ‘It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.’ Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death” (Heb. 11:17-19 NIV).

These promises are as sure as the certainty of the rising sun tomorrow. Christianity is the only faith that does not require doing anything except listening and obeying God’s instructions. It overlooks shortcomings, as long as that person is humble, changing when proven wrong.

The realisation that one is saved by grace is sufficient for remaining focused, but not being judgmental of others, yet desiring to see everyone turning to Christ.

Attribute #7: Assurance of the promise

In Christ we are as safe as standing on the solid rock. God, in His dealings with Abraham and later the nation of Israel, never promised anything that He failed to fulfil: “Not one word out of all the good words that the Lord your God has spoken to you has failed” (Josh. 23:14).

Today, more people claim to be descendants of Abraham than any other genealogical claim the world has ever known. The influence and growth of Christianity the world over confirms that eventually, all nations of the world have fallen under Abraham’s promises. “And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore” (Heb. 11:12 NIV).

In terms of checking the authenticity of God’s promises, we are in better position than Abraham, who died before witnessing the birth of his grandchildren, Esau and Jacob. The reality of the development of Israelite’s nation could not crystallise in his lifetime—let alone the eventual birth of Jesus.

Today, we are privileged to analytically follow and learn from patterns of Israelite’s shortcomings, with prophecies leading to Christ’s birth. The records of apostles’ experiences provide clearer understanding. Today, Christians are more informed about the authenticity of God’s promises.

There is no other safer journey in this world, except the Christian journey. Though invisible, the pilot is Jesus who overcame everything, on our behalf. Careful listening to whatever He says is what each and every Christian is expected to do and do without fail.

To avoid obstacles, as befell Abraham and the early apostles, Christians are expected to keep in mind, one important datum: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” (Proverbs 14:12) (ESV). This is just as was also repeated in Proverbs 16:25.

It is also important to keep in mind that, like the Abraham’s calling, Christian calling is an individual call. It has got nothing to do with the groupings. One can be with the group, but Christian calling is premised on standalone virtue. There is no basis for a Christian to blame the Pastor, or the Bishop, for having misled the group, for instance.

Each Christian stands, only as directed by the word of Jesus Christ. I am aware that tradition demands that one should obey what the Pastor says. But Jesus demands that a Christian obeys only what Jesus says, more than what a Pastor says (Luke 6:46-49). See [Should I obey Christ or join any Church organization?].

The common problem, affecting, virtually, all Christians today, is consideration of what other people think, instead of what Jesus Christ thinks. If Abraham had behaved similarly, he would not have been assured of the promises. Christianity has got nothing to do with impressing other people. See [Christianity serves to invalidate God’s Kingdom].

The greatest challenge facing Christianity today, is assumption of knowledge possession by everyone calling him/herself a Christian. Christ declared that the only prescription to address that problem was becoming like a small child (Matthew 18:1-6). Otherwise, what prevails is deceiving other people and being deceived. Deception is mentioned several times in the Bible. But it seems people just ignore?

Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing reliefs to those having witnessed strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. In a simple conversational tone, most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long awaited providential oasis of hope.

The Print copy is now available at Amazon.com for $13.99

Also available as an e-copy at Lulu.com  for $6.99

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