Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Romans 4:1-12 in the New International Version (NIV). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: Sometimes we can get a deep understanding of theological things from the songs we sing in church as children. One of the most theologically revealing songs our children sing is called “Father Abraham.” The lyrics go like this: “Father Abraham had many sons, many sons had Father Abraham, I am one of them, and so are you, so let’s just praise the Lord.”
As we sing this song and do the ridiculous arm and leg actions that accompany it, little do we know that we are digging deep into the theological nuances of Romans 4. In this chapter, Paul makes the case that all who have accepted God’s forgiveness through Christ Jesus are legitimate sons of Abraham. We are all heirs to the promises God made to him.
The stumbling block for Jewish believers was the physical covenant that God made with Abraham that set Jewish males apart from the rest of the world. That physical covenant was called circumcision, and Gentiles weren’t circumcised. So why circumcision?
To understand the importance of circumcision, we have to go back to Abraham’s story. Everything hinges on the promise God makes to the elderly patriarch and his elderly wife to provide them a son, whose descendants would bless the whole world. Of course, for this to happen, Abraham and Sarah would have to conceive in their old and wrinkled state.
As time goes on, Abraham has highs and lows in his walk with God. He hears God’s call to move into Canaan and does so without questioning God’s leading. He rescues his nephew from enemy armies and sets the standard for giving back to God in tithe and offerings. He does a lot of good things.
Abraham tries to help God fulfill His original promise of an heir. He plans on having his nephew Lot as his heir. He plans on making his head slave his heir. He impregnates an Egyptian slave to provide himself an heir. All of these attempts to "help" God are futile. They just make things more difficult.
So God introduces circumcision. In essence He says to Abraham, “Listen, you’ve trusted me by moving, you’ve trusted me with your money, now I need you to trust me with your body parts. I’m going to introduce a covenant that will be a physical reminder, every time you are intimate with your wife, that you have to trust me with that part of your body too. I’ll need a tithe of skin to remind you that you need to trust me with your whole body.”
Of course circumcision was a shadow of the promise that would be fulfilled when Christ’s skin was pierced in the ultimate act of trust and faithfulness. Paul argues that when we, by faith, believe that Jesus’ pierced skin is our invitation into a right relationship with God, we become circumcised by faith in our hearts. And because of this, we are all heirs to the promises given to Abraham. We are all children of Abraham.
Recalibrate: Is there a part of your life that needs circumcision? Is there a part of your life that you don’t trust God with?
Respond: Take a moment to thank God for including you as a child of Abraham and an heir to His promises.
Research: Read the story of circumcision in Genesis 17.
Remember: “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness” (Romans 4:3, NIV).
Mark Witas is the lead pastor at Pacific Union College Church in Angwin, CA. Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Mark has served as a youth pastor, Bible teacher, college and academy chaplain, and lead pastor in the United States and Canada for the last 33 years. He has also authored four books: Born Chosen, Live Out Loud, Portals, and Just Jesus.
Make a dance space and play “Father Abraham.” Do all the actions with your child. Worship with every part of your body, from the top of your head to the tiniest toe. Talk about the people in your family. In this song, it says that we are all part of one big family. So, “Let’s all praise the Lord!”
Make a dance space and play “Father Abraham.” Jesus gave everything to be with us. How can we give all of who we are to God? How can we give our actions? How can we give our words? How can we give our thoughts? How can we give our dreams? This song says we are the family of Abraham, the chosen of God. So, “Let’s all praise the Lord!” Get your praise on and sing and dance to this song with all your heart.
Have you ever inherited something? When my grandfather passed away two years ago, I inherited all of his tools. He was a carpenter and had many saws, hand tools, and electric tools. You know what else I inherited? His ability to use those tools. He showed me from a very young age how to use the saw, turn the screwdriver, and twist the wrench. It is in my blood. Now I have his tools, and, even though he is gone, I can use them to restore, rebuild, and create. If you are like me, you have also inherited something else. A sin problem. Yet, through the same promise given to Abraham we have the ability to receive salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. And as a child of God, Abraham, and my grandfather, I can use my faith in Jesus to rebuild, restore, and create love and peace in this world. Find someone who needs some love today and do not withhold yourself from blessing them.