Heir or Slave

God made a covenant with Abraham that He would be the father of our faith. God assured Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars and that his offspring would be a blessing to all nations. Abraham had two sons: Isaac, born to his wife Sarah, and Ishmael, born to his slave woman. Ultimately, Isaac was given a full inheritance of all Abraham had while Ishmael was banished to the desert.

Because of his faith and obedience to God, Abraham was blessed and received justification for his sin. Romans 3:2-3 says “Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Isaac, Abraham’s rightful heir became the recipient of his father’s protection, love and kingship! As Abraham’s son and heir, the blessings flowed to him.

However, when Isaac was still a boy, God tasked Abraham with a harrowing request of obedience: to offer his son and sole heir as a sacrifice on the altar. Abraham, being a righteous man in fear of the one and only God, trusted God and, in full intent, took Isaac up the mountain. Driven by his unwavering faith and deep reverence for the one and only God, Abraham trusted God and took Him at His word. With resolute purpose, he ascended the mountain, accompanied by his beloved son, Isaac. Yet, as he prepared to carry out the sacrifice, God stopped him! 

When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.  But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham! “Here I am,” he replied. “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. Genesis 22:9-14

Imagine the thought and agony in Abraham’s head and heart as he prepared the altar that would take his son’s life! Abraham’s faith was tested, but just before he sacrificed him, God intervened, providing a divine offering and bestowing even greater blessings upon Abraham. Why does this Biblical account carry so much weight in our lives today? First, it foreshadows God’s plan to send His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for our sins! Second, Abraham is the father of our faith (Galatians 3:9)! His obedience to God gives us a vision of what was coming through Christ, while also showing that many will not be born as true heirs of Christ! 

So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. Galatians 3:6-9

So, how do we become true heirs of Christ? Simply, just like Abraham—by faith! Abraham’s unwavering faith was the reason he was willing to offer his son—and only heir—as a sacrifice. His faith, not his works, provided his willingness to do what God asked!  Romans 4:2–22 says ” Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what He had promised.  This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” When we put our faith in God through His Son Jesus, we inherit the Kingdom of God and all its fullness. We are no longer “born of a slave woman,” we are grafted into a place of righteousness. But unlike Ishmael, we won’t be cast out!

The two sons illustrate the contrast of being born into slavery versus being born into freedom! The slave, like Ishmael, is bound by the chains of sin. While the heir is covered in grace, washed of all sin! As heirs, we desire to honor our Father in Heaven. As slaves, we fight sin, meaning our soul is at war against righteousness. As such, our flesh cannot be satisfied! We fail to realize that only the Father’s grace can fill the void, we cannot fill it ourselves. We resist truth, and struggle for peace and acceptance!

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him, we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory.” Romans 8:14-17

While, as an heir of Christ—like Isaac—we realize our flaws. And through Christ’s sacrifice, sin is forgiven! We are heirs of a merciful, good Father, who says to bring your burdens to Him and rest! Men, like Ishmael, we are ALL born into slavery! We are born under the yoke of sin! But God, through His grace and mercy, sacrificed His Son so we could inherit the Kingdom! By doing so, we move from Ishmael to Isaac! From bondage to freedom! From slave to heir! We move from eternal separation from the Father to eternity with Him!

Stephen L. Thomas