Nobody’s spiritual heritage compares to that of the Jews. Paul lists some of the blessings unique to them as God’s people: the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came (Rom 9:4, 5). When John the Baptist came on the scene though he told them, “Bear fruits worthy of repentance (meaning produce fruit that shows you’ve repented), and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.” (Matt 3:8, 9).
Basically, the Jews thought they were saved BECAUSE of their spiritual heritages; in that sense it actually became a stumbling block for them. They were trusting in that more than they were trusting in repentance and faith in Christ; therefore, John told them, “God could turn these rocks into children of Abraham” meaning being a physical descendant of Abraham doesn’t cut it.
Jesus had to contend with this too. The Jews told Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants…Abraham is our father” but Jesus replied, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham. But now you seek to kill Me…You do the deeds of your father” (John 8:32-41). Abraham was their father physically, but spiritually their father was the devil.
Here’s what’s interesting: Jesus said “If you were Abraham’s children…” but they were Abraham’s children! This makes sense if we understand Abraham had two types of children:
- Physical or biological children: the Jews.
- Spiritual children: people who have put their faith in Christ. There there were lots of Jews who were physical children of Abraham, but not spiritual children of Abraham, and there are lots of non-Jews, or Gentiles, who are not physical children of Abraham, but are spiritual children of Abraham:
- Romans 2:28 He is not a Jew (or child of Abraham) who is one outwardly (or biologically)…but he is a Jew who is one inwardly (or spiritually)
- Galatians 3:7 Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. That’s talking about spiritual sons of Abraham.
Jesus and John’s point is the Jews needed to move from being physical children of Abraham to spiritual children of Abraham.
There is tremendous application in this for children today with great spiritual heritages…
- The Jews thought they were saved because they had a great spiritual heritage, and many times children that grow up in the church think they’re saved because of that spiritual heritage.
- The Jews thought they were saved because Abraham was their father, and many times children think they’re saved because their parents are Christians.
And there’s just as much application in this for parents as well:
Sometimes parents think their children are Christians just because they have Christian parents. Just as frequently as you hear children say…
“Oh yeah, I’ve always been a Christian. I grew up in a Christian home. I’ve always gone to church.”
You’ll hear parents say…
“Oh yeah, my kids have always been Christians. They grew up in a Christian home. They’ve always gone to church.”
Nobody has always been a Christian any more than the Jews were born spiritual children of God. Every Christian is an individual who at some point surrendered his or her life to Christ, and anyone who hasn’t done that isn’t a Christian.
When John the Baptist came on the scene he told the Jews, “Bear fruits worthy of repentance (meaning produce fruit that shows you’ve repented), and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.” (Matt 3:8, 9).
It’s interesting John told the Jews, “Do not think to say to yourselves…” It sounds like the times in the New Testament we’re told, “Do not be deceived.” That’s a phrase we see when there’s a strong tendency for us to be deceived in a certain area. For example:
- 1 Cor 15:33 Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.” There’s a tendency for us to think we can hang out with the wrong people and not suffer as a result.
- Galatians 6:7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. There’s a tendency for us to think we can “get away with sin.”
There was clearly a strong tendency for the Jews to think they were saved because they were Jews, and there’s a strong tendency for the children of Christian parents to think they’re saved because they’re the children of Christian parents.
This all looks to why the statistics are so alarming about young people leaving the church: they never develop their own faith. They only had a relationship with God through their parents and when their parents were out of the picture they had no relationship with God themselves. Their parents were their connection to God and without them there was no connection. The Jews had to make a willful, deliberate decision to repent and follow Christ, and the children of Christian parents need to make a willful, deliberate decision to repent and follow Christ.
Although it might look like the real application in all this is for the children of Christian parents, there’s as much application for Christian parents themselves. Christian parents can’t trust that their children are saved because they grew up in Christian homes. They can’t trust that because their children went to church every Sunday for years or sat in on countless family devotionals that they’re born again. They need to fervently pray their children to surrender their lives to Christ.
This hits especially close to home for me as a pastor as my children spend more time involved with church activities than anything else in their lives. I know they need to recognize their sinfulness and need for forgiveness through Christ. I know they need to repent and surrender their lives to the Lord.
Let me conclude by making two points…
- When John told the Jews they needed to be baptized, that was terribly shocking for them because only Gentiles were baptized when they wanted to proselytize to Judaism (you can learn more about this in a sermon I preached on Luke 3:1-6 titled Preparing the Way for the Lord). Basically, they learned they were as filthy as the Gentiles and needed to repent and be spiritually cleansed just like them. The children of Christian parents are as filthy as the children of non-Christian parents and they need to repent and be spiritually cleansed as much as children that have never set foot in church.
- The Jews had an amazing spiritual heritage. No nation in history has experienced the blessings they’ve experienced. But that spiritual heritage meant nothing (and was even a stumbling block for them) if it didn’t lead to repentance and personal faith in Christ. Similarly, a child could have the greatest spiritual heritage in the world, but a spiritual heritage means nothing if it doesn’t lead to repentance and personal faith in Christ. Here’s a sermon I preached related to this subject.