By Femi Aribisala
Jesus only promises eternal life to those prepared to forsake all natural relationships.
Paul maintains that Abraham is the father of believers. He says: “(Abraham) received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe.” (Romans 4:11). “Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.” (Romans 4:16).
However, Isaiah says: “But now, O Lord, you are our Father.” (Isaiah 64:8). Jesus confirms Isaiah’s position by insisting that his followers have only one Father and only one family and this has absolutely nothing to do with Abraham. He says: “Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, he who is in heaven.” (Matthew 23:9).
Children of God
The Jews see their link to “father Abraham” as their guarantee of salvation. However, rather than guarantee their salvation, their link to Abraham impeded it. The salvation that Jesus preaches comes through God becoming the Father of sons of men.
Even in the Old Testament, God says: “You shall call me, ‘my Father.’” (Jeremiah 3:19). Now in the New Testament, John says: “As many as received (Jesus), to them he gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in his name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13).
Children of God are required to relinquish their earthly fathers in preference for the heavenly Father. However, the Jewish insistence on being the children of Abraham ensured that they could not become children of God.
God does not change. He is the same: “yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8-9).
We did not know this but God has been our dwelling-place “in all generations;” “even from everlasting to everlasting.” (Psalm 90:1-2). He has also been our Father from everlasting:
“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder. And his name will be called …. Everlasting Father.” (Isaiah 9:6).
Isaiah knew by revelation that Abraham could not be the Father of Israel. He says to God: “Doubtless you are our Father, though Abraham was ignorant of us, and Israel does not acknowledge us. You, O Lord, are our Father; our Redeemer from Everlasting is your name.” (Isaiah 63:16).
Jesus came to reveal this everlasting name of God to us. At the end of his ministry, he told God he had fulfilled this purpose: “I have manifested your name to the men whom you have given me out of the world.” (John 17:6). “I have declared to them your name, and will declare it, that the love with which you loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17:26).
What is this name of God that Jesus manifested to us and what is the significance of this name? The name Jesus came to declare is “Father.” He reveals to us that God is not distant, foreign and fearsome, as we presume; but that he is actually our Father; close intimate and loving. Therefore, he says: “When you pray, say: our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” (Luke 11:2).
What name of God are we now required to hallow? We are required to hallow the name “Father.” It must now be of exclusive application to God and to God alone. Jesus says: “Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, he who is in heaven.” (Matthew 23:9).
Don’t call any man on earth by the name of God.
When he was only twelve years old, Jesus went with his parents to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. But on returning back home, they discovered he had not returned with them. After what must have been an agonising three-day search, they finally found him in the temple, engaged in discussion with the teachers of the law. His mother said to him: “Son, why have you done this to us? Look, your father and I have sought you anxiously.” (Luke 2:48).
However, Jesus is unrepentant. “He says to them, “Why did you seek me? “Don’t you know I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49). The father Jesus is talking about here can certainly not be father Joseph because the temple is not Joseph’s house but the house of God. In effect, Jesus refuses to acknowledge Joseph as his father. He has no other father but God.
The Jews believed the Messiah would be the son of David. However, Jesus, the Messiah, denies he is the son of David. Instead, he maintains the Messiah could never be David’s son:
“While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, saying, ‘What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?’ They said to him, ‘The son of David.’ He said to them, ‘How then does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord,’ saying: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, till I make your enemies your footstool’’? ‘If David then calls him ‘Lord,’ how is he his son?” (Matthew 22:41-45).
But if the Messiah is not the son of David, then whose son is he? He has no other father but God.
Jesus also denies to the Jews that he is a son of Abraham. He refers to Abraham with abstraction as “your” father: “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day.” (John 8:56). Moreover, he insists he is actually older than Abraham and therefore, Abraham cannot be his father: “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” (John 8:58).
Jesus made these denials in order to make one of the most radical and revolutionary claims of all. He declared that God was his Father, making him the Son of God: “I and My Father are one.” (John 10:30).
No man had ever made such a claim before and the Jews were extremely outraged by it: “The Jews sought all the more to kill (Jesus), because he not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.” (John 5:18).
Price of eternal life
The life eternal that Jesus gives comes with conditions. One major condition is that the recipient of eternal life must forsake his father, among others. Jesus says: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26).
Jesus only promises eternal life to those prepared to forsake all natural relationships: “Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.” (Matthew 19:29).
By implication, anyone who is not prepared to fulfil this condition will not inherit eternal life. The heir of salvation must have no other father but God.