Being a Son of Abraham Does Not Make You a Son of Jacob

Abraham and IsaacScripture allows for those who have not physically descended from Abraham to nevertheless be referred to as sons of Abraham.  This has led many to conclude that Gentiles in Christ become Israelites or even constitute the true or, “spiritual Israel.”  The cardinal verses are Galatians 3:6-9:

just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?  Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.”  So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.  (ESV)

The apostle looks to Genesis 15:6 to demonstrate that the patriarch Abraham was counted as being righteous due to his faith.  Likewise, those who trust in the work of Jesus to fully pay for their sins are counted as being righteous.  These saved Jews and Gentiles are taking after Abraham’s most notable attribute, his faith.  In this sense, believers are Abraham’s sons and daughters.  Paul emphasized this point by saying it another way; those who are saved through faith are blessed with Abraham.  Abraham shows mankind the way in how to achieve salvation.

It is clear that Galatians 3 is about salvation through faith alone and not with how a Gentile could become part of Israel or be a Jew.  It was a common opinion among the Israelites that they participated in the merits of Abraham because they had him as a father.  However, Jesus rebuked this belief by saying that even from stones He could raise up children for Abraham (Matt. 3:9).  The issue is that a personal trust in God is required to be right with Him.

Even if the context of Galatians 3:6-9 and Matthew 3:9 were completely ignored, there would still be no way to legitimately use the Text to argue that Gentiles could become part of Israel.  Being a son of Abraham does not necessarily make one a son of Jacob. This is an obvious distinction and yet it is overlooked or ignored far too often.  It is by being a descendant of Jacob or Israel as he is later renamed (Gen. 32:28) that places a man or woman in the house of Israel.  After all, it is the twelve sons of Jacob that initially make up the twelve tribes of Israel (Gen. 46:8-27).  And in equating Himself with being the God of Israel, the LORD commonly says that He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (e.g. Ex. 3:6).

Perhaps if Abraham’s only son was Isaac and his only son was Jacob then a weak connection could be made with being a son of Abraham and being part of Israel.  However, Abraham had many sons.  Ishmael was born to Abraham through Hagar (Gen. 16:15).  Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah were born to Abraham through Keturah (Gen. 25:1-2).

It is no wonder that Paul quoted Genesis 12:3 in saying that “All of the nations will be blessed in you.” (Gal. 3:8).  If Paul was trying to teach that Gentiles were becoming part of Israel through faith then this would be a very odd verse to use.  It is not solely the nation of Israel that would be blessed through Abraham, but all nations.  In saying that believers in Jesus are sons of Abraham, Paul is teaching a profound truth.  It harms the apostle’s message greatly to try and change or import extra meaning.  Elsewhere, Paul teaches that believing Gentiles will make Israel jealous so that some of them will come to Jesus (Rom. 11:11).  Therefore, a Gentile believer should not seek to see himself as part of Israel, but instead as being in a position to bless them.  What could be better than being in the Body of Christ?  There is no need to try and be part of anything else.


  1. Well said. Thank you.

  2. Rachael Pengelly says:

    Great stuff. Thank you Matthew.

Leave a Reply