(Short question and answer article.)
Sometimes we may run across something in Scripture that may give us a little puzzle at how to understand it. In the case of something like this, it is nice to find a place to get our questions answered for free and in a way that the answer can be seen with our own eyes, coming from Scripture. Recently a member of a local congregation had read this passage of Scripture (which is in the middle of the context of Christ being questioned about healing on the Sabbath) and was curious as to how Christ meant these few words we are going to review. Let us first read this passage, using the NKJ throughout unless otherwise noted; and then see the question.
Luke 13:16 “So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound -- think of it -- for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?"
The question was < “How was this woman a daughter of Abraham”? > which is a simple but interesting question. However it is also a fair question and deserves an answer, indicating one who is willing and wanting to learn answers from their bible. So let us see what we can find, rather quickly, that might answer the question for all who are interested.
How was she Abraham’s daughter, considering that Abraham had been dead for centuries at that time? Was this meant to be literal, by descent or perhaps was it meant spiritually?
Let us read of another, very similar account dealing with another person that can also aid in the answer. This one is found in Luke 19 and I will read this story from the ASV;
Luke 19:2-9 “And behold, a man called by name Zacchaeus; and he was a chief publican, and he was rich. 3 And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the crowd, because he was little of stature. 4 And he ran on before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way.
5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to-day I must abide at thy house. 6 And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully. 7 And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, He is gone in to lodge with a man that is a sinner. (Not considering that they all were also sinners—they were being very short-sighted.)
8 And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord, Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor, and if I have wrongfully exacted aught of any man, I restore fourfold.
9 And Jesus said unto him, To-day is salvation come to this house, forasmuch as he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of man came to seek and save that which was lost.” ASV
First off, let us consider that neither one of these individuals were said to be gentiles, so they very well could have been Israelite by descent, even as Christ Himself was through Mary. (Luke 3) Israel was also Jacob, God having changed his name (Gen.35:10) and he was Abraham’s grandson. That would mean that these two individuals were in the linage of Abraham, probably through Jacob, living during the time of Christ. Could they have been considered spiritual children of Abraham and been gentiles? Let us note something about this; Paul was the apostle to the gentiles and does write about spiritual children of Abraham.
Gal 3:7-8 “Know therefore that they that are of faith, the same are sons of Abraham. 8 And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand unto Abraham, (saying,) In thee shall all the nations be blessed.” ---V.14 “that upon the Gentiles might come the blessing of Abraham in Christ Jesus; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” ASV
(They were not yet spiritual children in Christ’s time; that would come later after the founding of the NT COG on Pentecost in 31 AD and even after the preaching of Peter to the gentiles and then the calling of Saul.) Could these have become disciples of Christ and may have been added as a part of the 120? (Acts 1:15) That is a possibility, but even at that they would not have been considered spiritual children yet, as the Holy Spirit was not yet poured out when Christ made those statements. Note this passage; John 7:39 “But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”
So in conclusion; Paul did address both categories again in Acts 13:16 as follows; V.16 “Standing up, Paul motioned with his hand and said: "Men of Israel and you Gentiles who worship God, listen to me!” (from New International Version)
The most likely answer to the question at the beginning is that these were children of Abraham through being descendants and by genealogy rather than being considered Spiritual children of faith at the time.
(An article that may be of interest is titled “Faith & Abraham” and be sure to read the booklet titled “America & Britain in prophecy” (By Raymond F. McNair) to learn about who the modern day descendants of Abraham, through Jacob’s son Joseph, are today and where they are located.)
(Editor for TCOGMSO)