We only see the words “Father Abraham” in the account of “the rich man and a beggar named Lazarus” in Luke chapter 16. Let’s read verses 22-25, “So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to ABRAHAM’S BOSOM. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw ABRAHAM afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. Then he cried and said, ‘FATHER ABRAHAM, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’ But ABRAHAM said, ‘SON, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. And besides all this, between US and YOU there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’”

These men were both “connected to Abraham” in some way, for Lazarus was carried to “Abraham’s bosom” and the rich man called out “Father Abraham.” I believe they were both Jews so they were both Abraham’s “natural descendants.” Jesus spoke of this to religious Jews in His day, “I know that you are Abraham’s descendants” (John 8:37a). Yet He went on to say, “But you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father.’ They answered Him, ‘Abraham is our father.’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham. But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this. You do the deeds of your father…You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do” (verses 37b-41, 44). How could He refer to them as “Abraham’s descendants” in one verse and then tell them they were “not Abraham’s children” in another verse? The answer is simple; they were Abraham’s “natural children” (by a “natural birth”) but they were NOT Abraham’s “spiritual children” (which required a “spiritual birth”). We shall speak more about this in a moment, but let me point out now that when the rich man called Abraham “Father Abraham” he could only say that and be acknowledged by Abraham as his Son in the “natural sense,” for he was not one of Abraham’s “spiritual children.” Lazarus, on the other hand, was Abraham’s “spiritual child”; so he died and went to be with Abraham in heaven.

How did a Jew become a “spiritual child of Abraham?” In a word, they had to be “justified by faith” like Abraham was. We read in Romans 4:1-3 (where Paul was speaking to his fellow-Jews): “What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? For If Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’” Abraham believed the gospel message presented to him in his day and he was “justified by faith.” Paul goes on in verses 4-25 to teach that ALL MEN (not just Jews, but also Gentiles) are “justified by faith” and are looked upon as the “spiritual children of Abraham.” We see this in verses 13-16, “For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF FAITH. For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect, because the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression. 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.”

In closing, the connection between the Lord Jesus and Father Abraham is this: Abraham’s FAITH looked on to the time that the Lord Jesus would be born through his line and die for sinners so they could be saved. Jesus would be a Jew (a “natural descendant”) but He would also be the “promised SEED” who would bring salvation to all who believe on Him. We do well to end by reading Galatians 3:16, 26, 29, “Now to Abraham and His Seed were the promises made. He does not say, ‘And to seeds,’ as of many, but as of one, ‘And to your Seed,’ who is Christ…For you are all the sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus…And if you are Christ’s, then YOU ARE ABRAHAM’S SEED, and heirs according to the promise.”  (DO)  (507.1)