Summary: Did Jesus support the theory of apostolic succession or faith? Let's see why faith is the key, through Abraham's story.
Why was Abram who became Abraham called the father of the faithful? What can we learn about about apostolic succession by looking back at Abraham? Let’s look at his early life and the tests of Abraham’s faith and how he dealt with them in Genesis 12-22 (Genesis 12:1, 10, 15; 14:14; 15:13; 16:3; 17:24, 20:2; 21:12; 22:2).
Family Stories of Abram
Today, we might be blessed enough to have four generations alive at one time. In those days, people lived much longer. Noah was ten generations older and died when Abram was 58. Abram got his faith initially from his mother, but also from years with Noah and Noah’s son Shem.
Noah and Shem were faithful believers in the one true God. Abram’s father Terah, was a high priest for Nimrod and made idols for his false religion, a way to control people. Dictators like the power to make the rules, including license to murder those who get in their way.
Astrologers told Nimrod of a baby who was to become father of a great nation. Like Herod, Nimrod wanted the threat killed. Terah took a servant’s child instead, and Nimrod thus deceived, killed the baby with his own bare hands. Abram’s mother hid him in a cave for ten years.
Abram’s mother told him stories of Noah and Shem and the one true God. When he was ten years old, Abram left the cave to go to Kedem in the mountains of Ararat to visit Noah and Shem. They welcomed him and taught him God’s ways for about 39 years.
Then, Abram heard the news about the tower of Babel, where God had divided people into seventy languages and people groups. So, Abram went out to teach them about the one true God. He was risking his life, because Nimrod had proclaimed himself god and forced people to worship him.
At age fifty, Abram returned to his father's house. Terah had an idol workshop in his house. Idols were made from wood, stone and precious metals. It was big money. People came from all over to worship and buy the idols. Terah wanted Abram to be in charge of sales.
With an axe Abram destroyed all the idols except one. He placed the axe in the last one’s hands and claimed that it had killed the rest. Terah said that was impossible. Abram had tricked him into admitting that the idols were powerless, and in anger betrayed him to Nimrod.
Nimrod threw Abram into a furnace, but he came out unharmed and Nimrod was afraid to touch him. Nimrod then gave Abram many presents and sent him back to his father’s house. With him went two hundred noble men, including Eliezer who was later to become Abram’s most trusted servant.
A large crowd rejected Nimrod and his opulent lifestyle to go with Abram and learn more about the one true God. Two years later, Nimrod had decided once more to try and kill Abram. Eliezer warned Abram and they left for Haran, where God was about to make a promise.
Bible Stories of Abraham
1. Genesis 12:1-3 Leave (Success)
The people of Haran were as much idolaters as those in Babylon. Abram and his followers were the only ones who worshipped God. So, God intervened and said, “Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you”.
This was bigger than Abram could imagine, “in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” The Messiah came from Abram. Would we be willing to move to an unknown country, at age 75, if God offered us an inheritance we would not even receive in this life?
2. Genesis 12:10 Famine (Trial)
The first thing Abram encountered in the promised land, was famine. “Now there was a famine in the land; so Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land.” How often when we start to do God’s will, are there strings of obstacles?
3. Genesis 12:15 Pharaoh (Failure)
The next obstacle on Abram’s faith journey was Egypt’s king. “Pharaoh’s officials saw her and praised her to Pharaoh; and the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house.” Even faithful believers fail some of life’s obstacles. When have we lied like Abram to try and get out of a difficult situation?
4. Genesis 14:14 Battle (Trial)
Abram was probably not wanting a fight, but “When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he led out his trained men, born in his house, three hundred and eighteen, and went in pursuit as far as Dan.” How often in doing God’s will must we fight battles?
5. Genesis 15:13 Enslaved (Discouraged)
God said to Abram, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years.” This is a prophecy of Egyptian slavery. Do we believe that even such bad news will be for our good?