You are a descendant of your parents, and their parents, and so on. That, however, is speaking from a physical standpoint. When it comes to spiritual descent, you are descended from those whose spirit you take on.
Thus Peter would write the following [emphasis mine]:
1 Peter 3:5 For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands;
1 Peter 3:6 just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.
Note carefully “you have become her children if.” That is, Peter’s readers were Sarah’s spiritual descendants if they they met that condition. Otherwise, they were not descended from Sarah.
Speaking also of spiritual descent, Jesus said to His opponents:
Luke 11:47 “Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets, and it was your fathers who killed them.
Jesus was meaning their “spiritual fathers” of course. In a different gospel, Jesus said the same sort of thing to the scribes and Pharisees:
Matthew 23:29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous,
Matthew 23:30 and say, ‘If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’
Matthew 23:31 “So you testify against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.
All these verses are speaking of spiritual, not physical, lineage. Another, more pedestrian, way of making this point is to say that someone “is like” someone else. In other words, to say someone is a “son of God” is to say “he’s like God.” That is, he “has the spirit of God.” Peter could have just as easily said, “You’ll be like Sarah if…,” or “You’ll be a true daughter of Sarah if…”
This sort of understanding is important because it helps us realize just how important our behavior is when it comes to walking with Christ. Jesus’ apostles had to learn that simply being apostles did not guarantee that they’d be right in their thinking and behaving. Jesus rebuked James and John once when they thought they were imitating Elijah (Luke 9:53-56). Just because a person might be a physical descendant of Abraham, or might have been baptized as a Christian, does not mean that he will always do the right thing and therefore enjoy the blessing of God. The blessing comes to those who behave in a way that is worthy of blessing.
Thus many of Sarah’s physical descendants were not entitled to inherit the honor of which Peter spoke. Neither was anyone else who did not act in the same spirit in which Sarah acted. Therefore, beware of those who go around claiming to be children of God but who do not act like Christ.
The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.