Abraham's Seed

As the Gospel of Matthew declares, Jesus is the “son of Abraham.” The lowly man from Nazareth is the Messiah and King of Israel, the promised “Seed” of the Patriarch. He brings the covenant promises to fulfillment. He is the covenant heir, and our receipt of the inheritance is based on our faith in him.

God promised to bless Abraham and his “seed,” and through him, He would bless “all the families of the Earth.” His descendants would be as innumerable as the stars of heaven. But the terms of the covenant raise questions.

Stars - Photo by Sam Goodgame on Unsplash
[Photo by Sam Goodgame on Unsplash]

Who is the “
Seed” of Abraham? Is membership in the covenant determined by physical descent from the Patriarch? How will the covenant result in “blessings” to the Gentile nations if it is limited to the biological relatives of Abraham? - (Genesis 17:4-8),

John the Baptist warned the religious leaders of Israel not to appeal to their physical descent from Abraham for confirmation of their covenant status. “Broods of vipers! Who suggested for you to be fleeing from the coming wrath? Bring forth fruit worthy of repentance; and think not to say within yourselves, we have Abraham as our father. I say to you, God is able out of THESE STONES to raise up children to Abraham” – (Matthew 3:9).

Repentance and submission to the Messiah were mandatory for entrance into the Kingdom, not biological descent. The reference to “stones” by John was metaphorical and pointed to the plan of God to bring Gentiles into His covenant community - (Matthew 8:8-12, Genesis 12:3, 13:14-16).

In Luke, the angel Gabriel announced that God was about to fulfill His covenant promises. The son born of Mary would fulfill the promise “to Abraham and his seed.” God remained faithful to His “holy covenantthe oath which he swore to Abraham our father - (Isaiah 9:6, Luke 1:31-73).

Jesus limited his ministry to the children of Israel, but he did not exclude Gentiles entirely from his efforts. His interactions with non-Jews anticipated the future opening of the Gospel to the nations. While many Jews rejected him, he responded positively to Gentiles who approached him with faith - (Matthew 15:22-28, Acts 10:44-48).

In the Gospel of John, Jesus declared to one group of Jews, “What things I have seen with the Father I speak; you also, then, what things you have heard from your father are doing.” They responded by pointing to their descent from Abraham. To this, he countered:

  • If you are children of Abraham, then you would do the works of Abraham, but you seek to kill me, a man who has spoken the truth to you… this Abraham did not do” - (John 8:38-44).

They did “the works of their father,” the Devil! Biological descent was no guarantee of participation in the inheritance. Faith and actions mattered, not D.N.A.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul pointed to the faith of Abraham. Jews and Gentiles alike were under sin, and therefore all men were set right before God on the same basis, namely, faith. He demonstrated from the Hebrew Scriptures that Abraham was justified when his “faith was reckoned for righteousness,” even though he was uncircumcised. Circumcision was the “sign” of the covenant given after the fact. Therefore, it could not be the basis for entrance into the covenant community or justification before God - (Romans 4:9-16).

The promise to Abraham is not received by performing the required rituals of the Law, but instead, through faith. Otherwise, faith and the promises are rendered void.

Because the promise is from faith, it is “firm to all the seed, not to that from the Law only, but to that also which is such by the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.” All men of the same faith as Abraham are included in his “seed” and heirs of the promises, circumcised or not.

THE ONE PEOPLE OF GOD


Gentiles and Jews alike become the “children” of Abraham through Jesus Christ. Physical descent does not qualify anyone for membership in the covenant community. Ishmael was Abraham’s biological son, yet he did not receive the promise. Likewise, Jacob was accepted, but Esau was rejected. God always intended to shower “the riches of his glory upon vessels of mercy which he prepared beforehand for glory, whom he also called, even us, not only from among Jews but also from among the Gentiles” - (Romans 9:23-36, Hosea 1:9-10, 2:23).

Paul did not refer to two peoples of God, but only one, and it included believing Jews AND Gentiles. Inclusion was accomplished in the same way for both - “If you will confess that Jesus is Lord and believe with your heart that God raised him from the dead, you shall be saved… For there is no distinction of Jew or Greek, for the same Lord is Lord of allfor whoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” - (Romans 10:9-13, 11:16-20, Isaiah 28:16).

Paul is explicit in Galatians. Some Jewish believers claimed Gentiles must be circumcised, and otherwise “live like Jews.” But he labeled this teaching as a “different Gospel, which is not Good News at all.” He used the Abrahamic promises to argue for Gentile inclusion in the covenant. They entered it through faith without submitting to circumcision, and he presented Abraham as the exemplar of this faith - “He believed God and it was reckoned to him for righteousness,” therefore, “they who are of faith are the sons of Abraham” - (Galatians 1:6-7, 3:6).

Glass Globe at Dawn - Photo by Joshua Woroniecki on Unsplash
[Photo by Joshua Woroniecki on Unsplash]

The Hebrew Bible foresaw that “
God would declare the Gentiles righteous.” Therefore, it announced beforehand the good news to Abraham. Those who are from faith “are blessed with believing Abraham.” Jesus redeemed us so that the “blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles in him.”

  • All are sons of God through the faith of Christ Jesus; for as many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. Therefore, there cannot be Jew or Greek… now, if you are of Christ, you are Abraham’s Seed, according to promise, heirs” - (Galatians 3:19-29).

Hence, in Jesus, all ethnic, cultural, economic, and social boundaries were eliminated in the one covenant people of God. The basis for inclusion and the receipt of the promises was and remains the “faith of Jesus,” not biological descent or “the works of the Law.”



RELATED POSTS:
  • One Spirit, One People - (By his death and resurrection, Jesus formed one covenant community - One New Man - based on faith in him, not ethnicity or nationality – Ephesians 2:11-22)
  • The Assembly - (The Christian use of the term church or ekkl├ęsia is derived from the assembly of Yahweh gathered for worship as described in the Hebrew Bible)
  • Salvation for All - (The Good News announced by Jesus of Nazareth offers salvation and life to men and women of every nation and people)

{Published originally on the Kingdom Disciples website}

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