17 March 2022

Seed of Abraham


Jesus is the true “seed” of Abraham, the heir of the covenant promises, and receipt of the inheritance is based on faith in Him

Promised Land - Photo by Amanda Phung on Unsplash
In
Genesis, Yahweh promised to bless Abraham and his “seed,” and in him “all the families of the earth” would be blessed. But the terms of that covenant raise questions. Just who is the “seed”? Is membership in the covenant determined by physical descent, and how will it produce “blessings” to the Gentiles? - [Photo by Amanda Phung on Unsplash].

In his letter to the Romans, Paul points to the faith of Abraham to advance his larger argument. Jews and Gentiles alike are under sin. Therefore, all men are set right before God on the same basis - from faith, and this begins to answer our questions.

ABRAHAM’S FAITH


From the Hebrew scriptures, he demonstrates that Abraham was justified when his “faith was reckoned for righteousness” even though he was uncircumcised.

Circumcision is a “sign” of the covenant given after the fact, and therefore, it cannot be the basis for admission to the people of God - (Romans 4:9-16).

The promise to Abraham is not received by keeping the requirements of the Law, but through faith, otherwise, faith and promise 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 who are of the same faith as Abraham are accounted as his “seed,” whether circumcised or not.  Ethnicity has no bearing on inclusion in the covenant community.

In Jesus, both Gentile and Jewish believers become the “children” of Abraham destined to inherit the promises. And the Hebrew scriptures anticipated the inclusion of the Gentiles - (Romans 4:17-25 - “Even as it is written, ‘Father of many nations have I appointed you).

Physical descent does not qualify anyone to become Abraham’s heir. Ishmael was his biological son but did not receive the promise.

Likewise, Jacob was accepted, and Esau was rejected. Moreover, 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 9:23-36Hosea 1:9-102:23).

ONE PEOPLE


In Romans, Paul does not describe two peoples of God, but only one, and one that includes believing Jews AND Gentiles. And inclusion is accomplished in the same way for either group:
  • 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 10:9-13Isaiah 28:16).

Believing Gentiles are not formed into a separate people of God, they are “grafted” into the one holy “root.” In contrast, unbelieving Jews are broken off from that same root and removed from the covenant, though they can be grafted back in if they exercise faith in Jesus - (Romans 11:16-20).

Paul is more explicit in Galatians. Some Jewish believers claimed that Gentiles must be circumcised and “live like Jews” to be saved. He labeled that teaching a “different gospel, which is not a gospel at all,” and he used the Abrahamic promises to argue for Gentile inclusion in the covenant community, all without submitting to circumcision and thereby becoming Jewish proselytes - (Galatians 1:6-7).

FROM FAITH


The Apostle presented Abraham as the exemplar of faith. “He believed God and it was reckoned to him for righteousness,” therefore, “they who are of faith are the sons of Abraham” - (Galatians 3:6).

The Hebrew scriptures foresaw that “God would declare the Gentiles righteous,” and so it fore-announced the good news to Abraham - “All the nations shall be blessed in you.”  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.”

The promises were given “to Abraham and to his seed,” singular, and that “seed” is none other than Jesus. And by familial relationship, so are all men who are now “in him.” The “inheritance” is by promise, NOT by the required deeds of the Torah or one’s ethnicity.

Next, Paul raises the question: “Why, then, the law.” It was given because of “trespasses” and functioned as the “custodian until the seed should come.” Note well the temporal aspect, “until.” But now that the “seed” has come, Jesus, the custodianship of the Law with its social distinctions is no longer in force:
  • 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, by consequence, you are Abraham’s seed, according to promise, heirs” - (Galatians 3:19-29).

Thus, in Jesus, all ethnic, cultural, and social boundaries are eliminated. Inclusion in the Abrahamic covenant is based on the “faith of Jesus,” not on biological descent. The Apostle’s statement is unequivocal: Those who are “in Christ,” whether Jew or not, are heirs and children of Abraham.



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