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22 November 2018

True “Seed” of Abraham

SYNOPSIS:  Jesus is the true “seed” of Abraham, the heir of the covenant promises, and participation in the inheritance is based on faith, not D.N.A.  

Abrahams builds an altar to Yahweh
God promised to bless those who blessed Abraham and his “seed.” This raises a fundamental question: Who and what is the “seed” of Abraham?

The claims of the New Testament preclude any assumption that the "seed" of Abraham refers simply to his biological descendants. For example, John the Baptist famously warned Jewish religious leaders that appealed to their physical descent from Abraham - “God was able out of these stones to raise up children to Abraham”:
  • (Genesis 17:4-8) – “As for me, lo! my covenant is with thee — So shalt thou become — father of a multitude of nations; And thy name shall no more be called Abram — but thy name shall become Abraham, for father of a multitude of nations have I appointed thee; And I will make thee fruitful, exceedingly, and grant thee to be nations — Yea, kings out of thee shall come forth; And I will confirm my covenant betwixt me and thee and thy seed after thee to their generations for an age-abiding covenant — to become to thee a God, and to thy seed after thee; And I will give to thee and to thy seed after thee the land of thy so-journings — all the land of Canaan for an age-abiding possession — And I will be to them a God.” – (The Emphasized Bible).
  • (Matthew 3:9) – “And were being immersed in the Jordan river by him, openly confessing their sins. But, seeing many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming unto his immersion, he said to them — Broods of vipers! who suggested to you to be fleeing from the coming wrath? Bring forth, therefore, fruit worthy of repentance; and think not to be saying within yourselves — As our father, we have Abraham; for I say unto you, that God is able out of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.” – (The Emphasized Bible).
Per John's preaching, repentance and submission to the Messiah were mandatory for inclusion in the kingdom of God. His use of the term “stones” was metaphorical for the divine intention to bring the "Gentiles" or "nations" into the kingdom - An integral part of the redemptive plan of God from the very beginning. Note well the following passages:
  • (Matthew 8:8-12) – “But the centurion, answering, said, Lord! I am of no consideration that under my roof thou shouldest enter, — but only say with a word and healed shall be my servant. For I also am a man [set] under authority, having under myself soldiers — and I say to this one, Go! and he goeth, and to another, Come! and he cometh, and to my servant, Do this! and he doeth it. Now Jesus, hearing, marveled and said to them that followed — Verily, I say unto you, With no one in Israel such faith as this, have I found. But I say unto you, Many from east and west will have come, and shall recline with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of the heavens; Whereas, the sons of the kingdom shall be cast forth into the darkness outside — There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” – (The Emphasized Bible).
  • (Genesis 13:14-16) – “And Yahweh said unto Abram after that Lot had separated himself from him, Lift up, I pray thee thine eyes and look from the place where thou art — northward and southward and eastward and westward; for all the land which thou art beholding — to thee will I give it, and to thy seed unto times age-abiding; and I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth — so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, thy seed also may be numbered.” – (The Emphasized Bible).
The description “east and west” in the passage from the gospel of Matthew alludes to the promise to Abraham to look “north and south, east and west” to see the extent of the Promised Land, and also, the promise to bless all nations in Abraham. From the start, the covenant anticipated something far larger than the land of Canaan or just the nation of Israel (Genesis 12:3, 13:14, 18:18, 22:18).

At the time of his birth, Jesus was declared the “Son of David, Son of Abraham.” He was the promised Davidic king destined to rule the nations from Zion. He was the “Son of the Most-High” who would possess the throne of David:
  • (Psalm 2:8-9) – “Ask of me and let me give nations as thine inheritance, and as thy possession, the ends of the earth: Thou shalt shepherd them with a sceptre of iron — as a potter’s vessel, shalt thou dash them in pieces.” – (The Emphasized Bible - See also - Matthew 1:1, Luke 1:31-33, 1 Samuel 7:13-16).
Ruler over the Cosmos
Ruler over the Cosmos
The announcement by the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary of the birth of the Son of God meant that God was about to fulfill His covenant promises to Abraham and David. Jesus was to be the fulfillment of the promise - “To Abraham and to his seed.” God was ever mindful of his “holy covenant, the oath which he swore to Abraham our father," and therefore brought forth his Son who was destined to rule over all nations (Isaiah 9:6, Luke 1:55, Luke 1:26, 1:55, 1:72-73).

While Jesus limited his ministry to the children of Israel, he did not exclude Gentiles entirely from his efforts. If anything, his occasional interactions with Gentiles anticipated the later opening of the gospel to the nations recorded in the Book of Acts. And while many Jews rejected Jesus, he responded positively to individual Gentiles who approached him in faith, for example:
  • (Matthew 15:22-28) – “And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.”
Once, Jesus declared to a 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 with claims of descent from Abraham. Jesus countered, “If you are children of Abraham then you are doing the works of Abraham, but you seek to kill me, a man who has spoken the truth to you…this Abraham did not do.” Instead, they did “the works of their father,” the Devil.

Thus, physical descent is no guarantee of right standing before God or receipt of the promised inheritance. By their actions, the Jews that opposed Jesus, although physical descendants of Abraham were, in fact, the children of the Devil (John 8:38-44).
The Apostle Paul pointed to the faith of Abraham in his letter to the Romans to advance his larger argument: Jews and Gentiles alike are under sin, therefore, all are set right before God on the same basis, namely, by faith.
Paul proved from scripture that Abraham was justified when his “faith was reckoned for righteousness,” even though he was still uncircumcised. Circumcision was a “sign” given later, “a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while yet uncircumcised,” so that Abraham “might be the father of all that believe in un-circumcision…and father of the circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the faith of our father Abraham” (Romans 4:9-16).

Paul preaching to Gentiles
Paul preaching to Gentiles
The promise to Abraham is not received from the Torah but through faith, otherwise, faith and promise are voided. 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 are Abraham’s “seed,” circumcised or not. Ethnicity has no bearing on inclusion in the inheritance.

Paul demonstrated that this was anticipated in the original covenant made with Abraham - “Even as it is written, ‘Father of many nations have I appointed thee.” The inclusion of the Gentiles was foreseen from the start. The scriptural record was “not written for his sake alone that it was reckoned to him, but for our sakes also to whom it is to be reckoned, even to them that believe upon him who raised Jesus our Lord from among the dead”. Both Gentile and Jewish believers become the true “seed” of Abraham in Jesus and heirs of the promises (Romans 4:17, Genesis 17:4).

Likewise, Paul argued further that-–
  • (Romans 9:6-8) - “It is not, however, as though the word of God had failed; for not all they who are of Israel, the same are Israel. Neither because they are seed of Abraham are all children — but In Isaac shall there be called unto thee a seed. That is — not the children of the flesh, the same are children of God; but the children of the promise, are reckoned as a seed.” - (The Emphasized Bible).
Neither circumcision nor physical descent qualifies anyone to be the "seed of Abraham." Ishmael was his biological son but did not receive the promise; likewise, Jacob was accepted and Esau 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).

In Romans chapters 9-11, the Apostle does not refer to two peoples of God but only one, a covenant community that includes Jews AND Gentiles. Membership is accomplished the same way for either:
  • 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 all…for whoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:9-13, Isaiah 28:16).
Gentile believers are not formed into a separate people of God but, instead, are “grafted” into the one holy “root.” In contrast, unbelieving Jews are broken off from that same root because of their unbelief, though they can be grafted back in if they exercise faith in Jesus (Romans 11:16-20).

Paul is more explicit in the Book of Galatians. Certain Jewish believers taught that Gentiles must be circumcised, follow Jewish dietary restrictions, and, probably also, adopt Jewish calendrical observations and, otherwise, “live like Jews” (Galatians 2:12-14, 4:10; 5:1-3).
Paul labeled this a “different gospel," one which is not a gospel at all, and used the Abrahamic promises to argue that Gentiles are acceptable members of the covenant community as gentiles without submitting to circumcision and becoming Jewish proselytes (Galatians 1:6-7).
Paul holds up Abraham as the premier example of faith: “He believed God and it was reckoned to him for righteousness,” therefore, “They who are of faith are the sons of Abraham.” Abraham exercised this saving faith BEFORE he received circumcision, therefore, circumcision cannot be necessary for justification before God (Galatians 3:6).

Scripture foresaw that “God would declare the Gentiles righteous," and therefore, fore-announced the good news to Abraham - “All the nations shall be blessed in you.” The ones who are of faith “are blessed with believing Abraham.” Jesus redeemed us so that the “blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles in Jesus Christ.”

The promises were given to “Abraham and to his seed,” and that “seed” is none other than Jesus Christ, and, by familial relationship, all who are “in him”. The “inheritance” is by promise, not by the required deeds of the Torah or by physical descent from Abraham.

Paul then raised the question - “Why, then, the law?” It was "added" because of “trespasses” to function as a “custodian until the seed should come.” Note well - The temporal aspect, “until” (Galatians 3:19-29).

Now that the “seed” has come, namely Jesus, the custodianship of the Torah with its social distinctions is no longer in force. Therefore:
  • 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.”
In Jesus, all ethnic, cultural, and social boundaries are eliminated. Inclusion in the Abrahamic covenant with all of its blessings is based on the “faith of Jesus,” not biological descent, circumcision, calendrical observations, or the other rules and rites of the Torah. Paul’s statement is unequivocal: Those who are “in Christ,” whether Jewish or not, are the true heirs and children of Abraham.

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