22 November 2018

The True “Seed” of Abraham - Faith not DNA

Abraham and Melchizadek
God promised to bless those who blessed Abraham and his “seed” (Genesis 12:1-3; 17:7). This raises a basic question: Who and what is the “seed” of Abraham?
     John the Baptist famously warned Jews who appealed to their descent from Abraham that “God was able out of these stones to raise up children to Abraham” (Matthew 3:9). Repentance and submission to the Messiah are mandatory for entrance into God’s kingdom. “Stones” is metaphorical for God’s intent to bring Gentiles into His kingdom.

     Jesus was the “Son of David, Son of Abraham,” the promised Davidic king destined to rule the nations from Zion (Matthew 1:1; 1 Samuel 7:13-16; Psalm 2:8-10). He was the “Son of the Most High” who would possess David’s throne (Luke 1:31-33). Gabriel’s announcement meant that God was about to fulfill the covenant promises to Abraham and to David in Jesus, “to Abraham and to his seed” (Psalm 132:11; Isaiah 9:6; Jeremiah 23:5; Luke 1:55). God was ever mindful of his “holy covenant, the oath which he swore to Abraham our father” (Luke 1:72-73).
     A Gentile centurion asked Jesus to heal his sick servant. He marveled and declared, “Truly, I say to you, with no one in Israel such faith as this have I found. But I say to you, many from east and west will come and recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of the heavens; but the sons of the kingdom shall be cast forth into outer darkness” (Matthew 8:10-12). “East and west” alludes to Yahweh’s promise to Abraham to look “north and south, east and west” to see the extent of the Promised Land, and also to the promise to bless all nations in him (Genesis 12:3; 13:14; 18:18; 22:18).
     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.  Physical descent is no guarantee of right standing before God or receipt of the promised inheritance (John 8:38-44).
     Paul brought up Abraham’s faith in his letter to the Romans to help his larger argument: Jew and Gentile alike are under sin, therefore all are set right before God on the same basis, faith.  He proved from scripture that Abraham was justified and his “faith reckoned for righteousness” while he was yet not circumcised (Romans 4:9-16). 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” (verse 12).
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 shows this state of affairs was anticipated in the original covenant made with Abraham; “even as it is written, ‘Father of many nations have I appointed thee” (Romans 4:17; Genesis 17:4). The inclusion of 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 are the true “seed” of Abraham destined to inherit the promises.
     Similarly, Paul argues that “not all they who are of Israel, the same are Israel. Neither because they are the 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 are children of God; but the children of the promise are reckoned as a seed” (Romans 9:6-8). Physical descent does not qualify one as Abraham’s seed; Ishmael was Abraham’s biological son but did not receive the promise; likewise, Jacob was accepted but 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, Paul does not refer to two peoples of God but to one, which includes Jews AND Gentiles. Inclusion 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 allfor 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 new or 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 unbelief, though they can be grafted back in if they exercise faith in Jesus (Romans 11:16-20). God has one covenant people; there is one “root,” not two.
     Paul is more explicit in Galatians. Certain Jewish believers taught that Gentiles must be circumcised, adopt Jewish dietary restrictions and calendrical observations, and otherwise “live like Jews” (Galatians 2:12-14; 4:10; 5:1-3). Paul labeled this a “different gospel, which is not a gospel at all” (1:6-7), 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. He 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” (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 association all who are “in him”. The “inheritance” is by promise rather than the requirements of Torah or physical descent.
     Paul next raised the question, “Why, then, the law” (Galatians 3:19-29). It was given because of “trespasses” and to function as a “custodian until the seed should come.” Note well the temporal aspect, “until.” Now that the “seed” has come, 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 its blessings is based on the “faith of Jesus,” not biological descent. Paul’s statement is unequivocal:  those who are “in Christ,” whether Jew or not, are heirs and children of Abraham.
    In light of Scripture, why are some Christians attempting to limit the covenant and its promises to a minority of humanity based on DNA rather than on faith and obedience?

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