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26 January 2019

Promise of the Father, The Blessing of Abraham

SYNOPSIS:  With the Ascension and Reign of Jesus, the promised gift of the Spirit has arrived with blessings for all believers, the “promise of Abraham.”

Waterfalls Photo by June Admiraal on Unsplash
June Admiraal on Unsplash
In the New Testament, the “promise of the Father” is identified as the gift of the Spirit. It is linked by the Apostle Paul to the covenant promises given to Abraham, which are now fulfilled under the promised New Covenant. The outpouring of the Spirit proves the era of fulfillment has arrived in Jesus and marks Gentile believers as heirs of Abraham, together with Jewish followers of Jesus.

Paul equates the “promise of the Spirit” with the “blessing of Abraham” when dealing with the conflict in the churches of Galatia. The original covenant made with Abraham envisioned the inclusion of the Gentiles from the start, an important point for Paul’s argument for the acceptance of Gentile believers without circumcision. All who belong to Jesus are, by definition, “Abraham’s seed, heirs according to promise” (Genesis 12:1-3, Galatians 3:13, 3:29).

The covenant promise of the Father finds its fulfillment in the gift of the Spirit that He has bestowed on Gentile and Jewish believers alike. The old distinctions between them are no longer relevant. Gentile inclusion was not an afterthought but always an integral part of the covenant promise. The gift of the Spirit is received by Gentiles from faith, not based on circumcision or the other rituals required by the Torah (Galatians 3:1-4, 3:14).
  • (Ephesians 1:13-14) – “In whom, ye also — hearing the word of the truth, the glad-message of your salvation — in whom also believing — were sealed with the Spirit of the promise, the Holy [Spirit], Which is an earnest of OUR INHERITANCE, unto the redemption of THE ACQUISITION;— unto his glorious praise.” - (The Emphasized Bible).
The Spirit is a “down payment,” a guarantee of the full inheritance still to come in the Resurrection and the New Creation. References to the purchased-possession and the inheritance allude to the original land promise given to Abraham (Genesis 17:8 - “I will give to you and your seed all the land of Canaan for an EVERLASTING POSSESSION”). Once again, Paul connects the gift of the Spirit to the covenant with Abraham, including its land promise (Genesis 12:7, 13:17, Leviticus 14:34, Deuteronomy 12:9-10, 32:49).

Likewise, Jesus described the gift of the Spirit as the “promise of the Father.” Before his ascent, he commanded disciples to tarry in Jerusalem until they received it, then they were to take the gospel of the kingdom to every inhabited corner of the earth (Luke 11:13, 24:49, John 14:16, 14:26, Acts 1:4-9).

Peter's Sermon -
Peter's Sermon at Pentecost
Peter’s first sermon on the Day of Pentecost pointed to the outpouring of the Spirit as a fulfillment of the prophecy from Joel - “In the last days, God will pour out His Spirit on all flesh.” The presence of the Spirit among believers proved that the “last days” had commenced (Joel 2:28-32, Acts 2:1-4, 2:15-21).

Peter declared that the Spirit was the promise of God “for you, and to your children and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” Note his language is reminiscent of the covenant promise to Abraham to bless ALL nations (Acts 2:38-39. Compare - Genesis 17:7-10 - “I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your seed after you in their generations”).
Implicit in this argument is that the gift of the Spirit is how men and women participate in the blessings of Abraham. By the Spirit and faith men of every ethnicity, from “all the nations of the earth,” find themselves blessed with faithful Abraham (Genesis 12:3, Acts 3:25).
What Christians received on the Day of Pentecost was in fulfillment of the promises to Abraham. All who have received the Spirit and been baptized into Jesus are now the true  “children of Abraham"; therefore, the old distinctions between Jew and Gentile can no longer apply:
  • (Galatians 3:27-29) – “For ye, as many as into Christ have been immersed, have put Christ on: There cannot be Jew or Greek, there cannot be bond or free, there cannot be male and female, for all ye are one in Christ Jesus: Now, if ye are of Christ, by consequence, ye are Abraham’s seed, according to promise, heirs.” – (The Emphasized Bible).
The Mosaic legislation anticipated the need for something further; the Torah could not complete what God has begun with Abraham. Inevitably, Israel would disobey and be dispersed among the nations. But after her chastisement and repentance, she would “return to Yahweh and obey His voice.” God would gather His people from all nations and, thereafter, “circumcise their hearts to love Him” (Deuteronomy 30:1-6).

The themes of renewal and circumcision of the heart were taken up by the prophet Jeremiah. God “would make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah,” but not like the covenant He made at Mount Sinai. He would forge a new covenant in which His laws would be written in the hearts of His people. The circumcision of the heart anticipated by Moses would be realized in a new covenant, which New Testament writers claim was inaugurated by Jesus Christ (Jeremiah 31:31-34, Hebrews 8:6-13).


The Book of Ezekiel takes up the same theme but adds the element of God’s Spirit. When Yahweh re-gathers the children of Israel He sanctifies His name among them, gives them a new heart, and puts “a new spirit” within them. He replaces their stony hearts of disobedience with hearts of flesh. Yahweh will “put His spirit within them and cause them to walk in His statutes” (Ezekiel 36:16-28).

Ezekiel combines the promises of the Spirit, circumcised hearts, and the new covenant. The promised New Covenant is thus dependent on the gift of the Spirit; without it, the covenant is impotent (Ezekiel 37:25-28, 2 Corinthians 3:1-6).

The New Testament applies these promises consistently to the gift of the Spirit given freely to the Church, to Jewish and Gentile believers alike, and on the same basis. The gift is labeled the “promise of the Father” and the “blessing of Abraham.” It is the distinctive sign and the power of the New Covenant.

With the resurrection and exaltation of Jesus, the long-awaited gift of the Spirit has arrived with all its promised blessings to believers from every nation and ethnic group.

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