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26 January 2019

Promise of the Father, Blessing of Abraham and New Covenant


Abraham, from http://clipart.christiansunite.com/
The “promise of the Father” is the gift of the Spirit in the New Testament. It is linked by Scripture to the covenant promises given to Abraham, which are now fulfilled in the promised New Covenant. The gift of the Spirit demonstrates that the era of fulfillment has arrived and marks out Gentile believers as heirs of Abraham.
Paul equates the “promise of the Spirit” with the “blessing of Abraham.” The original covenant envisioned the inclusion of Gentiles from the start, an important point for Paul’s plea for the acceptance of Gentile believers without circumcision. All who belong to Jesus are by definition “Abraham’s seed, heirs according to promise” (Genesis 12:2-3; Galatians 3:13; 3:29).
The covenant promise to Abraham finds its fulfillment in the gift of the Spirit bestowed on Gentile and Jewish believers alike; the old distinctions are no longer relevant (cp. Galatians 3:1-4). Gentile inclusion was not an afterthought but always an integral part of the covenant promise. The gift of the Spirit is received by Gentiles on the basis of faith, not on circumcision or other rituals required by Torah (Galatians 3:14).
Paul claims that believers are “sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, the earnest of their inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased-possession” (Ephesians 1:13-14).
The gift is a “down payment,” a guarantee of the full inheritance.
References to purchased-possession and inheritance allude to the 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 more the gift of the Spirit is connected to the covenant with Abraham, including its land promise (cp. Genesis 12:7; 13:17; Leviticus 14:34; Deuteronomy 12:9-10; 32:49).
Jesus likewise described the gift of the Spirit as the “promise of the Father” (Luke 11:13; 24:49; John 14:16; 14:26). Before his ascent, he commanded disciples to tarry in Jerusalem until they received it (Acts 1:4). Peter’s first sermon following the ascension claimed the outpouring of the Spirit was in fulfillment of the prophecy from Joel 2:28-32, “in the last days God will pour out His Spirit on all flesh” (Acts 2:1-4; 2:15-21). The presence of the Spirit among believers proved the “last days” period had commenced.
Peter declared that the Spirit was God’s “promise for you, and to your children and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Acts 2:38-39. Cp. Genesis 17:7-10, “I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your seed after you in their generations”). Note his language is reminiscent of God’s covenant promise to Abraham to bless ALL nations.
Implicit in this logic is that the gift of the Spirit is how men and women participate in Abraham’s blessings. By the Spirit and faith men of every ethnicity, “all nations of the earth,” are 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; the old distinctions no longer apply (Galatians 3:27-29).
The Mosaic legislation anticipated the need for something further; Torah could not complete what God has begun with Abraham. Israel would inevitably disobey and accordingly be dispersed among the nations. But after 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 are taken up in Jeremiah 31:31-34. God “would make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah,” but not like the covenant He made at 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 (e.g., Hebrews 8:6-13).
Ezekiel takes up the same theme but adds the element of God’s Spirit (Ezekiel 36:16-28). When Yahweh re-gatherers 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 combines the promises of Spirit, circumcised heart and the new covenant (compare Ezekiel 37:25-28, 2 Corinthians 3:1-6). The promised New Covenant is thus dependent on the gift of the Spirit; without it the covenant is impotent.
The New Testament consistently applies these promises 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 all nations.

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