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16 September 2019

Abraham, Heir of the World (Romans 4:11-17)

Paul introduces Abraham as the great exemplar of faith, the model for all men who would live by faith and the "heir of the world" (Romans 4:11-17). In the gospel of God's kingdom, the "land promise" to Abraham finds its fulfillment in the New Creation.
God declared Abraham “right” and reckoned his faith as “righteousness” while he was still uncircumcised and, thus, apart from the “works of the Law” or Torah. Consequently, Abraham is the father of every man and woman who is “from faith,” whether circumcised or not (cp. Galatians 3:6-18).
Circumcision did not justify Abraham and, instead, was “a sign,” the “seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while yet uncircumcised.” He is the “father of circumcision to them who are not of circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of the faith while yet uncircumcised.” Therefore, “not through the Law is the promise to Abraham or to his seed that he is to be heir of the world; but through a righteousness of faith.”
References in Paul's letter to the Romans of “promise” and “heir” point to future realities, things not yet received. The promised inheritance will be the possession, not of the old Promised Land in the middle east, but of the entire “world” or kosmos. Not always noticed is how Paul universalizes the original and very limited Land Promise so that it now includes the entire “world” (the Greek term kosmos can include the entire universe).
This promise is to Abraham and to “his seed.” His “seed” is comprised of all who walk in the same faith as Abraham did, circumcised or not, of Israelite stock or not. The promised inheritance is through faith and grace and, therefore, “the promise is firm unto all the seed.”
God appointed Abraham the “Father of many nations” and not just Israel because he believed the word of the God who raises the dead and calls the things that are not into being.
In the first instance, Paul applies this clause to Abraham’s faith that God would grant him the promised "seed," that is, Isaac, even though Sarah’s womb was “dead.” By implication, this may link the promised inheritance to the future resurrection of the righteous dead, a notion Paul raises in Romans chapters 8 and 11.
Paul already introduced the past resurrection of Jesus in Romans 1:2-4. The story of Abraham’s justification was not “written for his sake alone,” but, also, “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; who was delivered up on account of our offences and was raised on account of the declaring us righteous.”
The Apostle Paul sees the fulfillment of the original promises of territory and “seed” that Yahweh made to Abraham in the gathering of men and women from every nation by the proclamation of the gospel, the coming resurrection of the dead, and the New Creation.

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