In this Session, we will explore and study God’s Covenant with Abraham and use the New Covenant Scriptures to interpret its fulfillment, establish the identity of who God’s people are, and see its fulfillment in Jesus Christ and the Church. Understanding the Abrahamic Covenant is a key that unlocks confidence in God’s people because we gain the confidence of knowing Identity in God.
In this Session, we will use the Biblical Hermeneutic of using the New Covenant/New Testament Scriptures to interpret the Old Covenant/Old Testament Scriptures. Using this method of Bible interpretation will keep us from the error of confusing our understanding regarding how God relates to the world today, who the people of God are, what is the mission of the Church, and what/who is Israel today? Using the New Testament to interpret the Old Testament assumes that the New Testament is God’s last, highest and final revelation of Himself. This hermeneutic also assumes that Jesus Christ fulfilled the whole Law, Israel fulfilled her purpose, all Messianic prophecies (with the exception of His return, the resurrection of the dead, the judgment and the eternal order) have been fulfilled in Jesus Christ, and that the Church is the Body of Christ, the people of God, and His Church is the representative authority on the earth. Our Session will cover the following theological constructs.
1 – An Overview of God’s Covenant with Abraham
2 – Messiah the Promised Seed of Abraham, The Church, The People of God and the Children of Abraham
3 – God Fulfilled His Promises to Israel
An Overview of God’s Covenant with Abraham
The LORD interacted with Abram/Abraham 5 times and confirms His promise to Abram/Abraham. 5 being the number of grace, highlights to us the nature of His covenant with Abraham, which is completely grace based. Let’s look at an overview of each encounter with the Lord and Abraham, and outline substance of the promise.
Genesis 12:1-3 & 7 – The Lord’s First Encounter with Abram/Abraham
a) The invitation to journey with God. The LORD invites Abram into relationship by invitation into a promise. All faith walks begin with an invitation from the Lord, are confirmed by us through our faith, and end in the promises of God fulfilled in our lives. God promises Abram land.
b) Great Nation – GADOWL GOWY – great in numbers, intensity, loud in sound, in number – nations, people, used in context of describing the Gentiles.
c) I will bless you – BARAK – to praise, to give favor, to be adored, to have divine favor on.
d) Name Great – SHEM – name, reputation, fame, glory, a memorial and a monument.
e) You will be a blessing – BĔRAKAH – a source of blessing, a gift, prosperity and praise to God.
f) “I will curse those who curse you”; The Hebrew word QALAL is used here and means to revile. God is promising Abram that those who revile him or hold him of low esteem, will be judged by God. This is symbolic of the favor that accompanies those who relate to God by faith, and not nationality.
g) Verse 7 – and to your seed – See Galatians 3:16 – The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ. – It is important for us to note that the New Testament defines who/what is the seed that is promised to Abraham.
Genesis 13:14-17 – The Lord’s Second Encounter with Abram/Abraham
a) All of the land – Abram receives a promise that includes a land promise. We know that the Israelites did possess the land as God promised. We will explore this in greater detail later in our session.
b) Offspring – Seed – Like the dust of the earth. The Lord continues with the theme of Abraham’s descendants being innumerable. If the Seed is Christ, then those who are like the dust of earth, must be in Christ. See Galatians 3:29 – If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
c) God’s blessing on Abram is not explicit, but implied.
Genesis 15:4-6 – God’s Third Encounter with Abram/Abraham
a) The LORD promises Abram a third time with promises connected to a promised child, Isaac, who is a proto-messiah, and ultimately fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the Seed.
b) The vast numbers of the offspring of Abraham prophesy the innumerable numbers of people who are in covenant with God. See Revelation 7:9
c) Blessing is implied again in the text. d) Abraham believes the LORD and it is credited to him as righteousness. Through Abram, God shows us that faith empowers and receives from God what we are not or incapable of being. See Psalm 106:31 & Romans 4:3-14
Genesis 17:1 – God’s Fourth Encounter with Abram/Abraham
a) El Shaddai – God the Almighty – This is a compound name of God that implies 2 truths about God. Notice that God calls Himself or reveals Himself to Abram that He is God Almighty. 1 – Hebrew SHADAD – All powerful, or the One who has His hand on everything. 2 – Hebrew – SHAD – Chest, or the breasted One who gives the comfort, care and nourishment of a mother.
b) Notice that it is implied in the text that Abram needed this type of revelation of God because a significant amount of time (13yrs) had transpired since the fall with Hagar and Abram probably needed encouragement in waiting on the promises of God.
c) Blameless – Hebrew – TAMIYM – complete, whole, entire, sound, wholesome, unimpaired, innocent, having integrity
d) The Lord is inviting Abram to find his sufficiency in the Lord and trust Him. In light of who God is to Abram, Abram can live in wholeness from that revelation of God. Our experiential knowledge of God empowers us to live from wholeness. See Ephesians 1:17-22.
a) Notice that it is God who confirms His promises to His people. This teaches us that the Lord is trustworthy and good.
b) Abram worships in response to his encounter with God.
c) The Lord gives Abram a name change. The Lord relates to us in the context of our destinies in Him. Abram means “exalted father” and Abraham means “father of many”. We have other examples in Scripture where the Lord makes a name change to impart identity, destiny and hope into people’s lives. The Lord changed Jacob’s name to Israel in Genesis 32:28, the Lord changed Simon’s name to Peter in Mark 3:16, the Lord changed Solomon’s name to Jedidiah, and the Lord will change our names in Revelation 2:17.
d) Notice that God sees Abraham as the father of many nations already. The Lord sees beginning from end.
a) Circumcision – It is the symbolism/sign of cutting off the flesh/sin nature, and the sign of the one who belongs to God. In the context of the culture, the circumcised one would constantly be reminded of his moral obligation to God as a Covenant Partner with God. The New Testament parallel to circumcision is baptism.
b) New Testament Fulfillment – Colossians 2:11 – and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; – Philippians 3:3 – for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh, – Galatians 5:6 – For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love – Romans 4:11 – and he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised, so that he might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised, that righteousness might be credited to them,
c) The eighth day – Doctors note that newborns are better equipped to heal and their blood is developed enough to clot properly at 8 days after birth. God is smart!
Genesis 22:17-18 – God’s Fifth Encounter with Abraham
a) God’s blessing, the promise of innumerable children, power and authority, are promised to Abraham.
Summary – We can see from our review of the 5 encounters that the LORD had with Abraham all have the common theme of grace, faith, and promises of God proceeding from His goodness into the life of Abraham and his children. Abraham becomes for us the father of faith, the prophetic promise through which Messiah would come, and the prophetic promise of all people being blessed by Messiah. The Abrahamic Covenant is purely a grace based covenant.
Messiah the Promised Seed of Abraham, The Church – The People of God and the Children of Abraham As we continue looking at the Abrahamic Covenant, we will see that Messiah is the fulfillment of the promised Seed to Abraham. We will use the New Testament to interpret and support our position. We are answering the question; What is the seed of Abraham? A nationality of people (Israel) or Jesus Christ, and the people of faith (Church)? A parallel text would be Romans 4 & Romans 7. However, for the sake of time, we will use Galatians 3 as our guide.
a) Paul is addressing a regional Church in his letter to the Galatians. He is specifically
addressing the question we are asking regarding who are the children of Abraham and who are his Seed? The Galatians were being told by the Judaizers/Ebionites that one needed to obey the whole Law, be circumcised and convert to Judaism to be added to Israel/The Covenant, and be saved in Messiah. This position assumes that Old Covenant was not superseded by the New Covenant. The letter to the Galatians is Paul’s defense of the New Covenant superseding and establishing the Church as the Covenant people of God, and not the Law/Old Covenant being the requirement to make one part of God’s people.
b) The gift of the Holy Spirit is the evidence of being accepted by God.
c) Paul makes the point that righteousness before God is not by the Law, but by faith through relationship with God.
a) These verses make it very clear to us that it is not national Israel who are the children of Abraham, but the those that believe by faith in Jesus who are the children of Abraham.
b) John the Baptist made these statements about the children of Abraham – Matthew 3:9 – And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.
c) Jesus said this about the children of Abraham – John 8:40-44 – As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. You are doing the works of your own father.” “We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. – Jesus says that those who do not believe in Him as Messiah are not children of Abraham, or children of God, but children of the devil.
a) Paul makes it very clear that the Law brings us under the curses of the Law (Deuteronomy 28) because one must hold to the perfectly to be justified by it. Galatians 3:19.
a) Jesus fulfilled the Law, paid the price for sin on the cross and redeemed us from the effects of the curse of the Law.
b) The blessing given to Abraham was given all who believe in Messiah, not national Israel/Law Keepers. Romans 2:28-29 – A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God.
a) Christ is the Seed and the grace of God has always been the avenue of acceptance to God.
a) The Law was a governor on sin, so that we would be pointed to Jesus Christ for the forgiveness and redemption from sin.
b) What is the purpose of the Law? – Hebrews 10:1 – The law is only a shadow of the good
things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. 1 Timothy 1:8-10 – But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, Galatians 3:24 – Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.
a) All who believe in Jesus Christ by faith are the Children of God. The purpose of national Israel has been fulfilled by bringing forth Messiah and being the prophetic sign to the world that testified about Messiah. All divisions between God and people have been abolished by faith in Jesus Christ. God has One People, the people of Faith.
b) The collective Church of Jesus Christ is the seed, the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham and the heirs of God’s promises. 2 Corinthians 1:20 – For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.
God has Fulfilled All His Promises to National Israel The main objection to Covenant Theology revolves around the identity of God’s people, and the promises that God gave to national Israel. Previously we used Scripture to answer the identity of who God’s are. In this section of our session, we use Scripture to answer the question; Did God fulfill all His promises to Israel?
All of Israel’s Promises were Conditional
Deuteronomy 28:1-2 – If you fully obey the LORD your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations on earth.
Deuteronomy 28:15 – However, if you do not obey the LORD your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come on you and overtake you:
Deuteronomy 28:45 – All these curses will come on you. They will pursue you and overtake you until you are destroyed, because you did not obey the LORD your God and observe the commands and decrees he gave you.
See Deuteronomy 28:45-68 – These curses have all been fulfilled in real world history.
All the promises were fulfilled to Israel Joshua 21:45 – Not one of all the LORD’s good promises to Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.
Joshua 23:14 – “Now I am about to go the way of all the earth. You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the LORD your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed.
1 Kings 8:56 – “Praise be to the LORD, who has given rest to his people Israel just as he promised. Not one word has failed of all the good promises he gave through his servant Moses.
During the reigns of David and Solomon every single promise that the Lord gave Israel was fulfilled in fullness in regards to their land promises, and material blessings from God.
Group Discussion & Journaling
1 – As we have been building the salvation narrative by looking at the Covenants of God, how has Covenant Theology either confirmed or challenged your doctrine?
2 – How has understanding your personal identity in Jesus Christ empowered your faith?
3 – How has the collective identity of the Church changed, confirmed or empowered your worldview in regards to your personal life purpose? Do you have more confidence or less confidence in the mission of the Church in the world?
Homework – Read Exodus 19-24