Seed of Abraham

Jesus is the true “seed” of Abraham, the heir of the covenant promises, and receipt of the inheritance is based on faith in Him

Promised Land - Photo by Hans Luiggi on Unsplash
The introduction to
Matthew declares Jesus to be the “son of Abraham.” This is more than a simple genealogical notation, and it sets the stage for the theme of fulfillment that is threaded throughout Matthew’s gospel. He is the Messiah and King of Israel, the true Son and promised “seed” of the Patriarch. In him, all the covenant promises come to fruition - [Photo by Hans Luiggi on Unsplash].

In the book of Genesis, God promises to bless Abraham and his “seed,” and in the future, “all the families of the earth” will be blessed IN HIM. But the terms of the covenant raise questions.

Just who is the “seed” of Abraham? Is membership in the covenant determined by physical descent from him? How will the covenant result in “blessings” to the Gentile nations throughout the earth? - (Genesis 17:4-8),

REPENTANCE, NOT BLOOD


In the gospel account, John the Baptist warns the Jews not to appeal to their physical descent from Abraham for confirmation of their covenant status:
  • Broods of vipers! Who suggested for you to be fleeing from the coming wrath? Bring forth fruit worthy of repentance; and think not to say within yourselves, we have Abraham as our father. I say to you, God is 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, not biological descent from Abraham. And John’s reference to “stones” is metaphorical and points to God’s intent to bring Gentiles into the covenant community.

For that matter, bringing “blessings to the nations” has been part of His redemptive plan since the beginning. For example, compare the following words of Jesus with the words of Yahweh to Abraham:
  • (Matthew 8:8-12) – “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 and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of the heavens, but the sons of the kingdom will be cast into the darkness outside.
  • (Genesis 13:14-16) – “And Yahweh said to Abram: Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are; northward and southward and eastward and westward; for all the land which you are beholding, I will give to you, and to your seed to times everlasting. And I will make your seed as the dust of the earth, so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, your seed also may be numbered.

In Christ’s saying above, the term “east and west” echoes the promise to Abraham to look “north and south, east and west” to see the extent of the promised land. From the outset, the Abrahamic covenant anticipates something far larger than the land of Canaan or the biological descendants of Abraham - (Genesis 12:3, 13:14).

Jesus is the “son of David, the son of Abraham,” the heir who is destined to rule the nations, the “Son of the Most-High” who has possessed the “throne of David” since his resurrection and exaltation - (Psalm 2:8-9, Matthew 28:18-20).

KING OF THE NATIONS


And in Luke’s gospel, Gabriel announces that God was about to fulfill His covenant promises to Abraham and David. The son born to Mary is in fulfillment of the promise “to Abraham and to his seed.” Ever mindful of his “holy covenantthe oath which he swore to Abraham our father,” God sent Jesus to reign over all the nations of the earth - (Isaiah 9:6, Luke 1:31-73).

Although he limited his ministry to the children of Israel, Jesus did not exclude Gentiles from his efforts. His occasional interactions with non-Jews anticipated the opening of the gospel to the nations after the outpouring of the Spirit as recorded in the book of Acts.

And while many Jews did reject Jesus, he responded positively to Gentiles who approached him in faith - (Matthew 15:22-28, Acts 10:44-48).

In John’s gospel, he declares 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 by pointing to their descent from Abraham. And to this claim, Jesus counters:
  • If you are children of Abraham, then you would do the works of Abraham, but you seek to kill me, a man who has spoken the truth to you… this Abraham did not do” - (John 8:38-44).

Indeed, this group of Jews did “the works of their father,” the Devil!  Biological descent was no guarantee of their participation in the inheritance promised to Abraham and his “seed,” let alone of their right conduct.

FAITH ALONE


In his letter to the Romans, Paul points to the faith of Abraham to advance his larger argument. Jews and Gentiles alike are under sin, and therefore all men are set right before God on the same basis; namely, from faith.

From the Hebrew scriptures, he demonstrates that Abraham was justified when his “faith was reckoned for righteousness,” even though he was yet uncircumcised. Circumcision was the “sign” of the covenant given after the fact. Therefore, it cannot be the basis for entrance into the covenant community - (Romans 4:9-16).

The promise to Abraham is not received by performing the required rituals of the Law, but instead, through faith. Otherwise, faith and promise are rendered void.

And 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 as Abraham are included in his “seed,” circumcised or not.  Ethnicity has no bearing on one’s inclusion.

World Map Photo by Jack Stapleton on Unsplash
[Photo by Jack Stapleton on Unsplash]


In Jesus, both Gentile and Jewish believers become the “children” of Abraham who are destined to inherit the promises. And the Hebrew scriptures anticipate the inclusion of the Gentiles (Romans 4:17-25 - “Even as it is written, ‘Father of many nations have I appointed you).

Physical descent does not qualify anyone for inclusion in the people of God. Ishmael was his biological son, but he did not receive the promise. Likewise, Jacob was accepted, and Esau was rejected. Moreover, 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).

PEOPLE OF GOD


In his letter to the Romans, Paul does not refer to two peoples of God, but only one, and it includes believing Jews AND Gentiles. And inclusion is accomplished in the same way for both:
  • 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).

Believing Gentiles are not formed into a separate people distinct from Jewish believers, but instead, they are “grafted” into the one holy root. In contrast, unbelieving Jews are broken off from that same root and removed from the covenant, though they can be grafted back in if they exercise faith in Jesus - (Romans 11:16-20).

Paul is more explicit in his letter to the Galatians. Some Jewish believers claim that Gentiles must be circumcised, and otherwise “live like Jews.” But the “Apostle to the Gentiles” labels that teaching a “different gospel, which is not good news at all.

Moreover, he uses the Abrahamic promises to argue for Gentile inclusion in the covenant community AS GENTILES, all without submitting to circumcision and thereby becoming Jewish proselytes. And he presents Abraham as the exemplar 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 1:6-7, 3:6).

The Hebrew scriptures foresaw that “God would declare the Gentiles righteous,” and therefore it announced beforehand the good news to Abraham. Those who are from faith “are blessed with believing Abraham.” Jesus redeemed us so that the “blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles in him.”

The promises are for “Abraham and his seed,” singular, and that “seed” is none other than Jesus. And by familial relationship, so are all men who are now “in him”. The “inheritance” is by promise, and NOT by the requirements of the Torah or one’s ethnicity.

Next, Paul raises the question: “Why, then, the law.” It was given because of “trespasses.” It was the “custodian until the seed should come.” Note well the temporal aspect, “until.”

But now that the “seed” has come, namely, Jesus, the custodianship of the Law with its social distinctions and rituals like circumcision no longer has jurisdiction over God’s covenant community:
  • 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” - (Galatians 3:19-29).

Thus, in Jesus, all ethnic, cultural, and social boundaries are eliminated. Inclusion in the covenant, including all its promised blessings, is based on the “faith of Jesus,” not on biological descent. The Apostle’s statement is unequivocal: Those who are “in Christ,” whether Jew or not, are the heirs and children of Abraham.



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