Home » The Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing But the Truth » God’s Plan: Blessing All Nations through the Seed of Abraham

God’s Plan: Blessing All Nations through the Seed of Abraham

Introduction

 Matthew 28:19-20 is the Great Commission and Christ’s final words while on earth to the church.  This mandate illustrates the Lord’s intention for the Body of Christ to go to the utter ends of the world to proclaim the good news.  The church is not called to be or characterized as a holy huddle, but rather an evangelistic sending agency.  Acts 1:8 declares that church is to be witnesses of Christ.  That is to say that the believer is to give testimony to the mighty acts of Christ as a faithful witness.  Simply put, Christ followers must tell the world about Jesus for communicating the gospel to every man and woman was God’s idea from the very beginning and ultimately speaks to God’s very nature.

World evangelism was God’s plan from the very beginning as it was revealed to us in the Abrahamic Covenant.  God did not choose Israel to simply flex His sovereign power and extend blessing to a favored people.  God chose Abraham to be the Father of a special nation in order to bless all of mankind.  The book of Genesis reveals how God would specifically accomplish this task.  He would elevate a nation for the sole purpose of blessing the world.  In Genesis 12 God’s first recorded encounter with Abraham is detailed.  During that experience God promised to make Abraham a great and mighty nation.  God told Abraham that He would bless him and make his name great.  In Genesis 15, God makes it clear that He alone would be responsible in fulfilling the covenant and in chapter 17 indicates that this covenant would be an everlasting one.  In Genesis chapters 18 and 22 God reiterates the terms of his promises and the initial outworking is evidenced.  Although multiple Old Testament and New Testament text reference the promises sworn by God to Abraham by oath, perhaps Isaiah indicates how God would achieve such purpose.[1]  God would preserve the nation of Israel in order to give the world a Savior.  Of course Isaiah speaks to the Messianic hope that the Jews were anticipating, but this promise was not for the Jews only; the Messiah was the “light to the Gentiles”[2].  God’s plan was to bless the world through the seed of Abraham by establishing an everlasting covenant.

Establishing the Covenantal Context

The book of Genesis can be divided into 2 subsections.[3]  The Primeval History is recorded from Genesis 1:1-11:32 while the Patriarchal History is found from Genesis 12:1-50:26.  The Primeval narratives reveal multiple covenants initiated by God with man.  These of oaths offered by God were articulated to certain individuals yet represented a general commitment to humanity.  Covenants such as the Edenic, Adamic and Noahic Covenants were extended post creation, post fall of man and post flood to speak of God’s grace to man and His general commitment to man.  However after the Tower of Babel, the narratives recorded in Genesis slowed down considerably and focused upon the patriarchs of Israel beginning with Abraham.  It is at this moment in time in which God initiated a new covenant; the Abrahamic Covenant.

The Abrahamic Covenant is one of the most significant covenants in Scripture because its provisions conditioned the blessings and immediate life of Abraham and are the key to the subsequent history of Israel as well as the explanation of God’s purpose to all other saints.[4]  Upon God’s first recorded encounter with Abraham in Genesis 12 through God reaffirming His promise to Abraham a final time in Genesis 22, seven provisions within God’s covenant are clearly identified.[5]  First, there was a promise that a great nation would rise.  Second, there was a promise that personal blessing would be extended to Abraham.  Third, there was a promise that Abraham’s name would become great.  Fourth, there was a promise that Abraham would bless other people.  Fifth, there was a promise that blessing would come to those that blessed Abraham.  Sixth, there was a promise that a curse would fall upon those that cursed Abraham.  Finally, there was a promise that all the nations of the world would be blessed through Abraham and his seed.

These seven provisions represent particular promises that are critical in understanding the Bible.  The covenant offers critical insight in four vital areas.  First, the covenant identifies the personal promises given to Abraham.  Second, the covenant reveals the national promises to the nation of Israel.  Third, the covenant establishes the principle of blessing or cursing upon other nations based upon their attitude to Abraham and his seed.  And finally, the covenant offers a universal blessing through Abraham which is ultimately fulfilled through Christ.  For these reasons Walvoord contends, “…that the covenant with Abraham is one of the important and determinative revelations of Scripture.  It furnishes the key to the entire Old Testament and reaches for its fulfillment into the New.”[6]  Therefore, having come to this conclusion Walvoord believes that, “The analysis of its [the covenant’s] provisions and the character of their fulfillment set the mood for the entire body of the Scriptural truth.”[7]  Murray has emphasized that the Abrahamic Covenant, “…underlies the whole subsequent development of God’s redemptive promise, word and action.”[8]  Murray elaborated that, “The redemptive grace of God in the highest and furthest reaches of its realization is the unfolding of the promise given to Abraham and therefore the unfolding of the Abrahamic Covenant.”[9]  For these reasons Essex indicates that, “All segments of evangelicalism recognize the importance of a proper understanding of this covenant.”[10]  This would suggest that scholarship agrees that Abraham’s covenant is critical for it establishes one’s theological perspective and therefore must be considered carefully.  House went as far as to say, “Simply stated, it is hard to overstate this section’s importance in biblical literature and thus biblical theology.”[11]

Extending the Covenantal Call

In Genesis 1:1 God calls the universe into existence by the power of His word.  In like manner in Genesis 12:1 God calls a special people into existence by the power of His word.[12]  In God’s first encounter with Abraham, God establishes a path of faith which began with His word.  Abraham’s journey of faith began with the word of the Lord,  “Now the Lord had said unto Abram.”[13]  This is a consistent theme illustrated throughout the narratives of Scripture, but specifically is disclosed in the letter to the Romans.  Paul writes, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”[14]  Therefore, in order for Abraham to have taken his steps of faith, the seeds of faith had to be sown by the word of the Lord.  Therefore, Abraham’s believing began with God.  That is to say that God initiated the covenant with man.  This distinction is significant for several reasons.  First, the covenant which promised blessing was initiated by God and not by man.  The bible says in Ephesians, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  Not of works, lest any man should boast.”[15]  It must be noted that God is the author of salvation for it is by His grace that man has a redemption plan.  Man’s faith in God began with a statement from God.  God did not move in the life of Abraham because Abraham was living up to a measurable standard that warranted God’s interaction.  On the contrary, Abraham was in a pagan land characterized by men seeking to make themselves a name.[16]  But God, in mercy and grace, spoke revelation to man and planted the seed of faith which sprung up in the heart of Abraham.  Second, this distinction also identifies that man’s living is to be directed by God and not by man himself.  God did more than offer a declaration about life, God extended real direction in life.  The Word of God broke through the darkness of the day and extended a promise to Abraham, “Get thee out of thy country…unto a land that I will shew thee.[17]  God wanted to lead Abraham to a new place in order to establish a new people.  This was a new pilgrimage that the Lord was leading.  Abraham was on a new journey of faith as directed by God.  Thirdly, the distinction made that God initiated the covenant is significant because God’s revelation requires a response from man.   In other words, once there is a statement of faith from God, there must be a step of faith from man.  “So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken unto him;[18]  Abraham stepped out according to the word of the Lord and began his journey of faith for he no longer walked by sight, but rather he lived by faith.

This faith walk issues a call upon the man.  This call is a call to separation.  As God revealed Himself, He called Abraham to separate himself unto the Lord.  “Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee:[19]  This separation was not without a steep price.  A man was identified in the ancient world as a member of his father’s household.  When the head of the house died, the heir of the household would inherit the head’s title and assume all his responsibilities including the ownership of ancestral lands and property.[20]  When Abraham left his father’s household, he abandoned his right to the family’s property.  Land, family and inheritance were among the most important things in antiquity.[21]  When Abraham left his home, he forfeited his security and placed his survival, identity and future at risk.[22]  Ultimately, this call of separation is answered by a willingness to be obedient.  Abraham, after receiving the word from the Lord, obediently stepped out in faith not knowing where he ultimately was going.[23]

Examining the Covenantal Content

Abraham’s journey of faith was not always easy as evidenced by perilous circumstances which threatened and endangered the promised seed.  The strife from personal dealings with Pharaoh,[24] internal family difficulties with Lot and Hagar[25] as well as the confederations which had declared war[26] were circumstances which seemed to cause fear and doubt regarding the Lord’s promise.  However, the Lord’s covenant to bless Abraham, to rise up a mighty nation and to bless all nations of the world through his seed was ratified and consistently reaffirmed for this was God’s ultimate plan and mission knowing that Christ would eventually come through the lineage of Abraham.[27]  In like manner, the church of today is an entity with a mission; God’s mission of blessing all the nations of the world through the seed of Abraham in the person of Christ is the mission of the church.

The term “mission” refers to everything that the church is doing which points toward the kingdom of God.[28]  The Christian mission rests squarely upon biblical revelation.  As Scripture is studied, God’s nature in regards to mission initiatives is clearly seen.  In the Bible, a divine drama revealing the benevolent nature of God is seen woven into the fabric of the Old and New Testament narratives.[29]  There are implications in American pop culture that God is a God of wrath in the Old Testament.  From this point of view, God is believed to exhibit love in the New Testament dispensation only.[30]  However, this is not true.  From the opening verses of Scripture God’s mission themes are clearly evident and then expanded upon within the entire canon of Scripture.  Perhaps the best way to recognize God’s nature is to examine the thematic events throughout Scripture.  One way is to explore the major events of the Bible, is to examine the events of God’s word as one would watch the acts of a play unfold.

Scripture can be divided into 7 acts with Abrahamic Covenant serving a pivotal role in God’s story of redemption:  The creation and fall of man, Abraham’s call and setting a people apart for Himself, God’s deliverance of His people, God exiling His people, God saving His people, God sanctifying His people and God renewing all of creation through the atoning work of His Son.[31]  These acts discloses God’s specific mission and reveals His missionary nature to bless the whole world.  Therefore, God’s love for all people and the Christian’s responsibility in light of God’s mission is compelling.  The body of Christ must define a theological approach to mission.

Mission theology is often seen as merely a specialized study confined to the mission departments of American colleges and seminaries.[32]   However, if God’s concern is for all the nations of the world to be evangelized and called to worship, then theology mission is at the core of all theological studies.  In other words, mission theology is not simply fitted somewhere within the structural walls of theology, mission theology serves as the foundation in which all other theological matters rest upon and spring forth.  Mission theology is at the heart of the church’s theology serving as theology’s core.  Mission theology is only superseded by the Bible itself for the Word of God is the ultimate authority to guide the believer in all matters of faith and practice.  The Holy Scripture alone provides the general principles on which a mission theology can be built.  Once a proper theology of mission is established, the mission theology can support a guiding theme.

As the mission is defined, the believer has an eternal perspective in which to follow and function.  The central need of humanity is then made evident.  Every person needs to be redeemed in order to reestablish a living and loving relationship with God.  The ultimate goal is for man to love God with all his heart, soul, and mind.[33]

Once the need of man is discovered the mission becomes obvious and is appropriately articulated in the Great Commission of the church.[34]  The commission identifies the specific functions necessary in reestablishing man’s relationship with God.  First, there must be an effective witness of Christ.[35]  The church must share the gospel of Christ communicating God’s plan to redeem fallen man.  This is accomplished with a personal and public witness both verbally and relationally.  Second, the believer is to build up and edify those who have responded to the gospel message and have committed their lives to the Lord.  This can be achieved the discipleship efforts of the local church.  The church should serve as a place where believers are nurtured, strengthened and encouraged in the faith.  The goal of every church should be to lead others to live a life that loves God with all ones heart, soul and mind.  Finally, the mission of the church compels the believer to live as the light of the world.[36]  Therefore, the saint practically and specifically functions in radiating the message of Christ while dispelling the darkness of the world.  Therefore, every believer regardless of whether he is a fulltime missionary, church leader or layman is called to participate in God’s mission.

Conclusion

The Great Commission outlined in Matthew 28:19-20 is Christ’s final words while on earth to the church.  This mandate illustrates the Lord’s intention for the Body of Christ to go to the utter ends of the world to proclaim the good news.  In like manner Acts 1:8 declares that church is to be witnesses of Christ.  Simply put, Christ followers must tell the world about Jesus for communicating the gospel to every man and woman was God’s idea from the very beginning and ultimately speaks to God’s very nature.

McRaney stated that, “God created people to live for an eternity.  People are born to live forever.”[37]  He went on to say that God’s desire is to, “…establish a redemptive relationship with all of humankind.”[38]  This relationship illustrates the value God has placed on people.  God has gone to great lengths to seek and to save that which is lost.[39]  He values His sheep.  He values people.  In like manner the church should place significant emphasis on people.  Efforts in personal evangelism should reflect a similar concern that Christ has for lost people.  The priority of personal evangelism is not the method or the minister, rather the priority is the people that need the Lord in their life.  In other words, personal evangelism is not about the program, it is about people.

The relationship which God desires with humanity is a redemptive relationship for God seeks an authentic fellowship with man.  This desired community with believers is a call to restoration and a life that is not lived in isolation.[40]  As the church has been reconciled to God, so must the church be engaged in a ministry of reconciliation.[41]  The body of Christ is to serve as ambassadors of Christ boldly engaging, sharing and leading others to know Jesus Christ as Savior.

Therefore, World evangelism was God’s plan from the very beginning as it was revealed to us in the Abrahamic Covenant.  God did not choose Israel to merely illustrate His sovereign power and extend favor to a privileged people.  Rather, God chose Abraham to be the Father of a special nation in order to bless all of mankind.  The narratives of the patriarchs found in the book of Genesis reveal how God specifically accomplished this task.  He elevated a nation for the sole purpose of blessing the world.  His encounter in Genesis 12 with Abraham was initiated by God to reveal His missiological plan for Abraham and ultimately the church.

Today, it is essential for the Christian to accurately understand God’s mission by studying the Abrahamic Covenant in order to competently relate God’s message and implement biblical evangelistic methods for world evangelism was God’s plan from the very beginning.  The Bible, through ordained events and circumstances, reveals the benevelent nature of God for it is woven into the fabric of the Old and New Testament narratives.  Therefore, God’s covenant serves as the foundation in which all other theological matters rest upon.   This enables every believer to specifically relate the mission of God to a world in need regardless of his vocation or position in today’s body of Christ.

God is sovereign and has purposely positioned man to join Him in His efforts to redeem fallen man.  As stewards believers are required to be found faithful[42], but the church is only to be witnesses to the power and purposes of Christ.[43]  It is Christ who has come to seek and to save that which is lost and only He who can draw men near.[44]  The believer has no saving power in himself.  However, he can (like Abraham) walk obediently pointing, positioning and pleading sinners to trust Christ as Savior.


[1] For promises sworn to Abraham as berit, see Old Testament text Exodus 2:24; 6:4-5; Leviticus 26:42-44; Deuteronomy 4:31; for promises sworn to Abraham by oath see Old Testament Exodus 13:5, 11; 33:1; Numbers 11:12; 14:16, 23; 32:11; Deuteronomy 1:8; 4:31; 7:7-8.  For New Testament references to Abraham’s covenant see Luke 1:72; Acts 3:25; 7:8; Galatians 3:17; 4:24.  For New Testament texts concerning the Lord’s promise to Abraham see Acts 7:17; Romans 4:13, 14, 16, 20; Galatians 3:16, 17, 18, 21, 29; 4:23; Hebrews 7:6; 11:9; 13, 17.

[2] See Isaiah 49:6.

 [3] Tremper Longman III and Raymond B. Dillard, And Introduction to the Old Testament, Second Edition (Grand Rapids; Zondervan, 2006) 53.

 [4] John F. Walvoord, “The fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant.” Bibliotheca Sacra 102, no. 405 (January 1, 1945): 27-36. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed May 2, 2012).

 [5] Ibid., 27.

 [6] John F. Walvoord, The Millennial Kingdom, (Grand Rapids: Dunham, 1959) 139.

[7] Ibid.

[8] John Murray, The Covenant of Grace (London: Tyndale, 1954) 4.

 [9] Ibid.

 [10] Keith H. Essex, “The Abrahamic Covenant.” Master’s Seminary Journal 10, no. 2 (September 1, 1999): 191-212. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed May 2, 2012).

 [11] Paul R. House, Old Testament Theology (Downers Grove: InterVarisity, 1998) 76.

 [12] W. Brueggemann, Genesis (Interp; John Knox; 1982) 105.

 [13] See Genesis 12:1.

 [14] See Romans 10:17.

 [15] See Ephesians 2:8-9.

 [16] See Genesis 11:4.

[17] See Genesis 12:1.

[18]  See Genesis 12:4.

[19] See Genesis 12:1.

 [20] John Walton, Victor H. Matthews, Mark W. Chavalas, The IVP Bible Background Commentary Old Testament (Downers Grove; IVP Academic, 2000) 43.

 [21] Ibid.

 [22] Ibid.

 [23] See Hebrew 11:8

 [24] See Genesis 12:10-20.

 [25] See Genesis 13; 16.

 [26] See Genesis 14.

 [27] See Genesis 12:7; 15; 17; 22:15-18.

 [28] Ralph D. Winter, Steven C. Hawthorne, Perspectives on the World Christian Movement:  A Reader, 3ed., (Pasadena: William Carey Library, 1999),  3.

 [29] A. Scott Moreau, Gary R. Corwin, Gary B. McGee, Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Survey, (Grand Rapids:  Baker Academic, 2006), 25.

 [30] Ibid., 27.

 [31] Ibid., 27-70.

 [32] Ibid., 74.

[33] See Mathew 22:37.

[34] See Mathew 28:19-20.

 [35] See Acts 1:8.

 [36] See Matthew 5:14.

 [37] Will McRaney Jr, The Art of Personal Evangelism (Nashville; Broadman and Holman, 2003) 15.

 [38] Ibid., 16.

 [39] See Luke 19:10.

[40] McRaney, The Art of Personal Evangelism, 17.

[41] See II Corinthians 5.

 [42] See II Corinthians 4:1-2.

 [43] See Acts 1:8.

 [44] See Luke 19:10, John 6:44.