As I’ve recently devoted myself to the study of the Old Testament as a basis and a foundation for the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I am reminded that I am not a Jew, a descendant of Abraham. I cannot establish my lineage to any of the tribes of Israel; therefore, I fall under the Gentile category. Now, by the Sovereignty and Authority of God, His Word, and His appointment of Paul as an Apostle of Christ, I take on faith what the scriptures say… that through Christ, I’ve been adopted into the Kingdom of Heaven. We looked at how Jesus Christ presented Himself as the atoning sacrifice, forever paying the debt incurred by Adam. Was God’s covenant with Abraham only with his descendents? Let’s take a look at the covenant, and then lets see what Paul has to say about it. My goal here is to continue to break down the artificial divide between the Old and New Testaments that contemporary Christianity has erected thereby treating the New Testament as its own, self-reliant, text.
Genesis 12:1-3 (NASB)
12 Now the Lord said to Abram,
“Go forth from your country,
And from your relatives
And from your father’s house,
To the land which I will show you;
2 And I will make you a great nation,
And I will bless you,
And make your name great;
And so you shall be a blessing;
3 And I will bless those who bless you,
And the one who curses you I will curse.
And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”
In Abraham, all of the earth will be blessed. But this wasn’t the end of it… God later establishes a covenant with Abraham
Genesis 17:1-8 (NASB)
17 Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him,
“I am God Almighty;
Walk before Me, and be blameless.
2 “I will establish My covenant between Me and you,
And I will multiply you exceedingly.”
3 Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying,
4 “As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you,
And you will be the father of a multitude of nations.
5 “No longer shall your name be called Abram,
But your name shall be Abraham;
For I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.
6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and kings will come forth from you. 7 I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you. 8 I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.”
What an amazing covenant, such a blessed gift. An everlasting covenant, and this is God’s chosen people. In the generations that would follow, the children of Israel (Abraham > Isaac > Jacob (who God renames Israel)) find their identity as God’s chosen people in the circumcision. In fact, this becomes a recurring problem in the early church, when the Jews in the church started teaching that the Gentiles who believed the Gospel had to be circumcised (Gal 5:1-12).
Romans 4:1-17 (NASB) Justification by Faith Evidenced in Old Testament
4 What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. 5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:
7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven,
And whose sins have been covered.
8 “Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account.”
9 Is this blessing then on the circumcised, or on the uncircumcised also? For we say, “Faith was credited to Abraham as righteousness.” 10 How then was it credited? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised; 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, 12 and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham which he had while uncircumcised.
13 For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith. 14 For if those who are of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is nullified; 15 for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, there also is no violation.
16 For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, 17 (as it is written, “A father of many nations have I made you”) in the presence of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist.
Paul, a Pharisee, knew the Law and the Prophets. The Holy Spirit revealed to him the Truth in the Old Testament that it was not the circumcision that earned Abram his righteousness… it was his faith in God that was credited to him as righteousness. In fact, he makes the case that the circumcision is a sign affirming the circumcision of the heart that happened when Abram believed God. So, being saved by grace, through faith wasn’t invented in the New Testament… it was the very method by which Abram was saved and chosen by God. The circumcision of the heart being made more important than physical circumcision is NOT a new testament invention… but simply a revelation of the truth of what was already there in Genesis. In fact, take some time to read through the book of Hebrews… Paul makes his case to the Jews and in Ch 11 he just has to stop short so he can move on to the next point, let see how he does it:
Hebrews 11:32-34 (NASB) 32 And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.
Time will fail me if… Paul is saying that if we look throughout the Scriptures, we will find again and again that it was by faith that all things were given to them in God’s Will. We don’t become Jews, we remain in the category of Gentiles, as far as bloodlines and Earthly inheritance. However, in Christ, we are all declared sons of God, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:14-17). If then, our identity is in Christ Jesus and we live by the Spirit of God, then we are made the sons of God. From there on any squabbles about Jew/Gentile becomes little more than that of the firstborn son and the second (an issue of authority/blessing NOT equality for they are both sons).
In closing, I’d like to include the following passage from Hebrews 12 as a prayer for us as we continue studying God’s Word and applying it to our lives in full submission to Him:
Hebrews 12:1-2 (NASB) 12 Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
May the Lord God bless you and keep you