Wednesday, February 8, 2023

God's Promises to Abraham and the Book of Genesis

I have mentioned in my sermons on Genesis that God’s promises to Abraham can be summarized as four: (1) blessed fellowship with God, (2) offspring, (3), land, and (4) worldwide blessing on the nations. I first came across this way of summarizing these promises in Joe Morecraft’s commentary on the Westminster Larger Catechism. It has stuck with me for over ten years, and I have found it a useful summary not only of the promises of the Abrahamic covenant, but also of themes that can be found throughout Genesis. Consider how these themes can be found in Genesis' account of creation, Abraham, and Jacob's sons:

(1) Blessed fellowship with God - “And God blessed them”: Creation (Gen. 1:28), Abraham (Gen. 12:2-3, 15:1, 22:17), Jacob’s blessings (esp. Gen. 48:15-16, 49:22-26)

(2) Seed / Offspring - “Be fruitful and multiply”: Creation (Gen. 1:26, 28), Abraham (Gen. 12:2, 15:1-6, 17:7, 22:17), the future of the 12 sons (Gen. 49), esp. Judah.

(3) Land - “subdue it, and have dominion”: Creation (Gen. 1:26-30), Abraham (Gen. 12:1, 15:7-21, 17:8, 22:17), Jacob’s burial, Joseph’s bones (Gen. 49-50).

(4) Worldwide blessing on the nations - “fill the earth”: Creation (Gen. 1:26-28), Abraham (Gen. 12:3, 17:4-6, 22:18), through Judah (Gen. 49:10) and Joseph (Gen. 50:20).

This promises continue to be unfolded in the rest of Scripture. For example, the promise of land was not only fulfilled in ancient Israel’s possession of Canaan, but also in Christ’s possession of the world and our share in his kingdom, initially and progressively realized in this life and consummated in glory (Ps. 2:8, Rom. 4:13, Matt. 5:5, Heb. 11:10).

Likewise, concerning the promise of offspring, God promised (1) to be the God of Abraham’s offspring, (2) through his offspring to bring about redemption and renewed blessing, and (3) to give him abundant offspring, making of him a great nation as numerous as the stars. The offspring is thus (1) the descendants of Abraham, provided they come to share the faith of their father Abraham, (2) Jesus Christ, the chief son of Abraham, through whom the promises are fulfilled, and (3) the church, all those from all nations who are grafted into his family by their connection to Christ. “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Galatians 3:29). And as heirs of the promises, they are received into the visible church with their offspring, like Abraham was (Acts 16:15, 31-34).

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