The Faith of Abraham

In the Book of Genesis, God implemented His plan to redeem humanity by establishing His covenant with Abraham, beginning with the summons for the Patriarch to leave his homeland and journey to the “land I will show you.” Yahweh would produce a “great nation” from him, and the covenant would bless all the “Tribes of the Earth.” From the start, the promise of territory was central to the Abrahamic Covenant.

In his letter to the churches of Rome, the Apostle Paul presents Abraham as the great exemplar of faith for Jewish and Gentile believers, the model for every man and woman who chooses to live “from faith” to emulate. Moreover, he designated Abraham as the “Heir of the World.”

Earth globe - Photo by Gaël Gaborel on Unsplash
[Photo by Gaël Gaborel on Unsplash]

In God’s Kingdom, the original promise of land in Canaan finds its fulfillment in the coming resurrection and the New Creation. Thus, the Patriarch and those who live from the same faith will inherit the “
world” or kosmos - (Romans 4:11-17, Genesis 17:4-5).

In Genesis, God declared Abraham “right” and reckoned his faith as “righteousness” while he remained uncircumcised. He was justified apart from the “works of the Law,” namely, the Torah that was given centuries later and required that all males be circumcised.

Because of his faith in God’s promise, Abraham became the “father” of everyone who is “from faith,” circumcised or not. All who are from that faith are members of the “Seed of Abraham,” and therefore, heirs of the covenant.

The Greek preposition used in the passage or ek means “FROM [ek] faith” and “FROM [ek] the works of the law,” NOT “by faith” or “by the works of the law” - (Romans 3:21-22). The distinction is important since Paul used the story of Abraham to echo his statement at the start of the Letter – the “righteousness of God is being revealed FROM faith FOR faith” – (Romans 1:17).

His reference to believers emulating the “faith of Abraham” is a verbal link to his explanation in Chapter 3 about how men are justified before God - “The righteousness of God through THE FAITH OF JESUS CHRIST, FOR all those who believe.”

It is not generic faith or the exercise of faith by itself that saves, but the source, content, and target of that faith. Sinners are justified “from” (ek) the faith or faithfulness of Jesus, and they respond accordingly by placing faith in him and what God accomplished in his Death and Resurrection. His act of “obedience unto death” justifies and saves. All we can do is respond in faith - (Romans 3:22).

References to “promise” and “heir” point to future realities. For Abraham and his “seed,” the promised inheritance is the entire “world” or kosmos. Paul thus universalized the original promise of a small territory in Palestine to include the “world,” the Cosmos.

HEIR OF THE WORLD


The promise was to Abraham and “his seed,” the group that includes all those who walk in the same faith that he did, the “faith of Abraham.” The inheritance is through faith and grace; therefore, the “promise is firm to all the seed.” Yahweh appointed Abraham to be the “Father of many nations,” not just of Israel.

The description of him as the “heir of the world” and the “father of all who believe” anticipates the detailed discussion of our future hope in Chapter 8. We have received the “Spirit of adoption” and call God “Father.” If we are His “children,” then are we also the “heirs of God” and the “coheirs” of Jesus who will participate in his “glory.”

Regardless of the sufferings of this present life, the “coheirs” of Christ will be “delivered from bondage and corruption” when they receive the “redemption of their bodies,” namely, the bodily resurrection Jesus arrives from Heaven – (Romans 8:15-23).

Abraham qualified for this inheritance because he believed the promise of the same God who “raises the dead and calls the things that are not into being.” Paul applies this to the Patriarch’s belief that God would grant him “seed” as promised, namely Isaac, even though Sarah’s womb was “dead.”

Promised Land - Photo by Blake Avery on Unsplash
[Photo by Blake Avery on Unsplash]

Thus, Paul finds the fulfillment of the promise of territory to Abraham as men and women from every nation are gathered into the Assembly as the Gospel is proclaimed to the nations. Like Abraham, they will inherit the “
world.” The Gospel is, in fact, part of the “blessing of Abraham” promised for the Gentiles, and its proclamation will culminate in the resurrection and the New Creation.

The Abrahamic Covenant finds its fulfillment in Jesus, the “Seed of Abraham,” and in the Good News of the Kingdom proclaimed by his followers to “the uttermost parts of the Earth.” All men who respond to the “faith of Jesus” with faith become “children of Abraham” and therefore ”heirs of the world.”



RELATED POSTS:
  • Inheritance of Abraham - (Believers are the heirs of Abraham, and the possession of their inheritance is secured by possession of the Gift of the Spirit)
  • Saved by his Life - (Paul’s Gospel from humanity's plight due to sin to the resurrection of the dead through Jesus of Nazareth)
  • Coheirs with Jesus - (The covenant with Abraham is fulfilled in Jesus, his seed and heir, including the promise of land – Romans 8:1-23)

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