The Faith of Abraham

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

In his letter to the churches of Rome, the Apostle Paul presents Abraham as the great example of faith for Jewish and Gentile believers, the model for every man and woman who would choose to live “from faith” to follow. Moreover, he called Abraham the “Heir of the World.”

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

In the Kingdom of God, 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 as he did will inherit the “
world” or kosmos, a territory rather larger than Palestine - (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 the promises, Abraham became the “father” of everyone who is “from faith,” circumcised or not, both Jewish and Gentile. All men from that faith become 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,” rather than “by faith” or “by the works of the law” - (Romans 3:21-22). The distinction is important since Paul uses 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 adopting the “faith of Abraham” is a verbal link to his explanation in Chapter 3 of Romans concerning 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 brings salvation, 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 to the gracious gift of God - (Romans 3:22).

References in the text to “promise” and “heir” point to future realities. For Abraham and his “seed,” the promised inheritance is the entire “world” or kosmos, not just Canaan though it is certainly included in the inheritance. Paul has universalized the original promise of a small territory 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 according to 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.” God appointed Abraham to be the “Father of many nations,” not just 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 of Romans. We have received the “Spirit of adoption” and call God our “Father.” If we are His “children,” then are we also the “heirs of God” and the “coheirs” of Jesus, and therefore we 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 when Jesus arrives from Heaven – (Romans 8:15-23).

Abraham qualified for this inheritance because he believed in the promises 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.”

Thus, Paul finds the promise of territory to Abraham is being fulfilled as men and women from every nation are gathered into the Church in response to the Gospel. Like the Patriarch Abraham, we will inherit the “world.” The Gospel is, in fact, part of the “blessing of Abraham” promised for the Gentiles or “nations,” and its proclamation will culminate in the resurrection of the righteous and the New Creation (the Greek noun ‘ethnos’ means “Gentile” and “nation”).

Thus, the covenant and its promises find fulfillment in Jesus, the “Seed of Abraham,” and in the Good News of the Kingdom proclaimed by him and his followers. All men who respond to the “faith of Jesus” with faith in him and what God did for them in Christ 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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