The Place of the Abrahamic Covenant in the Salvation of Mankind


Chapter 3 - A DIVINE LEGAL INSTRUMENT

Brother John Thomas refers to the Abrahamic Covenant as a Divine Legal Instrument (Exposition of Daniel, p.43) What follows is an attempt to set forth the Covenant in a form that delineates its details in a formal manner.

THE ABRAHAMIC COVENANT A DIVINE LEGAL INSTRUMENT

This covenant made this day in the year + 2000 B.C. BETWEEN:

PARTIES

The Lord God Almighty, Yahweh Elohim, who dwelleth in the heavens, The party of the first part, and,
Abraham, Son of Terah, Son of Nahor, Formerly of Ur of the Chaldees, and dwelling in the land of Canaan; The party of the second part.

RECITALS

WHEREAS God had said unto Abraham, "Get thee out of thy country and from thy kindred and from they father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee." and,
WHEREAS Abraham obeyed this injunction.

CONSIDERATION

NOW, THEREFORE, in consideration of the performance by Abraham of all of God's commandments, THIS COVENANT WITNESSETH THAT:

TERMS

  1. God will make of Abraham a great nation. (Gen 12)
  2. God will bless Abraham and make Abraham's name great and Abraham shall be a blessing. (Gen 12)
  3. God will bless them that bless Abraham and curse him that curseth Abraham.
  4. In Abraham shall all families of the earth be blessed.
  5. God covenants to give to Abraham and to his seed, all the land of Canaan forever. (Gen 13)
  6. God covenants to count the faith of Abraham for righteousness. (Gen 15)
  7. Abraham covenants to walk before God in an upright and blameless manner. (Gen 17)
  8. God covenants to multiply Abraham exceedingly. (Gen 17)
  9. God covenants to make Abraham the father of many nations. (Gen 17)
  10. God covenants to cause Kings to be among Abraham's progeny. (Gen 17)
  11. The Almighty covenants to be a God unto Abraham and to Abraham's seed forever. (Gen 17)
  12. God covenants to allow the seed of Abraham to join in the covenant herein. (Gen 17)
  13. God proclaims the terms of the Covenant more particularly in the OATH hereinafter set forth: (Gen 22:16-18)

OATH

WHEREAS Abraham has not withheld his son, his only son,
The LORD GOD ALMIGHTY makes OATH and says, swearing by Himself, that I will:

a) Bless Abraham

b) Multiply Abraham as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is upon the seashore.

c) Give possession of the gate of HIS enemies to the singular seed of Abraham.

d) Bless all nations of the earth in Abraham's (singular) seed. (Gal 3:16)
Sworn by angelic visitation before Abraham to demonstrate the immutability of the
Covenant. (Heb 6:17)

HEIRS

This covenant shall endure to the benefit of, and be binding upon, the parties hereto and upon Abraham's seed who voluntarily join in the covenant herein. (Gal 3:29)

SEAL

In witness hereof, Abraham agrees to seal this covenant by circumcising every man-child among his household and his progeny.

CONFIRMATION

Abraham, at the request of God, took an heifer of 3 years old, and a she-goat of 3 years old, and a ram of 3 years old, and a turtle dove and a young pigeon and divide the animals in the midst and when the sun went down and it was dark, behold a smoke furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces. (Gen 15:17) (Jer 34:18).

RATIFICATION

This covenant shall not become fully operative and effectual until the coming and the shedding of the blood of the perfectly righteous seed to whom the promise is made. (Jesus Christ: Gal 3:17-19. Rom, 15:8)

Covenant-Making Parties

Is it proper to make a comparison between the divinely-given Abrahamic covenant and covenants such as men have made over the course of time in their business dealings? The writer to the Hebrews makes this kind of allusion to human covenants: "For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife. Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath..." (Heb. 6:15-17)

Therefore as the Scriptures themselves establish a connection between the covenants of men and the covenant God made with men, it is appropriate that we should examine the nature of covenants in order to come to a better understanding of the Abrahamic covenant

The reason that God made an oath, after the manner of men, was to provide the highest possible assurance to those who would be the heirs of salvation of the certainty of His intentions. However, let it be clearly stated that, in making reference to human covenants there is one sense in which there is no comparison to the Abrahamic covenant. God and man are not equal parties when it comes to covenant-making. God initiated the covenant in saying, "I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly". (Gen. 17:2) Abraham responded by his obedient carrying out of circumcision for himself and all the men of his household.

We wish now to comment on certain terms......... of the Covenant.

Term #3: Gen. 12:3 states: "I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee..". In these days when anti-Semitism is rife in our society and when the nations of the world have virtually isolated the Nation of Israel making it "stand alone", Christadelphians need to be reminded that anti-Semitism has no place either locally or nationally, in our thinking. Israel is still the chosen people of God and to this day provide the principal witness to the veracity of the Bible. (Isa. 43:10).

Gen. 12:3 continues by saying, "In thee (Abraham) shall all nations of the earth be blessed." The phrase, in thee should be particularly attended to.

There are only five men in the whole Bible with whom the preposition "in" is associated. They are: Adam, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Jesus Christ. It is necessary to understand that the word "in" when used in association with these three men, carries the connotation of constitution. Let us look at the last-named man: Christ, first.

When the Bible speaks of a person being "in Christ" it is obvious that it must be in a figurative sense. Just as Jesus reminded Nicodemus that the expression, "born again" was not literal but figurative, so the expression "in Christ" is also figurative. It does not mean that the person is inside of Christ, but rather it means that the person is constitutionally attached and conjoined to him. It expresses a new relationship, predicated on belief and obedience, that did not exist before.

In order for the new relationship to be established, there must be a means for in-duction according to a prescribed formula. The formula for induction into the Christ-body of believers is by a valid baptism in water. Upon arising from the waters of baptism, the candidate is then "In Christ" constitutionally and is entitled to all the benefits of the new relationship.

The Scriptures also speak of the human race as being "In Adam" and two of the five men are combined in I Cor. 15:22: "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." All men are constitutionally "in Adam" at birth. Adam's sin breached his relationship to God. He was driven out of the Garden of Eden. All of his posterity are born outside the Garden and inherit a proneness to sin and the inevitability of death.

One of the terms of the Abrahamic Covenant is: "In THEE shall all families of the earth be blessed." Now we examine the second person to whom the constitutional term IN is associated. The concept of "In Abraham" is one of the most misunderstood expressions in the whole Bible.

The reason for the misunderstanding is that the only inheritors of the kingdom of God (from this dispensation) are the seed of Abraham. No others qualify as being the "heirs of salvation". (Heb. 1:14)

The blessings nominated in the Covenant are confined to Abraham and his seed. Unless a person qualifies as a "seed of Abraham" he has no part nor lot in the blessings of the Covenant. Only people who are described as "heirs" of the Covenant become beneficiaries of the promised benefits.

In this connection, the situation is something like being a beneficiary or heir under the terms of a will or testament. It does not matter how nice a fellow one is or how strongly one feels that one is entitled to the legacy of the deceased, unless one is named as an heir and beneficiary in the will, any claims to heirship are null and void.

Similarly, unless a person (somehow or other) becomes a seed of Abraham and hence an heir of the covenant, that person cannot participate in the benefits and blessings contained in the Covenant. It is necessary to recognize that in both a will and a covenant, there is a definite exclusivity. The exclusiveness is determined by whether or not a person qualifies as a legal heir or not.

Now it is perfectly obvious that Gentiles are not part of the posterity of Abraham, a Jew Therefore, unless divine provision is made for Gentiles to become beneficiaries under the terms of the Covenant by means of becoming a seed of Abraham, they are excluded from the promised blessings.

Fortunately, divine provision has been made for Gentile participation and this will be discussed later in this monograph.

Before leaving this part of our discussion, another distinctive feature of the Abrahamic Covenant should be recognized. In one part of the Covenant, God promised that: "In THEE" (Abraham) shall all families of the earth be blessed". (Gen 12:3). In another part of the Covenant, God promised: "IN THY SEED shall all nations of the earth be blessed." (Gen 22:13) It is obvious from the context of this latter quotation that the seed is singular i.e. one person. This can be shown by the usage in the previous verse, "and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies". (Gen. 22:17 KJV). The use of the word his denotes a singular seed. This is in contrast to the use of the word their, which denotes a plural seed and is so used in Genesis 17:7.

The apostle Paul identifies who this singular seed is: "God did not say, 'and to seeds' as if speaking of many, but 'and to your seed' since he spoke of only one - and this is Christ." (Gal. 3:16. Weymouth)

This is an apparent paradox. On the one hand God promised that the blessing of all nations of the earth would come to those "In Abraham". On the other hand, God promised that the blessing of all nations of the earth would come to those "In Christ". This enigma is solved by the apostle Paul in Gal 3:29: "If ye be Christ's, THEN are ye Abraham's seed and heirs according to the promise." Paul had just previously in Gal. 3:27 announced that the formula for induction into Christ was baptism: "For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ..." From this it is evident that a valid baptism puts a person constitutionally "In Christ" and then he is also constitutionally "In Abraham". (A man cannot be in one without being in the other).

To summarize: A valid baptism into Christ puts a person constitutionally in Christ. This rite also constitutes the person a legal seed of Abraham. Being in this legal position, the person then becomes an heir of the covenant and a full beneficiary of the promised blessings which involve a resurrection from the dead and a potential eternal inheritance necessitating the bestowal of immortality.

Besides Adam, Abraham and Jesus Christ, the constitutional word in is used in Scripture in the case of both Isaac and Jacob. The Abrahamic covenant: was, by extension, conferred also upon Abraham's son and grandson. The divine dictum was: "in Isaac shall thy seed be called". When the Almighty extended the Covenant to Jacob (Israel) the two ideas namely: "In thee" and "In thy seed" are combined by God when he said to Israel: "In thee AND in thy seed, shall all families of the earth be blessed." The atonement of Jesus Christ (the singular seed of Abraham) is the means by which the multitudinous seed of Abraham are going to be blessed.

The kingdom of God is the institution that will administer the blessings of the Abrahamic Covenant.

Baptism: Before - The Act Itself - and After

The act of baptism, immersion in water, has properly been described as the watershed of a person's life. Jesus' dictum: "Except a man be born of water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" (John 3:5) stands just as unchangeable today as it did when the master uttered it.

Before Baptism

Belief of the gospel is the first condition of salvation and of a valid baptism. A short definition of the Gospel is: The things concerning the Kingdom of God and the Name of Jesus Christ (Acts 8:12). The apostle Paul informs us that the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth it (Rom. 1:16). He further discloses that the Gospel was preached before to Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed (Gal. 3:8). In order to believe a matter it is necessary that it be understood and accepted.

In order that a baptism be valid therefore, it is necessary that the things concerning the Kingdom of God in all its bearings be understood and believed.

In addition, the things concerning the name of Jesus Christ must be understood and believed, particularly the fact that God provided the evidence of His power over the grave inasmuch as He raised Jesus from the dead and that Jesus was the firstfruits of them that slept. It was exceedingly appropriate for Jesus then to declare, I am the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25).

Furthermore, the candidate for baptism must commit himself to develop the mind of our Lord, to love righteousness and hate iniquity, to work in the Lord's vineyard and to crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts.

The Act of Baptism Itself

When the candidate is validly baptized by immersion in water, the following results and benefits emanate at once.

BAPTISM

  1. Our relationship to God changes. We become sons of God. Rom. 8:16; Gal 4:5

  2. We become united with Jesus Christ, i.e., we change from "in Adam" to "in Christ" Rom. 6:3; I Cor. 15:22; Gal 3:27

  3. We join in the Abrahamic and Davidic covenant. Gen. 17:7; Isa. 55:3; Gal 3:27-29

  4. We become HEIRS of the everlasting covenant by adoption and engrafting.

    Rom. 8:15 - Adoption
    Rom. 11:17 - Engrafting
    Rom. 8:17 - Heirship
    Gal 3:29 - Heirs according to the promise

  5. We are baptized into Christ's death and receive remission of past personal sins. Rom. 6:3; Acts 2:38

  6. We are buried in water, raised in Christ, and we commit ourselves to: (1) Walk in newness of life; (2) Obedience to God. Rom. 6:4; Rom. 6:11-13; Col. 2:12; I John 5:3

  7. We are reconciled to God:

    (A) From the estrangement resulting from the transgression of Adam. Rom. 5:8-12,19-20; Rom. 3:23-24

    (B) From the alienation arising from our own personal sins. Rom. 3:25; Col 1:21

  8. We are washed, sanctified, justified. I Cor. 6:11

  9. We are made free from the law of sin and death by the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus. Rom. 8:1-2; Rom. 5:18

  10. We have the certain promise by our Master of THE RESURRECTION of the dead: to appear, together with all those having been in covenant relationship with God, faithful and unfaithful, at the judgment seat of Christ. Rom. 6:5; II Cor. 4:14; Rom. 14:10-12; II Cor. 5:10

    RESULTS OF THE FOREGOING

  11. If found faithful: to receive the reward of eternal life in Christ's Kingdom. Rom. 8:11-18; Matt. 25:34

  12. If found unfaithful: to be cast into outer darkness, eternal destruction from the presence of the Lord, forever perished in the second death. II Thess. 1:740; Heb. 10:26-31; Matt. 25:41; Rev. 21:7-8.