By Faith Abraham
Overview of Abraham Narrative
The main themes:
(1) seed; (2) land; (3) blessing.
Divine promise that Abraham will have many descendants (Gen 12:2,7).
But, Sarah cannot have children (Gen 11:30).
So, the plot begins.
Sarah gives Abraham her slave - Hagar (Gen 16:1-4);
Gen 16:5 - Abraham names him and so acknowledges as his own.
But, that is not the plan of God.
Gen 17:15-21; 18:9-15 - God makes it clear that it Sarah, not Hagar, through He fulfil His promise.
Gen 21:1-7 - Isaac is born - the beginning of the fulfilment of the promise;
Gen 21:8-21 - Hagar and Ismael depart.
Gen 15:7-21 (particularly 15:13-14 - the revelation of delay)
Gen 21:25-31 - Abraham gets a well in Beersheba (well of seven or well of oath).
Gen 23:14-18 - Abraham buys a burial ground;
It is again the beginning of the fulfilment of the promise - a token of what will come.
Gen 22:16-18 - Abraham and his “seed” as a source of divine blessing (or possible a curse) for others.
The best example is the story of Abimelech:
Gen 20:1-18 - the possibility of curse (Gen 21:17) and the blessing.
But Gen 22:18 - shall be only fulfilled in the future.
The divine call (Gen 12:1-3)
Gen 12:1-3 - marks a new stage in the Bible.
A new relationship between God and humanity begins.
What characterises Abraham is his obedience.
On this obedience depends the realisation of the promise of seed, land, and blessing.
The highest point of this promise is:
“all the families of the ground may be blessed through you”.
Here, we get a glimpse into God’s plan - “to bless, not to curse, humanity”.
Gen 15 - the covenant
Gen 15:1-6 - God’s promise and Abraham’s response;
Gen 15:7-21 - the covenant and the prediction of the future of Abraham’s descendants.
Abraham’s righteousness is the result of his trust in God’s amazing promise.
Abraham did not do anything here.
He simple believed that God was able to do what He promised.
The covenants (Gen 15; 17)
1. Gen 15:
God guarantees that the fulfilment of His promise - Abraham’s descendant shall possess the land of Canaan.
2. Gen 17 - the covenant of circumcision.
If Gen 15 is unconditional - as an answer to Abraham’s faith, then Gen 17 is conditional on Abraham’s constant obedience (Gen 17:1-2).
“Walk before me [God] and be blameless” is the condition to the second covenant.
Gen 17 is also called an eternal covenant.
It embraces all those in Abraham’s household - including foreigners (Gen 17:12).
Finally, in Gen 17, there is the statement that Abraham “will be the father of many nations” (17:4-6).
Sarah also gets similar promise (Gen 17:16).
In Gen 17:5, the name of Abraham gets changed to stress the fact of being “the father of many nations”.
The same happened to Sarah (Gen 17:15-16).
See also Gen 28:3; 35:11 - for Jacob and Gen 45:8 for Joseph.
Both covenants complement each other.
The first (Gen 15) focuses on Abraham’s descendants and the land;
The second (Gen 17) refers to God's blessing through Abraham.
The divine oath in Gen 22:16-18
Gen 12:1-3 begins Abraham’s adventure in faith;
Gen 22:16-18 ends that adventure successfully.
Abraham proved his obedience to God with concrete action - offering Isaac.
And God “swears” bounding Himself by an oath.
1. God’s promise cannot be fulfilled in Abraham’s lifetime and yet he believes.
2. There are many obstacles to God’s promise being fulfilled - the barrenness of Sarah is just but one.
New Testament Connections
Hebrews 11 - the hall of faith;
1/3 of this chapter is devoted to Abraham (Hebr 11:8-19).
Abraham’s faith as an example of “confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebr 11:1).
Rom 4 and Gal 3 - stress Abraham’s faith and not fulfilment of the law as the source of justification.
Also, for Paul, the sequence of Abraham’s story is important. Gen 15 comes before Gen 17.
Paul argues that only faith is needed for justification - circumcision is not necessary (Rom 4:9-12).
Thus, both Jews and the Gentiles are being justified by God’s grace (Acts 15:6-11)
Gal 3:6-7 - the same argument.
In Gal 3:8-9, Paul speaks about the blessing that comes to those who have the same faith like Abraham.
Again, the blessing comes to all those (Jews and Gentiles alike) who exhibit the faith of Abraham.
What does it mean for Paul?
To believe that we are saved by grace that God gives to us through our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Gal 3:16 focuses in the “seed”.
For Paul that “seed” of Abraham is Jesus Christ.
We saw this line of “seed” before.
It is also given prominence in Jesus’ genealogies (Mt 1; Luke 3).
James 2:20-24 also refers to Abraham’s faith.
James 2:14 - James stresses here Abraham’s obedience manifested in action.
True faith in God will always be manifested in righteous actions.
Paul faced the problem of those who insisted that faith alone was not enough - the entire law of Moses needed to be obeyed.
James faced another problem namely, that faith alone was enough - nothing needed to be done afterwards.
Both position needs to be rejected.
1. The law of Moses fulfilled its role leading as to Christ (Gal 3:24);
2. Faith needs to manifest itself through love (Gal 5:6).
For James the ultimate act of Abraham’s faith was his willingness to offer his son to God (James 2:21-24).
Faith in God and obedience to God cannot be separated.
Hebr 6:13-18 - God’s oath
Hebr 6:17-18 refers to Gen 22:16-18.
Hebr 6:19-20 - our hope in God’s promise rooted in God’s oath.