The Abrahamic Covenant
By Shawn Tomlin
This week we will explore the fourth of the biblical covenants, the Abrahamic Covenant. This is a turning point in that instead of God focusing solely on all humanity, the focus of this covenant is on Abraham and all his descendants. Essentially, God sets apart for Himself a chosen people, and it is through Abraham the The Son, Jesus Christ would come.
So let’s set this up. Abram was a guy living in Ur of the Chaldeans. He and his family worshipped the pagan gods of the region just as everyone else around them did. Then in chapter 12 of Genesis God makes Himself known to Abram and says in Genesis 12:1-3 “Go out from your land, your relatives, and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you, and I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, I will curse anyone who treats you with contempt, and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
The entire earth had been plunged into the darkness of sin and death. Abram was just another one of those sinners. But God… being gracious and merciful, chose Abram. All Abram had to do was respond in faith. Abram’s obedience was a result of that faith. There’s no reason to think Abram would’ve responded in obedience if he didn’t have faith in God and the promises made to him by God.
Meaning people from all nations, no matter their lineage to Abraham receive the promises of grace and mercy, culminating in a blood soaked cross outside Jerusalem
Now the next time God speaks to Abram, many years had passed since the events of Genesis 12. He promised Abram a son in Genesis 17, and even though Abram was 99, God keeps all His promises. The birth of Isaac is extremely important as Romans 9:7-8 explains, “Neither are all of Abraham’s his descendants. On the contrary, your offspring will be traced through Isaac. That is, it is not the children of physical descent who are God’s children, but the children of the promise are considered to be the offspring.” Meaning people from all nations, no matter their lineage to Abraham receive the promises of grace and mercy, culminating in a blood soaked cross outside Jerusalem. It was also here that God changed Abram’s name to Abraham, which means Father of Many Nations. This was to solidify God’s promises to Abraham, and he believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.
Douglas Van Dorn in his book Covenant Theology: A Reformed Baptist Primer says, “God gave to Abram a gracious covenant, but it was not the Covenant of Grace, though it was created by God because of His forbearance, as if it were. God was gracious to Abram and granted to him promises, promises that would eventuate themselves in the birth of The Son.” Let us remember that those are promised to all of God’s children who share the faith of Abraham (Romans 4:16).
The sign of this covenant was one that comes with some controversy. Circumcision. It can be seen as either a work or a sign of grace that was already given prior to the act of circumcision. In a sense, baptism today is viewed in a similar way. You either trust in the sign itself or in the grace that came before the sign.
The Abrahamic Covenant set the story of redemption on a particular man, and from him, a particular people. God promised Abraham land, seed, and blessing. The Promised Land, Offspring, and God’s blessing. There’s a thread running through those promises that are traced back to Genesis 3:15, the seed. Although this does mean many offspring, that thread that runs through all these covenants is Christ. The Promised Seed of Genesis 3:15, promised to Adam and Eve is promised yet again to Abraham, and it would be from Abraham’s lineage that the Savior of this world, Jesus Christ would come to fulfill the promises made so long ago.
“The LORD bless you, and keep you;
The LORD make His face shine on you,
And be gracious to you;
The LORD lift up His countenance on you,
And give you peace.”