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The Apostle Paul in 2 Tim. 3:15, stressed the value of "…the holy scriptures which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ", whilst to the disciples at Galatia, he declared, "….and the Scriptures, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen (gentiles) through faith, preached BEFORE the Gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed". (Galatians) 3:8) You will note that, at the time when Paul uttered those words, ‘ the Scriptures’, to which he referred, was the Old Testament as we know them, or the Jewish Scriptures
We turn also to Isaiah, who, when writing of the infallibility and certainty of God’s plan, was inspired by the Father to write, "I am God, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done,, saying, my counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:" (Is. 46:9-10)
We clearly discern from the verses quoted above, that the Gospel, often regarded as a New Testament message only, was in fact originally preached to Abraham.. YES, the Gospel which conveyed God’s GOOD NEWS about the Kingdom of God on the earth, although originally preached to Abraham and His natural descendants (Israelites/ Jews), was to have more far-reaching effect…. "In thee shall all nations be blessed". (Genesis 12:3). The Apostle Paul confirmed the extension of the promise, saying in Galatians 3:14, "That the blessing of Abraham might come on the gentiles through Jesus Christ". He then adds, "Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He said not, and to seeds as of many; but of one, and to thy seed WHICH IS CHRIST". (Gal.3:16…citing Gen. 22:18)
To find the answer to this question, we will look at the character reference provided for Abraham, in both the Old and New Testaments. God had instructed Abraham (Abram), to, "..get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee….(Gen 12:1). That was quite an ‘ask’!….However, God, with His foreknowledge, recognised Abraham to be a man of faith. Abraham’s response was such that he was identified as a "friend of God". (Is. 41:8; 2 Chron 20:7; James 2:23), and furthermore. "….he (Abraham) believed in the Lord: and he (the Lord) counted it to him (Abraham) for righteousness". (Gen 15:6: James 2:23)
WE RETURN TO Genesis 12:2-3, "…and I will make of thee a great nation…..bless thee…..make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: and I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed". Down the corridor of time from Abraham’s days, the writer to the Hebrews declared in Heb 11:8-9. "…By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed…..went out….sojourned in the land of promise". See also Acts 7:4-5).
THE LAND OF PROMISE:
Subsequent to the promises made in Gen 12:2-3 and further, to Abraham’s obedience as cited in Hebrews 11:8-9, we can refresh our knowledge from the Bible, of the ‘land of promise’, which is proving to be a contentious issue even in our days in the late 20th century.
Gen. 12:5-7 "Unto thy seed (Abraham), will I give this land".
Gen. 13:14,15,17 "All the land which thou seest, to thee (Abraham) will I give it, and to thy seed for ever…..arise, walk through the land……for I will give it unto thee".
Gen. 15:18-21 "…unto thy seed (Abraham) have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates".
A GREAT NATION:
In the eyes of most people, Israel has not yet attained to that status……nor ever will. In part however, it can be said from a Bible perspective, that the natural descendants of Abraham have done so, for it is written in Deuteronomy 26:5, "…a Syrian ready to perish was my father and he went down into Egypt and sojourned there with a few, and became there a nation, GREAT, MIGHTY AND POPULOUS".
The Prophet Zechariah, pointing to a time yet future, wrote, "Thus saith the Lord of hosts; In those days….ten men shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you". (Zech 8:23)
The Prophet Micah, writing in Micah 4:1-2, of the ‘last days’, reveals the final ascendancy of Israel, "For the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem".
HEIRS TO THE LAND---NATURAL DESCENDANTS:
Because Abraham had two lines of descendants, it is important to understand through WHICH of those two lines the promised blessings were to flow. God made it known to Abraham that, "In Isaac shall thy seed be called". (Gen.21:12). To emphasise this, the promises were repeated to Isaac, (Gen 26:1-5), and, in turn, to Jacob. (Gen 28:2-4).
Jesus Christ, berating wayward followers, said, in Luke 13:28, "Ye shall see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the Kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out". (Introducing the subject of resurrection). The writer to the Hebrews pointed out that many ‘worthies’ of old , "…died in faith, not having received the promises but having seen them (through the ‘eye of faith’) afar off, and were persuaded of them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims ‘on the earth". ( Heb 11:13). The Israelites (Jews) were chosen by God to be "…my son, even my first born". (Exodus 4:22-23)
JESUS CHRIST.. AND BLESSINGS FOR ALL NATIONS:
All Bible Students must be aware that the Scriptures clearly assert that, "Salvation is of the Jews". (John 4:22), this being a reference to Jesus Christ as Messiah and Saviour. The ‘flow on’ effect of the promises to Abraham is to come about through Jesus Christ, identified as the "SEED OF ABRAHAM", in Matthew 1:1.
Jesus Christ and the Apostles, preached the Gospel to the natural descendants of Abraham. (Matt. 10:5-7; Acts 3:25-26), before the full import emerged, when the gentiles (all nations) were to be included in God’s plan of salvation, "…lo, we turn to the gentiles". (Acts 13:46).
The Apostle Paul pointed out that, prior to the admission of the gentiles,. "…they were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having NO HOPE AND WITHOUT GOD in the world". (Eph. 2:12-13)
Paul again, in Galatians 3:27-29, reveals the way, "For as many of you as have been baptised into Christ, have PUT ON CHRIST…….and, if ye be Christ’s , then are ye ABRAHAM’S SEED AND HEIRS ACCORDING TO THE PROMISE.
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