Jesus: The Fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant
Genesis 12:1-3 & Genesis 22:16-18
Genesis 12:1-3: “The LORD said to Abram: Go out from your land, your relatives, and your father’s house to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you, 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 the peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
Gen 22 is the story of Abraham obeying God’s summons to sacrifice Isaac, An angel of the LORD stopped Abraham from killing Isaac and this what the angel tells him:
Genesis 22:16-18 “By myself I have sworn,” This is the LORD’S declaration: “Because you have done this thing and have not withheld your only son, I will indeed bless you and make your offspring as numerous as the stars of the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your offspring will possess the city gates of their (His) enemies. And all the nations of the earth will be blessed by your offspring because you have obeyed my command.”
If we were to compare the Messianic profile that we have looked at so far to the snowball effect, we would still be holding the little snowball in our hands. If you are looking to get the big snowball that ends at the foot of the mountain, you have to start with a little ball at the top. After this prophecy, the ball leaves the hand and really starts to grow. Prophecies will build on other prophecies and the identity of the Messiah will start to take shape. Even if you are familiar with what has happened so far, I urge you to keep reading because so far we have just seen the tip of the iceberg. I want you also to keep in mind that a lot of what is in these articles is academic and is not essential for having Christ as your Savior. The purpose of the articles is to help us see what is going on in the Old Testament, God’s faithfulness in providing for us, and how it applies to us today - thousands of years later. It is in no way meant to be a burden, you don’t have to fully understand all of this in order to receive salvation through Jesus Christ. Consider this illustration: We can experience the wonderful taste of pizza, and be nourished by it without knowing the ingredients, but if we really love it we will ask for the recipe. We have tasted the goodness and are looking at the recipe, but the nourishment does not stop if we don’t understand all the ingredients. Also, in the same way we can have a recipe card and not be nourished by it. We can carry that recipe card around all day and our hunger will not be quenched. We have to stop, do the work and take in the delightful nourishment of what is on the card. We taste the goodness and joy of Christ through the Holy Spirit by knowing Him through the Word, prayer, faith, and obedience. So let us abstain from any self righteousness of how much we know, but grow in knowledge and understanding in order to boast about Him and the works He has done for us, and for us to cherish the work He has done. Keep in mind though that we don’t have to understand everything to know that we have everything in Jesus and to hold Him as our supreme treasure. My hope going forward is that we will have more of an understanding of God’s faithfulness and sovereignty, then in turn our faith will be strengthened through it.
We have looked at two prophecies so far in the book of Genesis, and it will be very useful to stop and understand the story plot of Genesis. There is a ton of information in Genesis, and how it all points to God’s redemptive plan is not easy to grasp, but we are going to try and make it as easy as possible. There is one thing that you need to keep in mind for this article: that it is through “the offspring” that redemption comes. We know from Genesis 3:15 that God is planning to use the offspring of Eve to destroy the serpent's work. So the author of Genesis wastes no time in starting on the genealogies of the human race, because that is one of the main points of the Old Testament: to funnel the information of how God is going to save His people through this offspring. So right away In Genesis 4 we see that Eve did indeed have 2 sons, Cain and Abel, and Abel pleased God with his heart and his offering. Then Cain let sin reign in his life and he ended up killing Abel, along with the hope that the offspring prophesied in 3:15 would come from him. In Chapter 4 you can read about Cain’s line, which ends with Lamech and him being a murderer, who praises himself to be mightier than Cain (definitely not something we are looking for in a redeemer). In 4:25-26 God gave Eve “another child in place of Abel'', and his name was Seth. Then in chapter 5, in contrast with Cain’s descendants, you can read about the more righteous line of Seth: Enoch lived a righteous life and never died, and Noah was determined to be one who would “bring relief from the ground the LORD had cursed”. So the channel of the Messiah gets funneled to Noah, and specifically his son Shem as revealed in Genesis 9:26 - which is what we looked at last time. Also we see here in Genesis 9:27, if you remember from the last article, that the promised offspring will spread the blessing of His works to all peoples of the earth. Genesis 10 provides us with the descendants of Noah’s children, and this is really where the focus of lineage shifts for the rest of the Bible. Shem’s descendants are where the offspring will come from, so this is where the majority of the Bible’s focus is on after this point: Shem’s descendants. Shem’s descendants include: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob - from Jacob came the 12 tribes of Israel, who were the Israelites. The second half of Genesis 11 is the line from Shem to Abram, and Genesis 12 reveals that the Messianic pathway will be narrowed again through Abram.
There are three main points of this article: First, God displays His power in delivering our Messiah. Second, that we inherit righteousness by faith from the Abrahamic covenant. Third, Jesus is the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant.
An incredible display of God’s providence in providing the Messiah, that I have overlooked until now, is God’s sovereignty displayed through how He provided the Messianic channel. Conceiving offspring for the Messianic channel doesn’t seem like a big deal…until you realize that almost all of the Hebrew matriarchs were barren: Sarai, Abrams wife was barren (Gen 11:30); Rebekah, Isaac’s wife was barren (Gen 25:21); Leah, Jacobs wife’s womb had to be opened by God (Gen 29:31); and Rachel, Jacob’s other wife was barren (Gen 30:22). Them being able to conceive is extremely important because our Messiah would come through “the offspring” of women. Only through the grace of God did these women conceive, without the offspring, there is no Messiah, end of story. God has worked miracles from the very beginning to provide for us our Messiah. I don’t believe in coincidences in the Bible. So when God promises victory through an offspring, and then only by His sovereign hand is there an ability to conceive, I believe it to be intentional. Only through His grace do we receive this blessing, only through His grace do we have hope, and only through His sovereignty over all creation is this made possible. Psalms 115:3 “Our God is in heaven and does whatever He pleases.” Indeed He was pleased to provide us with a Messiah, and child bearing issues were of absolutely no concern of His.
Now turning our attention to Abraham, Abraham is the father of faith, Romans quotes Abraham’s faith, Hebrews quotes Abraham’s faith, Galatians quotes Abraham’s faith, and I’m sure there are more. It is for a very good reason. When we read Genesis 12:1-3, “The LORD said to Abram: Go out from your land, your relatives, and your father’s house to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and we consider the faith it would take to “Go” as the Lord commanded. Let’s look at the faith it took for him to obey. Abram, before he was called by God, worshiped pagan gods (Jos 24:2) yet he still obeyed this foreign “God”. God told him to “Go”, and he left, no questions asked, he just went! Second, Sarai was barren; God told him that he would make Abram into a great nation, yet he believed God, even though Abram and Sarai had been trying to have children. Abram had faith that his new found God would provide the children they would need to become a great nation. Later he showed, in my opinion, the greatest proof of his faith when he was willing to offer Isaac as a sacrifice to God, believing that God would return Isaac to him. This is proved in Genesis 22:5 where Abraham, on his way to sacrifice Isaac, tells the young men traveling with him to stay behind, that He would go with Isaac up the mountain and “The boy and I will go there to worship; then we’ll come back to you.” He is faithful that God will return his son to him. For God had promised to make him a great nation, and how could He do that without an heir? This statement is proved further in Hebrews 11:17-19 if you would like more clarification. Third, he left the security of his homeland, the land of his father, to go somewhere that he didn’t even know. All this being said, surely you can see how Abraham’s faith is incredible, and worthy of being a role model for faith.
We should also take note of the condition of the prophecy that God gave Abram here. God told him to “Go out from your homeland…” , So it is only by Abram obeying God in His call to “go” that these things would come to pass. Hebrews 11:8 says that “By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed…”. His faith in God produced obedience, and that obedience leads to the prophecy becoming the rock solid promise of God. Only through Abram’s obedience was He able to be in the line of the Messiah. If he would have stayed in his home country, we would never have known who Abram was. If he didn’t “Go” when God called him to, his story would be something like this: “Abram didn’t go, and he died in Haran without an heir and no one was blessed through him.” and that’s a pretty sad ending. But God knows the hearts of men, and He knew Abram would be faithful, and He knew that His Messiah would come through Abram, and that is why God called him.
Also we should take note of the importance of Abram’s faith in the New Testament. Paul provides this twice for us: that we inherit righteousness by faith; in Romans 4 and Galatians 3. Romans 4 is dedicated to Abraham’s faith being credited to him for righteousness, if you want to learn about how Abraham’s faith is the basis for how we are righteous by grace instead of works, then go to Romans 4. Paul’s argument is that we are credited righteousness by faith in Jesus Christ, whether you are Jew or Gentile. Abraham is the father of us all (Rom 4:16) because we have inherited grace through faith, just as he did. “One believes in the heart, resulting in righteousness.” Rom 10:10. Paul also says in Romans 4:13-16 that the inheritance of Abraham’s descendants inheriting the world comes through the righteousness that comes by faith, so that the promise would be guaranteed by grace for all who believe. What exactly does that mean? It means that we don’t earn our way into salvation, we are all credited righteousness by our faith in Jesus Christ, just as Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. Galatians 3:9 proves this: “Those who have faith are blessed with Abraham, who had faith.” Again in Galatians 3:26 “For through faith you are all sons of God in Christ Jesus.” And again in Ephesians 2:8 “For you are saved by grace through faith”. And again in Romans 5:1 “We have been declared righteous by faith”. I have no doubts that the Holy Spirit inspired the writing of Genesis 15:6 “Abram believed the LORD, and He credited to him as righteousness.”, knowing full well that this would be the basis for salvation in Christianity. The main point I’ve been trying to make through Abraham’s faith is that we inherit the blessing of his offspring (Jesus) by imitating Abraham’s faith.
This is the third point we are going to look at: Christ fulfills the Abrahamic covenant, and that He is the supreme offspring of Abraham. Now scripture determines at least twice that the offspring referred to in some of these prophecies is singular, meaning that they point to one person. Here is Paul’s declaration of the singular offspring: Galatians 3:16: “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say “and to his seeds”, as though referring to many, but referring to one, and to your seed, who is Christ”. This is Paul pointing out that the promises of Abraham were not to all of Israel, but of Abraham, and Christ. We see this in one other place, Acts 3:25-26 where Peter is describing that Jesus is the Messiah: “You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your ancestor, saying to Abraham, And all the families of the earth will be blessed through your offspring. God raised up His servant and sent Him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your evil ways.” I bolded this to point out the fact of what Peter is saying. He is saying that the offspring points to one person, “His servant” (Jesus). You can tell this because He says that God has “sent Him first to you to bless you”. If the Israelites were already the offspring that “all the families on earth would be blessed through”, then why would they need to be blessed by Christ? They wouldn’t. In fact He is even saying that the Israelites, who are Abraham’s offspring, needed to be blessed by this other offspring of Abraham because they were evil. In other words, the very nation of whom this blessing is supposed to come from needs to be blessed! The Israelites did in fact bless the world by being the Messianic channel, just as God promised Abraham that he would be a blessing to the world, but the Israelites needed to be blessed by the supreme offspring of Abraham just as much as the rest of the world. This blessing that God is referring to is the inheritance of righteousness by faith that we inherit from the Abrahamic Covenant. Jesus Christ could do this, but without believing in him the Israelites were rejecting their own Messiah, and rejecting God’s grace.
There is a question that still remains unfinished though: Did the Israelites bless all the earth? The answer is yes and no. Jesus Himself says that “salvation comes from the Jews”(John 4:22), because “they were entrusted with the very words of God”(Romans 3:2). They knew who God was, God had revealed Himself and His plan to them (1 Peter 1:10-12), and He had chosen them to be the Messianic path to bring to the earth Jesus Christ (Rom 9:4), so you could say yes to that point. However the prophecy was not fulfilled in them. Jesus also says that the children of Israel were lost sheep (Matt 10:6,15:24). They themselves did not bring blessing to all the earth by bringing reconciliation to God for all the lost sinners of the earth, the Israelites did not bless the world with faith being credited to us as righteousness. That would be the work of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who has taken our sin upon Himself and gifted us with His righteousness through faith in Him - by double imputation. Therefore, Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant. God fulfilled Abraham’s part in the covenant by having Jesus - God’s own Son - come through Abraham’s descendants, and In Jesus the prophecy is fulfilled by establishing grace through faith to all the nations.
“Because you have done this thing and have not withheld your only son, I will indeed bless you and make your offspring as numerous as the stars of the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your offspring will possess the city gates of their (His) enemies. And all the nations of the earth will be blessed by your offspring because you have obeyed my command.”
I believe the translation from Hebrew to English makes these verses very challenging. I am going to do my best to make sense of them, but I confess that I am no scholar and this is just my take on these verses, so please read with discretion. What I believe is going on during the mentions of “offspring”, is the offspring that are as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sand on a seashore are the fruit of both Abraham and Christ, Christ being the supreme offspring from the line of Abraham. Like the above paragraph, the term offspring is a double edged sword, where the Israelites did indeed bless the nations by God using them as the Messianic pathway for Jesus Christ, but it was the works of Jesus Christ that the nations were actually blessed. I look at the different offspring’s this way: “the Offspring (Jesus) - who possesses the city gates of His enemies and will bless all the nations of the earth - will bless the offspring (us) - who are as numerous as the stars of the sky and sand on the seashore. The promise was made to Abraham and Christ, both. The blessing of Abraham having a great nation descended from him was the Israelites - and eventually, through the work of his ultimate offspring, us. Abraham is “father to us all” (Rom 4:16), and in the likeness of his faith we are his offspring, because we belong to Christ (Gal 3:29), who is his offspring. Christ lives in us (Gal 4:19, Eph 3:17) so we have the blessing of this promise: our faith is credited to us as righteousness - just as Abraham was and we are counted among the stars of the sky and sand on the seashore.
The promise that sticks out the most to me in these prophecies is “Your offspring will possess the city gates of His enemies''. Now, depending on what translation of the Bible you have, it may read “their” enemies, but with the descriptions given in the New Testament revealing that the offspring is singular in both Acts and Galatians, and the fact that ESV translates it “His” and NASB/CSB have footnotes for “His”, I would incline to think that this refers to Jesus Christ and His victory over His enemies. Here’s what God says to His Son in Psalms 110, “Sit at my right hand until I make Your enemies Your footstool”. The entire reason that the Son of God was revealed was to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8), who is the enemy. The works that He wrought on the world was sin, death and separation from God. Sin and death have been defeated: “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” (1 Cor 15:56-57), and we are no longer separated from God, but reconciled to Him “...we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son…” (Rom 5:10). There is no enemy of His, or stronghold that will stand before Him, He is victorious in all of His ventures and all of His battles. Our Messiah has power and dominion over all things and we can rest knowing that He loves us and protects us.
Christ was the supreme Offspring in the Abrahamic covenant. He fulfilled it by blessing all the earth with our inheritance of saving Grace through faith like Abraham’s. God has shown His sovereignty over creation by opening the wombs of the women chosen to bring forth the Offspring of promise, at the precise time that was pleasing to Him. Christ has the gates of His enemies and nothing can stand between Him and His bride: The Church.
So far this is what God has revealed to us of the Messiah:
A Redeemer is Coming
All the nations will be blessed through Him
Faith in Him will be credited as righteousness to those who believe in Him
We should always remember that the blessings we cherish were all bought by the precious blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Only by His suffering in our place, His substitutionary death on the cross in place of the death we deserved, and by His resurrection from the dead so that we are justified before God, are we able to partake in these blessings. “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him” John 3:17. We are saved by having faith like Abraham, which is credited to us as righteousness. We are among the “nations” who have been blessed by the redeeming blood of the Messiah. There is no enemy we have to fear because Jesus our King has power and dominion over them all. We have “been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavens in Christ.” We are the work of the Lord, bought by Him, and sealed with the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of our Salvation. Praise God for our Messiah, and praise Jesus for His humble obedience that made it all possible!