And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Gal. 3:29).- Galatians 3:15-29
Jonah’s anger over Nineveh’s salvation (Jonah 4:1–3) is one indication that God’s intent to bless all of the earth’s families in Abram (Gen. 12:1–3) was not fulfilled under the old covenant. True, Gentiles like Ruth did join God’s family during this time (Ruth 1:16–18), and the glory of David’s throne became known in places like the land of Sheba (2 Chron. 9:1–12). In addition to Jonah, the later proselytizing work of the Pharisees (Matt. 23:15) also reveals that, at least occasionally, the Israelites undertook missionary journeys. Nevertheless, the prediction of many foreigners worshiping the Lord God (Zech. 14:16) was not realized before Christ, largely because the sins of Israel did not bear effective witness to our Father (Deut. 4:3–8).
Having seen an isolated fulfillment of the promise to Abram in Jonah’s career, we will examine two New Testament reflections on Genesis 12 over the next two days. Our passage today from Galatians 3 is essential to biblical theology, though space prohibits us from considering all aspects of the text. Thus, we will focus attention on verses 16 and 29 in order to see how the promise to Abram is fulfilled.
As Paul writes in verse 16, the promises of salvation and blessing were made to Abram (later, Abraham) and his offspring (Gen. 12:1–3; 17:7). However, we must ask the question: Who is this offspring?
For thousands of years it was thought this offspring could only be the physical progeny of Abram or those who joined them by circumcision. But as Paul teaches, the promise is made not to many but to one; “seed” is in the singular and this one is Jesus (Gal. 3:16 NKJV). Paul is simply speaking of God’s election manifested in Abram’s line. Isaac was chosen, not Ishmael (Gen. 21:12); Jacob was chosen, not Esau (25:23), and so on, culminating in the chosen Savior.
As the true Israel (John 15:1), Jesus most fully realizes the blessing for the corporate body of His people. All those who are in Christ by faith are Abram’s offspring, or “seed”, and inherit all the promises made to him by virtue of their union with God’s Son (Gal. 3:29). In Jesus, Abram’s blessing comes to all the families of the earth.
All those in Christ have become co-heirs of the promises made to Abram whether they be slave or free, male or female, Jew or Gentile (Gal. 3:28). The old covenant Israelites failed to bear witness to this promise; but Jesus succeeded, and thus all nations are now coming to Him. It is incumbent on us as the new covenant church not to obscure Christ’s glory but to manifest His truth by conforming to His image. Encourage a Christian friend today to walk in the light.
Passages for Further Study
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you do not make more than 500 physical copies. For web posting, a link to this document on our website is preferred (where applicable). If no such link exists, simply link to www.ligonier.org.
Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: From Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul. All rights reserved. Website: www.ligonier.org | Phone: 1-800-435-4343