The Covenant With Abraham: Blessing The Nations

God’s promises to Abraham are inseparable from the biblical understanding of God’s mission for the church.

Jesus is the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant. The Seed of Abraham delivers God’s grace and mercy to Israel and to the Gentiles, that is, the nations of the world. Jesus brings the blessings of the covenant to the family of nations through the global mandate given through the gospel to the Church.

 

Following the great flood God repopulated the earth through Shem, Ham and Japheth, the sons of Noah (Gen. 9:18-19). God spread the decedents of Noah throughout the earth (Gen. 10). The people of the earth were then given varying languages (Gen. 11:7) and further dispersed throughout the world (Gen. 11:8, 9). God had created a planet that was, for the first time, populated by humans who were spread out, spoke different languages and were from drastically diverse cultures.

In Genesis 12, God put into motion his will to establish his elect race of people and to ultimately use them to reach the plethora of nations he had fashioned in the previous chapters. The Abrahamic Covenant showed a loving God who pursued sinful people. It pointed toward the coming of God’s son Jesus Christ. The covenant was God’s plan to bless his faithful disciples and to enable the sinless Creator to commune with and reside among his sinful creation. The Abrahamic Covenant provided a blessing for the nations by establishing Israel as the light for the world and by ushering in the gospel of Jesus Christ as the only way to commune with the Lord.

The Covenant

The Abrahamic Covenant was made by God with Abram in Genesis 12:1-3. It is established in Genesis 15:18-21 and affirmed in Genesis 17:1-21. The covenant is then renewed with Abraham’s sons Isaac (Gen. 26:2-5) and Jacob (Gen. 28:10-17). This covenant between God and Abraham contains language that obligates both Abraham to God (Gen. 17:9-15) and God to Abraham (Gen. 17:4-8, 16). The Abrahamic Covenant is a pivotal point in redemptive history as Yahweh covenants with his elect. Christopher Wright said, “God’s promise to Abraham is key to the rest of Scripture. It is the beginning of biblical mission and at the heart of the gospel.” God here formalizes a relation with his people that will result in Israel serving as a “light for the nations” (Is. 42:6) and focuses the followers of Jesus as disciple makers “of all nations” (Mat. 28:19).

Abram is challenged to turn his back on the world he holds dear and to follow the Lord unconditionally. John Calvin said, “When he is first called by God’s command [Gen. 12:1], he is taken away from his country, parents, and friends, considered by men the sweetest things in life, as if God deliberately intended to strip him of all life’s delights.” Abram’s call is no different than that of modern disciples of Christ: obey the Lord and faithfully follow what he asks of us.

Fulfillment

Throughout the Old Testament it is plain to see the fulfillment of the promises to Abraham and his descendants through ethnic Israel. Israel was blessed and became a great nation. As she remained faithful to God she received his blessings and her enemies received the curses of Yahweh. After Israel was delivered from Egypt the Lord purified her and when she was ready, God gave her the land he had promised.

Israel had been blessed by God only to see her blessings turn against her. Paul Kissling wrote, “While the Pentateuch prepares for the fulfillment of the promises to Abraham, the rest of the Old Testament tells the tragic story of how his descendants nearly saw its fulfillment only to see it lost through persistent disobedience and outright rebellion.” God’s elect would have to wait for the birth of Christ to see God’s ultimately fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant.

Through God’s gift of Jesus Christ, the descendent of Abraham, the New Testament highlights the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant in and for God’s elect. Robert Raymond stated, “The blessing of the covenant of grace that believers enjoy today under the sanctions of the New Testament economy are founded upon the covenant God made with Abraham.” In the new covenant the blessings of the Abrahamic Covenant are extended to the nations. The families of the earth are blessed in Christ’s salvific gospel. God’s mission for the church (Mat. 28:18-20; Acts 1:8) is included as a part of the covenant’s fulfillment.

God’s promise to Abram of greatness and blessing for the families and nations of the world is fulfilled in his descendent, Jesus. As disciples of Christ answer his call to disciple the nations (by going, baptizing and teaching) they are fulfilling the promise of blessings given to Abraham. Since the Great Commission was announced, the Church of Jesus Christ is called to be obedient and faithful to God, and in so doing is a blessing to the nations through the grace and mercy found in the gospel of the Lord.

Mission Fulfillment

God calls his church to remain faithful and trust in him for its regular provisions; he continues to use his Church to bless the nations. The kingdom of God expands through the sharing of the blessings of the Abrahamic Covenant with the families of the world. God’s promises to Abraham are inseparable from the biblical understanding of God’s mission for the church.

The response to God’s call exemplified in Abraham points to God’s desire for Israel and God’s elect today. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “The characteristics of Abraham’s life are still the essential characteristics of the Christian life into which we are called by this glorious Gospel. The first is that his life was a God-centered, God-controlled life.” Abraham learned that his true blessings were obtained when he sacrificed his life for God’s glory.

Jesus is the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant. The Seed of Abraham delivers God’s grace and mercy to Israel and to the Gentiles, that is, the nations of the world. Jesus brings the blessings of the covenant to the family of nations through the global mandate given through the gospel to the Church.

Mike Pettengill is a missionary serving in Equatorial Guinea with Mission to the World.  He previously served for seven and a half years as a missionary in Honduras. To learn more about the Pettengills’ mission work visit Pettengill Missionaries.