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By Rosco Brong

Blessing of Abraham
Genesis 12:1-3, 7; 15:4-6; 17:1-8

Questions concerning the relationship of New Testament faith to Old Testament promises are not as easy to answer as some sectarians and religious partisans imagine. What is the relationship between the old covenant and the new? How are they alike and how do they differ? It is much easier to ask such questions than it is to answer them fully and Scripturally.

Many of the great controversies that have divided Christianity through the centuries are traceable to wrong answers to such questions. In the first century Judaizers tried to smother Christianity with the Old Testament regulations, while the Gnostics anticipated so-called modernism with their complete rejection of Old Testament authority.

Today it seems that most of traditional Christianity fails to make much distinction between the Old and New Testament scriptures, between the old and new covenants, or between God's people under those covenants. Often it is even denied that the legitimate fleshly descendants of Abraham, Israel, or the Jews, as they are now called, have any special standing before God at all.

On the other hand, there are hyperdispensationalists who under the pretense of rightly dividing the Word simply cut it to pieces and then try to make the pieces fit their special schemes of interpretation. They generally belittle the New Testament church (institution) and churches (organized congregations of baptized believers), and so having rejected God's chosen "pillar and ground of the truth" [I Timothy 3:15] they rapidly depart from revealed truth on other subjects.

When these modern heretics talk about different "gospels" for different "dispensations," when they try to tell us that God has had to change His plans because of sinful men, then we can know that they never got such ideas from the Bible. Just as truly as "the gifts and calling of God are without repentance" [Romans 11:29J, so Jesus Christ is "the same yesterday, and today, and forever" [Hebrews 13:8].

Galatian churches of Gentile believers, after being warned against false or perverted gospels, were reminded concerning the true gospel that "the scripture, forseeing that God would justify the heathen (Gentiles) through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed" [Galatians 1:6-9; 3:8J.

Whatever we may think, therefore, about God's purposes for the natural posterity of Abraham, the important message for Gentiles in the history of Abraham is the message of the gospel that God preached to him. So we can outline the lesson as follows:

1. Faith Walking, Genesis 12:1-3, 7
a. Walk commanded, 1.
b. Walk conserved, 2-3
c. Walk continued, 7.
2. Faith Waiting, Genesis 15:4-6.
a. Promise bestirred, 4.
b. Promise betoken, 5.
c. Promise believed, 6.
3. Faith Winning, Genesis 17:1-8.
a. Covenant promised, 1-2.
b. Covenant personal, 3-5.
c. Covenant permanent, 6-8.
FAITH WALKING, Genesis 12:1-3, 7.
A faith that does not move us toward heaven is not a saving faith. True children of God "walk by faith, not by sight" [II Corinthians 5:7]. So Abraham was in a sense "the father of all them that believe" [Romans 4:11]. By faith "he went out, not knowing whither he went" [Hebrews 11:8].
Walk Commanded, 1.
Jehovah said, "Get thee out," and Abram got out. In a spiritual sense, though not necessarily literally, we are all commanded to walk away from old earthly connections and associations. We must leave behind us the things of this world _in order to walk with God on a journey toward a better world [Hebrews 11:14-16].
Walk Conserved, 2-3.
God knows when He commands us to walk with Him that we shall need some encouragement as we go. He not only leads us on the journey, but also sustains us with His blessings along the way. Primarily, of course, we find in these words to Abraham the promise of the Messiah; and it is in Christ that God gives blessings to us and makes us a blessing to others. So He conserves and enriches our walk.
Walk Continued, 7.
Continuing on this pilgrimage, Abram learned that the same God Who had spoken to him in Ur of the Chaldees could speak and even "appear" to him in the land of Canaan. As time went on, Abram made some mistakes or took some wrong turns on his journey; but over all he continued to walk according to divine direction, building altars and worshiping Jehovah as he went.

FAITH WAITING, Genesis 15:4-6.
"He that believeth shall not make haste" [Isaiah 28:16]. Scripture commands us to "wait on the Lord." For Abram as for us it was sometimes hard to wait. We tend to be impatient, but God is never in a hurry. He is not bothered, as we are, by considerations of time. In six days He created the heavens and the earth and all that is in them, but some- times He takes fifty or a hundred years to teach one man some spiritual lessons. Faith must learn to wait.
Promise Bestirred, 4.
Unlike men, God does not break any of His promises. He never changes His mind about what He plans to do; He is always right the first time. If it seems to us that one of His promises has failed, it is only because we have not understood the necessary conditions, or perhaps simply because His time for fulfillment has not yet come. It must have seemed to Abram that God's promise to him was failing; he did not so much need a new promise as to have the old promise bestirred, renewed, and reinforced in his heart; therefore "the word of the Lord came unto him" to meet his need.
Promise Betoken, 5.
Knowing the God Who created the stars and placed them in the heavens, how can we doubt His power to do what He will? Abram could not count the stars, and we cannot count the descendants of Abram. Will not God perform His promises to us also?
Promise Believed, 6.
Divine promises are true whether we believe them or not, but they are profitable only to believers [Hebrews 4:2]. Abram "believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness." Note the New Testament application:
"And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah's womb: He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; and being fully persuaded that what he had promised he was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.
"Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; who was raised again for our justification" [Romans 4:19-25].

FAITH WINNING, Genesis 17:1-8.
Believers in the promises of God, are bound to win out in the end [I John 5:4]. Like Abram, we may sometimes make the mistake of trying to rush a fulfillment by fleshly means, but God will keep His Word in His own way and in His own good time.
Covenant Promised, 1-2.
Puerile commentators have tried to distinguish and classify some magic number of divine covenants, but the truth is that God has an everlasting covenant with Himself that over- rides and permeates whatever covenants He may make with His creatures. He is always "the Almighty God"; He always commands His people to walk as in His presence, and to be "perfect" [Matthew 5:48; II Corinthians 6:14-18; 7:1; Philippians 3:8-16; etc}. Best of all, He supplies to us the grace that He requires from us.
Covenant Personal, 3-5.
"Abram" became "Abraham" by divine decree; God called him "a father of many nations" before Isaac was begotten and while the illegitimate Ishmael was yet but a boy. God is in perfect control of events past, present, and future; and so He can truthfully speak of "those things which be not as though they were" [Romans 4:17].
Covenant Permanent, 6-8.
Verse 6 has unquestionably been literally fulfilled; the extent to which we mayor may not "spiritualize" our interpretation of verse 8 is relatively unimportant, having no direct bearing on our present salvation. More important to Gentile believers, we have full New Testament warrant to claim the promises of verse 7, the promises of the "everlasting covenant," as our own. See "Conclusion" below.

CONCLUSION [Galatians 3:29]
These words were written to Gentile churches. Doctrinally speaking, let us not allow smart aleck "dispensationalism" to rob us of our heritage. No matter what men may imagine the Bible to teach, it means what it says.

[From Ashlamd Avenue Baptist, September 6, 1974, p. 2-3. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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