Abraham and the New Covenant

With the ascension of Jesus, the gift of the Spirit arrived with blessings for all believers - The “promise of Abraham.” 

Rainbows - Photo by David Brooke Martin on Unsplash
The “promise of the Father” is the gift of the Spirit, and the Apostle Paul linked it to the covenant promises given to Abraham that are now fulfilled in the New Covenant inaugurated by Jesus. The bestowal of the Spirit marked the commencement of the messianic age, the era of fulfillment. Moreover, Gentile believers are now equal heirs of those promises - [
Photo by David Brooke Martin on Unsplash].

Paul also equated the “promise of the Spirit” with the “blessing of Abraham.” The original covenant always envisioned the inclusion of the Gentiles, a point Paul uses to argue for the acceptance of Gentile believers without undergoing circumcision. All who belong to Jesus are now “Abraham’s seed, heirs according to promise” - (Genesis 12:1-3, Galatians 3:13, 3:29).

Now, “in Christ,” the old distinctions are no longer relevant. Gentile inclusion was not an afterthought, but a fundamental part of the original promise. And the Spirit is received from faith, and not from circumcision or the other rituals required by the Torah - (Galatians 3:1-4, 3:14).
  • (Ephesians 1:13-14) – “In whom, you also are hearing the word of the truth, the gospel of your salvation, in whom also believing, were sealed with the Spirit of the promise, which is an earnest of OUR INHERITANCEfor the redemption of THE ACQUISITION; for his glorious praise.
The Spirit is the “earnest,” the “down payment” that guarantees our participation in the full inheritance. The above references to the “inheritance” and “acquisition” allude to the promise of land first given to Abraham:
  • (Genesis 17:8) - “I will give to you and your seed all the land of Canaan for an EVERLASTING POSSESSION.”
Thus, Paul connects the gift of the Spirit to the covenant with Abraham. Likewise, Jesus labeled the gift of the Spirit the “promise of the Father.” Before his ascension, he commanded the disciples to tarry in Jerusalem until they received the Spirit:
  • (Luke 24:49) – “And behold, I send forth the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry in the city until you be clothed with power from on high.
  • (Acts 1:4) – “And being assembled together with them, he charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father.
In his first sermon, Peter declared the outpouring of the Spirit to be the fulfillment of the prophecy from Joel: “In the last days, God will pour out His Spirit on all flesh.” The presence of the Spirit demonstrated that the “last days” had commenced, the era of fulfillment that would continue until the return of Jesus.
  • (Acts 2:38-39) - “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For to you is the promise, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call unto him.”
  • (Genesis 17:7-10) - “I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your seed after you in their generations.
  • (Joel 2:28-32) - “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh… And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of Yahweh shall be delivered; for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those that escape, as Yahweh has said, and among the remnant those whom Yahweh does call.
The gift of the Spirit is how men and women enter the “blessings of Abraham.” By the Spirit, men of every ethnicity - from “all the nations of the earth” - find themselves blessed with faithful Abraham - (Genesis 12:3, Acts 3:25).

The actualization of the promises to Abraham began with the outpouring of the Spirit. All who receive the gift and are baptized in the name of Jesus become the “children of Abraham”; therefore, the old distinctions between Jew and Gentile are wholly inappropriate in the new covenant community:
  • (Galatians 3:27-29) – “For ye, as many as into Christ have been baptized, have put Christ on. There cannot be Jew or Greek, there cannot be bond or free, there cannot be male and female, for all are one in Christ Jesus: Now, if you are of Christ, by consequence, you are Abraham’s seed, according to promise, heirs.
The Mosaic legislation itself anticipated the need for something more. The Torah could not complete what God began with Abraham. Inevitably, Israel disobeyed and violated the covenant. However, after chastisement and repentance, she would “return to Yahweh and obey His voice,” and God would gather His people from all nations and “circumcise their hearts to love Him” - (Deuteronomy 30:1-6).

The themes of renewal and circumcision of the heart were taken up by the prophet Jeremiah. God “would make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah,” but not like the covenant that He made at Sinai. He would write His laws in the hearts of His people. The circumcision of the heart anticipated by Moses would be realized in the New Covenant - (Jeremiah 31:31-34Hebrews 8:6-13).

The book of Ezekiel takes up this theme, but it adds the aspect of the Spirit. When Yahweh gathered the children of Israel, He would put “a new spirit” in them – He will “put His spirit in them and cause them to walk in His statutes” - (Ezekiel 36:16-28).

Ezekiel combined the promises of the Spirit, the circumcised heart, and the New Covenant. Thus, covenant promises are dependent on the receipt of the Spirit, and without it, the covenant is impotent - (Ezekiel 37:25-28, 2 Corinthians 3:1-6).

Consistently, the New Testament authors apply the covenant promises to the gift of the Spirit given freely to Jewish and Gentile believers alike. It is labeled the “promise of the Father” and the “blessing of Abraham.” It is the distinctive identifying sign of the people of God, and the power to walk in the New Covenant.

With the resurrection and exaltation of Jesus, the long-awaited gift of the Spirit has arrived with all its promised blessings for believers. Both Jews and Gentiles participate fully in the Abrahamic covenant.



Language of the New Testament

Two "Little Horns"?