Everyone who believes in Jesus Christ is a child of Abraham and an heir to the promise of salvation in heaven. But there are some who believe that only the Israelites and the 12 tribes were the descendants of Abraham and that salvation ended in AD70.
Let us see what the truth is in this study:
When Abraham asked God for a descendant, the Lord promised him the seed as numerous as the stars:
Genesis 15 “3 And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.” 4 Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” 5 He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring (SEED) be. 6 Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.”
This was the fulfillment of the promise of the seed of Eve that would crush the serpent who had deceived Adam into introducing sin and death to the world:
Genesis 3 “15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring (SEED) and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”
The SEED is Jesus Christ through whom all nations would be saved by grace through faith.
Abraham and Sarah were incapable of having children and God promised to make them the father of nations! He promised them the land of Canaan and ratified the covenant using the seal of circumcision:
Genesis 17 ” 3 Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, 4 “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. 5 No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. 6 I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. 7 I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. 8 The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.” 9 Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. 10 This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you.”
The circumcision was the precursor to the law of Moses that came 430+ years later. The descendants of Abraham were the 12 tribes of Israel who received the Law and its 613 commandments and finally entered the promised land of Canaan. The Israelites greatly multiplied and were as numerous as the stars in the sky living under the great kingdom of Solomon.
But there was a small problem: the Law of Moses could not save anyone or guarantee Abraham’s promise to them. The Israelites’ problems of disobedience resulted in the Assyrian war, Babylonian exile and Greek rule over them. The Israelites kept losing their land to their enemies being dominated by foreign powers with no assurance of their land.
There was also another problem: the other nations were NOT blessed by Israel. Not many foreigners joined the covenant of Israel and most nations were outside the covenant without God and without any hope! How could the nations be blessed if Israel themselves were cursed under the law!?
Why was the Law a failure in fulfilling the Abrahamic promise? Its because the law could not make anyone righteous like Abraham but only condemn their sins!
Romans 3 “For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin. 10 As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one;….19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.”
The Law was a failure because the human flesh is weak!
Romans 8 “For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh”
Paul said that when he knew the moral Law, the sin in his flesh condemned him! There was nothing good in his flesh.
Romans 7 KJV “ For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.”
The flesh is human self-effort, morality, self-righteousness, wisdom, intelligence, and ability. God gave the Law to show mankind that nobody can be righteous by human effort! The Jew was guilty of not keeping the law of Moses and the Gentile was guilty of not keeping their own moral laws.
So then what did Abraham discover according to this flesh?
Romans 4 “What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, discovered in this matter? 2 If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. 3 What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. 5 However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.”
Some have misunderstood this passage thinking that only those who can call Abraham as their forefather by their “flesh” (bloodline or circumcision) are the ones Paul is referring to. But as I demonstrated, the “flesh” is about human effort. So how can the people be descendants of Abraham’s “human effort”? It makes no sense to make such a statement!
According to the context of the chapter and the Epistle to the Romans, Paul is actually saying this:-> “What did Abraham our forefather discover about attaining God’s righteousness by the flesh (human effort)?”
Paul says that Abraham had NOTHING to boast because he was not justified by works but by GRACE through FAITH! He had nothing to boast in the flesh but only in God’s power!
Paul tells us that Abraham was made righteous BEFORE he was circumcised. This means that His blessing was NOT based on the flesh or human effort! It was not based on his race, nationality or blood or flesh or works! It had NOTHING to do with himself but completely to do with the unconditional love of God!
Romans 4 “9 Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. 10 Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before! 11 And he received circumcision as a sign, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them. 12 And he is then also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also follow in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.”
Why did God tell Abraham to be circumcised? It was a sign that he had no reproductive ability to have children! It was a sign that he had NO CONFIDENCE in the FLESH.
Let us understand God’s reasoning here:
If Abraham could not attain righteousness by the act of circumcision, then what makes us think that righteousness is based on blood-line or ancestry? If I say I am qualified by my ancestors, then I can still boast in something! But the gift of righteousness is not based on any human qualification – it is based TOTALLY on GRACE received by FAITH without any qualification of human blood-line or works or fleshly effort!
It is completely based on God’s power and not human qualifications!
Romans 4 ” 16 Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. 17 As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not. 18 Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. 20 Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21 being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. 22 This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” 23 The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.“
Paul says that the offspring of Abraham are those who have FAITH just like Abraham. He did not waver in unbelief by looking at his own inability or Sarah’s bareness but believed in God’s power and faithfulness! This is how he became righteous!
In the same way, EVERYONE who does not trust in his own flesh (morality/wisdom/efforts/bloodline) but believes in Jesus Christ will be made righteous!
The Law and the covenant of circumcision were only SHADOWS of Abraham’s blessings and NOT the reality.
Hebrews 10 “ The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves“
The vast number of Israelites living in the land was NOT the reality – it was NOT the true fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham. This is why God kept punishing them due to their rebellion by the Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks and the Romans! They could never experience the blessing of living in their land forever. They kept being defeated by their enemies! Its because the law could not bless anyone but only curse them for their disobedience. The law was the shadow but the REALITY is only found in JESUS CHRIST.
Colossians 2 “16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”
Therefore the SEED of Abraham was NOT the Israelites who kept the law!
The promise of Abraham was NOT the land of Israel.
The qualification was NOT circumcision and NOT the bloodline of Abraham!
Then what was the SEED and the BLESSING of Abraham?
Paul explains here why the true SEED is Jesus Christ and the BLESSING is the Holy Spirit with the INHERITANCE being the promised land of HEAVEN given by the sole qualification of FAITH alone!
Galatians 3 ” 5 So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? 6 So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” 7 Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. 8 Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” 9 So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. 10 For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” 11 Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.” 12 The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.” 14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit. 15 Brothers and sisters, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case. 16 The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ. 17 What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. 18 For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on the promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise……..19 Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come…….23 Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. 24 So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.“
Paul clearly states the following:
- The Law could not bless anyone but only curse them therefore Christ had to become a curse on the cross to redeem the world.
- Abraham was righteous by faith BEFORE the law came! Therefore righteousness is NOT tied to the law and it is given ONLY by FAITH. The law is not of faith!
- Only those who believe are the children of Abraham.
- Abraham’s blessing was given before the law came and therefore salvation has nothing to do with the law!
- The SEED of Abraham is NOT the physical descendants or the circumcised people of Israel. But there is only ONE SEED – Jesus Christ – the SEED of Eve who would crush the head of satan. The Seed of Abraham is Christ alone.
- The promise of God blessing the Gentiles through Abraham was NOT realized until Christ came and believers received the promise (Holy Spirit).
- The law was given to lead people to Christ and now that Jesus has died on the cross, there is no more need for the law but only faith in Christ!
- Any person – Jew or Gentile, male or female – can become a child of Abraham by believing in Jesus Christ. There is absolutely no requirement to be a blood-descendant of Abraham because it would contradict the Gospel.
- The seed of Abraham is Christ alone. All those who believe in Jesus Christ become ONE with Him, included in Him and heirs to the promise of the resurrection and glorified body! Faith has nothing to do with the Law of Israel, sex of the person, race, job, financial status, etc…but only faith in Jesus!
People who say that only Abraham’s blood-descendants / those who were circumcised are eligible for salvation, do not realize that those were only shadows of the law. It’s like saying that the Jerusalem Temple is the true house of God. But in the new covenant, Paul writes in Ephesians that God made a new Temple where the Holy Spirit would dwell among both Jew and Gentile believers without the need for a physical building! All man-made qualifications like circumcision vs uncircumcision, male vs female, slave vs free, blood-descendant vs not-a-descendant, poor vs rich, etc. were destroyed on the cross and God made all people equal in His eyes so that anyone can be saved by faith in Christ!
People say that the Law was only given to Israel and therefore salvation was not needed for the Gentiles. But such an outlook is of the letter and not the spirit. The Law of Israel was the Jew’s manner of trusting in their flesh. For the Gentiles, our own morality is found in our conscience/religious rules/society that determines how much we trust in our flesh! Self-righteousness was not solely found in Israel. There are many people in the world from every nation who want to go to heaven based on their own wisdom, intelligence and morality even if they never even heard about the Law of Moses!
Both self-righteousness and faith are universal traits found in human beings in ALL nations and not specific to Israel. This is why Paul said that both the Jew under the law and the Gentile apart from the law were guilty in their flesh, and the same Jew and Gentile could be made righteous by faith in Christ!
Romans 3 “12 All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law………….21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”
The Israelites believed that only the physical descendants of Abraham were blessed by God. Even today some people think that only Israelites through circumcision or bloodline were Abraham’s descendants. But such thinking is again based on the legalistic letter and not the spirit of the Gospel. Do you know what was said to the Jews in response to such an erroneous belief?
Matthew 3 “9 And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.“
God does not look at the outer appearance! God does not look at circumcision! God does not look at Abraham’s physical descendants! God can even raise descendants of Abraham from the stones! If he can raise them from stones then surely he can raise them from Gentile pagans who have no relation to Abraham physically. God does not choose according to man’s ideas! God looks at the HEART and sees if there is FAITH!
Abraham was chosen out of the pagan Gentile nations ONLY because he had faith! In the same way, God chooses people from Gentile nations even today if they have the same faith of Abraham by NOT TRUSTING in their flesh but trusting in Jesus Christ!
In the new covenant, God does not care about circumcision or uncircumcision but only faith in Christ who gives us the Holy Spirit irrespective of our race or nationality!
Galatians 5 “5 For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”
The circumcision of Israel was the shadow but the reality is found in the circumcision of our hearts by the Holy Spirit. By faith in Jesus Christ through baptism receiving the Holy Spirit is the true circumcision.
Colossians 2 “9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. 11 In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.”
Philippians 3 “3 For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh“
We don’t boast in our human efforts but we boast in Jesus Christ having no confidence in our flesh, just like our father Abraham. We received the seal of the Holy Spirit in the new covenant.
If God does not care about circumcision or uncircumcision, then He also does not care if you are a physical descendant of Abraham or not! The only thing that matters if you stopped trusting in your flesh and start believing in Jesus Christ – that is how you are a child of Abraham and received the righteousness of God in Christ!
To say that only Abraham’s physical descendants or people who were once circumcised are eligible is to miss the “Spirit” of God’s heart. A person is a child of God by receiving the Holy Spirit. God is Spirit and not the flesh. He does not look at race/bloodline/circumcision/religious-works but looks at those who believe in Him
Romans 8 “14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”
Paul said that the Gentiles who were OUTSIDE Israel’s covenants were now eligible for salvation thanks to the death of Christ.
Ephesians 2 “11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.“
This includes the Gentiles who were previously OUTSIDE the covenant of Abraham! Therefore the Gentiles include ALL of humanity! These are those who are uncircumcised Gentiles by BIRTH (having no part in Abraham’s covenant of circumcision). Being a Gentile by birth was a person who had ZERO connection to Abraham’s bloodline and covenant. A Gentile was never under Abraham’s covenant but now brought near by the blood of Christ!
The Gospel ended in AD70 for the 12 tribes of Israel. But I want to demonstrate something here in this timeline that salvation began with Abraham BEFORE Israel came and continues with faith in Christ even AFTER Israel was destroyed in AD70:
BIBLICAL TIMELINE of SALVATION:
- In the beginning, God created heaven and earth.
- Adam and Eve sinned and condemned all humanity bringing death.
- God flooded the world to save Noah and all Gentile nations came through his 3 sons
- After the flood, the Gentile nations were living in unbelief until God chose Abraham and promised to bless all Gentile nations through him.
- Abraham believed God and was made righteous by grace through faith without any efforts/works. This is the Righteousness of Faith that came before circumcision and before the Law was given to Israel.
- 430 years later, the Law was given to Israel and they had to be a royal priesthood to bless the Gentile nations.
- But Israel themselves failed to keep the law and was under the curse of Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks and Roman rule. Therefore neither Israel nor the Gentile nations had any hope of blessing until Jesus would come!
- Christ died on the cross becoming a curse of the Law and was raised from the dead. The law passed away on the cross and God removed the difference between Jew and Gentile through Jesus Christ.
- He gives the blessing of Abraham (the Holy Spirit) to ALL who believe – both Jew and Gentile. This righteousness is by faith in Christ to all who believe by grace apart from works.
- Israel was judged in AD70. But the rest of the world will be judged in the future.
- God is dealing with all humanity (Gentile nations) for the last 2000 years through the Righteousness of Faith in Christ.
- In the end, all nations will be judged on the last day when Christ comes finally. Are you righteous by faith in Christ or will you be condemned by your works?
- A new heaven and earth will be revealed where righteousness dwells because the believers will receive immortal bodies without anymore sin or curse or death!
Salvation was never dependant on the Law of Israel. If Abraham was made righteous before the law came, then we can also become righteous by faith in Christ after Israel passed away in AD70. If salvation existed before Israel, then salvation continues even after Israel ended in AD70.
Where are we today? We are living in the 11th hour where God is dealing with humanity by freely giving His Righteousness by grace through Faith in Christ.
Jesus Christ is the Son of God who died for the sins of all nations. He rose from the dead on the third day and ascended to heaven seated at God’s right hand. He will come again to judge ALL nations. Everyone who believes in Jesus Christ will receive the forgiveness of sins and the righteousness of God without their works! Salvation is by grace that can be freely received by faith in Christ to ALL who believe!