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Theology > Jesus > Anticipation of Christ > Seed of Abraham 


Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made.
He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many,
but as of one,
“And to your Seed,” who is Christ.
Gal. 3:16

Regarding His relationship to Abraham Christ is spoken of as “the Son of Abraham” (Matt. 1:1) and also as the “Seed” of Abraham (Gal. 3:16). There is essentially no distinction between these two descriptions because both designations associate Christ with Abraham, in a literal and in a spiritual sense.

In the literal sense Jesus is descended according to the flesh from Abraham through the genealogy of Joseph and Mary (for Joseph, see: Matt 1; for Mary, see: Lu. 3; some would question this point of exegesis). Apart from this minor issue, the New Testament does associate the genealogy of Jesus with Abraham; perhaps the point is so obvious that it should not be mentioned, but a reminder that two gospels have a genealogical record is appropriate. And in both Jesus is associated with Abraham.

Therefore Jesus is linked with the father of the Hebrew people. Abraham was called by God while he was still in Ur and told to leave his people and country and go to a place that he would be shown. Abraham obeyed and went to live in the land of promise, a move that was essential to the beginning of the Hebrew people, a people known later as the nation of Israel. Thus, Jesus is associated with this man and also with the people that descended from him.

In the spiritual sense Christ is the manifestation and fulfillment of the Covenant God revealed to Abraham, a Covenant through which God’s promises to Abraham are revealed to include all the spiritual descendants of Abraham, that is, those who would live by faith, both Old Testament and New Testament saints.

In connection with the Covenant were personal promises to Abraham, ethnic promises, material promises, and Christological promises. Following are statements of the Covenant:

And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed (Gen. 12:2-3; see: Matt. 1:1; Acts 3:25; Gal. 3:8, 16);

To your descendants I will give this land (Gen. 12:7; “descendants” is lit., “seed” and in the following passages “descendants” is the word used in the NKJV and “seed” is used in the KJV; these are translations of the Heb. word zera, which can be either plural or singular; the ESV uses “offspring”);

All the land that you see I will give to you and your descendants forever. I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your descendants also can be counted (Gen. 13:15-16);

To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates (Gen. 15:18);

Behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations . . . I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations from you and kings shall come from you. And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you. Also I will give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger . . . and I will be their God (Gen. 17:2, 5-8);

Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him (Gen. 18:18); I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore . . . and in your descendants shall all the nations of the earth be blessed (22:17-18);

To your descendants I will give this land (Gen. 24:7).

The various themes of the Covenant are woven together, so much so that it is difficult to distinguish between the temporal and the eternal, the blessings that would be given to the earthly nation of Israel and the redemptive blessings that would accrue to the spiritual descendants of Abraham, spiritual Israel. Perhaps some of the statements could be applied definitely to either the earthly or the spiritual, with other statements having a dual meaning whereby the earthly statements serve as illustrations or harbingers of the future spiritual and soteriological blessings.

Be that as it may, the New Testament explicitly specifies two points: one, Christ is the spiritual “Seed” of Abraham (this is the point that Paul makes in Gal. 3:16, and he makes the point on a textual or grammatical point; the Hebrew word translated “seed” in the Old Testament can be either singular or plural; it is the context and the interpretation that determines the use in a particular verse; see above note on Gen. 12:7); and two, believers in Christ are the true descendants (“seed”) of Abraham. Consider the following statements, the first affirms the point concerning Christ, while the rest speak of the relationship of believers to Abraham:

Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ (Gal. 3:16; “seed” in the OT can be singular or plural; Paul here gives emphasis to the singular);

They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants” . . . Jesus answered . . . “I know that you are Abraham’s descendants . . . If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works of Abraham” (Jo. 8:33, 37, 39; “descendants” is lit., “seed”; both are transl. of the Greek sperma; Jesus is acknowledging their physical descent but not their spiritual descent);

You are sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, “And in your seed all the descendants of the earth shall be blessed” (Acts 3:24-25);

For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit (Rom. 2:28-29);

And he [Abraham] received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also (Rom. 4:11);

But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are seed of Abraham because they are his children, but “through Isaac shall your seed be called.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as seed (Rom. 9:6-8);

Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham (Gal. 3:7-9);

And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise (Gal. 3:29).

While Paul would not deny that certain blessings did come to the nation of Israel because the nation was descended from Abraham and God had ordained it to be that way (see: God is Sovereign), still the ultimate fulfillment of the repeated promises that were made to Abraham—the content of the Covenant—were to take place in a particular seed, the Seed, who is Christ. And the blessings predicted in the Old Testament were ultimately spiritual blessings that would be the blessings of the people who belong to Christ.

A simple manner of affirming the combined truth of the above texts is to affirm that the true descendants of Abraham are those who belong to the main Descendant of Abraham, namely Christ.

The seed of Abraham
refers to those who belong to the Seed of Abraham.

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