Abraham’s Seed

The promise of a righteous seed is the thread running through every covenant promise.

Abraham’s seed was physical. God promised that Abraham would be a father of many nations (Gen. 17:5). Nations arose from his offspring with Hagar and Keturah, but the seed of promise was Isaac, the son of Sarah. From Isaac came Jacob and then the nation of Israel. The development of this physical seed was essential to the coming of Christ, for He was in the line of Abraham. It was from Israel that Christ came “according to the flesh” (Rom. 9:4–5). There had to be a physical seed if there was going to be God’s Christ.

 

The details and implications of God’s covenant with Abraham are far reaching. Three distinct yet related promises are at the heart of this installment of the covenant of grace: a seed, a land, and a universal blessing. Each of these finds ultimate significance in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not surprising that Jesus declared that Abraham rejoiced to see His day (John 8:56).

The promise of an offspring or seed is the focal point of God’s promise to Abraham just as it was in the promise that was made to Adam and Eve and that would be made years later to David. The promise of a righteous seed is the thread running through every covenant promise. Admittedly, identifying the seed can be complicated because sometimes it refers to multiple people and sometimes to a single person. First, Abraham’s seed was physical. God promised that Abraham would be a father of many nations (Gen. 17:5). Nations arose from his offspring with Hagar and Keturah, but the seed of promise was Isaac, the son of Sarah. From Isaac came Jacob and then the nation of Israel. The development of this physical seed was essential to the coming of Christ, for He was in the line of Abraham. It was from Israel that Christ came “according to the flesh” (Rom. 9:4–5). There had to be a physical seed if there was going to be God’s Christ. Israel, the particular physical seed of Abraham, was the means to the messianic end of God’s promise.

Second, the seed was and is spiritual. That God promises a seed more numerous than the stars of heaven or the sands of the sea extends beyond Abraham’s physical descendants. Jesus made clear the possibility of being a physical descendant of Abraham without being a spiritual descendant (John 8:39). Similarly, Paul said that not all Israel is Israel (Rom. 9:6–8). The true children of Abraham are those who have faith (Gal. 3:7). Nationality is irrelevant: to belong to Christ is to be Abraham’s true offspring and heirs of the promise (3:29).

Third and most significantly, the ultimate or ideal seed is Christ Himself. Although the word translated “offspring” or “seed” can refer to multiple people as well as to an individual, the form is grammatically singular. Paul focuses on that grammar when he gives his inspired and messianic interpretation of the Abrahamic promise: “It does not say, ‘And to offsprings,’ referring to many, but referring to one, ‘And to your offspring,’ who is Christ” (v. 16). For good reason, the New Testament begins by identifying Jesus both as the son of David and the son of Abraham (Matt. 1:1).

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