Heirs of the Covenant
The “promise of the Father” is the gift of the Holy Spirit, and the Apostle Paul links it to the Abrahamic covenant. Its promises find their fulfillment in the New Covenant inaugurated by Jesus. The bestowal of the Spirit marked the commencement of the “last days,” the time of fulfillment. Moreover, Paul equates the “promise of the Spirit” with the “blessings of Abraham.”
The original covenant always envisioned the inclusion of the Gentiles, a point Paul uses when contending in Galatia for the acceptance of Gentile believers in the covenant community, without requiring their circumcision.
|[Photo by Andrey Andreyev on Unsplash]|
All men and women who belong to Jesus are now “Abraham’s seed, heirs according to promise,” and “in Christ,” the old divisions between “Jew and Gentile” no longer apply. In fact, they are wholly inappropriate.
CHILDREN OF ABRAHAM
The inclusion of the Gentiles in the covenant was not an afterthought but was always integral to the original promise. And the gift of the Spirit is received from faith. It is not based on 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 INHERITANCE, for the redemption of THE ACQUISITION; for his glorious praise.”
The Spirit is the “earnest,” the “down payment” that guarantees our future participation in the full inheritance, and the references in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians to the “inheritance” and “acquisition” allude to the original promise of land made to Abraham. Thus, Paul connects the gift of the Spirit to the covenant with Abraham, including its promise of a homeland - (Genesis 17:8).
Likewise, Jesus called the gift of the Spirit the “promise of the Father.” And before his ascension, he commanded his disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they received the Spirit, then they would become his “witnesses to the uttermost parts of the earth” - (Luke 24:49, Acts 1:4).
In his sermon delivered on the Day of Pentecost, Peter declares that the outpouring of the Spirit is according to the prophecy in the book of Joel - “IN THE LAST DAYS, God will pour out His Spirit on all flesh” - (Genesis 17:7-10, Joel 2:28-32, Acts 2:38-39).
The presence of the Spirit in the church demonstrates that the “last days” are underway, the era of fulfillment that will continue until the return of Jesus.
The gift of the Spirit is how men and women receive the “blessings of Abraham,” or at least, the first installment. By the Spirit, men from every nation find themselves blessed with faithful Abraham – heirs of the promises and members of the covenant community.
The actualization of the promises began with the outpouring of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. Since then, every man and woman who receives the gift becomes a “child of Abraham,” and therefore, the old boundary lines that previously divided Jew from Gentile have no place in the community formed by Jesus Christ - (Galatians 3:27-29).
CIRCUMCISION OF THE HEART
The Mosaic legislation itself anticipated the need for something beyond the Law. The Torah cannot complete what God began with Abraham, and inevitably, Israel violated the covenant.
However, as Moses warned, after chastisement and repentance, the nation 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 are taken up by the prophet Jeremiah. God “will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah,” but not like the covenant that He made at Sinai.
With the outpouring of the Spirit, God is writing His laws on the hearts of His people, and the promised circumcision of the heart is being realized in the body of Christ - (Jeremiah 31:31-34, Hebrews 8:6-13).
The Book of Ezekiel adds the aspect of the Spirit to the “New Covenant.” When Yahweh gathers the children of Israel, He will put “a new spirit” in them, and thereby, He will “cause them to walk in His statutes.”
Ezekiel combines the promises of Spirit, circumcised heart, and New Covenant. Thus, the covenant promises are linked to and dependent on the receipt of the Spirit by God’s people - (Ezekiel 36:16-28, 37:25-28, 2 Corinthians 3:1-6).
Consistently, the New Testament applies the promises made to Abraham to the gift of the Spirit that is now granted freely to Jewish and Gentile followers of Jesus who constitute the “body of Christ,” the church.
And that gift is called the “promise of the Father” and the “blessing of Abraham.” It is the identifying sign of the people of God, and the Spirit provides believers with the power to walk in the New Covenant and thereby fulfill the “righteous requirements of the Law.”