Friday, 4 July 2008

ChnMind 1.29 Foundations in Genesis

Old Abe--Jerusalem's Most Venerable Founding Father

The Covenant with Abraham

Any and every world-view inevitably has a philosophy of both the past and the future. In fact, ask a person their view of the past, their philosophy of history―whether formal or informal―and one can pretty much discern immediately whether he or she is a citizen of Jerusalem or of Athens, and if of Athens, the particular idolatry to which he is wedded.

With respect to the mind of a Christian, our view of the past and our philosophy of history is not latent; it is explicit. While Christians are profoundly future orientated, their beliefs, hopes and aspirations for the future are grounded upon certainties imbedded in the past. In particular, they are grounded upon the great redemptive, saving acts of God in His Incarnate Son, Jesus our Lord, Who was born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried, Who descended into hell, but Who rose again from the dead on the third day and ascended into heaven, where He sat (and sits to this day) at the right hand of God, whence all enemies in the immaterial realms and upon the earth are being progressively placed under His feet.

But the history of Jerusalem goes back farther than the fullness of time when Jesus Christ came forth, born of a woman. His coming forth did not occur in a conceptual or historical vacuum. The framework of His advent into the human race was given two millennia previously, when God made a covenant with a wandering Aramaean, named Abram, later called Abraham.

Not only did Jesus come forth in the terms of that covenant, He came to keep and fulfil the obligations of God's oath to Abraham and his descendants. Eventually, when Christ arose, entered the heavens and poured forth the Spirit of God upon His people, so that His salvation began to reach to the ends of the earth, including the Gentiles, He declared that those who had formerly been strangers and exiles, outside and afar off from God, were grafted into the covenant made with Abraham. Thus, Gentiles were called sons of Abraham, heirs according to promise (Galatians 3: 28,29).

Therefore, from the time of Abraham onwards, God's dealings with man, which are both the crucible and the flame of all human history, have been according to the terms of His covenant with Abraham.

What, then, is a covenant? It is a formal structured bond, whereby God promises to act a in a certain way toward Abraham and his descendants, and swears by Himself (since there was nothing higher that possibly could be invoked) that He would perform what He had promised. Abraham for his part was commanded to live and act in a certain way towards God. Above all else, it was expected that Abraham and his descendants would trust God and believe in Him. This believing in God and His promises covenanted to Abraham resulted in Abraham and his descendants being justified or reckoned as righteous (sinless) before God, and therefore recipients of eternal life.

Thus, we are told in Genesis 15:6, as the Lord and Abraham entered into a formal covenant making ceremony, that Abraham believed in the Lord, and consequently He reckoned it to him as righteousness. And Paul the apostle of the Lord confirms that to this day both Jews and Gentiles who believe truthfully in the Lord are likewise reckoned as righteous before the Lord. (Romans, chapters 4 & 5) Being reckoned as righteous, they inherit the Kingdom of God, the recreated heavens and earth, and eternal life.

The covenant with Abraham, then, sets out the terms and conditions of all human history, the entirety of our course and our existence. This includes not only those who dwell in Jerusalem, but also all who dwell in Athens, the City of Unbelief, insofar as they are being conditioned, shaped, and dealt with in terms of God's oaths and promises to Abraham, whether they recognize it or not. This is made evident in Genesis 12: 3 where the Lord says to Abraham: “I will bless those who bless you and the one who curses you I will curse.”

The key covenant documents with respect to Abraham in Genesis are Genesis 12:1―3; Genesis 15; and Genesis 17: 1―14. As redemptive history unfolds, these texts are augmented, enlarged, expanded, and developed. They reached their final development and augmentation in the Person and work of Christ Jesus, the Lord incarnate, Who declared that all along Abraham had looked forward and rejoiced to see Jesus day―and that he did see it (in faith) and was glad. (John 8:56)

The key elements of the covenant with Abraham include:

1. The requirement to leave his father's house, which was a house of idol worshippers.
2. The promise that Abraham would become a great nation
3. That God would bless him and would make his name great, so that he in turn would be a blessing to others to the extent that all the families of the earth would eventually be thus blessed by the Lord.
4. Abraham's descendants would be more numerous than the stars of the heavens.
5. The covenant would be entered into by the Lord not only with Abraham, but his descendants after him, as an everlasting covenant.

The universal reach of the covenant promise is breathtaking. In fact, Paul's commentary upon it was that Abraham would possess and inherit not just the land of Canaan, but the whole world (Romans 4: 13) which corresponds with the risen Christ's command to go forth and disciple all the nations of the earth.

Since the covenant with Abraham is so foundational, such that even the entrance of our Lord incarnate into human history, is according to its structures, terms, promises, and goals, it is helpful to keep in mind some key characteristics of the covenants God makes with His people.
1. God's covenant defines His relationship to us, and our relationship to Him.
2. God's covenant always runs in the lines of generations (which is why the families and households of Jerusalem are so important).
3. God's covenant has always been built around the blood He provides.
4. God's covenant has a legal aspect, but it is also a relationship far deeper and closer than anything which law could circumscribe.
5. God's covenant is always given with conditions.
6. The Newer Covenant is the Older Covenant all grown up.
(Our thanks to Pastor Steve Schlissel of Messiah's Covenant Community Church, Brooklyn, New York for this helpful summary.)
There are two cities in the world: the Jerusalem, the City of Belief, and Athens, the City of Unbelief. The constitutional documents of Jerusalem are the Scriptures of the Older and Newer Testaments, and in particular, her charter or founding documents are the great covenant texts which were issued first in the days of Abraham, and which were completed and culminated in the history, deeds, and revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ, King of all kings, and Lord of all lords.

These documents confirm that Jerusalem will expand and grow and fill the whole earth, as the faith of Abraham and his descendants spreads from heart to heart, parent to child, nation to nation through the agency of the life giving Spirit of the Lord. This is the essence of Jerusalem's philosophy of history. It is the only true Universal History.

To Athens is left the detritus of a fractured world, chaotic, tumultuous, a ceaseless sea of doubt, fear, uncertainty and death. To Athenians we say, " Come out, leave that city, for why would you prefer to die, son or daughter of Adam? The gates of Jerusalem are still wide open, though they will not always be. You would be welcomed with great joy and much celebration, for there is not one citizen of Jerusalem who has not likewise departed Athens and its living death, and walked before you through those ancient gates wherein the Lord Himself dwells."

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