Monday, 8 April 2013
For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. Romans 4:13
The words “for the promise” are being introduced to show that what was promised to Abraham, both explicitly and implicitly, are to be offset from the notion that the law had any bearing on it at all. When taken in context of the times and the circumstances, nobody with right thinking could come to any other conclusion.
Abraham was given the promise and declared righteous in Genesis 15. From that time until the giving of the law at Mount Sinai it was a period of 430 years. This is seen in Exodus 12:40, 41. The dating in these verses is speaking of 430 years from the promise to Abraham until the exodus, not the time the amount of time the Israelites dwelt in Egypt –
“Now the sojourn of the children of Israel who lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years. And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years—on that very same day—it came to pass that all the armies of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt.”
Understanding this, we can now evaluate the word “promise.” There are two English words which are used to translate it, one is huposchesis and the other is epangelia. The first one is used when a condition is involved. The second is used when the promise is an unconditional one. It is the second one, epangelia, that Paul uses here. Therefore, the promise involves no act to which merit could be counted, but is an act of grace alone.
Next is the thought of the promise, “that he would be heir of the world.” An heir is one who inherits something, such as an estate. This is not a promise that was made specifically to Abraham. The promises to him included giving to him and his descendants the land of Canaan; making him a great nation; that in him all the nations of the earth would be blessed; that his descendants would be a multitude (as of the dust of the earth and as of the stars of the sky); and that he would be the father of many nations.
The promise that he would be “heir of the world” must be inferred from these other promises and which then would point directly to the Messiah who would issue from him. To understand this, Paul says “or to his seed through the law.” The word seed is translated from one of three words in the New Testament. The one used here is the word spermati. In almost every one of its 44 uses, it is speaking specifically of descendants. Such is the case here.
Jesus, the seed of Abraham, is the One this part of the inheritance is speaking of. This is explicitly noted in Galatians 3:16-18 –
“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. And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect. For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise.”
To sum this up for us as believers in Christ Jesus, Paul finishes with, “but through the righteousness of faith.” The promise to Abraham and his seed comes only through the righteousness of faith. The law has no part in it for us. It was promised prior to the law and Jesus, who was born under the law fulfilled the law on our behalf. Therefore, by faith in Him, not deeds of the law, we are justified before God.
Life application: The Bible is a complex book, but its message is simple – have faith in God and His promises; have faith in Jesus. Our continued exploration of the word should always bear this in mind. If so, then we will never get off base as we plumb the depths of its treasures.
Heavenly Father, the more I read and study Your word, the more I understand how complex it truly is. But one thing consistently shines forth – the just shall live by faith. And so I stand on that simple tenet. I put my faith, hope, and trust in the Person and work of Jesus alone. Amen.