|CHRISTIAN LIFE AND DOCTRINE||July 2010|
Children of Promise
“I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son.”
MANY YEARS AFTER BEING called by God out of the land of Ur, Abraham was divinely commanded to go with his son Isaac to the land of Moriah. “He [God] said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.”—Gen. 22:2
A SACRIFICIAL OFFERING
After arriving in Moriah, Abraham prepared to offer his beloved son in sacrifice as testimony to his great love for God. However, at the crucial moment, the hand of Abraham was stayed from sacrificing Isaac by an angel who, speaking for God, said, “By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.”—vss. 16-18
NOT THROUGH THE LAW
Later, the Israelites came to believe their unique national status under the Law Covenant instituted by Moses at Mt. Sinai. It was confirmed that they were the promised seed and, as Abraham’s natural descendants, were the sole inheritors of all that was promised him by God. However, the Apostle Paul explains, “The promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect: Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression. Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all.”—Rom. 4:13-16
THE PROMISED SEED
All that are under the Law do not constitute the seed promised to Abraham, and the foundation of God’s promises do not rest on the Law of Moses but by the faith of Abraham. Paul further teaches, “Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed. For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son. And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac.”—Rom. 9:6-10
The promised seed that will bless all the families of the earth is not natural Isaac, for he serves only as a type of a greater spiritual Isaac. The true seed—antitypical, spiritual Isaac—will consist of both Jew and Gentile. During this present Gospel Age, it will be begotten in a new and special manner, like unto that by which typical Isaac was begotten through a specific promise of God.
PROMISE AT MAMRE
The promise was given in Mamre and is recorded for us: “The Lord appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day; And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground.” (Gen. 18:1,2) “And they said unto him, Where is Sarah thy wife? And he said, Behold, in the tent. And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.”—vss. 9-11
Paul proclaims that the miracle and the promise thus invalidate the Israelites’ claim of an exclusive right to the promised seed of Abraham. Neither Sarah’s promise, nor the child she subsequently delivered, were the products of the Law, but were products of her faith in the power of God. In his epistle to the Hebrew brethren, the apostle emphasizes that Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac signified that the salvation of all mankind is to be accomplished through the vital element of faith alone. He said, “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. Through faith also Sarah herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.”—Heb. 11:8-11
CONSIDER THE PROMISE
As he preached the pure message of faith, Paul was vigorously opposed by Christian converts from Judaism who taught obedience to both Christ and the Law. Countering their message, the apostle alludes to the promise and the miracle that pertains to Sarah and the birth of Isaac, and asks, “Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise.”—Gal. 4:21-23
Paul then reveals the symbolic significance of Abraham’s wives. “This is allegorically speaking: for these women are two covenants, one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar. Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother. For it is written, Rejoice, barren woman who does not bear; Break forth and shout, you who are not in labor; For more numerous are the children of the desolate than of the one who has a husband.”—vss. 24-27, New American Standard Bible
By naming Hagar and alluding to Sarah, Paul refers to two of Abraham’s wives. These are figures, or symbols, of two covenants. One covenant enslaves through the flesh and is characterized by literal Jerusalem. The other covenant liberates through the spirit and is characterized by spiritual Jerusalem. Paul says Hagar typifies the Law Covenant which binds those under it to ordinances they are incapable of keeping. Sarah, on the other hand, typifies a covenant of liberation wherein all under it are free from the demands of those ordinances. The apostle purposely avoids mention of Keturah, Abraham’s third and last wife. He referred to her with the implication of a third covenant, but it would have broadened the focus of his subject beyond the point he is making, namely that the Law Covenant represents Israel’s bondage to a standard which kept it perpetually condemned. There is another covenant which, during the present Gospel Age represents the prospect of liberty through Christ from all condemnation.
THE SARAH COVENANT
Paul declared that the covenant typified by faithful Sarah ‘is our mother.’ Therefore, the covenant from which the promised seed will be brought forth can be properly designated the Sarah Covenant. During the present Gospel Age, members of ‘The Christ’ are begotten by the power of the Holy Spirit. Those who remain faithful will constitute the true promised seed—the antitypical Isaac. These faithful ones are the saints of God. They are begotten, nurtured, and brought to completion within the figurative womb of the Sarah Covenant which is a covenant of sacrifice. “Gather my saints together unto me; those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice.”—Ps. 50:5
The apostle reminded the Judaizers that the Sarah Covenant of sacrifice had centuries before been pictorially foretold, and although long barren it would in time bear greater fruitage than the Law Covenant to which the Jews were so zealously and erroneously devoted. Addressing those begotten of the Holy Spirit of God, the apostle directly states his point, saying, “Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.” (Gal. 4:28) Thus, Paul does not refer to the promise given in the land of Moriah (Gen. 22) that pertains to Abraham, but to the promise given in the land of Mamre (Gen. 18) that pertains to Sarah.
BONDWOMAN CAST OUT
In his epistle to the Galatians, Paul continues to counter the teaching of the Judaizers. He speaks of the history of conflict within Abraham’s very household wherein the child of the flesh, Ishmael, persecuted the younger child, Isaac, who had been begotten by the Spirit of God. This resulted in the casting out of the fleshly child and his mother Hagar. The apostle says, “As then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.”—Gal. 4:29-31
A SPECIAL CREATION
Typical Isaac was begotten and born under extraordinary circumstances. He was a special creation of God’s power upon Sarah’s womb. Paul makes it clear that it is to be likewise with antitypical Isaac. This spiritual class of Jews and Gentiles, with Christ Jesus as its head, is begotten during the present Gospel Age by the power of God. A distinctly New Creation is nurtured and developed within the protective womb of the Sarah Covenant. Brought forth in the first resurrection, first the head our Lord Jesus, and then the body members of the Christ, the spiritual seed will bless all the families of the earth.
“[God] hath put all things under his [Jesus’] feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.”—Eph. 1:22,23
Isaac, of whom God spoke to Abraham while in the land of Moriah, is to be a collective, spiritual seed composed not only of Jews but those from many nations who will have the faith of Abraham. These spirit-begotten brethren in Christ are the promised fruit of a symbolic womb—the Sarah Covenant of liberty. It will be within the figurative womb of the Sarah Covenant that the Christ, head and body, will be brought forth to bless all the families of the earth with a New Covenant. This is represented by Abraham’s third wife Keturah, a covenant to be mediated during the 1000 years of the Millennial Age.
Isaac was the promised seed brought forth by God’s miraculous power through Sarah. The Christ will likewise be brought forth through the Sarah Covenant. The Abrahamic Covenant holds forth the promise of blessing all the nations of the earth by that antitypical seed once it is brought forth from the Sarah Covenant. Everything that pertained to Isaac as the child of promise was contingent upon Sarah’s belief that it was possible for God to do that which he had promised. Likewise, antitypical Isaac—the Christ head and body—begotten and conceived during the present Gospel Age will be delivered through faith to the everlasting benefit of all.
“Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.” (Rev. 20:6) “This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.”—Heb. 8:10,11