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Abraham is a key figure in the teachings of the New Testament. Here he is mentioned many times. The apostle Paul says that Abraham is "the father of all those who believe", both of the circumcised and the uncircumcised (Rom 4:9-12). Abraham is twice named in the faith chapter (Heb 11:8-12,17-19) as one who believed that God would fulfil His promises. James says that Abraham was called the "friend of God" (Jas 2:23). Jesus, however, makes the most revealing and startling statement about Abraham, John 8:56:
Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.
In this study, we will discover that in the promises made to Abraham the full plan of God is revealed -- even His universal plan of salvation for all mankind, beginning with the first-born saints.
When Melchizedek, priest of God Most High, met Abraham, He "brought out bread and wine" (Gen 14:18), and He blessed Abraham. We are told little of Melchizedek here, but his identity is revealed in the book of Hebrews, Heb 7:1-3:
For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all, first being translated "king of righteousness," and then also king of Salem, meaning "king of peace," without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually.
Jesus, then, manifested Himself to Abraham as Melchizedek. And when He brought out bread and wine, He brought out the very symbols of his sacrificial death. For the bread is symbolic of the body of Jesus, and the wine is the symbol of his blood (Luke 22:19-20).
Soon after his meeting with Melchizedek, Abraham receives a vision from the LORD, and with the vision receives a promise, Gen 15:5:
Then He brought him outside and said, "Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them." And He said to him, "So shall your seed be."
The LORD again appears to Abraham, and confirms the promise by giving him a new name, Gen 17:5
"No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations."
The promise is now not one of numbers only, but one which will include all nations.
There is a third aspect to this promise, one which concerns a blessing upon all nations, Gen 22:18:
"In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed" ...
The apostle Paul explains the meaning of the promises made by the LORD to Abraham, Gal 3:16:
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 if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.
So Christ is that Seed to whom the promise refers. It is in Christ that all the nations of the earth would be blessed, beginning with the first-born saints. In Christ, the saints are brought near to the covenants of promise (Eph 2:11-13). Paul says that the saints have been called out from among the nations, Rom 4:16-17:
Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all (as it is written, "I have made you a father of many nations") ...
We can then understand the numbers aspect of the promise -- that the seed of Abraham would be multiplied "as the stars of heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore" (Gen 22:17). This vast number refers to the redeemed in Christ, which in the fullness of time will include all humanity. This, then, is the sense in which Abraham and his seed inherit the world (Rom 4:13), John 3:17:
For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
It is fitting, then, that Abraham should be called the father of the faithful and the friend of God; for in the promises made to Abraham, God's universal plan of salvation for all mankind is revealed; Gal 3:8:
And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the nations by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, "In you all the nations shall be blessed."
[All scriptural quotations are taken from the NKJV.]