Abraham's seed -- who is it / are they?

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nwink

Puritan Board Sophomore
Gal 3:16 "Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ."

Back when I was a Baptist, I remember having read John Reisinger's book "The Four Seeds," and in it he made the Baptistic argument from Gal 3:16 that children weren't included in the covenant in the New Testament because the true seed promised to Abraham was Christ, so the only real "seed of Abraham" are those individual believers who are in Christ (and not their children). I know this is wrong on several levels, but could you please explain how to address this argument *specifically* in terms of how this verse relates to believers' seed being included in the covenant?

(My understanding is that, first, the argument is denying the visible/invisible aspect of the covenant and denying the reality of the OT covenant, that it wasn't merely an ethnic but a spiritual reality. Also, I think the right way to understand Gal 3:16 is that Christ is the primary promised seed as he is the Mediator of the covenant...and believers are also the seed of Abraham, clearly...as well as all their children in the visible covenant community and the believing children also in the invisible aspect of the covenant community. Is this correct?)
 

moral necessity

Puritan Board Junior
I tend to see Christ as the lone seed who receives all of the benefits of the covenant. We are in Christ by faith, and therefore he shares the benefits with us. The benefits could also pertain to all that is ours, which would include our children.

Blessings!
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
Jewish and Gentile adults who profess, and their children are incorporated and engrafted into the Visible Church, and into the New Covenant phase of the Abrahamic Covenant, but only those who believe are the true seed of Abraham.

To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen. (Rom 9:5, ESV)

If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches.But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. Then you will say, "Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in." That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. (Rom 11:16-21)

Gentiles were engrafted under the Old Covenant into the Children of Israel, and could call themselves such, but how many were of the true Children of Israel /Seed of Abraham i.e. spiritually, and how many who had the genes of Abraham were the true seed?

The distinction between God-fearing Gentiles and Gentiles who became full Jews is knocked-down in the New Testament. There was a wall in the Temple beyond which the God-fearing Gentile who hadn't become a full Jew could not go.

Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called "the uncircumcision" by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands--remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, (Eph 2:11-15)

The whole Visible Church is by profession the Seed of Abraham, the Israel of God (Gal 6:16), and the Commonwealth or citizens of Israel (Ephesians 2;12) in Christ. How many of us really are is ultimately a question for each one of us, as only the individual can be infallibly assured of his/her own salvation and that he is of the true Seed.

Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. (II Peter 1:10)
 
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rookie

Puritan Board Junior
Jewish and Gentile adults who profess, and their children are incorporated and engrafted into the Visible Church, and into the New Covenant phase of the Abrahamic Covenant, but only those who believe are the true seed of Abraham.

To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen. (Rom 9:5, ESV)

If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches.But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. Then you will say, "Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in." That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. (Rom 11:16-21)

Gentiles were engrafted under the Old Covenant into the Children of Israel, and could call themselves such, but how many were of the true Children of Israel /Seed of Abraham i.e. spiritually, and how many who had the genes of Abraham were the true seed?

The distinction between God-fearing Gentiles and Gentiles who became full Jews is knocked-down in the New Testament. There was a wall in the Temple beyond which the God-fearing Gentile who hadn't become a full Jew could not go.

Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called "the uncircumcision" by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands--remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, (Eph 2:11-15)

The whole Visible Church is by profession the Seed of Abraham, the Israel of God (Gal 6:16), and the Commonwealth or citizens of Israel (Ephesians 2;12) in Christ. How many of us really are is ultimately a question for each one of us, as only the individual can be infallibly assured of his/her own salvation and that he is of the true Seed.

Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. (II Peter 1:10)

This is essentially my train of thought as well..
 

nwink

Puritan Board Sophomore
Everyone, wouldn't the WLC answer the question posed in my OP? (in addition to clarifying the visible/invisible aspects)

Question 31: With whom was the covenant of grace made?
Answer: The covenant of grace was made with Christ as the second Adam, and in him with all the elect as his seed.
 
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Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
All along the whole way, starting in Genesis 12, the fact of the seed as plural and singular is part of the warp and woof of Redemptive revelation.

It's simply undeniable that starting with the initial promises to Abraham, a large (number) posterity is promised to Abraham. Gen.15 makes that fact very clear, speaking of them in terms of the stars of heaven.

The number of blood-offspring does eventually grow to many thousands by the time of the Exodus, to which number is added countless numbers of converts to the OT religion, and the numbers only increase over the centuries--which reality is only mirrored in Paul's comments that all believers in Christ (from any ethnicity) are the true sons of Abraham.

But it is also true that the OT also reveals a progressive "narrowing" of interest, all bearing down on One figure who will sum up the Promise to Abraham and really to all mankind. The Seed is also a single Man.

And this hope is not merely an awareness that only grows slowly over the centuries. If we accept that Paul is an accurate and astute interpreter of Scripture, and not simply "allowed" by a special "Apostolic dispensation" to wrest the original inspired text to another end (one that Moses would have been confused to read)--then we should find someplace in the Genesis record a reference that clearly allows of a "singular" referent, and should in fact prove to be the best and most revealing interpretation.

And I think we have just that in the end of the climax of his life and service: The Binding of Isaac.
Gen 22:17 "I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your seed [plural] as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your seed [ambiguous, but note the following pronoun-->] shall possess the gate of his enemies,
Gen 22:18 and in your seed [singular] shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice."
Here in this chapter, we have at the beginning (v2) the emphasis on that singular offspring of Abraham, "Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering." So, here is a strong and peculliar emphasis on the fact that Abraham has only one son, this despite the fact that there is the other, Ishmael; and if we know what comes before the death notice, also the sons of Keturah (25:1ff).

Already in the story of Abraham himself, therefore, we have the theme of "narrowing," and a focus on one seed of promise. Paul clearly sees this, and draws out its implications. He looks at the story of Isaac's binding, looks to the end, and sees in the Angel's word to Abraham a plain, singular reference. To Abraham himself, it is a plain repetition of the original Promise, that has added to it (with a rush of adrenaline) a personal reference to Isaac. The boy was the seed of Promise, but now in the aftermath of this drama, his identity has just been confirmed in a most powerful manner. Without a doubt, it will most certainly be through the singular offspiring ISAAC (and no other of his sons) that all the nations will be blessed.

Now, it becomes clear over the course of Isaac's own life (subsequent chs. of Gen.) that he is a "patriarch" like his father, and not THE Seed himself. He will be one instrument of bringing the true Seed into the world. But in this, he plainly serves as a type of the Christ, the Seed. Isaac is the one, as later Jacob is the one, then Judah, then David--each man one further narrowing of the family that will bring forth the promised Seed, who will in truth be the Blessing to all the nations.


Simply put, Paul isn't formulating a new interpretation of the preexisting Holy Writ. He's applying the hope that was already "focused" on a Coming One from ages past, to the Person of Jesus Christ as the answer, the fulfillment of that hope.

Now, I would say that since the singular referent never has a meaning that excluded the many referents (seed vs. seeds), it doesn't follow that in an age of "fulfillment," there is no more plural referents. It takes a pre-commitment to the idea that "faith" has "replaced" something, namely "blood" in reference to that plural "seed," in order to make that idea "work." But I'm just going to deny the premise outright. I don't believe that there was a blood-line seed (OT) that had non-redemptive Promises in connection to Abraham. I think that's poppycock. None of the promises to Abraham had any value apart from sharing his faith, apart from believing in his same Hope.
 
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