Promises of the Abrahamic covenant

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Puritan Board Doctor
I never thought of it before, would you agree with Pink?

The grand promises of the Abrahamic covenant, as originally given to the patriarch, are recorded in Genesis 12:2, 3, 7. The covenant itself was solemnly ratified by sacrifice, thus making it inviolable, in Genesis 15:9-21. The seal and sign of the covenant, circumcision, is brought before us in Genesis 17:9-14. The covenant was confirmed by divine oath in Genesis 22:15-18, which provided a ground of "strong consolation" (Heb. 6:17-19). There were not two distinct and diverse covenants made with Abraham (as the older Baptists argued), the one having respect to spiritual blessings and the other relating to temporal benefits. The covenant was one, having a special spiritual object, to which the temporal arrangements and inferior privileges enjoyed by the nation of Israel were strictly subordinated, and necessary only as a means of securing the higher results contemplated.

It is true that the contents of the covenant were of a mixed kind, involving both the natural descendants and the spiritual seed of Abraham, its promises receiving a minor and major fulfillment. There was to be a temporary accomplishment of those promises to his natural offspring here on earth, and there was to be an eternal realization of them to his spiritual children in heaven. Unless this twofoldness of the contents of the covenant be steadily borne in mind, it is impossible to obtain a right and clear view of them. Nevertheless it is highly essential that we distinguish sharply between the two, lest we fall into the error of others who insist that the spiritual blessings belonged not only to the natural seed of Abraham, but to the offspring of Christians as well. Spiritual blessings cannot be communicated by carnal propagation.

Nothing could more clearly establish what has just been pointed out than, "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" (Rom. 9:6-8). All of Abraham’s descendants did not participate in the spiritual blessings promised to him, for to some of them Christ said, "Ye shall die in your sins" (John 8:24), which was shadowed forth in the fact that Ishmael and Esau were excluded from even the temporal privileges enjoyed by the offspring of Isaac and Jacob. Nor do all the children of Christians enter into the spiritual privileges promised to Abraham, but only those which were eternally chosen unto salvation; and who they are cannot be known until they believe: "Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham" (Gal. 3:7).

Let us point out in the next place that Abraham’s covenant was strictly peculiar to himself; for neither in the Old Testament nor in the New is it ever said that the covenant with Abraham was made on behalf of all believers, or that it is given to them. The great thing that the covenant secured to Abraham was that he should have a seed, and that God would be the God of that seed; but Christians have no divine warrant that He will be the God of their seed, nor even that they shall have any children at all. As a matter of fact, many of them have no posterity; and therefore they cannot have the covenant of Abraham. The covenant of Abraham was as peculiar to himself as the one God made with Phinehas, "And he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood" (Num. 25:13), and as the covenant of royalty which God made with David and his seed (2 Sam. 7:12-16). In each case a divine promise was given securing a posterity; and had no children been born to those men, then God had broken His covenant.

Look at the original promises made to Abraham: "And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shah be a blessing. And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee; and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed" (Gen. 12:2, 3). Has God promised every Christian that He will make of him a "great nation"? or that He will make his "name great"—celebrated like the patriarch’s was and is? or that in him "all the families of the earth shall be blessed"? Surely there is no room for argument here: the very asking of such questions answers them. Nothing could be more extravagant and absurd than to suppose that any such promises as these were made to us.

If God fulfills the covenant with Abraham and his seed to every believer and his seed, then He does so in accord with the terms of the covenant itself. But if we turn to and carefully examine its contents, it will at once appear that they were not to be fulfilled in the case of all believers, in addition to Abraham himself. In that covenant God promises that Abraham should be "a father of many nations," that "kings shall come out of thee," that "I will give thee and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession" (Gen. 17:5-8). But Christians are not made the fathers of many nations; kings do not come out of them; nor do their descendants occupy the land of Canaan, either literally or spiritually. How many a godly believer has had to mourn with David: "Although my house be not so with God; yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure, for this is all my salvation" (2 Sam. 23:5).

The covenant established no spiritual relation between Abraham and his offspring; still less does it establish a spiritual relation between every believer and his babes. Abraham was not the spiritual father of his own natural offspring, for spiritual qualities cannot be propagated by carnal generation. Was he the spiritual father of Ishmael? Was he the spiritual father of Esau? No, indeed; instead, Abraham was "the father of all them that believe" (Rom. 4:11). So far as his natural descendants were concerned, Scripture declares that Abraham was "the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised" (Rom. 4:12). What could be plainer? Let us beware of adding to God’s Word. No theory or practice, no matter how venerable it be or how widely held, is tenable, if no clear Scripture can be found to warrant and establish it.

The question may be asked, But are not Christians under the Abrahamic covenant? In the entire absence of any word in Scripture affirming that they are, we answer No.

I find Pink's work very convincing, in fact, I've had to re-examine my non-sabbatarian views after reading "The Divine Covenants" for the second time.



Puritan Board Doctor
Pink makes some good points but I'm sure paedos would like to reply to his points against paedobaptism. Can I start a new thread on this elsewhere?


Staff member
In the book "Covenant Theology, From Adam to Christ" (Nehemiah Coxe & John Owen. Editors: Ronald D. Miller, James M. Reniham & Francisco Orozco), Nehemiah Coxe wrote the following on the mutual reference of the promises made to Abraham (pages 130, 131):

Next it is to be noted that there was a typical representation of the future state of the church (in the days of the gospel) in the present transactions of God with Abraham and the state of his family. The explanation of all the details belonging to this would require an enlargement of this discourse beyond its intended bounds. Therefore, for our present purpose, I will only point at the heads of those things which the apostle sets before us in Galatians 4 from verse 21 to the end of the chapter.

After reading the context, you will observe that the allegory insisted on by the apostle is grounded on the historical verity that Abraham had a twofold seed.

1. One proceeded from him according to the ordinary course and by the strength of nature; the other was produced by virtue of a promise. The one was Ishmael by Hagar, a bond-woman; the other was Isaac by Sarah, a free-woman.

2. The bond-woman and her son had the precedence in time of conception and birth to the free-woman and her son.

3. In the process of time the son of the bond-woman who was born after the flesh persecutes the son of the free-woman who was born after the Spirit; that is, in the virtue of the promise. Because of this the bond-woman and her son are cast out of the family and Isaac remains there as the only heir of his father's blessing.

The apostle affirms that these things were ordered by God in a typical relationship to gospel times and applies them as follows.

Hagar was a type of Mount Sinai and the legal covenant established there. Ishmael was a type of the carnal seed of Abraham under that covenant. Sarah was a type of the new Jerusalem, the gospel church founded on the covenant of grace. Isaac was a type of the true members of that church who are born of the Spirit, being converted by the power of the Holy Spirit for the fulfilling of the promise of the Father to the Jesus Christ the mediator. And the ejection of Hagar and Ishmael was to prefigure the abrogation of the Sinaitic covenant and the dissolving of the Jewish church-state so that the inheritance of spiritual blessings might be clearly passed down to the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ.

I have a high degree of respect for Pink; believing that his writings are a great asset to the church. However, I am convinced Coxe has this right, especially in light of Galatians 4. Abraham's spiritual seed are those who believe, not to those who are the carnal seed of those who have believed. The children of believers are the carnal seed of the parents, not the spiritual seed of Abraham. If and when a child is regenerated they become part of Abraham's spiritual seed. This is where I believe Pink is inaccurate.
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