In “Eternity in their Hearts,” Don Richardson talks about the backbone of Christianity, the Abrahamic Covenant, made by God to Abraham 4,000 years ago and recorded in Genesis 12:1-3. Dr. Ralph Winter, director of the United States Center for World Mission in Pasadena, California, explains that everything before Genesis 12 is just introduction and that the main theme does not get underway until God utters “the promise” or “the promises” to Abraham. This theme, this promise, is the backbone of Christianity because it explains the motivation behind everything occurring in this narrative which is now 4,000 years in the making.
Richardson explains that the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8) is not an after-thought of Jesus, but is a continuation of the Abrahamic Covenant, and that He had been preparing His disciples for it for the length of His ministry.
1. Jesus’ Great Commission of all Christians is rooted in and is a continuance of the Abrahamic Covenant.
The top line: “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse.” The bottom line: “. . .AND ALL PEOPLES ON EARTH WILL BE BLESSED THROUGH YOU.”
Zondervan NASB Study Bible note on vv.2-3: “In various ways and degrees, these promises were reaffirmed to Abram (v.7; 15:5-21; 17:4-8; 18:18-19; 22:17-18), to Isaac (26:2-4), to Jacob (28:13-15; 35:11-12; 46:3) and to Moses (Ex 3:6-8; 6:2-8). The seventh promise (Ichthus: all-peoples) is quoted in Acts 3:25 with reference to Peter’s Jewish listeners (see Acts 3:12)—Abram’s physical descendants—and in Gal 3:8 with reference to Paul’s Gentile listeners—Abram’s spiritual descendants.” Richardson muses, “We sense immediately that the God who would speak such words is no petty tribal god. He is a God whose plans are both benign and universal, spanning all ages and cultures. If He retaliates against enemies of Abraham, it is not just to protect Abraham, but also to keep the enemies from extinguishing a fire kindled to warm the whole world!”
It is interesting that the beginning and end of Abraham’s life sort of parallels the Trinity’s. In the beginning, he goes down to Egypt and then back again, as Jesus (Abraham’s descendant) did when he was born. He is in communication with the angel of the Lord, as was his descendant Jesus during his earthly ministry. In the end, he is prepared to sacrifice his only son, as the Father did his only Son (Abraham’s descendant).