Rev. Stephen E. Stults
St. Paul’s Anglican Church
13th Sunday after Trinity
Sept. 6, 2020
Galatians 3:16 6 Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, "And to seeds," as referring to many, but rather to one, "And to your seed," that is, Christ.”
What is a promise?
Promise (Noun): “A declaration or assurance that one will do a particular thing or that a particular thing will happen.”
As a verb: “assure someone that one will definitely do, give, or arrange something; undertake or declare that something will happen.”
When thinking about promises, we must consider a couple of things. First, who is giving this promise? Are they trustworthy? Can they keep their word? Second, are they able to keep this promise? Can they do it?
We know from Scripture that God made Abraham a promise. This type of promise is called a covenant, which is very solemn and serious. Not that any of our promises should be taken lightly, but a covenant is a real, binding type of situation. Both parties agree to adopt and perform the covenant terms. In this case, God commanded Abraham to depart from his people in Ur of the Chaldees and to go to place God would send him. If he did so, God would prosper him and make his seed as plenteous as the stars in the sky. Here is the language God used with Abraham, (then Abram): Genesis 12:2-3 “2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: 3 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.”
That is quite a promise. Let’s consider it in light of our two considerations. First, God gave the promise to Abraham. There can be no other, surer, promise-giver than Him. Second, can God fulfill His promises? These questions are surely rhetorical to people of faith.
This being the case, how is this promise important to us? How does it affect us and our lives? Simply this: “…in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”
Once again, we say, “how?”
It may depend on how views Holy Scripture. Reading recently a book by a contemporary Bible scholar, Hans Boersma, Scripture as Real Presence, we learn about the ways the early Church fathers, among them Origen, St. Augustine, Gregory of Nyssa, and others, read the Bible. Although some of the early commentators on the Bible, ranging from the third, fourth, and fifth centuries, were accused of being overly allegorical in their approach to the Bible, that is, they were always looking for a symbolic meaning of the text, we learn that many of the these early Christians also took a serious literal interpretation of it as well.
What this means is that they plainly saw Christ in the Old Testament as well as the new. To their mind, there was no great chasm between the Old and the New. Many of us growing up in the Protestant Episcopal Church of America (PECUSA), like I did, had a sense of two testaments that weren’t really connected. There was the wrathful, vengeful God of the Old Testament vs. the loving, caring God of the New, as expressed in Jesus Christ. One really didn’t need the Old Testament, except to explain the creation of the Earth, or those parts of the Prophet Isaiah we read at Christmas.
This was the result of an early 20th Century theological movement called Dispensationalism, which claimed God made “dispensations” , or that He “dispensed” His Will to mankind at certain times. Thus, the theory went, the great difference between the Testaments.
Looking at the early Church Fathers, nothing could be farther from the truth. The Bible is one book in which Christ is plainly seen. He is evident in both Old and New Testaments. One of my favorite quotes from Bishop Lightfoot goes: “In the Old, the New concealed; in the New, the Old revealed.”
At this point, you may say, “Great, Father Stults, but what has any of this to do with the promise made to Abraham?” Everything. Why are all the families of the world blessed in Abraham? Who descended from Abraham through the House of David? Joseph, whose earthly caregiver and caretaker Jesus was. In the real sense, Jesus is the Son of God, immaculately conceived in the womb of the Blessed Mary. In the worldly sense, Jesus is of the house and lineage of David, a direct descendant of Abraham.
How then, are modern-day Christians blessed through this? Do we really have to ask? Yes, we do. Sometimes, perhaps we fail to recall that our blessings, temporal and eternal, rest in Christ. Because Jesus is the descendent of Abraham, born of Mary and protected by Joseph, He grew up a Jew. It was fitting that one of God’s chosen people should be offered as the Spotless Lamb of God, “..slain from the foundations of the world.”[i] From this, all our blessings flow.
Just how are Christians blessed?
We are blessed with eternal life through Him.
We are blessed with the daily, immanent presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. From this, we know that we are never alone.
We are blessed in the peace of God that passes all understanding.
We are blessed because we have joy in life despite our circumstances.
We are blessed with purpose because we are seeking God’s Will for our lives.
We are blessed to have the Holy Scriptures to lead us in our walk with God.
We are blessed because God loves us, and we love God.
If we have a right mind with God, what more could we want?
Yes, we could say material things are desired. Certainly. Yet, didn’t Jesus say, (Matthew 6:33) 33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”? Yes, He did.
When we seek the will of God for our lives first, all else is truly added to that. All blessings flow to him that wants to want what God wants for him. It’s a strange paradox that in giving up, we gain, and by losing ourselves, we find ourselves.
Yet, that is how it is.
May we all find our truest purpose in Him, and in so doing, may all God’s richest blessings be poured upon us.
[i] Rev. 13:8