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A Promise to You

Sitting at a desk writing a letter to the church in Rome, a man nicknamed Paul puts ink to papyrus using a stylus. The goal of this letter was to address a divided group of people living in Rome with explanations and guidance for those that were divided. Paul had a spiritual need to unify these groups as he traveled throughout the ancient world, and Rome was situated between Paul’s departing destination, and his future travels to Spain. Paul’s letter to the Romans would have four parts to it with 16 chapters in total:

  1. God’s Righteousness (chapters 1-4)

  2. A New Humanity (chapters 5-8)

  3. God’s Promise to Israel (chapters 9-11)

  4. Unification of the church (chapters 12-16)

Paul explains to the people that both Gentiles (non-Israelites) and Israelites are guilty in their sinful ways of life, and the Israelites are at a greater fault because they have the Torah, and they should know better. A message of hope comes out of this, explaining God’s character: how He had a promise to Israel’s father Abraham, how He fulfills that promise and that God has mercy.

The Promise to Abraham

When Paul gets to the 11th chapter of his letter, he explains that a covenant occurred between Abraham and God. But who exactly was Abraham, and what was this covenant?

Abraham was named Abram by his father, Terah, and they were from the land of Ur, which is now modern-day Iraq. Abram and his brother Nahor took wives. Abram was married to Sarai and Nahor was married to Milcah. Nahor and Milcah had a son named Lot, but Abram and Sarai did not have children. Now, the time came when Terah and his family along with his daughters-in-law left Ur and arrived at Haran (modern day Turkey) and dwelt there. (Genesis 11:27-32).

After Terah died in Haran, the Lord told Abram to:

Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.

(Genesis 12:1-3).

Abram listens to God, bringing Lot with him. Now at the age of 75 years old, Abram departed from Haran, and came to the land of Canaan with his family and all his possessions. (Canaan is modern day southern Levant (encompassing Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, Jordan and southern portions of Syria and Lebanon)). When Abram arrived at a place named Shechem, the Lord appeared to Abram saying, “To your descendants I will give this land.” (Genesis 12:7).

This is not the only time that this promise from God was made with him. God also tells Abram that “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates” (Genesis 15:18). Later, God tells Abram that he will be the father of many nations from his descendants and changes his name to Abraham (Genesis 17:4-4). The other thing God tells Abraham, is that this covenant would be an everlasting covenant, “And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you.” (Genesis 17:7).

In addition, the Lord came to Abram in a vision and told Abram that he will have an heir for he had no children at the time. In the vision, God takes Abram outside and tells him “Look now toward heaven and count the stars if you are able to number them…so shall your descendants be” (Genesis 15:5). Paul said that “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness” (Romans 4:3, see also Genesis 15:6).

Understanding that covenant to Abraham was to make many nations from him is a part of this covenant to him. However, we need to also know who his descendants were.

Photo Credit: Wix Media

The Descendants of Abraham

As Paul continues to write his letter to the Romans, he comes to the 11th chapter first explaining that God will not cast away His people. For Paul is an Israelite under the seed of Abraham, and a Roman citizen. Pursing his first thought in that chapter, he reinforces his first sentence and states, “I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not!” (Romans 11:11).

Paul tells the Romans that the Israelites have fallen from the path of righteousness, but God has a plan. God’s plan was to start preaching the gospel to the Gentiles (non-Israelites) to cause jealousy in His original people and causing the Israelites to turn back on the path of righteous again. Paul says that the descendants, therefore, extends to three groups of people:

1. The descendants of Abraham, the Israelites.

2. The Gentiles that believe in the gospel.

3. The Israelites that believe in the gospel.

How Paul Knew These Things

How did Paul know these things? Who knows, but perhaps Paul heard the story about a short tax collector named Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus lived a few decades before Paul started writing his letter to the Romans.

The tax collector was living in Jericho and was trying to see the Son of God, for Jesus Christ had just entered the region. The crowd of people surrounding Jesus was blocking Zacchaeus’s view of Jesus. To solve this problem, he ran ahead and climbed a tree to see Jesus from above. Did it work?

When Jesus arrived at the tree, He looked up and saw Zacchaeus. Jesus called to him “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” (Luke 19:5).

Zacchaeus came down hastily and received Jesus joyfully, but the crowd complained because tax collectors were considered the bottom of society, “He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner” (Luke 19:7). Yet, Zacchaeus proved himself, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.” (Luke 19:8)

Jesus responded, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and save that which was lost” (Luke 19:9-10). Jesus did not say He had come to save the house of Abraham (Israel), but that He “has come to seek and save that which was lost.”

If God has called you, you are part of the covenant to Abraham, and as Paul described you fall in one the three groups identified earlier. God will never turn on His promises. However, the promise for you is not land like it was for Abraham, but it is a right to a kingdom.

Everlasting Life

Paul tells us that the kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:19). Likewise, Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a “man who sowed good seed in his field” (Matthew 13:24). The good seed represents the righteous ones of God. Jesus further explains, “but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way.” The enemy is Satan, and the tares (weeds) are those that are not righteous and commit sin. Yet, when the field workers asked the owner if they should remove the weeds, the owner tells them, “No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest.” God calls us as a light in the darkness, to be a beacon of hope to those that are lost. The harvest speaks to tribulation, and the rapture.

Jesus Christ also explained the type of people who can be in the kingdom:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the [a]earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

(Matthew 5:3-10)

To get into any place, you need to enter through a door, and the kingdom of heaven is no different. What is the door? Jesus Christ, for Jesus “is the way, the truth, and the life” and “No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). The Gospel of John says that “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” In addition to belief, Jesus taught us to keep the commandments, to humble ourselves, and repent from sin. Jesus was given to us for the forgiveness of our sins.

The Ultimate Sacrifice

In his letter to the Romans, Paul explains God’s promise and mercy through the Law and the Prophets, and how God has revealed His righteousness through the faith in Jesus Christ who was given for all that believed, because all people have sinned (Romans 3:21-23). Paul also writes that:

Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier for the one has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:26).

In fact, Jesus Christ had quoted the book of Hosea, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice” (Matthew 9:13). Jesus further explained that He “did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Matthew 9:13).

Therefore, God’s response to people sinning, and the fulfillment of the Law and Prophets came through His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.

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