“According to the eternal purpose” (Ephesians 3:11)

By Bob Myhan

Review and Correction of Part Four

“And Adam lived one hundred and thirty years, and begot a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.” (Gen. 5:3)

After the birth of Seth men began to call on the name of the Lord” (Gen. 4:26). But this did not continue long.

Now it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose. And the Lord said, "My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years." There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown. Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually (Gen. 6:1-5).

“The sons of God” were righteous men not angelic beings; angels neither marry nor are given in marriage.” (Matt. 22:30)

And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the Lord said, "I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them." But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord (Gen. 6:6-8).

It was erroneously stated in Part Four that man’s spiral into wickedness is detailed Rom. 1:18-32. However, Paul’s account of man’s wickedness and ungodliness was actually a detail of events after the flood, rather than before it. Moses records the rise of the nations but does not discuss their idolatry. (Gen. 10:1-32; 11:1-9)

God’s Promises to Abram

Abram was a descendant of Shem (Gen. 11:10-32). Though Abram had a background in idolatry (Josh. 24:1-2) God made several promises to him. First, God promised to make of Abram a great nation (Gen. 12:1-2). But what would make a nation great from God’s perspective? Gordon J. Wenham wrote:

“A large population, a large territory, and a spiritual character make a nation great.” (Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 1, page 275)

God promised each of these elements, either explicitly or implicitly. Concerning the large population, after Abram had journeyed to Egypt and back, Jehovah “brought him outside and said, ‘Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.’ And He said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be’” (Gen. 15:5).

Regarding the large territory, “He said to Abram, ’Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years...But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete…To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates—the Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites’” (Gen. 15:13-16, 18-21).

The reference to the “iniquity of the Amorites” implied God’s intention for Abram’s descendants to have a spiritual character. He would make this possible by giving them a law that would be moral and religious, as well as civil (see Ex. 20; Deut. 4:5-10).

Second, God promised to bless Abram and make his name great (Gen. 12:2). He would bless Abram in at least three ways: physically with long life (Gen. 25:7); materially with great wealth (Gen. 13:1-2) and spiritually with righteousness thus making his name great (Gen. 15:6; 18:16-19; Rom. 4:1-8).

The name of Abram - later changed to Abraham - is held to be great among Jews, Muslims and Christians. The place of comfort following death, for the first century Jew, was “Abraham’s bosom” (Luke 16:22-23).

Third, God promised to bless “all the families of the earth” in Abram (Gen. 12:3). Indeed, this was the promise to which all the other promises were designed to lead. But it was crucial that God reveal and magnify sin, so that man could perceive the exceeding sinfulness thereof. Until such time, man could not possibly appreciate God’s eternal purpose to give unto man eternal life. Nor could man fully appreciate the principle of faith, until it had been manifested in a variety of persons over a long period of time. Though Abram was not the first man of faith (Abel, Enoch and Noah, before him, were also men of faith), he is probably the greatest example of faith in the Biblical record [which we will show in Part Six]. For this reason, he is called “the father of the faithful.” All the families of the earth are now blessed in, or through “the seed of Abraham.”

Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, "In you all the nations shall be blessed." So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham. (Gal. 3:7-9)

Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, "And to seeds," as of many, but as of one, "And to your Seed," who is Christ. (Gal. 3:16)

But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Gal. 3:23-29)

[To be continued]