With the ascension of Jesus, the gift of the Spirit has arrived with blessings for all believers as promised to Abraham.
The “promise of the Father” is the gift of the Spirit, and Paul links it to the Abrahamic covenant. The promises of the Abrahamic covenant find their fulfillment in the new covenant inaugurated by Jesus. The bestowal of the Spirit on the church marks the commencement of the age of fulfillment, and “in Christ,” Gentile believers become full heirs of Abraham.
And the Apostle equated the “promise of the Spirit” with the “blessings of Abraham.” The original covenant always envisioned the inclusion of the Gentiles, a point Paul uses when contending for the acceptance of Gentile believers in the covenant community without requiring their circumcision.
CHILDREN OF ABRAHAM
All men and women who belong to Jesus become “Abraham’s seed, heirs according to promise,” and “in Christ,” the old distinctions between “Jew and Gentile” no longer apply. The inclusion of the Gentiles is not an afterthought but has always been integral to the original covenant – (Genesis 12:1-3, Galatians 3:13, 3:29).
And the gift of the Spirit is received from faith, and not based on circumcision or the other rituals required by the Torah – (Galatians 3:1-4, 3:14).
- (Ephesians 1:13-14) – “In whom, you also are hearing the word of the truth, the gospel of your salvation, in whom also believing, were sealed with the Spirit of the promise, which is an earnest of our inheritance, for the redemption of the acquisition; for his glorious praise.”
The Spirit is the “earnest,” the “down payment” that guarantees our participation in the full inheritance, and the references in Ephesians to the “inheritance” and “acquisition” allude to the land promised by God to Abraham:
- (Genesis 17:8) – “I will give to you and your seed all the land of Canaan for an everlasting possession.”
Thus, Paul connects the gift of the Spirit to the covenant with Abraham, including its promise of territory.
Likewise, Jesus labeled the gift of the Spirit the “promise of the Father,” and before his ascension, he commanded his disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they received the Spirit, then they would become his “witnesses to the uttermost parts of the earth” – (Luke 24:49, Acts 1:4).
In his sermon delivered on the Day of Pentecost, Peter declared that the outpouring of the Spirit was according to the prophecy in the book of Joel – “In the last days, God will pour out His Spirit on all flesh.”
The presence of the Spirit in the church demonstrates that the “last days” are underway, the era of fulfillment that is to continue until the return of Jesus at the end of the age – (Genesis 17:7-10, Joel 2:28-32, Acts 2:38-39).
The gift of the Spirit is how men and women receive the “blessings of Abraham.” By the Spirit, men from every nation find themselves blessed with faithful Abraham – heirs of the promises and members of the covenant community – (Genesis 12:3, Acts 3:25).
The actualization of the promises began with the outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost. Since then, every man and woman who receives the gift becomes a “child of Abraham,” and therefore, the old boundary dividing Jew from Gentile is wholly inappropriate in the new community formed by Jesus Christ – (Galatians 3:27-29).
CIRCUMCISION OF THE HEART
The Mosaic legislation itself anticipated the need for something beyond the Law. The Torah could not complete what God began with Abraham. Inevitably, Israel disobeyed and violated the covenant.
However, after chastisement and repentance, the nation would “return to Yahweh and obey His voice,” and God would gather His people from all nations and “circumcise their hearts to love Him” – (Deuteronomy 30:1-6).
The themes of renewal and circumcision of the heart are taken up by the prophet Jeremiah. God “will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah,” but not like the covenant that He made at Sinai.
With the outpouring of the Spirit, God is writing His laws in the hearts of His people, and the promised circumcision of the heart is being realized in the body of Christ – (Jeremiah 31:31-34, Hebrews 8:6-13).
The book of Ezekiel adds the aspect of the Spirit to the promised “new covenant.” When Yahweh gathers the children of Israel, He will put “a new spirit” in them, and He will thereby “cause them to walk in His statutes.”
The book of Ezekiel combines the promises of Spirit, circumcised heart, and New Covenant. Thus, the covenant promises are linked to and dependent on the receipt of the Spirit – (Ezekiel 36:16-28, 37:25-28, 2 Corinthians 3:1-6).
Consistently, the New Testament applies the promises made to Abraham to the gift of the Spirit that is now granted freely to Jewish and Gentile followers of Jesus.
And that gift is labeled the “promise of the Father” and the “blessing of Abraham.” It is the identifying sign of the people of God, and the Spirit provides believers with the power to walk in the New Covenant and fulfill the “righteous requirements of the Law.”