Pastor Dr. Robert Morgan, Teaching Pastor of The Donelson Fellowship in Nashville, TN, wrote a book entitled He Shall Be Called: 150 Names of Jesus and What They Mean to You. In it, here’s what he had to say about Genesis 12:
“A professor in Bible college told us that the division between Genesis 11 and Genesis 12 was greater in importance than the division between the Old and New Testaments. The more I study the Bible, the more I’m convinced he was right. In the first eleven chapters of Genesis, God dealt with the whole earth en-masse: The creation. The family of Adam. The flood of Noah. The tower of Babel. God repeatedly demonstrated that the earth as a whole was bent toward corruption and destruction. The word earth occurs ninety-two times in Genesis 1-11.
“Starting in Genesis 12, however, God launched a brilliant plan to provide redemption for all humanity. He chose one man—Abraham—and gave him a set of seven remarkable promises. As we read through the Bible, these promises unfold like forest ferns until all the realities of God’s redemption are revealed.”
I agree with much of that, except that God didn’t start that plan of redemption in Genesis 12, He simply continued that plan. He decreed that plan before creation and even hinted at it in the protoevangelium (or, “first gospel”) of Genesis 3:15, which reads
I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heal.
We see this plan of redemption confirmed in the New Testament in many verse, but these are a few that stick out like a sore thumb: Ephesians 1:4-5; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; and Revelation 17:8. God’s plan of redemption didn’t start with Abraham! It started before God even made the earth. Abraham was simply a vessel that God chose to work through in bringing that plan to pass.
Dispensationalism in a Nutshell
So here we are, 12 chapters deep into the Bible, and we are already running into questions of eschatology. It is my firm conviction that we, in the Western church today, live in a church culture where dispensationalism has run amuck.
Dispensationalism is an interpretive system (hermeneutic) and metanarrative for the Bible. It considers biblical history as being divided by God into dispensations, which is define as a period of time in which God has related differently with mankind. Any clear-thinking theologian would agree that God has revealed Himself progressively to mankind over time—no argument about that. In that sense, everybody is a dispensationalist.
But dispensationalism, as a theological metanarrative, goes beyond that. It goes beyond just progressive revelation. It can affect soteriology (doctrine of salvation). We could honestly talk about this system all day, but for the sake of this blog, I will cut to the chase.
Why Does This Even Matter?
This discussion matters a whole lot because we have to establish who this—and other OT promises—is referring to! I believe that Galatians sheds much light on this topic. In Galatians 3:6-7, the Apostle Paul tells us that “just as Abraham ‘believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham.”
If you still don’t understand the point, look no further than Galatians 3:29, which says, “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
This may be a really tough pill to swallow for some Christians. Jesus stated something vitally important to the Jews of his day in their dialogue with Him found in John 8:33-44.
Starting at v. 33, the Jews declared they were the seed of Abraham. Jesus responded by saying that He knew they were the natural genetic seed of Abraham and then stated, “but you seek to kill me, because my word has not place in you.” He then adds why His word has no place with them, by saying, “I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and you do that which you have seen with your father.”
Then, again, the Jews declared, “Abraham is our Father” (v. 39). Jesus rebuked their false view of what it means to be a child of Abraham by stating, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham.”
Jesus went as far to say that the true and living God was not their Father and then told them who was (vv. 42-44).
So, what is my point in all of this? What is the conclusion of this matter? Has the church replaced Israel, or does national Israel still have a place in God’s redemptive plan? I won’t tell you how to dice all of that out, but I will tell you this: if you are attempting to interpret Genesis 12 without reference to Galatians, Romans, Ephesians, etc., then you aren’t adhering to the analogy of faith, which is every Protestant’s greatest hermeneutical authority for interpreting Scripture!
Editor’s note: just like any sermon we take and put in blog form, there is a lot of content that was left out that would fill a few holes. However, due to length, it was cut short for clarity and purpose. See the church’s website for that full sermon.