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The Father of All Who Believe

• Greg Boyd

In the fourth part of our Long Story Short series, Greg zooms in on the calling of Abraham in order to discover the ways in which God’s Kingdom is like a mustard seed.

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Today, Greg begins with a look at the calling of Abraham.

In Genesis 12 the Bible shifts from a story of how mankind is destroying itself to how God is pursuing mankind and restoring us.

After this shift we could get the impression that God is a tribal God. There are portraits in the Old Testament narrative that can seem to point towards this. While sometimes glimpses of truth emerge (as in Amos 9:7 “Are you not like the Cushites to me, O people of Israel?” declares the Lord. “Did I not bring up Israel from the land of Egypt, and the Philistines from Caphtor and the Syrians from Kir?”), God does not lobotomize people to think true thoughts.

As Greg explains, no one had a view of a God who was equally for all people. The view that Amos 9:7 supposes is radical and unprecedented.

In Genesis 12:1-3 we see how God starts small like a mustard seed:

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and pin you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

The Israelites were always meant for the benefit of the entire globe, not just themselves. It is a fundamental kingdom principle is that if we are blessed we should enjoy it and use it to bless others.

Paul comments on Abraham’s story in Galatians 3:16-18

To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.

Paul argues from Jesus to highlight the text. Not the other way around. If anyone believes how Abraham believed towards Jesus, then they become the seed. Jesus is the fulfillment of the promise of Abraham.

Further, Paul argues in Galatians 3:28-29

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

The oneness we have in Christ is to be manifest across any and all human-contrived lines. All right relatedness comes through Christ. Everything else is considered null and void. God loves Israel and all the peoples of world. We are to do the same. What God is doing transcends race, nationalities, and property. Racism is particularly demonic because it cuts to the core of this amazing gospel message.

Greg then poses the questions: Why did God choose Abraham? What could have happened if Abraham said no? Were there others God called?

Take Genesis 11:27-32

Now these are the generations of Terah. Terah fathered Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran fathered Lot. Haran died in the presence of his father Terah in the land of his kindred, in Ur of the Chaldeans. And Abram and Nahor took wives. The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran the father of Milcah and Iscah. Now Sarai was barren; she had no child.

Terah took Abram his son and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife, and they went forth together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan, but when they came to Haran, they settled there. The days of Terah were 205 years, and Terah died in Haran.

Greg points out that Terah left Ur and headed towards the promise land, but for some reason he stopped in Haran. Some scholars speculated that it was possible God originally called Terah to go to Canaan, but Terah somehow got sidetracked.

Greg also notes how all the heroes of the Bible have their flaws. Abraham lied about his wife being his sister out of fear that the Pharaoh would kill him to have her. Noah gets drunk, passes out naked, and curses his son. David has all the women in the world and still sleeps with Bathsheba. Moses kills a man. This reveals how God works with and uses flawed and sinful people. We have all screwed up in our various minor or major ways, but our identity is not defined by the messes we create, but by Christ crucified. No matter how terrible or ugly your screw up, God is not done with you. Satan, the accuser, wants to use our screw ups to take us out. We don’t have to trust our brain, which is damaged, we can trust Jesus. Jesus paid all the death consequences of sin. When we think we need to pay for our own sin, we act as if the cross wasn’t enough.

Greg end by encouraging us to start serving and get back in the game. The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead lives in us. When we take a hit, fear and shame will seek to keep us in chains, but when we fall, we are to as soon as possible get back up, knowing that fear, shame, and death have been defeated. The most vulnerable person is the person who is idle.

Lastly, it was not until decades past the initial promising of a child that Isaac was born. Trust between Abraham and God was developed during these years, but God wasn’t in a hurry. Down the road Abraham’s descendants were slaves in Egypt for 400 years during which God’s promise of being a great nation seemed hopeless. Imagine at year 300, being a slave in Egypt seeing no evidence of God’s promise. However, God still was faithful. Using that as an analogy can help us trust that even though the world seems just as dark as it has always been, God will be faithful to his promise to bring complete restoration and righteousness through the coming of his kingdom and victory won on the cross.

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Sermon Series: Long Story Short

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Focus Scripture:

  • Genesis 12:1-3

    Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and pin you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

  • Galatians 3:28-29

    There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.

  • Galatians 6:15-16

    Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule -- to the Israel of God.

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2 thoughts on “The Father of All Who Believe

    Ken Revell says: Thursday July 4, 2019 at 1:38 am

    Abraham, The Father of all Who Believe: This message was an eye opener ! We tend at times to be overly captivated by Israel in a way that we lose sight that God loves the entire world. This message along with last weeks message on Noah has forced me again to struggle with the Scriptures and has challenged all my seminary paradigms. Many of the evangelical paradigms are limiting and I believe crippling . Painfully my eyes are Being opened , My perceptions of being shattered but I also believe my heart is being open as I am seeing who Christ who died for an entire creation in blood and agony. I am now I’m beginning to see for the first time the cross changes everything!

    Jimmy says: Tuesday July 9, 2019 at 6:58 pm

    I love Greg Boyd and consider him the best teaching pastor in the US. But he is wrong wrt Israel and the land. God is the one who established the Nations of the earth and set their boundaries (Acts 17). Nations will always exist and God deals with them separately. Greg should reconsider his position and reevaluate the significance of the modern State of Israel.

    One of Gregs mentors, TF Torrance, a theologian Greg holds in the highest esteem, recognized the hand of God in the events resulting in the establishment of the Nation of Israel after nearly 2,000 years in exile.

    Torrance sees an analogy in Israel’s liturgy that illustrates the role of Israel in the reconciliation of the world to God. He explains that on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) two goats were incorporated into the liturgy and presented as an offering for sin at the entrance to the sanctuary. One goat slaughtered on the altar for atonement and the other the high priest conferred the sins of Israel and sent into the wilderness. Both kinds of sacrifice were incorporated and needed to explain God’s atonement for sin. Torrance reflects upon this two-fold sacrifice and sees them fulfilled in Christ as he was driven by the Spirit into the wilderness after his baptism, despised and rejected and then, of course, as the lamb that was slain. Torrance further sees that it also illustrates the relationship between Israel and the Church: He writes, ” The Christian Church went out from the resurrection side of the Cross into history as the Church of the Lamb who had been slain but is forever triumphantly alive; but the Jewish Church went out from the dark side of the Cross into history as the Church of the scapegoat, cast out and scattered over the earth under the shadow of the crucified Jesus. Each had its distinctive mission to fulfill in bearing witness to the nature of atoning reconciliation provided by God, but each in ways that were the obverse of each other and thus mutely and unknowingly supporting each other. Both participate in the mediation of God’s reconciling love through his Servant in whose vicarious passion the Holy One of Israel and the people of Israel, the Redeemer of mankind and mankind itself, are internally bound together.” (The Mediation of Christ p37)

    Open your eyes. The prophecy of the dry bones found in Ezekiel chapter 37 is being fulfilled today. The resurrection of the Nation of Israel, the Hebrew language and the return of the covenant people to their covenant land after 2,000 years is unprecedented in human history. Like Greg said, how this will all play out only God knows.

    But please consider the following ways that Israel witnesses to God and continues to play their role in the history of redemption.

    1. Israel is an object lesson that confirms God’s ongoing covenant of grace not only with Israel but also with the world. The God revealed in the Hebrew scriptures keeps His word and promises.

    2. Israel’s death, resurrection & return to their ancient homeland is an object lesson. It points us back to the death, resurrection & ascension of Yeshua that preceded it. Like Yeshua before them, Israel has been a nation scorned and rejected. The Jews in diaspora are like the scapegoat that was led alive into the wilderness of nations. Theologically speaking, all of this had to follow their rejection and murder of Yeshua their brother and Messiah just as their resurrection and return to their home followed the resurrection of Yeshua and his return to his home in heaven.

    3. Israel is an object lesson that demonstrates how God has historically revealed himself. We know God by what he has actually done in history, and through revelation and his incarnation within the community of Israel.

    4. Israel is a testimony to salvation as a free gift of God’s grace. Israel witnesses to the fact that despite our antagonism and rebellion against God, and although God is a God of judgment, His mercy triumphs over judgment as seen in the symbolism of the Ark of the Covenant where the meeting place was the mercy seat which was above the Ark concealing the tablets of the Law which called for judgment.

    5. Israel is a negative object lesson revealing that despite God’s love, patience and mercy, Israel, like all of mankind, continues in their sin and rebellion against Him. Although Israel continues to be a sinful nation, she yet remains the servant of God… serving His purpose that the World come to know who He is and what He is like.

    6. Israel reveals God as a person whom we actually encounter in history.

    7. Israel reflects that there is a sovereign process of judgment going on throughout history and every nation has to give account to God.

    8. Israel resurrection and return witnesses to the coming day of the Lord, to a new creation when Messiah will come back to the earth in judgment, mercy, and renewal.

    9. Over the course of more than 3,000 years of intense and intimate dealings, God carefully, patiently and deliberately imprinted himself upon Israels very essence.

    The Jews are saturated in the Torah… the self-revelation of almighty God. They’ve been taught the Torah and then have instructed their children for millennia in the ways of living that will lead to life. The very word of God has penetrated and been deeply imprinted into Israel’s conscious and subconscious minds… their very DNA.

    Even in their current state of unbelief, Israel is a light to the nations, a glaring example of what is released from a nation so saturated and bathed in the ways of God.

    10. Israel, by her very presence in the Promised Land, witnesses to the fact that God is doing something great and dramatic in history.



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