There are many ways that Christians share the gospel around the world. Despite the variety of methods used, the most common gospel presentations have at least one thing in common. They largely skip directly from creation to Christ. Typically, if there is a reference to Israel story, it will be incidental or non-essential.
In view of my previous few posts, we need to consider whether this is ok. Does Israel’s story matter? Should the Abrahamic covenant shape our evangelism methods? If so, why? Or, can we simply skip from creation to Christ?
Yes. God’s covenant with Abraham should shape our gospel presentations. In light of Gal 3:8, it certainly would seem so.
Why? Here are a few initial suggestions. The Abrahamic covenant . . .
Clarifies what we mean by salvation
Salvation is not an “other-worldly” type experience. God promises to bless all nations. He is not the God of one ethnic group or culture. Therefore, salvation comes by faith and entails the gift of the Holy Spirit (Gal 3:14).
Explains with greater clarity the relationship between God and humanity
The God of Abraham is the world’s Creator. This is why He is able to give Abraham offspring from among all nations. Thus, God is the Father of the human family.
Highlights God’s character and his works in concrete history
God is gracious. Paul in Rom 4:16 says,
“That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring– not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, . . . . ”
Abraham’s faith focuses on God’s character, as is evident by Rom 4:20–21,
“No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.”
Heb 11:19 similarly adds,
“[Abraham] considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.”
The gospel magnifies God’s power in history, within the concrete situations of our life. He can bless the barren woman, give life to the dead, and even overcome enslaving nations (e.g. Egypt).
Challenges particular problems/vices and an individualistic interpretation of Scripture
The gospel does not primarily concern individuals.
Rather, Paul’s explanations make clear its most basic categories. The gospel is tells the story of two groups, Jews and Gentiles. When a person has faith in the one true God, one changes his or her group allegiance. One’s loyalty is not primarily to his or her biological ancestors or nation; the follower of Christ joins a worldwide family.
Provides a better framework for understanding Scripture
The above considerations provide a better framework for ecclesiology, exegesis, and biblical theology in general. All too often, the story of Israel is regarded a little more than the historical background for the gospel. In other words, the gospel often is thought to be about a few theological ideas, not necessarily the entire biblical story. In fact, the gospel entails a grand narrative that spans human history and crossing cultures.
Abraham Reverses Adam
When sharing the gospel, many (or most) people are willing to talk about Adam; far fewer talk about Abraham. Yet, N. T. Wright shows how peculiar this is in light of the Bible’s own witness.
In Paul and the Faithfulness of God (pp. 783–95), Wright shows the essential connection between Adam and Abraham. He well demonstrates “the reason the creator God called Abraham in the first place was to undo the sin of Adam and its effects” (783).
Not only does Wright give a thorough survey of biblical evidence, he also shows how Jews in the Second-Temple period regarded the relationship between Adam and Abraham. Below is a rabbinic midrash:
Why is Abraham called a great man? Because he was worthy of being created before the first man. But the Holy One, blessed be he, thought, “Perhaps something may go wrong, and there will be no one to repair matters. Lo, to begin with I shall create the first Adam, so that if something should go wrong with him, Abraham will be able to come and remedy matters in his stead.” (Gen. Rab. 14:6.; as cited in Wright, PFG, 794)
These are just a few suggestions based on what we see from Paul’s exposition and application of the Abrahamic covenant. More could be said with more time and space. For now, these suffice to show the essential relationship between Abraham, Israel’s story, and the gospel.
(This post is part of a series introducing my new book One Gospel for All Nations: A Practical Approach to Biblical Contextualization. For other posts in the series, click here.)
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