2008March8, Saturday

Who Are the Seed of Abraham?

Posted in Uncategorized at 23:52 by Trey Austin

It is interesting that Calvin acknowledges two different senses in which individuals can be the “seed” of Abraham. What is more interesting, though, is that Calvin’s affirmation of these two senses aren’t discreet categories that never meet, but that one understands the “spiritual seed” through the “natural seed,” unless those who are the natural descendants of the faithful “cut themselves off” from the faith of their fathers. The way Calvin resolves this tension, however, is not to peer out the secret decrees of God, but simply to look to Christ. Those who profess faith in the promise of God and one in whom that promise comes to fruition (i.e., Christ Jesus) should not be doubted to be among the sons of Abraham.

The question now occurs, concerning what seed the promise is to be understood. And it is certain that neither the posterity of Ishmael nor of Esau is to be taken into this account, because the legitimate seed is to be reckoned by the promise, which God determined should remain in Isaac and Jacob; yet the same doubt arises respecting the posterity of Jacob, because many who could trace their descent from him, according to the flesh, cut themselves off, as degenerate sons and aliens, from the faith of their fathers. I answer, that this term seed is, indiscriminately, extended to the whole people whole God has adopted to himself. But since many were alienated by their unbelief, we must come for information to Christ, who alone distinguishes true and genuine sons from such as are illegitimate. By pursuing this method, we find the posterity of Abram reduced to a small numbers that afterwards it may be the more increased. For in Christ the Gentiles also are gathered together, and are by faith ingrafted into the body of Abram, so as to have a place among his legitimate sons.

John Calvin, Commentary on Genesis 15:4.

I wonder if anyone would venture to ask Calvin the ridiculous question, “But doesn’t that threaten the doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints?” Or even worse, “But how much sin did those sons have to commit to cut themselves off?”

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