For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world - This promise intimated that he should be the medium through whom the mercy of God should be communicated to the world, to both Jews and Gentiles; and the manner in which he was justified, be the rule and manner according to which all men should expect this blessing. Abraham is here represented as having all the world given to him as his inheritance; because in him all nations of the earth are blessed: this must therefore relate to their being all interested in the Abrahamic covenant; and every person, now that the covenant is fully explained, has the privilege of claiming justification through faith, by the blood of the Lamb, in virtue of this original grant.
For the promise - To show that the faith of Abraham, on which his justification depended, was not by the Law, the apostle proceeds to show that the promise concerning which his faith was so remarkably evinced was before the Law was given. If this was so, then it was an additional important consideration in opposition to the Jew, showing that acceptance with God depended on faith, and not on works.
That he should be heir of the world - An heir is one who succeeds, or is to succeed to an estate. In this passage, the world, or the entire earth, is regarded as the estate to which reference is made, and the promise is that the posterity of Abraham should succeed to that, or should possess it as their inheritance. The precise expression used here, “heir of the world,” is not found in the promises made to Abraham Those promises were that God would make of him a great nation Genesis 12:2; that in him all the families of the earth should be blessed Genesis 12:3; that his posterity should be as the stars for multitude Genesis 15:5; and that he should be a father of many nations Genesis 17:5. As this latter promise is one to which the apostle particularly refers (see Romans 4:17), it is probable that he had this in his eye. This promise had, at first, respect to his numerous natural descendants, and to their possessing the land of Canaan. But it is also regarded in the New Testament as extending to the Messiah Galatians 3:16 as his descendant, and to all his followers as the spiritual seed of the father of the faithful. When the apostle calls him “the heir of the world,” he sums up in this comprehensive expression all the promises made to Abraham, intimating that his spiritual descendants, that is, those who possess his faith, shall yet be so numerous as to possess all lands.
Or to his seed - To his posterity, or descendants.
Through the law - By the observance of the Law; or made in consequence of observing the Law; or depending on the condition that he should observe the Law. The covenant was made before the law of circumcision was given; and long before the Law of Moses (compare Galatians 3:16-18), and was independent of both.
But through - In consequence of or in connection with the strong confidence which he showed in the promises of God, Genesis 15:6.
Still the patriarch begged for some visible token as a confirmation of his faith and as an evidence to after-generations that God's gracious purposes toward them would be accomplished. The Lord condescended to enter into a covenant with His servant, employing such forms as were customary among men for the ratification of a solemn engagement. By divine direction, Abraham sacrificed a heifer, a she-goat, and a ram, each three years old, dividing the bodies and laying the pieces a little distance apart. To these he added a turtledove and a young pigeon, which, however, were not divided. This being done, he reverently passed between the parts of the sacrifice, making a solemn vow to God of perpetual obedience. Watchful and steadfast, he remained beside the carcasses till the going down of the sun, to guard them from being defiled or devoured by birds of prey. About sunset he sank into a deep sleep; and, “lo, a horror of great darkness fell upon him.” And the voice of God was heard, bidding him not to expect immediate possession of the Promised Land, and pointing forward to the sufferings of his posterity before their establishment in Canaan. The plan of redemption was here opened to him, in the death of Christ, the great sacrifice, and His coming in glory. Abraham saw also the earth restored to its Eden beauty, to be given him for an everlasting possession, as the final and complete fulfillment of the promise. PP 137.1
As a pledge of this covenant of God with men, a smoking furnace and a burning lamp, symbols of the divine presence, passed between the severed victims, totally consuming them. And again a voice was heard by Abraham, confirming the gift of the land of Canaan to his descendants, “from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates.” PP 137.2
When Abraham had been nearly twenty-five years in Canaan, the Lord appeared unto him, and said, “I am the Almighty God; walk before Me, and be thou perfect.” In awe, the patriarch fell upon his face, and the message continued: “Behold, My covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations.” In token of the fulfillment of this covenant, his name, heretofore called Abram, was changed to Abraham, which signifies, “father of a great multitude.” Sarai's name became Sarah—“princess;” for, said the divine Voice, “she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her.” PP 137.3Read in context »
God gave to Abraham a view of this immortal inheritance, and with this hope he was content. “By faith he sojourned in the Land of Promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: for he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” Hebrews 11:9, 10. PP 170.1
Of the posterity of Abraham it is written, “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” Verse 13. We must dwell as pilgrims and strangers here if we would gain “a better country, that is, an heavenly.” Verse 16. Those who are children of Abraham will be seeking the city which he looked for, “whose builder and maker is God.” PP 170.2Read in context »
Every move from the first made by Satan was the beginning of his work to continue to the end to exalt the false, to take the place of the genuine Sabbath of Jehovah. He is just as intent now and more determined to do this than ever before. He has come down with great power to deceive them who dwell on the earth with his satanic delusions.... 3SM 396.1
As we meet the emergency, the law of God becomes more precious, more sacred, and as it is more manifestly made void and set aside, in proportion should arise our respect and reverence for the law.... 3SM 396.2
In the exercise of the longsuffering of God, He gives to nations a certain period of probation, but there is a point which, if they pass, there will be the visitation of God in His indignation. He will punish. The world has been advancing from one degree of contempt for God's law to another, and the prayer may be appropriate at this time, “It is time for thee, Lord, to work: for they have made void thy law” (Psalm 119:126).... 3SM 396.3Read in context »
The Jews claimed to have descended from Abraham, but by failing to do the works of Abraham, they proved that they were not true children of his. Only those who are spiritually in harmony with him are reckoned as true descent. Christ recognized the beggar [Lazarus] as one whom Abraham will take into the very heart of friendship, although he belonged to a class looked upon by men as inferior. TDG 183.3Read in context »