Romans 4:16–17 (ESV)
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, as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.
Since Israel is one nation, who are the many nations? Ishmael and Esau could be considered to have begotten many nations but neither the Bible nor world history seem to support that view.
When Paul refers 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,” he’s making a key generalization. Abraham is the father of the faith and the father of anyone who believes. That generalization changed the world.
The Greek word that’s translated as nation here is “ethnos” (εθνος) from which we get “ethnic.” Back then, “nation” was a synonym for “race.”
That concept is strange to most Americans, but it’s common around the world. The Kurds want a separate Kurdistan. The Croats want their own Croatia. This isn’t wrong or evil; it’s just an ancient definition of nation that still holds in many languages and cultures.
But the US broke that mold. We’re a nation based on a principle (liberty) instead of an ethnicity. Many nations are now becoming integrated, but we jump-started it.
Actually, Paul jump-started it. When the Lord called Paul, He called him to take the gospel to the gentiles. He commanded that the religion of the sons of Israel would be expanded to cover everyone. That turned an ethnic religion into a universal one.
This fulfilled His promise to Abraham.
“I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” — Genesis 12:3 (ESV)
The LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? — Genesis 18:17-18 (ESV)
Is our multi-ethnic nation part of God’s plan?
Of course; everything is part of God’s plan. This country is a wonderful gift—we should thank God every day for it—but it’s nothing compared to the incredible plot twist of the Messiah being for all peoples.
No one saw that coming, regardless of what God said to Abraham.
It’s just too creative.
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