Heralds of the King
- Thursday, July 23, 2009
I remember Professor John Frame looking me in the eyes at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia and saying to this young idealistic student, "You want to study Francis Schaeffer. But I want to help make you into another one like him." As God imputes tamim to Abraham and us, the Spirit infuses tamim into us; and then, as Mr. Frame hoped, we are transformed. Unfortunately, this hope of Mr. Frame's is far from being realized in me, but that's not the point. God can do so if he pleases, and will do so in the end! That is the point!
That brings us to the second dimension of tamim: God transforms our purpose.
Genesis 17:5 reads, "No longer will you be called Abram [great father], your name will be Abraham [father of many nations]. . . ."4
Then God speaks of all Abraham's "descendants" and all the "generations" and all those "born in your household or bought with your money." His purpose is parental and familial, not unlike the purpose given to Adam in the garden before the fall into sin.
It is also reminiscent of Genesis 15:5, which reads, "He [God] took him outside and said, ‘Look at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them. . . . So shall your offspring be.'" Abraham would now be re-defined by the sort of impact he would have upon others. Abraham was being told that he would reassume the responsibility imparted to Adam to be a blessing to the world by filling it with "God lovers." Hence in Genesis 12:2 God says, "You will be a blessing."
In essence, Abraham is being told he is no longer a "guest" on God's planet but joins God's great mission to advance his kingdom, and hence becomes a "host." Abraham, like Jesus himself, is not here to be served but to serve and to give his life for many. God is utterly redefining the Middle Eastern bedouin named Abram to make him a servant for the accomplishment of God's kingdom purposes. His name will be "Abraham." Five times he is told to be and to see himself as the "father of many nations."
One might conclude the name change of Abram to "father of many nations" is a purely metaphoric adjustment of title and has no reference to any God-intended methodological approach to ministry that would be clearly familial, loving, and warm. But that position disregards the weight of redemptive history, which, when read as context for this name change, seems clearly to teach a rich, warm, and robust familial approach to all ministry associated with Abraham's descendants.4 So let's first examine a redemptive historic sketch of the familial fabric of God's kingdom advancement. Then, we'll apply its implications.
Redemptive Historic Summary on the Familial Character of God's Kingdom Program.
Even before creation the Triune God, who would create image bearers called humans, already had an "eternal familial quality" as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, as he would later reveal himself in the Bible. Familial relating, communicating, and loving within the Trinity precede creation, and in fact cause creation. If, then, God ever takes his name "father" and gives it to someone else, how important might you reckon that to be?
At creation Genesis begins with a family, Adam and Eve, commanding them to love, in order to fill the earth with God lovers as the Triune God's image bearers. They will be physically "one" as their God is mysteriously and perfectly one, and children born from their union will love God and fill the earth . . . if sin and death have not intervened.
As history progresses the repeated genealogies of the Torah show the importance of family structure, naming in detail a host of otherwise unknown individuals. Noah is given the same familial command previously given to Adam and Eve. Now Noah hears it post-flood. He is to repopulate the world with God lovers in a familial way.
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