Question: "What is the blessing of Abraham?"
Answer: The blessing of Abraham is the gracious heavenly gift that Abraham received as part of God’s plan to create a new nation on earth. The blessing of Abraham is also sometimes misused in prosperity theology to claim that believers today can be just as rich and successful as Abraham was.
First, we’ll take a look at the historical context of Abraham’s blessing. God’s blessing to Abraham is recorded in Genesis 12:1–3: “The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.
“‘I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.’”
Here, Abraham is blessed, and that blessing includes the promise that he will have a great name (reputation) and that he would become a great nation (have many descendants). God will bless those who bless him; furthermore, Abraham will be a blessing. Through Abraham all nations on earth will be blessed. The blessing of Abraham finds its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus Christ, the “Seed” of Abraham (Galatians 3:16) and the Redeemer of the world.
The rest of the Bible records how these promises were fulfilled and the blessing of Abraham advanced. In Genesis we see Abraham gaining a great reputation, and we see how his descendants multiplied, even though, at the time the promise was made, he had no hope of ever having any children. By Exodus 1, the children of Abraham, the Israelites, are a great people, and the rest of Exodus through Joshua records how the people became a nation with their own land and law. The books of Judges and 1and 2 Samuel address the leadership of the nation as a king, and how the dynasty of David was established. However, things began to unravel, and the people broke the law of God and followed other gods. Frequently, the kings did not reign as God’s loyal representatives but often followed their own desires. Prophets who spoke for God warned the nation that judgment was coming and that they were in danger of losing their land. The same prophets also began to hint at other, greater things such as an ideal Davidic ruler who would rule not only Israel but the whole world—and Gentiles would somehow be part of this kingdom (see Isaiah 9).
When Jesus came on the scene, all of the pieces started to fit into place. Jesus is the Davidic Messiah who will not only rule over Israel but over the whole world (Revelation 19:15). Anyone, including Gentiles, who comes to Him in repentance and faith is made part of His kingdom, while those Jews who reject Him will be left out. Paul was the foremost apostle responsible for taking the good news (the gospel) to the Gentiles.
In Galatians, Paul explains the importance of grace as opposed to the keeping of the law. He also points out that in Genesis 15:6 Abraham was justified by faith. Obviously, this was before any law had been given—430 years before, according to Galatians 3:17. In verse 7 Paul explains that it is those who have the kind of faith that Abraham had that are truly children of Abraham, even if they are Gentiles. This is the fulfillment of the blessing of Abraham and God’s promise that through Abraham all peoples (Gentiles) would be blessed.
The blessing of Abraham was a benefit to Abraham himself. In terms of the ancient world, he was a success: he was well-respected, he was healthy, and he had many descendants. However, the blessing Abraham received from God went far beyond those immediate, personal blessings. Through Abraham the whole world was blessed because Jesus is a descendant of Abraham. Because of Jesus any person, Jew or Gentile, can be forgiven and be in His kingdom. In Christ, we receive the spiritual blessing of justification, just as Abraham did: “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29).
There are some teachers in the Word of Faith movement who claim the blessing of Abraham for themselves, in all of its detail. Since we are “Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29), then we can have all that Abraham had—or so the teaching goes. Christ redeemed us from more than just sin and the law; He redeemed us from “poverty” and “sickness,” because those things are supposedly included in the blessing of Abraham.
Some Word of Faith teachers see a three-fold blessing of Abraham available to Christians today: a material, financial blessing; a physical blessing; and a spiritual blessing. Others see a seven-fold blessing of Abraham: 1) I will make you into a great nation, 2) I will bless you, 3) I will make your name great, 4) you will be a blessing, 5) I will bless those who bless you, 6) whoever curses you I will curse, and 7) all peoples on earth will be blessed through you. These promises to Abraham are applied directly to the Christian today. The result is protection, blessing (physical and material), fame and recognition, etc.
Those who twist Scripture and “decree and declare” the blessing of Abraham over themselves believe that 1) God will make me and my family into some type of “great nation”; 2) God will bless me and my family; 3) God will make my name great; 4) My family and I will be a blessing; 5) God will bless those who bless me; 6) whoever curses me God will curse; and 7) everyone on earth will be blessed through me and my family.
The problem with claiming the blessing of Abraham for ourselves, expecting physical, earthly blessings, is that the blessing was given to Abraham, a specific individual in history, for a specific reason. We cannot simply insert ourselves into a biblical text. It’s more than bad hermeneutics; it leads to serious error.
The theme of Galatians 3 is justification by faith. Paul never teaches that a Christian has a “right” to prosperity and ease: “So also Abraham ‘believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’ Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: ‘All nations will be blessed through you.’ So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith” (verses 6–9, emphasis added). The faith of Abraham led to his justification, and that is the blessing of Abraham that we share today. As people of faith, we are justified in Christ.