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Posted on Feb 01, 2023 by Mike LeDuke Next article:How old is the Gospel message?

The Gospel and Abraham

Have you ever thought about the instance when the gospel was first preached? What do you think someone might say to you if you asked them to describe the first time that the gospel was preached in the history of the world? Would they describe Pentecost — the time when the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the disciples of Jesus and they became witnesses of his resurrection? Would they pinpoint the preaching of the gospel to Jesus and the beginning of his ministry?

While the gospel was preached both at Pentecost and all throughout the ministry of the Lord Jesus, we can be certain that it was preached many centuries earlier. This certainty doesn’t come of ourselves, but rather what the apostle Paul wrote — Paul specifically stated that the gospel was preached at the beginning of the Old Testament: And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘In you shall all the nations be blessed (Galatians 3:8).

Contrary to being a New Testament idea, the gospel was preached way back in the time of Abraham. And, according to Paul, it was summarized in the words, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” But, what did that mean? And how was it the gospel?

According to Paul, this phrase, “In you shall all the nations be blessed,” referred to the justification of the Gentiles through faith. In the next verse, he goes on to reinforce that idea — stating that “those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham” (v. 9). The gospel that was preached to Abraham was the fact that God would justify the nations through faith. Yet, these words preached to Abraham contain a little more than simply justification. Just after Pentecost, Peter quoted a very similar passage and explained it as follows:

You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness. (Acts 3:25-26).

Do you see Peter’s explanation of the blessing? Paul describes the blessing as justification, but Peter describes it as being turned away from wickedness. In other words, the blessing was that God would justify people and that He would help them change their lives! Surely this is good news!

And yet, in the last few posts, we’ve noted how the gospel is connected to the kingdom of God. Here, there is no mention of a kingdom —only justification and living differently. Why is that? Are there multiple gospels? Is the kingdom actually not a major part of the gospel? That’s what we’ll explore in the next post — and we’ll see how the gospel preached to Abraham was an intimate part of the hope of the kingdom.

— Jason Hensley, PhD