Home      Back to Trinity 13

 

 

 

 
On the Epistle
St. Thomas Aquinas Commentary
 
from the Anglican Way website - ©wjsmartin

To Abraham and his seed were the promises made. (Gal. iii. 16.)

 

IN these words it is shown that heavenly promises are made to those who seek with all their powers to be like Abraham.

 

I  On the first head it is to be noted, that seven things are pointed out of Abraham, in which every Christian ought to imitate him.

 

(1) In constancy of faith. Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. (Rom. iv. 3) But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. (Heb. xi. 6) Belief in God is the first step to be taken in Abrahamís journey after the fulfillment of Godís promises. Without belief in Him, God is treated as a non-entity or non-being. A non-being is unlikely to have any effect upon manís life. So faith or belief in God leads to the overarching predominance of His existence in manís life. A man who believes desires to please God above all things because He desires to be rewarded with the fulfillment of His promises. He desires to please God above all else because Godís being or existing causes all created being to be.

 

(2) In perfect obedience. And thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed. (Gen. xxii. 17) And now, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all His ways, and to love Him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul? (Deut. x. 12) Obedience to God is the required next if a man is to follow Abraham into the fulfillment of Godís promises. Obedience comes when a man fears to disregard, disobey, or displease his Maker. Obedience is actualized when Godís way rules and governs human life. When God is ruling and governing a man, his love for God grows as he discovers the goodness that ensues. With this love he intends to please God with all of his heart and soul since he finds that Godís promises are then already being fulfilled.

 

(3) In disregard of country. Now if a man would follow the Lord God, he must be willing to leave behind his earthly home, the comfort of its ways, and all attachments to it. To have his eye on the promises of God, it was necessary for Abraham to be called forward into the fulfillment of Godís designs and intentions. This is impossible if a man is tied to temporal places by inheritance, or to a earthly future that is natural. To be liberated from above, Abraham must cut his earthly ties to things below and cleave to spiritual and transcendent truth.

 

(4) In contempt of pedigree. The Lord said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy fatherís house, and to the land that I will shew thee. (Gen. xii. 1, 2) If a man would be moving towards the fulfillment of Godís promises, like Abraham he must leave behind all human relations that are perfected by blood tie. The spiritual man is not bound to the obligations of natureís kin. The spiritual man must leave behind father, mother, sisters, brothers, and all ties of kith and kin for the sake of the Lordís will and purpose.

 

(5) In hospitality and compassion. My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant : let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree; and I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on. (Gen. xviii. 3-5) Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. (Heb. xiii. 2) The man who would follow Abraham into the place where Godís promises are fulfilled must be open to strangers, aliens, outsiders, and all other men. Abrahamís homeland and family stood in the way of his spiritual journey. Now that he has left them behind, he must be open to those sent to him by God. God sends angels to men in human clothing in order to convert and illuminate them. Like Abraham we must treat all strangers, aliens, and outsiders as long-awaited and earnestly-expected old friends whose visit only stands to bring us closer to God.

 

(6) In humility. I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes (Gen. xviii. 27), which are the words of Abraham to the Lord. Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart. (Matt. xi. 29) We cannot find the fulfillment of Godís promises unless we know ourselves to be unworthy of them. If we had been worthy of them, they would have been produced naturally in our lives. But instead we stand as those in need of them because what we can produce cannot even begin to approach them in excellency of wisdom, power, or love. What God promises Ďfar exceeds either what we desire or deserveí. Thus in humility we come to the Lord for what He alone can create, sustain, and perfect.

 

(7) In fear of God. Lay not thy hand upon the lad, neither do thou anything unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, from Me. (Gen. xxii. 12) And now, what doth the ĎLord thy God require of thee? (Deut. x. 12)In these words we are exhorted to imitate Abraham. If ye were Abrahamís children, ye would do the works of Abraham. (S. John xiii. 39.) When we fear the Lord, we are intent upon surrendering to the operation of His will in our thoughts, words, and works. Abraham feared God to the point of sacrificing his son. Abrahamís faith was fearful of displeasing God in any way. To find Godís promises fulfilled in human life, it is necessary to fear God above all else. When we do this, we follow Abrahamís faith that issues forth into holy and righteous living.

 

II  On the second head it is to be noted, that to those who in these things imitate Abraham, the Lord makes seven great promises, which he made to Abraham.

 

(1) He promised to him that He would give him His blessing. When we are full of Abrahamís faith and the virtues that issue forth from it through Godís Grace, we are blessed. To be blessed means that God approves of our relationship with Him. To be blessed is to be counted and declared righteous by God. A blessing comes from what God has made and created. When Godís Grace remakes and redeems us, we are blessed and destined to receive the fulfillment of His promises.

 

(2) That He would exalt him. When we have faith in God, obey God, leave behind country and kin, are hospitable, humble, and fear God, God will lift us up above all earthly things and carry us forward into His Kingdom.

 

(3) That He would humble his enemies. When we surrender to the Lord God, our enemies shall be slowly but surely subdued and conquered. God is quick to help the faithful against their enemies. Their enemies may be spiritual, temporal, or both. In either case, God will bring the devices and desires of our enemies to nought, since if they oppose our faithfulness to God, they attempt to oppose God Himself. And such is futile and vain.

 

(4) That He would honour him among all nations. First, He says, I will bless thee. Second, He says, And make thy name great; Third, He says, I will curse him that curseth thee; Fourth, He says, And in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed. (Gen. xii. 2, 3) God honors those who honor Him. He blesses those who bless Him. He makes their names great since they think nothing of their own greatness but only of that glory and fame that begins and ends with God. God curses those who curse the man of God. The man of God blesses God. Those who curse him, curse God and thus call down Godís love upon themselves in the form of a curse. In Abraham all the families of the earth would be blessed since His faith is the father of a new race of men. Abrahamís faith in Godís Grace gives birth to a spiritual progeny and heavenly inheritance.

 

(5) That God would protect him in all things. God protects those who entrust their whole lives to Him. Like Abraham, we must entrust our bodies, souls, and spirits to our Heavenly Father so that we might be surrounded and enveloped by His loving protection. God may not shield us from all of the temptations of the devil, but He will give us a way of escape when they threaten us with their malicious intentions.

 

(6) That He Himself would be to him as a reward. First, The word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield; Second, And thy exceeding great reward. (Gen. xv. 1) Abrahamís fear of the Lord moves the Lord to shield him. God is Abrahamís reward. If we follow Abraham, our reward shall be nothing less than the knowledge and love of God. This is called the Beatific Vision. This is the Vision of God and the love that is produced out of it. When we come into the Presence of God in the end times, we shall see God and from Him receive perfect love that no man shall ever take away from us.

 

(7) That God would give to him a land flowing with milk and honey. The Lord said unto Abram, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward. For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed forever. (Gen. xiii. 15-17) Abraham has no idea that God is making a spiritual promise and not an earthly one. Man needs images in order to think out and understand spiritual truth. So God leads Abrahamís earthly vision into the imagination of an infinite space that moves north, south, east, and west. But what Abraham imagines is an infinite kingdom that shall be His in the end times. Of course infinite space is one thing, while eternity without space is another. But we cannot think the latter, and so God reveals our reward through the former.

 

III. On the third head it is to be noted, that the Lord gives seven good things to those who imitate Abraham.

 

(1) He blesses them. Who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ. (Eph. i. 3) If we imitate Abraham, we too shall be blessed from Heavenly places with the spiritual blessings of Godís Grace. Of course we are closer to the fulfillment of Godís promises because of the Salvific Life of Jesus Christ our Saviour. Because Christ has overcome sin, death, and Satan, He invites us to be justified with God in Him and sanctified through His Holy Spirit.

 

(2) He glorifies them. Whom He justified them also He glorified. (Rom. viii. 30) Christ is our Justification. His Justifying Righteousness is perfect, is alien, and is wholly passive. It is perfect in Christ alone. It is alien since it cannot be generated by man and thus does not reside in the sinful soul but is imputed to it. It is passive because it comes by faith. ĎIn the imputed righteousness of Christ, the soul finds its unity and stability altogether outside of itself, Ďin heavení with Christ.í (Richard Hookerís Doctrine of the Royal Supremacy: Kirby, p. 50) His Sanctifying Righteousness is inherent but not perfect. It is imperfect, habitual, and infused. This is active righteousness. It is imperfect because it mixes with the fallen nature of man. It is habitual because it is the custom of the earnest Christian. It is infused since it comes through the Holy Ghostís residence in our souls. This is ĎChrist in usí through the operation of His Spirit. (Idem, Kirby) There is also a Glorifying Righteousness of men in the world to come. The righteousness that is to come is the fulfillment of Godís promises in us. This righteousness will be perfect and inherent.

 

(3) He humbles their enemies. I should soon have turned my hand against their adversaries. (Psalm lxxxi. 14) If we put our lives under the rule and governance of God, God will turn against our adversaries. They may torture and tempt us, but if we cleave to Him, their efforts shall be brought to none effect. They will have no influence, power, or sway over us. Increasingly as the Sanctifying Grace of the Holy Spirit transforms us, our enemies shall fall down dead before the Lord.

 

(4) He protects them. Because He hath set his love upon Me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high because he hath known My name. (Psalm xci. 14) The same Grace shall lift us higher and higher as our spiritual house becomes stronger and stronger. We shall be lifted above our enemiesí malicious and cruel intimidations because we have set our Ďaffections on things above and not things of the earth.í (Col. iii. 2)

 

(5) He honours them. How precious are thy thoughts unto me, O God. (Psalm cxxxix. 17) As with Abraham, we shall be honored when we honor God above all things in our lives. Because we consider the thoughts of God to be of greatest worth, God shall honor us.

 

(6) God Himself gives Himself to them for a reward. He who will be all in all, He who will be salvation, life, honour, glory, peace, joy, and all good things. If we follow Abraham we shall find that God is our salvation and deliverance from this naughty and wicked world. We shall find true life and being, honor, privilege, and joy, peace, glory, and all good things.

 

(7) He gives to them the land flowing with milk and honey, that is the kingdom of heaven, the joy of the humanity and divinity making joyful. Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you.(St. Matt. xxv. 34) To which kingdom may we be brought. In His Kingdom, God shall delight in us and we in Him. The Divine Master shall shower us with His Divine glory. We shall return nothing short of pure love, praise, adoration, and worship from our humanity that is perfected and made one with God. Let us pray that we might be brought to this Kingdom. Amen.