Humanity was banished from the gracious presence of God when Adam and Eve broke the covenant of works (Gen. 3:24). The Lord, however, was not content to leave all people in this state of eternal estrangement. For the purposes of reconciling some of Adam’s fallen race to Himself, God enacted a covenant of grace that solves the problem of humanity’s sin and restores His people to righteousness. God unfolds this covenant through a succession of covenants, the first of which is the Noahic covenant. In this covenant, the Lord promises to preserve the created order, thereby maintaining an arena in which He can fulfill His plan of redemption (8:20–22).
No old covenant believer is more associated with the covenant of grace than the patriarch Abraham. This man, our father in the faith, is the first to see that God will bring a great number of people into His holy kingdom. In the Lord’s covenant with Abraham, we see clearly that God alone ensures the success of the covenant of grace.
Genesis 12:1–3 is the first place we see the promises our Creator made to Abraham. Reaching into a pagan land and a pagan family (Josh. 24:2), the Lord called Abram to serve Him (Gen. 12:1). Before officially ratifying His covenant with the patriarch (chap. 15), God’s grace was working to redeem His people. A good land (v. 1), a great nation, a great name, and great blessing that extends first to him (v. 2) and then to all the families of the earth (v. 3) are promised to Abram when he is called.
Turning to Genesis 15:1–6, we see in verse 1 that the Lord promised a great reward to Abram. Initially, the patriarch was confused, and he doubted the reward would be any good for him since he lacked a natural heir (vv. 2–3). God answered Abram’s hesitation, pledging to give him many descendants (vv. 4–5). Abram trusted God, and the Lord counted him as righteous on account of Abram’s faith in Him to keep His promises (15:6). Like Abram, God today counts us righteous only if we trust in His promises through Christ Jesus alone (Gal. 2:15–16).
Our Lord did not give children to Abram until he was very old (Gen. 21:1–7), showing us that Abram had to rely totally on God if the covenant promises were to be fulfilled. The Lord alone can guarantee the blessings He has pledged.