We modern Americans are an individualistic people. We think and act as individuals first and foremost. This is a recent way of thinking that would be unfamiliar to the people of God in the ancient world. The people of Israel had been trained under the Old Covenant to think covenantally.
When God made his Covenant with Abraham he made the covenant, not to him as an individual only, instead God made his Covenant with Abraham and his descendants after them. We see this "covenant" aspect throughout the Word of God, in bot the Old and the New Covenants.
Here are some examples from the Old Testament.
To Noah Gen.9:8,9 "And God spake unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying, And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you."
To Abraham Gen. 17:7 "And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee."
Ps.103:17, 18 "But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children; To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them."
Ps.115:13, 14 "He will bless them that fear the LORD, both small and great. The LORD shall increase you more and more, you and your children.
God's covenant promises also applied negatively as you can see in the verse below.
Exodus 20:5 "Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me."
See also: Deut.5:9
This "covenant" aspect of God's promises is not just an Old Testament thing. It comes through in the New Testament as well. The Scriptures used by the early Church, were the Books of the Old Testament. IT was in the Old Testament that the Bereans went to look and see if what Paul told them was true (Acts 17:10,11). Early Christians saw the constant covenant theme and they would naturally think of God's Covenant promises as belonging to them and their children. This would be natural enough for the early Jewish Christians, but the LORD doesn't leave it be deduced by them. He repeats the covenant promise at Pentecost.
Acts 2:38, 39 "Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the LORD our God shall call."
The LORD is the unchanging Covenant keeping God. Under the Old Covenant His promises were always to you and your descendants, and Peter makes clear, during his sermon on Pentecost, that in the New Covenant God’s promises are still to you and to your children.
We see this covenant aspect carried in to the New Covenant in other places as well. When even one parent in a family knows Christ the children are seen as holy (saints), because of the Christian parent’s relationship to Christ.
I Cor.7:14 "For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy."
A child of non-Christian parents is, in the sight of God, seen as unclean, but the child of just one believing parent is viewed as holy (Gk: hagios–saint). So the Christian should remember that God's Covenant is also promised to his children. There are very important implications from this.
Individualism is a modern Western concept. In did not exist when the Scriptures were written. We must work to read the Scriptures as God intended them to be understood by the original audience, and not read our own individualist times and cultural biases into God’s Word. This is the difference between exegeting and eisegeting.
Let me give of exegeting and eisegeting from the U.S. Supreme Court. In Holy Trinity Church vs. the United States the court used sound exegesis in it decision. They looked to the original intent of the founders to make this important but mostly forgotten decision.
Part of that decision reads this way "Our laws and our institutions must necessarily be based upon and embody the teachings of the Redeemer of mankind. It is impossible that it should be otherwise; and in this sense and to this extent our civilization and our institutions are emphatically Christian ... this is a religious people. This is historically true. From the discovery of this continent to the present hour, there is a single voice making this affirmation ... we find everywhere a clear definition of the same truth ... this is a Christian nation. " (Church of the Holy Trinity vs. United States, 143 US 457, 36 L ed 226, Justice Brewer 1891)[Note: Ever Christian needs to read this decision in its entirety. It is a good synopsis of America’s Christian history] Justice Brewer did a good work of exegesis in this decision. Brewer drew from the Constitution and it's historical context the true intent of the authors.
That decision was constitutionally and exegetically sound. The next case I want to mention was not decided that way.
The 1973 case of Roe vs. Wade is a constitutional travesty. Justice Blackmon hated laws against abortion. The Constitution did not address the issue (this had always been a state issue) but he and other justices wanted to outlaw abortion so they found in the "penumbra" (his word) of the Constitution the right to abortion. This is a perfect (horrible) example of eisegesis. Justice Powel even admitted this, and voted for Roe anyway. [Note: Every Christian should read Blackmon decision in Roe also. Just click here: Roe V. Wade] Justice Blackmon's decision is an example of eisegeting the Constitution. Blackmon read into the document what he wanted to find there.
We need to be careful to draw from the Bible what the author intended to say. The Bible was written in radically different cultures than our own, and we need to study those cultures to aid us in rightly dividing the Word of Truth.