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The Abrahamic Covenant


The Dispensational Position before Acts 28

We have endeavoured to show that the setting aside of Israel as a nation completely altered the dispensational dealings of the Lord (see under Acts 28). We will now seek to show that prior to the revelation of the mystery hid in God the blessing upon the Gentiles as well as the Jews was Abrahamic and Millennial in character, and that Gentile believers were blessed through Israel or not at all.

The epistle to the Romans, while containing doctrine as true to-day as when first written, contains also dispensational teaching which has passed away with the Pentecostal period.

The following list will give some idea as to the prominent position which the Jew occupied before Acts 28, as compared with the epistles written afterwards:

Word                 Before Acts 28                           After Acts 28
                       Number of Number of                               Number of Number of   
                             occurrences occurrences                        occurrences occurrences

Jew                            25                                                  l

                                                                 "Neither Greek nor Jew"
                                                                              (Col. 3:11).

Israel                         14                                               2
                                                                   (Eph. 2:12, Phil. 3:5.)

Israelite                       3                                                0
Abraham                    19                                               0

Total                           61                                               3

When it is observed that the three occurrences after Acts 28 are all negative statements, referring back to the past, the contrast will be more clearly seen than ever.

To the Jew first (Rom. 1:16, 2:10)

The use of this expression in Chapter 2:10 shows that it is not merely stating the historical order of preaching, but shows us the place of precedence assigned to the Jew. This is characteristic of the Millennial Kingdom, as a reference to Isaiah 60 and 61, Zechariah 8:23, 14:12-21, etc.. will show.

As long as Israel were a people and Jerusalem their city, so long as they retained the covenant position, and saved Gentiles came up to Jerusalem to worship, and were linked with the believing Remnant by baptism, as the channel of their blessing.

Romans 3:1 anticipates an objection arising out of the very fact of this Jewish pre-eminence, that might be expressed thus:

"If what you say is true, where is the hitherto recognized pre-eminence and profit of the Jew and circumcision?" The answer is, "Much every way." But in verse 9, when the Jew would make his dispensational privilege a ground of merit, when he asks, "Are we better than they?" the answer is, "No, in no wise." Dispensational privilege did not alter the Jew personally, and when we come to consider Romans 11 we shall see that to be deprived of it does not alter one's standing in Christ.

"Is He the God of the Jews only?" (Rom. 3:29) goes to show the strong Jewish element even in the Church at Rome.

Romans 9-11 deal more particularly with the dispensation obtaining from Acts 2-28. The Jewish objection of 3:3 recurs again in 9:6. The objection of 3:29 is again met in 9:24. Chapter 10:21 shows the attitude of the Lord during the "Acts" period, which culminated in their rejection and the destruction of the city.

We now arrive at Romans 11. This chapter has been very sadly misunderstood; and to understand it is, in large measure, to understand the peculiar dispe ' n that covered the period of The Acts. Expositors, who have n clear about the subject of the "Mystery", have felt a difficulty with regard to this chapter because they assumed that the dispensational position of Romans (which was before Acts 28) was the same as that of Ephesians (which came after Acts 28).

The figure of the olive tree, and the Gentiles as wild olive branches, is certainly not the same as the "One Body". To avoid apparent contradiction, the passage has been interpreted of the Gentiles as such, whereas it but states the same truth as Galatians 3, namely, that believing Gentiles up to Acts 28 were blessed with faithful Abraham-the father of many nations.

The Remnant of Israel, saved from apostasy by electing grace, formed the Olive Tree, into which the believing Gentiles were grafted. This Remnant is called the "first fruit" (verse 16), a pledge of the harvest of "all Israel" of verse 26. The Gentiles addressed are said to have received "salvation" (verse I1), to "stand by faith" (verse 20), and to partake with the saved Remnant "of the root and fatness of the olive tree" (verse 1'n.

We feel sure that no Bible student who understands grace will say that the pagan world, the Gentiles as such, did then, or do now, "stand by faith" or enter into any of the blessings set forth in Romans 11. The Apostle further calls the Gentile addressees "brethren" (verse 25).

If once we perceive that Abrahamic blessing, and kingdom anticipations, were the characteristics of the period covered by the Acts (as it will be once again when the kingdom is set up on earth) no difficulty will remain, and the transitional portions of Romans, Galatians and Corinthians will be better understood.

We must not read into Romans 11 that which had not then been revealed, namely, the "One Body" of Ephesians. Some have a difficulty with verses 21 and 22, because they feel that if this passage refers to saved Gentiles it contradicts such a passage as Romans 8:

To be clear as to this point it must be remembered that dispensational privileges must be distinguished from personal standing. With regard to the former-they may be lost; with regard to the latter-it is indefectible. A comparison of Romans 11 with Galatians 3 will be helpful just here.

The "gospel" was never a "mystery hidden away from the ages and generations", but was preached before unto Abraham; we must beware of confounding the gospel with the Mystery.

"Blessed with faithful Abraham" (Gal. 3:9).

"That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles" (Gal. 3 :14 . . . the same as Rom. 11).

"If ye are Christ's then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." (Gal. 3:29).

Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all" (Gal. 4:26, 2'n.

The New Jerusalem was a part of Abrahamic blessing, certainly of Abraham's faith (see Heb. 11:14-16). After Acts 28 instead of a heavenly city which comes down from heaven, we have "heavenly places in Christ", and the "citizenship which is in heaven" (Eph. 1:3 and Phil. 3:20, Greek).

Summarizing, we find:

(1) Acts 28 is the great boundary between the present dispensation and the past. (See Acts 28.)

(2) Those epistles written before Acts 28, while containing much doctrinal teaching which remains truth for to-day, also contain much that is transitional and much that belongs to a dispensation which has passed away.

(3) That dispensation was Abrahamic and not that of the One Body, as has been hitherto so generally supposed.

For a fuller understanding of allusions to "The Olive Tree", to "Acts 28" and to "Pentecost" see under these respective headings. See also SEED and STAR SEED and SAND SEED.

This covenant with Abraham must not be confused with that made 430 years afterward with Israel at Sinai, as the argument of Galatians 3:15-20 makes clear. This covenant is especially defined as being a covenant of "promise", in which there were no contracting parties, but One only, God, Who made the unconditional promise that forms the basis of the Abrahamic covenant. This aspect of the subject is more fully discussed under PROMISE.

Doctrine. One fundamental doctrine is inseparable from the name of Abraham, namely "Justification by Faith". This is introduced in Genesis 15, and is given an exposition in Romans 4 and Galatians 3, where faith alone, independently of any works of the law, is emphasized as the agent of reception. The basis of Paul's doctrine is the record of Genesis 15. James, however, takes the reader to Genesis 22 ere Abraham was "tried" and triumphed, thereby affor g an illustration of the "perfecting" of faith, a balance of truth so essential to all acceptable preaching. To appreciate the argument of James however, a fairly full acquaintance with the meaning and occurrence of the word "perfect" is required, and this will be found under the heading PERFECT.

A Gospel. Paul makes it clear in Galatians 3:8, that the initial promise "In thee shall all nations be blessed" contained in germ both the doctrine of justification and the preaching of the gospel to the Gentile saying:

"And the scripture foreseeing that God would justify the heathen (Gentiles) through faith, preached before the Gospel unto Abraham, saying, in thee shall all nations be blessed."

It is therefore clear that we must not confuse the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles, which was never a secret, and which is the basis of such an epistle as Romans, with calling of the Gentiles during the dispensation of the Mystery, which is the theme of the epistle to the Ephesians.