By Charles H. Welch
Three names stand out in the early pages of Genesis - Adam, Noah and Abraham.
The scriptural fact that Noah is represented as a type of the ‘Second Adam’ is
set out under the heading ADAM (p. 31), and
again is referred to under the heading NOAH. The
composition of the book of Genesis and the position of Abraham in the eleven
generations which compose the bulk of the book of Genesis is given under
the present analysis, these items will be briefly summarized so that as full an
examination of the dispensational place of Abraham can be given as space will
The eleven generations of Genesis are ranged on either side of that of Terah,
the father of Abraham, and as Abraham stands midway between Adam and Christ, it
will be seen that he occupies a most important position in the outworking of the
purpose of the ages. The name of Abraham was originally Abram, a Chaldee name
meaning ‘high and exalted father’, this was afterward changed by God to the
Hebrew Abraham ‘father of nations’ (Gen.
17:5). The name Abram occurs sixty times
in the Old Testament, all of which except two references, namely that of 1
Chronicles 1:27 and Nehemiah 9:7, are found in the book of Genesis from Chapters
11 to 17. It is by the name Abraham that the patriarch is referred to in the New
It is a point to be kept in mind, when the dispensational place of the
Abrahamic covenant is the theme, that Abraham is mentioned in the four Gospels,
The Acts, Romans, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Hebrews, James and 1 Peter, but is
entirely absent from the epistles written by Paul after Acts 28, namely
Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, Titus, 1 and 2 Timothy.
The outworking of the purpose of God had already been associated with Adam
and with Noah in the book of Genesis, but in both cases Satanic opposition had
involved the earth in a curse or destroyed it by a flood. Subsequent to the
flood had come another attack, this time the rebellion at Babel, and immediately
following the confusion of tongues, comes the call of Abraham and the first
great promise (See BABYLON p. 104, and its place in the purpose). The name of Abraham is
associated with a Covenant, a Promise, a Doctrine, a Gospel, and two Callings,
earthly and heavenly.
The first draft of the covenant made with Abraham is found in Genesis 15:18-21,
which makes a promise of a ‘seed’ and a ‘land’, the land being specified by the
geographical boundaries ‘from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river
Euphrates’, and possessed at the time of the promise by a number of tribes,
including the Rephaim and the Canaanites (See GIANTS). This
covenant is reaffirmed in Genesis 17:1-8 and amplified by the addition of such
terms as ‘multiply exceedingly’, ‘father of many nations’, and the covenant here
made is called ‘an everlasting covenant’. As this word translated ‘everlasting’
is of great importance in the understanding of the Divine purpose, special
attention is directed to AGE, p. 47.
Following this ‘everlasting covenant’ which was made unconditionally by God,
is ‘the covenant of circumcision’ which Abraham and his seed should ‘keep’. This
also is called ‘an everlasting covenant’ (Gen. 17:13). This covenant is
afterward extended and called the covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Exod.
Two callings are associated with Abraham. The earthly calling embraces
Israel as the seed, Palestine as the land, and the role of ‘a kingdom of
priests’ in relation to the nations of the earth. The heavenly calling is
developed in the epistle to the Hebrews (3:1) and looks away from the earth and
the earthly Jerusalem to the heavenly city. In the case of Abraham, Isaac and
Jacob, and those who follow in their steps, the heavenly Jerusalem is seen to be
in the nature of a reward, consequent upon their overcoming faith, associated
with ‘the better hope’ and ‘the better resurrection’, but it must be remembered
that what may be the ‘prize’ of one calling, may be the unconditional ‘hope’ of
another, and in order to appreciate this, see
HOPE and PRIZE.
The Abrahamic Covenant
AS SET FORTH IN THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS
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
ACTS 28, p. 26).
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:
Before Acts 28
After Acts 28
Number of Occurrences
Number of Occurrences
Neither Greek nor Jew
(Eph. 2:12; Phil. 3:5)
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
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; the
Gentiles were linked with the believing Remnant by baptism, as the channel of
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 to 11 deal more particularly with the dispensation obtaining from
Acts 2 to 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
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
dispensation that covered the period of The Acts. Expositors, who have been
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 Gentile 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 11), to ‘stand
by faith’ (verse 20), and to partake with the saved Remnant ‘of
the root and fatness of the olive tree’ (verse 17).
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
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
‘Blessed with faithful Abraham’
‘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).
The New Jerusalem was a part of Abrahamic blessing, certainly of Abraham’s
faith (see Hebrews. 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:
Acts 28 is the great boundary between the present dispensation and the
past (see ACTS 28,
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.
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
to ACTS 28 (p.
26), and to
PENTECOST see under these respective headings. See also
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
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 where Abraham was ‘tried’ and triumphed, thereby affording 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
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.