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 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
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 Number of
Number of Number of
"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, 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
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
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
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,
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
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.