ROMANS 4 and GALATIANS 3
Romans 4 and Galatians 3 make it sound like the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant was in Jesus and those that had the faith of Abraham (Romans 4:13,16). Also, Galatians 3:6-9 makes it sound like the dispensation of Gentile Grace is part of the Abrahamic covenant, especially verses 8 & 9.
Make sure that you are not confusing God’s dispensationally covenanted purpose with Abraham and his seed, (as set forth for example in Genesis 12:1-3a, which involves the issue of God making of him “a great nation” etc.), with the additional issue of God also establishing Abraham as “the father of all them that believe” when it comes to the issue of justification unto eternal life. These are two different things, as Paul shows.
God said that He would do more than one thing with Abraham when He initially spoke to him. But at that particular time God set forth this information to Abraham in one complete package, so to speak. However as God dealt with him afterwards, He divided that information into its two main components — the dispensationally covenanted purpose involving the “great nation” issue; and the faith-father-example for justification unto eternal life. In fact God not only divided the information into its two main components, but He also dealt with them in their proper order. (That is, justification unto eternal life first, and then the dispensational purpose. Hence Genesis 15:6 first, and then the covenant of circumcision for the dispensational purpose in Genesis 17.)
Now with respect to all of this, the issue that Paul is dealing with in Romans 4 and Galatians 3 is only the issue justification unto eternal life. Note how that Paul points this out in Romans 4:9-12. He makes it clear in these verses that in Romans 4 he is not dealing with what is involved in the circumcision of Abraham, but what God did with him when he was “in uncircumcision.” Paul eventually does deal with the circumcision issue, (that is the dispensational purpose regarding Abraham and his seed), in Romans 9-11. But that’s not the issue in either Romans 4 or Galatians 3. And again, we need to keep these two issues distinct and not confuse them.
With respect therefore to the issue of justification unto eternal life, God has established Abraham as the faith-father-example of this. And, (as Paul declares in Romans 4:9-12 in particular), Abraham is the God-ordained example for “all that believe” regardless of whether they are of the circumcision or not. This, therefore, includes us in this present dispensation of God’s grace to us Gentiles. Abraham, therefore, is our example when it comes to the truth of God justifying by grace through faith. And so Paul accordingly sets him forth as such in Romans 4, as he certifies to us the reality of the fact that we truly are justified by God unto eternal life freely by His grace when we simply place our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as our all-sufficient Savior.
Keep in mind that the dispensation of God’s grace to us Gentiles is not the same thing as the reality of God justifying unto eternal life by grace through faith alone. Or another way of putting it is this: Justification unto eternal life by grace through faith is not the revelation of the mystery that was committed to Paul.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that justification unto eternal life being by grace through faith is something that is unique to this dispensation, or that it defines this present dispensation. For it isn’t unique to this dispensation at all and it doesn’t define it either. Rather, justification unto eternal life has always only been by God’s grace and it has always only been enacted by God’s Justice in response to faith alone. And Paul makes this abundantly clear especially in Romans 4 with both Abraham and David, as well as with his repeated quoting of Habakkuk 2:4.
Again, justification unto eternal life being by grace through faith is not the defining issue of this present dispensation. Instead this present “dispensation of God’s grace to us Gentiles” is just that; it is a “dispensation.” This means that it is the particular program, (or formulated plan to accomplish a specific end), that God now has in effect. But again, the issue of God justifying unto eternal life by grace through faith alone is not a “dispensation.” It is not a program of God. Instead it is simply the judicial reality of how a person can be saved from the debt and penalty of his sins, be justified in God’s sight, and as such be fit to be utilized by God in the particular program that He has in effect. Therefore the issue of God justifying unto eternal life by His grace through faith is an issue that transcends God’s dispensations or programs, and is an essential part of each of them.
Once again in Romans 4 and Galatians 3 Paul is certifying the reality that we ourselves in this present dispensation are justified unto eternal life by God’s grace through faith alone. And as such the issue he is focusing upon when it comes to Abraham is the issue in God’s dealings with Abraham that have to do with God having established him “in uncircumcision” as the faith-father-example when it comes to the issue of justification unto eternal life. And this particular issue in God’s dealings with Abraham is separate and distinct from the issue of God’s dispensationally covenanted purpose with him “in circumcision.”
– K.R. Blades