Forsaking the Assembly & Loving Thy Neighbor- COVID-19

We are used to arguing about the importance of the church “assembling together.” We’ve debated the importance of Bible classes, Sunday nights and Wednesday nights for years. Now we are trying to justify not meeting. Who saw that coming?

Of course, the church has ignored government bans before. Rome didn’t want Christians meeting and “advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice” (Acts 16:21). They still met. Courageous Christians in China and Iran have met underground in defiance of government regulation for years.

But this time is different. It’s not because of our conviction that “Jesus is Lord” that the government has asked us not to assemble. Instead, the government has requested we not meet out of concern for our neighbors. Ironically, they are calling on businesses, schools and churches to practice justice and mercy. We are being asked to love our neighbor. Government officials have even called for people of faith to pray.

The church is being asked to be the church. They want us to live out the meaning of our confession. And our confession is much bigger than our assembly.

That’s not to say being together is unimportant. In moments of fear, the church assembled to pray (Acts 4:23). In times of doubt, Christians were encouraged to continue meeting (Hebrews 10:25).

“Forsaking the assembly” has nothing to do with canceling meeting times out of love and concern for our neighbors, older members and others most at risk. It has nothing to do with reorganizing or repurposing times of assembly for other kinds of ministry.

“Forsaking the assembly” is a conscious effort to avoid being with other Christians, selfishly turning your back on the community of faith and refusing to live out the responsibilities of our calling. Church leaders choosing to cancel or reimagine assemblies are doing anything but “forsaking the assembly.”

Being together is not the end in itself.

The church assembles because we are saved, not to be saved. Assembling is how we encourage each other, lift each other up and blend our voices in praise to the God who saves us.

Thankfully, many of us are blessed with modern technology allowing us to accomplish some of these objectives in different ways. It is not a perfect replacement, but it is helpful. Technology allows us to receive many blessings of community without threatening to harm our broader community.

It turns out, not assembling for a short time may be the best way to be the true church in these difficult times.

God sent Jeremiah to encourage the Babylonian exiles to “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile” (Jeremiah 29:7). Now is our chance to do the same.

If the Gospel is real and relevant, and the church is truly bigger than our buildings, now is the time to show it!

The religious police of Jesus’ day accused him of ignoring the sabbath when he chose to “do good” and restore a man’s withered hand (Matthew 12:13). Jesus reminded them how God desires “mercy, not sacrifice” (Matthew 12:7). His desire is unchanged.

If God chooses, this crisis will pass. But this crisis has created unlimited opportunities to live out our confession. Our brothers, sisters and neighbors are sick, hungry and anxious.

If the Gospel is real and relevant, and the church is truly bigger than our buildings, now is the time to show it!

The best starting point in how we move forward is to always remember and have in our hearts spiritual awareness consciousness that we are disciples of our Lord Jesus, who commanded us “to love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31) and “to do until others as you would have them do unto you” (Luke 6:31). He also said that we should render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s (Mark 12:17). Romans 13:5 reinforces this fact that Christians are to obey the government’s law “for conscience sake” unless in conscience they cannot.

In fact, if we as Christians assume that as believers we can disregard sound medical advice and engage in inherently risky behavior, presuming that God will still protect us, we are committing the sin of presumption. Jesus Himself warned against this particular sin. When confronted by the Devil with this sin in the wilderness, Jesus replied, “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God” (Matthew 4:7). If the health authorities recommend no meeting of more than ten people, is it presumption for churches to disregard these directives and assemble in person rather than through streaming online or in meeting in smaller house meetings like the early church? I fear that it indeed would be.

As Christ’s disciples we need to follow His command to pray for all of those who are in authority, that God will give them wisdom, guidance, and protection as they seek to fulfill their divinely ordained assignment to protect the citizenry (Rom. 13:1-7).

The public-health evidence makes clear that houses of worship should limit their gatherings, whether mandated or simply encouraged by government officials. And they should do so in willing partnership rather than bitter acquiescence. Love of neighbor and caring for the least of are Biblical moral imperatives. One of the best ways to demonstrate that love now is by suspending physical gatherings, including worship services—for the sake of our neighbors.

Read how the church of Christ responded to the Spanish Flu:

Paul’s Letter to the Romans Part 35

This entry is part 35 of 35 in the series Paul's Letter to the Romans

His death for us opened a way through which we could be
reconciled to God, and his suffering for us so touched our hearts
that we wanted to be reconciled. If he accomplished so much for
us when he seemed to be so weak that his enemies put him to
death, much more, that he now lives to intercede for us and to
rule our hearts in our lives, shall we be eternally saved. Yet, it is
left to us, as to whether we avail ourselves of the benefits of
either his death or his life.

Part 35

“And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord
Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement”
(Romans 5:11). We rejoice in God – rejoice in the glory of his
being and the perfection of his attributes, and we rejoice and
what he is to us and what he has done for us. These great
benefits and blessings come to us through our Lord Jesus Christ,
“through whom we have now received the reconciliation”. That is,
it was through the Lord Jesus Christ that we were reconciled to
God. It is easy to see that Paul was still setting forth the
blessings of the gospel justification, but it is not so easy to
understand some of his reasoning.
“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and
death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have
sinned” (vs. 12). Though Eve first ate of the forbidden fruit,
Adam’s eating it completed the transgression and made it
unanimous. Paul follows the usual custom of speaking of the
man instead of the woman. He indulges in no reasoning as to
why they sinned; he merely States the fact that they did sin. He
speaks of it merely to draw a contrast between the effects of
what Adam did and the effects of what Christ did; and he did this
to show how the gospel of Christ more than overcomes the

effects of Adam’s sin. Christianity is not concerned with the origin
of sin so much as with the fact of sin. The gospel did not bring
sin into the world, but it was brought into the world as the
panacea (remedy/cure) for sin and all its ills. Death resulted from
sin. But what death is here meant? It is true that physical death
came as a result of sin, but so also does spiritual death. The
context and the nature of Paul’s argument must determine which
death is here meant. In this Roman letter Paul frequently uses
the word death, without saying which death he means, leaving
the reader to determine from the context which death he means.
The context favors the idea that death in verse 12 is spiritual
death. The moral and spiritual condition of man and the gospel
plan of justification had been the matter under discussion.
Besides, the death here mentioned passed upon all men on
account of their own sins. Physical death came upon all on
account of Adam’s sin, but the death here mentioned came only
upon those who sinned. Facts are against the idea that all men
suffer physical death on account of their own sins; but spiritual
death does come in that way, and in no other way. It is generally
agreed that versus 13-17 of chapter 5, are parenthetical
(inserted as a parenthesis), and that the thought started in verse
12 is resumed in verse 18.

Paul’s Letter to the Romans Part 34

This entry is part 34 of 35 in the series Paul's Letter to the Romans

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into
the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief
and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd
of the sheep…” Jesus later said: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, I
am the door of the sheep. And again: I am the door: by me if any
man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find
pasture (John 10:1-2,7,9).

Part 34

“By whom also we have access by faith into this grace
wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not
only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation
worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope:
And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed
abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us”
(Romans 5:2-5). God has promised great things for the faithful
Christian, and has given him the Holy Spirit as a pledge that every
promise will be fulfilled. This can easily be found in 2nd Corinthians
chapter one which states: “Now he that establisheth us with you in
Christ, and anointed us, is God; who also sealed us, and gave us
the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts” (vs 21-22).
“For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ
died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). This of course means that God
died from the helpless. We of our selves are completely week, but
in Christ we are made strong.  His death granted us a way of
escape. We can escape from sin; an impossibility in the mind of
“For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet
peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die”
(Romans 5:7). In this verse we understand that a familiar man
would give an exact amount or an exact portion to the person
regardless of what they needed. However, for such a one we would
not feel a sense of devotion to die for him; if needed. But the good

man is more than just, he is kind, friendly, and generous. He is
devoted to the welfare and happiness of others. He stirs our
emotions, gets hold of the deep affections of our heart. For such a
man some might dare to die, but that would be unusual.
“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we
were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Paul clearly
shows us how great God’s love is, by contrasting human beings’
sense of the word love, to God’s definition. Never had such a love
existed. He died to save those who mocked, scourged, and
crucified him. He died that those who shed his blood might live.
“Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall
be saved from wrath through him” (Romans 5:9). We as his friends
shall be saved from future wrath. The beauty seen in the gospel is
incomprehensible. We as God’s enemies are made into friends,
sons, or fellow heirs.
 “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God
by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be
saved by his life” (Romans 5:9).  We were enemies, but were
reconciled to God by the death of Jesus. His death for us opened a
way through which we could be reconciled to God.

Paul’s Letter to the Romans Part 33

This entry is part 33 of 35 in the series Paul's Letter to the Romans

The phrase “justified by faith”, does not warrant the
conclusion that we are justified by faith only. It is a sound principle
of exegesis to find out the use a writer makes of a word or phrase,
and then to interpret his language in the light of that discovery. It is
not different to find out the use Paul makes of the phrase in
question, for he uses it more than do all the other writers of the
New Testament. A few of the many examples found in
the eleventh chapter of Hebrews will illustrate Paul’s use of the
phrase “by faith.” “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent
sacrifice than Cain” (verse 4). Every step that Abel took and every
lick that he struck in preparing the altar, the wood, and the sacrifice
were included in the phrase “by faith”. “By faith Noah, being warned
of God concerning things not seen as yet, moved with godly fear,
prepared an ark to the saving of his family (verse 7). That was a
huge task, requiring many days of hard labor; but it was all done by
faith. All the labor and toil expended in building that ark are
included in the phrase “by faith”. It was a working faith that built
that ark. Justified by faith – ark built by faith. Unless a person is
willing to affirm that the ark stood completed the moment Noah
believed, he should not contend that a person is justified by the
moment he believes. “By faith the walls of Jericho fell down” (verse
30). Here the phrase a “by faith” includes thirteen trips around the
walls of the city of Jericho. The walls did not fall down by faith only.
“By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land” (verse
29). Here the phrase a “by faith” spans the channel of the Red Sea
from shore to shore and includes all that was done in the crossing.
It, therefore, includes their baptism unto Moses, for in crossing they
were baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea (1
Corinthians 10:1-2). So also in our deliverance from sin the phrase
“by faith” includes our baptism into Christ. Proof: “For ye are all
sons of God, through faith, in Jesus Christ. For as many of you as
were baptized into Christ did put on Christ” (Galatians 3:26-27).
They were children of God by faith in Christ because their faith had
led them to be baptized into Christ. These illustrations, with many
more that could be given, show us that faith is taking God at his
word and doing what he commands. By taking God at his word and
doing what he said, Noah built an Ark; and by taking God at his
word and doing what he said, we are justified. A faith that will not
do whatever God commands will not justify any one. There is more

rebellion than faith in the heart of one who will not do what God
“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God
through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by
faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the
glory of God” (Romans 5:1-2). What an amazing blessing, having
peace with God. This in and of itself causes one to be obedient to
God. Can you ask for forgiveness or to be justified if you are not
submissive/obedient to God? Can you have these same blessings
without Christ? Or do these promises have a certain requirement?
Some denominations do not need the son of God.  Can you take
advantage of his promises without considering his plan, his gospel,
his son?

Paul’s Letter to the Romans Part 32

This entry is part 32 of 35 in the series Paul's Letter to the Romans

It does not appear that the Judaizers denied that the Gentile
believers were saved, but their argument was that the Gentile
Christians must, as servants of God, keep the law to be eternally
saved, or to remain in a state of salvation. To offset these
arguments, Paul shows that all of Abraham’s life was devoted
to service to God; he was righteous by faith.  
Part 32

“Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was
imputed to him; But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we
believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who
was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our
justification” (Romans 4:23-25). That Abraham’s faith was reckoned
on to him for righteousness was written for the sake of those who
now believe. It is a guarantee that the believer’s faith will now be
reckoned unto him for righteousness. We must believe in the
resurrection of Christ as well as his death, for without his
resurrection, his death would have benefited no one. But there
must be a Union of faith and works. Paul shows that works without
faith cannot save, and James shows that faith without works is
dead, and, therefore, worthless. In conclusion, the gospel is God’s
power to save man, for in it is revealed a plan by which sinners may
be made righteous. It is man’s only hope, for God’s wrath is
revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.
Gentile and Jew were alike sinners and could not be justified
by law. But this gospel plan of righteousness was a thing apart from
the law, though it was witnessed by the law and the prophets. This
gospel righteousness is a state to which we attain by the
forgiveness of our sins. It is, therefore, of grace and not of merit. If
a man’s works were perfect, his reward would be as of debt. But if a
man’s sins, his forgiveness and consequent righteousness cannot
be otherwise then a matter of grace. No amount of works that a
person may do will make his forgiveness any less a matter of
grace. Salvation by grace through faith is open to all, for Christ died
for all. Both Jew and Gentile believers are heirs of the promise
made to Abraham. They are wrong who claim that Christians must
keep the law of Moses to be justified, for Abraham was justified by
faith without the law.
“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God
through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). In Paul’s language
justification precedes peace with God. To justify a person is to pronounce him free from any guilt or blame. When a man through
faith puts sin out of his heart and life, and submits to the will of God,
he is forgiven of his sins. He is then declared to be righteous. As no
guilt or blame then attaches to him, he is justified. It is evident that
in Paul’s language, to be righteous and to be justified is the same
thing; for he had been arguing that we are made righteous by faith,
and then adds: “having therefore been justified by faith, we have
peace with God.” Paul had been arguing that we are made
righteous by faith in Christ, instead of by works of the law. It was
equivalent to saying that we became righteous by obedience to the
gospel instead of by obedience to the law. With Paul, faith in Christ
means full acceptance of Christ as he is revealed to us and the
faithful ordering of our lives according to his will. They greatly err
who seek to prove by Paul that we are justified by faith only
common without obedience to the gospel.

Paul’s Letter to the Romans Part 31

This entry is part 31 of 35 in the series Paul's Letter to the Romans

As the one has need of strength to beat off the reasonings of greed,
so has the faithful also need of a soul endued with power, that he
may thrust aside the suggestions of unbelief. How then did he
become “strong?” By trusting the matter, he replies, to faith and not
to reasonings: or he would have fallen. How does he come to
prosper in faith itself? By giving glory to God. 
Part 31

“And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he
was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for
righteousness” (Romans 4:21-22). It required strong faith on the
part of Abraham to accept God’s promise that he would be the
father of a son by Sarah when both were incapable, but he had
been a strong believer in God so long that his faithless able to
stand the test. “He wavered not through unbelief” – he was not
weakened in faith. Concerning this manifestation of faith Paul adds:
“Wherefore also it was reckoned unto him for righteousness.” Just
when Abraham first became a righteous man we do not know.
While Abraham was yet in Ur of the Chaldees, God promised him
through the righteousness of faith that he should be the heir of the
world (Genesis 12:1-3; Romans 4:13). How long he had been a
believer in God before this promise was made through the
righteousness of faith we know not. Some years later, when God
promised him that his seed should be as numerous as the stars, it
is said that he believed in God, and he counted it to him for
righteousness (Genesis 15:5-6). But it is certain that this was not
the beginning of his righteousness by faith. About fifteen years
later, when God promised him that Sarah should bear him a son,
whom he should call Isaac, his faith did not weaken (Genesis
17:15-21). Concerning his faith at this time Paul says: “Wherefore
also it was reckoned unto him for righteousness.” Later, perhaps
twenty-five years later, God commanded him to offer up Isaac.
Again, his faith failed not. Of this greatest test of his faith James
says: “Was not Abraham our father justified by works, in that he
offered up Isaac his son upon the altar? Thou seest that faith
wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect; and
the scripture was fulfilled which saith, And Abraham believed God,
and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness; and he was called
the friend of God” (James 2:21-23). Hence, that Abraham was
righteous by faith is affirmed of him on four separate occasions,
covering a period of perhaps fifty years. It is astonishing that so

many Bible students have overlooked these plain and important
facts. To me it seems inexcusable that any Bible student should
take Genesis 15:6 as an example of justification of an alien sinner.
And it seems to doubly inexcusably for the same writer to so mix
events as to make Genesis 15:6 and Romans 4:22 refer to the
same event, and then, though the statements refer to events fifteen
years apart, use both as examples of justification of an alien! These
things were not written to show how alien sinners are justified. Paul
was meeting the demands of the Judaizers, who claimed that
Gentile Christians had to keep the law. The justification of an alien
sinner was not the point at issue, but whether a Gentile Christian
had to keep the law to be justified as a Christian. It does not appear
that the Judaizers denied that the Gentile believers were saved, but
their contention was the Gentile Christians must.

Paul’s Letter to the Romans Part 30

This entry is part 30 of 35 in the series Paul's Letter to the Romans

And I will make a covenant between me and thee. Here was a covenant about to be made, and the sequel shows that it was the land covenant, with circumcision as the sign of the covenant. Be it remembered that God had in Genesis 12:1-3 promised Abraham that in his seed all the families of the Earth should be blessed, and also in Acts 3:25 “that this promise HE calls a covenant”. The law of Moses, which the Judaizing teachers were so zealously seeking to fasten on the Gentile Christians, had nothing to do with the promise, or covenant, to make Abraham the father of the multitude of nations. Abraham is the father of all who walk in the steps of his faith.  

Part 30

Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be (Romans 4:18). How was it that he “believed in hope against hope?” It was against man’s hope, in hope which is of God. (Paul leaves no room for disbelieving what is said.) Things which are contrary to one another, yet faith blends them together. If, however, he was speaking about things associated with Ishmael, this language would be unnecessary: for it was not by faith but by nature that they were begotten. When speaking of Isaac he does not refer to nature, but concerning him who was to be from his barren wife. If it was considered a reward to be father of many nations, it would be so of those nations of whom he believed. And speaking of them, listen to what follows.

And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb (v. 19). Do you see how he gives the obstacles, as well as the high spirit of the righteous man which overcomes all? “Against hope,” he says, was that which was promised: this is the first obstacle. Abraham had no other person who had received a son in this way to look to. They that were after him looked to him, but he looked to no one, except to God only. And this is why he said, “against hope.” Then, “his body now dead.” This is a second obstacle. And, “the deadness of Sarah’s womb.” This is a third, and a fourth obstacle.

“He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God” (v. 20). God neither gave any proof nor made any sign, but there were only plain words promising things that nature did not hold out any hopes of. Yet still he says, “he staggered not.” He does not say, “He did not disbelieve,” but, “He staggered not,” that is, he neither doubted nor hesitated though the hindrances were so great. From this we learn, that if God promises even countless impossibilities, and he that hears doth not receive them, it is not the nature of things that is to blame, but the unreasonableness of him who receives them not. “But was strong in faith.” See the stubbornness of Paul. Since this discourse was about them that work and them that believe, he shows that the believer works more than the other, and requires more power, and great strength, and sustains no common degree of labor. For they counted faith worthless, as having no labor in it. Insisting then upon this, he shows that it is not only he that succeeds in temperance, or any other virtue of this sort, but he that displays faith also who requires even greater power. As the one has need of strength to beat off the reasonings of greed.

Paul’s Letter to the Romans Part 28

This entry is part 28 of 35 in the series Paul's Letter to the Romans

“And if ye are Christ’s then are ye Abraham’s seed, heirs according
to the promise” (Galatians 3:29). In the high gospel sense
contemplated in the promise made to Abraham, he is the father of
only those who believe in Christ. A Jew, as such, has no part in the
in this promise. The spiritual family of Abraham has replaced the
fleshly family. God’s order is, the fleshly first, then the spiritual. 

Part 28

“For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was
not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the
righteousness of faith” (Romans 4:13). The marginal reading has
“through law”. The Greek has no “the” before “law” in this verse.
Abraham did not receive the promise through law, evidently
meaning that the promise was not given him on account of his
perfectly keeping any law. That he should be the heir of the world is
not definitely stated in any of the promises made to Abraham. The
promise here referred to cannot be the land promise, for that
promise did not include the world. And Paul’s argument in the
remainder of the chapter shows that he did not have the land
promise in mind. When God called Abraham out of Ur of the
Chaldees, he promised to make of him a great nation, and then
added the promise that refers to Christ: “And in thee shall all the
families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 12:1-3). That this
promise includes all the nations is plainly declared when God
renewed this promise to Abraham: “And in thy seed shall all the
nations of the Earth be blessed” (Genesis 22:18). When God made
the covenant of circumcision with Abraham, he referred to the
promise made to Abraham in Ur of the Chaldees, saying: “For the
father of the multitude of nations have I made thee” (Genesis 17:5).
God had already constituted him a father of a multitude of nations
when circumcision was commanded. In a fleshly sense Abraham
was not the father of a multitude of nations; in a spiritual sense he
was. Jesus was made heir of all things. Hebrews 1:1-2; Psalms 2:7-
8 shows that it was the people to which Christ became heir. 
“For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void,
and the promise made of none effect” (Romans 4:14). The world
was not promised to Abraham’s natural seed. God promised to
make of his natural seed a great nation, and to give them a definite
territory, but they were not established the heirs of the world. The
seed that was to bless the world was Christ. “Now to Abraham
where the promises spoken, and to his seed. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed which is Christ”
(Galatians 3:16). “Whom he appointed heir of all things” (Hebrews
1:2). With this agree the words of David: “I will tell of the decree:
Jehovah said unto me, Thou art my son; this day have I begotten
thee. Ask of me, and I will give thee the nations of thine inheritance,
and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession” (Psalms
2:7-8). Now, this promise of world-wide inheritance was not made
to Abraham through the righteousness of the law, but through the
righteousness of faith. Paul had shown the Judaizing teachers
that Abraham was not righteous by law, but by faith. Now he shows
briefly that the promise of the Messiah was through the
righteousness of faith, and not through the righteousness of the

Paul’s Letter to the Romans Part 29

This entry is part 29 of 35 in the series Paul's Letter to the Romans

“Through the law” means through the righteousness of the law, for
the person who does not keep the law perfectly receives nothing
through the law but punishment. “They that are of the law” means
they that are righteous by law. If such are heirs, faith as a basis for
righteousness is void. If the promise was made to those who would
keep the law, the promise would have been of no effect, for
no one kept the law; there would have been no one to whom the
promise applied. All would have been subject to penalty for
violating law, instead of receiving a reward for keeping it. 

Part 29

“Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is
no transgression” (Romans 4:15). This cannot mean that the law
stirs up wrath in man toward him who gave the law. The law brings
wrath upon man, because he violates it. If it were kept perfectly, it
would bring the rewards of righteousness; but it brings punishment,
for no one keeps it perfectly. Because men of violate law, it works
wrath. Paul’s statement that there is no transgression where there
is no law does not mean that there ever were a people that had no
law, for he had already shown that both Jews and Gentiles were all
under sin. The moral law is always in force and applies to all. What,
then, does Paul mean? No one transgresses a law that has not
been given. Abraham did not transgress the law of Moses, for it had
not been given in his day. Neither did he transgress the law of
baptism or the Lord’s supper. There were no such requirements in
his day. Even the law of Moses was binding only on those to whom
it was given. “Now we know that what things so ever the law saith,
it speaketh to them that are under the law” (Romans 3:19). The
gentiles were never under the law, and, therefore, never did
transgress it. The Gentile Christians were, therefore, not guilty of
any transgression in failing to be circumcised, or in failing to keep
the law of Moses. For then there was no such law. Thus, in a few
words, Paul refutes the contention of the Judaizing teachers, who
demanded that the Gentile Christians be circumcised and keep the
law of Moses.
“Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end
the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is
of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is
the father of us all” (Romans 4:16). The promised inheritance, in
which Christians share, is of faith, instead of through the
righteousness of the law, that it may be according to grace. If the

promise had been made on the condition that people keep the law,
it would not have been sure to anyone, for no one kept the law.
And, had anyone kept the law perfectly and thereby come into the
inheritance, it would not have been by grace, but by merit. But as it
is, the promise extends to all who are of the faith of Abraham,
whether they be Jews or gentiles.
“(As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,)
before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead,
and calleth those things which be not as though they were”
(Romans 4:17). To see the force of the past tense of this quotation,
it is necessary to go back and consider the events narrated in
Genesis 17:1-14. Jehovah appeared to Abraham when Abraham
was 99 years old and said to him: “I am God Almighty; walk before
me, and be thou perfect.

Paul’s Letter to the Romans Part 27

This entry is part 27 of 35 in the series Paul's Letter to the Romans

“And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the
righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised:
that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be
not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them
also” (Romans 4:11). Circumcision was a sign of the covenant
made with Abraham; it was to be maintained as a sign of
membership in that covenant. It did not bring one into the covenant,
as some think. Every child of Jewish parentage was a member of
that covenant by virtue of his descent from Abraham. “And the
uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his
foreskin, that soul shall “be cut off from his people; he hath broken
my covenant” (Genesis 17, 14). It could not be said that a person
broke the covenant by failing to be circumcised, if he were not in
the covenant. But circumcision was more than a sign to Abraham; it
was a seal of the righteousness of his faith, a stamp of God’s
approval of his faith. To the Hebrews it was a sign of the covenant;
to Abraham only was it a seal of the righteousness of the faith
which he had in uncircumcision. Something was done that
Abraham might be the father of all who believe, both of Gentiles
and Jews. What was it? It does not seem possible that Paul meant
that Abraham was circumcised that he might be the father of the
uncircumcised believer. Evidently, it was the righteousness of the
faith which he had in uncircumcision that constituted him “the father
of all them that believe, though they be in uncircumcision, that
righteousness might be reckoned unto them” – that is, he is the
father of the Gentile believers, though they be not circumcised. And
god reckons righteousness to them without circumcision.
“And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the
circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our
father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised” (Romans
4:12). Paul does not use the term “father Abraham” as the Jews
would use it, but he uses it in its Christian sense. He does not say
that Abraham is the father of the circumcision. With Paul he is not
the father of the Jews as such, but only of those Jews who “walk in
the steps of the faith of our father Abraham which he had in
uncircumcision.” He is the father of the believers, whether they be
Gentiles or Jews. There is no difference; “for in Christ Jesus neither
circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith
working through love” (Galatians 5:6). This agrees with what Peter said in reply to the Judaizing teachers in Jerusalem, “and he made
no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by face”
(Acts 15:9). In a national and fleshly sense Abraham was the father
of the whole Jewish nation, but that is not the sense in which Paul
here uses the term “father Abraham.” God promised Abraham: “in
thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (Genesis
22:18). We do not have to guess to whom this promise refers, for
Paul says: “now to Abraham where the promises spoken, and to his
seed. He saith not, and to thy seeds, as of many; but as of one, and
to thy seed, which is Christ” (Galatians 3:16). Abraham’s seed,
through whom the world was to be blessed, was Jesus Christ, and
none other. But there is a sense in which all Christians are
Abraham’s seed.