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.

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