From Abraham through the Law
What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? Romans 4:1.
We saw in the last post how that Abraham was a pivotal person in a pivotal time. The Lord clearly regenerated his flesh just as he had for righteous men since the time of Adam. But, he also established a new covenant with Abraham in which he imputed righteousness to his flesh. This is often misread in theological circles as being the same thing that happens to New Testament believers even though the Apostle Paul whose job was to explain these things to the Gentiles, clearly placed it in their future.
Romans 4:23 Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him;
Romans 4:24 But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead;
What we share in common with Abraham is a reliance upon faith. What is different is that Abraham had righteousness imputed to his flesh prior to his death. We are told that if we are believers on the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we shall have (future) that same righteousness imputed to our flesh. That is part of the miracle of the redemption of our bodies for which we wait. We shall see as this post progresses that the flesh had a completely different importance from the time of Abraham through the law than it does today.
Abraham was promised a lineage to carry on a godly line. No person today has any such promise. Wherever Abraham went and whatever he did, God poured blessings upon his flesh as if it was God himself living in that tent. Righteousness was imputed to his flesh. Compare that with the Apostle Paul's observation; Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace, 1st Corinthians 4:11. While living in the perfect will of God and while pleasing the Lord utterly, the Apostle Paul and his fellow workers lived as if they were under the curses promised to those who disobeyed under the law.
That does not void faith in Abraham's walk with God. When Abraham went into Hagar, he did so contrary to faith. It caused unspeakable sorrow. God would not give Ishmael the birthright just because he came from Abraham's loins. As it is today, so was it then; for whatsoever is not of faith is sin, Romans 14:23. What makes Abraham and those who descend from him different from us today is that faith worked through the flesh. He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant, Genesis 17:3.
We shall see that the law did not come to grant salvation. It came to codify and establish those works wherein a man who possessed faith was to walk. The law had a dual purpose. It convinced the Gentile that he was indeed guilty before God once he was made aware of it either by natural understanding or by the grace of having it preached to him. (T'was grace that taught my heart to fear.)
Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God, Romans 3:19. The law also gave the Jew a template with which to demonstrate his faith. We, to the contrary demonstrate our lack of faith by adhering to the law for righteousness.
Rightly did Jesus Christ question whether or not Abraham was truly a father to the Pharisees and their ilk. They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham, John 8:39. The Apostle Paul (who was undoubtedly stung by what Jesus said) reiterated that remark. 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.
No one has ever become righteous through the law. They become righteous by believing the promises of God as they are presented in that age. When they did become righteous, the works wherein they walk varied according to the time wherein they lived. Faith without works is dead in any age and at any time.