“…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…” – Rom 4:16
Is Abraham our father?
Abraham begat Isaac; Isaac begat Jacob; Jacob begat twelve sons. Jacob’s name was also Israel, and his sons’ families became the twelve tribes of the nation Israel.
Obviously, Abraham is the father of Israel through his circumcised sons Isaac and Jacob. In what sense would he be our father?
Consequently, many are confused by Paul’s teaching in Romans 4 by thinking we inherit the promises of land, nation, and blessing given to Abraham, and fulfill God’s purpose as spiritual Israel. Not so!
Paul is describing how Israel will receive their promises by faith, because of their father Abraham. However, Paul also presents Abraham as the father of us all that believe.
Abraham’s Fatherhood of Faith
Although Abraham was the first progenitor of Israel according to the promise, he was never a part of Israel under the law.
Also, when Abraham was given the promise of a multiplied seed he was not circumcised (Rom 4:10). (Abraham was given the promise starting in Genesis 12 and was circumcised in Genesis 17.)
An uncircumcised non-Israelite who was not under the law was given an unconditional promise in Genesis 15. He believed it. God counted his faith for righteousness (Gen 15:6).
It is this righteousness by faith that Abraham fathers in Romans 4 for all, whether they be part of the circumcision or not.
“…that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also…” – Rom 4:11
This pattern of Abraham’s justification by faith without works is what Paul describes regarding the justification of all men.
Abraham was proof to Israel under the law that they did not receive their promise through the law, but by faith (Rom 4:13). Justification by faith establishes the law, just as Paul said in Romans 3:31.
Abraham was also a pattern for those who were not circumcised through his faith in what God told him. It is his faith and not what God told him that is the pattern. God revealed to us something different through Paul (Col 1:25).
We Do Not Inherit Israel’s Promises
Looking to Abraham as a pattern of faith without works for imputed righteousness does not make the Body of Christ part of the covenant of circumcision. Abraham was not circumcised when he was justified by faith!
Neither does it make us spiritual Israel, because Abraham was not part of the nation of Israel one day of his life. He was never under the law and could not call himself Israel!
It also does not make us inheritors of Israel’s purpose of earthly dominion and inheritance. The content of our faith is in the cross, not the covenants of promise that Abraham believed.
When Abraham becomes circumcised and begins to do works by faith he ceases to be a pattern for us and is now the pattern of Israel as James explains to the twelve tribes (James 2:21).
Abraham’s pattern and purpose are different.
Abraham’s pattern was justification by faith without works. Abraham’s purpose was to be father of many nations and to inherit the world.
People make a doctrinal mess in Romans 4 when they partake of Abraham’s purpose instead of his pattern by faith.
Abraham Fathers Two People
Abraham was the physical and spiritual father of the circumcision, the promised nation of Israel, who would inherit the world (Rom 4:13).
By Genesis 15:6 he is also the father of all that believe for righteousness though they be not part of Israel or its promises of earthly dominion.
The faith of Abraham was in the hope of a multiplied seed (Rom 4:18). That seed would eventually become the nation that would rule over the other nations of the world.
Our faith is not in a multiplied seed, but a person and his finished work, a singular seed (Gal 3:16).
“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.” – Rom 4:24-25
Abraham’s faith in a multiplied seed is powerless to save us. Abraham’s faith in what God told him is the pattern by which we are imputed righteousness (Rom 4:23-24).
God told us to put our faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ for our offenses and justification, not Abraham’s covenants of promise.
Abraham’s paternity of “us all” is through his pattern of faith without works and not his promised purpose for the earth.