The Gospel Preached Unto Abraham

By Robert Clanton

There is a very specific reason why Paul quoted the scripture concerning Abraham in Romans 3 and 4. Not taking scripture out of its context to proof-text in this article I will show why Paul choose Genesis 15 to use as the gospel being preached unto Abraham.  Not only Paul uses that way but so do the other Apostles. 


In my article "Abraham Model of Faith" or otherwise titled, "Why Did Paul Choose Abraham" , I illustrated how that Paul manifested both Jew and Gentile under sin, leading up to the quotation of Gen.15.  I was following the context of Paul’s writings.  Paul like most Catholic Scholars and others knew well that Abraham already had faith and was living by faith.  The same can be said for so many of the Jews of Christ day.  The practice of keeping the law of Moses was an act of faith in keeping with their covenant.  Still, because of them falling short of the glory of God and because all had been found guilty of sin by the law, they were in need of a righteousness that was from God through faith, not from the law.  Likewise, the Gentiles were all found sinners.  And the same was true for them so that both Jew and Gentile were under the same condemnation. 


All of this strictly follows the context of Romans 3.  What is true for them is also true for Abraham.  Though he walked by faith in a personal relationship with God, he had still sinned and found himself in need of a justification that he could not deliver himself.  But God could deliver this justification from sin, through His Son Christ Jesus.  In Gen.15:1-5 there is a shadowy preaching of the Gospel of Christ’s first advent, death and resurrection to Abraham, in the promise of coming of his “seed” which shall bring forth as many children as there are stars in the heavens. When Abraham then states that he “believed in the Lord” Gen.15:6 it is the exactly the same act as when the Jews repented in believed in Christ as the seed, that they might be saved.  


The accounting of Abraham's faith as righteousness in the context of the epistle of Romans is the moment when Abraham believes and trusts on the promised seed, Christ.  I would have others note the immediate relationship between Abraham's belief in the promised seed as being accounted as righteousness and the next verses that speak of David's forgiveness of sin. "3For what saith the scripture?  Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. 4Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. 5But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. 6Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, 7Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. 8Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. In both cases, Abraham and David, it speaks of the justification of the ungodly through the forgiveness of sin.  When Abraham believed in the Lord, as it written in Gen.15:6, Paul interprets the scripture to mean, Abraham believed in the coming of Christ as savior.  So is the case with King David after he sinned, in looked to the time when his sins would be forgiven and covered by Christ, and justify his ungodliness through Christ's sacrifice. 


None of this takes away from the fact that both had walked by the righteousness of faith, it only underscores that both sinned and only Christ could restore their relationship to God after their sin and bring them to righteousness again. 


When Paul preaches the righteousness of faith that is attained by belief in Christ, he is preaching the gospel.  The right standing before God was and is only capable through the sacrifice of Christ.  This is the gospel. This is the essence of the Catholic Mass.  Rom.4: 4Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. 5But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.


The Epistle of Galatians says the same thing, Gal.3: 6Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.  7Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. 8And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. " Note that Paul says Abraham had the preaching of the gospel of Christ to him, when it is said, "In you all the shall all nations be blessed" .  Paul interprets this scripture as the gospel of how the Gentiles would be justified through belief in Christ or through faith in Christ, the seed of Abraham.  Paul's point in both cases is that our right standing before God is entirely based on the grace that is given us through faith in Christ.  Paul emphases that whether Jew or Gentile no matter, our right standing before God is purely attainable only through faith in Christ.  When Abraham believed on the Lord, in Gen.15:6 he found grace through Christ's sacrifice and forgiveness of sin, likewise David and all who are saved. Paul's whole emphasis is to show the Jew that no matter how righteous Abraham was he still only able to be found in the grace, through the gospel of Christ.  And David also, who loved God's law under the old covenant, a man after God's own heart, still spoke of the blessedness that would come through the forgiveness of sin, through Christ the promised seed.  The points are so salient to the Jewish Christian among the churches.  If Abraham and David found grace only through Christ so should all the others. 


The tendency to over react to a once saved, always saved causes some to deny what is plainly there in scripture.  There is or can be a moment when one believes in the gospel and is saved or brought to a state of Grace in Christ. And it is the beginning of salvation.  His obedience to the other facets of the gospel are then made incumbent, to be baptized and follow the church.  But, let's not deny what is clearly there in scripture.   Gal.5: 1Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: 2By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.


This right standing, the forgiveness of sin comes when one believes the gospel even as Abraham.  It is that which changes the heart and from the heart creates a desire for righteousness and right standing before God.  The scripture is replete with countless stories and examples of the first conversions of the hearts of men at the belief in Christ's sufferings, death and resurrection. 


We all know of the story of the thief on the cross, who believed in his heart and spoke it with his mouth and then went with the Lord into paradise.  On the day of Pentecost, Peter did nothing other than to preach the gospel of Christ, him crucified and resurrected to the Jews and to the baptize those that received Christ and trusted in him, wherein 3,000 souls were added to the church, Acts 2:5-41. The scripture culminates Peter's gospel message, "37Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? 38Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." 


Out from among whom are these converts to Christ? Luke records, in the same chapter  " 5And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven."  These devout Jews are men, women and families of faith living devoutly according to the laws of Moses under the Old Covenant.  Their faith was yet incomplete though they be as devout as Abraham or David. They must believe in Christ as the promised seed that would bring them salvation and repent and be baptized everyone of them in the name of Jesus Christ "for the remission of sins" and receive the Holy Spirit. 


Again in chapter three of Acts, Peter preaches repentance both accepting and learning to trust in Christ for their salvation of these Jews, saying, " 25Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. 26Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.  This particular story ending in Chapter 4 says, " 4Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand. "


Or consider Acts 8, to whom Phillip preaches. " 35Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. 36And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? 37And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.


Time would fail me to mention all those examples of the devout Jews and Gentiles whose salvation began as all of ours in the act of believing the gospel. Whether it be the devout Jews in Jerusalem or Cornelius and his family, the devout Gentiles, whose faith was incomplete until he converted to Christianity at the preaching of Christ from Peter and received the Holy Spirit while Peter was preaching Christ before he was baptized..  We cannot and must not deny the beginnings of those whose hearts and minds are changed when they hear and believe in the salvation through Christ.   


Further, in Romans we are told exactly what we see occurring in the book of Acts.  Rom.10: 4For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. 5For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them. 6But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) 7Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) 8But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; 9That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

12For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. 13For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."   We cannot discount the truths of the changes in hearts of men at the hearing and believing of the gospel. Though, it is not all the gospel, it is the beginning of the conversion process.  Though, it is not all that there is to salvation, it is the beginning of salvation. 


Further, what Paul adds next is the church's responsibility to preach. 14How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? 15And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!


 Indeed, often are the conversions of sinners both among the Protestants and the Catholics at this message. While, that is not all the truth of faith and some faiths may be not be full, yet we should not deny the beginnings of salvation upon their hearts and their conversions when they, like the devout Jews and the others believed on Christ at the hearing of the message of salvation through Christ Jesus. 


In closing I would have look at the very foundational scripture from which stands all of your confidence in the church in Mt. 16.  It is at the very moment when Peter confesses with his mouth what he believed in his heart that Christ is the Messiah the Son of the Living God, that Christ pronounced how blessed he was of the Father and made him, the rock upon whom the Church was built, giving him the keys of the kingdom of heaven and the promise of the gates hell that would never prevail over the church.


13When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? 14And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist:  some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. 15He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? 16And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. 17And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. 18And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.  19And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.


The foundation of the gospel and that of Christ, him crucified and raised for our salvation. I do not think that Salvation begins and ends at one moment, though I don't leave out the possibility that it can, as it did with the thief on the cross, who believed and confessed.  But, it is a fact that it begins in the expression of faith in Christ and that is where it is God's will to end.  Both Jews and Gentiles devout and sinner are promised to  stand in the grace that is promised through the promised seed and believing on him.