Abraham and Christians One?

1 Peter 3:18‑20  •  4 min. read  •  grade level: 9
Question: Will you do me the great favor to direct me as to the reconciliation of your views of the parenthetical nature of the Christian Dispensation with the passages in the New Testament which seem to teach that Abraham and Christians are one in relation to all the benefits that flow from the mercy of God through the Redeemer? If the Scriptures alluded to did not seem so plainly to contradict your distinction of heavenly and earthly, I could adopt your view, But with only the light I have now, there is nothing for me but painful uncertainty.
Lexington, Va., Dec. 30, 1881. F. P. M.
Answer: The passages of the New Testament to which our correspondent refers are doubtless such texts as Rom. 4:11, Gal. 3, and Heb. 11 The reason why they are supposed inconsistent with the special privileges of the believer now, is that the distinctive place of the Christian, and yet more of the Church, is not apprehended. People assume that to be born of God, and to be justified by faith, are the sum and substance of present blessing. But it is not so. All saints are necessarily born of the Spirit. The baptism of the Spirit was never enjoyed till Pentecost; and on this depends the body of Christ. Compare Acts 1:2 with 1 Cor. 12:13. And the gift of the Spirit, as thus over and above the new birth, as it could not be before redemption, was to be the permanent privilege of the Christian. The Comforter or Paraclete was to abide with the disciples forever. Even as to justification by faith, Rom. 4 makes this difference between Abraham and us: he believed that God was able to perform His promise; we believe on Him that raised up from the dead Jesus our Lord, after accomplishing. His work in death for our offense. The Old Testament had promise; we rest on accomplishment; so that there is a grave difference at the threshold. Then Gal. 4 shows that even the true saints of old were in servitude; but that now it is a question of the adoption of sons, the Spirit of the Son being sent forth into the hearts of the sons, crying Abba, Father. The inheritance of promise is common ground; but this quite consists with fresh and inferior blessing consequent on redemption. If we think not of the individual, but of our corporate relationship, the difference is at least as marked. The olive tree of testimony according to promise is not at all the same as the house of God, or the body of Christ. There is continuity in the olive tree, even if some of the natural branches were broken off for unbelief to let in the Gentile wild olive graft; and the Gentile, if not continuing in goodness, is to be cut off, that God may ingraft again the natural branches no longer abiding in unbelief. “And so all Israel shall be saved” in the depth of God’s wisdom and mercy. But this is quite distinct from Eph. 2, where the two are formed into one man, in which is neither Jew nor Gentile; and we are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the chief corner stone. During the Old Testament the middle wall was not broken down, nor were both made one. Even in the Lord’s ministry here below, “Go not,” said He, “into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not:” dead and risen, He sends them to any or all. How could the house be even begun before the foundation, not of prophets and then apostles, but “of the apostles and prophets” whom the ascended Head gave as gifts? And the body is formed in union with Him by the Spirit sent down from heaven.
Thus, if there are benefits which all saints enjoy from God’s mercy through Christ, which is thankfully owned, there are fresh and unspeakably great privileges which flow from redemption, and the presence of the Holy Ghost, who associates us in unity with Christ on high. In these last lies the peculiar blessings of the Christian and the Church. When Christ comes, the worthies of faith will, no doubt, receive the promise; but God has none the less provided some better thing for us, though we and they shall together enter on glory in that day.