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Of the Flesh and of the Promise

October 18, 2019
By Martin Luther

"My covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations."

GENESIS 17:4

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Of the Flesh and of the Promise

This is the origin of the chief doctrine of theology: that God is the God of the Jews and of the Gentiles, rich toward all, even at that very time when the Law and circumcision flourished. For other nations heard Abraham, heard the prophets, saw the worship at Jerusalem, and believed that the God of the Jews was the only true God. Meanwhile the Jews alone had this seal of righteousness because of which they were conspicuous among all the nations. And even though the Gentiles were not circumcised, they nevertheless called upon and worshiped the same God who revealed Himself to the Jewish people through circumcision. Therefore we do not slight St. Paul, the best and most learned interpreter of Moses. For concerning this chapter he teaches us that so far Moses has written about the birth of the son Ishmael and a descendant of Abraham according to the flesh but has said that this descendant was born without the promise. For God did not speak to Abraham about the son who would be born of the maid; it was Sarah's plan that Abraham should consort with the maid. . .. But with regard to Isaac the matter is different. He is born as the result of the promise, and the promise is attached to him. When this difference is recognized, it will shed a bright light on this discussion about circumcision.

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