Another debate in the new vs. old perspective on Paul debate is how to understand Romans 4 and Abraham. Is he an example of faith? Or, as Tom Wright, in Justification: God’s Plan & Paul’s Vision , puts it: “Pull out Abraham, and you won’t just pull out a single loose thread from the sweater. You will unravel the whole thing.”
For Wright, Abraham is not an example of faith so much as the substantive person in the original covenant itself. Abraham is part of the “who is the family of God” question. The issue is not about what Abraham found but whether we have found Abraham to be our father (218).
The promise to Abraham was that he would have a family as numerous as there are stars in the sky, and that through him the Gentiles would be blessed. The promise was not going to heaven when he died (220).
Wright’s contention then is that chp 4 of Romans is not about how Abraham got saved by faith but about God’s faithfulness to Abraham to bless the whole world through the one covenant and that through faith (not works that separate Gentiles from Israel). We see in this the dividing line between old and new: is the animating issue personal redemption from the works-principle of distorted humans or is it the one covenant with Israel to bless the world? (Not a simple dichotomy here, but an orienting perspective.)