Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Romans 9:4; Q & A (7 of 6)

  To those of us that can count (you know who you are) this is the SEVENTH installment of a six part series.  This came about because one of my most stalwart readers posed some questions via an email. This friend and reader , who declined to be named, is an unapologetic 'replacement theology' adherent and though he and I  had discussed this issue and its various implications many many times over the years, he had  questions.  I promised him that I would take  his questions directly from the email and answer them to the best of my ability.

1.  How can Abraham be the father of MANY nations yet we keep singling out one nation? 

 The short answer to this quandry is that God keeps singling out one nation, and we are simply following His lead.
  But the long answer is pretty interesting too. There is a subtle, yet significant transition amongst two different conversations between God and Abram that at least partially explains it.In Genesis 12:12 God says "And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great ; and thou shalt be a blessing". Later on, in Genesis 17:4-6, God says something slightly different. "As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee .And I will make thee exceeding  fruitful , and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee."  It goes from singular to plural. Why?
  Well a lot of things happened between chapters 12 and 17, and one of the things that happened was Ishmael was born.  A lot can be said about Ishmael, but Genesis 17 says "And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee : Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful , and will multiply him exceedingly ; twelve princes shall he beget , and I will make him a great nation." Also in Genesis 21, the angel of the Lord tells his mother that, despite NOT being the  child of promise, Ishmael will still have an important destiny.  Verse 18 reads "Arise , lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand; for I will make him a great nation."
  If you take the nation God promised Abram through Isaac, and the  twelve princes that Ishamel produced (named in 1 Chronicles 1), Abraham really does become the "father of many nations.".  Going forward from Ishamels departure, though, the focus in the Bible becomes entirely on Isaac and his descendants.  The other peoples of the world, including the Ishmalite cousins, are really only portrayed insomuch as how they interact with Isaacs family. Isaacs family goes to Egypt, and Isaacs family crosses the Red Sea on the way out of Egypt. Isaacs family gets the 10 Commandments, and the tabernacle instructions. Isaacs family takes the land of Canaan, and all the kings of Israel including the Lord Jesus Christ, come out of Isaac, not Ishmael. 
  Also, lest I be accused of neglect, there is also a spiritual nation associated with Abraham, which we will cover in  a later question.

2. How can Ephesians 2 say we're not strangers to the covenants of promise yet were told those covenants are just for Jews?  

  I covered this in another post, but I'll hit the high points here.  The book of Hebrews says that we have "a better covenant" built upon "better promises". "Better" doesn't mean "the same promises, just reassigned."
  The context of Ephesians 2 is how Gentiles didn't have access to God the same way Israel did. A Gentile who wanted access to God ( like Ruth or the Ethiopian eunuch) had to take on the trappings of the Mosaic law (feasts, sacrifices, dietary laws, etc), and even then, he had no promise of a land inheritance and so missed out on the promises associated with  the land because those promises were doled out along family lines.
 In Ephesians 2 the whole point is that  what the law could not accomplish  was accomplished by Jesus Christ.  A relationship with God was almost impossible for a Gentile before the crucifixion , but now the Gentiles can be joint-heirs with Christ, not joint heirs with Israel. The covenants of promise spoken of are the better promises of the better covenant anthey are the inheritance spoken of as belonging, as a present possession to everyone who is "in Christ" whether they  came from a Jewish background or a Gentile background.  
   According to John 3 the new birth is a spiritual birth, and so  is accompanied by a spiritual inheritance and spiritual blessings  that are available to every believer at the moment of regeneration.  These include things like the promise of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4, 2:33-39), promise of life now and life to come (1 Tim 4:8, 2 Tim 1:1) , the promise of his coming (2 Peter 3:4) and the promise of eternal life (1 John 2:25). In Christ we have redemption  (Rom 3:24)  atonement and  joy (Rom 5:11), no condemnation (Rom 8:1), law of life (Rom 8:2), love of God (Rom 8:39), one body (Rom 12:5), approval (Rom 16:10), sanctification (1 Cor 1:2), wisdom and righteousness (1 Cor 1:30,  4:10) instructors and fathers (1 Cor 4:17),a bodily resurrection (1 Cor 15:18),  and hope (1 Cor 15:19). We are made alive (1 Cor 15:22), we are given  rejoicing (1 Cor 15:31), we are stablished and anointed (2 Cor 1:21), we triumph (2 Cor 2:14), we are made new creatures (2 Cor 5:17), the vail is done away with so that we can  understand the scriptures (2 Cor 3:14), we have simplicity (2 Cor 11:3), we are made children of God (Gal 3:26), we are joined one to another (Gal 3:28), we are given a spiritual circumcision ( Col 6:15), we are made nigh to God (Eph 2:13), we experience the fullness of mystery (Eph 3:19), and we receive a high calling and purpose in grace (Phil 3:14, 2 Tim 1:9). We are given the chance to be persecuted (2 Tm 3:12), yet have peace (1 Peter 5:14) as we experience all spiritual blessings (Eph 1:3). We are not only wrought in Christ, (Eph 1:20), but we are his workmanship (Eph 2:10) while being fellow heirs (Eph 3:6).  In Christ we can  experience steadfastness ( Col 2:5), faith and love (1 Tim 1:4), salvation (2 Tim 2:10) and boldness (Phi 1:8).  In light of all this, why in the world would we want a  land grant in Palestine and a promise against crop failure if we tithe?
  The real  fatal flaw in 'replacement theology' is in its application.  The  aforementioned things have been available to every Christian since Calvary regardless of location or living conditions. A 21st century American who is saved  has just as much sanctification or wisdom or victory available to him  as a saved man  toiling in a Soviet gulag in the 1980's or as a saved man rotting in a Roman dungeon in the 1st century. It's because we are all one, and those blessings aren't based on what we do, but rather on what Christ did. 
 The promises made to Israel aren't equally available in the same sense in every century because for most of  their history, they couldn't meet the conditions associated with the promises and therefore couldn't enjoy them.  That's what I mean by application.  For example, if we are the recipient of Israels promises, why did our enemies prevail against us for 600 years in the Spanish Inquisition? Weren't they promised victory over their enemies? Why are we sick? Weren't they promised healing? Why do our crops fail?  Weren't they promised prosperity?  What happens when Christians of one country go to war against Christians from another country, if God has promised to fight our enemies for us? See, application is where it all falls apart when  someone tries to jam a body of New Testament believers into the Old Testament promises.

3. How are we called the "seed of Abraham" in Galatians 3 yet are not entitled to the blessings of the seed where with God told Abraham that all families of the earth would be blessed through him? 

  Great question by the way, Anonymous Reader Guy.  For starters, Galatians 3:8-9 says "And 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 . So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham. In context, the blessing mentioned is justification by faith, not a land grant doled out among family lines. That is not a physical blessing, in fact, according to Ephesians 1:3 God has blessed us with "all spiritual blessings".   Along these same lines, Paul claimed to be sowing spiritual things by preaching the gospel in 1 Cor 9. All of the promises made to the  church are  spiritual in nature, including our upcoming resurrection since it is raised a "spiritual body" according to 1 Cor 15.
  But as you may have noticed, that still leaves us with Galatians 3:7 which says   " Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham." At the risk of  getting off topic, and tackling an area above my intelligence,take a look at something  really interesting in John 8.
 In John 8:33-39, the Bible says "They answered him, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou , Ye shall be made free? Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you , Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth  ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free , ye shall be free indeed. I know that ye are Abraham's seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you. I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father. They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do  the works of Abraham."  So what are the works of Abraham? According to Romans 4:3 "For what saith the scripture ? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness"
  Now I don't claim to understand all the implications of those verses, but its very interesting that Jesus  admitted they were Abraham's seed, but then told them they weren't Abraham's children.  There appears to be a difference, and the difference, though subtle, is significant enough for Jesus to comment on.  The explanation of the difference is found in Galatians 3:7.  Apparently these were descendants of Abraham who by physical birth qualified for the  physical promises of the physical covenants , but yet they had rejected the God who had made those covenants.  Since "God is a spirit", they don't get the spiritual blessings and because of their disobedience, were running the risk of being ejected from the land, which of course happened about 30 years later. 
  In light of this  huge, over-arching, history-of-the-whole-world-including-the-future topic, let me conclude with this ;the physical seed of Abraham qualify for the physical promises, but the spiritual seed of Abraham qualify for the spiritual promises which are , by definition, better. There are other aspects to all this that I hope to address in greater depth in the future but in the meantime I hope that's clear, and I hope that helps.

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