Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Israel

The following post is adapted from comments I made in a Facebook discussion, wherein I was interacting with a number of Dispensationalists.


If God has a people during the Old Testament dispensation that He calls the Church (Acts 7:38), and if He calls the Church the Israel of God (Gal 6:16), then–though proper covenantal distinctions need to be made–there is a biblical basis for calling the church "Israel" in a meaningful sense (showing the unity of God's elect people, all partaking in salvation bought by the blood of Christ, as His chosen bride). This is not eisegesis.

The saints are the body of Christ. He does not have two bodies. The saints are the bride of Christ. He is not a bigamist.

The Reformed view is that God fulfills His covenant promises to Israel in Jesus–the One who is both physically and spiritually qualified to receive His promises–and that ongoing fulfillment of the New Covenant promises takes place within the Church. Dispensationalists will sometimes object that if we do not believe that God’s promises will be fulfilled in ethnic Israel en masse (on the basis of their ethnicity), then we are presenting God as a liar. God did not lie to Israel. This is what Romans 9 is explaining: "But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel." The Arminian who objects to Reformed Theology saying that it presents God as unjust toward the non-elect has his objection anticipated by Romans 9:14ff. The Dispensationalist who objects to Reformed Theology saying that it presents God's promise as broken has his objection anticipated by Romans 9:6ff. God is not unjust nor is He a liar. It is NOT by ethnicity that one lives and receives the promises of God, but in relation to faith we are united to Christ, in whom ALL of God's promises are "yes" and "Amen" (2 Cor 1:20).

In fulfilling His promises to Israel in Christ and in the body of Christ (united to Him by faith), God broke no covenant with Israel. "[I]t is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants" (Rom 9:8). The Pharisees thought that they had Abraham as their father: they thought to benefit from God's blessings due to their ethnicity. Christ corrected them, saying that they were of their father the devil (John 8). Those who are called the offspring of the devil can in no way presume upon the promises of God, whatever their biological pedigree.

From God’s dealings with Abraham onward, we see a focusing of His covenantal activity. It is not all of Abraham’s children who receive the promises concerning Abraham’s descendants; it is only Isaac’s line who are the chosen inheritors. Israel, as narrowed down from other descendants of Isaac (through Esau), are inheritors of the promise. But even within Israel there is a narrowing (through the line of Judah, to David and his descendants), which–under the New Covenant administration–finds tremendous expansion.

The New Covenant (a covenant made directly "with the house of Israel and the house of Judah") is applied directly to the Church, as seen in our use of the New Covenant [=New Testament, 1 Cor 11:25 KJV] Scriptures and in our partaking of the Lord's Supper, the wine of which represents the New Covenant in Christ's blood (Luke 22:20). All believers–not only ethnic Jews, nor any ethnic Jews apart from faith–benefit from the work of Christ on the basis of the divinely-established New Covenant. God ONLY grants the New Covenant blessings to those ethnic Israelites who trust in Christ, and He extends all of these blessings to believing Gentiles.

The New Covenant, secured in Christ, applies directly to both believing Jews and believing Gentiles. Some Dispensationalists claim that to see the New Covenant as fulfilled within the Church is to cancel out the original intent of the Old Testament prophecies concerning the New Covenant, which (they say) would have only been understood by the original readers as applying to ethnic Israelites. But non-dispensationalists are NOT canceling out the original intent. The original intent is to focus attention on the seed of the woman, who is further revealed to be the seed of Abraham, who is further revealed to be the descendant of David. The original intent is to show how all the nations in Him will be blessed. The original intent is to show that those who break God's covenant will receive the curses of the covenant, and that those who keep God's covenant will receive the blessings of the covenant. The original intent is to show how we have all violated God's Law, written on the conscience, and then on tablets of stone. The original intent is to show that we all–Jews and Gentiles–are in need of a Savior: that we all need a sacrifice, that we all need a high priest. The original intent is to show that the people of God are made His people in connection with FAITH.

The Old Testament is characterized by mystery, types, and shadows, which are more fully and more clearly understood after the redemptive work of Christ is accomplished in history. As Nehemiah Coxe noted, "the best interpreter of the Old Testament is the Holy Spirit speaking to us in the new." If the New Testament tells us that the rock was Christ (1 Cor 10:4), then it was Christ. If the New Testament tells us that the seed was Christ (Gal 3:16), then it was Christ. If the New Testament us that all those who belong to Christ are Abraham's offspring (Gal 3:29), then we do not get to define Abraham's offspring merely in reference to biology. (The New Testament also records Jesus telling some of Abraham's biological offspring, who had rejected Him, that they were NOT Abraham's children, but children of the devil, John 8:39-44.) If the New Testament applies the New Covenant blessings to all believers, then we do not get to define the recipients of the New Covenant merely in terms of biology. All those who trust in Christ are beneficiaries of the New Covenant blessings in Him. Those who do not trust in Christ–whatever their biological heritage–do not benefit from these New Covenant blessings. Those who reject the good news of the kingdom cannot presume upon their biological heritage, imagining that–on that basis–God is obligated to grant them His blessings (Matt 3:9). Both Jews who reject Christ and unbelieving Gentiles are condemned. Both believing Gentiles and Jews who accept Christ receive the blessings of the New Covenant. Neither of these realities makes God a liar. Neither of these realities–clearly proclaimed in Scripture–undermines the right exegesis of Scripture.

Scripture provides the context for a Christ-centered interpretation of Scripture, where the types, shadows, patterns, and prophecies made to Israel terminate in Him and are then expanded to all of those who have been united to Him by faith. This is why there is now "neither Jew nor Greek... if you belong to Christ, you are Abraham's descendants, heirs according to the promise." We cannot, in light of that and similar passages, continue to think that inheritance of the promises is a matter of biology. The Bible says that every believer, whether Semite or non-Semite, is a descendant of Abraham.

Obviously, even under the New Covenant administration, some national distinctions remain (Paul can write intelligibly of "my kinsmen according to the flesh"), but these distinctions are superceded by the spiritual unity that we have in Christ, so that Paul writes of current spiritual privileges: "there is neither Jew nor Greek... if you belong to Christ, you are Abraham's descendants, heirs according to the promise." On the other hand, John calls unbelievers in general "Gentiles" in a passage that does not have cultural distinctions in view (3 Jn 1:7).

There was one who was the true seed of Abraham, the true Branch from David. One who was fully qualified: physically and spiritually qualified–in ways that certainly should have been understandable to anyone receiving the Scriptures–to be the Messiah. Rightfully, His were the blessings of the covenant. He shed His blood–the blood of the covenant–for the forgiveness of sins (Matt 26:28). United to Him, commemorating His sacrifice when we take the cup, which is the New Covenant in His blood (1 Cor 11:25), believers become recipients of the New Covenant made with Israel and Judah.

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