“[T]he emphasis in Romans 9-11 is surely on the fact that
God’s covenant promises vis-à-vis Israel will indeed be fulfilled, but only in the genuine heirs of the covenant(s): Abraham’s spiritual descendants (whether Jew or Gentile; cf. Eph 2:11-12). Thus, Paul highlights the fact that–although ethnic Israel enjoyed some tremendous spiritual privileges (Rom 9:4-5)–God had never promised that all Abraham’s
physical posterity would inherit the covenant promises (Rom 9:6-13). Rather,
through Jesus, God has done exactly what he promised Abraham (Gen 12:3) and
later reiterated through the prophets: namely, extending blessing to all the
nations of the earth. Thus, Romans 9-11 graphically reinforces the point that
Paul made earlier in this epistle (cf. Rom 4:16-19)–that the gospel is the
means by which the covenant promise made to Abraham is realized–Abraham’s
‘fatherhood of many nations’ and multitudinous descendants relates to the
extension (beyond ethnic Israel) of the people of God.
“However, Paul is also at pains to stress in Romans 9-11
that the extension of the people of God to include Gentiles did not negate or
abrogate the fulfillment of the covenant promises in relation to ethnic
Israelites. Unfortunately, this important caveat has been implicitly denied in
many supercessionist readings of Scripture, which suggest that Israel has been
entirely replaced by the church as the people of God. As Horton has recently
argued (2006:131-132), rather than seeing the church as simply replacing
Israel, it is more in keeping with Scripture to see the church ‘as Israel’s
fruition’. Thus understood, the church is the continuation and extension of
Israel as the people of God, encompassing both elect Jews and elect Gentiles
who, together, make up ‘the Israel of God’ (Gal 6:16). Therefore, biological
descendants of Abraham were in no way disadvantaged under the new covenant, as
some of Paul’s protagonists were apparently suggesting (cf. Rom 11:13-22).
Rather, they (like the Gentiles) could respond positively to the gospel
“Hence the covenant promises had been inherited not by
Israel in an exclusively ethnic or biological sense, but by all Abraham’s true
descendants: those united to Abraham through faith in Jesus Christ.
“Significantly, the inheritance of the latter appears to
include even the territorial promise, albeit in a cosmic sense (Rom 4:13; cf.
Matt 5:5). Thus understood, the promise of land, while including the territory
of Canaan, ultimately encompasses much more: namely, the ‘new heaven and the
new earth’ anticipated by the prophets (Rom 8:17-25; cf. 2 Pet 3:13).
“In any case, Paul’s discussion of covenant in Romans serves
primarily to bolster confidence in God’s faithfulness to his ancient promises
and the fulfillment of these in an Israel that, while not encompassing every
biological descendant of Abraham, certainly incorporates all ethnic Israelites
who, whether in the present or in the future, turn from their unbelief, and
thus, along with their Gentile brothers, enter into the promised inheritance.”
Labels: Reformation Theology