It is not as if God changed His mind about who were to
receive the promised inheritance. From the beginning, the inheritance was
reserved only for a select few who had been chosen by God. To illustrate this,
Paul turned to the story of Jacob and Esau, the twin sons of Isaac, who were
both the natural-born, circumcised grandchildren of Abraham. Yet according to
Paul, the inheritance was not intended for all of Abraham’s physical seed.
Rather, it was intended only for those whom God had chosen beforehand:
9 For this is what the promise said: “About this time
next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived
children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing
either good or bad—in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not
because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated”
What made Jacob different from Esau
was not his birthright or his works, but divine election. Prior to the birth of
these twin boys, there was a prophecy that proclaimed, “The older shall serve
the younger” (Gen 25:23). This prophecy proved that God is the One who
determines who will receive the inheritance.
In the same way, prior to the
gospel breaking through to the Gentiles, there was an Old Testament prophecy
that predicted this event: “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my
people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved’” (Rom 9:25; cf. Hos
2:23). “And in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ it
shall be said to them, ‘Children of the living God’” (Hos 1:10). In addition,
Paul went on to explain that the Old Testament made it clear that only a small
number of the physical seed of Abraham would be saved: “And Isaiah cries out
concerning Israel: ‘Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of
the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved’” (Rom 9:27). Thus, the first
reason why the majority of physical Israel were rejecting the kingdom was that
the promises were exclusively given to God’s elect people, who consisted of
Abraham’s spiritual seed.
[As seen in Romans 15], the church does not replace Israel.
Rather, believing Gentiles are grafted into the same tree with believing Jews.
That is, Gentiles do not enjoy a different inheritance but share in the same
inheritance that was promised to Abraham and his seed. As Paul specifically
indicates later in the chapter, “the Gentiles have come to share in their
spiritual blessings” (Rom 15:27).
A couple of qualifications that I would add to the above:
- Johnson writes, "the promises were exclusively given to God’s elect people, who consisted of Abraham’s spiritual seed." I would say that the promises are primarily secured by God's elect Man, Jesus Christ, who was fully qualified as the fulfillment of Abraham's seed in both the physical and spiritual sense. These promises, first enjoyed by the elect from Abraham's physical seed [for the most part], were expanded through Christ to all the elect: Abraham's spiritual seed from both Jews and Gentiles. I believe-based on some other passages in his book-that Johnson would agree with this.
- Johnson writes of "a select few." I believe, based on passages like Daniel 2:35, Matthew 13:32, and Revelation 7:9 that-in the final analysis-the group of the elect will not be few, but innumerable, demonstrating the richness of God's grace in Christ.
Labels: Reformation Theology