Chapter # 4 Paragraph # 2 Study # 6
Thesis: The "land" promise was not rooted in "law"; it was rooted in "promise".
Introduction: The studies that we have been doing in Paul's debate about circumcision have brought to light one most basic fact: because "circumcision" was "imposed" upon Abraham years after he had been declared righteous by God on the basis of faith, "circumcision" was not related at all to the question of how one becomes righteous before God. As we saw in our study last week, this raises an automatic question: to what issue, then, is circumcision related? The answer that Paul gave to this question is two-fold: it is first a sign; and it is second a seal. As a sign, circumcision was a teaching device that zeroed in on the essential requirement of a harmonious relationship (primarily with God, but also inclusive of men): circumcision of the heart so that the desire for praise is focused upon God. As a sign, it is not something that a man can accomplish: it is out of both his "realm" and his "capacities". And, as a seal, circumcision was a temporal indicator of the surety of the results of the declaration of righteousness -- results that were not to come in the present. As a seal, the issue was that the present lack of results would constitute a "temptation" to revert to unbelief -- the absence of present results is often used to deny the legitimacy of the promise(s). So, "circumcision" was imposed upon Abraham as a way to deepen his faith, not as a way to accomplish his justification.
Now, this evening we are going to look at Paul's continuing insistence that "promise" is not rooted in the principle of "law". That Paul feels compelled to continue to hammer on this thesis is a revelation of the difficulty man has with the issues involved. All of us do have difficulty with getting, and keeping, clarity regarding how "promise" works in man. Most, if not all of us, do as did the Jews: we turn circumcision from its original purpose as sign and seal to a demonic purpose as a true mechanism for obtaining righteousness before God. Thus, we are seeing Paul's return to his thesis: it was not upon the foundation of law that God gave the promise to Abraham and to his Seed.
October 25, 2005
- I. Paul's Point of Focus: the Promise.
- A. The Promise was about "inheritance".
- 1. The issue of "inheritance" is, invariably, the issue of "sonship".
- a. The New Testament argument about "inheritance" is invariably rooted in the question of who is a legitimate son.
- 1) In Galatians 3:29 Paul makes no bones about the fact that one must be the seed of Abraham to be an heir.
- 2) In Galatians 4:7 Paul maintains his thesis that one must be a "son" in order to be an heir.
- 3) In Genesis 15:2 Abraham's big "issue" was that he had no "heir".
- 4) In Hebrews 1:2 God made the "Son" the "heir".
- 5) In Romans 8:17 Paul clearly maintains his thesis that the inheritance comes only to the legitimate children.
- b. Paul's argument in our context is that the heirs must be legitimately reckoned to be the sons of Abraham.
- 1) He strongly argued that Abraham had to be the "father".
- 2) His insistence that both circumcised and uncircumcised were sons of this father is germane to his notion of inheritance.
- 2. The content of "inheritance" is "the world".
- a. In the giving of the sign/seal in Genesis 17, God linked "circumcision" to the inheritance of the "land".
- b. But Paul, in this text, expands the "land" to the "world" because he has expanded the "sonship" from the "circumcised" to those who believe even among the uncircumcised.
- c. Thus, the Plan is presented as going far beyond the borders of Israel.
- 1) The "circumcised" will inherit the land if they are "believers".
- 2) The "uncircumcised" will inherit the rest of the world if they are "believers".
- d. Thus, the "inheritance" is greater than "Israel".
- e. But this raises the entire issue of the value of the "land" promise: what is the point of the "inheritance of the world"?
- 1) In Matthew 4/Luke 4, the tempter offered Jesus the "kingdoms of this world", the authority of them, and all their glory as an attempt to buy His worship.
- 2) In Revelation 8:15, the announcement is made that the kingdoms of this world are become the holdings of the Lord and His Christ.
- 3) In Revelation 21:24 and 26 the kings of the new earth bring their glory into the New Jerusalem.
- 4) The final issue, however, is the fact that the "land" is ultimately for the "body". Resurrection is a "body" doctrine. The Christ inhabits a "body" forever. The provision for the "body" is no small matter.
- B. The Promise was not "through law".
- 1. The issue involved here is the question of how one becomes a legitimate child of the father.
- 2. The "mechanism" of "law" in respect to this issue is "righteousness based upon the Law".
- a. The entire issue of sonship is the issue of "righteousness".
- b. The entire question, then, is the question of how one becomes a "son".
- c. The Law's answer to the question of "how?" is "act righteously"...Do and you will Become.
- 3. The "mechanism" of "faith" in respect to this issue is "righteousness based upon faith".
- a. The issue of "righteousness" is addressed by a divine "reckoning" on the basis of faith instead of on the basis of legal examination.
- b. The issue of "sonship" is addressed by the human response according to the "pattern of the father": Abraham believed, so anyone who believes is his son.
- 4. Paul declares pointedly that the two methods are incompatible and that the method of Law is excluded.
- a. This was true for Abraham.
- b. This remained true for Abraham's seed.