Chapter # 9 Paragraph # 2 Study # 2
October 14, 2008
6 Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel:
7 Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.
8 That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.
9 For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sara shall have a son.
10 And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac;
11 (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)
12 It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.
13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.
1901 ASV Translation:
6 But it is not as though the word of God hath come to nought. For they are not all Israel, that are of Israel:
7 neither, because they are Abraham's seed, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.
8 That is, it is not the children of the flesh that are children of God; but the children of the promise are reckoned for a seed.
9 For this is a word of promise, According to this season will I come, and Sarah shall have a son.
10 And not only so; but Rebecca also having conceived by one, even by our father Isaac
11 for the children being not yet born, neither having done anything good or bad, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth,
12 it was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.
13 Even as it is written, Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.
- I. Paul's Argument Regarding "Definitions".
- A. To establish his case that "the word of God has not been nullified by 'Israel's' disbelief", Paul moves to address the essence of 'Israel'.
- 1. There are two "definitions" of 'Israel' used by Paul in this context.
- a. The first, and most easily understood, is the common definition: 'Israel' is that group of people who descended from 'Israel' (Jacob). This seems to be the very definition Paul was employing in his "my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites" comments in Romans 9:3-4.
- b. The second, and not easily understood, is Paul's definition: 'Israel' is that group of people who were included by God in His 'promise' to Abraham in Genesis 21:12.
- 1) This is supported by Genesis 17:19 when God told Abraham that it would be Isaac that would received God's covenant commitment along with "his seed after him".
- a) However, "in Isaac shall thy seed be called", on the face of it, only restricts the covenant commitments to Isaac and "and his seed after him". This supports Paul's argument at this point: God made a distinction between any/all "seed" that would spring from Abraham so that only Isaac would be considered (the biblical record identifies Ishmael -- the problem issue in the Genesis 21:12 context -- Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak and Shuah --Gen 25:1-2 -- as "seed" of Abraham). This, though it does not get down to "Israel" (Jacob, grandson of Abraham), does at least establish Paul's major thesis that God had a specific meaning for "Israel" that did not necessarily include "all" of "Israel's" seed. (If some of Abraham's seed could be excluded in God's meaning, what is to say that some of Jacob's seed might not be excluded also?) Then, in further argument, Paul claims a definitive "definition" for "Israel" by arguing that not even all of Isaac's seed were included because he begat both Esau and Jacob (Israel) and God specifically eliminated Esau (Romans 9:10-13). Thus, Paul's argument for a definitive "definition" for "Israel" has traction.
- b) There is this, also, that Jesus said: "If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham..." (John 8:39) and "...if God were your Father, ye would love Me..." (John 8:42) and "...ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father it is your will to do" (John 8:44). This definitively means that Jesus' view of "fatherhood" and "sonship" is not tied to physical genetics and their impact upon physical generation. Thus, Jesus first taught what Paul is declaring: it is not "the children of the flesh" that are "the children of God". Thus, God's "meaning" of "Israel" as the recipient of His actual covenant commitments is not "his seed after him" per se. Paul is driving a wedge between the argument that "his seed after him" means anyone descended, genetically, from him and the counter argument that "his seed after him" are those who do the "inevitable" ("if ye were...ye would...) works which the original progenitor did. Clearly there are "limits" to this "inevitability" argument as long as "Sin" yet resides in men, but, just as clearly, Jesus used it against His adversaries and also applied to Himself in John 10:37, "If I do not the works of my Father, believe Me not" (What is sauce for the goose...). Thus, we must look for the roots of the "inevitability" and they are revealed by Paul in multiple places, not the least of which are Romans 4:11 (faith) and 8:14 (the Spirit).
- i. The critical concern here is the meaning of "children". Paul said in 9:7 that "neither because they are the seed of Abraham are they all children" but he did not mean Abraham's children. He makes it as clear as possible in 9:8 that he has two distinct groups of "children" in mind: the "children" of the "flesh" (which, by every rule of language, were Abraham's children) and the "children" of the "promise" who are called "the children of God".
- ii. Paul clearly had two distinct realms in mind (as did God): one, the realm of human flesh and its accomplishments; and two, the realm of God's redemptive plan and His accomplishments. God is at work within the framework of the fleshly creation to produce a non-fleshly future Kingdom/Family.
- 2) This, supported by Jesus' own teaching, means that the most fundamental issue of "definition" is not what men might understand words to mean, but what the one using them means.
- a) Paul's argument is two fold.
- i. The "definition" that is definitive is "what God meant" by His "In Isaac shall thy seed be called."
- ii. And that "meaning" was not related to "Isaac" as the "fulfiller", but to God as the Promise Maker/Keeper.
- b) Thus, Paul was able to argue that God's meaning was that, since He was the one making a promise of a "seed" that would be the object of His covenant promises, it was up to Him to produce that "seed" and that His faithfulness did not include every descendent of Isaac, but only those descendants of Isaac who "also walk in the steps of that faith of our father..." (Romans 4:12). Thus, the Promise Keeper would underwrite the physical presence of a "seed" and the spiritual reality of that seed's "faith".
- 3) The major error that this kind of hermeneutic has spawned is that of men who do not understand the hermeneutic and decide that if God has a "spiritual" meaning, they can "spiritualize" His words and make them mean things He never intended. When the "church" is declared to be "spiritual Israel" by men who are abusing God's words, it is apparent that they have ignored the major fact of the text: it was Abraham's physical seed that formed the corpus out of which God's spiritual seed, called 'Israel', was formed. Thus, unless the church is all Jewish (physically descended from 'Israel') it can never be "spiritual Israel". Our text says that 'Israel' came out of Israel as a denial of the notion that all that came out of Israel are 'Israel'. It never says that anyone who did not come out of Israel can ever become 'Israel'.