Chapter # 9 Paragraph # 2 Study # 3
October 21, 2008
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:
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 Concept of 'Parallel Universes'.
- A. That "children" can be produced by different principles introduces a fundamental issue in Paul's theology.
- 1. There are "children" who are produced by the abilities of what he called "the flesh" and there are "children" who are produced by the principle of "promise".
- a. Children of "the flesh" are defined by the record regarding Abraham as those offspring that naturally follow as results of normal sexual activity and physical health. Ishmael is the most fundamental illustration. However, the record also includes the element of human ingenuity being applied to a divinely promised reality. This is also "fleshly" in that it, being unwilling to await the fulfillment of the promise by the Promise Keeper, takes steps to bring the desired results without having to wait. This seems to be the foundation of Paul's comment regarding Israel in Romans 10:3 where Israel's "ignorance" of God's righteousness is coupled to the desire to establish oneself in "righteousness" so that Israel ends up refusing the righteousness of God in favor of their own achievement. This is the heart of the matter: refusing God in favor of their own achievement. Even Abraham skirted this issue in Genesis 17:18 when God rejected Abraham's and Sarai's "plan" to produce seed through Hagar.
- b. Children of "the promise" are defined by the text as those "children" who are born because God made a specific commitment and acted in a specific time frame to fulfill it.
- c. There is this concurrent reality: it was sexual activity on Abraham's part with Sarai that produced Isaac in conjunction with the activity of God. Thus Paul says not that the "children of the promise" were "born" by promise, but that they are "reckoned" to be "seed". This does not contradict the physical process that is involved (typical sexual activity), but it puts it into its own place as simply a process that, of itself, could not produce the "children of God". This is the issue of what I have called "the concept of parallel universes". There is the "universe" of men and their abilities as the creatures of God in the pursuit of their own agendas and there is the "universe" of God and His particular involvement in man's "universe" to accomplish His own agenda. God makes use of man's "universe" in the building of His own, but it is God's "universe" that He is building. Man is given the privilege of participation in God's "universe" to some degree, but he has no "say" about any of the agenda or details.
- 2. This is a fundamental aspect of Paul's "theology" and it maintains a clear line of demarcation between the plans and methods of men and the plans and methods of God. God uses the plans and methods of men as He chooses, but He allows nothing of those plans and methods to address His own Agenda and Plan. Men cannot use anything of God's plans and methods to pursue their own plans and methods. God can, and will, subvert the evil of men so that it plays into His hand (Romans 8:28), but man cannot do the same to God's goodness. Man's evil will ultimately come to complete nothingness by the action of God as He implements His wisdom to serve His Plan. But God's goodness is out of man's reach so that, in his evil, he cannot subvert it and use it against Him.
- B. The "word of promise" becomes the dominating, controlling, inviolable governor of what is to be.
- 1. The word of promise is this: according to this time I shall come and a son shall be to Sarah.
- 2. Once uttered, there can be no alternative: God has spoken and His integrity is on the line.
- 3. At this point it, quite frankly, does not matter what man does or does not do: if men refuse at a critical point, some other agent of the event will be employed. As Jesus said, "if these hold their peace, the stones will cry out." The outcry was essential to the integrity of God and men can like it or not, do it or not, understand it or not: it makes no difference to the outcome because the matter is "of promise".
- C. Thus, there are parallel universes: men have one in which they function and do what they can to pursue their own agendas by their own methods; and God has one in which He pursues His Plan and accomplishes it either by divine fiat or by employing the efforts of men as He chooses. Man has been offered a huge privilege in cooperating with God in the building of His universe, but if he should reject it his rejection will mean nothing in terms of whether God gets it done.
- II. The Reality is Driven by Theological Necessity.
- A. God really is "beyond" man and that means, in at least some ways, that there is no bridge between the two. There are some realities which God cannot "share" with man (selfexistence; omniscience; omnipotence; omni-wisdom; etc.) because they are beyond the pale of "creation" realities. Given this, God really did have to make "flesh" and "promise" distinct and immutably separate realities. The "arm of flesh" fails, but the "Word of our God stands forever".
- B. If God had subjected His plans to man's, man would have become God and God would have ceased to exist.