1. Welcome to Christian Forums, a Christian Forum that recognizes that all Christians are a work in progress.

    You will need to register to be able to join in fellowship with Christians all over the world.

    We hope to see you as a part of our community soon and God Bless!

Natural Children and God's Children

Discussion in 'Eschatology & Prophecy Forum' started by eliyahu, May 29, 2008.

  1. eliyahu

    eliyahu New Member

    Messages:
    31
    Likes Received:
    0
    Here is chapter 13 of Dr. Michael L. Brown’s Our Hands Are Stained With Blood, The Tragic Story of the “Church” and the Jewish People. Destiny Image, 1992. I thought that this chapter was even more relevant to our discussion. Read it and tell me what you think please. I could not include the extensive end notes. He was the president of my Bible School and is a theological Genious. His website is http://www.icnministries.org/ and http://www.realmessiah.com/Natural Children and God’s ChildrenRomans is Paul’s theological masterpiece. In the fist eleven chapters, he lays out the absolute essentials of our faith. In the last five chapters, he tells us how to live. If we understand Romans, we understand the gospel. It is in Romans that Paul demonstrates that all have sinned, Jew and Gentile alike. It is here that he opens up the incredible revelation of justification by faith. (Think of trying to understand that without Romans!) It is here that he speaks of our struggle with sin, our victory over sin and life in the Spirit of God. And then he brings it all to a climax with an in-depth teaching about Israel. Beginning in Romans 9, Paul speaks of the special role of the people of Israel, his brothers, those of his own race: “Theirs are the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen (Rom. 9:4-5).” What an awesome calling! But there is a question: Did God’s word fail? If the people of Israel were the special recipients of God’s promises, why have most of them rejected the Messiah? Why are they living outside the new covenant if they are the covenant people? Paul has a simple answer: “It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended form Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children… In other words, its not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring. (Rom. 9:6-8).” Now that should have settled the question. There are natural children and there are God’s children. “Natural children” refers to the people of Israel as a whole; “God’s children” refers to the believing remnant within Israel. So there is Israel (the natural children) and there is Israel (the spiritual children). There is an Israel within Israel. It really isn’t that complicated. We can draw a similar parallel with the “Church,” (Please bear in mind that this is only a rough parallel). There are natural children (those born into a Christian family) and there are God’s children (those born from above into His heavenly family). There is the Church (all who call themselves Christians) and there is the Church (those whom God calls Christians). To rephrase and reapply Paul: “Not all who are in the Church are the Church. There is the Church within the Church.” But- this is of vital importance- pious Buddhists or Muslims are not the true Church. Of course not! The true Church consists of believers within the church, not religious people outside the church. It is only those within the Church (i.e., those who profess the Christian faith) who can possibly be the true church. In the same way, Paul never said that Gentile believers were “true” or “spiritual” Israel. It was the believing remnant within Israel that was the “true” or “spiritual” Israel. (Actually, the terms “true Israel” or “spiritual Israel” never occur in the Bible, and it might be helpful to completely avoid them.) Many people have feelings and impressions about what the scriptures teach. But the facts are facts: While the New Testament often describes Israel and the Church in similar terms- both are pictured as the children of God, the chosen people, etc.- on no definite occasion does the New Testament ever call the Church, “Israel.” In fact, out of the 77 times that the words “Israel” and “Israelite” occur in the Greek New Testament, there are only two verses in which Israel could possibly refer to the church as a whole: Galatians 6:16, where Paul speaks of the “Israel of God” and Revelation 7:4, where John speaks of the 144,000 sealed from the twelve tribes of Israel. This is saying something! Seventy-five “definites” and only two “maybes”! As for the verses open to dispute, in Galatians 6:16 the King James Version, The New King James Version and the New American Standard Bible all imply the same thing: the “Israel of God” does not refer to the whole church! It refers to believing Jews. The same can be said for the description of the 144,000 sealed in Revelation 7:4. It most probably describes the final harvest of Jews worldwide. Elsewhere in the book of Revelation “Israel” means “Israel” (Rev. 2:14) and “the twelve tribes of Israel” means “the twelve tribes of Israel,” as distinguished from “the twelve apostles” (Rev. 21:12-14). Even if someone insisted on understanding Galatians 6:16 and Revelation 7:4 differently, everyone who knows anything about interpreting the word knows this: We never build a doctrine on just one or two verses, especially if the meaning of the verse is disputed! And who would ever dream of building a theological system on the foundation of one verse in the midst of a symbolic vision in Revelation? I lovingly challenge all who claim that the entire Church is “Israel” to find two verses anywhere in the Bible that indisputably state this “fact.” They simply are not there! When God said “Israel,” He meant the natural children, either in whole or in part. What about Romans 2:28-29? Didn’t Paul say there that Gentiles who believed were true Jews? Look carefully at these verses as translated in the New International Version (I have added the italics): “A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly, and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men but from God.” In other words, between two Jews, one who is circumcised physically, and the other who is also circumcised spiritually, which one is the real Jew, the Jew in this special sense? The answer is obvious: the one who is also circumcised spiritually! But is Paul saying here that believing Gentiles are also Jews in this special sense? Most probably not. He is directing his argument to Jews, primarily to unsaved Jews, in Romans 2:17-29. Within that context he is defining who is the real Jew- spiritually speaking. And in the rest of the Greek New Testament, the word “Jew” occurs over 190 times, referring clearly to ethnic, national Jews. More than 190 “definites” and only a couple of “maybes”! Are there any takers for the “maybe” position? Even is someone understood Romans 2:28-29 to say that believing Gentiles were spiritual Jews (it is easy from the text to see why many Christians believe this about themselves) that would not change this important fact: Paul never said that natural Jews were no longer Jews. He only said that natural Jews were not Jews in this special, fuller sense. Just keep reading his letter! After making his point in Romans 2:28-29 (remember, it is one of the few times in the entire New Testament that the word Jew is used like this), he goes back to referring to all Jews in the normal way. If you have any doubt, read the very next verse. “What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? Much in every way!... (Rom. 3:1-2)” In other words, since being a Jew outwardly and physically doesn’t guarantee a right relationship with God, what’s the advantage of being a Jew, a physically circumcised, ethnic Jew? Much in every way, because God entrusted His word to His physical, natural people- the Jews! It really is quite simple. If Paul were teaching that natural Jews were no longer Jews and that believing Gentiles were the real Jews, what in the world did he mean in Romans 3:9? “We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin.” If Jews are not Jews and Gentiles are not Gentiles, what was Paul trying to say in Romans 3:29? “Is God the God of the Jews only? Is He not the God of the Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too.” And what then would be the meaning of Romans 15:27, if believing Gentiles are now Jews? “.. For if Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings.” Clearly, Gentile means Gentile and Jew means Jew. It is one thing to argue that once or twice Paul uses the word “Israel” and “Jew” in a special sense, referring to the whole Church as the “Israel of God” and all believers as “Jews.” (Although I personally disagree with this, I certainly wouldn’t call this position dangerous.) But it is another thing entirely to turn around and ignore the remaining 268 New Testament references to “Israel” and “Jew” and claim that Israel is no longer Israel and Jews are no longer Jews! That most certainly is dangerous. It is one thing to say, “Paul used the word ‘circumcision’ in a special sense (Phil. 3:3) to refer to all believers.” It is another thing to say, “Those who are physically circumcised on the eight day are no longer counted as Jews!” Even the book of Deuteronomy recognized two circumcisions: circumcision of the flesh and circumcision of the heart. But one did not negate the other! In the words of the internationally acclaimed Romans commentator, C. E. B. Cranfield, Paul’s statement in Romans 2:28-29 “should not be taken as implying that those who are Jews outwardly are excluded from the promises.” Absolutely not! All of God’s covenants were made with Israel as a whole. No one can deny that. At Mount Sinai, He spoke to the entire nation! But only God’s children, the faithful within Israel, enjoyed the covenant blessings. And what does God say to the rest of the people? Does He say, “You are no longer my natural children”? No! Instead He says, “Turn back, O backsliding children; I will heal your backslidings” (Jer. 3:22, my translation). The covenant promise still stands. As basic as this is, later Church interpreters went beyond the meaning of the Word. First they said, “you see, it is not all who are descended from Israel who are Israel. It is the true believers who are Israel, and we are the true believers! We are Israel! It is not just believing Jews who are Israel. Everyone who believes is part of Israel too!”What’s so terrible about saying this? Maybe nothing so far. But the next step was simply disastrous: If the Church is spiritual Israel, the new Israel, then there is no need for natural Israel, the old Israel anymore. “Le them rot for all we care! They’ve lost the blessing forever. They crucified the Messiah. They blew their opportunity. In fact, they still don’t believe their own scriptures. They are no longer the covenant people. We are!” To a great degree, the horrors described in the previous chapters of this book are a by-product of this very theology! It would not have been a problem if Gentile Christians had simply said: “God has expanded the borders of Israel! Now we are included among the covenant people since we are the spiritual seed of Abraham. And we look forward to the day when the Lord will restore the physical seed of Abraham too! The Old Testament ‘Church’ consisted of Israel alone, but the New Testament ‘Church’ consists of Israel and us. Together we are the new Israel!” Many devout Christians have held to this belief- and there is much truth to it- without for a moment thinking that God’s promises to the natural children were ever in doubt. But for many Christians, the notion that the church was the new Israel meant that God had forever discarded His children after the flesh. “Away with the old! The new has come! You Jews are eternally cursed!” Reinhold Mayer, the German New Testament Scholar, put it very simply:“The path of Gentile Christianity turned from Judaism and led into Gentile ant-Semitism, which was on the increase after [destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C. E. ]. The prophets’ criticism of Israel was misunderstood as ant-Jewish and repeated irresponsibly. Even when the words were kept, their meaning was distorted to imply the opposite, and this served to sharpen the Gentile hatred of Jews.” Paul knew how important it was for the Gentile believers to understand the place of Israel. That’s why he devoted so much space- three whole chapters of his most in depth epistle- to the subject of Israel’s divine call. Many believers say, “Yes, it’s true. Paul talked a lot about Israel in Romans 9-11, but he was talking about spiritual Israel. Remember what he said: ‘not all who are descended from Israel are Israel’ (Rom. 9:6). When Paul said that ‘all Israel will be saved’ (Rom. 22:26) he really didn’t mean all Israel.” Well, why don’t we let Paul speak for himself? Let’s allow Paul to interpret Paul. When he said “Israel” in Romans 9-11, did he mean natural children or God’s children? Romans 9:1-5- Paul had “great sorrow and unceasing anguish” in his heart for Israel. Which “Israel” did he mean? The natural children! But someone may object, “That was before he said that ‘not all Israel who are descended from Israel are Israel.’ What about after that verse? Didn’t he change the meaning of Israel?” Let’s read all the remaining references to “Israel” (and “Israelite”) in Romans 9-11. The truth will set us free! Romans 9:27- “Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: ‘Though the number of Israelites be like the sand of the sea, only the remnant will be saved.’” Which “Israel/Israelites” did Paul mean? The natural children! Romans 9:31- “But Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it.” Which “Israel” did Paul mean? The natural children! Romans 10:1- “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.” Which “Israelites” did Paul mean? The natural children! Romans 10:16- “But not all the Israelites accepted the good news…” Which “Israelites” did Paul mean here? The natural children! Romans 10:19-21- “Again I ask: Did Israel not understand?... Concerning Israel He says, ‘All day long I have held out My hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.” Which “Israel” did Paul mean? The natural children! Romans 11:1-2- “I ask then: Did God reject His people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God did not reject His people, whom He foreknew…” Which “Israelites” did Paul mean? The natural children! The literal descendants! Paul was one of them. That was his whole point. He continues this though in the rest of the verse. Romans 11:2- “… Don’t you know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah- how he appealed to God against Israel.” Which “Israel” did Paul mean? The natural children! It was among them that God had preserved a remnant (Rom. 11:3-5). Romans 11:7- “What then? What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. The others were hardened.” Which “Israel” did Paul mean? The natural children! Only the elect, God’s children, those whom He foreknew, obtained righteousness, the others, the rest of the natural children, were hardened. Romans 11:11- “Again I ask: Did they [the natural children] stumble so as to fall? Not at all [Lat the Church repeat these words out loud: Israel did not stumble beyond recovery.] Rather, because of their transgression [the transgression of the natural children], salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious.” Which “Israel” did Paul mean? The natural children! And look at verse 13: “I am talking to you Gentiles…” Paul is talking to the Gentile believers about Israel. He is not telling Gentile believers that they are Israel. And now we get to the heart of it all… Romans 11:25- “I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of Gentiles had come in.” Which “Israel” did Paul mean? The natural children! They were the ones who were hardened. And what will happen to this very same Israel when the “full number of Gentiles has come in”? Romans 11:26-27- “And so all Israel will be saved…” Which “Israel” did Paul mean? The natural children! Glory and praise be to God! “And so ALL ISRAEL WILL BE SAVED, as it is written:’ the Deliverer will come from Zion; He will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is My covenant with them [Israel, the natural children] when I take away their sins.’” The “Israel” that was hardened in part is the “Israel” that will be saved! The “Israel” that did not obtain righteousness is the “Israel” that will obtain it! “Because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles,” because of “their disobedience” the Gentiles “have now received mercy” (Rom. 11:11, 30). Now, because of God’s mercy to the Gentiles “they too may now receive mercy” (Rom. 11:31). And mercy they will receive! Yes, Israel fell. But Israel will recover! Yes, Israel was disobedient and obstinate. But Israel will receive a new heart! The Redeemer will “turn godlessness away from Jacob.” He will “take away their sins.” This people that has received more than its share of suffering will be blessed in its final end. It’s time for the blessing to come! How great is the wisdom of God. But there is a warning here as well. “If some of the [natural Israelite] branches have been broken off, and you [Gentiles], though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others [the Israelites who believed] and now share in the nourishing sap of the olive root [Israel], do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you (Rom. 11:17-18).” How insensitive and arrogant for the grafted in wild branches to boast ovet the natural branches. May it be understood clearly and never forgotten: Gentile believers have been grafted into Israel’s tree and they are nourished by the ancient Jewish root. (In this context, the root is not Jesus, although in other Scriptures Jesus is called the root of Jesse [see Isaiah 11:1], and the Vine from which we branch out [see john 15:1-9]. But when Paul speaks of the “root” in Romans 11:18, he seems to be referring to the patriarchs, the fathers of Israel.) It is true that the natural branches were “broken off because of unbelief, and you [Gentile believers] stand by faith.” But that is no reason for pride. On the contrary, “Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you either” (Rom. 11:20-21). Here is where the Church, which has been primarily Gentile since the second century, has made a big mistake. She has been guilty of boasting over the natural branches, forgetting her root and misinterpreting Israel’s hardening. Because she has boasted over the fallen Israelite branches, she has treated the Jewish people harshly, even glorying over Israel’s suffering and pain. “After all, they were cut off to make room for me!” Because she has forgotten her Jewish root, she has added all kinds of alien customs to the faith, often overruling the Scriptures with the traditions of men. “After all, we want to stay clear of all that Old Testament stuff. That’s bondage!” Because she has misinterpreted Israel’s hardening, which was only temporary and in part, she has proudly thought that God replaced His ld people, Israel, with a new people, the Church. “All the blessings are now ours… forever. As for you Jews, to hell with you cursed race!” But the Church has not cursed Israel. The Church has cursed herself! The spiritual equation is simple: To the extent that the Church has recognized her Jewish roots and the rightful place of Israel, the Church has had light. The Dark Ages of the Church were the days of her greatest theological ignorance of Israel as well as the time of her most violent hostility against the Jews. Paul’s exhortation must be heard again. “Do not be arrogant, but be afraid… I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not become conceited… (Rom. 11:20, 25)”Look at the strong words Paul uses: arrogant, ignorant, conceited. What a critically important subject for the Church to understand! Ignorance of God’s purposes for Israel breeds conceit. And a conceited Church is a Church resisted by the Lord, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). Unfortunately, many in the Body today still claim that it is the Church alone who is the true Israel. One well known author has written at length and with great passion saying, “Wake up Church! You alone are Israel!” Although he states frankly in his book that Romans 11:26 “is somewhat of a problem,” he goes on to say, “but I think the Lord has shown me how it will fit in.” And what was the solution that the Lord supposedly showed him? “Israel” in Romans 11:25 is different than the “Israel” in Romans 11:26! This also means that “Israel” in Romans 11:26 is different than “Israel” in Romans 9:3, 27, 31; 10:1, 16, 19, 21; 11:1-2, 7 and 11:11, as well as different from “Israel” in the rest of the New Testament! In spite of this brother’s obvious sincerity, God did not tell him that. One pastor went even further. Writing on Romans 11:28- “As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs”- this pastor alleged that the word “they” in the first half of the verse refers to someone different that the word “they” in the second half of this same verse! This dear brother is wiling to see the Jews as enemies of the gospel, but not as the elect of God, even if it means slicing the Word to pieces and engaging in a hopeless balancing act. At this point I would like to make a proposal. Why don’t we simply accept the obvious meaning of the text? Why don’t we give up all our interpretive gymnastics?God is looking for believers, not acrobats.
     
  2. samy

    samy New Member

    Messages:
    138
    Likes Received:
    1
    I agree with you entirely, but feel I must ask, Do you recognize that believing Israel is a segment within the church today? I have jewish grandparents, one of my best friend's father is a Jew (Rosen), whom I shared Christ with and is now in the church. samy
     
  3. eliyahu

    eliyahu New Member

    Messages:
    31
    Likes Received:
    0
    Believing Jews are part of the church equally with any Gentile, absolutely. They remain Jews and others remain Gentiles, who are part of the community called the church, yes.
     
Loading...