WHAT IS AN APOSTLE ACCORDING TO THE BIBLE (Part Two)

The word apostle comes from the Greek word “apostolos” and means, “a delegate, messenger, a sent one”. In the New Testament it specifically applies to those who were commissioned and empowered by Christ to give witness to his resurrection and Kingdom.

It does not mean “top of the pecking order in the Kingdom of God”. It does not mean “in charge”. It does not mean “leader in governmental structure”. It does not mean “you are the spiritual boss”.

There are many people who claim to be apostles, and simply put – they are not. They may be apostles in their world, but not in Christ’s Kingdom. A true Biblical apostle is consumed with the testimony of Jesus Christ and has no desire to be exalted because his mission is to glorify Christ and make men followers of Jesus and not followers of himself.

False apostles are the easiest to identity, because they claim God speaks to them about everything from Jezebel to fulfilling your destiny. They rarely testify of Jesus Christ because he’s not their message. They cannot say as Paul said, “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God…” ~ Romans 1:1

Their apostleship is not of Jesus Christ, therefore their message is not saturated with the truth in Jesus.

If any claiming to be an apostle has a problem with their apostleship being judged by the standard of the testimony of Jesus, they prove by this that they are not true apostles.

The apostles who were personally ordained by the Lord Jesus Christ are the New Testament models for understanding what a true apostle is. The New Testament often refers to them as “the apostles”, even though there were other apostles after the inception of the New Testament Church, such as the apostle Paul.

They had a unique calling that no other ministers have ever had, not even the prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah. Their unique calling was that of being personally selected by Jesus, the Son of God (who was God in the flesh,) and they were personally trained by him.

No other ministers have ever had such honor.

Jesus did not train them to be CEOs with Church government structure. There is not a single text in the New Testament where Jesus ever taught them to take a place of authority over other believers because of their apostleship. Jesus taught them the exact opposite.

Then came to him the mother of Zebedee’s children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him. And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom. But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able. And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father. And when the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation against the two brethren. But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. ~ Matthew 20:20-28

The very thing that many who claim to be apostles boast in (preeminence) is the very thing that Jesus was purging his true apostles of. Jesus trained his apostles to serve and to minister and not to exalt themselves, for there is only “one Lord”.

Those whom Jesus trained in the flesh have a uniqueness to their calling because their apostleship was first to the people of Israel to give witness that Jesus is the Messiah testified of in the scriptures. This witness is authoritatively ordained by God and stands forever as a witness to the world that Jesus is Lord.

Their calling and ministry for Christ should serve as the standard by which we understand the meaning of apostleship.

Paul, who was ordained as an apostle to the Gentiles testified of the same gospel. In fact, Paul went to the apostles who were commissioned by Jesus and shared with them the gospel he preached among the Gentiles to affirm that he was indeed preaching according the gospel given to them by Jesus.

When Paul went to the original apostles, it had nothing to do with “rank and file”. It was all about the message.

That is precisely what is wrong with the modern day apostolic movement – it is their message! Their message about Jesus is not the message preached by the apostles in scripture, and their message about the Kingdom is not the one taught by the apostles in scripture.

Many “apostles” within the apostolic movement think God has given them an “authoritative” position within the Church which rivals that of the original apostles. One of their founding leaders made this claim: “The second apostolic age began in 2001.”

No it did not!

There is no such thing as a second apostolic age.

This same “apostle” claims that you will not fulfill all the destiny that God has for you if you are not submitted to the apostolic alignment they claim to have from God.

That my friends is not the truth. Rather, it is manipulation, or witchcraft, and if you subject your soul to such spiritual deception, you will become a captive to real religious bondage rather than being a truly free person in Jesus Christ. You will be blind to what the scriptures really teach.

Do not submit your soul to such deception. Follow Jesus, and abide in him. Build your walk with God on the testimony and witness of his true apostles who gave us the New Testament, and submit to the humble who serve the Lord Jesus Christ.

A true leader in God’s Kingdom has no desire to have dominion over your spiritual life. His desire is that you become rooted and grounded in Christ. His joy is that YOU stand in Christ.

Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand. ~ 2 Corinthians 1:24

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WHAT IS AN APOSTLE ACCORDING TO THE BIBLE? (Part One)

Do modern day apostles hold an authoritative spiritual position over other christians within the church? Is the growth and effectiveness of the body of Christ dependant on the church’s alignment under their teachings? Is the position of “authority” of which they claim to have over other believers ordained by God? Are they the foundation of the church?

There is no shortage of those who claim to be apostles and if the truth be told, many who who claim to be apostles want to have the preeminence. If those who claim to be apostles really knew what being a true apostle was all about, very few of them would embrace it.

True Biblical apostleship is not about having the preeminence. It is about servanthood. In the book of 1 Corinthians, Paul describes  how he viewed the ministry of an apostle.

For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised. Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling place; And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day. ~ 1 Corinthians 4:9-13

This should be the “life verse” if there is any such thing, for all who think they are called to be apostles. While today’s “so-called apostles” seek to be first, Paul felt that the apostles of his day were last because of the call to servanthood and the sacrificial life to which they were called.

Within the pages of scripture, the ministry of an apostle was never about establishing governmental authority and leadership within the collective body of Christ. Those who think it is have misunderstood the teachings of scripture.

In scripture, the ministry of an apostle was never about having a position of power and wealth within the church. It wasn’t having the authoritative daily word to guide the church, rebuking Jezebel, declarations of shifts in the atmosphere, etc.

Instead, it was about preaching the gospel with authentic miracles and signs following. It was about establishing believers in the person of Jesus Christ with wholesome and sound doctrine which glorified God among unbelievers.  It was never about having an authoritative position within the ranks of ministry to which others in the collective body of Christ should submit themselves unto. 

Paul never attempted to exert authority over believers he had not established in the Lord.

For we are not overextending ourselves, as though we did not reach you. For we were the first to come all the way to you with the gospel of Christ. We do not boast beyond limit in the labors of others. But our hope is that as your faith increases, our area of influence among you may be greatly enlarged, so that we may preach the gospel in lands beyond you, without boasting of work already done in another’s area of influence. “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends. ~ 2 Corinthians 10:14-18

Paul and his co-laborers in the Lord had reached the Corinthians with the gospel and had established sound doctrine concerning how they should live as ambassadors for Christ. Paul had no desire to rule over the spiritual lives of the Corinthians: Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand. ~ 2 Corinthians 1:24

Paul’s view of his apostleship to the Corinthians was that he had preached the gospel to them and had established them in Christ with sound doctrine. Paul held the Corinthians accountable to Christ in these matters and that is how Paul demonstrated his apostolic authority among them. The spread of the gospel among the Corinthians was the result of Paul’s labor in the ministry and rightfully, Paul cultivated the work he had invested in the Corinthians.

Paul did not seek their money nor their homage. Instead, Paul sought their growth in the faith and in Christ-like character, so that the gospel he had delivered to them would flourish among them and spread through them to others. Paul was not seeking his own kingdom of rank and file.

Unlike many of today’s “so-called apostles” who think they are called to be in authority while others serve them, Paul took the position of a servant and set the example of godly living by working and paying his own way – that’s a far cry from the modern day, self proclaimed apostles. 

Contrary to their claims, modern day apostles do not hold a place of spiritual authority over the collective body of Christ, and the growth and effectiveness of Christ’s body is not dependant on them. They are not the foundation of the church. Jesus is!

But doesn’t the Bible teach that apostles are the foundation of the church and therefore the church is to come into alignment with their apostolic authority? No, it does not! 

In Ephesians 2, Paul declares that the union of Jews and Gentiles into one body in Christ and is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone. ~ v. 20

Paul is not establishing an hierarchical governmental structure for the collective body of Christ in the text above. Paul is contextually referring to the revelation of the gospel which was given to the apostles and prophets who were called by God to preach the gospel during the inception of the New Testament.

Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstoneIn whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:  In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. FOR THIS CAUSE I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is NOW revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ… ~ Ephesians 2:19-3:8

The foundation of which Paul is referring is not that of governmental structure within the collective body of Christ. It is the establishment of the truth of the gospel among the Gentiles. Before Christ, the Gentiles were outside the covenants given to Israel, but now in Christ Jesus have been made fellow heirs with believing Jews and are members of the same covenantal family, for there is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. ~ Ephesians 4:4-6

This is a far cry from the message of many who call themselves apostles. 

While many who claim to be apostles seek to have the preeminence because they want to be in authority, Paul saw himself as the least of all saints, who was given grace to minister Christ.

The foundation has been laid by those who were called by God in the inception of the New Testament Church. Their testimony and teachings became the scriptures we call the New Testament.

The true ministry of the apostle continues, not in those who think they are the  foundation of the church with divinely authoritative revelation, touting their dominion as anointed leaders in the body of Christ. Instead, the true ministry of apostleship continues as humble servants of God sacrifice their lives (often as missionaries) to bring the truth of the gospel to a lost and dying world.

WHAT DOES THE BIBLE TEACH ABOUT THE RAPTURE?

But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words. ~ 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Christians who disagree about the rapture often get caught up in semantics – yes, pun is definitely intended.  Seriously though, those who opposed the rapture often make the claim that the word “rapture” isn’t in the Bible. Those who embrace the rapture claim that the word is taken from Latin, meaning caught up.

The problem with both of these arguments is that neither side actually addresses the teaching of scripture. The issue isn’t whether or not there is going to be a rapture (catching away) of the saints. The issue is the context into which we place this event, and our interpretation of what it really is.

For example, in dispensational premillennialism, the rapture is a secret escape (from tribulation) into Heaven for Christians and occurs separately from the second coming of Christ.

However, the Bible does not teach any such secret escape into Heaven for believers. The very things some Christians believe they are going to escape are the very things Christians have suffered throughout history. In fact, there are Christians living in the world today who are suffering the very things that some Christians think they are going to avoid via the rapture.

In all honesty, the rapture theology that some Christians have embraced couldn’t be preached or taught as the truth in some parts of the world, because the current suffering of the people would disprove it as false.

Furthermore, Paul says “the dead in Christ shall rise first.” This is a reference to believers whose souls are now in Heaven. Many of them have been in the presence of the Lord in Heaven for hundreds of years, and many have been there a thousand years or more. There is absolutely nothing in this world they would need to escape via a rapture.

Therefore, if the rapture is about “escaping tribulation” then it is only applicable to those who will be living on earth at the coming of the Lord. In no way does it apply to the saints who will rise from the dead – there is no tribulation they need to escape!

This is problematic from a doctronial standpoint because the very things that Christians think they are going to escape via their version of the rapture are the very things that many of the “dead in Christ” have already endured in their lifetime and suffered in their deaths.

The event described by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4 (referenced above) is not a secret escape from the troubles of this world. Instead, it is the promised resurrection of the saints which occurs at the coming of Christ.

Paul is teaching that at the coming of the Lord, those who have died in Christ and are with the Lord now in Heaven, will come with him, and their dead bodies will be raised to life (even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him ~ v 14).  The promised resurrection of the saints occurs at the second coming of Christ, and that is why we who are “alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord”  will also experience the resurrection of our bodies.

For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. ~ 1 Thessalonians 4:15

Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. ~ 1 Corinthians 15:51-53

No where in any of his letters does Paul ever advocate a “secret escape” from the troubles of this world, nor does any other New Testament writer. In fact, Paul testified of his much suffering for the name of Christ, and boasted in God’s grace which enabled him to endure such persecution and suffering.

Consider Paul’s list of the things he suffered:

… in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was  I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not? If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not. In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me: And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands. ~ 2 Corinthians 11:23-33

The truth is, Paul never taught those who were under his ministry to look for an escape from troubles and tribulation in this world, but rather to endure such from Christ’s sake.

Ironically, in 1 Thessalonians 3, only one chapter before chapter 4 which is interpreted as “escape tribulation” in dispensational premillennialism, Paul says the following:

Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone; And sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellow labourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith: That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereuntoFor verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know. For this cause, when I could no longer forbear, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter have tempted you, and our labour be in vainBut now when Timotheus came from you unto us, and brought us good tidings of your faith and charity, and that ye have good remembrance of us always, desiring greatly to see us, as we also to see you: Therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith: For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord. For what thanks can we render to God again for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God; Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith? Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you. And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: To the end he may establish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints. ~ 1 Thessalonians 3:1-13 

Those who advocate a secret escape interpretation of Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians 4, will sometimes argue that at the rapture Jesus is coming for his saints, and at his second coming he is coming with his saints.

The Bible however, does not make any such distinction.

According to Paul, the second coming of Christ and our gathering to him will resemble that which occured in ancient times when a King who had journeyed to a far away land returned. The citizens under his rulership would go outside the city or country to meet him and escort him back into the country. This is what Paul is alluding to in 1 Thessalonians 4, and it is just one piece of the prophetic puzzle regarding how events will unfold at the coming of the Lord.

In 1 Thessalonians 3 (cited above) Paul encourages the believers in Thessalonica to endure tribulation and persevere in faith, while offering prayers for them. He then says, “to the end he (God) may establish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints. ~ v. 13

This is consistent with Peter’s description of how believers should live holy and godly lives in anticipation of the second coming of Christ. Please note that there is no secret escape for believers prior to the coming of Christ in Peter’s message.

This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance: That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour: Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless. ~ 2 Peter 3:1-14

According to Peter, we are not to be looking for an escape route, rather we are looking for the new heavens and new earth when Christ returns. When the day of the Lord comes, the judgment of the ungodly will commence, and the new heavens and new earth will be ushered in. For this reason we are to live holy and godly lives looking for the coming of that day!

This agrees with the words of John:

And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming. If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him. Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure. ~ 1 John 2:28-3:3

John encourages holiness in expectation of the coming of Christ, just as Peter does. Peter also says the following in same context of the coming of the day of the Lord.

And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. ~ v. 15-17

It is unfortunate that there are Christian interpretations which have turned the glorious resurrection of the saints into a secret escape from the wickedness of this world rather than victory over it at the coming of ChristWhen Christ comes, we who have believed and trusted in Jesus will experience the resurrection of our mortal bodies. There will be no need to escape the things of this world of which we will then be immune in glorified bodies!

The testimony of the scripture is that the glorious (rapturous) and triumphant resurrection of the saints will happen when the Lord comes to judge the ungodly.  The world will be judged, and Christ will be glorified in us. Consider Paul’s description of this:

And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day. Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power: that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. ~ 2 Thessalonians 1:7-2:2

Paul’s view of the coming of Christ and the resurrection of the saints is in agreement with Peter’s account of the day of the Lord. It is not in agreement with those who teach that Paul believed in a “secret escape” from tribulation.

Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians 4 have nothing to do with “escape tribulation.” Paul is describing the resurrection of the saints which the Bible places at the time of the second coming of Christ, at which time the ungodly will be judged and the new heavens and new earth with be ushered in.

THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD

I think we miss the boat in attempting to define the Sovereignty of God. In our vain thinking we place on God, our own intellectual definition of what sovereignty is, and in doing so, we define God’s sovereignty within the perimeters of human wisdom.

Sovereignty simply means supreme power, authority, and dominion. Throughout scripture we see that God is supreme, and all powerful, with all authority and dominion belonging to him.

The problem with human wisdom is that it limits God’s sovereignty to what we think a Sovereign God would do. A person may say “man does not have a free will for if man has a free will, God can not be sovereign.”

One who would make such a claim has actually defined the perimeters of God’s sovereignty, for in his futile mind a sovereign God would not allow his creation to have a free will. But what If God wanted to give humanity a free will?

What if, in God’s wisdom (in his sovereign wisdom) he chose to give humanity the freedom of choice, so that he could display his glorious power, and authority, in the midst of opposition and on the behalf of those who set their hearts on him.

In the New Testament, the apostle Paul described the cross as the wisdom of God in the first chapter of 1 Corinthians. We know from the whole counsel of scripture that the cross was a display of the sovereignty of God, yet in his wisdom, God displayed his sovereign power by utilizing those who opposed both him and Jesus.

The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. ~ Acts 4:26

Who put it into the hearts of sinful men to condemned Jesus? Was it God?

The scripture says it was Satan who put it into Judas’s heart to betray Jesus, not God (John 13:2). The actions of Judas were foretold in the Old Testament, and played a major role in the crucifixion, but it was Satan and not God who put it into the heart of Judas to betray Jesus.

What if God, in his sovereignty, decided to display his wisdom by utilizing the foolishness of sinful men to carry out his purposes of redeeming them?

What if in God’s sovereign wisdom, he decided to win the hearts of those to whom he gave the freedom to rebel against him, by demonstrating his great love, mercy, and grace to them?

What if God has sovereignly given man the freedom to chose to repent and be saved, or to rebel and be damned? Free will in no way negates God’s sovereignty, if anything, it displays it all the more!

RETHINKING ESCHATOLOGY

In 2 Corinthians, Paul writes to the believers at Corinth and says the following:

As also ye have acknowledged us in part, that we are your rejoicing, even as ye also are our’s in the day of the Lord Jesus. ~ v.14

Paul writes something similar to the Thessalonians.

For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? ~ 1 Thessalonians 2:19

Have you ever anyone teach on who will be your crowd, your joy, and your boasting when the Lord comes? There is so much eschatology in the New Testament that is missed by the end time experts who are preaching from current events rather than the Bible in context.

While many of us have a very selfish view of the coming of the Lord, Paul expected joy and rejoicing because of others who would experience God’s glory at the coming of Christ.

So, who is your crown, your joy, and your rejoicing in the day of the Lord Jesus Christ, because of your sacrifices of love for their sakes?

Don’t say Jesus, for we all will rejoice to see him, but as Paul had those to whom he had ministered, whose salvation and victory on that day would be as a crown of rejoicing, whose salvation and victory will do the same for you?

Are you looking for the day of the Lord Jesus with others in mind?

GOD IS SAVING THE JEWS BY THE MERCY GIVEN TO THE GENTILE

There is only “one” holy nation in eyes of God. It’s not modern day Israel, and never will be. It’s not the United States, and never will be, nor is it any other physical nation.

The only nation that is holy in God’s eyes is the church of the Lord Jesus Christ: the blood washed, the redeemed.

When God brought Israel out of Egypt, he said the following to them:

Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. ~ See Exodus 19:5-6

In his first epistle, the apostle Peter declares to his Jewish brethren (members of the church) who had been redeemed by the blood of Jesus, “ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light…” ~ 1 Peter 2:9

To Israel in the wilderness God said, “you will be if…” To the born again Jews (members of Christ’s body, the church), God says, “you are.” Israel’s calling was to be what God has accomplished through Christ, and that is “the church.”

National Israel’s covenant with God was the Law given to Moses, and the Law bound Israel in the flesh with a curse. According to the narrative of scripture, the curse was imforced when Israel refused to obey God and continuously broke his covenant.

This is the reason why Israel in the flesh has been “cut off” by God’s mercy as Paul declares in Romans 9-11. Had the Mosaic covenant continued, Israel would have continued under the curse.

God has cut off ethnic Jews from covenant membership so that he might save some of them (those who would no longer abide in unbelief}. In this way, God demonstrates his mercy on those who will turn from ungodliness to righteousness,

This is the backdrop to Paul’s statement, “As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the father’s sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” ~ Romans 11:28 

What was the “gift and calling” of God to Israel, which is without repentance?

It was the call to become a holy nation as God promised to make them “if” they would obey his voice and keep his commandments. Israel was called to be his people, the church. A remnant were, but the rest refused.

The gifts and callings of God for Israel can only be realized in the person of Jesus Christ, and for this reason Jesus died bearing the curse of the law to save both the Jew, and the Gentiles.

Gentiles who are saved are not “step children” of Abraham, nor are physical Jews more the children of Abraham. The “true” children of Abraham are those who are of faith.

God, in his mercy has “cut off” from covenant relationship unbelieving Jews, counting them all as sinners so that he might show them all the same mercy that he has bestowed on the hopeless Gentiles who repent and believe the gospel.

For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy. For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all. ~ Romans 11:30-32

Notice, that Paul declares that God is saving the Jews who will believe, not because they are Jews in the flesh, but by “the mercy” he has given to Gentiles who were lost in sin and had no covenant with God.

God only has “one covenant family,” and that family is the blood washed church from every nation! And this was God’s plan of salvation all along, even before Israel existed.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love… ~ Ephesians 1:3-4

The salvation of the world was not an afterthought. It wasn’t plan-b. It has always be the plan hidden in Christ, and for this purpose God called the nation of Israel.

Many will cite, “Israel is the chosen people,” yet few of them will tell you to what end were they chosen. They were chosen for God’s redemptive purposes which have come to fruition in his Son: the true Israelite and the King of Israel, Jesus Christ!

In Christ, God has accomplished what his people under the Law could not do. He raised up a Savior from among them by which he has redeemed to himself a family, a holy nation, a sanctified body who worships him and serves him, and this was his eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:11).

Salvation through Jesus Christ comes to the Jew, not through the Law, but in the same way it has comes to the Gentiles – by God’s mercy!

If God had not cut off the unbelieving Jews, destroyed their temple, and put an end to their system of worship, they would have never been redeemed. They would have continued under the curse of the law.

Yet there are eschatological views that claim that Israel will live under the Law in a future millennial dispensation. Those who make these claims fail to understand the Law and Christ’s redemption of his people from the Law.

Because of his mercy, God has cut off all unbelieving Jews and abolished the Mosaic covenant, so that he can have mercy on all Jews who will believe the gospel

And to this Paul declares:

Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy. For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all. O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen. ~ Romans 11:31-36

A STUDY IN ROMANS 9-11 (Part 5)

Chapter 9:14-23 – VESSELS OF WRATH AND VESSELS OF MERCY

14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.

15 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.

16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.

17 For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.

18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.

19 Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?

20 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?

21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?

22 What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:

23 And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,

24 Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? ~ Romans 9:14-24 

Paul has shown in the previous verses how that not all within Israel are truly Israel, because God’s calling is based on election according to his grace and not based on ethnic status: Not the Calvinist doctrine of election, but God’s purpose which is mercy towards those who believe.

Ethnic Israel had failed to obtain that for which they were called, yet some within Israel (a remnant), had obtained the promises.  They are those with circumcised hearts among those who were circumcised in the flesh only.

Those who were circumcised in heart obtained the promises God made to Abraham, and are the “true Israel within Israel.” The rest were hardened, not serving God from the heart, but relying on their ethnic status and boasting in the law, though they did not keep it.

17 Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God,

18 And knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law;

19 And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness,

20 An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law.

21 Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal?

22 Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege?

23 Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God?

24 For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written.

25 For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision.

26 Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision?

27 And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law?

28 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:

29 But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God. ~ Romans 2:17-29 

In their hardened and uncircumcised hearts, ethnic Israel is the vessel of wrath fitted for destruction of whom Paul makes reference. Paul appeals to the historical account of God’s dealings with Pharaoh as a scriptural example of God’s sovereignty in hardening whom He wills.

Paul employs the scriptural account of Pharaoh to expound on his explanation of Israel and the remnant within Israel (the true Israel within Israel), for it is through faith, that God’s promise to Abraham is fulfilled, and not through the flesh.

In contrast to the vessel of wrath which in the context is national Israel, the remnant of believing Jews along with believing Gentiles are the vessels of mercy whom God has called according to his grace.

What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? ~ Romans 9: 22-24 

Notice that God has called the vessels of mercy from among the Jews. This implies that not all Jews were called as vessels of mercy, even as all Gentiles are not called as vessels of mercy.

Throughout the Old Testament we see many accounts in which God’s wrath was carried out against Israelites who rebelled against him. In the New Testament we also have many examples.

For instance, John the Baptist warned the Pharisees to flee from the wrath to come, and in 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 Paul refers to the Jews who killed the Lord Jesus and who oppose the gospel as being under the wrath of God.

Paul continues in Romans 9 by saying the following:

As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God. Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved: For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth. And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha. ~ Romans 9:25-29

It was because of the righteous seed within national Israel (the remnant with circumcised hearts) that Israel was not destroyed as a nation for breaking the covenant.
Otherwise they would have been like Sodom and Gomorrah when God’s wrath was revealed against them.

What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone; As it is written, Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. ~ Romans 9: 30-33

A STUDY IN ROMANS 9 -11 (Part 4)

Chapter 9:9-13 – HEIRS ACCORDING TO THE PROMISE 

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.”

Abraham had two sons, Ishmael and Isaac.

 

Ishmael was born after the flesh (by human effort) and Isaac was born according to the promise when Abraham and Sarah were beyond the age of bearing children. Ishmael was a descendant of Abraham as was Isaac, but Isaac was the child of promise.

Isaac had two sons, Esau and Jacob.

Esau was Isaac’s firstborn son, yet he did not esteem his birthright as the first born which would have made him the heir to the blessing. Instead, he sold his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of pottage (stew) ~ Genesis 25:29. Jacob bargained with Esau for his birthright because he desired the blessing. Through a series of events Jacob inherited and possessed the blessing which originally belonged to Esau.

Esau was a descendant of Abraham as was Jacob, but God loved Jacob and hated Esau because Jacob desired the blessing and Esau despised it.

As it was with Ishmael and Isaac, and Esau and Jacob, so it was with the nation of Israel. Within Israel, there were those who were Abraham’s descendants according to the flesh only. They were not heirs according to the promise, they are not the true children of Abraham.

In John 8, Jesus was opposed by some antagonistic Jews who boasted that they were the children of Abraham as they expressed their opposition to Jesus.

If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. I know that ye are Abraham’s seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you. I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father.
They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham. ~ John 8:36-39 KJV

Jesus goes on to tell them that not only were they not Abraham’s children, but they were actually the children of the devil even though they were physical descendants of Abraham.

The family God promised to Abraham is a household of faith – a spiritual family. In his confrontation with the antagonistic Jews in John 8 (referenced above), Jesus identified the true spiritual father of these physical descendants of Abraham.

But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham. Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God. Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me. Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. ~ John 8:40-44 KJV

In this confrontation, Jesus does not dispute the physical descendancy of these Jews. In fact he affirms it,“I know you are Abraham’s seed” ~ (v 37).  However, this physical descendancy did not mean they were God’s children, For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.” ~ Romans 9:6-7

Jesus did not define “Abraham’s children” by their physical descent only. Neither did John the Baptist, who warned those who did not repent and follow Jesus that they would be cut off as the people of God.

And think not to say within yourselves, we have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance. but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: ~ Matthew 3:9-11

The baptism with the Holy Ghost and fire is not a reference to the same blessing, but rather, a contrast between blessing and judgment. Those who would repent would receive the baptism of the Holy Ghost. Those who would not repent, would receive the baptism of fire, which is God’s wrath.

In the very next verse, after the baptism of fire is mentioned, John says, “Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” ~ Matthew 3:12

The ministry of Jesus and his fore runner John the Baptist, reveal that only those who responded to the gospel from among the Jews, were truly Abraham’s children.

Consider Paul’s words from Romans 9:7-8 again: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. 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.

We can see from these words of Paul that not all in Israel were the children of the promise, and therefore were not considered “the true seed of Abraham” in the eyes of God. This is consistent with the words of Jesus and John the Baptist.

Only those who were children of the promise were counted as the seed. Who then are the children of promise? They are those who are the children of Abraham by faith according to the truth of the gospel.

For  the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. ~ Romans 4:13

Notice first that Abraham was promised to be the “heir of the world.” Abraham’s children were to be from “all nations” ~ Galatians 3:8. Secondly, notice that he says that the promise was not made to Abraham or his seed “through the law.” 

The Law was given to Israel through Moses, and served as ethnic Israel’s covenant with God. The Law bound the Jews with the curse if they did not circumcise their hearts to obey God, and serve him only. The Law made a distinction between ethnic Israel and the Gentile nations. It was the rule of law and constitution for the Jewish people. It was the “wall of separation” of which Paul speaks in Ephesians 2, which made a distinction between the people of Israel (who were God’s covenant people) and the nations.

Israel did not obey the Law, and consequently broke the covenant.

When Paul says the promise was not made to Abraham or his seed “through the Law,” he is referring to Israel’s national identity as a covenant nation  before God.  It was the Law which separated Israel from all other nations, for the law was Israel’s covenant with God. The promise was not given to Abraham or his seed because of DNA, or ethnic status. Thus Paul makes the following argument:

Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision (Jews) only, or upon the uncircumcision (Gentiles) also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also: And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised. ~ Romans 4:9-12

The promise was spiritual and pertained to those who would follow Abraham’s faith!

For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect: Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression.  Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all, (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were. ~ Romans 4:13-17

The promise which God made to Abraham was that he would be the father of many nations. Abraham believed this promise and was declared righteous in the sight of God.

According to Galatians 3:8, when God made this promise to Abraham, he preached the gospel to him. In the fullest sense of the word, Abraham believed the gospel when he believed God’s promise to make him the father of many nations and was declared righteous!

Christ is the promised seed of Abraham (Galatians 3:16) through whom the blessing promised to Abraham comes to fruition, for it is only in and through Jesus Christ that a person can be justified in the sight of God. Abraham was justified by God because he believed the promise God made “in Christ”  (Galatians 3:17).

Being an heir to the promise God made to Abraham comes only through faith in Jesus. This applies to Jews and Gentiles alike. Being a descendant of Abraham “after the flesh” is not the same as being “an heir to the promise.”

For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. ~ Galatians 3:26-29

A STUDY IN ROMANS 9 -11 (Part 3)

Chapter 9:6-8 – In Isaac shall thy seed be called.

6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. ~ Romans 9:6-8

Here Paul makes a striking distinction between the Israelites, applying the promise God made to Abraham which says “in Isaac shall thy seed be called” (KJV) to those within Israel who are of faith, and not to those who were of natural descent only.

Paul here echos that which he has already stated in chapter 2:

25 For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. 26 So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 27 Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. 28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God. ~ Romans 2:25-29

In Paul’s doctrine, one who was a Jew in the flesh (the circumcision) but did not keep the law, was as an uncircumcised person in the eyes of God “if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision.” And the uncircumcised (Gentile) who obeyed the law was counted as a Jew in the eyes of God, “So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision?”

Abraham’s family has always been a household of “faith” in the eyes of God. Being Jewish (Israel) has never been about race only. In his letter to the Galatians Paul tells the Gentile brethren, “if ye belong to Christ, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” ~ Galatians 3::29.  In the next chapter, Paul tells the Galatians, “For we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.”  ~ Galatians 4:28

Notice that Paul does not say to the Gentiles at Galatia, ye, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of the promise.” Paul uses the pronoun “we” which would include himself, a physically circumcised Jew.

This is where many often stumble over Paul’s teachings. They think that the Gentiles have become the “spiritual children” of Abraham, while the Jews remain as the “true children” of Abraham because of their physical descent. This sort of thinking is out of sync with Paul’s.

The promise God made to Abraham was a family from “all nations,” for the children God promised to Abraham would be those who would follow his faith. They are the heirs of the promise which God made to Abraham. Abraham is the father of all who believe and that is why Paul makes the distinction that he does between the Israelites who sought righteousness through faith, and those who sought it through the works of the Law.

In Romans 9-11, Paul tells us that only a remnant of the people of Israel truly found God’s way of righteousness and that the people of Israel, as a whole, did not obtain righteousness because they did not seek it by faith. Instead, they sought it by the works of the Law, i.e., through their national identity.

In Romans 4, Paul tells us that because of Abraham’s faith, he was declared righteous in the sight of God, apart from the works of the law. Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him as righteousness. In Galatians Paul says, “…the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, in thee shall all nations be blessed.” ~ Galatians 3:8

Abraham believed the gospel in advance which was God’s promise to justify all who believe. Therefore all who are of faith (faith in Jesus) are the children of Abraham and heirs to the promise – this is true for the Jew and the Gentile.

A STUDY IN ROMANS 9 -11 (Part 2)

Chapter 9:4-5 – HAS THE WORD OF GOD FAILED?

Verses 4-6

They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoptionthe glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

In the first installment of this study we saw the reason for Paul’s anguish and sorrow of heart for his kinsmen according to the flesh. Israel, like all other nations are under sin, and consequently under the judgment and wrath of God if they do not turn from their sins. God will not favor the Jew who is unrepentant.

Just as the Jews were to be the first beneficiaries of the blessing of the gospel, even so they would be the first with regards to God’s judgment.

6 He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but
for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.
There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 
11 For God shows no partiality.  ~ Romans 2:6-11

That the blessing of the gospel is to the Jew first (Romans 1:16) does not lessen its power or importance towards the Gentiles. The same is true of God’s judgment – the first partaker of God’s goodness, is also the first partaker of his severity.

It is this reality which causes Paul to sorrow over those among his kinsmen who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness. ~ Romans 2:8

In expressing his sorrow, Paul says, “They are Israelites. And to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.” ~ Romans 9:4-5

Has God failed? Has God deceived his people?

Why are they to whom such riches were given now now subjects to his righteous judgment as all other nations who reject God? How did they get here? How did some of them end up on the outside of the covenant, while Gentiles who did not have the law, now feast at their table? Did they not know that the very gospel which has been extended to outsiders, is their heritage?

But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.” But I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says, “I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation; with a foolish nation I will make you angry.” Then Isaiah is so bold as to say, “I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.” But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.” ~ Romans 10: 18-21

This plight of the Jewish people was agonizing to Paul, yet Paul knew the Word of God had not failed, for he writes the following:

But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.

Paul’s understanding of God’s promise in Isaac, which comes through strongly both here and in other some of his epistles, helped shaped much of Christian doctrine.

It is important to understand that Paul’s agony for his kinsmen is not nationalistic, but rather it is sorrow for every Jew who is misses out on the redemption that was provided to save them from their sins. This is the ultimate in lost of inheritance, for the gospel belongs to the Jew first, and if the Jew fails to partake, he has lost all his inheritance.

In our next installment in this study we will attempt to unpack some of the truth contained in the verses 6-8 (above) as we look closer at “the true Israel within Israel”.