Friday, January 22, 2016

To Whom Were the Promises to Abraham Made?

Gal 3:8  And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, "In you shall all the nations be blessed."  Gal 3:14  so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. Gal 3:19  Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made…  Gal 3:28  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Gal 3:29  And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.

One of the great debates in the church is Israel’s relationship to God and the church after the cross.  You have two basic positions I guess.  One side believes the promises made to Israel haven’t been fulfilled and so will be in the future.  The other position is that all the promises made to Israel were fulfilled either in the OT times and ultimately in Christ and so now the Jews are no different than the Gentiles and are under the same covenant as the Gentiles which is the New Covenant.  All men are under the bondage of sin and must be saved the same way and the only thing that awaits any of us is the eternal state. 

An example of the first group, and there are many variations, is John Hagee.  The following quote was taken off his website some years ago.  “I believe that every Jewish person who lives in the light of the Torah, which is the word of God, has a relationship with God and will come to redemption. As Christians, we must recognize the critical importance of the Jewish people in God’s plan for us all. We must, in direct fulfillment of Jeremiah's prophecy, help bring God’s people home to Israel. We invite you to help us continue to raise funds to build a beautiful new dormitory that will house many more children who will be raised in their Jewish traditions according to the Torah. “  Some even join Judaism to be on the winning side when Christ comes back.

Now not all Dispensationalists believe that the Jews don’t need the gospel but this thinking is a result of not realizing that the covenants made with Israel were part of the redemptive plan to bring in the Messiah and are only “eternal” in relation to Christ.  The Jews were never supposed to be some sort of eternal special people above the rest of mankind. 

The above passages in Galatians are just a few that could be used to bear this out.  Notice in vss. 8 and 14 that Paul explains to us that when God made his covenant with Abraham he was preaching the gospel which is that all the nations will be blessed in his coming offspring.  In vs. 16 he says that ultimately this wasn’t about the many offsprings of Abraham in the flesh but one Offspring, Jesus, Gal 3:16  Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, "And to offsprings," referring to many, but referring to one, "And to your offspring," who is Christ

It seems to have escaped the attention of many as it did many Jews in Jesus’ day that being descended from Abraham did not necessarily mean anything.  It bought some advantages as Paul speaks about in Rom. 9, but to miss Christ means the judgment of God for the Jew just as a Gentile.  Paul also addresses this in Gal 3:24  So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. Gal 3:25  But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.  Hebrews says as much in Heb 8:13  In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.  .  The physical fulfillment was how God would provide the “Offspring”.  Once he came, Israel’s purpose and the Old Covenant were served and now there is no Jew or Gentile.

There is another point in Gal. 3 to consider also.  In vs. 16 “promises” is plural as he includes some specific promises made to Israel that were needed so they could become a nation and provide a place for the Messiah and his work; these were temporary.    Through Moses, Joshua, and David.  Jos 23:14  "And now I am about to go the way of all the earth, and you know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one word has failed of all the good things that the LORD your God promised concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one of them has failed.  1Ki 8:56  "Blessed be the LORD who has given rest to his people Israel, according to all that he promised. Not one word has failed of all his good promise, which he spoke by Moses his servant.  All these physical blessings were received in the OT.

But in vs. 17 we see a change from plural to singular, Gal 3:17  This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void.  It is pointing to the “big” one, the Big Promise.  The big one was Christ in which the nations shall be blessed.  All the other promises were given to bring about the “big one”.  So Galatians helps keep before us the purpose of this Abrahamic covenant and not get sidetracked by the means to the covenant which was through the Jews.  Hagee has gotten sidetracked into heresy.

With this in mind, everything that happens from Gen. 12 on must have Christ in view in order for it to make any sense.  If Israel is an end in itself then grace takes a back seat to the works of the flesh.  The whole history of Israel concerns and illustrates Christ and was never meant to be anything more than that.  They have no more meaning outside of Christ than any other people.  The highest meaning you can give to an OT passage is as it concerns Christ.  Paul says as much above when he says there is no more Jew or Gentile but all are heirs of Abraham’s promise by faith.

If we read through Galatians 3 with this in mind the passage flows very logically and makes perfect sense in relation to the cross of Christ.  God’s relationship with Israel was temporary in order that the Offspring or Seed (KJV) might be born under the law and become our “blessing” of life.  The gospel was being preached to Abraham as Galatians says, not Israel being established as God’s all time chosen people with no relation to the cross of Christ.  And so I ask you, do you rejoice in Christ today or someone else?  Union to him is all you need in this life to overcome this world.  There is safety in Christ, not Judaism or the Ten Commandments.  He is the winning side, not being Jewish.  Will we exalt Christ alone or the flesh as well?  This truth will affect how you watch the news!  You won’t be upset that the Israelis gave back some of the land that is supposedly given to them by God; who cares!  We look for a new heavens and new earth.  If my big inheritance was that rock we call Palestine, then I don’t have much to look forward to! 

What we need is salvation from sin, not being relocated to Palestine.  Even Abraham knew that Canaan wasn’t what God was talking about.  Heb 11:8  By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. Heb 11:9  By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. Heb 11:10  For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.  Let’s not make the Bible complicated when the NT clears it up for us.  Jesus is Abraham’s offspring and no one else is unless they are united to Christ; born form above.

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