God’s Plan For Israel
(b) The Children of Promise
Having eloquently articulated his passion for the Jewish people, together with their importance in the economy of God,
Paul now moves onto explain their place in the world of the New Testament. This is the era in which we presently live making this exposition as relevant for Christians in the 21st Century as it was in the 1st Century. While Jews had all the privileges set forth in v’s 4-5 they had been rejected by God as a result of their unbelief. The events in Antioch, in Pisidia, (Acts 13:46-48) provide the historical background for the sad spiritual condition to which Jewry plummeted after the Resurrection of Christ. Therefore the position of the Jews today is one of gross ignorance on account of their rejection of the Messiah. It is this blindness, on the part of such a noble and honoured race, that Paul now rationalises and expounds. In so doing he unfolds one of the great Bible doctrines, Election or Predestination. Therefore we discover that it is not just the Jewish people who are biblically called the Children of Promise.
1: The Conundrum
V6 presents a puzzle. In common with his style of argument Paul anticipates possible objections to his thesis. Jewish people may well have expressed their disbelief that their race could be rejected because they had received the promises of God, they were the children of promise. Therefore Paul opens this section with the remark, “Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect…”. In other words, Israel have been nationally set aside by God but the promises of the Bible concerning them still stand. Paul continues by explaining how this is so, “For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel.” There are two ways by which we interpret this phrase and there is, in my judgement, truth in both:
(a) Not every Hebrew born was converted, even in the Old Testament. Their ancestry did not save them
(b) Gentile people who are converted receive the benefits of the promise and they become Abraham’s children by faith although not by nature. Therefore the promise to those who are elect, whether Jew or Gentile, will always stand.
2: The Covenant
The remainder of the passage develops the covenant, precious to the Jews of the Old Testament and even more precious to the people of God in this New Testament age.
Abraham – It is not enough to be a child of Abraham. Ishmael was Abraham’s son, yet he was not chosen, the promise came through Isaac. Isaac teaches us that the promise of God is not about ordinary generation but the grace of God. His conception was miraculous in that his mother was well past child bearing age. It is only by a miracle that we are in God’s family. Also this opens the path to understanding that we can be the Children of Abraham and of the Promise supernaturally.
Isaac – Nor is it enough to be child of Isaac in order to receive the promise. Isaac’s wife, Rebecca, gave birth to twin boys, but the inheritance was contrary to the laws of succession. Esau, the eldest, was rejected and the covenant passed through Jacob. V11 clearly demonstrates that this choice was made before the children were born and were moral agents capable of good or evil. This is a great mystery but it does emphasise that the promise is neither about birth nor human choice, it is an act of a sovereign God alone. Election teaches us that we are utterly dependent upon God for our salvation.
Jacob – This section ends with a solemn almost shocking statement that is taken from Malachi 1, “…Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” Charles Hodge, an authority in New Testament Greek, taught that word hate does not carry the strong overtones that we associate with it today; “The meaning therefore is, that God preferred one to the other, or chose one instead of the other. As this is the idea meant to be expressed, it is evident that in this case the word hate means to love less, to regard and treat with less favour.”
Some Christians are uneasy about the concept of election because it throws up so many questions to which there are no easy answers. It is by no means the only doctrine to be full of mystery (i.e. The Trinity, the Virgin Birth of Christ, Vicarious Atonement and Regeneration) yet have no difficulty accepting them on the basis that they are Scriptural. Election is an unavoidable fact woven into the fabric of Bible history as Paul here teaches. Therefore we have no alternative but to humbly accept it.