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They Are Not All Israel

 “Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. 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)

We have here in the Ninth Chapter of Romans an explanation reconciling the promises of God made in the Old Testament to Israel with the call to faith in Jesus Christ as the only effectual means of Salvation. To most Jews, the idea of trusting in the Atonement of Christ to be saved seemed absurd. After all, had God not already promised that all of Israel would be saved (e.g., Isa. 45:17)? If so, how could the Apostle Paul now say that he sorrowed with great heaviness for his kinsmen (Rom. 9:2)? On the other hand, for the Jews who had come to faith in Christ the question remained concerning why all the nation had not accepted the Lord Jesus. If God’s intended method of Salvation was by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, then why did the majority of the chosen nation of God reject their Messiah?

The answer to these enigmas is found in the distinction between those who truly are Israelites and those who are not. The genuine Israelite is the spiritual Israelite; he is the Jew who trusts in God after the manner of Abraham, the spiritual father of all who possess a saving faith in the Lord (cf. Gal. 3:6-7).  Though Abraham is indeed the father of all who come to faith in Christ, Hebrew and Gentile alike, it is the two types of Jew who are in view in this passage. We must remember that Chapters 9-11 of Romans are a parenthetical interlude addressing the “Problem of Jewish unbelief.” The waters of sound Biblical exegesis can quickly become muddied by attempting to superimpose an allegorical, or symbolic interpretation over this section of Romans. We do well to bear in mind that, when the Apostle Paul says “Israel”, he means Israel. Gentiles and the Church are not being referred to here at all.

The Seed Of Abraham

Who then is Israel since they are not all Israel which are of Israel? First of all, we are told that it is not simply those who are descended from Abraham. In an encounter between John the Baptist and the Jewish religious leaders of the day, we see that a certain pious confidence was held in genealogy. Anticipating their objections to his call to repentance, John tells the Pharisees and Sadducees:

 “…O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: 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.” (Matthew 3:7b-9)

It was made clear that being a physical descendant of Abraham could do absolutely nothing to make a person right with God. In another instance, the Lord Jesus plainly states that the true children of Abraham are those who respond in faith to the Word of God, as Abraham did:

“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. 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 8:39-44)

Therefore, those who rejected the Lord Jesus Christ and sought to kill Him were not really children of Abraham because Abraham would never have done such a thing! Even so, Paul goes a step further in demonstrating the illogical nature of trusting in being of the Seed of Abraham for Salvation. In Verse 7 of Romans 9, we see that God did not “call” all of Abraham’s children. The seed of blessing would come through Isaac. After all, if every child of Abraham is an Israelite, then not only would the descendants of Ishmael also be Israel, but the descendants of Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah (Abraham’s sons by his second wife, Keturah — cf. Gen. 25:2) would be Israelites, as well.

Children Of the Flesh

“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. For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son.” (Romans 9:8-9)

It is the children of the Promise, those descendants of Abraham through whom God directly intervened, preserving a lineage that would ultimately lead directly to Christ, which would become the blessed nation. It was the offspring of the son of Sarah (Isaac) who would become the Jewish nation; not the son of Hagar or the sons of Keturah.

“And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac…It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.” (Romans 9:10, 12)

To further illustrate his point, Paul points out that it was not even all of the descendants of Isaac who would become Israel, but the children of Jacob. The children of Esau, Jacob’s brother, would become the nation of the Edomites. Many of the Jews identified themselves as a peculiar, special people simply because they were descendants of Abraham, the friend of God. But being “sons of Abraham” would no sooner save them than being sons of Abraham would save the Ishmaelites, Edomites, Midianites, or any of the other nations which were in that family tree.

God: No Respecter Of Persons

“For there is no respect of persons with God. For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law” (Romans 2:11-12)

The saving Message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ can only penetrate the heart which is stripped of all other hope. To the man who relies on any other thing than the grace of God through faith in Christ for Salvation, the Good News of a Savior is utterly nonsensical, it is nothing but an unnecessary sentimentality; a fairy tale to entertain, perhaps, but bearing no more significance than a bedtime story. A need unperceived is inevitably a need unmet, and for the Hebrew religious leaders of Paul’s day, no such need was recognized. For God had made certain promises to Abraham, considered the “first Jew” of old, and those promises were believed to be immutably conferred upon every son and daughter of Jewish lineage. Yet God’s promises to Israel were promises made to a nation, not to each and every individual who happened to be listed on that nation’s census.

God’s promises to Israel are inherited only by those who truly belong to that nation, to those who are truly Israel. The sons of Abraham to whom the promises apply are those sons who are of like faith, those who trust in the Lord, not those who can merely trace their ancestry back to a certain individual. All descendants of Abraham: Israelite, Ishmaelite, Edomite, and all others stand upon the same level ground as those who do not descend from that lineage. They must come to the Father through Jesus Christ (John 14:6) and can only be saved by trusting in Him (Acts 4:12).

Until a Jew was willing to relinquish their confidence in being a son of Abraham, they could not be saved by the Gospel which Paul preached. Until they realized that not all Israel is truly Israel, they could not see their need for a Savior.

Trusting In Our Own Heritage

What about us? We might not be trusting in an ancient ancestor to make us right with God, but are we trusting in something else? Is our confidence in our membership to a particular church? Not all that are in the church are of the Church. What about our family? Are we trusting in the fact that we come from a “Christian” home to save us? Or that we were raised in a certain church? Or that our father, grandfather, or uncle was a pastor? What things are we putting in the place of faith in Jesus Christ for Salvation? There is absolutely nothing which we can offer to God as a substitute for trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ.

To God goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

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6 responses

  1. Wonderfully put, Loren, and I loved that ending paragraph, to help us put it into the right perspective, personally. :) God bless you and yours! Good to have you back, teaching!

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  2. As a Jewish Believer I must ask this question: What about Joseph as a shadow of Messiah? His brothers throw him into the well and sold him into slavory? SSSOOOO Messiah was brought to the cross by His brothers. The Jewish brothers children of Abraham. AND the children of Abraham will come to HIM again…REV shows us that. Like Joseph’s brother come to him after a long time. They are forced to come out of hunger. Who knows how the people will come as Yeshua is coming back.?

    If I’m misunderstanding you I’m sorry. I just came across this and need to speak.

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  3. Hi, Andrea, thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts on this post :)

    Back when we were looking at Genesis, I addressed many of the parallels between the life of Joseph and that of the Lord Jesus. Here are links to two of the posts where we looked at them:

    Joseph The Dreamer

    The “Death” Of Joseph

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  4. I don’t have time to explain what I mean. Here is a great teacher that you might want to give a try. Wayne Monbleau http://www.lovinggrace.org He have a very complete study of the New Covenant. You might want to check him out.
    May the Lord Bless you greatly

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  5. The modern term “Jew” has been given a definition that the scripture never designated. The word “Jew” in the English Bibles is translated from Ioudaios in Greek and Yahudi in Hebrew. The Greek word comes from the Hebrew word (obviously), and Yahudi is from Yahuda, which is Judah.

    Now, you state that Abraham is the first Jew. Well, I’ve never known any culture or people to have named their great-Grandfather after a great-grandson.

    Please also explain why you use the nomenclature “Jew” and “Isarelite” synonymously. It appears as if you are calling all Israelites from the Old Testament and their descendants by the term “Jew” — the Bible simply does not do this.

    The tribes of Ephraim, Manasseh, Gad, Asher, Zebulon, etc. were all tribes that were in the Northern Kingdom of Israel, which took place after the secession from the house of David, circa 930 B.C. They ceased following the Hebraic/Mosaic religion (which btw is NOT Judaism, which Christ condemned). However, these people were NEVER known as Jews. Which means, the bulk of Israelite descendancy ANYWHERE in the world today would never be known as Jews. They would not have Talmudic customs, because only the House of Judah, long after the split, went to Babylon where Talmudism began, and the traditions of the elders, the mishnah, the rabbinical traditions, which encompasses the religion of Judaism.

    The only three Israelite tribes that would even have members known as Ioudaios (Greek word for Jews) by the New Testament era would have been (of course) Judah, Benjamin, and Levi.

    This was only one of the two groups of Israelites that had a prophetic destiny that would continue until the advent of the Messiah. Paul states that the gentiles of the New Covenant were ALSO Israelites according to the flesh — so, we’re not talking about this non-Biblical doctrine of a “spiritual Israel.” Paul says this in I Corinthians 10:18-20. They were the scattered (diaspora) cast off, divorced House of Israel, who had been migrating westward for many, many centuries. Some of whom landed in Greece even before the exodus, which is documented by Hecataes of Alexandria in his work “Aegyptica” and quoted by Diodorus Siculus in Book 40. In fact, I Maccabeus 12, there is a letter from King Arius of Sparta and the Judean priest, where the Spartans had looked through their records and found that they were part of the covenant family and were kinsmen to the Judeans (Judah remnant, aka Jews). These many nations (who Israel-north had been prophesied to become Genesis 48:19) had become paganized and were the people sacrificing to false gods on the altars. They were prophesied to be reunited with their Judah brethren under one headship (Ezekiel 37:15, Hosea 1:9-11, Jeremiah 31:31-34) under the New Covenant.

    Hebrews 4:4-5 says that redemption was accomplished by Christ for those who were under the law. You are correct in stating that only Israel was under the law, therefore, only genetic Israel can be redeemed in the new covenant, and this is verified by the words of Jesus himself who said, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

    Hebrews 9:15 says that Christ’s redemption was to redeem those who had transgressed under the first covenant, which can only be genetic Israel.

    If your ancestors weren’t part of the first covenant, you aren’t a part of the second.

    The word “Jewish” does not mean all of the tribes of the family of Jacob. That is what the term Israelite means. Also, gentiles comes from the Greek word Ethnos and the Hebrew word Goy. These words ethnos/goy are used as frequently to discuss the nations of Israel and Judah as they are to discuss foreign nations. In fact, in Luke 7:5, the word “ethnos” is used to describe the Jewish/Judah nation. However, in this case it’s translated properly so the unlearned reader doesn’t see the conflict. However, had it been inappropriately mistranslated as ‘gentile’ as it is in many other places, it would have been funny to read a discussion about the ‘jewish gentile’ — this phraseology would cause cogniitive dissonance for most people. However, when you read the English bible, you must remember that it was translated by people who had opinions on what it should (and should not) say.

    Without studying these things, people are left in the dark, and they continue to inherit theological paradigms that are in no way connected to the biblical reality.

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