Does Romans 4:13 Universalize Israel’s Land Promises?

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Romans 4:13 has become a hotly debated verse lately between those who believe in a literal future fulfillment of Israel’s land promises and those who do not. Here Paul declares:

For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith (Rom. 4:13).

Much discussion involves what Paul means when he says Abraham is “heir of the world.” Some non-dispensational scholars see this verse as evidence that Israel’s land promises in the Old Testament have been universalized in such a way that there is no longer an expectation of fulfillment of particular land promises for national Israel. Thus, Romans 4:13 allegedly transcends the Old Testament expectation of the land promises to Israel. Theologians such as N.T. Wright and Gary Burge, along with others, have promoted this view. Concerning Romans 4:13 Burge says,

The formula that linked Abraham to Jewish ethnic lineage and the right to possess the land has now been overturned in Christ. Paul’s Christian theology links Abraham to children of faith, and to them belongs God’s full domain, namely, the world” (Gary Burge, Jesus and the Land: The New Testament Challenge to “Holy Land” Theology, 86). (emphasis mine).

N.T. Wright declares:

In Romans 4:13 Paul says, startlingly, “The promise to Abraham and his seed, that they should inherit the world.” Surely the promises of inheritance were that Abraham’s family would inherit the land of Israel, not the world? Paul’s horizon, however, is bigger. The Land, like the Torah, was a temporary stage in the long purpose of the God of Abraham. It was not a bad thing now done away with, but a good and necessary thing now fulfilled in Christ and the Spirit. It is as though, in fact, the Land were a great advance metaphor for the design of God that his people should eventually bring the whole world into submission to his healing reign. God’s whole purpose now goes beyond Jerusalem and the Land to the whole world. (N.T. Wright, “Jerusalem in the New Testament,” pp. 9-10). (emphases mine).

To summarize, this sort of argument can be put in the following form:

  • The Old Testament contains particular land promises to national Israel.
  • The New Testament universalizes Israel’s land promises to all Christians.
  • Therefore, no longer is there an expectation that particular land promises to Israel will be fulfilled with Israel.

But I do not believe this understanding is biblical. What I will argue below is: (1) Paul’s main point in Romans 4:13 is about people who are descendants of Abraham, not land; and (2) universal blessings do not rule out particular blessings.

Romans 4:13 and People

The context before and after Romans 4:13 is speaking of people—descendants of Abraham, both Jew and Gentile. Paul is not directly speaking of land or earth. With Romans 4:1-8 Paul expounded the great truth of justification through faith alone. In doing so he uses examples of two great covenant heads—Abraham (Abrahamic covenant) and David (Davidic covenant). The fact that these two important men were saved through faith alone is evidence that salvation for any person or group is through faith alone, apart from works.

Then, with Romans 4:9-12, Paul explains that the principle of salvation through faith alone applies equally to both Jews and Gentiles. Since Abraham was justified through faith before his circumcision this allows Abraham to be the “father” of two distinct but related groups: (1) Gentiles (uncircumcised) who believe; and (2) Jews (circumcised) who believe. In verses 11-12, the term “father” describes Abraham’s relationship to both groups. Thus, Romans 4:1-12 reveals that Abraham is the father of both believing Gentiles and believing Jews.

When we come to verse 13 and Paul’s statement: “the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world” it seem obvious from the context that Abraham’s status as “heir of the world” is focused on people—descendants who are Gentiles and Jews who have expressed faith in God like Abraham. This is also bolstered by what comes after verse 13, particularly Romans 4:16-17a:

For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, (as it is written, “A father of many nations have I made you”).

Again, the emphasis is on believing Jews and Gentiles being related to Abraham. Abraham is also called “A father of many nations.” In fact, we can say that Abraham is “heir of the world” in the sense that he is “A father of many nations.” Land or earth is not the main issue here.

This does not mean land/earth is irrelevant to discussion of the Abrahamic Covenant as a whole, because the Abrahamic covenant is multi-faceted and includes matters related to Israel’s land and beyond (Gen 26:3-4). But Paul’s specific point in Romans 4:13 is that Abraham is “heir of the world” in the sense of believing people. To conclude that this verse teaches or implies the transcending of Israel’s land promises goes way beyond what Paul is saying here.

This understanding is bolstered by Paul’s use of kosmos for “world.” Sometimes this word is used of the physical world (Matt. 24:21; 25:34), but it is often used in Scripture for people (see John 3:16; 1 John 2:2). Context will determine which sense is best. There is another Greek term for “earth” or “land.” The term specifically refers to land, ground, or earth (see Matt. 4:15; 5:5). And if Paul would have used in Romans 4:13 it would be clear he meant physical geography and not people. But he uses the broader kosmos term.

In summary, to claim that Romans 4:13 is indicating a universalization of Israel’s land promises makes no sense since land is not primarily in view. If geographical land is not Paul’s point, then certainly Paul is not universalizing Israel’s land promises.

Israel and Israel’s Land as Means for Blessing the Earth

Here I want to make a broader theological point that involves how particular and universal fulfillment relates to land. Beyond Romans 4:13, if one considers the Abrahamic covenant as a whole we do see a relationship of the covenant to land. First, Israel was promised a particular land with certain dimensions (see Gen. 12:6-7; 13:14-17; 15:18-21) as part of the Abrahamic covenant. Fulfillment of the land promise is even reaffirmed hundreds of years later during times of national apostasy:

but, ‘As the Lord lives, who brought up the sons of Israel from the land of the north and from all the countries where He had banished them.’ For I will restore them to their own land which I gave to their fathers (see Jer. 16:15). (emphasis mine).

Second, both Israel and Israel’s land will be used by God to bless all people groups of the world, not just with salvation but blessings to the whole earth (Gen. 12:2-3; 22:17-18; Isa. 2:2-4; Ps. 72:18-19 Zech. 9:10). As Israel is blessed, ultimately through the Messiah, blessings will spill over to other nations and their lands. Isaiah 27:6 states: “In the days to come Jacob will take root, Israel will blossom and sprout, and they will fill the whole world with fruit.” Thus, Israel and Israel’s land function as microcosms of what God will do for all nations and their lands. As God blesses Israel, blessings will come to other nations (see Isa. 19:15-25).

So it is theologically true that planet earth and the nations of the earth will be blessed. But it is through the means of Israel and Israel’s Messiah that this will occur. God has determined that particular blessings to Israel are the means for bringing blessings to the nations. The particular (Israel and Israel’s land) is the means for universal blessings (Gentile nations and their lands). This is a “both/and scenario,” not an “either or.” (The complete fulfillment of these universal land blessings awaits Israel’s salvation and the second coming of Jesus and His kingdom [see Rom. 11:12, 15, 26-27; Matt. 19:28]).

What is wrong about the arguments of those like Wright and Burge concerning Romans 4:13 is that they assume universal blessings do not coincide along particular blessings to national Israel. Allegedly, universal fulfillment does away with particular promises to Israel. But this does not have to be the case and is refuted by other Bible passages and the Bible’s storyline as a whole.

Let us just assume for argument’s sake that Paul in Romans 4:13 is speaking of Abraham being “heir of the world” in a universal sense involving the earth for all believers, Jew and Gentile. Does this rule out the fulfillment of land promises to Israel? No, because universal fulfillment does not exclude particular fulfillment. In fact, particular fulfillment is the means of universal fulfillment. This is explicitly predicted in Genesis 12:2-3 when God tells Abraham that the nation to come from him (i.e. Israel) will be the means to bless the families and nations of the earth (see also Gen. 22:18). So even if Paul were thinking of land or earth in a universal sense in Romans 4:13, this would not rule out particular fulfillment of land promises to national Israel. Both could be true at the same time.

It seems like some who hold to a universalization of the land promise to Israel based on Romans 4:13 are approaching this verse as a proof text apart from its context or assuming certain things that are not accurate. In the cases of Burge and Wright, both believe the New Testament reinterprets or redefines the storyline of the Bible.

For example, Burge declared a hermeneutic of “reinterpretation”:

For as we shall see (and as commentators regularly show) while the land itself had a concrete application for most in Judaism, Jesus and his followers reinterpreted the promises that came to those in his kingdom. (Jesus and the Land, 35) (emphasis mine).

N.T. Wright uses “redefining” in regard to Jesus and His kingdom:

Jesus spent His whole ministry redefining what the kingdom meant. He refused to give up the symbolic language of the kingdom, but filled it with such a new content that, as we have seen, he powerfully subverted Jewish expectations. (Jesus and the Victory of God, 471). (emphasis mine).

Conclusion

I recently talked to a good friend of mine with a keen theological mind. As we talked about this issue of Romans 4:13, he asked a good question that goes something like this:

Imagine assembling a list of all the passages in the Bible that speak of land promises to Israel. You compile all these many passages in a column. Then you put Romans 4:13 next to this long list in another column. Do you think the average Christian is going to conclude from this that Paul is claiming that the land promises to Israel will not be fulfilled?

In my estimation, it is hard to see how they would. Romans 4:13 does not do this.

The issue of fulfillment of Israel’s land promises involves looking at many passages and issues. And here we have only looked at one. But for those arguing for the transcending of Israel’s land promises, the search will need to go elsewhere since Romans 4:13 teaches no such thing.

(For more detailed discussion on a biblical view of Romans 4:13 see this article by Nelson Hsieh, and the chapter, “Zionism in Pauline Literature: Does Paul Eliminate Particularity for Israel and the Land in His Portrayal of Salvation Available for All the World,” in The New Christian Zionism.)

Photo by Robert Bye.

Michael Vlach bio


Michael J. Vlach, Ph.D. (Twitter: @mikevlach) is Professor of Theology at The Master’s Seminary where he has been teaching full time since 2006. Michael specializes in the areas of Systematic Theology, Historical Theology, Apologetics, and World Religions. Dr. Vlach was awarded the “Franz-Delitzsch Prize 2008” for his dissertation, “The Church as a Replacement of Israel: An Analysis of Supersessionism.” He blogs here.

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There are 38 Comments

Ed Vasicek's picture

You handled a difficult verse well.  I can understand the opposing viewpoint's perspective, but even if they were right about the idea of "world" meaning earth as opposed to society, your point is still valid.  God has clearly set aside a sizable portion of land for Israel.

Whether God has added to His promises may be debated, but He never subtracts from them.

"The Midrash Detective"

G. N. Barkman's picture

To those who agree with Vlach's argument, let me ask if you are happy to use the same reasoning when the subject is the extent of the Atonement?  Those who deny that the Bible teaches Particular Redemption often argue as follows:  There are "whole world" references to the Atonement, and there are also "particular people" references.  Since the "whole world" (assumed to mean "every individual who ever lived") includes the elect, the "particular people" references are included in the "whole world" references.  Therefore Christ's atonement need not be limited to the elect.  His death for all universally includes His death for the elect and thus the Bible teaches Universal Atonement.

OK.  Are you willing to apply this reasoning to the Land Promises of Israel?  If God's people are to inherit the world, obviously the land of Israel is included in the world.  Therefore, the land promises to Israel are fulfilled when God's people inherit the world.  Inheriting the "world" does not negate the "land of Israel" promises but includes them, and absorbs them into a greater fulfillment.

If you are not willing to accept that explanation for the land promises, then perhaps you will also not accept a similar argument against Particular Redemption?

G. N. Barkman

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Are you willing to apply this reasoning to the Land Promises of Israel?  If God's people are to inherit the world, obviously the land of Israel is included in the world. 

There's a problem with the reasoning here. The promise involves a specific part of the world going to a specific group of people. The group has an ethnic identity. So, say I promised to one of my kids--say, my daughter--she could have my car some day. Then I decide, at some future point, that "both my cars now belong to everyone in the family." Have I kept my promise? I don't think my daughter would think so... and she'd have a point.

(I think I probably agree with you on particular redemption though.)

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

TylerR's picture

Editor

I am more and more drifting away from traditional dispensationalism:

  • There are many, many passages where the Millennium appears to melt into the final state. It becomes increasingly difficult to draw a hard distinction between the two. John appears to have drawn from these passages (e.g. Isa 62; Jer 3:15-18; Zech 14:8-9, etc.) to depict eternity (Rev 22). I am particularly intrigued by the parallel between the names of restored Jerusalem's gates and walls from Isa 60:18 (salvation + praise), and what we see in Rev 21:12-14 in the New Jerusalem (tribes + 12 apostles) = one combined people, giving their God praise for their salvation. Not an Israel-centric thing at all. That distinction fades away (see below).
  • 1 Thess 4 is not about the rapture, but about hope for Christians that the dead in Christ will not miss out on anything.
  • The evidence for the pre-tribulational rapture remains circumstantial; a portrait pieced together from a myriad of non-didactic passages. You have to squint a certain way to make them all align the way you want. Doesn't mean it's necessarily wrong. Just means it's not as certain as some DTs would like to believe.

Several years ago, I came to the conclusion that the distinctions between Israel and the church will disappear in the final state. So, I'm never been particularly moved by Israel's land promises from the Old Covenant. The end-game isn't the Millennium; it's the final state. I've never taken Romans 4:13 to mean the land promises are abolished or otherwise changed. I don't think it's talking about that at all; but it's certainly an implication. I think you have to have eschatology as a hobby horse to make that verse about this issue. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Ed Vasicek's picture

This and limited atonement are oranges and apples.

A promise to Israel with specific land and another promise to believers non-specifically referring to the earth can harmonize well.  It is adding to the original promise without distracting.

Christ died for the elect.  Fact. Saying Christ died also for the non-elect does not eliminate the face He died for the elect. No promise or statement is negated here.  

As far as Tyler, the NT uses the OT is a very Midrashaic way.  Mixing up the millennium and eternal state is no different than mixing up hell (Hades) with the Lake of Fire. Unless you think that the Lake of Fire and Hades are the same thing (the equivalent of Amil when it comes to perdition).

 

"The Midrash Detective"

G. N. Barkman's picture

Let's imagine a family of four who vacations annually at the same lovely mountain rental home.  The Father promises to purchase the home as a gift to the family.  Let us further suppose that the wife dies, and the Father remarries a widow with six children.  This enlarged family realizes that the cherished vacation home is now too small.

Now let us suppose that the Father purchases a large acreage which includes the favorite mountain home, plus several additional surrounding homes and invites the extended family with all their relatives to join them in their expansive property.  Are two original children likely to fault the Father for failing to keep his promise?

G. N. Barkman

Ed Vasicek's picture

  Are two original children likely to fault the Father for failing to keep his promise?

If the father is omniscient and knows the future, yes.

"The Midrash Detective"

G. N. Barkman's picture

 

If the father is omniscient, he knew that this was his plan all along.  However, He chose not to reveal all the details to his original children.  (Would it really be best to know ahead of time that your mother would die and your father would remarry?)  What the Father promised the children was true and accurate.  They have no reason to find fault.  He did what he promised, and a lot more as well.  Is there a problem with that?

 

 

 

 

 

G. N. Barkman

Ed Vasicek's picture

 Is there a problem with that?

This is the very crux of the issue you are raising.  How we answer this question determines where we fall.

I say there is a BIG BIG integrity problem here.  It is called deception.  Of course we did not bring up our children to believe in Santa Claus either, while other Christians had no problem with it.  Same sort of divide, but much more serious when relating to God's very character.

"The Midrash Detective"

G. N. Barkman's picture

It could be the First Century Jewish problem of miss-interpreting what God actually said, and then rejecting Jesus as the Messiah because He did not conform to their misunderstanding of God's promises.

G. N. Barkman

TylerR's picture

Editor

The end game is Revelation 22, not the Millennium.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Ed Vasicek's picture

Because the OT contains some verses applying to BOTH aspects of Jesus' first coming and His reign on earth, many Jewish rabbis reject Him as Messiah.  The Old Testament often groups aspects of His first and second coming together (whatever you eschatology, you probably will admit this is sometimes true).  The same is true with preterition, as mentioned above. 

Many prophecies have a double fulfillment or at least two distinct time periods.  Even the curse "the day you eat it you shall die," had an immediate effect (spiritual death) and a long-term "later" effect (physical death).  The pattern is clear to see for those willing to interpret in the style of the ancient texts themselves in contrast to later Greek (western) logic.

The eternal Kingdom is also in two phases: the Millennium which melds into the eternal state, one being the reign of Christ on the Old Heaven and Earth, the other His reign on the New Earth (and Heaven).

Just like the second coming of Christ does not negate His first coming, and just as we do not treat His first coming as incidental. so we should not treat the Millennium as incidental because of what happens afterward.In both cases, one is an important prerequisite for the other.  It is quite important that God honors His unconditional promises to Israel, a matter of God's character.

There are, IMO, two obvious themes to Scripture:  (1) the Scarlet Thread of Redemption, and (2) God's determined faithfulness to Israel, His Hesed endrues forever.  The bulk of Scripture actually is about the latter.

"The Midrash Detective"

TylerR's picture

Editor

Yeah, but what is "Israel?" (big smile).

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Ed Vasicek's picture

 

Yeah, but what is "Israel?" (big smile).

 

Same issue.  Slight of hand. Redefining understood meanings.  Same thing society has done with "gay."  Bad medicine.

"The Midrash Detective"

pvawter's picture

It is increasingly clear to me that there is a significant worldview difference between dispensationalists and non-dispensationalists. Discussions like this one simply illustrate how far apart we really are.

Ed Vasicek's picture

It is increasingly clear to me that there is a significant worldview difference between dispensationalists and non-dispensationalists. 

This is so true. Both have their arguments, but what is amazing is its ultimate connection to theology proper and how strict our views are about God's faithfulness and interpreting Scripture as the original audience would have understood it.  Both groups hold to this, but how far do we press it?

Although I am a Progessive Dispensationalist, I very much align with Traditional Dispensationalists in pressing this further than would a Covenant or Replacement individual. PD is essentially agreeing with CT that the New Testament uses the Old Testament in Midrashic ways, but, on the other hand, like Midrash in general, does not not deny the more literal, obvious meaning (traditional dispensationalism's forte). Midrash seeks to "mine" additional truth from verses/sections, not negate the more obvious meaning.

By the early second century, the church took an anti-Semitic posture, and thus could not stomach the idea of God blessing Israel.  We should not only repent of that mistake, we should no longer let its embedded viewpoint affect our theology.

I also marvel about how a book, mostly focused upon God's faithfulness and dealing with a frequently faithless ethnic nation,  could somehow no longer be about that ethnic nation but merely  a  sort of code book. I believe God blesses the church partly because the church is connected to the ethnic nation of Israel.  It is partly  our ongoing connection to the one nation in God's favor that puts us in a position of blessing.

As Renald Showers' book puts it, "There Really is A Difference."

"The Midrash Detective"

TylerR's picture

Editor

I believe in Ryrie's sine qua non. That's about it. The national promises of re-gathering and the land will happen in the Millennium. But, again, the end-game is eternity, which will not be a Israelite state. I have never understood the fascination (in some quarters, obsession) with Israel and the Millennium. The storyline of scripture is God re-making us and this world for His glory, and gathering a people to worship Him. Israel is a part of that, but it isn't the story itself.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

G. N. Barkman's picture

Yes, there obviously is a significant difference between Dispensationalists and non-Dispensationalists.  What is surprising is that anyone would be surprised by that observation.  It does seem to me that most Dispensationalists know very little about Covenant Theology.  If all you know is what you've been taught by Dispensationalists, you probably don't understand it correctly.  Conversely, if the only thing those who subscribe to Covenant Theology know about Dispensationalism is what they've been taught by Covenant Theologians, they probably don't understand Dispensationalism correctly.  My personal recommendation is to hold either of these positions lightly and be willing to make adjustments as you study.   

G. N. Barkman

josh p's picture

G. N. Barkman wrote:

Yes, there obviously is a significant difference between Dispensationalists and non-Dispensationalists.  What is surprising is that anyone would be surprised by that observation.  It does seem to me that most Dispensationalists know very little about Covenant Theology.  If all you know is what you've been taught by Dispensationalists, you probably don't understand it correctly.  Conversely, if the only thing those who subscribe to Covenant Theology know about Dispensationalism is what they've been taught by Covenant Theologians, they probably don't understand Dispensationalism correctly.  My personal recommendation is to hold either of these positions lightly and be willing to make adjustments as you study.   

This is very true. I attend a reformed church (as a dispy) and I have yet to encounter a covenantal person who has read about Dispensationalism from an actual Dispensationalist. Personally, I think the problem  is less pronounced the other way but it's still there. 

pvawter's picture

G. N. Barkman wrote:

Yes, there obviously is a significant difference between Dispensationalists and non-Dispensationalists.  What is surprising is that anyone would be surprised by that observation.  It does seem to me that most Dispensationalists know very little about Covenant Theology.  If all you know is what you've been taught by Dispensationalists, you probably don't understand it correctly.  Conversely, if the only thing those who subscribe to Covenant Theology know about Dispensationalism is what they've been taught by Covenant Theologians, they probably don't understand Dispensationalism correctly.  My personal recommendation is to hold either of these positions lightly and be willing to make adjustments as you study.   

One of the best parts about living in the 21st century is that we have access to many, many books by both CTs and DTs (not to mention progressives on both sides and even NCTs). I don't care who taught you. If you don't understand the side you're arguing against, you need to do some more reading. It's not like either position is that difficult to understand in the main.

Joe Whalen's picture

G. N. Barkman wrote:

Yes, there obviously is a significant difference between Dispensationalists and non-Dispensationalists.  What is surprising is that anyone would be surprised by that observation.  It does seem to me that most Dispensationalists know very little about Covenant Theology.  If all you know is what you've been taught by Dispensationalists, you probably don't understand it correctly.  Conversely, if the only thing those who subscribe to Covenant Theology know about Dispensationalism is what they've been taught by Covenant Theologians, they probably don't understand Dispensationalism correctly.  My personal recommendation is to hold either of these positions lightly and be willing to make adjustments as you study.   

Vern Poythress is a Covenant theologian who understands both Dispensationalism and Dispensationalists.  Even wrote a wonderful little book on helping Covenantalists understand their Dispensational brothers/sisters.

https://www.christianbook.com/understanding-dispensationalists-vern-poyt...

I found it a fascinating read.

 

TylerR's picture

Editor

I hear John Gerstner appreciated dispensationalism, and had some very irenic critiques that are worth reading ... (big smile)

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

G. N. Barkman's picture

Was God lacking integrity when He couched the OT promises of the Christ in a manner that enabled Jews to expect a glorious reigning Messiah?  (And to reject Jesus because of His humility.) He certainly could have made the reality of two advents more clear, and delineated the characteristics of each advent.  Instead He chose to veil much of this truth in obscurity, requiring the fulfillment of the first advent, and additional NT revelation to clarify otherwise mysterious OT prophecies.

God is not required to make everything plain.  If we assume interpretations of His Word which are not what He actually said, that is our failure, not His.  Just because Jews expected the promises to be fulfilled a certain way does not mean that they were correct, or that God lacked integrity.  We may be guilty of assuming a meaning which God did not intend, and refusing to adjust our misunderstanding in the light of fuller NT revelation because we erroneously insist that the NT must not be allowed to correct the "original and plain" meaning of OT prophecies which we may have misunderstood.  If God gives the correct interpretation in the NT, and we refuse to accept it because it contradicts our previous and premature interpretation, whose integrity is the problem?  Not God's, for He gave us the key to proper understanding.  It must be ours, for refusing to accept what He has given. 

G. N. Barkman

TylerR's picture

Editor

I'm just sad only one person thought my Gerstner comment was funny ...

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Larry's picture

Moderator

Was God lacking integrity when He couched the OT promises of the Christ in a manner that enabled Jews to expect a glorious reigning Messiah?  (And to reject Jesus because of His humility.) He certainly could have made the reality of two advents more clear, and delineated the characteristics of each advent.

Peter thought it was pretty clear. I suppose it could always be made more clear but I think this obscurity is more of an overlooking of what it there than an absence of it. Jesus in Luke 24 called it foolishness and hardness of heart to be slow to believe all that the prophets had spoken. They believed some of it (the glorious kingdom part). They didn't believe all of it (the suffering Messiah part). 

We may be guilty of assuming a meaning which God did not intend, and refusing to adjust our misunderstanding in the light of fuller NT revelation because we erroneously insist that the NT must not be allowed to correct the "original and plain" meaning of OT prophecies which we may have misunderstood.  If God gives the correct interpretation in the NT, and we refuse to accept it because it contradicts our previous and premature interpretation, whose integrity is the problem?  Not God's, for He gave us the key to proper understanding.  It must be ours, for refusing to accept what He has given. 

This is exactly what I would say to you. With all due respect, I think your side is the one with this difficulty. 

Paul Henebury's picture

It's not difficult really.  If God expressly says A, and then takes an oath to do A, and then you exercise faith in what God says about A, you are trusting God.

But then if "God" later claims that what he swore about A is to be realized differently than could have been expected - and therefore believed - the problem is not with the one who placed faith in the original words, but with the one who changed the meaning of the words out of recognition.

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

Ed Vasicek's picture

 He certainly could have made the reality of two advents more clear

I have wondered that about many things.  Take the Campbellite view that baptism is necessary for salvation  based upon Acts 2:38. Or the Hebrews 6 passage.  Or baptism for the dead in I Corinthians.

At the same time, I believe in the clarity of Scripture and that the fault is ours.   

 If God gives the correct interpretation in the NT...

There lies the assumption.  Much of what we believe is OT  and not NT, because the NT often fails to restate what is already assumed.  Even God's Name, Yahweh, is something we bring from the OT into the New. The fact that new information is given does not necessarily eliminate the old.  The NT teaching is Midrash (IMO) IN ADDITION TO THE NORMAL (pesher) interpretation.  The NT brings out additional insight without nixing previous revelation.  That is why I am a Progressive Dispensationalist, because I recognize the new in addition to retaining the old.

The New Testament is added to the teachings fo the Old, thus ALL Scripture is profitable (2 Timothy 3:16). 

 

 

 

"The Midrash Detective"

G. N. Barkman's picture

Ed, I have no problem with what you state.  I do think your certainty that you have understood the OT correctly is questionable.  Saying the OT is certain, and saying that my understanding of it is certain are two different things.  Ask Saul of Tarsus what the OT taught him about the promised Messiah.  He was absolutely certain about his (mis)understanding of the coming Messiah until forcefully corrected on the Damascus Road.  

G. N. Barkman

Ed Vasicek's picture

G. N. Barkman wrote:

Ed, I have no problem with what you state.  I do think your certainty that you have understood the OT correctly is questionable.  Saying the OT is certain, and saying that my understanding of it is certain are two different things.  Ask Saul of Tarsus what the OT taught him about the promised Messiah.  He was absolutely certain about his (mis)understanding of the coming Messiah until forcefully corrected on the Damascus Road.  

So if  I am correct, you are saying that the OT promises themselves (in this case land to Abraham and his descendants) was not intended or understood by Abraham as referring to his genetic descendants?  If so, that's fair.  I just disagree.  But I must admit a confidence about this, right or wrong.  I may be misunderstanding you, however.

The point about our understanding of either testament, however, is that each one of us must make (or get to the point) where we reach certain conclusions.  We tend to feel more certain about some things. We might call some things "convictions," others "beliefs," and others "leanings."  Frankly, they may be hard to classify.  There is no escape from the judgment call, and some people hitch themselves to a tradition to escape it, Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy being extreme examples.  

But, assuming the priesthood of all believers and Sola Scriptura, we have to recognize that our misunderstandings are a result of our own limitations, prejudices, defects, or who in our lives is influencing us.

That doesn't change the fact that we reach firm conclusions about which we feel confidence.  One of mine is that God's faithfulness to ethnic Israel is unswerving.  Because I have a firm conviction doesn't mean I cannot be wrong, but it means I am willing to build upon it because I believe it to be the most natural understanding of said texts.

I am certain that we are sometimes certain of things that are not true.  I won't fight you on that, but might argue over particulars.  The odds of any  of us being right about everything biblical/theological has to be a close approximation to zero.  The fact that we sometimes change our minds underscores the point.

As far as Saul of Tarsus, he, like many of the Jews, made the most common error in logic, replacing a part for the whole.  The Jews generally focused upon the reigning Messiah in His earthly kingdom reign, neglecting the suffering servant.  Although, in all fairness, some came up with the two-Messiah theory (Messiah Ben David, who would regin, and Messiah ben David, who would suffer).  In that case, they sought to harmonize what appear as two conflicting trains of thought by two messiahs, as opposed to one messiah who came twice.

To my way of thinking, amil and, to a lesser extent, CT Premil, tend to reduce or eliminate the part that the Jews had right. This is done via "spiritualization," IMO.

"The Midrash Detective"

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