Covenants

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

Masada National Park

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:

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The Covenantal Landscape of the Old Testament, Part 2

A view of the Valley of Jezreel as seen from Mt. Carmel

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The Old Testament gives us a picture of a coming great Deliverer who will one day defeat the serpent and break his power (Gen. 3:15). We have seen that this prophetic picture is quite extensive, providing one puts the pieces of the “Scepter,” the “Star,” the son of David, the despised substitute Sufferer, the Branch, the donkey Rider, the Messiah, etc. together in one person. This portrait of the coming King of the Earth, who reigns in Jerusalem, is there so that He can be identified when He appears. And when He is identified through these prophecies it will eventually be seen that the Old Testament was spot on. The only question in light of for example, Psalm 22, Isaiah 53, and Zechariah 12 would seem to be, when would His own people recognize Him? This problem deepens because of the perceived mismatch between the victorious Ruler and the suffering Servant referred to above.

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On Splitting Covenants

"Christians are not under 'the law,' nor are they under 'part of the law.' This is no major loss, for we have the Law of Christ as our directive, a law operational on the basis of grace and the indwelling ministry of the Spirit. As far as splitting the New Covenant, the New Covenant is specifically directed to Israel, not the church." - Matt Postiff

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The Covenantal Landscape of the Old Testament, Part 1

A view of the Valley of Jezreel as seen from Mt. Carmel

From the forthcoming book The Words of the Covenant: Old Testament Expectation. Read the series.

If one surveys the contents of the Old Testament with both eyes upon the divine covenants, what one comes away with is a massive sense of expectation. The simply-worded Creation chapter (Gen. 1) displays a purpose and goal for the world which God is moving forward. The simplicity of the wording conveys an important hermeneutical truth; that what God does is directly in line with what He says (i.e. God’s words equal God’s actions). This can be tested in numerous points throughout the Old Testament (e.g. Gen. 1:3, 6-7, 11-12, 26-31; 6:7-13; 11:7-9; 2 Ki. 1:3-4, 16-17; 5:10, 14; Dan. 4:16, 25, 32-33).

This movement towards a goal is seemingly interrupted by the calamitous fall of our first parents and the autonomous thinking that it brought about. While seeming innocuous, this default of naive independence from the authority of God and His words has led mankind to every false notion and violent act in our bloody history. It has also caused God’s people to recalibrate what God has said by passing it through the apparatus of independent interpretation. In the long term this is what is chiefly responsible for the varied schools of thought in Christian theology. But in the Hebrew Bible it was a major cause, through reevaluation of God’s word, for Israel’s defection.

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My Take on the New Covenant (Part 9)

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Having come to a conclusion about the foremost question in the debate about the range of the New Covenant and its connection to Jesus Christ, I want to spread out before the reader my reasons for identifying Him with the NC. These reasons are roughly, exegetical, theological, and devotional. I see no need to go back over the arguments for Luke 22, 1 Corinthians 11, 2 Corinthians 3, and the the Book of Hebrews (although I shall look into Heb. 9:16-17). However, I will provide a summary of the teaching of these passages as I interpret them, and add several further thoughts.

Some Exegetical Arguments

In Luke 22:19-20 our Lord first refers to His body:

This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me. (Lk. 22:19)

The body of Christ was broken for the disciples, but who believes that it was broken for them only? As Paul says, it was broken also for all Christians. It is not called “the body of the New Covenant,” so there is no division of His body between supposed NC saints and non-NC saints. Then we come to the cup:

Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.” (Lk. 22:20)

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My Take on the New Covenant (Part 7)

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Is Christ’s Blood Divided?

I want to begin with two more quotes from Beacham. I should say first that I think his article is an excellent presentation of Option 1. On page 22 of his paper he states:

The soteriological benefits that Israel experiences at the ratification of the New Covenant are not exclusive either to Israel or to the New Covenant. Many people,
throughout human history, have experienced spiritual blessings like those promised to Israel under the New Covenant. Their spiritual experience, however, neither originates in the New Covenant, nor places them under the New Covenant. Salvation is trans-historical and offered to all who believe. The New Covenant is eschatological and offered to Israel alone. (The Church Has No Legal Relationship to or Participation in the New Covenant, 22)

Every system has to account for the salvation of sinners before Christ, and who would disagree with the sentiment that “Salvation is trans-historical and offered to all who believe“? The issue is concentrated on the form in which that salvation takes. Beacham holds that “The New Covenant is eschatological and offered to Israel alone.” He states:

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