Heidelcast For Nov 5, 2023: Sin, Salvation, & Service: The Threefold Truth Of Romans (41)

We are in part 3 of the book of Romans as Dr Clark works through Romans 12:1–2 and wrestles with what Paul means by “rational worship.” He takes two calls, one asking how it is that John MacArthur spends so much time reading Scripture but gets some things so wrong and other asking about a beloved book by Henry Scougal. He answer question about the relations between the Kingdom of God and the New Covenant, about the best version of Calvin’s Institutes we should read, on whether it was right to try to assassinate Hitler, how we should handle the communion elements after the service, how to think about Christians who reject the moral teaching of Scripture, and a question asking for more on Romans 11:28. The opening features Chad Vegas of Sovereign Grace Bakersfield.

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  1. I don’t believe that acknowledging the Jews as Gods historical covenant people, who still hold a special place in His grace, I don’t believe this builds walls. The walls were broken down when the Gentiles were ingrafted. That’s the keyword ingrafted. It is a humbling thing. Vs 15-16 “For if their rejection brought reconciliation to the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy;”

    • JP,

      On what basis do Jews, as an ethnic group, continue to “hold a special place in his grace”? It’s clear that God made a national covenant, through which he administered his promises, with the Jews. We are clearly called by Paul to honor that history. What is in question is whether there is still a “special place” after the cross. That may not be assumed. E.g., when Paul says “all Israel will be saved” we may not assume that “Israel” refers primarily or exclusively to Jews in that context. If he is literally referring to Jews, and literally saying that all Jews will be saved, that creates insurmountable problems with other places in Scripture. Thus, we take it figuratively. Who is “Israel”? Jesus is the Israel of God and the elect, both Jew and Gentile, are the Israel of God in him. If there is a future conversion of Jews what happened to Paul’s remnant theology in Rom 1:1-5? Remember, the question is whether any Jews will be saved and he says, “Yes! I’m a Jew!” He’s proof that Jews are still being saved. How do we get from that to “in future there will be a mass conversion of Jews”? Where does this transition happen?

      My question is: how to say that Jews as an ethnic group still have a “special” place without implicitly rebuilding the wall that Christ tore down? The elect, Jew and Gentile alike, have special place and Israel has a special place in the history of redemption, which Gentile converts (such as I am) must honor but it’s not an easy thing to prove that, after the cross, there is still a “special” place in redemptive history for an ethnic group without running afoul of Ephesians 2:14; Col 3:10; Gal 3:28; Romans 2:28 (“a Jew is one who is a Jew inwardly”) and Rom 9:6 (not all who are from Jacob are Jacob). Isn’t Paul’s great point from Rom 9 forward that it is those who are Isaac, i.e., the elect, who are the Israel of God?

  2. This is a good starting point:

    “If the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth searched out below, Then I will also cast off all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done,” declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 31:37)

    If the specialness of the Jews is nul and void with the coming of Christ, this makes much of Old Testament scripture nul and void. This cannot be.

    Most of the Bible deals with the Jewish people, the old covenant, chosen by God, beloved by God for a special purpose, even though they were a stubborn and obstinate peoples. (Still are, just like those have been ingrafted by grace through faith)

    Eph 2:12 “remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.“

    Those covenants of the promise were made to Israel into which we by grace, through faith have been ingrafted.

    The term “all Israel” is another promise that His oath does not expire with the inclusion of the Gentiles.

    We who believe in Jesus are joined with Israel, ingrafted into the “olive tree”. Not lesser, blessed to be ingrafted.

    • JP,

      The question of what Jeremiah 31:37 says is important but revelation continued into the New Testament. Isn’t the question for us how to understand Jer 31 or better how the apostles understood it and even more precisely what method the Apostles used to interpret such texts?

      I agree that the promises of the OT are not null and void but we have to be careful of assuming what must be proved. E.g., one may not simply assume that whatever we understand what the word Israel meant before the coming of Christ is what it means now, after the coming of Christ.

      I agree that most of the Bible does deal with the Jews as an elect national people but may we simply assume that status continued through the cross and beyond?

      Did the cross do nothing? Is that how the Apostles taught?

      The central contention here is your claim that “all Israel” means ethnic Israel and that hasn’t changed in the New Covenant. That has to be demonstrated, not just claimed. I’ve given multiple reasons why that claim is difficult if not impossible to sustain.

      E.g., “For they are not all Israel who who are out of Israel” a ( οὐ γὰρ πάντες οἱ ἐξ Ἰσραὴλ οὗτοι ⸀Ἰσραήλ). Paul puts the negation (οὐ) first. He’s calling attention to it. There is a distinction between those who are Jacob/Israel by election and those who are ethnically Israel. This clear revelation from God has to affect how we understand Jeremiah 31:37.

      We know how we are supposed to understand Jer 31:31-33 because the writer to the Hebrews tells us in Heb 8:8-13. The contrast is between Moses (Red Sea) and the New Covenant. Now Jeremiah also says that in the New Covenant we will have no need to teachers etc and yet, here we are, in the New Covenant, with the Apostles instituting teachers explicitly (e.g., Eph 4:12) The writer to the Hebrews was teaching his neighbor. He was instructing Jewish Christians to “know the Lord.” On analogy, if you’re understanding of what the word Israel must signify is correct, the both Hebrews and Paul are wrong. Hebrews shouldn’t be instructing people to know the Lord because it’s the new covenant and such instruction is unnecessary and Paul is wrong to say that not every descendent of Jacob is Israel because, according to Jer 31:37 every descendent of Jacob is Israel.

      Then there is the problem of Rom 2:28-29: “…For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God” (ESV). Is Paul wrong when he says that a Jew is one who is a Jew inwardly and not merely biologically and by circumcision? Isn’t his point that, in Christ, we are all Jews and we are all Gentiles? Abraham was justified sola gratia, sola fide as an uncircumcised Gentile and he was justified as a circumcised Jew. Anyone who circumcised in the heart is a Jew. That is Israel in the New Covenant because (and this is perhaps the most important point) Christ is the Israel of God.

      Matt 2:15 says, “and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.’” Matthew cites Hosea 11:1: “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.” Matthew, a Christian Jew, just declared to the whole world that Yeshua Ha Meshiach is the Israel of God. He is God’s Son. Israel was God’s figurative disobedient Son but Jesus is God’s true obedient Son. He recapitulated, in his life, the whole history of Israel. He defeated the Canaanites, as it were, he did not bow down before Baal, he did not make golden calves. He kept the law. He was truly righteous and he was (and remains) literally, biologically Jewish.

      That’s why Paul refers to the entire New Covenant church, Jew and Gentile alike, as “the Israel of God” (Gal 6:16). He had already said in Gal 3:7, “Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham.” It is believers, Jew and Gentile alike, who are Abraham’s children. In Gal 3:29: “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” Rom 4:12 says that true Jews are those who “walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.” Paul was very pointed about this with the Philippian Judaizers: “For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh” (Phil 3:3).

      So, Paul’s (and Hebrews’) way of understanding the promises of Jer 31 seems to be different from yours, doesn’t it?

  3. The scripture is clear about the status of Jews before, and after the coming of Christ, most notably in Romans 11. The cross is everything, both for Jews and gentiles. The cross made it possible for Gentiles to be ingrafted into the family of God. The cross made it possible for the Jews to be redeemed through the blood of their son in the flesh Jesus Christ.

    This, of course, does not mean that all Jews have been saved, Jews can be, and have been cut off within the chosen nation. This is a nation that will never end, Jeremiah 30, verse 11, Jeremiah 46, verse 28, and of course Romans 11 verse one.

    As I stated before, they will not be preferentially treated above those of us who have been ingrafted, as a matter fact, their responsibility is greater because of their favoured status as a nation and the gifts they received. With regards to election, they are no different than ingrafted Gentiles.

    A Jew is most definitely one inwardly, through belief in Jesus Christ our Lord, and we are ingrafted into the original tree. We are Jews by ingrafting. Israel, or the Jewish people, God’s favoured nation, is the cultivated tree, we as Gentiles are the ingrafted, wild tree branches.

    Zach 12 “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son”

    Why? Because His calling and gifts are revocable.

    I agree with much of what you have written, but to me, it is clear that when the time of the gentiles has come, the Jewish people will be brought to faith. This will be a supernatural occurrence, just as our call to faith is supernatural.

    I also want to be clear, I was born and raised within the reformed community. We follow the teachings of John Calvin, the three forms of unity. There are people in our Federation that agree with my stance, there are people that agree with your stance.

    The incredible history of the Jewish people, who continue to thrive in spite incredible odds, is a testimony to God’s faithfulness, and I look forward to their re-ingrafting into the tree of life.

    Thank you for your dialogue, it is appreciated.

    Soli Deo Gloria

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