October 4, 2012

The New Covenant is for whom?

by Josiah Grauman

carA father has two children. His boy is 8, we’ll call him Judah; his little girl is 2, we’ll call her Rahab. The father decides to give Judah the coolest toy imaginable: a remote control car. However, in the moment he is about to hand him the wrapped present, Judah throws a terrible tantrum, hits his sister, and angrily throws himself on the floor.

The father wants his son Judah to enjoy the present, and so, in an unexpected twist, he hands it to little Rahab, hoping to provoke Judah to obedience. She opens it up joyfully, chews on the wrapping paper a bit, gets the car out of the package and begins to roll it around. Of course, little Judah is fuming by this point… mainly because he is wicked, but also because he knows what the car is capable of: “Rahab isn’t doing it justice”, he’s thinking, “If she’d just put the batteries in, if she’d just…” but then he remembers how mad he is at his dad, and storms off with a frown.

wrapping paperMeanwhile, Rahab is enjoying her new toy, but here’s the thing: She shouldn’t get arrogant, because sooner or later, if the father’s wisdom is to be vindicated, Judah will ask his daddy for forgiveness.

Now, we’re going to look at Romans 11:25-32, however, before I start with the implications of my little story, please note that my interpretation will not be dispensational, nor premillenial, just ask R. C. Sproul [1]. My goal is simply to make some encouraging exegetical statements about the faithfulness of our God in relation to Israel from Romans 11, not to say when nor how I think those promises will be fulfilled in relation to other escatological events.

So let me begin with a song that lays some common ground: “Father Abraham had many sons, many sons and I am one of them. I am one of them, and so are you (If you repent and believe in Jesus) so let’s just praise the Lord!” We are children of Abraham, his rightful heirs by faith (Gal. 3:29). We are the people of God, a royal priesthood, a holy nation (1 Pet. 2:9), and we are ministers of the New Covenant (2 Cor. 3:6).

None of this is in question… We are Rahab and we are playing with the New Covenant. The question is: Where does this leave Judah, especially in light of the fact that God gave the promise of the New Covenant to him (Jer. 31:31, 36; cf. 33:17-18), a promise that included the forgiveness of his sins (Jer. 31:34), the regeneration of his heart (Jer. 31:33-34) and his dwelling in the land of Palestine (Eze. 36:28)? If the New Covenant is fulfilled in us, does that mean Israel is cast off forever?

Paul says no. Israel still has a future in God’s plan. But, who is Israel you ask?

IsraelThey are currently hardened (Rom. 11:25); they are enemies of the gospel (Rom. 11:28), and they received an irrevocable (Rom. 11:29) promise that someday they will be saved (Rom. 11:26). Honestly, it seems tough to say Israel means one thing in verse 25, but another in verse 26, especially since the “enemies” of verse 28 grammatically refers back to the Judah/Israel that will have their sins taken away, i.e., will be saved. In other words, Israel, whether we debate its meaning in other texts (i.e. Gal. 6:16), in Romans 11:26, must refer to the physical descendants of Abraham who are currently disobedient.

Interestingly enough, however, this section is not directed so much to Israel, but rather to us, the Gentiles. And one of Paul’s major points in this section is that we Gentiles should not be arrogant, proud or wise in our own eyes (Rom. 11:18, 20, 25), lest we be cut off. Though we are now the people of God (The unexpected twist unforeseen in the OT, cf. Eph. 3:5-6), this does not mean that God has forsaken His people Israel forever. In fact, the reality that we were grafted in to the olive tree only further proves this, because the explicit reason why God grafted us in was precisely to provoke Judah to jealously in order to win him back (Rom. 11:11-12). Paul, the man who was willing to go to hell to save his kinsmen (Rom. 9:3), states that the reason he worked so hard at evangelizing the Gentiles was in order to make Jews jealous and bring them to salvation (Rom. 11:13-15).

Therefore, it is true that we are receiving the promises of the New Covenant, praise God! However, this does not mean that this is all there is to the New Covenant. Paul states that the New Covenant’s ultimate fulfillment is yet future (Rom. 11:27). This is even more obvious if we look back at the initial promise, because the New Covenant is far more glorious than what we are currently living. Let me ask you: do you still have to tell your neighbor, “Know the Lord!” (Jer. 31:34)? If so, you must admit that there are elements of the New Covenant that are still future.

Olive treeSomeday, the Jewish people will look upon their crucified Messiah and be saved. (Now I’m not saying that every Jew who ever lived will be saved, but rather, in my opinion, all of them still alive when the fullness of the Gentiles has come in (Cf. Luk. 21:24) will believe in Jesus and be saved). At that moment, they will receive their promised inheritance.

However, you don’t need to mope around thinking that someday, like little Rahab, you are going to have to give back your inheritance so Judah can have his, because, thankfully, God is infinite, and so are His riches… and infinity divides out evenly to all inheritors (Eph. 3:6) quite easily and without any tears ;).

Oh what a glorious day that will be when God shows mercy on all (Rom. 11:32-36), and oh how that ought to fuel our hope, knowing that God never shrinks back from fulfilling His promises to the uttermost. Everything He has promised will come to pass exactly as He said it would.

So we don’t have to read Romans 8 and think, “wow, those are great promises, but, I wonder if they’ll come true. I mean, God promised a bunch of great stuff to Israel too, and where are they now?” Romans 9-11, which explains God’s election and faithful dealing with disobedient Israel, proves without a doubt that He is worthy of our trust. Frankly, like we saw yesterday, if He didn’t, by His own definition He wouldn’t be God.

 

[1] R. C. Sproul believes that the nation of Israel will be restored to God, though he is obviously not a dispensationalist, “R. C. Sproul, The Gospel Of God: An Exposition Of Romans (Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 1994), 186-192″.

Josiah Grauman

Posts

Josiah is the director of the 'Instituto de Expositores', a Spanish language training institute at Grace Community Church, where he and his wife serve as missionaries.
  • http://missionallendale.wordpress.com/ Joey Espinosa

    As a Jewish follower of Jesus, I definitely like this post.

    I came to faith in Christ when I was 19, but it wasn’t until a few years later that the magnitude of Paul’s words in Romans hit me, especially when he said that he wished he could trade places with his accursed brethren. I asked God to give me such a love for lost Jewish people, and He did.

    • http://www.elidex.org/ Josiah Grauman

      Joey Espinosa,

      Praise God!

      Seeing your name and reading that you are Jewish reminds me so much of Mexico City, where we were missionaries, and where a large concentration of Jews live.

      I’d love to get your reaction to something I’ve thought about for a while. In speaking with other Christians about how to best reach the Jewish people, I often find that we almost show favoritism toward Israel trying to win them over. This is odd to me. Now, of course I should go and evangelize Jews directly, just as Paul did, but if my personal and political stance is so pro-Israel that I end up hating Arabs, and stop evangelizing Arabs, I wonder if we are going against the very strategy that Paul employed? What would more bring Israelites to jealousy and then salvation if not to see a great number of al-Qaeda members bowing their knees to Christ and then love Israelites?

      So again, I’m saying we need to love and evangelize both groups, I just think we need to be careful to not hate Arabs in the name of Romans 11, because it seems that this would, in fact, go against what it says.

      Thanks again,
      Lord bless,
      josiah

      • http://missionallendale.wordpress.com/ Joey Espinosa

        Good points.

        I’m not a big fan on trying to have a strategy to reach an entire group of people, outside of personal relationships. There is a spectrum of what Jews believe and how devout they are. Each Jewish person (and any person, for that matter) has their own reasons for rejecting God.

        • http://www.elidex.org/ Josiah Grauman

          Joey,

          Good point. We should evangelize every man everywhere :) Col. 1:28. Lord bless.

  • Debbie

    I love the word “inheritence” (KLERONOMOS) A compound Greek word (KLERO): to cast one’s lot, such as the Urim and Thummin would be cast and (NOMOS): Law. I have cast my lot with those of the law. Not the Talmud or oral law that Paul refers to in GAL, but the divine law. Therefore, I am Jew AND Gentile in one, not Jew OR Gentile in assembly of the Body of Messiah. We have the Torah and the Living Torah. (Halel): Praise (Yah): YehoVAH!!
    MARANATHA

    • http://www.elidex.org/ Josiah Grauman

      Debbie,

      Thanks for your comment! We are truly blessed.

      I’m curious where you got your information about κληρονόμος (inheritor)?

      Lord bless,
      josiah

  • Eric Adams

    Josiah, how do we determine who is a physical descendant of Abraham? Do we use lineal descent? Or patrilineal descent? Or something else?

    • http://www.elidex.org/ Josiah Grauman

      Eric,

      Great question.

      Short answer: I have no idea :). Just two thoughts:

      1. Obviously, you are not doing this, but I find it interesting that Paul exhorts both Timothy and Titus to avoid giving attention to speculatory genealogies (1 Tim. 1:4; Tit. 3:9).

      2. One of my favorite arguments when I was an Amillenialist was showing that it is impossible to determine who is a Jew, much less what tribe they are. Though I have no answer as to how God makes this determination, I do know that He considered people Jewish and from certain tribes even when there was some Gentile blood in their line… like Jesus :).

      Another example would be Ana. Though the 10 northern tribes are completely lost at the end of the OT, Ezra/Nehemiah do not record a single person from the tribe of Asher returning to Palestine… yet still somehow Luke knew that Ana was “of the tribe of Asher” (Luk. 2:36). I don’t know how. I’m pretty sure there were people in her family tree that weren’t all from the tribe of Asher, but God made that call… without explaining to us how He did it :). So I pretty much just leave it there in Deut. 29:29 :).

      Lord bless,
      josiah

      • Eric Adams

        I’m not asking for specifics, just a general principle. How do we know who are the physical descendants of Abraham today? Does the father have to be Jewish? Does the mother have to be Jewish? Is 50% Jewish enough? 25%? What about 12.5%?

        This is not a hypothetical question. If God promised to bless those who bless the physical descendants of Abraham (Gen 12:3), then determining who is ethnically Jewish matters. I want to know who to bless.

  • Dave Anderson

    Winsome. Clear. And true. Great article.

  • kevin2184

    Great post, Josiah. Thanks so much.

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