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Chrysostom on 1 Cor. 7:14

January 1, 2018 3 comments

Chrysostom held to the legitimacy interpretation of 1 Cor. 7:14.

Ver. 12. “But to the rest speak I, not the Lord. If any brother have a wife that believeth not, and she is content to dwell with him, let him not leave her. And if any woman hath an husband that believeth not, and he is content to dwell with her, let her not leave him.”

For as when discoursing about separating from fornicators, he made the matter easy by the correction which he applied to his words, saying, “Howbeit, not altogether with the fornicators of this world;” so also in this case he provideth for the abundant easiness of the duty, saying, “If any wife have a husband, or husband a wife, that believeth not, let him not leave her.” What sayest thou? “If he be an unbeliever, let him remain with the wife, but not if he be a fornicator? And yet fornication is a less sin than unbelief.” I grant, fornication is a less sin: but God spares thine infirmities extremely. And this is what He doth about the sacrifice, saying, (S. Matt. v. 24.) “Leave the sacrifice, and be reconciled to thy brother.” This also in the case of the man who owed ten thousand talents. For him too He did not punish for owing him ten thousand talents, but for demanding back a hundred pence from his fellow-servant He took vengeance on him.

Then lest the woman might fear, as though she became unclean because of intercourse with her husband, he says, “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified in the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified in the husband.” And yet, if “he that is joined to an harlot is one body,” it is quite clear that the woman also who is joined to an idolater is one body. Well: it is one body; nevertheless she becomes not unclean, but the cleanness of the wife overcomes the uncleanness of the husband; and again, the cleanness of the believing husband overcomes the uncleanness of the unbelieving wife.

How then in this case is the uncleanness overcome, and therefore the intercourse allowed; while in the woman who prostitutes herself, the husband is not condemned in casting her out? Because here there is hope that the lost member may be saved through the marriage; but in the other case the marriage has already been dissolved; and there again both are corrupted; but here the fault is in one only of the two. I mean something like this: she that has been guilty of fornication is utterly abominable: if then “he that is joined to an harlot is one body,” he also becomes abominable by having connection with an harlot; wherefore all the purity flits away. But in the case before us it is not so. But how? The idolater is unclean but the woman is not unclean. For if indeed she were a partner with him in that wherein he is unclean, I mean his impiety, she herself would also become unclean. But now the idolater is unclean in one way, and the wife holds communion with him in another wherein he is not unclean. For marriage and mixture of bodies is that wherein the communion consists.

Again, there is a hope that this man may be reclaimed by his wife for she is made completely his own: but for the other it is not very easy. For how will she who dishonored him in former times and became another’s and destroyed the rights of marriage, have power to reclaim him whom she had wronged; him, moreover, who still remains to her as an alien?

Again in that case, after the fornication the husband is not a husband: but here, although the wife be an idolatress, the husband’s rights are not destroyed.

However, he doth not simply recommend cohabitation with the unbeliever, but with the qualification that he wills it. Wherefore he said, “And he himself be content to dwell with her.” For, tell me, what harm is there when the duties of piety remain unimpaired and there are good hopes about the unbeliever, that those already joined should so abide and not bring in occasions of unnecessary warfare? For the question now is not about those who have never yet come together, but about those who are already joined. He did not say, If any one wish to take an unbelieving wife, but, “If any one hath an unbelieving wife.” Which means, If any after marrying or being married have received the word of godliness, and then the other party which had continued in unbelief still yearn for them to dwell together, let not the marriage be broken off. “For,” saith he, “the unbelieving husband is sanctified in the wife.” So great is the superabundance of thy purity.

What then, is the Greek holy? Certainly not: for he said not, He is holy; but, “He is sanctified in his wife.” And this he said, not to signify that he is holy, but to deliver the woman as completely as possible from her fear and lead the man to desire the truth. For the uncleanness is not in the bodies wherein there is communion, but in the mind and the thoughts. And here follows the proof; namely, that if thou continuing unclean have offspring, the child, not being of thee alone, is of course unclean or half clean. But now it is not unclean. To which effect he adds, “else were your children unclean; but now are they holy;” that is, not unclean. But the Apostle calls them, “holy,” by the intensity of the expression again casting out the dread arising from that sort of suspicion.

Homily XIX on Corinthians

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Galatians 3 vs Romans 4

December 17, 2017 1 comment
Galatians 3
Romans 4
6 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?
3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.”
7 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham.
16 That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all 17 as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”
8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.”
18 In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.”
9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
11 He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well,
16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ.
13 For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world…
17 the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void.
14 For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void.
18 For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.
13…did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith.
29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.
13 For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world… 16 to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all
Categories: Specific Passages

Jesus on “All Shall Know Me” (John 6:35; Is 54:13)

August 8, 2017 1 comment

John 6:35 And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. 40 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

41 The Jews then complained about Him, because He said, “I am the bread which came down from heaven.” 42 And they said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How is it then that He says, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”

43 Jesus therefore answered and said to them, “Do not murmur among yourselves. 44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.

Note Jesus’ emphasis on “all.” All that are elected will come to Christ and all of them shall be raised on the last day. To prove this he quotes Isaiah 54:13 “And they shall all be taught by God.” He says this prophecy refers to election, the effectual call, and regeneration – and thus also perseverance. Calvin notes “As to the word all, it must be limited to the elect… he fastens on the general phrase, all; because he argues from it, that all who are taught by God are effectually drawn, so as to come… Hence it follows, that there is not one of all the elect of God who shall not be a partaker of faith in Christ.”

Isaiah 53 describes the suffering messiah. 54 describes the covenant of peace he brings.

9 “For this is like the waters of Noah to Me;
For as I have sworn
That the waters of Noah would no longer cover the earth,
So have I sworn
That I would not be angry with you, nor rebuke you.
10 For the mountains shall depart
And the hills be removed,
But My kindness shall not depart from you,
Nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,”
Says the Lord, who has mercy on you.
11 “O you afflicted one,
Tossed with tempest, and not comforted,
Behold, I will lay your stones with colorful gems,
And lay your foundations with sapphires.
12 I will make your pinnacles of rubies,
Your gates of crystal,
And all your walls of precious stones.
13 All your children shall be taught by the Lord,
And great shall be the peace of your children.

What is the cross reference for v13? Jeremiah’s teaching on the New Covenant (31:33-34; cf Hebrews 8:10-11). “No longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,‘” for they shall all know me,” from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. Jeremiah and Isaiah were prophesying about the same thing. On 6:45 Calvin says “this teaching of God is the inward illumination of the heart.”

Therefore, according to Jesus, the New Covenant of Peace is made with the elect, chosen and called by the Father and given to Christ as mediator of the New Covenant to intercede, preserve, and raise on the last day. “They shall all know me” refers to the elect and it is fulfilled in the present.

Is 54:13. Quoted by the Saviour (Joh 6:45), to prove that in order to come to Him, men must be “drawn” by the Father. So Jer 31:34; Mic 4:2; 1Co 2:10; Heb 8:10; 10:16; 1Jo 2:20. Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

Verse 13. – All thy children shall be taught of the Lord (comp. Isaiah 44:3; Jeremiah 31:33, 34; Ezekiel 11:19; Joel 2:28; Acts 2:17, 18, etc.). Christians are all of them “taught of God” (John 6:45 1 Thessalonians 4:9). The “anointing,” which they have from the Holy Ghost, “teaches them, and is truth, and is no lie” (1 John 2:27), and causes them to “know all things” (1 John 2:20). Pulpit Commentary

Owen on Hebrews 8:11 explains

The knowledge of the LORD may be here taken, not objectively and doctrinally, but subjectively, for the renovation of the mind in the saving knowledge of God…

The instructive ministry of the old testament, as it was such only, and with respect unto the carnal rites thereof, was a ministry of the letter, and not of the Spirit, which did not really effect in the hearts of men the things which it taught. —The spiritual benefit which was obtained under it proceeded from the promise, and not from the efficacy of the law, or the covenant made at Sinai. For as such, as it was legal and carnal, and had respect only unto outward things, it is here laid aside…

The proposition is universal, as to the modification of the subject, “all;”
but in the word aujtw~n, “of them,” it is restrained unto those alone with whom this covenant is made…

Obs. XXIV. Where there is not some degree of saving knowledge, there no interest in the new covenant can be pretended…

Obs. XXVII. Persons destitute of this saving knowledge are utter strangers unto the covenant of grace; for this is a principal promise and effect of it, wherever it doth take place.

Augustine likewise recognizes that it refers to the elect.

What then is the import of the “All, from the least unto the greatest of them,” but all that belong spiritually to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah,—that is, to the children of Isaac, to the seed of Abraham? For such is the promise, wherein it was said to him, “In Isaac shall thy seed be called; for they which are the children of the flesh are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed…” (Rom 9:7-12) This is the house of Israel, or rather the house of Judah, on account of Christ, who came of the tribe of Judah. This is the house of the children of promise,—not by reason of their own merits, but of the kindness of God. For God promises what He Himself performs: He does not Himself promise, and another perform; which would no longer be promising, but prophesying. Hence it is “not of works, but of Him that calleth,” (Rom 9:11) lest the result should be their own, not God’s; lest the reward should be ascribed not to His grace, but to their due; and so grace should be no longer grace which was so earnestly defended and maintained by him who, though the least of the apostles, laboured more abundantly than all the rest,—yet not himself, but the graceof God that was with him. (1 Cor 15:9-10)

“They shall all know me,” (Jer 31:34) He says,—“All,” the house of Israel and house of Judah. “All,” however, “are not Israel which are of Israel,” (Rom 9:6) but they only to whom it is said in “the psalm concerning the morning aid” (Ps 22) (that is, concerning the new refreshing light, meaning that of the new testament [covenant]), “All ye the seed of Jacob, glorify Him; and fear Him, all ye the seed of Israel.” (Ps 22:23) All the seed, without exception, even the entire seed of the promise and of the called, but only of those who are the called according to His purpose. (Rom 8:28) “For whom He did predestinate, them He also called; and whom He called, them He also justified; and whom He justified, them He also glorified.” (Rom 8:30) “Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed: not to that only which is of the law,”—that is, which comes from the Old Testament into the New,—“but to that also which is of faith,” which was indeed prior to the law, even “the faith of Abraham,”—meaning those who imitate the faith of Abraham,—“who is the father of us all; as it is written, I have made thee the father of many nations.” (Rom 4:16-17) Now all these predestinated, called, justified, glorified ones, shall know God by the grace of the new testament [covenant], from the least to the greatest of them.

Some Disagreement with Coxe on Galatians 3:17

May 25, 2017 7 comments

Coxe’s “A Discourse on the Covenants that God Made with Men Before the Law” is densely packed with a very helpful analysis of the biblical covenants. I highly recommend that everyone give it a read. I made an interactive outline to help get the most of it. Preparing that outline allowed me to more clearly understand Coxe’s view of the Abrahamic Covenant.

Upon first reading it years ago, I walked away thinking that Coxe believed God made two covenants with Abraham in the span of Gen 12-22. I disagreed and sided with A.W. Pink, who said “There were not two distinct and diverse covenants made with Abraham (as the older Baptists argued), the one having respect to spiritual blessings and the other relating to temporal benefits.” But others insisted I had misread Coxe. Coxe believed there was only one Abrahamic Covenant, but that God also revealed the separate Covenant of Grace (New Covenant) to Abraham throughout Gen 12-22 in the midst of the Abrahamic Covenant of Circumcision. This outlook fits with the promised/inaugurated concept of the New Covenant, which understands the New Covenant to have been revealed in numerous ways prior to its formal legal establishment in the death of Christ.

Upon reviewing Coxe again, it appears (in my opinion) that his view actually lies somewhere in between. First, Chapter 4 is titled “The Covenant of Grace Revealed to Abraham: God Specially Honors Abraham by this Covenant.” The [new] covenant of grace that was first revealed in Genesis 3:15 was “made with Abraham.” (71, see editorial note) Second, God made more than one covenant with Abraham. Coxe refers to “the covenants made with him” and “the covenants given to him.” (73) Third, “Abraham is to be considered in a double capacity: he is the father of all true believers and the father and root of the Israelite nation. God entered into covenant with him for both of these seeds.” (72) “The covenant of grace [w]as made with Abraham” for his spiritual offspring and “The covenant [of circumcision was] made with him for his natural offspring.” (73)

The covenant of circumcision

The covenant of circumcision promised Abraham numerous carnal offspring that would possess the land of Canaan. This covenant was revealed by degrees in several parts from Gen 12 to Gen 17. (83) The restipulation (required response on man’s part) of this covenant was circumcision, representing the obedience to the law required for one to have a covenant interest to inherit the covenant blessings (“Do this and live.”). (90-91) “[I]n the covenant of circumcision were contained the first rudiments of the one in the wilderness [Mosaic covenant], and the latter was the filling up and completing of the former.” (99) “This covenant of circumcision properly and immediately belongs to the natural seed of Abraham and is ordered as a foundation to that economy which they were to be brought under until the times of reformation.” (91)

The new covenant of grace

“[T]he covenant of circumcision… was not that covenant of grace which God made with Abraham for all his spiritual seed, which was earlier confirmed of God in Christ.” (116) The new covenant of grace is union with Christ and is made with all believers, including Old Testament saints. (133) “The grace and blessings of the new covenant were given and ensured to Abraham for himself… but it pleased God to transact it with him as he had not done with any before him.” (75, 72) “[T]his covenant was made with Abraham as a root of covenant blessings and the common parent to all true believers.” (78) The restipulation of this covenant is believing. (79) “There is but one covenant of spiritual and eternal blessing in Christ Jesus, founded in the eternal decree and counsel of God’s love and grace, which is now revealed to Abraham.” (79) “This covenant of grace… by which Abraham was made the father of the faithful… was confirmed and ratified by a sure promise to Abraham. This was a considerable time (about twenty five years) before the covenant of circumcision was given to him.” (80)

Galatians 3:16-17

Galatians 3 is central to Coxe’s understanding of the covenant of grace revealed to Abraham. “[T]hat the gospel was preached to Abraham and the covenant of grace revealed to him, is asserted in such full terms in this context that no one can rationally doubt it. Furthermore, in verse 17 we have the time of God’s establishing this covenant with him exactly noted. The text says it was 430 years,” which Coxe calculates to refer to Genesis 12:2-3. (74) “[I]n the transaction of God with Abraham recorded in Genesis 12 he solemnly confirmed his covenant with him.” (74) “[T]he sum and substance of all spiritual and eternal blessings was included in the covenant and promise given to Abraham (Genesis 12) in these words: ‘I will bless you, and you will be a blessing.'” (75)

[T]his covenant was made with Abraham in and through Jesus Christ. It is not Abraham but Christ that is its first head… The apostle asserts this most clearly (Galatians 3:17) and argues it from the form of the promises made to Abraham (verse 16)… I conceive the apostle here has a direct and special view to that promise found in Genesis 22:18,* “In your seed will all the families of the earth be blessed.” This runs directly parallel both in terms and sense with the promise given to Abraham in Genesis 12:3 which was pleaded by him earlier (Galatians 3:18 [I believe this reference is to Gal 3:8]). *This promise is particularly cited by Peter as a summary of the covenant of grace made with Abraham, Acts 3:25.” (76)

Thus Coxe divides out the promises in Genesis 12:2-3. Some of the promises are promises of the covenant of grace, some are promises of the covenant of circumcision. (83) He maintains this division in all its elaborations and repititions through to Genesis 22.

“[B]y way of preface to it [the covenant of circumcision] in Genesis 17:4, 5, you have a recapitulation of former transactions and a renewed confirmation of one great promise of the covenant of grace given earlier to Abraham, that is, ‘A father of many nations have I made you.’ This is principally to be understood of his believing seed collected indifferently out of all nations as appears from Romans 4:17. That Abraham was constituted the father of the faithful before this covenant of circumcision was made and did not obtain the grant of this privilege by it, has been proven before from Moses’ history.” (91)

(Interesting note: Gill seems to largely follow Coxe in this. See his comments on Gal. 3:16 and 3:17)

Confirmed, Ratified, and Established

Coxe does say that the covenant of grace was “revealed” to Abraham in Genesis 12. But, as we saw above, based on his reading of Galatians 3:15-17, Coxe also says that the covenant of grace was “confirmed,” “ratified,” and “established” in Genesis 12. These are all synonyms for the official, legal institution of a covenant, and that is precisely how Paul uses the term “confirmed” in Galatians 3:15-17. “Though it is only a man’s covenant, yet if it is confirmed, no one annuls or adds to it… [T]he law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before.” How is this consistent with the idea that the new covenant of grace was not established until the death of Christ? Note Owen’s commentary on Hebrews 8:6.

This is the meaning of the word nenomoqe>thtai: “established,” say we; but it is, “reduced into a fixed state of a law or ordinance.” All the obedience required in it, all the worship appointed by it, all the privileges exhibited in it, and the grace administered with them, are all given for a statute, law, and ordinance unto the church. That which before lay hid in promises, in many things obscure, the principal mysteries of it being a secret hid in God himself, was now brought to light; and that covenant which had invisibly, in the way of a promise, put forth its efficacy under types and shadows, was now solemnly sealed, ratified, and confirmed, in the death and resurrection of Christ. It had before the confirmation of a promise, which is an oath; it had now the confirmation of a covenant, which is blood. That which before had no visible, outward worship, proper and peculiar unto it, is now made the only rule and instrument of worship unto the whole church, nothing being to be admitted therein but what belongs unto it, and is appointed by it. This the apostle intends by nenomoqe>thtai, the “legal establishment” of the new covenant, with all the ordinances of its worship. Hereon the other covenant was disannulled and removed; and not only the covenant itself, but all that system of sacred worship whereby it was administered. This was not done by the making of the covenant at first; yea, all this was superinduced into the covenant as given out in a promise, and was consistent therewith. When the new covenant was given out only in the way of a promise, it did not introduce a worship and privileges expressive of it. Wherefore it was consistent with a form of worship, rites and ceremonies, and those composed into a yoke of bondage which belonged not unto it. And as these, being added after its giving, did not overthrow its nature as a promise, so they were inconsistent with it when it was completed as a covenant; for then all the worship of the church was to proceed from it, and to be conformed unto it. Then it was established. Hence it follows, in answer unto the second difficulty, that as a promise, it was opposed unto the covenant of works; as a covenant, it was opposed unto that of Sinai. This legalizing or authoritative establishment of the new covenant, and the worship thereunto belonging, did effect this alteration…

When we speak of the “new covenant,” we do not intend the covenant of grace absolutely, as though that were not before in being and efficacy, before the introduction of that which is promised in this place. For it was always the same, as to the substance of it, from the beginning. It passed through the whole dispensation of times before the law, and under the law, of the same nature and efficacy, unalterable, “everlasting, ordered in all things, and sure.” All who contend about these things, the Socinians only excepted, do grant that the covenant of grace, considered absolutely, — that is, the promise of grace in and by Jesus Christ, —was the only way and means of salvation unto the church, from the first entrance of sin. But for two reasons it is not expressly called a covenant, without respect unto any other things, nor was it so under the old testament. When God renewed the promise of it unto Abraham, he is said to make a covenant with him; and he did so, but it was with respect unto other things, especially the proceeding of the promised Seed from his loins. But absolutely under the old testament it consisted only in a promise; and as such only is proposed in the Scripture, Acts 2:39; Hebrews 6:14-16. The apostle indeed says, that the covenant was confirmed of God in Christ, before the giving of the law, Galatians 3:17. And so it was, not absolutely in itself, but in the promise and benefits of it. The nomoqesi>a, or full legal establishment of it, whence it became formally a covenant unto the whole church, was future only, and a promise under the old testament; for it wanted two things thereunto: —

(1.) It wanted its solemn confirmation and establishment, by the blood of the only sacrifice which belonged unto it. Before this was done in the death of Christ, it had not the formal nature of a covenant or a testament, as our apostle proves, Hebrews 9:15-23. For neither, as he shows in that place, would the law given at Sinai have been a covenant, had it not been confirmed with the blood of sacrifices. Wherefore the promise was not before a formal and solemn covenant.

(2.) This was wanting, that it was not the spring, rule, and measure of all the worship of the church. This doth belong unto every covenant, properly so called, that God makes with the church, that it be the entire rule of all the worship that God requires of it; which is that which they are to restipulate in their entrance into covenant with God. But so the covenant of grace was not under the old testament; for God did require of the church many duties of worship that did not belong thereunto. But now, under the new testament, this covenant, with its own seals and appointments, is the only rule and measure of all acceptable worship. Wherefore the new covenant promised in the Scripture, and here opposed unto the old, is not the promise of grace, mercy, life, and salvation by Christ, absolutely considered, but as it had the formal nature of a covenant given unto it, in its establishment by the death of Christ, the procuring cause of all its benefits, and the declaring of it to be the only rule of worship and obedience unto the church. So that although by “the covenant of grace,” we ofttimes understand no more but the way of life, grace, mercy, and salvation by Christ; yet by “the new covenant,” we intend its actual establishment in the death of Christ, with that blessed way of worship which by it is settled in the church.

3. Whilst the church enjoyed all the spiritual benefits of the promise, wherein the substance of the covenant of grace was contained, before it was confirmed and made the sole rule of worship unto the church, it was not inconsistent with the holiness and wisdom of God to bring it under any other covenant, or prescribe unto it what forms of worship he pleased.

p. 78 PDF

If the new covenant of grace was not “legally established,” “ratified,” and “solemnly confirmed” until the death of Christ, then it was not “confirmed,” “ratified,” and “established” in Genesis 12. If that is the case, then what are we to make of Galatians 3:17? Note that Owen wrestles with it as well. His comment is sparse, but he appears to argue that the “promise and benefits” of the new covenant of grace were “confirmed of God in Christ” but the new covenant of grace itself, as a covenant, was not legally established and confirmed until the cross. In my opinion, this distinction does not hold, especially since Paul specifically argues on the basis of a covenant that has been legally established and confirmed.

The Covenant Concerning Christ

Coxe interprets Galatians 3:17 (“the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ”) as referring to the new covenant of grace. “[T]his covenant was made with Abraham in and through Jesus Christ. It is not Abraham but Christ that is its first head… The apostle asserts this most clearly (Galatians 3:17) and argues it from the form of the promises made to Abraham (verse 16).” Commenting on Hebrews 4:2, Owen argued

That the promise made unto Abraham did contain the substance of the gospel. It had in it the covenant of God in Christ, and was the confirmation of it, as our apostle disputes expressly, Galatians 3:16-17. He says that the promise unto Abraham and his seed did principally intend Christ, the promised seed, and that therein the covenant was confirmed of God in Christ. And thence it was attended with blessedness and justification in the pardon of sin, Romans 4; Galatians 3:14-15. So that it had in it the substance of the gospel, as hath been proved elsewhere.

Both Coxe and Owen are following Westminster’s interpretation of the verses.

Q. 31. With whom was the covenant of grace made?

A. The covenant of grace was made with Christ as the second Adam, and in him with all the elect as his seed.[114]

[114] Galatians 3:16. Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. Rom 5:15-21; Is. 53:10-11

It is a principle argument from Westminster that the Abrahamic Covenant is the Covenant of Grace. Coxe agrees with their interpretation of the verse, but argues it does not have reference to the Abrahamic Covenant of Circumcision, but to the New Covenant. I think Coxe was misled. I do not think that is best way to understand the verse. Consider these comments:

[in Christ] … should be rendered, “unto (i.e. with a view to) Christ”.
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

In Christ – With respect to the Messiah; a covenant relating to him, and which promised that he should descend from Abraham. The word “in,” in the phrase “in Christ,” does not quite express the meaning of the Greek εἰς Χριστὸν eis Christon. That means rather “unto Christ;” or unto the Messiah; that is, the covenant had respect to him. This is a common signification of the preposition εἰς his
Barnes’ Notes on the Bible

 

And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God {m} in Christ

(m) Which pertained to Christ.
Geneva Study Bible

 

The only difficulty lies in the words “in Christ.” Inasmuch as “the covenant” here mentioned was confirmed only four hundred and thirty years before the law (at Sinai), the reference cannot be to the everlasting covenant—which was “confirmed” by God in Christ ere the world began (Titus 1:2, etc.). Hence we are obliged to adopt the rendering given by spiritual and able scholars: “the covenant that was confirmed before of God concerning Christ”—just as eis Christon is translated “concerning Christ” in Ephesians 5:32 and eis auton is rendered “concerning him” in Acts 2:25. Here, then, is a further word from God that His covenant with Abraham concerned Christ
Pink

There was a covenant that God made with Abraham about Christ. In his comments on 3:17, Chrysostom helpfully states what should be obvious, but is sometimes overlooked.

Thus God made a covenant with Abraham, promising that in his seed the blessing should be bestowed on the heathen; and this blessing the Law cannot turn aside… It was promised Abraham that by his seed the heathen should be blessed; and his seed according to the flesh is Christ.

This actually fits very well with what Owen says about the Abrahamic Covenant.

When God renewed the promise of it [the covenant of grace] unto Abraham, he is said to make a covenant with him; and he did so, but it was with respect unto other things, especially the proceeding of the promised Seed from his loins.

Scottish Presbyterian turned baptist James Haldane explains

It is indeed said, that “the scripture foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith preached before the gospel to Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed,” Gal. iii. 8. But this was merely a declaration of all nations being blessed in Jesus, who was Abraham’s seed. The covenant is said to have been confirmed of God in (rather concerning, eis Christon*) Christ; for there is no doubt that Christ, springing from the loins of Abraham, was the great promise made to him. Hence, it is opposed to the law, and called the promise, Gal. iii. 18… This was a promise that the Savior, revealed immediately after the fall, Gen. iii. 15. should spring from him. To this promise the apostle alludes, when he says “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many, but as of one, and to thy seed, which is Christ,” Gal. iii. 16.

To call this the covenant of grace, is only calculated to mislead; for surely it was peculiar to Abraham that Christ should spring from him… [A]lthough an oath was made to Abraham, securing the blessing to all families of the earth through him, this does not prove that the covenant made with him was the new covenant

*See Whitby, Macknight, &c. The covenant of God concerning Christ was the promise, that in Abraham all families of the earth should be blessed, Gen. xii. 3. This was afterwards confirmed by an oath, Heb vi. 17.

Thus 3:17 is not referring to the New Covenant of Grace. It is referring to the Abrahamic Covenant of Circumcision wherein God promised that Abraham would be the father of the Messiah, who would bless all nations. (For more on this see, my post on Galatians 3:16 and my post on 3:18). This covenant was “confirmed,” “ratified,” and “established” by God 430 years before the Mosaic Covenant (Gill argues this refers back to Gen 15, not Gen 12, which does make more sense). The Abrahamic Covenant revealed the Covenant of Grace insofar as it repeated the Genesis 3:15 promise that there would be a seed of the woman who would bless all nations. But, as Owen explained, it was uniquely an Abrahamic promise, and thus particularly the Abrahamic Covenant, that Abraham would be the father of this seed.

When we look at Abraham’s personal salvation, we see that it was the same as ours. He heard the gospel (that a Messiah would come, in fulfillment of Gen 3:15 to bless all nations) and believed that gospel, and was thus counted righteous. Thus Abraham looked forward and we look back. But that salvation was not strictly a promise of the Abrahamic Covenant. The Abrahamic Covenant did not promise “I will put a new heart within you and remember your sins no more.” The Abrahamic Covenant promised “you will be the father of the Messiah” who will bless all nations by establishing the New Covenant, by which “I will put a new heart within you and remember your sins no more.” Thus Abraham was saved just like us, but just like us, it was through the New Covenant (which is union with Christ).

Two Abrahamic Promises

As I explained in my post on Galatians 3:16, Paul is making an argument about two different promises given in the Abrahamic Covenant of Circumcision. I think that Augustine captured this well.

Now it is to be observed that two things are promised to Abraham, the one, that his seed should possess the land of Canaan, which is intimated when it is said, “Go into a land that I will show thee, and I will make of thee a great nation;” but the other far more excellent, not about the carnal but the spiritual seed, through which he is the father, not of the one Israelite nation, but of all nations who follow the footprints of his faith, which was first promised in these words, “And in thee shall all tribes of the earth be blessed.”… “And the Lord appeared unto Abram, and said unto him, Unto thy seed will I give this land.” (Gen 12:7) Nothing is promised here about that seed in which he is made the father of all nations, but only about that by which he is the father of the one Israelite nation; for by this seed that land was possessed… After these leaders there were judges, when the people were settled in the land of promise, so that, in the meantime, the first promise made to Abraham began to be fulfilled about the one nation, that is, the Hebrew, and about the land of Canaan; but not as yet the promise about all nations, and the whole wide world, for that was to be fulfilled, not by the observances of the old law, but by the advent of Christ in the flesh, and by the faith of the gospel.

When the second promise is fulfilled in Christ, it richochets back through the first promise, showing how the carnal offspring (Israel) as numerous as the stars and their inheritance of the land of Canaan were types of those redeemed in Christ (true Israel) and given an inheritance in the new heavens and earth. It does not mean God did not make any promises to Abraham’s carnal offspring about Canaan. It simply means that the first promise is eclipsed by the fulfillment of the second promise. (See They Are Not All Israel Who Are of Israel).

Conclusion

Coxe is correct when he says “The grace and blessings of the new covenant were given and ensured to Abraham for himself,” but Coxe is incorrect to say that “You will be the father of the Messiah” is also a New Covenant promise. It is a promise of the Covenant of Circumcision. I see this as an important, but minor disagreement with Coxe, and one that I think actually further strengthens the rest of his observations and arguments.

 

1 Cor. 10:1-5 – Paedobaptist False Inferences

April 23, 2017 3 comments

The previous post provided an exposition of 1 Corinthians 10:1-5. Here we will address various false inferences that paedobaptists make from the passage. The basic argument is expressed succinctly by Berkhof.

E. The Old and New Testament Sacraments Compared.
  1. Their Essential Unity… [T]here is no essential difference between the sacraments of the Old, and those of the New Testament. This is proved by the following considerations: (a) in 1 Cor. 10:1-4 Paul ascribes to the Old Testament Church that which is essential in the New Testament Sacraments.

This idea found expression in the Westminster Confession.

27.5. The sacraments of the Old Testament in regard to the spiritual things thereby signified and exhibited, were, for substance, the same with those of the new.*

*1 Cor. 10:1-4

It is also found as a reference for 7.5 (“which were, for that time, sufficient and efficacious, through the operation of the Spirit, to instruct and build up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah”) and WLC 174 & 175 (instructions about the Lord’s Supper).

The OPC also added the passage as a reference text for WCF 7.6 (“There are not therefore two covenants of grace, differing in substance, but one and the same, under various dispensations.”); 8.6; 20.1 (“All which were common also to believers under the law”); 29.7; WLC 61, (“Q. 61. Are all they saved who hear the gospel, and live in the church? A. All that hear the gospel, and live in the visible church, are not saved; but they only who are true members of the church invisible”).

 

Calvin’s Interpretation

 

The basic thrust is that Israel and the Church are one and the same. Their situation was identical to ours. In his commentary, Calvin argues

As, however, on examples being adduced, any point of difference destroys the force of the comparison, Paul premises, that there is no such dissimilarity between us and the Israelites, as to make our condition different from theirs… For they were favored with the same benefits as we at this day enjoy; there was a Church of God among them, as there is at this day among us; they had the same sacraments, to be tokens to them of the grace of God; but, on their abusing their privileges, they did not escape the judgment of God. Be afraid, therefore; for the same thing is impending over you…

[There is] both in the spiritual substance and in the visible sign a most striking correspondence between the baptism of the Jews, and ours…

“The manna,” says he, “and the water that flowed forth from the rock, served not merely for the food of the body, but also for the spiritual nourishment of souls.”…

Calvin’s argument (and those who followed him) hinges upon what Paul means by “the same.”

Farther, when he says that the fathers ate the same spiritual meat, he shows, first, what is the virtue and efficacy of the Sacraments, and, secondly, he declares, that the ancient Sacraments of the Law had the same virtue as ours have at this day. For, if the manna was spiritual food, it follows, that it is not bare emblems that are presented to us in the Sacraments, but that the thing represented is at the same time truly imparted, for God is not a deceiver to feed us with empty fancies.

As we saw in the exposition, that is not Paul’s point. Nowhere does Paul make a direct connection between the manna and the Lord’s Supper being “the same.” Paul’s point is that all the Israelites experienced the same benefits, yet only some lived. Calvin attempts to address this point.

Some explain it to mean, that they ate the same meat together among themselves, and do not wish us to understand that there is a comparison between us and them; but these do not consider Paul’s object. For what does he mean to say here, but that the ancient people of God were honored with the same benefits with us, and were partakers of the same sacraments, that we might not, from confiding in any peculiar privilege, imagine that we would be exempted from the punishment which they endured? At the same time, I should not be prepared to contest the point with any one; I merely state my own opinion.

Recall what Lange said

[W]e cannot admit the referring of the το αὐτό to the believers of the N. T, as if it meant, ‘the same with ourselves,’ nor allow the identification of these objects with the elements in the Lord’s Supper, as Calvin does. The expression ‘the same’ is rather to be joined with the word ‘all,’ which accordingly holds the emphatic place, and is five times repeated.

The text does not say the manna was the same as the Lord’s Supper. But if that is the case, then Calvin’s (and Westminster’s) entire premise fails. Paul’s point is not that the Israelites were “favored with the same benefits as we.” Perhaps that is why Calvin stubbornly refused to accept this interpretation (though he didn’t want to argue it). Calvin’s misreading of “the same” is directly tied to his misreading of “that rock was Christ.”

Some absurdly pervert these words of Paul, as if he had said, that Christ was the spiritual rock, and as if he were not speaking of that rock which was a visible sign, for we see that he is expressly treating of outward signs. The objection that they make — that the rock is spoken of as spiritual, is a frivolous one, inasmuch as that epithet is applied to it simply that we may know that it was a token of a spiritual mystery. In the mean time, there is no doubt, that he compares our sacraments with the ancient ones…

It is abundantly manifest, that something is here expressed that was peculiar to the fathers. Away, then, with that foolish fancy by which contentious men choose rather to show their impudence, than admit that they are sacramental forms of expression!

I have, however, already stated, that the reality of the things signified was exhibited in connection with the ancient sacraments. As, therefore, they were emblems of Christ, it follows, that Christ was connected with them, not locally, nor by a natural or substantial union, but sacramentally. On this principle the Apostle says, that the rock was Christ, for nothing is more common than metonymy in speaking of sacraments.

Because they ate the same spiritual food as the Lord’s Supper, Christ was the rock sacramentally. If Paul did not say they ate the same spiritual food as us, then Christ was not the rock sacramentally. Paul did not say they ate the same spiritual food as us, therefore Christ was not the rock sacramentally. Therefore Westminster’s appeal to this passage is mistaken. It does not prove that members of the Old Covenant participated in the same sacraments as the New Covenant. It does not prove that the Old Covenant is the New Covenant (contrary to Calvin’s argument in Institutes 2.10.5). It does not prove that Israel was the Church. Very simple.

Others give the word here its very common sense, pertaining to the spirit; as, in the preceding chapter, “carnal things” are things pertaining to the body, and “spiritual things” are things pertaining to the soul. The manna, according to this interpretation, was designed not only for the body, but for the soul. It was spiritual food; food intended for the spirit, because attended by the Holy Spirit and made the means of spiritual nourishment. This is a very commonly received interpretation. Calvin assumes it to be the only possible meaning of the passage, and founds on it an argument for his favorite doctrine, that the sacraments of the Old Testament had the same efficacy as those of the New. But this exalts the manna into a sacrament, which it was not. It was designed for ordinary food; as Nehemiah (9:15) says, “Thou gavest them bread from heaven for their hunger, and broughtest forth for them water out of the rock for their thirst.” And our Lord represents it in the same light, when he said, “Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness and are dead.” John 6:49. He contrasts himself, as the true bread from heaven which gives life to the soul, with the manna which had no spiritual efficacy.
Hodge

To understand what the passage does mean, make sure to read the previous post.

 

Inconsistencies

Let’s take a look at the inconsistencies involved in applying Calvin’s mistaken interpretation.

Paedocommunion

 

Modern reformed denominations have been arguing over the practice of paedocommunion. One of the arguments brought forward by proponents of the practice is 1 Corinthians 10:1-5. They point out that all the Israelites, children and adults, partook of the manna and water sacrament. Since it was the same sacrament as the Lord’s Supper, why are children now excluded? Matthew W. Mason argues

[F]or our purposes, it is important to note who was baptised and ate spiritual food and drank spiritual drink. Five times, Paul emphasises that it was all the Israelites. Although Daunton-Fear rightly observes that Paul’s primary intention at this point is not to discuss whether or not children are included in the Supper, the repeated ‘all’ does, by implication, including the infants and children of Israel. They too passed through the sea and were baptised into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. As we noted above, manna was to be gathered according to the number of mouths to be fed, including children. It was the only food available, just as the only drink available was water from the Rock, which was Christ. Thus, it seems fair to conclude that the children of Israel also fed spiritually on the manna, and drank spiritually of Christ. Paul certianly makes no move to exclude them at this point, and this in a letter where he stresses that the children of believers are holy (7:14). Moreover, we should note the contrast in verse 5, where Paul says that ‘with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.’ Who was excepted from God’s wrath? Joshua, Caleb, and anyone under the age of 20 at the time of the rebellion. The children of Israel are not entirely absent from these verses. Therefore, given the parallel between the manna and Rock and the Lord’s Supper, it seems fair to infer that children can still eat and drink spiritually of Christ, when they receive bread and wine…

The Old Testament evidence thus points strongly to the fact that covenant children had access to all of the Old Covenant meals to which their parents had access, including the Passover meal, the peace offering, and the wilderness manna. These meals are all typologically related to the Lord’s Supper, such that, under the New Covenant, the Supper fulfills and replaces them. Therefore, given that the covenant status of children is the same under both Old Covenant and New Covenant, the evidence that covenant children should have access to the Lord’s Supper is overhwelming.

Covenant Children and Covenant Meals: Biblical Evidence for Infant Communion, 134, 136

What is the response?

Since such eating [the manna] was not sacramental and since the purpose of the passage is to teach the need for persevering in faith and obedience toward Christ, we reject this…

Brian Schwertley, Paedocommunion: A Biblical Examination fn. 12

The response is to reject Calvin and Westminster’s interpretation of the passage. The water and manna were not sacramental and that was not Paul’s point. Paedocommunion proponent Mark Horne summarizes a response from an appendix on manna in Rev. Richard Bacon’s “What Mean Ye by This Service.”

Rev. Bacon makes it quite clear he believes not only that manna was not a sacrament, but that paedocommunionists are desperately grasping at straws to claim that manna was a sacrament. He says, “the paedocommunionist has an uphill battle to prove that eating manna and drinking water (not wine) points to the New Testament sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. . .” Indeed, he asks rhetorically of manna and water from the Rock: “Why then do paedocommunionists want to bring it into the debate?” Furthermore, he claims the argument from manna is evidence of paedocommunionist desperation: “The fact that the argument has shifted from a sacramental meal to a non-sacramental meal gives the impression that it is the practice of the paedocommunion that is being defended rather than a covenantal hermeneutic.”

That last claim is made near the end of the paper and I repeat it because I want readers to remember it as they read my response: “The fact that the argument has shifted from a sacramental meal to a non-sacramental meal gives the impression that it is the practice of the paedocommunion that is being defended rather than a covenantal hermeneutic.”

Rev. Bacon claims that 1 Corinthians 10.1-4 does not correspond to Baptism or the Lord’s Supper. He claims that the baptism in this passage and in 1 Corinthians 12.13 corresponds to Pentecost. Furthermore, he asserts that John 6.49, 54 prove that manna was not a sacrament. My plan is simply to show that Rev. Bacon is making up things that are at odds with the entire history of Reformed Theology, while pretending that paedocommunionists are the ones breaking with the tradition.

A Response to Rev. Bacon’s Argument that Manna was not a Sacrament

The PCA report on paedocommunion avoids explicitly rejecting the idea that the manna was a sacrament, but instead argues that there is a great difference between it and the Lord’s Supper, which is “a new sacrament.”

Since children ate of manna (there was nothing else to eat), and drank the water from the rock (there was nothing else to drink), and since their food and drink symbolized the life that Christ gives, they may now come to the table where the bread and the cup offer the same symbolism.

The symbolism of the manna and of the water from the rock cannot be denied or minimized. Indeed, Israel should have received both with thanksgiving and faith; they should have perceived the symbolism. There is a sense in which we in the New
Covenant should find the symbols of life in Christ in our daily bread. Yet the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is not simply an aspect of our family meals, or a simple community meal together. It is specifically instituted by Christ, and given a meaning by him that is repeated by the Apostle Paul in charging the Corinthians. Jesus did not simply give new meaning to the Passover. The new wine of the kingdom required fresh wineskins. Jesus instituted a new sacrament.

Thus the Israelites did not eat “the same spiritual food.” Recall Calvin “any point of difference destroys the force of the comparison… they had the same sacraments.”

The OPC study committee said “it became readily apparent that these questions would not produce a unanimous consensus” and that “a majority of the Committee favors the admission of weaned covenant children to the Lord’s table… [and has a] desire to develop a full length defense of paedocommunion.” A minority report authored by Leonard J. Coppes argued

The main thesis of the committee’s position is not established by Scripture. The New Testament (NT) does not equate the Passover and the LS, nor does it teach the Passover as determinative for the LS. The committee’s position argues that the terms of admission to the Passover decide the question of who should be admitted to the LS: since children were admitted to the Passover, they should be admitted to the LS… Therefore, since the nature of the Passover and LS are different, so are their designs—they do not admit the same candidates… The LS is distinct in nature [from all OT meals]… Conclusion: since what the LS depicts and seals (its nature) is distinct from all OT meals, how it is to be observed and who it is to admit (its design) is distinct from all the OT meals… The nature of the LS requires that which a child must, but cannot, provide: personal appropriation of Christ, personal examination (active sanctification), and personal understanding of the word of God.

What the Lord’s Supper signs and seals (its nature) is different from the water and manna in the wilderness. Thus it was not “the same spiritual food.”

Dr. Peter A. Lillback wrote a second minority report that tries to be more nuanced, but still winds up rejecting Calvin’s view.

II. Theological and Biblical Arguments Against Paedocommunion…

D. The Continuity and Discontinuity of the Covenant…

2. It is clear from Jer. 31 that the New Covenant has a far more inward and spiritual character than that of the Old…

3. It is argued that I Cor. 10:1ff. shows that Christ was eaten and drunk by the Old Testament fathers and their families, so why should now the covenantal children be excluded? The answer to this is found in a careful comparison of Jesus’ teaching upon the manna in John 6 and Paul’s discussion of it in I Cor. 10. Paul elevates the experience, while Christ diminishes it. Why so? This is because Paul’s point is to establish that the Corinthians were liable for judgment just as the Israelites were when there is spiritual rebellion. Both groups had a true fellowship in Christ. So if the first could be judged, so could the second. Jesus’ purpose is to show that the bare external eating of manna did not, however, produce life. The fathers ate and died. Jesus’ food of his body will give life. This life is for his elect and called people who eat with faith in his Word produced by the Holy Spirit (Jn. 6:37, 44, 63–65). Now it is nearly impossible to evade the sacramental implications of John 6. Should this be granted, it is clear from Jesus’ exposition of the fathers’ eating that those who eat the new manna are to be believers, even though many in the wilderness congregation ate as unbelievers.

In other words, the Israelites did not eat the “same spiritual food” because the Lord’s Supper is a “new manna” that is “more inward and spiritual” than the manna, and therefore only for believers. The question of believers vs unbelievers is an interesting argument because it is not directly about children. Rather, what he is arguing is that in order for someone to partake of the Lord’s Supper, a credible profession of saving faith is required (which not all children have done). The only way this is relevant to the question of children eating manna is if no profession of saving faith was required in order to eat the manna. He is trying to argue there is a difference in the administration of the sacrament in the New Covenant, thus he must mean it was administered to those who had made no profession of saving faith in the Old Covenant.

But why must those who partake of the Supper be “worthy” (WLC 168, 170)? Because they are partaking of the body of Christ, which is really, truly spiritually present in the Supper. Thus it may not be given to anyone without a credible profession of faith, less the body of Christ be profaned. But Calvin’s entire argument was that Christ’s body was just as spiritually present in the manna as it is in the Supper. Thus there is no reason why the qualifications for “worthy” participation would be different between the two. To partake of the manna in an unworthy manner would profane the body of Christ just as much as to partake of the Supper in an unworthy manner.

Fencing the Table

 

This leads us directly to the next inconsistency. Why didn’t Moses fence the table? WLC 173 says “Such as are found to be ignorant or scandalous, notwithstanding their profession of the faith, and desire to come to the Lord’s supper, may and ought to be kept from that sacrament, by the power which Christ hath left in his church, until they receive instruction, and manifest their reformation.”

This was a matter of great controversy in the 16th and 17th centuries. Those with a more “Erastian” view of church and state (the idea that the civil magistrate is the head of the visible church and may govern it) argued for open communion to all members of the commonwealth/church. Presbyterians tended to argue that ministers must “fence the table” by prohibiting unworthy participation in the Supper by those who were immoral.

In 1657, a member of English Parliament named William Morice wrote The Common Right to the Lord’s Supper Asserted in response to Humphrey Saunders’ An Anti-Diatribe or the Apologie of Some Ministers and godly people asserting the lawfulnesse of their administering the Lord’s Supper in a select company. Various citizens had been brought before the magistrate for refusal to pay their tithes. In their defense, they said they were withholding their tithe because their parish pastors were not being pastors to them. They were not allowing them to take the Lord’s Supper. Morice said that made perfect sense to him, so he told them he would remedy the situation. Hence the book.

Morice argues that closed or select communion was influenced by the Anabaptists (which he calls wolves in sheeps clothing). In one section, he argues from 1 Corinthians 10:1-5, quoting from all the Protestant arguments following Calvin that manna and the Lord’s Supper are the same sacrament, therefore we cannot place greater restrictions on partaking of the Lord’s Supper than Israelites did of the manna.

Lastly, I may not deny that (though an accidental abuse which may not prejudice things good in themselves) wicked men may be facil to flatter and indulge themselves with a good conceit of their condition, though sinful, or an hope of their impunity in their evils, because of their participation of the Sacraments. It seems by what St. Paul delivers (1 Cor. 10), the Corinthians are an exemplary instance hereof, being guilty of the like presumption and security, But what way of cure doth the Apostle use to prevent or remedy the malady? Truly not Empyrick-like, straight way to take the knife in hand and fall to cutting off, (for he doth not tell them that therefore all ought to be suspended beside manifest saints) but he proceeds dogmatically, and to expel and correct the roar of the Corinthians (which also lets out the vital blood and spirits of this Paradox of the Apologists) he better doth instruct and principle them, shewing that the Sacraments which were common to good and evil men, could give no privilege to sin, nor protection from punishment. For “Even as thou dost hate the body of Christ, so did they Manna, and after what manner thou drinkest his blood so did they water out of the rock,” saith Chrysostom (Chrysostom. Homie. 18. in 2 Cor. August. expos. in Evangel. Johan. tract, 26 c. 6. tom. 9. p. 74. Calvin Instit I.2.C10.Sect. 5. p. 148. Dutch Annot.) The Fathers did eat the same spiritual meat, and drink the same spiritual drink; the same “In signification of spiritual virtual not in the visible species,” saith Augustine “not in the symbols or figures, but in signification or the thing signified,” as Piscatory and the Dutch Annotations “by the same signed and tokens he made his grace well known amongst them,” the same with us, not only the same among themselves inter se, as the Papists would have it, for that would take off the energy of the Apostles argument, whose scope being “To shew, that as it profited not them to have obtained so great a gift, so neither would it those that they were partakers of baptism, and had received other spiritual mysteries, unless they shewed a life worthy of that grace,” in the words of S. Chrysostom, wherein not only all Protestants concur but even many Pontificians themselves, therefore “that the comparison might be apt, it behoved them to show there was not inequality between us and them, in those good things herein he forbad them falsely to glory, and therefore he makes us equal in Sacraments, and leaves us no prerogative above them,” saith Calvin “and therefore in that comparison the same thing signified is the ground of comparing – and there had been no consequence therein, if things unequal an unlike had been compared – for if the things had differed, the exception would have been ready at hand that the Israelites perished as not being partakers of those benefits whereof we have the Sacraments or signs” adds Chamier: and the drift of the Apostle here is to compare those Sacramental Types in the old Law with the two Sacraments in the new, and that in two respects:

First, for the same nature or substance of mysteries in both; and secondly for the same condition of the receivers, if either they abuse them, or walk unworthy of them, saith a late judicious Writer. They were therefore the same spiritual meat and drink, “in the thing not the manner thereof, their Sacraments prefigurative, ours rememorative, and ours having more abundant grace through the ampler revelation,” as Calvin “not in the visible species, but spiritual virtue – the same faith under divers signed,” as Augustine, and out of him Anselm, there being “a difference or disparity in the signes, an agreement in the thing signified,” as Paraus, theirs being antitypes of ours, signed of the same things… “in as much as they were Sacraments” adds Piscator, “and the manna an extraordinary signe of the flesh of Christ,” as the Dutch Annotations. So then however these were “extraordinary, transitory and temporary Sacraments,” yet being the same with ours (or else Christ is not ours, for that Rock was Christ, as the bread and win in the Lord’s Supper are called the body and blood of Christ, as the Dutch Annotations) the same with ours in use, end, and effect, and operating, saith Ames, “in the same kind, not same degree of efficacy,” and agreeing with ours “in all principal points which are of the essence of a Sacrament,” as Chamier; and therefore the Fathers receiving the Sacramental Communication of the body and blood of Christ indeed (as not only Fulk and Willet, but the whole Protestant Host of the living God do contend) yet many of them God was not well pleased with, some whereof were idolaters, fornicators, murmurers, did lust, did tempt Christ, yet the same spiritual meat and drink was received by all Sacramentally, though effectually only by believers, the spiritual thing by the good alone, the Elements which were spiritual in their signification, by evil men also. And thereupon likewise I hope it will seem evident to unprejudiced and unbiased men, that the Sacraments are not only communicable to such as have given positive signs and demonstrations of Holiness.

There are such answers given to the Argument drawn from this Scripture, as smack of some willingness to correct the Text, rather than their Models, and to set their spurs in the Apostles side, rather than to loose the reins in their hands,

Some tell us; First, “that those were extraordinary Sacraments”; but what then? “Extraordinary Sacraments have whatsoever is of the nature of the ordinary, except only the circumstance of order which is the same with that of time,” saith Chamier. Secondly, “But these had no special promise annexed”: But if so, then they had nothing beyond the corporal use, and the Apostle was mistaken when he calls them spiritual meat and drink, and saith the Rock was Christ, in signification; though yet being extraordinary Sacraments; Ames thinks that “Therefore it was not requisite they should have a spiritual promise distinct from the ordinary, but it was enough that they represented in a singular manner the benefits of those promises.” Thirdly, “that those might be common to all persons that were also common to beasts, which passed through the red Sea, drank of the waters of the rocks, and eat of the Manna.”

…Fourthly, “That upon the score of this Argument, both infants, and all flagitious persons, such as were these idolaters, fornicators, etc, may be also admitted to the Lord’s Supper”: But one knot is not untwisted by trying on another, incommodum non solvit argumentum, neither can they make their own way the more smooth and easy, only by casting galtrops in ours, which will as much also incumber their walk…

[Discussing church history and concludes there is nothing wrong with paedocommunion]

But waving all this, and granting the postulatum; that infants are not to communicate the Eucharist, yet the argument collected from thence will lay no other rub in our way, then such as we may easily remove or stride over, for we do here from this place of 1 Cor. 10 only argue that Sacraments formally as such are not proper privileges of real saints or absolutely incommunicable to any but such as have given satisfaction of their holiness (which is their hypothesis, against which we are here disputing) and so much I think is fully and clearly evinced by this instance;

(page 61ff)

Morice says the most common reply to his argument is that it would necessarily include infants as well. To which Morice says, “Yeah, so what?”

Rutherford responded to the same argument from Erastus.

Erastus his Arg. 13. 1 Cor. 10. God spared not idolaters and murmurers; yet they eat, we, and they of the same spirituall meat, and drinke the same spirituall drinke, and so had the same Sacraments (otherwise the Argument of the Apostle were nothing; if ours and their Sacraments were not all one) if then, those that were idolators, fornicators, were admitted to their Sacraments; then also to ours under the New Testament.

Ans. Beza answereth well to that. Manna and the water ouf of the Rock, as they had a spirituall Relation to Christ, were holy things and types of Christ, just as our Sacraments are signes of Christ already come in the flesh, and so agreed in the kinde of holy signes with our Sacraments: yet Manna, and the water out of the Rock, were also ordained to be bodily food, for the famishing and thirsty people, good or bad, holy or unholy, these two, Manna and water out of the Rock were given by the Commandment of God and the Priests, to the people, both as Gods people in Covenant with God, and to them, as men starving in the wildernesse, and dying for thirst; for they had not plowing, earing, harvest, bread, vineyards, wine, fountains in the wildernesse, and therefore no marvell then such holy things being; also beside that they were holy things, such as were necessary to keep them from starving and bodily death, as the shewbread, which was also a type of the word of life revealed to the Ministers of God, was given to keep David and his men from starving: No marvell (I say) then these bodily helps (though in another higher signification they were Sacramentalls) were by Gods command bestowed on many wicked men, who often partake both of outward Ordinances and temporall deliverance from death and famishing, because they are mixt with the people of God. But Erastus, if he would prove any thing against us, should have proved that circumcision, the Passover, and other holy things of God, ordained for the visible Saints to shew forth our spirituall Communion with Christ, and which were never ordained for necessary helps to sustain the naturall life, were to be administred to those that were openly prophane and wicked; and therefore we deny this connexion: Manna signified the very same thing; to wit, Christ our food of life, which bread and wine signifies; Ergo, As Manna was given both as a holy signe to figure out Christ our life, and to feed the bodies of openly holy, or openly prophane, to sustain their bodily life, so also baptisme and the Lords Supper, which serve for no bodily use, should be administred to those that are openly prophane.

Erastus is put to a poor shift with this solid Answer of that Reverend, Learned, and holy Divine, Theod. Beza, he saith, “Vis dicam quod sentio? Tui ubique similises: The sea and the cloud, saith he, were not necessary to feed the body.”

…Erastus may know the dividing of the Sea, was necessary to preserve the life of the most wicked and unclean (God being pleased for his Churches cause, to bestow Temporall deliverances on wicked men, mingled with the godly) from being drowned with the Egyptians, and that God, who will have mercy, and not sacrifice, may well by a positive Law appoint that holy and unholy, clean and unclean, shall have the use of such holy things, as are not meerly holy, but mixt, being both means of Divine institution, and also necessary Subsidies for mans life, but it followeth not therefore holy things, that are purely holy, should be prostitute to holy and unholy, the clean and unclean.

The divine right of church-government and excommunication, p. 276

In other words, the nature of manna and the Lord’s Supper are different. They are not the same sacrament. The manna was a common holy meal – that is, it was a contradiction. The very idea of the Lord’s Supper is that not every supper is the Lord’s Supper. Recall Morice’s quote from Chamier “and therefore in that comparison the same thing signified is the ground of comparing – and there had been no consequence therein, if things unequal an unlike had been compared” and our original quote from Calvin “any point of difference destroys the force of the comparison… they had the same sacraments.” And again, if one must be worthy to participate in the Lord’s Supper because it is the body of Christ, then the same applies to the manna, regardless of whether or not it also served for physical sustenance.

 

Conclusion

 

It should be quite clear by now that half of Beza/Rutherford’s defense is true: the manna and water were provided by God for Israel’s physical sustenance. It was a common meal they ate three times a day. Crossing the Red Sea was a miraculous act of God “necessary to preserve the life of the most wicked and unclean.” The manna and water were miraculous provisions from God “for the famishing and thirsty people, good or bad, holy or unholy” for “men starving in the wildernesse, and dying for thirst.” Paul’s point is simply that Christ, the pre-existent second person of the Trinity, was the source of that provision – not that Christ crucified was spiritually present in the meal as a sacrament. God miraculously provided for them and bestowed his favor upon them, yet they still perished. Paul does not say the manna and water was a sacrament of Christ’s spiritual presence equivalent to the Lord’s Supper. (See the Exposition for more explanation)

 

See also: Calvin v 1689 Federalism on Old v New

1 Cor. 10:1-5 – An Exposition

April 23, 2017 2 comments

[Note there is a new category on the Welcome page called “Specific Passages” that lists all the posts addressing specific verses. Also, special thanks goes to Reformed Books Online for their helpful collection of commentaries.]

1 Corinthians 10:1-5 is often used by paedobaptists to support their sacramentology. This post will provide a positive explanation of the passage. A follow-up post will address false inferences made from the text by paedobaptists.

Context

 

The context begins in 1 Corinthians 8:1. Because we know the truth, we know that idols are nothing and therefore there is nothing wrong with eating food that has been sacrificed to idols. However, some weaker brothers might not understand that yet and they might think you are participating in idol worship if you eat that food. So rather than make them think sin is ok (cause them to stumble), you should refrain from eating it. This requires self-denial. Paul holds himself up as an example. He has a right to compensation for his labor among the Corinthians, but he has not made use of that right in order not to hinder the preaching of the gospel. In fact he has become all things to all people that he might by all means save some. He denies himself for the sake of the gospel, in order to partake of it himself. In doing so, he is diligent to run the race to obtain the prize, lest in preaching to others, he forgets the gospel himself and becomes disqualified.

Paul then uses the Israelites as an example (v6 literally “type”) as to why Christians should not rest content in having heard the gospel and professed faith (begun the race), but must run the race with persevering faith. If we do not deny ourselves we will be tempted to lust for evil things, which leads to destruction. One who thinks he cannot be tempted should “take heed lest he fall.” Therefore, although it may be lawful for you to eat meat that has been sacrificed to idols, you should not seek your own good but that of your neighbor, who will think it is ok to sin if he sees you eat the meat.

 

Our Types

 

So what precisely is the example of “Israel according to the flesh” (note literal translation of v18)? The whole nation together experienced the miraculous power of God’s redemption from slavery in Egypt and provision in the wilderness. They all shared the same experience, but only some of them persevered (“all run, but one obtains the prize”). Most of them lusted for evil things and committed idolatry and sexual immorality and were destroyed.

The analogy between this passage and the preceding is striking: this nation, that had come out of Egypt to get to Canaan, corresponds to the runner who, after starting in the race, misses the prize, for want of perseverance in self-sacrifice.
Godet

 

[T]he correction of those Corinthians who, in reliance on a spirit of confidence they had, rashly did whatever in their want of thoughtfulness they imagined themselves able to do without danger, especially in the matter of eating idol-meats along with idolaters; to which they were led, partly by familiar habit, partly by the pleasures of the feast itself.
Colet

 

The apostle saw that many in this church of Corinth were puffed up with their knowledge, and other gifts and great privileges with which God had blessed them; as also with the opinion of their being a gospel church, and some of the first-fruits of the Gentiles unto Christ, and might therefore think, that they needed not to be pressed to such degrees of strictness and watchfulness;
Poole

 

The Corinthians, by going to the utmost verge of their Christian liberty in eating things offered to idols, were in danger of being drawn back into actual idolatry.
Simeon

 

There is a grave danger lest the Corinthians, puffed up by their superior knowledge, consider themselves immune to contamination from idolatry.
Hughes

 

‘All our fathers left Egypt; Caleb and Joshua alone entered the promised land.’ All run, but one obtains the prize…The Israelites doubtless felt, as they stood on the other side of the Red Sea, that all danger was over, and that their entrance into the land of promise was secured. They had however a journey beset with dangers before them, and perished because they thought there was no need of exertion. So the Corinthians, when brought to the knowledge of the gospel, thought heaven secure. Paul reminds them that they had only entered on the way, and would certainly perish unless they exercised constant self-denial.
Hodge

 

All our fathers

 

Abraham had two offspring: spiritual and natural.  Note v18 “Observe Israel after the flesh” (NKJV). NASB footnote says “Lit Israel according to the flesh.” Compare that with Romans 1:3 “concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh” (NASB) and 9:3-5 “For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites… whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh” (NASB). In Romans 4:1, Paul speaks specifically to the Jews in his mixed audience, saying “What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found?” (NASB).

The Israelites in the wilderness were the fathers of the Jews according to the flesh. They were not the fathers of believing Gentiles.

The apostle says ἡμῶν, speaking, as in Romans 4:1, from his national consciousness, which was shared in by his Jewish readers, and well understood by his Gentile ones.
Meyer

Despite not clearly understanding Abraham’s two different offspring in this quote, Hodge still recognizes that in this passage, Paul is referring to the fathers of Israel according to the flesh.

Abraham is our father, though we are not his natural descendants. And the Israelites were the fathers of the Corinthian Christians, although most of them were Gentiles. Although this is true, it is probable that the apostle, although writing to a church, many, if not most, of whose members were of heathen origin, speaks as a Jew to Jews.

Baptized into Moses

 

Being “baptized into Moses” is different from being “baptized into Christ” (Romans 6:3; Gal 3:27).

1. Baptized into Moses (10:1, 2). The Old Testament clearly sees Israel’s passing through the sea and the accompanying cloud as divine activity (Exod 13:21; Ps. 105:39; Wis 10:17; 19:7), but the Old Testament itself does not even imply that Israel was baptized into Moses. Nor is there sufficient evidence to suggest this was a view current in Judaism of Paul’s day. Rather, Paul moves backward from his Christian experience and from it interprets the Exodus events, not vice versa… Accepting that Paul begins with Christian baptism and moves by analogy back to Moses best accounts for the phrase ‘into Moses,’ The expression was created to resemble the experience of Christians being baptized ‘into Christ’ (Rom 6:3; Gal 3:27).
Wendell Willis

 

As Christians are saved by being ‘baptized into Christ Jesus’ (Rom 6:3; cf. Gal 3:27), so Israel of old was related salvifically to Moses by the cloud and the sea; he brought them to deliverance and safety.
Fitzmeyer

 

[T]hat is, brought under obligation to Moses’s law and covenant, as we are by baptism under the Christian law and covenant. It was to them a typical baptism.
Matthew Henry

 

Moses was a type of Christ, Galatians 3:19.
Poole

 

Into Moses – into the covenant of which Moses was the mediator; and by this typical baptism they were brought under the obligation of acting according to the Mosaic precepts, as Christians receiving Christian baptism are said to be baptized Into Christ, and are thereby brought under obligation to keep the precepts of the Gospel.
Clarke

 

[B]aptized unto Moses–the servant of God and representative of the Old Testament covenant of the law: as Jesus, the Son of God, is of the Gospel covenant (John 1:17 , Hebrews 3:5 Hebrews 3:6).
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown

 

Of course, they were baptized into Moses, and not into the Trinity, but there must be some similarity in the two types of baptism… The similarity between Moses’ baptism and Christian baptism must be sought in their significance, or in a part of it. In both cases, the baptism is a visible sign that the baptized persons are the disciples of him into whose name they are baptized.
Gordon Clark

 

[I]n reference to Moses, so as by baptism to be made his disciples. See 1:13; Rom 6:3… The cloud and the sea did for them, in reference to Moses, what baptism does for us in reference to Christ. Their passage through the sea, and their guidance by the cloud, was their baptism. It made them the disciples of Moses; placed them under obligation to recognize his divine commission and to submit to his authority. This is the only point of analogy between the cases, and it is all the apostle’s argument requires… The display of God’s power in the cloud and in the sea, brought the people into the relation of disciples to Moses. It inaugurated the congregation, and, as it were, baptized them to him, bound them to serve and follow him.
Hodge

 

The words, ‘unto Moses,’ cannot mean sub auspiciis Mosis, but as always with the verb ‘baptize’ they denote the relation or fellowship into which they entered with Moses, who, as the servant of the Lord, was the mediator of the Divine manifestations. With this there is connected the obligation to follow him faithfully as the leader given unto them by the Lord, and legitimated by Him ( Exodus 14:31).
Lange

 

The phrase eis ton Moses [“into Moses”] may be patterned after the similar New Testament phrase eis ton Christon [“into Christ”], but it can never be taken in the same sense of “into Moses” or Christ. No baptism nor anything else could in any conceivable sense carry the Israelites “into” Moses. The idea expressed is one of union: “to,” “unto,” or “for Moses.” This symbolical baptism united the Israelites to Moses as God‘s representative to them, the Old Testament mediator, in whom was foreshadowed Christ, the New Testament eternal Mediator…. The deliverance from the Egyptian bondage through Moses by this symbolical baptism through the cloud and the sea likewise typifies our deliverance from the bondage of sin and of death through Christ by means of Christian baptism.
Lenski

 

This miraculous crossing separated them thenceforth from Egypt, the place of bondage and idolatry, exactly as the believer’s baptism separates him from his former life of condemnation and sin… This crossing was to them as baptism is to the believer, the threshold of salvation. This spiritual analogy is expressed by Paul in the words: and were all baptized into Moses. By following their God-given leader with confidence at that critical moment, they were closely united to, and, as it were, incorporated with Moses to become his people, in the same way as Christians in being baptized on the ground of faith in Christ become part of the same plant with Him (Rom. vi. 3-5); they are thenceforth His body.
Godet

 

They were baptised unto Moses by their acceptance of his leadership in the Exodus. By passing through the Red Sea at his command they definitely renounced Pharaoh and abandoned their old life, and as definitely pledged and committed themselves to throw in their lot with Moses. By passing the Egyptian frontier and following the guidance of the pillar of cloud they professed their willingness to exchange a life of bondage, with its security and occasional luxuries, for a life of freedom, with its hazards and hardships; and by that passage of the Red Sea they were as certainly sworn to support and obey Moses as ever was Roman soldier who took the oath to serve his emperor. When, at Brederode’s invitation, the patriots of Holland put on the beggar’s wallet and tasted wine from the beggar’s bowl, they were baptised unto William of Orange and their country’s cause. When the sailors on board the “Swan” weighed anchor and beat out of Plymouth, they were baptised unto Drake and pledged to follow him and fight for him to the death. Baptism means much; but if it means anything it means that we commit and pledge ourselves to the life we are called to by Him in whose name we are baptised. It draws a line across the life, and proclaims that to whomsoever in time past we have been bound, and for whatsoever we have lived, we now are pledged to this new Lord, and are to live in His service. Such a pledge was given by every Israelite who turned his back on Egypt and passed through that sea which was the defence of Israel and destruction to the enemy. The crossing was at once actual deliverance from the old life and irrevocable committal to the new. They died to Pharaoh, and were born again to Moses. They were baptised unto Moses.
Thomas Edwards

Spiritual food… spiritual drink… spiritual rock

 

These were supernaturally given.

[T]he same sense in which the special gifts of God are called spiritual gifts… Spiritual gifts and spiritual blessings are gifts and blessings of which the Spirit is the author. Every thing which God does in nature and in grace, he does by the Spirit… [The food and drink] was given by the Spirit. It was not natural food, but food miraculously provided… The water which they drank was spiritual, because derived from the Spirit, i.e. by the special intervention of God… The bread and water are called spiritual because supernatural.
Hodge

 

The “spiritual food” or manna ( Exodus 16:13 ff.) is distinguished from all earthly food, either because of some supernatural quality in it, or because of its supernatural origin. Here unquestionably we are to suppose the latter. The epithet ‘spiritual’ denotes that the food came from the Spirit—was produced by a Divine miraculous power (comp. Exodus 16:14). [“It is here employed in special reference to its descent from heaven and its designation in Psalm 78:24-25 as “the bread of heaven” and “angels’ food.” Stanley. “Thus, also, Isaac is called, Galatians 4:29, ‘he born after the Spirit,’ in opposition to Ishmael, who is spoken of as ‘born after the flesh.’” Alford.
Lange

The same

 

All the Israelites shared equally.

[“the same spiritual food… the same spiritual drink” means] they all had it. They all eat the same spiritual meat. They were all alike favored, and had therefore equal grounds of hope. Yet how few of them reached the promised rest!
Hodge

For they were drinking

 

Some translations have “for they drank” but “The imp. ἔπινον, were drinking, was intended to denote their continuous drinking all through the entire march in the wilderness.” (Lange; see NASB).

“For” means this is an explanatory note for why their drink was spiritual – because it came miraculously from the rock.

That spiritual rock that followed them

 

God’s miraculous provision of water for them throughout their 40 years in the desert, which had a long tradition of commentary in Jewish tradition.

Byron notes that, interestingly, Paul is not the only person to suggest that the Israelites were followed by a water source during their wilderness wanderings. A first-century C.E. source called Pseudo-Philo’s Biblical Antiquities makes a similar claim: “But as for his own people, he led them forth into the wilderness: Forty years did he rain bread from heaven for them, and he brought them quails from the sea, and a well of water following them” (10.7).

Pseudo-Philo claims that a well of water followed the Israelites through the wilderness, whereas in 1 Corinthians 10:4, Paul says that it was a rock that followed them. How did these two ancient interpreters come to their conclusions?
“What they seem to have concluded,” Byron explains, “is that since Moses named both the rock at Rephidim (Exodus 17:7) and the one at Kadesh (Numbers 20:13) ‘Meribah,’ the logical conclusion was that both were one and the same rock and that it, therefore, must have accompanied Israel on their journey.”

1 Corinthians 10:4 reflects a common ancient interpretation—that the Israelites were followed by a water source during their wilderness wanderings, which is demonstrated by Paul’s casual reference and supported by Pseudo-Philo.
John Byron

John Gill explains the more extensive Jewish tradition.

[N]ot that the rock itself removed out of its place, and went after them, but the waters out of the rock ran like rivers, and followed them in the wilderness wherever they went, for the space of eight and thirty years, or thereabout, and then were stopped, to make trial of their faith once more; this was at Kadesh when the rock was struck again, and gave forth its waters, which, as the continual raining of the manna, was a constant miracle wrought for them. And this sense of the apostle is entirely agreeable to the sentiments of the Jews, who say, that the Israelites had the well of water all the forty years. The Jerusalem Targum says of the

“well given at Mattanah, that it again became unto them violent overflowing brooks, and again ascended to the tops of the mountains, and descended with them into the ancient valleys.”

And to the same purpose the Targum of Jonathan ben Uzziel,

“that it again ascended with them to the highest mountains, and from the highest mountains it descended with them to the hills, and encompassed the whole camp of Israel, and gave drink to everyone at the gate of his own dwelling place; and from the high mountains it descended with them into the deep valleys.”

Yea, they speak of the rock in much the same language the apostle does, and seem to understand it of the rock itself, as if that really went along with the Israelites in the wilderness. Thus one of their writers on those words, “must we fetch you water out of this rock?” makes this remark:

“for they knew it not, (eloh Klhv ypl) , “for that rock went”, and remained among the rocks.”

And in another place it is said,

“that the rock became in the form of a beehive; (elsewhere it is said to be round as a sieve;) and rolled along, (Mhme tabw) , “and came with them”, in their journeys; and when the standard bearers encamped, and the tabernacle stood still, the rock came, and remained in the court of the tent of the congregation; and the princes came and stood upon the top of it, and said, ascend, O well, and it ascended.”

Now, though in this account there is a mixture of fable, yet there appears something of the old true tradition received in the Jewish church, which the apostle has here respect to.

 

All we know for certain is, that they had two miraculous supplies of water – one, near the outset of their wilderness journey, at Horeb (Ex. xvii. 4-6); the other, at Meribah Kadesh, near its close (Num. xx. 11); and since without a supply of water all through they could not have subsisted for a week, and yet no such fatal want overtook them, one may well say that they had an unfailing supply, or (in the apostle’s way of putting it), that ‘the Rock followed them.’
David Brown

 

At the divine command, Moses smote the rock Horeb, in the sight of the elders of Israel; when the waters gushed out, ‘they ran in the dry places like a river,’ (Ps. cv. 41; lxxviii. 15, 16). The supply thus obtained was very abundant. Not only did the whole multitude, with their cattle, satisfy their thirst on that occasion, but it would seem that the stream of water, thus opened, formed a channel for itself, and followed the people in the desert. Thus we do not read of any scarcity of water being felt for about thirty-eight years. This the Apostle expresses, by saying, ‘the rock followed them.’
William Lothian

 

Their second objection is more foolish and more childish — “How could a rock,” say they, “that stood firm in its place, follow the Israelites?” — as if it were not abundantly manifest, that by the word rock is meant the stream of water, which never ceased to accompany the people. For Paul extols the grace of God, on this account, that he commanded the water that was drawn out from the rock to flow forth wherever the people journeyed, as if the rock itself had followed them.
Calvin

 

That Rock was Christ

 

Given that this entire context is dealing with typology, it is likely that Paul means the rock was a type of Christ. Jesus says the manna was a type of Himself, the true bread that comes down from heaven (John 6:48-58). He also told the woman at the well that He was living water (John 4:10-14). As the rock was smitten, so was Christ, as he poured out blood and water (John 19:34).

[T]he water out of the rock, which was typical of the blood of Christ, which is drink indeed, and not figurative, as this was… but as those waters did not flow from thence without the rock being stricken by the rod of Moses, so the communication of the blessings of grace from Christ is through his being smitten by divine justice with the rod of the law; through his being, stricken for the transgressions of his people, and and being made sin, and a curse of the law in their room and stead. And as those waters continued through the wilderness as a constant supply for them, so the grace of Christ is always sufficient for his people; a continual supply is afforded them; goodness and mercy follow them all the days of their lives.
Gill

 

‘this rock was an emblem of Christ.’ He was smitten by the rod of Heaven, before the elders of Israel, and from his pierced body flow the refreshing streams of salvation. This is that river ‘which makes glad the city of God,’ and which follows the church through the barren wilderness of this world, till it shall arrive at the heavenly Canaan… ‘That rock was Christ,’ namely a type of Christ.
Lothian

 

The manna on which they fed was a type of Christ crucified… this rock was Christ, that is, in type and figure. He is the rock on which the Christian church is built; and of the streams that issue from him do all believers drink, and are refreshed.
Matthew Henry

 

This food, though carnal in its nature and use, was truly “spiritual;” inasmuch as it was,

1. A typical representation of Christ—

[Our Lord himself copiously declares this with respect to the manna: He draws a parallel between the bread which Moses gave to the Israelites, and himself as the true bread that was given them from heaven; and shews that, as the manna supported the natural life of that nation for a time, so he would give spiritual and eternal life to the whole believing world [Note: John 6:48-58.]. The same truth he also establishes, in reference to the water that proceeded from the rock. He told the Samaritan woman, that if she would have asked of him he would have given her living water [Note: John 4:10-14.]. And on another occasion he stood in the place of public concourse, and cried, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink [Note: John 7:37-38.];” thereby declaring himself to be the only “well of salvation,” the only rock from whence the living water could proceed. Indeed, the Apostle, in the very words of the text, puts this matter beyond a doubt; “they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them;” and “that Rock was Christ.”]
Simeon

Note Lightfoot on John 19:36 (“But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.”)

[Came there out blood and water.] It is commonly said that the two sacraments of the new testament, water and blood, flowed out of this wound: but I would rather say that the antitype of the old testament might be here seen…

II. It must not by any means let pass that in Shemoth Rabba;

“‘He smote the rock, and the waters gushed out,’ Psalm 78:20, but the word yod-zayin-vav-bet- yod signifies nothing else but blood; as it is said, ‘The woman that hath an issue of blood upon her,’ Leviticus 15:20. Moses therefore smote the rock twice, and first it gushed out blood, then water.”

“That rock was Christ,” 1 Corinthians 10:4. Compare these two together: Moses smote the rock, and blood and water, saith the Jew, flowed out thence: the soldier pierced our Saviour’s side with a spear, and water and blood, saith the evangelist, flowed thence.

However, if Paul is speaking typologically here, it seems odd that he would only call out the rock as a type, and not the manna, given that Christ identified the manna as a type of himself even more directly than the rock. Furthermore, the grammar Paul uses does not seem to specifically match his grammar elsewhere when speaking of types.

But what do these statements import? Certainly not… that the rock was a symbol of Christ, as of one out of whom streams of living water flow. In such a case it would have read, not “was Christ,” but, “is Christ.”
Lange

The Rock as Provider

 

An alternative explanation of Paul’s meaning is found in the Song of Moses, where the Lord is identified as Israel’s Rock who created them and provided for them.

For I proclaim the name of the Lord: Ascribe greatness to our God. He is the Rock, His work is perfect;… “He made him ride in the heights of the earth, That he might eat the produce of the fields; He made him draw honey from the rock, And oil from the flinty rock;… “But Jeshurun grew fat and kicked; You grew fat, you grew thick, You are obese! Then he forsook God who made him, And scornfully esteemed the Rock of his salvation… Of the Rock who begot you, you are unmindful, And have forgotten the God who fathered you… How could one chase a thousand, And two put ten thousand to flight, Unless their Rock had sold them, And the Lord had surrendered them? For their rock is not like our Rock. (Deut 32)

 

“The miracle of bringing water out of the rock, happened not once, but at least twice (Exodus 17:6; Numbers 20:11). It was therefore not one particular rock which was concerned in the miracle; but as often as a like necessity occurred, there on the spot was also the water-yielding rock again.” Now since every rock could render the same service by the same influence, so it appeared as if the rock accompanied the Israelites. The material rock, in this case, is non-essential; the water-giving power is the chief thing. This power was God’s, that same God who has manifested Himself to us in Jesus Christ. And He is called the Rock that followed them, because it was through His agency that the several rocks, one after the other, acquired the same water-yielding power.” Burger.
Lange

Thus Paul may be identifying Christ as the Lord who provided for Israel. This finds further support in 1 Cor. 10:9 where Paul says “We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents,” compared with Deuteronomy 6:16 “You shall not tempt the Lord your God as you tempted Him in Massah.” Note that Massah was where the rock was first struck for water.

[T]he people contended with Moses, and said, “Give us water, that we may drink.” So Moses said to them, “Why do you contend with me? Why do you tempt the Lord?”… And the Lord said to Moses… “Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock in Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.”

And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. So he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the contention of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?” (Exodus 17:2-7)

In verse 9, Paul does not specifically refer to this tempting at Massah, but to a later tempting of the Lord on the same grounds (lack of provision).

 

And the people spoke against God and against Moses: “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.” So the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died. (Numbers 25:5-6)

This reinforces the idea that Paul is identifying Christ as the one who provided physical sustenance for Israel throughout their wanderings, rather than narrowly identifying Christ with the specific rock at Horeb.

ver. 9 represents the Christ in the wilderness acting as the representative of Jehovah, from the midst of the cloud! Is it not perfectly simple to explain this figure of which Paul makes use, by the numerous saying of Deuteronomy, in which the Lord is called the Rock of Israel: ‘The Rock, His work is perfect’ (xxxii. 4); ‘Israel lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation’ (ver. 15); ‘Of the Rock that begat thee thou art unmindful’ (ver. 18), etc., and by all those similar ones of Isaiah: ‘Thou hast not been mindful of the Rock of thy strength’ (xvii. 10); ‘in the Lord is the Rock of ages’ (xxvi. 4)? Only, what is special in the passage of Paul is, that this title of Rock of Israel, during the wilderness history, is ascribed here, not to Jehovah, but to the Christ. The passage forms an analogy to the words John xii. 41, where the apostle applies to Jesus the vision in which Isaiah beholds Adonai, the Lord, in the temple of His glory (ch. vi.). Christ is represented in these passages, by Paul and John, as pre-existent before His coming to the earth, and presiding over the theocratic history. In ch. viii. ver. 6, Paul had designated Christ as the Being by whom God created all things. Here he represents Him as the Divine Being who accompanied God’s people in the cloud through the wilderness, and who gave them the deliverances which they needed.
Godet

This finds further support when we consider Christ as the Wisdom of God (Proverbs 8).

the role of the fiture of Wisdom in guiding, protecting, and nurturing Israel through the wilderness is very widely attested in literature in hellenistic Judaism over the century before Paul’s writing, in contemporary synagogue homilies, and in Paul’s near-contemporary Philo. Both Wisdom 2, the Book of Wisdom, and Philo speak of Wisdom’s provision of water to wandering Israel “from a flinty rock” (Wis 2:4) on which Philo observes: “the flinty rock is the wisdom of God” [cp. Deut 8:15]  (Philo, Legum Allegoriae 2.86). The point here is that it is clearly and widely recognized that Paul informs his own Christology by drawing explicitly on traditions of preexistent Wisdom from the OT Wisdom literature (e.g., Proverbs 8)…

We cannot readily underplay the role for Paul of Christ the Wisdom of God (1:30) when it not only plays a major role in his dialogue with Corinth and “the strong”… Paul could take for granted a background about the role of divine Wisdom as protector, guide, nourisher of Israel in the wilderness which could readily be applied to the preexistent Christ, while this background, which was the stock-in-trade of hellenistic Jewish diaspora [note “our fathers” discussed above] synagogue sermons, has become unfamiliar now to most modern readers, and hence requires explanation.
Thiselton

Hodge summarizes

in what sense was the rock Christ? Not that Christ appeared under the form of a rock; nor that the rock was a type of Christ, for that does not suit the connection… The expression is simply figurative… He was the source of all the support which the Israelites enjoyed during their journey in the wilderness. This passage distinctly asserts not only the preexistence of our Lord, but also that he was the Jehovah of the Old Testament.

This is how the passage was understood by Melito of Sardis in a sermon on the typology of the Passover delivered around 160AD.

81. O lawless Israel, why did you commit this extraordinary crime of casting your Lord into new sufferings–your master, the one who formed you, the one who made you, the one who honored you, the one who called you Israel?

82. But you were found not really to be Israel, for you did not see God, you did not recognize the Lord, you did not know, O Israel, that this one was the firstborn of God, the one who was begotten before the morning star, the one who caused the light to shine forth…

84. This was the one who guided you into Egypt, and guarded you, and himself kept you well supplied there. This was the one who lighted your route with a column of fire, and provided shade for you by means of a cloud, the one who divided the Red Sea, and led you across it, and scattered your enemy abroad.

85. This is the one who provided you with manna from heaven, the one who gave you water to drink from a rock, the one who established your laws in Horeb, the one who gave you an inheritance in the land, the one who sent out his prophets to you, the one who raised up your kings.

But with many of them God was not well pleased

 

Notwithstanding they had been thus highly favored… with a great number… he was displeased.
Hodge

Despite the fact that Christ, Jehova miraculously provided for the Israelites by redeeming them out of slavery, delivering them from Pharoah, providing them with food and water for 40 years, many of them did not finish the race because they did not deny themselves. They were destroyed. Paul uses this as a typological warning to the Corinthians. Christ’s provision was not the same in both instances. To Israel, as the Triune God, he miraculously provided physical sustenance: bread and water. To the Church, as incarnate suffering servant, he miraculously provided himself: the bread of life and living water. If anyone who makes a profession of faith and is baptized into Christ becomes puffed up in his knowledge of the forgiveness of sins and becomes lax in their fight against the temptation to sin, there is a very real possibility that they will not finish the race and will be destroyed eternally, just as the Israelites in the wilderness were destroyed temporally.

[T]he Apostle Paul… in his first Epistle to the Corinthians shows that even the very history of the Exodus was an allegory of the future Christian People.
(Augustine, On the Profit of Believing)

Next: 1 Cor. 10:1-5 – Paedobaptist False Inferences

Note, if you are not familiar with 1689 Federalism’s understanding of the Old and New Covenant, please visit http://www.1689federalism.com

Galatians 3:16

March 18, 2017 16 comments

Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ.

Commentators lament that Galatians 3:16 is one of the most difficult verses to interpret in the Bible. Pink says “this passage has occasioned the commentators much trouble, no two of them agreeing in its interpretation. It is commonly regarded as one of the most abstruse passages in all the Pauline Epistles.” Morris notes “At first glance, Gal 3.16 seems to be an example of careful grammatical exegesis; Paul observes and interprets the minutia of the text, stopping to parse a single word in the Biblical text.” I’ve seen the verse used to defend the verbal plenary inspiration of Scripture: “Paul rests his argument of Galatians 3:16 upon a doctrine of verbal inspiration. Here the difference between a singular (“seed”) and plural (“seeds”) in Genesis 12:7; 13:15; and 17:7 is the basis of Paul’s argument.” But upon closer inspection one realizes that there is no such minutia in the text. There simply is no “seeds” vs “seed” in the text of Genesis. The word ולזרעך/σπέρμα itself can refer to plural or singular seed. In Genesis 13:15 and 17:8 (the two verses commentators believe Paul is quoting), it is clearly plural (“like the dust of the earth”). Furthermore, Paul uses the word in the plural sense in Romans 4:18; 9:7, and Galatians 3:29. Thus there simply is no appeal to the text to make Paul’s argument.

Typological Interpretation

A common interpretation is that Paul is simply arguing typologically. Yes, Israel were Abraham’s descendants (plural), but Christ is Abraham’s true descendant. He is true Israel. Lightfoot notes “the people of Israel is the type of Christ: and in the New Testament parallels are sought in the career of the one to the life of the other. (See especially the application of Hosea xi. 1 to our Lord in Matt. ii. 15.)” While this may be true and in line with Paul and other NT writing elsewhere, it doesn’t explain his “seeds” vs “seed” comment. Typology involves analogy and does not deny the type when explaining the anti-type. Matthew’s citation of Hosea 11:1 does not deny that God also called the nation of Israel out of Egypt, but Paul here denies the plural was ever intended by the promise and argues only for the singular. Lightfoot says “Doubtless by the seed of Abraham was meant in the first instance the Jewish people, as by the inheritance was meant the land of Canaan; but in accordance with the analogy of Old Testament types and symbols, the term involves two secondary meanings…” But Paul is not arguing for a “secondary meaning” of the seed. He is arguing for the only meaning.

Corporate Solidarity Interpretation

Some try to evade this dilemma by taking the typological interpretation one step further, arguing that Paul is referring to the body of Christ – all believers united to Christ, the head. Therefore Paul does have in mind a plurality and there is no need to get hung up on the singular vs plural. Pink argues “‘to Abraham and his seed’ must mean ‘to Abraham and his spiritual seed were the promises made.'” Summarizing this view, Morris says “then there is no reason for the individual sense to war against the corporate, because the two are so closely tied to one another.” But this simply ignores the fact that Paul’s argument rests precisely upon making the individual sense war against the corporate, plural sense.

Election Interpretation

Another step is taken down this line of interpretation by arguing that although the promises were originally made in the plural, over the course of history the line in which the promise was fulfilled was narrowed. First Isaac, not Ishmael, then Jacob, not Esau, and on down the line until it is narrowed down to one individual, Jesus. Pink “The promises were limited originally, and that limitation was evidenced more clearly by successive revelations, until it was shown that none but Christ (and those united to Him) were included: “And to thy seed, which is Christ” (mystical)!… The promises of God were never made to all the descendants of Abraham, like so many different kinds of “seed,” but were limited to the spiritual line, that is, to “Christ” mystical.” Calvin argues in this manner.

Among Abraham’s own sons a division began, for one of the sons was cut off from the family… Since the ten tribes were carried away, (Hosa 9:17,) how many thousands have so degenerated that they no longer hold a name among the seed of Abraham? Lastly, a trial was made of the tribe of Judah, that the real succession to the blessing might be transmitted among a small people… The uninterrupted succession to this privilege must have been in force until Christ; for, in the person of David, the Lord afterwards brought back by recovery, as we might say, the promise which had been made to Abraham. In proving, therefore, that this prediction applies to a single individual, Paul does not make his argument rest on the use of the singular number. He merely shews that the word seed must denote one who was not only descended from Abraham according to the flesh, but had been likewise appointed for this purpose by the calling of God.

What Calvin says is true. God’s sovereign election determined which of Abraham’s physical seed were recipients of the promise. That is precisely what Paul argues in Romans 9. But that is not the argument Paul makes here. Rather Paul does “make his argument rest on the use of the singular number.” Furthermore, it ignores that Genesis 13:15 and 17:7 promise that a plurality of seed will inherit the land of Canaan – a promise that was fulfilled (Deut 34:4; 2 Chron 20:7; Num 23:10; 1 Kings 3:8) many years prior to Christ.

Sensus Plenior Interpretation

Looking at these interpretive challenges, Morris concludes that Galatians 3:16 demonstrates the validity and necessity of Roman Catholicism’s sensus plenior, which sees multiple meanings in the texts of Scripture, over against Protestantism’s singular meaning – because Paul could not have arrived at his conclusion from the text of Genesis.

Regardless of the text cited, whether Gen 13.15, ff. or 17.5-8, the Old Testament interpreter would almost certainly read these references to the seed (σπέρμα/ זֶרַע ) as a collective singular; plural in meaning with no indication that the original human author intended a truly singular sense. As demonstrated in the preceding examination of Rom 4 and Gal 3, Paul reads them as both plural and singular, without any evidence from the original context to signal singularity other than a form that he himself uses as collective (cf. Gal 3.29)…

Is it possible to see an original/ literal sense and at the same time read a present, ecclesiological sense in a single passage. As Hays so ably argues this seems to be Paul’s use of the Abrahamic seed in Gal 3.39 The two seem to be in parallel portions of a hermeneutical chiasm that converges at Christ and his advent. In this scheme Christ and the Christological meaning in the text would be the most inclusive and fullest sense (a sensus plenior) flanked by the two lesser (temporally bound) meanings, the original and the “ecclesiological.”

Setting aside the problems with the sensus plenior view (see also here), if we admit its validity for argument’s sake, it still does not resolve the problem in Galatians 3:16! As we saw above, Paul does not claim to be merely drawing out the “fullest sense” of the Abrahamic promises in Genesis 13 and 17, while acknowleding a separate original meaning. Paul is aruging that his interpretation is the original and only meaning! His argument against the Judaizers rests upon it.

Alternate Source Interpretation

Most commentators believe Paul is quoting/referencing Genesis 13:15 and/or 17:7. Lightfoot notes ““(1) The words must be spoken to Abraham himself, and not to one of the later patriarchs; (2) That καὶ must be part of the quotation. These considerations restrict the reference to Gen. xiii. 15, xvii. 8, either of which passages satisfies these conditions.” But as we have seen, Paul cannot be appealing to these verses for his argument about the seed. Are there any other verses in Genesis that Paul could be referring to? Some commentators argue that Paul has Genesis 22:18 in mind. Collins argues that “The best criterion for whether this is Paul’s source is whether it allows us to make sense of his argument.”

Collins helpfully starts this inquiry where many commentators do not: Galatians 3:8. He notes that Paul could potentially be quoting Gen 12:3; 18:18; or 22:18 [he also notes 26:4; 28:14; Ps. 72:17 contain the “blessing”], concluding that “Paul’s source in Galatians 3:8 is a composite, mixing terms from… these LXX passages.” Turning to Galatians 3:16, Collins lists the verses in Genesis where σπέρμα (‘seed, offspring’) occur with a bearing on Abraham:

[W]e have 12:7; 13:15; 15:18; 17:8, 19; 22:18; 24:7. Of these, most deal with the giving of the land to Abraham’s offspring: 12:7; 13:15; 15:18; 17:8; 24:7… In my judgment, the land promise texts (such as Gn. 13:15; 17:8) are not an encouraging line for investigation, because (1) the local nature of the promised land would not easily serve Paul’s argumentative purpose for the Gentiles; and (2) none of these is in the list of ‘blessing’ texts [that Paul quotes in Gal. 3:8]. The comment of F.F. Bruce is telling: ‘The reference to the land, however, plays no part in the argument of Galatians.’

Let that sink in. Paul has already told us which promise he is referring to. Why would we then assume he is arguing from a verse (Gen 13:15 or 17:8) that does not refer to that promise? That leaves Gen. 17:19 and 22:18. 17:19 is actually about the offspring of Isaac, so it does not apply. Thus we have 22:18.

Collins notes “Desmond Alexander has offered grammatical reasons for taking the ‘offspring’ in this text as a specific descendant.” Alexander concludes

The blessing of ‘all the nations of the earth’ is thus associated with a particular descendant of Abraham, rather than with all those descended from him. When we look outside of Genesis for allusions to 22:17b-18a, only one appears to exist. This
comes in Psalm 72:17 where we find the expression, (‘and may all nations be blessed through him’). From the content of Psalm 72 it is clear that the individual
mentioned here, through whom all nations shall be blessed, is a royal figure… The similarity between Genesis 22:18a and Psalm 72:17b is striking and supports the idea that the ‘seed’ mentioned in Genesis 22:17b-18a does not refer to all Abraham’s descendants, but rather to a single individual.

Morris summarizes this view:

Most references to Abraham’s seed in Genesis are immediately preceded or followed by plural pronouns or other referents for which the seed serves as antecedent, seeming to make plain the term’s collective sense in the context. Gen 22.18 emerges from the promises in Genesis fitting for a singular referent and works well theologically as looking forward to Christ’s redeeming the Gentiles. In the context of Gen 22, it is much easier to find an individual referent in verse 18. Verses 16 and 17 still deal with the multiplication of Abraham’s seed, but in verse 18, the seed is named as the agent of blessing for the nations, a unique statement among YHWH’s promises concerning Abraham’s seed. It parallels the original promises of Gen 12.2, 3, in which Abraham is said to be a blessing for others and it is in him that all the families of the earth will be blessed…

In the twenty-second chapter of Genesis, YHWH’s promise to Abraham differs from His previous covenantal pronouncements. He has tended to promise Abraham and his unidentified seed blessings and land (cf. Gen 13.15, 17.8) whereas in Gen 22, YHWH emphasizes the blessing that will come through or “in” Abraham’s seed. In other pronouncements of the Abrahamic promises, the “seed” serves as the antecedent for plural pronouns in the following verses, as is noted above. However, in 22.18, even though there have been references to plurality (cf. 17a) there is a sudden shift to the singular in v. 17b. Often translated with a plural gloss to smooth out the reading, the text literally reads, “your seed will possess the gate of his enemies.” This would seem to be a legitimate textual clue within the original context to see a sudden shift in referent, probably signaling some messianic or prophetic significance.

Problems with Genesis 22:18

Thus it appears quite clear that Paul is referring to Genesis 22:18 when he argues that the seed is singular. This would resolve a lot of problems and bring significant clarity to Galatians 3 as a whole. However, some have raised objections. Pink argues

J. N. Darby seeks to cut the knot by changing the apostle’s “promises” to “the promise,” restricting the reference to Genesis 22. Yet not only is the Greek in the plural number, but such an idea is plainly refuted by the “four hundred and thirty years after,” which necessarily carries us back to Genesis 12.

Morris likewise objects “It is striking that “the promises made to Abraham and to his seed” are most definitely plural (αἱ ἐπαγγελίαι), and therefore almost certainly cannot come from Genesis 22.18 alone, if at all, as there is only one promise made to the seed in that passage (cf. 22.17).”

First, even commentators that do not hold to the “22:18 view” recognize that the plural “promises” refers to repetitions of God’s promise, not to multiple promises. Lightfoot notes that promises is in “The plural, for the promise was several times repeated to Abraham.” Burton likewise notes “the basis for which is the repeated occasions on which the promise was made to Abraham, and the various forms in which it was expressed.” This makes complete sense when we recall Collins’ observation that “Paul’s source in Galatians 3:8 is a composite, mixing terms from… these LXX passages.” Thus Paul’s primary appeal to 22:18 is inclusive of the other repitions of the same promise.

Second, Pink objects to the timing, noting that Genesis 12 must be in view. Coxe agrees regarding the timing “From the giving of the first promise to Abraham, which we have recorded in Genesis 12:2, 3, to that very night in which the children of Israel were brought out of their Egyptian bondage, is the computation of these years made. This will be evident to anyone who will diligently compare the chronology of those times with the express testimony of Moses (Exodus 12:41).” But this is no problem at all if we recognize that the promise in 22:18 is inclusive of Genesis 12:3.

Next, Morris raises a grammatical objection.

Isolated from the original Hebrew text this option appears to have great potential as a resolution for Paul’s seemingly deviant contention in Gal 3. Unfortunately, this view encounters more difficulties in the phrasing and syntax of Gal 3.16. As noted above, Paul makes his citation (whether allusion or quotation) using the dative (τῷ σπέρματι). And while the Greek dative allows for some ambiguity (in either the NT or LXX), the Hebrew constructions used are syntactically exclusive. The two semantic functions have the possibility of sharing a form in Greek, but in Hebrew there is a formal difference: either a prefixed בְּ or לְ preposition.

Perhaps Paul was merely alluding to the text, rather than quoting it? Morris objects.

Paul’s attention to the exact forms within the text coupled with his using an exact match forGen 13.15 or 17.8 makes too compelling a case for direct quotation. It does not feel loose or divergent enough for a conceptual allusion. The presence of the otherwise rogue καί is even more compelling. In the context of Gal 3.16, the use of καί is too awkward to be anything other than a portion of the quote…

Paul’s language here is not generic enough to include promises from Gen 12.2, 3; 15.5; or 22.18. His phrasing is an exact match for Gen 13.15 and 17.8… So, Paul has quoted directly, and he has done so in a way that excludes Gen 22.18, the only text that seems to have a singular seed clearly in view.

So we have quite the dilemma. There is a text in Genesis that perfectly fits the logic of Paul’s argument, but Paul is specifically quoting a text that does not fit the logic of his argument at all, and in fact refutes it.

Two Promises Made to Abraham?

What if Paul is specifically quoting Gen. 13:15 and 17:8, but making an argument about 22:18? Paul is addressing Judaizers, which were made up of the physical descendants of Abraham who possessed the land of Canaan – that is, the people referred to in Gen. 13:15 and 17:8. And he is arguing with them about a different promise concerning blessing the nations, found in 22:18. The Judaizers did not distinguish those promises, but conflated them. They argued that all of the promises God made to Abraham were made to them. Paul responds by pointing out the difference between the promises. There was, in fact, a promise made to or about them, as we find in 13:15 and 17:8 “and to your offspring (plural).” But this other promise was different. In Genesis 22:18 “It does not say, ‘And to offsprings,’ referring to many, but referring to one, ‘And to your offspring,’ who is Christ.” In other words, Paul’s point is that the promise in 22:18 is different from the promise in 13:15 and 17:8.

Abraham’s Two Seeds

One chapter later in Galatians 4:21-31, Paul distinguishes between two sons of Abraham. Commenting on this passage, Augustine notes

This interpretation of the passage, handed down to us with apostolic authority, shows how we ought to understand the Scriptures of the two covenants—the old and the new… In the earthly city, then, we find two things—its own obvious presence, and its symbolic presentation of the heavenly city.  And this was typified in the two sons of Abraham,—Ishmael, the son of Agar the handmaid, being born according to the flesh, while Isaac was born of the free woman Sarah, according to the promise.  Both, indeed, were of Abraham’s seed; but the one was begotten by natural law, the other was given by gracious promise.  In the one birth, human action is revealed; in the other, a divine kindness comes to light.

Commenting on the parallel passage Romans 9:6-8, Augustine said

And no doubt the great apostle understood perfectly well what he was saying, when he described the two testaments as capable of the allegorical distinction of the bond-woman and the free,—attributing the children of the flesh to the Old, and to the New the children of the promise

Augustine traced this back to the Abrahamic Covenant.

Now it is to be observed that two things are promised to Abraham, the one, that his seed should possess the land of Canaan, which is intimated when it is said, “Go into a land that I will show thee, and I will make of thee a great nation;” but the other far more excellent, not about the carnal but the spiritual seed, through which he is the father, not of the one Israelite nation, but of all nations who follow the footprints of his faith, which was first promised in these words, “And in thee shall all tribes of the earth be blessed.”…

“And the Lord appeared unto Abram, and said unto him, Unto thy seed will I give this land.” (Gen 12:7)  Nothing is promised here about that seed in which he is made the father of all nations, but only about that by which he is the father of the one Israelite nation; for by this seed that land was possessed…

[T]he people were settled in the land of promise, so that, in the meantime, the first promise made to Abraham began to be fulfilled about the one nation, that is, the Hebrew, and about the land of Canaan; but not as yet the promise about all nations, and the whole wide world, for that was to be fulfilled, not by the observances of the old law, but by the advent of Christ in the flesh, and by the faith of the gospel.

This is precisely Paul’s point.


See also: