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Additional Answers to Founders Conference Q&A (Is the Abrahamic Covenant “of works”?)

September 30, 2015 3 comments

The 2015 Founders conference was on Baptist Covenant Theology. There was a Q&A Panel with Pascal Denault and Jeffery Johnson. Below are my thoughts on the questions that were asked.

Genesis 15 seems to be an unconditional covenant wherein God takes the obligation upon Himself to fulfill it. How is this only a promise in the Old Covenant, and not a covenant within the Old Covenant? How does this fit into the Old Covenant/New Covenant?

I would say that this was a covenant. The distinction is not between promise/covenant, but between promised/established. So the New Covenant was promised throughout the Old Testament, but it was not established until Christ’s death. But there was clearly a covenant established in Genesis 15. A few things should be considered:

1) God is swearing by an oath that what He promised will be fulfilled. Abraham wanted to know how he could be sure, so God re-assured him in this vision of a covenant oath.

2) In Gen 15, God is not promising to Abraham the blessings of the New Covenant: forgiveness of sins, regeneration, etc. He is swearing to fulfill what was promised to Abraham: that he will have numerous descendants, that they will inhabit the land of Canaan, and that in him all nations of the earth would be blessed. This last promise can be seen as a promise that Christ will come and establish the New Covenant to grant forgiveness of sins, etc. Thus we can say that the Abrahamic Covenant promises the future establishment of the New Covenant. It is not itself the New Covenant. Abraham was justified when he believed this promise, as it was a promise of Christ. But Abraham was not justified by the Abrahamic Covenant. As Owen notes “When God renewed the promise of it [the New Covenant] 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.”

3) God does not say this promise will be received through faith alone apart from works.

4) In fact, God specifically says that work was required to bring about the fulfillment (Gen 17:2, 9-14; 22:16-18; cf Gal 5:3; Acts 15:10). As John Murray states “The obedience of Abraham is represented as the condition upon which the fulfilment of the promise given to him was contingent and the obedience of Abraham’s seed is represented as the means through which the promise given to Abraham would be accomplished. There is undoubtedly the fulfilment of certain conditions… At the outset we must remember that the idea of conditional fulfilment is not something peculiar to the Mosaic covenant. We have been faced quite poignantly with this very question in connection with the Abrahamic covenant. And since this feature is there patent, it does not of itself provide us with any reason for construing the Mosaic covenant in terms different from those of the Abrahamic.” And the Mosaic is of works (Lev 18:5; Gal 3:12; Rom 10:5).

Meredith Kline notes “How Abraham’s obedience related to the securing of the kingdom blessings in their old covenant form is a special question within the broad topic of the role of human works under redemptive covenant… His faithful performance of his covenantal duty is here clearly declared to sustain a causal relationship to the blessing of Isaac and Israel. It had a meritorious character that procured a reward enjoyed by others… Because of Abraham’s obedience redemptive history would take the shape of an Abrahamite kingdom of God from which salvation’s blessings would rise up and flow out to the nations. God was pleased to constitute Abraham’s exemplary works as the meritorious ground for granting to Israel after the flesh the distinctive role of being formed as the typological kingdom, the matrix from which Christ should come… The obedient Abraham, the faithful covenant servant, was a type of the Servant of the Lord in his obedience, by which he became the surety of the new covenant.”

Coxe says “It is noteworthy that in this transaction of God with Abraham we first meet with an express injunction of obedience to a command (and that of positive right) as the condition of covenant interest. It is all ushered in with this prologue (Genesis 17:1), “I am the Almighty God; walk before me and be perfect.” First in these words, the all-sufficiency of God is revealed for the ensuring of the promises. Then a strict and entire obedience to his precepts is required in order to inherit the good things that were to be given by this covenant. In this mode of transacting it, the Lord was pleased to draw the first lines of that form of covenant relationship in which the natural seed of Abraham was fully stated by the law of Moses, which was a covenant of works with its condition or terms, “Do this and live.”” p. 91

5) And thus Gen 15 is properly part of the Old Covenant, which includes the promise that Christ will come from Abraham (Rom. 9:5).

6) And it relates to the New Covenant in that it promises the future establishment of the New Covenant, and it typologically reveals information about it.

See also Is the Abrahamic Covenant Conditional or Unconditional?

How do you respond to dispensationalists who say Israelites occupy the promised land today because of the Abrahamic Covenant?

Johnson and Denault rightly noted that Israel’s tenure in the land of Canaan was conditional. They were exiled to Babylon for their disobedience to the Mosaic Covenant, and then after Christ’s death, they were finally cut off completely from the land with the abrogation of the Old Covenant (Hebrews 8). Augustine said “And it was fulfilled through David, and Solomon his son, whose kingdom was extended over the whole promised space; for they subdued all those nations, and made them tributary. And thus, under those kings, the seed of Abraham was established in the land of promise according to the flesh, that is, in the land of Canaan, so that nothing yet remained to the complete fulfillment of that earthly promise of God, except that, so far as pertains to temporal prosperity, the Hebrew nation should remain in the same land by the succession of posterity in an unshaken state even to the end of this mortal age, if it obeyed the laws of the Lord its God.”

Dispensationalists might object by saying that God promised this land to Israel unconditionally and as an everlasting possession. First, note the answer to the previous question with regards to works and the Abrahamic Covenant. Furthermore, if God gave them the land unconditionally, how could God have set conditions upon Israel in the Mosaic Covenant? How could he have exiled them? How could he have kept them out of the land for 2,000 years if it was promised unconditionally? The answer is that it was not promised unconditionally. Furthermore, as Paul explains in Romans 9, even this conditional promise to Abraham’s offspring regarding the land was never made to all of Abraham’s physical offspring. It was made to Isaac, not Ishamel; to Jacob, not Esau; and on down through history God sovereignly chose who this promise extended to, until it extended only to Christ who fulfilled it typologically, and thus it was made only to Him (Gal 3:16).

Regarding the language of “everlasting” Coxe notes “Now it is evident that they have for many ages been disinherited of it. But the solution to this doubt will be easy to him who consults the use of these terms in other texts, and the necessary restriction of their sense when applied to the state or interests of Abraham’s seed in the land of Canaan. For the priesthood of Levi is called an everlasting priesthood (Numbers 25:13) [even though it was abrogated Heb 7] and the gates of the temple, everlasting doors (Psalm 24:5). This is the same sense that Canaan is said to be an everlasting inheritance. No more is intended than the continuance of these for a long time, that is, throughout the Old Testament economy until the days of the Messiah, commonly spoken of by the Jews under the notion of the world to come. In this a new state of things was to be expected when their old covenant right and privilege was to expire, its proper end and design being fully accomplished.” (87)

Would the part of the Abrahamic seed concerning the fallen seed be considered of works or conditional? If so, how can we say it was of works and grace?

See the two previous answers.

How much of a threat is NCT?

I agree with both Johnson and Denault’s answers. I wouldn’t phrase it as “a threat.” I do believe that the implications of NCT rejection of the moral law of God is unbiblical and has significant ramifications to systematic and biblical theology, as well as in the practical life of the Christian. However, there are also points of agreement we have with NCT over against Westminster Federalism, which need to be acknowledged and emphasized. Here are some of my posts on NCT.

Why is covenant theology important?

Because Scripture organizes itself according to the covenants that God makes with men. Therefore the way we understand them has systematic implications for how we understand all of Scripture. As just one example, current debates in reformed circles over the doctrine of justification and the place of works is directly related to how people view the covenants in Scripture.

Did Jesus tackle the Old Covenant/New Covenant distinctives?

In addition to Denault and Johnson’s good answers I would add that John 15:1-6 is a very good articulation of the distinction between the two. See my post on that here.

Who is the federal head of Israel?

We need to be careful in how we talk about federal headship. It is true that God establishes covenants with representatives, but that does not mean that those representatives always fulfill the exact same function as heads/representatives of other covenants. With regards to Israel, we can say that to a large degree Abraham was their federal head. Note especially Kline’s comments above: Abraham’s obedience secured Israel’s initial entrance into the land of Canaan (and as I explain here, this “drove away the birds” ie it held off Israel’s curse). But under the Mosaic Covenant, Israel’s obedience as a nation became the focus, and this requirement for obedience was then later focused on a representative head as king of Israel in the Davidic Covenant, such that the kingdom rose or fell in accordance with the obedience of the king – which is typological of Christ’s kingship.

In Gal 3:17 it seems the promise and covenant wording is used interchangeably.

I don’t necessarily agree with Coxe on this point (his view is complicated). I believe there may be a better way to understand and articulate Galatians 3:17. I am not convinced that “promise” in this passage is being used as synonymous with the New Covenant. It may appear this way because Paul contrasts inheritance via the law vs inheritance via the promise, which we interpret to mean works vs faith. However, I think Paul’s argument is actually more nuanced than that. I think his argument starts all the way back in 2:21

“[I]f righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” (2:21) “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.”” (3:8) “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.” (13-14)

If righteousness were through the law, then Christ would not have to die (establish the New Covenant). But God confirmed to Abraham (via a covenant oath) that Christ would die and bless all the nations. Therefore, God did not later establish a means of obtaining righteousness through the law, because that would nullify his previous confirmation that Christ would eventually come to establish righteousness (inheritance) through His death. If righteousness were through the law, it would be pointless to promise a future Christ. God promised a future Christ, therefore righteousness is not through the law.

This does not mean the Abrahamic Covenant is the New Covenant. It simply means that God promised the New Covenant, so he therefore did not establish an alternative means of salvation.

To elaborate on the distinction above between the Abrahamic Covenant and the New Covenant, consider the example (recognizing that all analogies fail at some point) of this wedding covenant/contract. If you click the link, you will see that it is not a marriage covenant, but a contract regarding the performance of the wedding.

This contract defines the terms and conditions under which The Salem Herbfarm and
___________________________ (hereafter referred to as the CLIENT) agree to the CLIENT’s use of The Salem Herbfarm’s facilities on __________________________ (reception/event date). This contract constitutes the entire agreement between the parties and becomes binding upon the signature of both parties. The contract may not be
amended or changed unless executed in writing and signed by The Salem Herbfarm and the CLIENT.

Once signed, this covenant confirms that the wedding will take place. Once confirmed, the contract is binding and cannot be amended or changed. “To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified.” But the actual wedding still has to be performed, because this wedding covenant is not the marriage covenant, it simply guarantees the marriage covenant will occur. If a couple signs this contract, they will not sign a different contract that says the wedding will take place somewhere else. That would violate this contract.

To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. 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. This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise. Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one. Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. (3:15-22)

So, in short, I believe Gal 3:17 teaches that God promised, via the Abrahamic Covenant, that the New Covenant would be established to grant sinners eternal life. Therefore God did not establish the Mosaic Covenant to offer sinners eternal life.

Understanding Dispensationalists

November 5, 2010 3 comments

I may be a bit late to the ballgame (published in 1987), but I just finished Vern Poythress’ Understanding Dispensationalists and I really enjoyed it. Poythress took a sabbatical to study dispensationalism in depth and this book is the result. I have heard it mentioned in many other places as a breakthrough in covenant-dispensational dialogue.

For someone who has never studied dispensationalism directly, he provides a very helpful overview and analysis of the theology. I could see more clearly precisely what it means to be a “dispensationalist”. An important point that Poythress makes is that “dispensational” is not the best label because, as dispensationalists like to point out, everyone believes God deals differently with men at different points in redemptive history. “The salient point is what the D-theologians say about these dispensations, not the fact that they exist. (12)” He then more accurate labels:

The debate is not over whether there are dispensations. Of course there are. Nor is the debate over the number of dispensations. You can make as many as you wish by introducing finer distinctions. Hence, properly speaking, “dispensationalism” is an inaccurate and confusing label for the distinctiveness of D-theologians. But some terminology is needed to talk about the distinctiveness of D-theologians. For the sake of clarity, their distinctive theology might perhaps be called “Darbyism” (after its first proponent), “dual destinationism” (after one of its principal tenets concerning the separate destinies of Israel and the church), or “addressee bifurcationism” (after the principle of hermeneutical separation between meaning for Israel and significance for the church). However, history has left us stuck with the term “dispensationalism” and “dispensationalist.” (12)

There is much more to be said, but I won’t say it all here. You can pick the book up for $6.99 at Monergismbooks.com and you can also read it online here: Understanding Dispensationalists

Grammatical-Historical Interpretation and Typology

I do want to note one important point. The chapter Interpretive Viewpoint in Old Testament Israel was particularly helpful. Poythress, very succinctly and cogently, argues that seeing typology (symbolism) in Old Testament prophecy is not opposed to a commitment to the grammatical-historical hermeneutic. Typology is not just something that we can look back on and see now that Christ has come, but it was something that could be understood by Israelites in the Old Testament (though not in full detail).

His basic argument is that the nation of Israel, from day one, was told that what was happening on earth, in Palestine, and among them, was a copy and shadow of the heavenly reality (Heb 8:5). They were to understand that God’s presence amongst Israel and the “new Eden” of Canaan was only a shadow of the eschaton, the new heavens and new earth where God will dwell fully. Here is a lengthy quote (I encourage you to read the whole chapter):

Israel’s existence as a kingdom of priests therefore possessed symbolic significance. This does not at all mean that Israel’s priesthood was “merely” symbolic or “merely” something of illustrative or pedagogical value. It was not “merely” an illusion, reflecting the “real” priestly reality in heaven. No, it was substantial, it was “real”–on the level that the Israelites could take it, and on the level appropriate to the preliminary character of God’s deliverance and his revelation at this point. The true God, not merely a surrogate for God, was really present with Israel. And his presence meant their consecration as priests. Yet God was not present in the way and with the intensity that he is present at the coming of Jesus Christ. His presence with Israel was preliminary and “shadowy” in comparison to that.

The latter days mentioned in the prophets are that broad eschatological era when the glory of God is revealed on earth (Isa 40:5, 60:2-3, Zech 2:5). The glory of God was formerly confined to heaven, and subordinately appeared in order to fill the holy and holies in the tabernacle and the temple. But eschatologically God will come to earth in his majesty. In those days the heavenly reality with supersede the earthly symbolic reflection. The heavenly original will fill and transform what was shadow. Hence those days imply a revision also in Aaronic priesthood (Ps 110:4), and by implication a revision of the law, which is bound up with the priesthood (Heb 7:12). But more than that, they imply a revision in the existence of Israel itself, since Israel itself is constituted as a kingdom of priests (cf. Isa 66:18-24). Since the existence of Israel itself has symbolic and heavenly overtones from the beginning, the fulfillment of prophecy encompasses these same overtones. The eschatological time is the time when the symbolic overtones in the very nature of Israel itself are transformed into reality.

Consider now what this meant for Israel’s perception of the nature of the land of Palestine. The land belonged to God (Lev 25:23). It was not to be desecrated by unclean practices (Deut 21:23, Lev 20:22-24). In an extended sense, the land itself was holy, the dwelling place of God. As a holy land, it was modeled after God’s rule over his heavenly dwelling. But it also illustrated what God would do to all the earth in the latter days. God’s kingdom would come to earth as it was (in OT times ) in heaven. The land of Palestine was also analogous to Eden (Isa 51:3). It pointed back to what Adam failed to do. Adam’s dominion over Eden (the starting point for rule over the whole earth) was ruined by the fall. Israel was granted dominion over a “new Eden.” This dominion over Palestine in turn anticipated the full dominion that was to be restored by the “seed of the woman,” one born to be the “last Adam” (1 Cor 15:45).

All this means that it is a violation of grammatical-historical interpretation to read prophecy flat. It is even a violation to read Israel’s history flat. The history of Israel has some symbolic overtones derived from the symbolic dimension in Israel’s own existence as kingdom of priests. But eschatological prophecy is the point at which these symbolic overtones are bound to be emphasized and come out into the open, since that is the time of transition from the preliminary to the final.

These symbolic overtones include almost everything that has in the past been classified as typology, and more besides. In fact, Israel’s existence was so saturated with incipient typology that it is hard for us, who live in the light of the fulfillment, to appreciate the Israelite situation. In a certain sense, it is impossible. We cannot forget what we have learned of Christ. But I would say this: Israel could on the one hand know much through a dim sense of symbolic overtones. And simultaneously it could know little because the shadows did not provide all the depth and the richness which the reality provides. A good deal would be known tacitly rather than by explicit, rationally articulated means.1

Now one more point should be observed about the eschatological expectations of OT Israel. The “latter days,” but not before, is the decisive time when the heavenly reality of God in his glory comes to earth. Therefore, prophetic predictions with regard to the near future have a character distinct from predictions about the “latter days.” In the near future, the organized political and social community of Israel continues in more or less a straight line. Predictions, even when they use symbolic and allusive language, can expect to find fulfillment on the symbolic level on which Israel then exists. But fulfillment in the “latter days” (eschatological fulfillment in the broad sense of eschatology) is a different matter. There the symbol is superseded by the reality, and hence straight-line reckoning about fulfillments is no longer possible. Pre-eschatological prophetic fulfillments have a hermeneutically different character than do eschatological fulfillments. (102-105)

And

When Jesus comes the “latter days” are inaugurated. In particular Jesus at his death inaugurates the new covenant by his blood (Matt 26:28 and parallels)… With whom is the new covenant made? It is made with Israel and Judah. Hence it is made with Christians by virtue of Christ the Israelite. Thus one might say that Israel and Judah themselves undergo a transformation at the first coming of Christ, because Christ is the final, supremely faithful Israelite. Around him all true Israel gathers. (106)

Eschatological prophecy may indeed have the same two dimensions: the dimension of the symbol in itself, and the dimension of what the symbol symbolizes. But the time of fulfillment of the eschatological prophecy is the time of climactic revelation. Hence, it may well be that, at that future time, the symbol is superseded by the reality, and no longer needs a separate historical realization along side the reality. (114)

Consider now the type of fulfillment that takes place in the NT. In the NT era, do we now need a second dimension of symbolism, a temple of material stones? In the OT there were two dimensions, “literal” (temple of stone) and typological-spiritual (the spiritual reality of God’s communing with human beings, now realized in the resurrection and the sending of the Holy Spirit). If there were two dimensions then, shouldn’t there be two dimensions now? But that reaction overlooks the theme of the book of Hebrews. According to Hebrews, that which is shadowy (temple of stone) can be “abolished” when it is superseded by the perfect (Heb 10:9). (115)

In the course of the chapter, Poythress makes a very compelling case that seeing the body of Christ as fulfillment (or at least participating in fulfillment) of Old Testament prophecy is not “allegorically spiritualizing” OT texts, but is instead interpreting them according to their gramatical-historical intended meaning.

I claim that there is sound, solid grammatical-historical ground for interpreting eschatological fulfillments of prophecy on a different basis than pre-eschatological fulfillments… What I am calling for, then, is an increased sense for the fact that, in the original (grammatical-historical) context, eschatologically-oriented prophecy has built into it extra potential. With respect to eschatology, people in the OT were not in the same position as they were for short-range prophecy. Eschatological prophecy had an open-ended suggestiveness. The exact manner of fulfillment frequently could not be pinned down until the fulfillment came. (106-107)

ince grammatical-historical interpretation will find the same symbolic, typological significance within prophecy, it shows how prophecy also has an organically unified relation to NT believers. Typological relations cannot merely be dismissed as a secondary application. The major weakness of classic dispensationalist interpretive theory, at this point, has been to have neglected the integration of typological interpretation with grammatical-historical interpretation. (115)

And finally:

One more difficulty arises in relation to typology. It is this. As I argued in the previous chapter, the significance of a type is not fully discernible until the time of fulfillment. The type means a good deal at the time. But it is open-ended. One cannot anticipate in a vague, general way how fulfillment might come. But the details remain in obscurity. When the fulfillment does come, it throws additional light on the significance of the original symbolism.

In other words, one must compare later Scripture to earlier Scripture to understand everything. Such comparison, though it should not undermine or contradict grammatical-historical interpretation, goes beyond its bounds. It takes account of information not available in the original historical and cultural context. Hence, grammatical-historical interpretation is not enough. It is not all there is to interpretation. True, grammatical-historical interpretation exercises a vital role in bringing controls and refinements to our understanding particular texts. But we must also undertake to relate those texts forward to further revelation which they anticipate and prepare for. (115-116)

International Fellowship of Christians and Jews

October 17, 2010 12 comments

I was reading the article in Christianity Today about Al Mohler tonight and saw an advertisement that kept popping up on the right side:

It’s from the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. IFCJ was founded by a Rabbi in 1983 who makes roughly $1/2 million a year running the organization.

My interest here is to briefly look at the claims in the ads. The ads are found in Christianity Today, and they obviously work, otherwise IFCJ wouldn’t be wasting their money on Christianity Today ads. That means Christians believe the ads and act upon that belief by supporting the organization financially. But is there anything remotely biblical in these ads?

“Of course there is! Can’t you see all the quotations of Scripture in the ads?” Simply quoting Scripture is not the same thing as truthfully representing Scripture. Satan loves the words of Scripture (Gen 3:1, Matt 4:5, etc) – he just hates them in their proper context and meaning. So do the ads above accurately represent the teaching of the Word of God concerning the modern nation state Israel?

Common Concerns

First of all, before we even get to the quoted verses, let’s just step back and look at the organization. It’s purpose is:

“to promote understanding between Jews and Christians and build broad support for Israel and other shared concerns. Our ministry’s vision is that Jews and Christians will reverse their 2,000-year history of discord and replace it with a relationship marked by dialogue, respect and cooperation.”
http://www.ifcj.org/site/PageNavigator/eng/about/

The purpose is first and foremost to financially support the modern nation state Israel. One of the projects of IFCJ is called Stand for Israel:

Stand for Israel aims to engage people both spiritually and politically on behalf of Israel and the Jewish people by encouraging them to pray for Israel and teaching them to advocate for the Jewish state.
http://www.ifcj.org/site/PageNavigator/eng/about/current_projects

Secondarily it is to promote cooperation and understanding between Jews and Christians. But ask yourself, is one of these common, shared concerns Jesus Christ? No. Jews like Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein (founder) deny that Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah. They still await their Messiah. Of course, they also deny that Jesus is God. Interestingly, IFCJ has been rejected by many Jewish Rabbis who forbid their people to accept IFCJ funds because it promotes idolatry:

Groups that take money from the fund are flouting the Torah’s prohibition of idolatry, Rabbi Elyashiv said, and they even aid future [Christian] missionary activities and grant them legitimacy…Taking money from this fund is an “unclean” act
http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/133972

So make no mistake, this organization is not an alliance of faith. It is an organization that seeks to establish fellowship between the body of Christ and the antichrist (1 John 2:22). God has warned us of such efforts: “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” (2 Cor 6:14). And if anyone objects “But they believe in the same God”, please go back and read the 1 John 2 reference. Verse 23 states “No one who denies the Son has the Father.” Meditate upon John 5:30-47 as well, specifically v38;42;46. Jews are as equally idolatrous, rebellious, and damned as the Muslims they hate. We are to have no fellowship with them. Our relationship to them must be as ambassadors of the gospel, ministers of reconciliation.

Who is Israel?

All of these ads prominently proclaim “Israel Needs Your Support“. But we must ask ourselves, who is Israel? Or rather, who does the Bible say is the true Israel?

Romans 9:6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 8 This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.

Romans 2:28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

Paul seems to be saying that there is a deeper meaning to the name Israel than simply the nation of Abraham’s physical descendants. Where is he getting this idea from? He clarifies in Galatians 3:

7 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham…28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

Throughout the Old Testament, Israel was identified as the physical descendants of Abraham who received the physical promise of the land of Canaan. But now with the fuller revelation of Jesus Christ, Paul is able to explain that the physical promise of land was only a shadow of the true promise made to Abraham: Christ. Therefore, Paul says that Israel, Abraham’s offspring, is actually Jesus Christ and His body. Christians are the Israel of God (Gal 6:16).

Scripture Quotations

Now let’s take a look at the verses these ads quote.

Isaiah 11:12 And He will lift up a (AC)standard for the nations
And (AD)assemble the banished ones of Israel,
And will gather the dispersed of Judah
From the four corners of the earth.

The IFCJ ad quotes this verse apparently because they believe the creation of the modern state of Israel in 1948 is the fulfillment of Isaiah 11:12. God will “assemble the banished ones of Israel” or as the ad translates it “Gathering the Jewish exiles from the four corners of the earth”. Financial contributions to IFCJ directly support this interpretation of Isaiah 11:12

Is it true that Freedom Flights are provided at no cost to Jews wishing to immigrate to Israel?
The airlines contracted by the Israeli government to provide these flights are commercial businesses that are paid for their services by the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) and the Israeli government. JAFI, in turn, depends on organizations like The Fellowship to cover the cost of these flights, as well as other costs included in the aliyah (immigration) and klitah (resettlement) process. These include the cost of obtaining passports and travel documents, language and job training at absorption centers in Israel, and housing subsidies.
http://www.ifcj.org/site/PageNavigator/eng/about/about_faq/

But is that what Isaiah 11:12 is talking about? Go read the whole chapter (please, actually go read it – I’ll wait).

First of all, who is the shoot who will spring from the stem of Jesse (11:1)? The New Testament is abundantly clear it is Jesus Christ (Acts 13:23; Rev 5:5; 22:16; Rom 15:12).

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein cannot claim the modern state of Israel is a fulfillment of Isaiah 11:12 unless he can identify someone in 1948 as the promised shoot of Jesse because verse 11 says that these Jewish exiles will be gathered “on that day” when the shoot springs up from the stem of Jesse.

Eckstein denies 11:1 refers to Jesus, so his interpretation is already wrong – but he can’t even identify any modern leader as the fulfillment of 11:1.

So if the IFCJ ad’s interpretation of 11:12 is wrong, what is the right interpretation? Is it prophesying Christ’s return when He will  supposedly re-establish the nation of Israel and rebuild a temple and gather the banished ethnic Jews from around the world? No. Paul makes it clear that Isaiah was prophesying about the body of Christ, about the gospel age, when all of God’s elect, Jew and Gentile, will be gathered from throughout the world (through the proclamation of the gospel, Rom 10) into one body: the Israel of God.

Romans 9:23 And He did so to make known (AS)the riches of His glory upon (AT)vessels of mercy, which He (AU)prepared beforehand for glory, 24even us, whom He also (AV)called, (AW)not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles. 25As He says also in Hosea,
(AX)I WILL CALL THOSE WHO WERE NOT MY PEOPLE, ‘MY PEOPLE,’
AND HER WHO WAS NOT BELOVED, ‘BELOVED.'”
26(AY)AND IT SHALL BE THAT IN THE PLACE WHERE IT WAS SAID TO THEM, ‘YOU ARE NOT MY PEOPLE,’
THERE THEY SHALL BE CALLED SONS OF (AZ)THE LIVING GOD.”

27Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, “(BA)THOUGH THE NUMBER OF THE SONS OF ISRAEL BE (BB)LIKE THE SAND OF THE SEA, IT IS (BC)THE REMNANT THAT WILL BE SAVED;

The remnant are the elect (both Jew and Gentile) and the salvation spoken of in Isaiah is not physical salvation from physical exile from the physical land of Canaan/Palestine. The salvation spoken of is eternal spiritual salvation from spiritual exile from heaven and slavery to Satan. To claim Isaiah 11:12 was fulfilled in 1948 in the creation of the modern state of Israel is to deny the Gospel. Why are Christians giving this organization money?

Genesis 12:3

Next up is Genesis 12:3

1Now (A)the LORD said to Abram,
“Go forth from your country,
And from your relatives
And from your father’s house,
To the land which I will show you;
2And (B)I will make you a great nation,
And (C)I will bless you,
And make your name great;
And so (D)you shall be a blessing;
3And (E)I will bless those who bless you,
And the one who curses you I will curse
(F)And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.

IFCJ quotes the verse as “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Apparently they believe verse 3 means that we should financially support the modern state of Israel because we, and everyone, will be blessed by them. The modern state of Israel is a blessing to the world, and so we should support it, according to IFCJ.

But what does God say verse 3 means?

In his second sermon in the book of Acts, Peter said:

Acts 3:23 Moses said, ‘(AI)THE LORD GOD WILL RAISE UP FOR YOU A PROPHET LIKE ME FROM YOUR BRETHREN; TO HIM YOU SHALL GIVE HEED to everything He says to you. 23(AJ)And it will be that every (AK)soul that does not heed that prophet (AL)shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’ 24“And likewise, (AM)all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and his successors onward, also announced these days. 25“It is you who are (AN)the sons of the prophets and of the (AO)covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘(AP)AND IN YOUR SEED ALL THE FAMILIES OF THE EARTH SHALL BE BLESSED.’ 26“For you (AQ)first, God (AR)raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.”

Peter, moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:19-21), explained that the fulfillment of Genesis 12:3 was the gospel of Jesus Christ. All peoples of the earth will be blessed through Abraham because God will raise up His Servant, descended from Abraham, and will send Him to bless all peoples by commanding repentance and offering forgiveness.

Paul made this even more explicit in his letter to the Galatians:

Galatians 3:7 Therefore, be sure that (J)it is those who are of faith who are (K)sons of Abraham.8The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “(L)ALL THE NATIONS WILL BE BLESSED IN YOU.” 9So then (M)those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer. 10For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “(N)CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO DOES NOT ABIDE BY ALL THINGS WRITTEN IN THE BOOK OF THE LAW, TO PERFORM THEM.”

11Now that (O)no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “(P)THE RIGHTEOUS MAN SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.” 12However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, “(Q)HE WHO PRACTICES THEM SHALL LIVE BY THEM.” 13Christ (R)redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us–for it is written, “(S)CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON (T)A TREE”– 14in order that (U)in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we (V)would receive (W)the promise of the Spirit through faith.

It could not be any more clear. God said that the blessing of Genesis 12:3 is the gospel and that it is accomplished in Christ Jesus – not in the modern state of Israel. Why is a Christian magazine promoting a Jewish Rabbi’s denial of the gospel?

Psalm 122:6

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May they prosper who love you.

Just as we had to ask who Israel is, so now we must as where Jerusalem is. When there was a famine in Jerusalem during the first years of the church, did the Apostles instruct Christians to pray for the earthly city of Jerusalem? No, they were to pray for and financially support the saints (Christians) in Jerusalem. (How many of those who support IFCJ financially stop to consider that the modern state of Israel persecutes Palenstinian saints?!)

Are we to continue to pray for the earthly city of Jerusalem? Again, let us hear the definitive answer from the Word of God:

Galatians 4:21 Tell me, you who want to be under law, do you not (AA)listen to the law? 22For it is written that Abraham had two sons, (AB)one by the bondwoman and (AC)one by the free woman. 23But (AD)the son by the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and (AE)the son by the free woman through the promise.24(AF)This is allegorically speaking, for these women are two covenants: one proceeding from (AG)Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be (AH)slaves; she is Hagar. 25Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26But (AI)the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother.

27For it is written,
(AJ)REJOICE, BARREN WOMAN WHO DOES NOT BEAR;
BREAK FORTH AND SHOUT, YOU WHO ARE NOT IN LABOR;
FOR MORE NUMEROUS ARE THE CHILDREN OF THE DESOLATE
THAN OF THE ONE WHO HAS A HUSBAND.”

28And you brethren, (AK)like Isaac, are (AL)children of promise. 29But as at that time (AM)he who was born according to the flesh (AN)persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, (AO)so it is now also.

30But what does the Scripture say?
(AP)CAST OUT THE BONDWOMAN AND HER SON,
FOR (AQ)THE SON OF THE BONDWOMAN SHALL NOT BE AN HEIR WITH THE SON OF THE FREE WOMAN.”

31So then, brethren, we are not children of a bondwoman, but of the free woman.

God the Holy Spirit explains that there were two Jerusalems: One stemming from the Mosaic Covenant – the earthly city of the earthly descendants of Abraham; the other stemming from the New Covenant – the heavenly city of the spiritual descendants of Abraham. God even goes so far as to explain that the earthly Jerusalem and her people have been “cast out”! To agree with IFCJ’s interpretation of Psalm 122:6 by financially supporting the organization and the modern state of Israel is to deny the explicit teaching of the Holy Spirit.

Revelation 21:1Then I saw(A) a new heaven and a new earth, for(B) the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2And I saw(C) the holy city,(D) new Jerusalem,(E) coming down out of heaven from God,(F) prepared(G) as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold,(H) the dwelling place[a] of God is with man. He will(I) dwell with them, and they will be his people,[b] and God himself will be with them as their God.[c]4(J) He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and(K) death shall be no more,(L) neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

5And(M) he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I(N) am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for(O) these words are trustworthy and true.” 6And he said to me,(P) “It is done!(Q) I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.(R) To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. 7(S) The one who conquers will have this heritage, and(T) I will be his God and(U) he will be my son. 8(V) But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars,(W) their portion will be in(X) the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is(Y) the second death.”

22And(AQ) I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23And the city(AR) has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for(AS) the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24By its light(AT) will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth(AU) will bring their glory into it, 25and(AV) its gates will never be shut by day—and(AW) there will be no night there. 26They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 27But(AX) nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s(AY) book of life.

Does that sound like the Jerusalem you hear about in the news today? The Jerusalem we are to pray for is the Jerusalem from above – the kingdom of God.

Breaking Down the Hostility Between Jew and Gentile

The stated purpose of IFCJ is to break down the 2,000 year wall of hostility between Jews and Christians – and yet the wall of hostility between Jews and Gentiles was already broken down 2,000 years ago.

Ephesians 2:11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.

Jesus Christ is the only means of reconciliation. Fellowship is found in Christ alone. If Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein seeks peace with Christians, the only way to accomplish it is through Jesus Christ. Yet Eckstein refuses to repent of his idolatry. He refuses to acknowledge his guilt before God and cast himself upon the mercy of the Messiah. Instead, he promotes a false gospel of earthly hope and eternal torment.

Support of Christian Leaders

In light of this, I urge you to call Christians and Christian leaders who support IFCJ to repentance. James Dobson of Focus on the Family is an incredibly influential voice (who also appeared in my recent post about Mormons – not a good sign for his ability to discern truth from error). Here is what he has to say about IFCJ:

I’m aware of your own efforts to defend righteousness… it’s heartening to know that you and other members of the Jewish community are standing with us [Christians] in striving to defend biblical truths.

Dr. James C. Dobson
Founder and Chairman, Focus on the Family

How can Dr. Dobson applaud Eckstein’s denial of the gospel as “biblical truth”??

Wailing Wall

Finally, you can see in the ad above a picture of the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. It is located at the foot of the western side of the Temple Mount.

According to the Tanakh, Solomon’s Temple was built atop the Temple Mount in the 10th century BCE and destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE. The Second Temple was completed and dedicated in 516 BCE. In around 19 BCE Herod the Great began a massive expansion project on the Temple Mount. He artificially expanded the area which resulted in an enlarged platform. Today’s Western Wall formed part of the retaining perimeter wall of this platform. Herod’s Temple was destroyed by the Roman Empire, along with the rest of Jerusalem, in 70 CE during the First Jewish-Roman War.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_Wall

The destruction of the temple in AD70 was God’s judgment upon the nation of Israel. We read in Galatians 3 that the Jerusalem below, the son of the slave woman, was to be cast off – and she was. The Mosaic Covenant was a conditional covenant. Israel would remain in the land of Canaan only if they obeyed God’s statutes and ordinances. They did not, and as a result, they were cut off. God spoke of this:

Jeremiah 11:1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2 “Hear the words of this covenant, and speak to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 3 You shall say to them, Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Cursed be the man who does not hear the words of this covenant 4 that I commanded your fathers when I brought them out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace, saying, Listen to my voice, and do all that I command you. So shall you be my people, and I will be your God, 5 that I may confirm the oath that I swore to your fathers, to give them a land flowing with milk and honey, as at this day.” Then I answered, “So be it, Lord.”

6 And the Lord said to me, “Proclaim all these words in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem: Hear the words of this covenant and do them. 7 For I solemnly warned your fathers when I brought them up out of the land of Egypt, warning them persistently, even to this day, saying, Obey my voice. 8 Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but everyone walked in the stubbornness of his evil heart. Therefore I brought upon them all the words of this covenant, which I commanded them to do, but they did not.”

9 Again the Lord said to me, “A conspiracy exists among the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 10 They have turned back to the iniquities of their forefathers, who refused to hear my words. They have gone after other gods to serve them. The house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken my covenant that I made with their fathers. 11 Therefore, thus says the Lord, Behold, I am bringing disaster upon them that they cannot escape. Though they cry to me, I will not listen to them. 12 Then the cities of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem will go and cry to the gods to whom they make offerings, but they cannot save them in the time of their trouble. 13 For your gods have become as many as your cities, O Judah, and as many as the streets of Jerusalem are the altars you have set up to shame, altars to make offerings to Baal.

14 “Therefore do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer on their behalf, for I will not listen when they call to me in the time of their trouble. 15 What right has my beloved in my house, when she has done many vile deeds? Can even sacrificial flesh avert your doom? Can you then exult? 16 The Lord once called you ‘a green olive tree, beautiful with good fruit.’ But with the roar of a great tempest he will set fire to it, and its branches will be consumed. 17 The Lord of hosts, who planted you, has decreed disaster against you, because of the evil that the house of Israel and the house of Judah have done, provoking me to anger by making offerings to Baal.”

Though the earthly Jerusalem was destroyed because of a broken covenant, hope remains because of an unbreakable covenant:

Hebrews 8:1 Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, 2 a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man. 3 For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. 4 Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. 5 They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.” 6 But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.

8 For he finds fault with them when he says:

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord,
when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel
and with the house of Judah,
9 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers
on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt.
For they did not continue in my covenant,
and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord.
10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws into their minds,
and write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor
and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’
for they shall all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest.
12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities,
and I will remember their sins no more.”

13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.