The Kingdom which by promise exclusively belonged to the Jewish nation, the rightful seed of Abraham, was now to be given to an engrafted people.
PROPOSITION 61. The Kingdom which by promise exclusively belonged to the Jewish nation, the rightful seed of Abraham, was now to be given to an engrafted people.
It has been shown that this kingdom belongs by promise and covenant to the seed of Abraham (Props. 29, 49); now, as the promises of God are sure (Props. 47, 52), this people, this very nation, must be engrafted or incorporated with this elected seed of Abraham. This is indispensable, for othewise God’s oath-bound word would fail in its fulfilment. Rather than have so precious a word to fail, God is able, as we have seen, to raise up children unto Abraham even, if necessary, from the stones (Matt. 3:9); but instead of resorting to miraculous intervention to produce such a result, God raises up a seed unto Abraham out of the Gentiles by engrafting them through faith in the Christ, and accounting them as the children of Abraham by virtue of their Abrahamic justifying faith.
Obs. 1. The plan of adoption is simple: Abraham was justified by faith, the election was bestowed upon him in virtue of that faith, and hence those who believe in the promised seed being also justified by faith, are brought into living union with Christ (“the King of the Jews”), and through Him become the adopted children of Abraham who was of like faith. Hence the apostle in Gal. 3 tells us (v.7) “Know ye therefore, that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.” But why become the children of Abraham? Because, as he shows, verses 14–18, the promises and inheritance are given through him, and we must be related to Abraham in order to receive and inherit the same. Therefore he goes on and insists that this very essential relationship is established in and through Jesus Christ, and (v. 28, 29) adds: “for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to promise.” Thus then (ch. 2:5) receiving “the adoption of sons,” because united and identified with Christ, who is the chief inheritor under the Abrahamic covenant, we become co-heirs with Him. This marvellously simple arrangement, introducing mercy and grace to us Gentiles, preserves the covenanted promises intact and confirms them.[*]
Note. Hon. Vance, in a lecture (Baltimore, Md., reported in The Sun, March, 1874), justly says: “Every Christian to day is a graft upon the stock of the Jewish Church, and each Christian perpetuates the Jew.” On the other hand, e.g., Hodge (Sys. Div., vol. 3, p. 810) does not discriminate, but has the wall of partition broken down between nations instead of, as Paul, between believers in Christ. If it be objected that we have the most comprehensive language, such as the world reconciled in Christ and kindred expressions, the answer is plain: such a reconciliation and the reception of the Gospel by all men has not yet been witnessed—it requiring time to be exemplified practically—but will be in the future, through the instrumentality of this very Kingdom inherited by believers (comp. e.g. Prop. 176).
Obs. 2. This Proposition and the decided Scriptural proof sustaining it, removes at once that painfully loose and inconsistent theological writing, so exceedingly prevalent since the days of the mystical schoolmen, which makes no account of our virtually becoming the children of Abraham. Having lost the true force of the covenants, consequently totally misapprehending the nature of the Kingdom and of the covenant renewed in the blood of Jesus, and substituting another and widely different Kingdom for the covenanted one, and utterly ignoring the plainly revealed postponement of the Kingdom,—multitudes (see e. g. Prop. 67, Obs. 3, Prop. 54, Obs. 4,5, etc.) see no necessity for our becoming the seed of Abraham in order to inherit. With many it seems to be the proper thing, to be as far removed as possible from a Jewish standpoint, and to this feeling much and precious truth is sacrificed. All passages bearing on the subject are merely regarded and interpreted as representative or figurative and not real. But we see a deep and solid reason for this process of becoming grafted into this elect, covenanted nation. Paul (Rom. chs. 9, 10, and 11) argues directly that the election runs only in a certain line of Abraham’s seed, in that of Isaac (comp. Props. 49 and 50) the child of promise, and that after the manifested unrighteousness of the nation, “except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed we had been as Sodom,” etc.; that in believers there is no difference between Jew and Gentile, both being equally heirs of the promise; that Gentiles by their faith are accounted as believing Jews and also of the election, because “if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.” Here then it is decisively stated that Gentile believers are grafted in upon the Jewish olive tree, the root of which remaining untouched, owing to the elective purpose of God, this also bears these engrafted ones. The personal interest in the covenants is thus clearly specified, and the manner in which it is obtained, by adoption, is equally stated in precise language. This language, too, is addressed to Gentiles, reminding them of the distinctive relationship they sustained to the Jewish elect nation. While the natural descendants of Abraham were included in the covenant relationship, as evinced by the covenants only given to them, by the Theocratic government instituted only among and over them, yet only the believing and faithful portion of those natural descendants were to realize the ultimate blessing of that Kingdom of kings and priests promised to faith and obedience. Now it is with this believing body of the Abrahamic line that believing Gentiles are incorporated, thus coming under the same covenant promises and blessings.[*]
Note. Fausset (Com. Dan. 7:27) justly remarks: “The saints are gathered out of Jews and Gentiles, but the stock of the Church is Jewish (Rom. 9:24 and 11:24); God’s faithfulness to this election Church is thus virtually faithfulness to Israel, and a pledge of their future national blessing. Christ confirms this fact, while withholding the date (Acts 1:6, 7).” Comp. with this Prop. 63, and observe the numerous concessions to be found in various commentaries on Rom. ch. 11 and Gal. ch. 3.
Obs. 3. We cannot too strongly insist upon this necessary engrafting of Gentile believers, so that by virtue of a real relationship, they, being regarded by God Himself as of the seed of Abraham, may inherit. For, it has become a great and radical defect in many, if not nearly all, of our systems of Theology to overlook the reason why a seed must be raised up unto Abraham, and to proceed in their elucidations of the subject, as if Abraham and the Jews had very little to do with the matter. In treatises on Justification by Faith (by which we become engrafted) we find, from beginning to end, no allusion whatever to the Patriarchs and the covenants, just as if the present dispensation was separate, unconnected, and independent of all others. This is a serious, fundamental blunder, violating unity, and making the election and covenants of little value. Let such writers consider the exceeding plain and reiterated language of Scripture on this point. That the Gentile believer must become an adopted member of the elected nation is stated in words (Eph. chs. 2 and 3) like these: that the Gentiles who were in time past “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise,” “who sometime were afar off are now made nigh by the blood of Christ,” so that in believing and appropriating that blood by faith, “ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and of the household of God,” etc., so “that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel.” Why does the apostle tell this to Gentile believers, if it was not to show them clearly into what they had been grafted, viz.: into that elected Jewish nation to which was covenanted the promises? Moreover, such is the peculiarity and distinctiveness of this relationship, or, as the apostle calls it, “fellowship,” that the revealment of its adoption and manner of procedure is called “a mystery.” For it was a question to be decided, how this could be done without changing or lowering covenants given to this Jewish nation.[*]
Note. Alas! multitudes of Gentiles do not regard it in this light. They think it was a very simple process, viz.: to ignore or set aside oath-bound covenants, and give the blessings spiritualized to Gentiles without any reference to the Jews. When such utterances as “salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22), “other sheep I have, which are not of this fold; them also must I bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold and one Shepherd” (John 10:16), etc., are given, they are interpreted in such a manner as to lose their native, inherent force. Learned men gravely inform us that about all the meaning that can be attached to them is, that as the Jews were depositories of truth and religion. so the same was handed down to us through them, and Gentiles receive it and become in turn the depositories. Others, however, go so far as to object to the use of such language. Thus e.g. Renan (Life of Jesus, p. 215, footnote), with his usual destructive criticism in behalf of his lauded religion of humanity, objects to the phrase “salvation is of the Jews,” as expressing a thought which “appears to have been interpolated.” Our entire argument shows that it is essential and just the language that ought to be employed. The vital necessity, owing to oath-bound covenants, given to Abraham and David, of every Gentile, who desires to secure the covenanted promises sealed by the blood of Christ, in becoming a child of Abraham is entirely passed over as if it had never existed, by such writers. They also endeavor to make a difference between Paul and the other apostles, extending even to an antagonism, because Paul lays more stress on the doctrine of “justification by faith,” forgetting that this very feature ought to be prominent in Paul’s case, because specially appointed an apostle to the Gentiles, and faith was the grand instrumentality by which the Gentiles were engrafted and adopted.
Obs. 4. Men ridicule as “carnal,” “fleshly,” etc., that we Gentile believers, in virtue of our union with Christ, are grafted in and become members of the Jewish elect nation, virtually becoming believing Jews. Overlooking the covenants exclusively given to the Jews (Rom. 9:4), forgetting that the Kingdom with its ultimate blessings is only tendered to the true Israel, i.e. to the believing and obedient natural descendants (and engrafted and adopted Gentiles,) of Abraham, our opponents point us, in order to sustain their rejection of such a Jewish connection, to Rom. 2:28–29: “For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men but of God.” Aside from the expression that we must become “Jews inwardly,” thus confirming our position (for what, excepting this covenanted relationship, could have induced Paul to use this peculiar phraseology, viz.: that, in some way, we must become Jews?), we apprehend, from the very concessions made by many of our opponents, that the expression “for he is not a Jew who is one outwardly” has no reference, as is generally supposed, to birth or descent from Abraham. This is evidenced by the contrast or antithesis “but he is a Jew, which is one inwardly;” the latter indicating the state of the heart, viz.: being faithful and obedient,—the former “outwardly” has also reference to the heart, that it was not right because such an one contented himself with external or outward conformance to the law.[*]
Note. It only teaches what is elsewhere taught, that not all the natural descendants of Abraham will receive the promises (just as now, not all who are outwardly Christians but those who are also inwardly such, shall inherit the Kingdom), though covenanted to them and incorporated with them as a nation, because they are conditioned, so far as individual members of the nation, are concerned, by heartfelt faith and obedience. Indeed, to make the passage refer to birth or descent would make it inconsistent with the previous dealings of God with the Jewish nation, which was so directly and positively chosen because of its line of descent. To the nation, as a nation, this, as will be seen more clearly as we advance, natural descent is of inestimable value, for to it belongs the Theocratic ordering; to the individual Jew it was, as Paul argues in Romans, of great advantage, because of his personal contact with the covenants, but even this advantage (just as now, in church membership and church privileges) could, through unbelief, be rendered unavailable and condemnatory, rendering his circumcision, the outward sign of his peculiar relationship, of no profit, not being accompanied by a proper heart observance. Another passage, Rom. 9:6, “They are not all Israel which are of Israel,” is employed by some as if it discarded the natural descendants. But this is contradictory to the plain fact that for many centuries the promises, etc., were confined to those natural descendants and to the few Gentiles adopted; and to the additional fact that even now they pertain to them, making it necessary for Gentiles to be grafted in and adopted. The reader will observe that the name is a national one, for all have a right to the name who are descended from Israel, but only in so far as they also imbibe the faith and spirit of him who was first called Israel, for the apostle argues that some, through their conduct, make void their interest in the name. Those who are loyal to the name retain it; those who are not cannot be counted among them.
Obs. 5. This necessary engrafting, this vital connection through Christ with the Jewish elect nation (as the seed of Abraham to whom the promises are given) gives the key to the word “Israel,” applied even now to all true believers. This word has not two meanings, one applicable to the Jews and the other to the Gentiles, such as men in their wisdom attach to it, but only one meaning which God has given to it. Given originally to Jacob, it was only applicable (e.g. Rom. 9:6) in its original full meaning to his believing descendants who had part and lot in the covenanted blessings; and, therefore, in view of this connection the word is in a general way (as e.g. Rom. 9:4, 27, and 11:7, 25, etc.) applied to these descendants (including even all the natural descendants because to them were the promises committed,) to whom belonged the covenants, (and to those who were adopted into the nation). Therefore, it is applicable only, so far as the Gentiles are concerned, to such as are grafted in and thus, becoming members of the covenanted line, are reckoned as “the Israel,” can entertain “the hope of Israel,” and will inherit with “the Israel of God.” Being thus incorporated with “the commonwealth of Israel”—the Israel to whom pertain the covenants,—they virtually become Jews, and the distinctive title by which the believing line of Jews was favored, rightfully also belongs to them. The very name “Israel” is a reminder to us of such an adoption and election.[*]
Note. The name “Israel” means, as critics have informed us, “Who prevails with God,” or “A Prince of God,” and is significant of much more than being one whom God favors, viz.: that the one favored is in the covenanted line. Thus e.g. the name is given to Christ (Isa. 49:3), because pre-eminently applicable to him as one who prevails, as one who is a Prince, as the Seed in Israel’s line, as the one through whom Israel is saved; it is bestowed upon all believers because they prevail, are exalted in the covenanted line; and it is given to the natural descendants of Jacob as expressive of their covenanted position. Fully admitting that the resemblance of names does not necessarily imply identity of ideas, yet if the name continues to have the same idea connected with it throughout revelation, and if no change is directly asserted, we may, consistently, maintain the identity, especially in so weighty a doctrine as the election, adoption pertaining to the Kingdom. The name “Israel” applies to the Jewish nation, to the one line of Abraham’s descendants, and also to those adopted into it. Hence it fully belongs, by right, to all who are engrafted, and is thus employed. All who are the sons of Abraham, whether Jews believing or believing Gentiles grafted in, are Israel. This simple application should prevent the misapplying of the word, as if the present Israel was something separate and distinct from the Jewish stock. We recommend to the reader’s notice the following remark from the leading Post-Millenarian of the day. Dr. Brown (Com. Rom. 11, note 8) says: “Those who think that in all the evangelical prophecies of the Old Test. the terms ‘Jacob,’ ‘Israel,’ etc., are to be understood solely of the Christian Church, would appear to read the Old Test. differently from the apostle, who, from the use of those very terms in Old Test. prophecy, draws arguments to prove that God has mercy in store for the natural Israel (v. 26, 27).” Such a rebuke from such a source, to the prevailing spiritualizing of the terms, and exclusive application to Gentiles, etc., is worthy of attention, and aids to refute some of his reasoning in Ch. Sec. Coming.
Obs. 6. This necessarily becoming “a child of Abraham” in order to inherit the promises, is unaccountable to those who overlook the covenants by which it is demanded. Thus e.g. Clarke (Ten Religions, p. 403), who regards Abraham’s life and influence alone from a historic point, remarks: “the most curious fact about this Jewish people is, that every one of them is a child of Abraham” which “ancestral pride” “has never been the case with any other nation.” The reason is evident: the covenant relationship demanded such a descent, for it is only the children of Abraham, natural and adopted, that can obtain the promises. This was felt and acknowledged from the express terms of the covenant; and that covenant instead of being rescinded, annulled, or altered remains to-day in full force.[*]
Note. It is, therefore, a matter of surprise that Knapp (Ch. Theol., p. 350) should assert that “far better promises are given in these prophets to the heathen than to the Jews,” when the facts are that they are the same blessings covenanted to the Jews and obtained by the Gentiles only on the condition of being engrafted and thus coming under the blessed reign of “the King of the Jews.” This will be more clearly seen when we come to prove the establishment of the Kingdom in accordance with the terms of the covenant given to the Jewish nation, and observe the conspicuous position assigned to the Jewish elect nation in it. Knapp’s judgment is based on his view of the present dispensation as final, and in the fact that now the Gentiles believe and receive the blessings of the Gospel more freely than the Jews; but this is only taking a very limited and partial view of God’s Plan in the incorporation of Gentile believers, and in the ever-continued, because covenanted, preeminence of the Jewish nation. For we must never forget the declaration. 2 Sam. 7:24: “For Thou hast confirmed to Thyself Thy people Israel to be a people unto Thee forever: and Thou, Lord, art become their God.”