Chapter # 9 Paragraph # 2 Study # 1
December 10, 2017
: The Word of The God must be interpreted according to the standard of "promise/faith" and not appearances of "contradiction".
: As we move from Paul's declared attitude toward his brethren "according to the standard of flesh", we are immediately confronted with an "appearance" of severe contradiction within The Word of The God. Just as Paul's initial "subject" in 9:1-5
addresses a profound, perceived, contradiction to "faith" for men (the accusation that the origins of Paul's theology is "hate"), so also does this next paragraph directly confront another profound, perceived, contradiction to "faith" for men.
It is a well-known tactic of men to attempt to dismiss arguments for "truth" by attacking the motives of the messenger. For instance, in the never-ending debates surrounding the doctrine of election, invariably one will run into the accusation that "individual election" presents God as a cosmic ogre Who unfeelingly consigns men to eternal hell for no other reason than to maintain His own "sovereign grace". This is not an attack upon "God". It is, rather, an attempt to paint the messengers as incredibly, stupidly, blindly, wrong so that people will not entertain the doctrine as "truth". Thus, in this same way, Paul, in this next paragraph, anticipates the opponents of his doctrine. He clearly believes that his adversaries will attempt to contradict his doctrine by accusing him of teaching an inherently contradictory concept: that God's promises and covenants are in clear contradiction to his admitted position that "Israel" is in extreme apostasy. How can God's promises and covenants leave "Israel" in such a condition? The opponents argue that this amounts to a failure of the promises and covenants.
Therefore, Paul, by anticipating this argument, decides to take it head on at its roots: a tragically wrong hermeneutic which fundamentally misunderstands how words are to be understood when spoken by God. This is shown by Paul's "not all who are 'out of' Israel are 'Israel' ". In other words, the word "Israel", when addressed by God in promises and covenants, must be properly "interpreted".
- I. The Issue.
- A. Part one: The Word of The God.
- 1. At root, The Word of The God is what God has said as an expression of His intention that men understand Him.
- 2. Also at root, men have not understood His "words" until the same concept exists in their heads that also exists in His mind.
- 3. And a third root is the fact that language in words is notorious for its weakness in the ability to accurately transmit concepts from mind to mind when those minds do not share a sufficiently comprehensive unity of meanings.
- B. Part two: failure.
- 1. At root, it is impossible for The Word of The God to "fail" in the sense that God's purpose(s) in That Word are not achieved.
- 2. But, as an accusation, any "doctrine" which fails to be in harmony with The Word of The God is, of necessity, unbelievable and, therefore, hopelessly flawed.
- C. Part three: the accusation.
- 1. The adversaries are attempting to persuade men to reject Paul's message as hopelessly out of touch with the true meanings of The Word of The God.
- 2. If, in fact, what Paul was preaching did point to a fundamental contradiction between his preaching and the true meaning of The Word of The God, all men everywhere would be responsible to reject it.
- II. The Background.
- A. In 9:4 Paul calls his opponents "Israelites".
- 1. This designation automatically means we have to understand what Paul means by "Israelite".
- 2. But, our need to understand, is easily met by the other words in the paragraph.
- a. He says of "Israelites" that they are his "brethren" and that they are "kinsmen according to the standard of 'flesh'."
- 1) The original "Israel" (Jacob) could have said of Esau that he was an "Isaacite", a "kinsman according to the standard of 'flesh'."
- 2) The original "Isaac" could have said of Ishmael and the sons of Keturah that they were "Abrahamites", his "kinsmen according to the standard of 'flesh'."
- b. By these dual descriptive phrases, Paul closely defines what he means by "brethren" and "kinsmen" by using the phrase "according to the standard of 'flesh'."
- 3. Our understanding that "Israelite" means a physical offspring of "Israel" in Paul's statements is affirmed by 11:1 where he defines an "Israelite" as a physical offspring of both Abraham and one of the sons of Israel (Benjamin, in his case).
- a. This means that, for Paul, an "Israelite" is a person who can trace his/her physical genealogy back to Abraham through Jacob.
- 1) By this meaning, Ishmael would not be an "Israelite", nor would the sons of Keturah, because those offspring of Abraham (Abrahamites) were not in the lineage that produced the sons of "Israel".
- a) These individuals were "Abrahamites" and Jacob's "kinsmen according to the standard of 'flesh'", but they were not "Isaacites" as was Jacob.
- b) Thus, Paul's meaning becomes clear: an "Israelite" is just what he said he was when he put both "brethren" and "kinsmen according to the standard of 'flesh'" into his definition.
- 2) Thus, we conclude that, for Paul, an "Israelite" had to be both a genetic son of Abraham and a genetic son of Israel (Jacob).
- B. But, now, in 9:6, Paul goes another step forward by arguing that God's words in covenants and promises must be understood in a way that indicates that being "Israel" requires more than being "out of Israel".
- III. The Argument.
- A. The claim is that if "Israelites" are as apostate as Paul claims they are, God's covenants and promises to the fathers have been invalidated by reason of God's failure to keep "Israelites" from apostasy.
- B. Paul's response is that his opponents misunderstand a key distinction between "Israelites" and "Israel".
- 1. In actual fact, Paul's opponents already know that this distinction exists because they know that if an "Israelite" denies his heritage by apostasy, he loses his privileged position in "Israel".
- a. Paul's opponents had already used this argument against both Jesus and Paul, so they could not deny it.
- b. In "legal" theology, the well-spring of Jewishness in the first century, one can sin badly enough to be rejected by God and cast into eternal hell.
- 2. However, Paul is not arguing on the basis of "legal" theology.
- 3. What Paul is arguing is on the basis of contextually established meaning.
- a. His first point is that being "out of Israel" does not automatically mean being a part of "Israel".
- b. His second point is that being of the "seed" of Abraham does not automatically make a person a "child" ("of God" as per the next verse) because God's words to Abraham were "in Isaac shall be called to you for seed".
- c. His major point: one must include the issue of "promise" as a contextual indicator of meaning for "child".
- 1) This is crucial because of the meaning of "promise".
- a. "Promise", by its own definition in Romans 4:21, specifically means "something God is going to do" because it is He Who made the promise (this excludes all human "doing" to bring the promise to fruition except as God moves man's activities).
- b. By pointing out that "promise" is key to "interpretation" because it is part of the context, Paul rules out his adversaries' arguments about "failure".
- 2) This is crucial because it is not a form of "allegorizing" or "spiritualizing".