Chapter # 9 Paragraph # 2 Study # 2
December 17, 2017
7 Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, [are they
] all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.
8 That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these [are
] not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.
9 For this [is
] the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son.
10 And not only [this
]; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, [even
] by our father Isaac;
11 (For [the children
] being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)
12 It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.
13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.
1901 ASV Translation
7 neither, because they are Abraham's seed, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.
8 That is, it is not the children of the flesh that are children of God; but the children of the promise are reckoned for a seed.
9 For this is a word of promise,
According to this season will I come, and Sarah shall have a son.
10 And not only so; but Rebecca also having conceived by one, [even
] by our father Isaac--
11 for [the children
] being not yet born, neither having done anything good or bad, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth,
12 it was said unto her,
The elder shall serve the younger.
13 Even as it is written,
Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.
- I. Neither Are All Children.
- A. Paul argued that being "out of Israel" did not make one "Israel", though it did make one an "Israelite". His argument hinges upon a basic hermeneutical principle: all details of the context have input for the determination of meaning.
- 1. The "overlooked" detail of the original context, he argues, is the fact that it is God Who established the meaning of "Israel" by making the promise to Abram that He would make of him a great nation. The specific issue is the final promise: "at this time will I come and Sarah shall have a son". A prior issue (in our text, not history) is that God said "in Isaac shall thy seed be called" (this statement was made long after Isaac's birth at the time of the expulsion of Hagar and Ishmael from the household). In other words, it is "promise" that exists from the beginning and that makes the issue not the issue of Abraham's loins, but, rather, the activity of God in fulfilling His own promises.
- 2. Because the "promise/faith" issue is an immediate contextual factor, Paul's "hermeneutic" is neither "allegory", nor "spiritualizing", but taking words according to the dictates of their context. He never says that one can be "Israel" (as "the children of promise") without being of the seed of Abraham; he simply says that God produces those children because of His promise within the larger group who are also "the seed of Abraham" (Israelites, but not Israel).
- B. Now he goes a step further: a person is not a "child" simply because they are "seed" of Abraham. At this point he goes more directly to his point by inserting the world "children".
- 1. He is not saying that one is not a "child" of Abraham even though he is a "seed" of Abraham because in 9:8 he clearly reveals his meaning of "child" with the phrase "children of God".
- 2. This is crucial because he is addressing a major issue of the Jews. In their theology, "we are Abraham's seed" (John 8:33) was the equivalent of "we are children of God as heirs of the commitments to Abraham made by God". Paul is splitting them away from their theology by claiming that God never said the offspring of Abraham would be the children of God (Ishmael, the sons of Keturah, etc.). Rather, God said that He would produce the "seed" who are also the "children of God" ("I will come and Sarah will have a son").
- 3. Thus, the issues of Promise/Faith have always been in the picture and must be taken into account when dealing with the identity of the "children of God".
- C. And then he draws his conclusion: it is not the children of the flesh that are children of God BUT the children of the promise are being reckoned for seed.
- 1. The concept of "children of the flesh" is that of a child born by the inherent power of the processes of the bodies of those involved. It is the norm for God to grant inherent power to men and women to procreate children. In Sarah's case, God withheld that "norm" for His own reasons; He wished to make it as clear as possible that Abraham's "seed" was a matter of His "promise" and not a matter of Abraham's virility or of Sarah's barrenness.
- 2. The concept of "children of the promise" is that of a person becoming a "child of God" because of God's own personal involvement because He made a promise to a person who believed Him.
- D. To make it emphatic, he goes on to address the specific "promise": "At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son".
- 1. This promise is given when Abraham is 99 and Sarah is 89 with a history of barrenness.
- 2. God's point is that the outcomes of His promises are His doing without regard for the processes involved as His tools. Hebrews 11 says that Sarah received strength to conceive when she believed God. Her "faith" was the critical issue under "promise". Promises do not come to pass for those who do not believe them. There is no point to promise something to someone if they do not trust you. A "promise" only makes its impact upon those who believe it. A "promise" is, by definition, not a current reality; it is a commitment to make a future reality develop in history. The "point" of a "promise" is to put the recipient at ease with the present (which is not very desirable) because of the coming future reality (which is highly desired).