by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 9 Paragraph # 2 Study # 3 January 7, 2017 Humble, Texas (Download Audio)
(021)Thesis: The "Rebecca also" argument pushes us to the foundation of promise/faith as it exists in the "according-to-election-purpose of The God".
Introduction: In our last study we saw that Paul argued that "Israelites" were not "Israel" because of the dominant thesis of promise/faith as a defining issue for "Israel". Those are "Israelites" who are the physical offspring of Jacob/Israel, but those are "Israel" who are both "Israelites" and divinely produced children according to the standard of "Isaac" as a "child of promise".
We need to be clear on what a "child of promise" is. A "child of promise" is a "genetic offspring" that comes into existence by the specific activity of God becauseof the complete incapacity of the sexual activity of the parents. This had its original roots in Abraham and Sarah whose complete incapacity was revealed by a long married lifetime where no conceptions had occurred. It was played out again in Isaac and Rebecca whose complete incapacity was revealed by a twenty year long married lifetime where no conceptions had occurred and, after the divine intervention, no other conceptions occurred. It was repeated in Zacharias and Elizabeth whose complete incapacity was revealed by a married life time wherein no conceptions had occurred and Elizabeth had passed into menopause. Then, finally, it was played out in Mary's case where conception occurred without any sexual activity with Joseph or any other man. The Point is this: a "child of promise" is a divinely produced pregnancy and birth that is wholly of God without the compromising issue of God's methods of producing the child. With Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, and Zacharias and Elizabeth, God used their sexual activity to produce the child, but with Mary He eliminated human sex altogether so that the twisting of the thesis of "a child of promise" by the introduction of human effort would be absolutely rejected. Thus, a "child of promise" is a child produced by God because He had made a "promise" which the recipient was supposed to "believe". In the case of Zacharias, even the "faith" issue is revealed to be "of God" because he did not "believe" the promise until he was, in effect, "forced" into it.
Now, in this study we are going to see the content and logic of Paul's appeal to the historical record of "Rebecca also...".
I. The "Rebecca also" Thesis.
A. The "And not only that" phrase points back to "...I shall come and there shall be to Sarah a son...".
1. This intentionally brings God into a "physical-proximity" for the purpose of highlighting His specific involvement in the light of total incapacity.
2. The facts involved are absolutely critical to the entire "promise/faith" construct for God's intended "relational universe" filled with the Kingdom of Righteousness, Peace, and Joy.
B. The "But also Rebecca" phrase means that there is a specific link between Sarah and Rebecca.
1. The link was "barrenness".
2. The narrative in Genesis 25 makes it abundantly clear that Rebecca did not conceive by Isaac until her barrenness was established by twenty years of married life without children.
3. The narrative specifically includes Isaac's "entreaty of the Lord" and "the Lord's answer" in terms of a pregnancy so that it is clear that it is "the Lord" Who produces the pregnancy.
II. The Added "Complication".
A. Paul assumes his readers' familiarity with the narrative so that they know that there were twins conceived.
1. These were fraternal twins as revealed by the sharp differences between the two both at birth and as they developed into physical maturity.
2. In this case, there is this "complication": with Sarah there were two sons of Abraham also, but they came by means of two different women, whereas with Rebecca there are two sons and they are both of her and Jacob.
B. At issue, however, is this reality: there are two fundamental principles involved that are easily "tangled".
1. One of the principles is a "child" that is the result of divine promise believed.
2. The other is a "child" that is the result of human sexuality as the norm for human marriage.
3. Paul separates the "twins" by tying them to the two different principles.
a. One is a "child" that is tied to the principle of human capacity and its results in "works".
b. The other is a "child" that is tied to the principle of the abiding principle of God's "purpose" and its necessary corollary of specific divine intervention called, in this text, "BUT out of Him Who calls".
c. Paul's argument is that "before" the doing of anything, whether good or evil, God declared how His purpose was going to develop.
1) One of the children was going to be a "child of promise" and the other a "child of the flesh".
2) And God's declaration ran against the culturally established norms so that there would be a clear distinction between God's activity and man's.
a) The terms are deliberately "plastic": the "greater" (in some way or ways) was going to "be a slave" to the "smaller" (in some way or ways).
b) This "plasticity" involved at least two, and maybe more, developments.
i. The "greater in status" (the first born) was going to be a slave to the "smaller in status" (the "Abel" of this text).
ii. The "greater in physical strength" was going to be a slave to the "smaller in strength" (a reality that showed up in the strong man of the hunter and the weaker home body of the "mother shadowed" and showed up again when Jacob decided to return home to "face the music").
4. Paul ties this all to one underlying reality: The Purpose of The God Must Abide.
a. This has been the challenge from the beginning with the Serpent.
b. This has been the challenge from the beginning with Adam.
c. This continues to be the challenge of mankind against God as thousands of years go by.
d. This was the particular challenge of Saul of Tarsus as he violently opposed this "Purpose" until God stopped him cold.
C. Paul presents a most basic issue connected at all points with "The Purpose of the God".
1. He actually calls "The Purpose of The God" "The-According-to-Election-Purpose of The God".
2. It should be obvious to everyone that if the "Purpose" is God's and He is executing it within the confines of a rebellious creation, He must be executing it by His own choices in spite of the efforts of men and/or "angels" to derail it.
3. Thus, Paul argues that the only way "works" can be defeated (along with all of the pride and conflict that such a principle engenders) is for The God to "call" what is to be and then work to make it "become" (Note Romans 4:17 and 21 as the ultimate expression of Abraham's "faith").