by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 4 Paragraph # 4 Study # 8 January 6, 2013 Dayton, Texas
28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.
29 But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.
30 Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.
31 So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.
1901 ASV Translation:
28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise.
29 But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, so also it is now.
30 Howbeit what saith the scripture? Cast out the handmaid and her son: for the son of the handmaid shall not inherit with the son of the freewoman.
31 Wherefore, brethren, we are not children of a handmaid, but of the freewoman.
I. The "Standard" of "Isaac".
A. In the previous text (4:23), Paul used the linguistic form of "kata plus an accusative" to present a "standard" for the concept of "fleshliness" and then shifted to "dia plus a genitive" to present the alternative: the child of the freewoman was "through" promise.
B. Now (4:28) he reverts to the form (kata plus an accusative) to present an alternative "standard": the "standard", or pattern, that capitalizes on "promise".
1. The text reads, "But we, brethren, according to the standard of Isaac, are children of promise".
2. This raises the primary question: What is the "standard" of Isaac?
a. Most fundamentally, this "standard" begins with "Promise".
1) Beginning with a promise means that God approaches an individual with a "promise" in hand, not a "bargain" nor a "demand".
2) Beginning with a promise means that God has a future in mind for the one to whom the promise is made that He is committed to bringing to pass.
b. At the heart of "Promise" is a content that is highly desirable to the one to whom the promise is made (there is no point to a promise that refers to something no one wants).
c. But with "promises", there is a compelling need for the one to whom the promise is extended to "believe" it. Hebrews 11:11 declares that Sarah only received the strength to conceive seed at the point when she "believed" the promise. There is this crucial reality: the promise was, technically, made to Abraham, not Sarah, but she was the one who had to conceive in order for the promise to be fulfilled for Abraham. Thus we see that God's "standard of promise" includes bringing those involved to the point of "faith" so that they can be included in the process.
d. For Sarah, the issue of "ability to conceive" meant that she had to "believe" more than the promise to her husband: she also had to "believe" that the promise extended to her in a direct, personal, way. This was not required for God's integrity to stand for Abraham. He could have given Abraham a seed through Sarah without any faith on her part whatsoever, but if He had, she would have been excluded from the benefits of "faith"; something, apparently, God was not willing to allow. This is at the heart of Paul's message: the promises possess an unstated extension that will allow more recipients than just the "one" to whom they are given. Acts 2:39declares this reality: "the promise is to you" means that people to whom no promises were made directly can get in on the outcome(s) if they find themselves persuaded to "believe" that God will include them. And why would He not?
1) This Acts 2:39 text says: "For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call."
2) That Peter could take a word of promise made in Joel 2:28 and say to his generation, "...the promise is to you...and to all who are afar off..." means that there has to be some form of transference from the specific individual(s) to whom the promise is made to other(s) who are not direct recipients. Peter's words of "transference" are "...even to as many as the Lord our God shall call."
a) This is included in Paul's Romans 8:28 concept: "...all things work together for good...to them that are thecalled according to His purpose." It is further developed in the next verse where he wrote, "...whom He did predestinate, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified...".
b) This issue seems to be this: in order for God to keep His promise to anyone, He has to include persons that He has not, at least initially, addressed with His word of promise. To keep His word to Abraham, He did not have to "include" Sarah in terms of her "faith". He could have simply enabled her to conceive Isaac and been done with her (as He actually did with Hagar). But, he did not bypass her. He set about to "include" her. But, for her to be "included", she had to come to "faith" in the "promise" made to her husband as an "included participant". It works like this: God made a promise to Abraham that he would be the father of many nations that would be included in the "above Jerusalem". In order for anyone to be so included, they have to come to the principle of "faith" in what God says, and this "faith" must be in the fact that, though the promise was not made directly to them, it had to "include" them because a heavenly city had to have a "believing" population in order for the promise to Abraham to come to pass.
c) The critical element of this process of transference is "the call of God". The promise, Peter says, "...is to all [whom] the Lord our God shall call". Thus, the issue is no longer the content of a promise made by God so much as it is a confrontation of a person by God so that He may persuade him/her that he/she is a necessary part of that content given to another. This seems to be the outworking of Acts 13:48. In that text Luke simply declares that certain ones are "...ordained to eternal life..." and that, those so ordained, "...believed." This may well be in the purview of Jesus' statement in Matthew 22:14 ("For many are called, but few chosen") where He puts the "choosing" before the "calling" (predestined before called), but allows that God actually "calls" many. Thus, the words of Hebrews 3:7-8 come into play ("...if you should hear His voice, do not harden your hearts..."). Men, apparently, have an ability to "resist" the call of God. This seems to be their maximum ability in terms of the Truth of God. They cannot "obey"; they cannot "make themselves believe what they do not believe"; but they, apparently, can resist "believing" what their hearts and the Spirit of God tell them is the truth. This is a great tragedy. Many are called, but many more are not. Of those that actually get a summons, many "resist" to the point where God simply takes His promise and walks away.