Thesis:"Definitions" are the bottom line in both disaster and blessing.
Introduction:In our study last week we took note of Paul's declaration that the rejection of Jesus as the Christ by the nation of Israel did not lead to the conclusion that God's Word had somehow "failed". It is true that the nation, by and large, did reject Jesus as the Christ. It is true that the nation had multiple proximity advantages extended to them by the outworking of the Plan of God. But, to conclude that what God said had been subjected to what men chose so that if men did not want what God offered, the Plan of God would crash to the ground under the "notion" that somehow God has to let the will of man be sacrosanct is fundamentally flawed. It is man that created the heresy of the inviolability of the will of man so that it has to be accepted as "free". The Scriptures nowhere teach that God's Plan has been subjected to the will of any creature, let alone rebellious man's.
This evening we are going to begin to look into Paul's "rationale" for his declaration that God's Message is "on target" even in the face of massive national rebellion and rejection. His fundamental thesis is this: to understand God's Plan we must carefully listen to God's words without prejudice.
This is, at the same time, both the most dangerous and the most rewarding thesis that any man can set forth. Many subterfuges are perpetrated by men who claim to have an inside track on what God "really" means, but the blessings are enormous for those who actually understand what God has said. So, let us proceed into Paul's rationale for the claim that God's Message didn't even suffer a "hiccup" by reason of the rebellion of "Israel".
I. Paul's Case For "Specific Definition".
A. On the one hand, we have an "Israel" that has maintained a stiff-necked rebellion against God in the face of real, in-your-face, divine fiat grants of "advantage".
B. On the other hand, we have an "Israel" that is heavily invested in walking with God in the light and in pursuing His agenda in this world at any cost (Romans 11:1).
C. Clearly, only one of these "Israels" is "the Israel of God".
D. Just as clearly, the "Israel of God" does not believe that "the word of God is rendered null and void" by the actions of that other "Israel".
II. The Details of Paul's Argument.
A. His "bottom line": there is an 'Israel' within "Israel".
1. In one of His parables, Jesus taught the "corruption" of the field (Matthew 13:24) by the enemy whose fundamental tactic was deceptive appearances.
a. Jesus said the kingdom would experience this reality.
b. Paul's claim is that Jesus' words explain how God's Word is still powerfully working toward God's ends.
2. That there could be such a reality makes Paul's argument at least "plausible".
B. His arguments focus upon the question of whether God's Word has failed.
1. At the root of this question is another one: Do we not have to properly understand what God meant by what He said before we can say that His meaning has fallen to the ground?
2. In order to make sure that we have properly understood what God meant, we have to carefully think our way into what He actually said.
a. Paul's first argument is that the actual words of God tell us that He maintained that He never meant merely physically generated offspring when He promised a "seed" to Abraham.
1) This is established by Paul's reference to Genesis 21:12.
2) This is the issue in Genesis 21:1-12 and it follows hard on the heels of Genesis 17:18-19.
3) And it is a fact that Genesis 25:1-2 tells us that Abraham had six other sons in addition to Ishmael that do not figure into His promise regarding the seed.
b. Paul's second argument is that the actual Plan of God in regard to all of the listed advantages involves the generation of "children" by God, not by men.
1) There is no way that Paul can argue that a man's "seed" are not his children.
a) A cursory reading of 9:7might lead one to think that this is what Paul is saying.
b) But all we have to do is read 9:8 to see that what God and Paul are saying has to do with the generating of "children of God".
c) Paul's denial is not that the "seed" of Abraham are not his children, but that Abraham is not the one begetting children in the Plan of God.
2) The Word of God that is not failing in the face of massive rejection is this: the children are not "of the flesh".
a) This is not an absolute negation: the "children of God" are also the children of Abraham's flesh (Isaac was out of the loins of Abraham and Israel was out of the loins of Isaac and Paul was out of the loins of Benjamin, etc.).
b) This is a "particular negation": it is not the action of Abraham that makes a "child of God", it is the action of God who transforms some of the fleshly seed into the seed of God because He promised.
i. This "seed within the seed" are called "the children of the promise."
ii. This throws us back to Abraham's major spiritual insight, given in Romans 4:21, and further reinforced by Jesus in Luke 19:40 (a text that is made crucial by Daniel 9:26): the One making the promise is the One Whose actions will fulfill it.