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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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  • « Chapter Eight: The King Will Desire Your Beauty | Main | Depravity According to Calvin »

    An Observation about Israel in Ephesians 2:11-21 & 3:5, 6

    The following passage really makes up the heart of Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians. Here he reveals a great mystery which was hidden in previous ages:

    "Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called "the uncircumcision" by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ ... So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord."
    Notice in this passage that Paul speaks to Gentiles as having been previously separate and alienated from Israel and the covenants, but in Christ, Gentiles have become citizens of Israel. Being "brought near" was their modern day parlance for Jewish proselytes. Because verse 12 and verse 19 are separated by some text (which speaks of benefits in Christ) many do not pay attention to their close connection. Let’s have a look then: Verse 12 "alienated from the commonwealth of Israel" is joined to (vr. 19) "you are no longer strangers and aliens". No longer aliens to what? No longer aliens to the commonwealth of Israel. That means that Gentiles who are in Christ are now "citizens" (v. 19) of Israel built as a house with Christ as the chief cornerstone. In other words, Jesus Christ is the True Israel of God (its fulfillment and foundation) as are all who are joined in union to Him. To say it another way, both OT and NT saints who are in union with Christ are citizens of Israel according to this passage. Likewise we are partakers of its promises, according to another nearby passage:
    "...the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
    Partakers of what promise? The promises given to Israel through Abraham and others. And since the Paul elsewhere asserts that the gospel was preached to Abraham beforehand (Gal 3:8), the OT and NT saints were both saved by the same grace in Christ and are members of the same body .... partakers of the same promises. The difference is simply (if you think about it organically) that one was a seedling and the other a full tree bearing fruit, so to speak, but both are part of the same plant; one in full maturity. The OT saints saw Christ from a distance in promises and shadows, yet in God's economy those regenerate were, even then, united to Christ, part of the same body and saved by the same blood ... the blood which the signposts of the temple sacrifices pointed to.
    “And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.” (Heb 11: 39, 40)

    Just as we can never separate the law from the lawgiver, we likewise cannot separate the benefits from the benefactor. Many in modern day evangelicalism have divided the people of God while Paul here was at pains to show them both in union with Christ. Since Paul stressed the importance of this lets look afresh at the Scripture beyond our traditions and errors regarding this issue. The Text of Scripture is not Israelocentric but Christocentric. Jesus himself bore witness to this: "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me." (John 5:39)

    Posted by John on June 30, 2009 12:04 PM

    Comments

    I would like to advertise this post on my blog. I will direct all visitors to your website here. Feel free to email me.

    I appreciate this article. When speaking with my Arminian friends it is always a struggle to get them to stop differentiating who scripture is talking about when it mentions the elect or Israel. I have used some of the scriptures above on this topic and I appreciate the solid commentary which ultimately reinforces my beliefs. As always, Thanks.

    As I read this article I kept thinking of the larger picture the "whole" Church is to be involved in with Christ as our Head. One of the essay's in The Law is not of Faith, Essays on Works and Grace in the Mosaic Covenant, Estelle, Fesko and van Drunen, Baugh makes the point quoting Donaldson that Israel is the "representative sample" for the whole of humankind. It is natural Law that governs the heavens and earth, the world and all things in it.

    When one puts into focus that verse from Genesis 3 with what God intends on doing about it, as Paul develops it in the Book of Ephesians:

    Gen 3:13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this that you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate."

    ....with what Jesus described about His successful defeat of Satan after entering into His public ministry, see Luke 11 where Jesus, speaking of Himself, attacks Satan and takes his armor away, you should quickly realize what Jesus was developing through Paul, looking first at him making his defense to King Agrippa here:::>

    Act 26:18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.'

    You get a sense from Paul's writing to the Ephesians that the Church then and now needs to awaken from slumber and sleep and enter into the frey against the present forces of evil and wickedness at work still.

    In Chapter one of Ephesians we read:

    Eph 1:19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might
    Eph 1:20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,
    Eph 1:21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.
    Eph 1:22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church,
    Eph 1:23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

    From there he goes on and writes:

    Eph 2:14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility
    Eph 2:15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace,
    Eph 2:16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.
    Eph 2:17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.
    Eph 2:18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

    From there we find ourselves here:

    Eph 3:10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.
    Eph 3:11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord,

    And it is as though Paul, as a military strategist for the Army, begins laying out the "basics" for the "kinds" of warfare the "Whole" Church is engaged in, the rest of chapter 3, then 4 and 5 and finally he puts over the general call to arms here:::>

    Eph 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.
    Eph 6:11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.
    Eph 6:12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
    Eph 6:13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

    Those verses highlighted in the article indeed are a mainstay for Gentiles being a part of this "Eternal Purpose" of God too.

    What I find even more amazing is how often we forget that "adoption" is something someone other than ourself does "to us", not something we do for ourselves!

    Eph 1:5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,
    Eph 1:6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

    Having already made "Peace" through the blood of Christ then, we should quickly realize what Paul meant when he wrote this, here:::>

    Rom 16:20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

    And we see then how the point the writer of the book of Hebrews was getting at drives home the need for viligance and sobriety as our adversary the devil roams about seeking whom he can devour:::>

    Heb 2:13 And again, "I will put my trust in him." And again, "Behold, I and the children God has given me."
    Heb 2:14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil,
    Heb 2:15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.
    Heb 2:16 For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham.

    I was just talking to my wife last night about this and a related topic. How would you describe the nature of the relationship that ethnic Jews (outward Israel) have with God today? How do they fit in with covenant theology, having received the outward sign of the old covenant?

    Jeff,

    God indeed has a saving purpose for the physical decendants (ethnic) Israel (Romans 11:25-26). But for now a large number of the Jewish people are at enmity with God in rejecting Jesus Christ, their own Messiah (Romans 11:28). In the meantime, God has expanded his saving work to embrace all peoples (including many Pelestinian people in Christ), who trust Jesus depending solely on his death and resurrection for salvation. "Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one. He will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith" (Romans 3:29-30).

    Next, it is clear from Scripture that a covenant-breaking people do not have a right to hold the land of promise, which Jesus has expanded to include the entire earth. These rights are conditioned on Israel's keeping the covenant God made with her. Thus God said to Israel, "If you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples" (Exodus 19:5). In history there are several times Israel was denied the right to the land when she broke covenant with God. I.e. when Israel went into in captivity in Babylon, Daniel prayed, "to us [belongs] open shame to all Israel . . . in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed against you" (Daniel 9:4-7). Israel not having the right does not mean that other nations have the right to abuse her.

    Israel as a whole today rejects her Messiah, Jesus Christ, God's Son. This is the ultimate act of covenant-breaking with God. Jesus Christ is the fulfilment of all the hopes of Israel. He is the yes to all God's promises (2 Corinthians 1:20). To reject him is to reject God the Father, and to confess him is to be reconciled to God. But it is critical to keep in mind that "salvation is from the Jews" (John 4:22), and the promises made to Abraham are the root that supports all salvation (Romans 11:18), so the sole road for any person to be saved is to become a fellow heir of Abraham by trusting in Jesus Christ, the Jewish Messiah.

    Gentiles who believe on Jesus are fellow heirs with Abraham and together with him will inherit the world. Therfore, Jews and Gentiles together, who believe in Christ, are heirs of the world. Romans 4:13-14 says, "The promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith.

    By faith in Jesus Christ, Gentiles become heirs of the promise of Abraham, including the promise of the Land; part of the redeemed covenant people who share the faith of Abraham.

    Excellent post, thank you.

    great post.

    John:

    This passage in Ephesians is salvific in its theme. The Gentiles and Jews share a common salvation in Christ if they are elect and therefore the remnant. You essentially point that out in your essay. However, I would like for you to direct me to an exegesis of Romans 11 (Has God cast off His people?) that honestly addresses the fact that God explicitly promises the nation of Israel that their blindness, which is in part, will one day be lifted and they too will be saved.

    The scriptures do not blur "Israel" and the church. They share one Savior, Jesus Christ, but there are eschatalogical distinctives yet to come.

    Hi Brian

    Thanks for the note. You may wish to look at my answer I just gave to Jeff which I believe I answer that question in the first sentence. In fact, I elaborate quite a bit in the direction you are going.

    And no, I believe that the Scripture does not show eschatological distinctives between ethnic Israel and the Church. We all receive the same eschatological blessings which are found in Christ. This is a Reformed site not Dispensationalist. We firmly believe there is no rebuilding of the Temple where blood sacrifces are reinstituted. This is, in fact, going backwards in redemptive history, a belief to which the Epistle to the Hebrews gives the severest warnings.

    We were (Verse 12) "alienated from the commonwealth of Israel" (vr. 19) but in Christ "you are no longer aliens ... but you are fellow citizens" [of the commonwealth of Israel]. To be more specific Gentiles are citizens of Israel IN CHRIST ... because Christ, being the only one to have obeyed God's commandments, is the TRUE ISRAEL, as are all those united to Him. Everyone else has broken covenant. The Scripture I believe is Christocentric, not Israelocentric. All spiritual blessings are found in Him.

    John

    Thanks John.

    If you could recommend one or two of the best commentaries on Romans 11, what would they be? I still find the argument Paul begins in chapter 9 and ends in 11 very compelling with respect to ethnic Israel and in light of hundreds of OT prophecies.

    Thanks
    Brian

    Hi Brian,

    If I could jump in ahead of John, I would recommend O. Palmer Robertson's book, The Israel of God. He deals extensively and helpfully with Romans 11.

    Sam Storms is also worth a read:

    http://www.enjoyinggodministries.com/article/romans-11-and-the-future-of-israel-part-i/

    http://www.enjoyinggodministries.com/article/romans-11-and-the-future-of-israel-part-ii/

    That should get you started...

    This is a great scripture and I liken it to Romans 9-11. God's Sovereign Choice to Save the Gentile believers and "ingraft" us in while branches were broken off for our benefit. Any why? As it says in Romans 11:11, to "rather because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious." I just love the plan of God. Who would have thought that God would do all this? Allow Gentiles to be apart of "His chosen" people? WOW! What an amazing God that we serve. I am so thankful for His Grace and Mercy upon me when I NEVER deserved it!

    Hey, thanks for all the great comments.

    Brian, as previously noted in my note to Jeff, I affirm that God indeed has a future saving purpose for the physical decendants (ethnic) Israel (Romans 11:25-26) which I believe, does not contradict the fact that these blessings are only found when they turn to Christ. There are no generic blessings from God but all blessings granted to humanity are through one mediator, Jesus Christ ... According to Paul, the Gentiles are fellow heirs with Jews, members of the same body, and partakers of the [same]covenants of promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel -- growing eschatologically into ONE "holy temple in the Lord." (2:21) . Christ only has one bride. In Rom 11, that Gentiles are ingrafted into the same plant who shares the same root, seems only to magnify the idea that we grow organically from Israel. The church does not replace them, but expands on the promise...

    As per your querstion, in addition to the above book and articles that Nathan has recommended I have collected various articles and commentaries on this subject on these pages in Monergism.com: Hope they are helpful.

    http://www.monergism.com/directory/link_category/Israel-/-Judaism/

    http://www.monergism.com/directory/link_category/Eschatology/Israel-in-Eschatology/

    John:

    Thanks for the resource links! In case you're curious...I put myself in the progressive dispy camp, so I affirm what you say about one plan - one people of God!

    Thanks again

    Hi Brian,

    Thanks for the thoughts. From what I have read it appears to me that the "progressive dispy camp" is closer to Classic Covenant Theology than it is to Traditional Dispensationalism with regards to questions relating to the unity of the people of God. Another distinctive for progressives appears to be a "historic premilennial" understanding of the end times. So whats left to distinguish it from CT seems to be future eschatological distinction of the people of God? The "Dispy" distinctives appear to have mostly dissapeared, save one or two concepts. Am I wrong? It seems to me, in many ways, to be more like CT with some minor tweaks or adjustments. But, this is from a cursory understanding. I acknowledge, I am no expert on it.

    blessings,

    J

    Hi, a friend sent me here. The more I read the more questions I have.

    1. You said: And since Paul elsewhere asserts that the gospel was preached to Abraham beforehand (Gal 3:8), the OT and NT saints were both saved by the same grace in Christ and are members of the same body .... partakers of the same promises. - In context the only portion of the gospel preached to Abraham was "...preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, "ALL THE NATIONS WILL BE BLESSED IN YOU." - It does not say here that Abraham knew of Christ or God's wonderful plan for redemption. No where in the Old T. is that plan written, or it would not be a revelation. right?

    2. You use the text stating we were brought near and into the common wealth of Israel. But why be bought into the common wealth of Israel if 'ethnic' Israel does not matter?

    3.Yet, you say Christ is true Israel, I ask how can this be? If the foundation of Christ was not laid until the New Testament Apostles and Prophets?

    4. I think you would respond because Christ did not break the covenants. Which ones? The law was a temporary covenant to point to Christ. The other covenants were everlasting promises made by God. If I understand promises correctly, the person who says them must be faithful to complete them. So how is it that Israel being at fault negates the faithfulness of God? If it does not than Covenants/promises like possessing the entire Land of Canaan, that Christ did not fulfill, still stand!!???

    5. Did Christ not fulfilling those covenants dealing with possessing the land not make Him a covenant breaker as well? If not, please explain.

    thank you,

    Joshua

    Hi Joshua

    Good questions.

    you said >>>>Abraham knew of Christ or God's wonderful plan for redemption. No where in the Old T. is that plan written, or it would not be a revelation. right?

    Of course Abraham knew about Christ. The OT YHWH is none other than Christ. While the revelation in the OT was shadow and NT fulfillment, the entire OT was about Jesus Christ, as Jesus himself declared. He is talking to Jews about the OT when He says, "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me." (John 5:39)

    >>>>>But why be bought into the common wealth of Israel if 'ethnic' Israel does not matter?

    Brought near to partake of the same covenant promises that were given to Abraham. Not sure what you mean by Ethnic Israel not mattering. Ethic Israel received the very promises of God, of which we now also partake. We were grafted on and, as Galatians 3 says, we Gentiles are children of Abraham. When Jesus came he expanded Isreal, he did not replace. The calling of God is irrevocable.

    >>>>>Yet, you say Christ is true Israel, I ask how can this be? If the foundation of Christ was not laid until the New Testament Apostles and Prophets?

    Jesus Christ is the only human being to obey God's law. He is, therefore, the only True Jew to have ever lived. All other persons have broken covenant with God, yet partake of God's covenants through Christ. All who rely on the works of the law will perish. Again, Jesus was the lamb of God slain before the foundation of the world. Itr does not matter when people were born, they were saved only because of Christ. Old Testament saints have no other hope for salvation but Jesus Christ, even if their understanding of Him was less than ours.

    >>>>If it does not than Covenants/promises like possessing the entire Land of Canaan, that Christ did not fulfill, still stand!!???

    Yes of course the promises of the land still stand, and Jesus has expanded on them. In the OT the meek inherit the land. But Jesus now says the meek will inherit the earth. Jews and Gentiles will both inherit the entire earth, as we are now partakers of the same covenant promises. Jesus Christ is the central Person of the entire Bible. No blessing whatsoever is to be had outside of Him. Only those united or joined to Christ from the OT & NT will receive the blessings.

    Hope this helps clarify
    John

    1. "Of course Abraham knew about Christ. The OT YHWH is none other than Christ." - sorry to say but I see nothing in scripture that would agree with this. I do not doubt that the "Angel Of The Lord" mentioned at times throughout the O.T. is the second person of the Trinity but YHWH is always in reference to The Father. We see scriptures like Psalm 2:7, Isaiah 9:6-7, and others show a separation between YHWH and Christ; at least I think. If YWHW is Christ where then is the Father?!? Your thoughts are welcomed.

    2. "When Jesus came he expanded Isreal, he did not replace." - Please explain how this happened. I feel like you already answered but I think I'm missing something. I understand those who are in Christ are children of Abraham but being a child or Abraham does not making one an Israelite. If I understand correctly, being a child or Abraham, Issac, and Jacob makes one an Israelite. To be more specific an Israelite is of Jacob's lineage. As Abraham had many other sons but they are not of Israel, as with Issac who had two sons but only one an Israelite, but of Jacob's line - all are Israel. So to simply be a child of of Abraham does not make one Israel. The writer would have said of Jacob. Is that not right? but instead he says of Abraham, so that would make us recipient of the Spiritual Blessing that comes from Abraham to the world by the promise of God.

    3."Jesus Christ is the only human being to obey God's law. He is, therefore, the only True Jew to have ever lived. All other persons have broken covenant with God, yet partake of God's covenants through Christ." - how can this be? We would have to say that Christ was the only true Christian that ever lived also! All else have broken the law of Christ, which is love. Plus, God made promise of another covenant, thus making the law something to pass away. So how is it God would count one only a true Jew who kept the law, when it was passing and righteousness was always by faith

    4."Old Testament saints have no other hope for salvation but Jesus Christ, even if their understanding of Him was less than ours. " - so many saints have passed. Would you say that all who went to heaven knew of a Christ to come? ALL!? Even if I was to agree and say in shadows and pictures, I could only limit that to prophetic text about Christ and some aspects of the Tabernacle. Psalm 22: 1-21, Isaiah 53, Micah 5:2, Genesis 3:15, Isaiah 7:14, and some more of which were written further down the line than higher up the line.

    thanks for all your thoughts - seeking truth with a mind full of questions.

    Blessings,

    Joshua

    quick fix... I noticed I said in "4" that Christ shows up in shadows only in the prophetic text and the tabernacle. That is not to say that His work on the cross, shedding of blood needed for cleansing of sin, and many other attributes about Christ and His work cannot be seen in events throughout Old T. scripture. However I perceive that these events can only be understood backwards, meaning only after Christ had done His work could man's mind be open to see how those events picture Christ. I perceive this because Christ waits until after His resurrection to begin teaching His disciples about how the Old T. speaks of Him. Before this only specific messianic scripture were understood to be messianic. Also that these things were hidden in God until revealed. (right? or wrong?)

    one more thing and sorry for all the hassle. How is the marriage supper of the lamb going to be if all are the body of Christ from the beginning. Doesn't that mean the bride will be the only one invited to the supper? Doesn't that contradict with the prophets for-telling of the coming marriage supper and those being friends of the bride and groom but not part of the groom? I could be asking too much for this - so feel free to shoot me out some names of books.

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