Friday, April 20, 2018

The Abrahamic Covenant, by Dr. George B. Fletcher, Ch. 12

Chapter XII
     We must distinguish Abraham's natural offspring into the CHILDREN OF THE FLESH and the CHILDREN OF THE PROMISE (Rom. 9:8), and also the promises themselves into TEMPORAL and SPIRITUAL.
     Abraham had a numerous natural posterity by Hagar and Keturah (Gen. 25) and in the line of Isaac by his grandson Esau (Gen. 36), so that he literally became the father of many nations. But though these were the natural offspring of Abraham, and circumcised, the promises had no PRIMARY respect to them. They were not heirs with him, nor made any part of the holy covenant nation, even in a typical sense. This primary respect was restricted to his natural posterity in the line of Jacob, the children of Israel, and that, not according to the NATURAL COURSE OF THINGS, or any natural right or excellency in them that might entitle them to a preference (Deut. 9:4,5,6,24). It was, rather, according to the sovereign purpose of God, who had elected them to be a peculiar people to Himself (Rom. 9:11-14). However, even among this selected part of Abraham's natural posterity, there was a distinction still more wide and of greater importance than the former, viz. the distinction between the mere children of the flesh, who were of the circumcision only, or Jews out­wardly, and those of them who were not of the circumcision only, but also walked in the steps of that faith of their father Abraham (Rom. 2:28, 29; 4:12). The former made up the greater part of the congregation of Israel, and, as mere subjects of the old Sinai Covenant, are classed with the children of Hagar the bond-woman (Gal. 4:24,25). The latter were always but a small remnant in comparison with ·the number of the children of Israel; and though by an election of grace, they were heirs of the spiritual promise to Abraham. Moreover,. they were kept .in a state of minority, under the discipline and tutorage of the Mosaic law, until Christ came and bestowed upon them the full liberty and privileges of sons (Gal. 3:24, 25; 4:1-8).
     Furthermore, in considering the PRIMARY RESPECT which the. promises made to Abraham had to his natural posterity, we must distinguish these promises into TEMPORAL and SPIRITUAL.
     With respect to the TEMPORAL PROMISES, these had not only a PRIMARY but a PECULIAR respect to Abraham's natural offspring, in the line of Jacob, such as their being multiplied, redeemed from Egypt, put in possession of the land of Canaan, and their enjoyment of the good things of that land. In all these blessings their infant seed, according to the NATURAL COURSE OF THINGS,; must have shared with them; even as, on the other hand, they must have suffered with them in their calamities; for temporal promises or threatenings are frequently 0£ such a nature as to affect succeeding generations.
As to the SPIRITUAL PROMISES, which are included in the blessing of Abraham, such as justification, the pro­mise of the Spirit, the true adoption of sons, etc. ­these had also a PRIMARY, though not a PECULIAR or EX­CLUSIVE, respect to Abraham's natural offspring. That they had not an EXCLUSIVE respect to them is clear from the very words of the covenant with Abraham on which the apostle's argument is founded; namely, "In thee," or "in thy Seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." This included Gentiles as well as Jews (Gal. 3:8,14,16,17, 28), and with this the facts recorded in the accomplish­ment of that promise perfectly agree. Nevertheless, the spiritual promises had a PRIMARY respect to the natural offspring of Abraham. When the promised Seed came to bless all nations, He came first unto His own nation, being sent unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and was a minister of the circum­cision to confirm the promises made unto the fathers
(Rom. 15:8,9). The gospel was first preached to the Jews both by Christ Himself and His apostles (Matt. 10:5,6; Luke 24:47; Acts 11:19). We find Peter urging and en­couraging them to repent and be converted, by the prim­ary concern they had in the covenant which God made with their fathers respecting Christ, whom He had now first raised up to them, and sent to bless them (Acts 3:25,26). The first church of the saints was gathered from among them, being begotten with the word of truth, that they might be a kind of first fruits of His creatures (Jas. 1:18). And from that church sounded out the word of God unto the nations, that the Gentiles might be made par­takers of their spiritual things (Rom. 15:27).
     Thus the spiritual promises had a PRIMARY respect to the natural offspring of Abraham. But as the bulk of that nation rejected Christ when He came, and persecuted His followers, neither their being the circumcised seed of Abraham, nor their national relation to God by the Sinai Covenant, could entitle them to the privileges of free sons and heirs; and so they were, like the bond-woman and her son, cast out of God's house (Gal. 4:22-31; John 8:31-37).
     Another aspect of this truth is Romans 11:28 --­ "As touching the election they are beloved for the fathers' sake. 11 The apostle is here expressly speaking of THE ELECTION. There was a two-fold election of Abra­ham's natural seed. First, there was a NATIONAL ELECTION of them, whereby they were chosen to be a peculiar people unto God in dis­tinction from all other nations (Deut. 4:27; 7:6-8; 10:14, 15). The reasons assigned for this are, because He loved their fathers and them, and because He would keep the oath which He had sworn unto their fathers.
     Second, there is an ELECTION OF GRACE, as opposed to works, and distinguished from their national election, it being only a REMNANT of that nation who belonged to this election in the time o:f the apostles (Rom. 11 :5,6). Con­sequently though Israel, as a nation, obtained not that which he sought for, yet the election among them obtained it, and the rest, who were not of that election, were blinded (Rom. 11:7-11). Now the election mentioned in Rom. 11:28, as it respects those of them who are yet to be grafted in, must be of the same kind with that ELECTION OF GRACE, according to which a remnant of that people were saved in the apostolic age, and who were a kind of first-fruits or sample of all the true Israel among them. Therefore, whatever general profession of Christianity, as some conceive, that nation may yet assume, it will always hold true, that none of them but the election will obtain. And it will not be upon the basis of their ancient national election, and fleshly relation to the patriarchs, but purely upon the ground of the same sovereign free mercy that was shown to the Gentiles. And so the apostle states it: "For as ye (Gentiles) in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained MERCY through their unbelief; even so have these (Jews) also now not believed, that through YOUR MERCY they also may OBTAIN MERCY" (Rom. 11: 30,31). "For God hath concluded them all in unbelief" -­- shut up all, both Jews and Gentiles in their turns --
"that he might have mercy upon all" (Rom. 11:32). That is, that for both of them, being upon a level and equally in a state of guilt and condemnation, their salvation might appear to be of the same free sovereign mercy, and not on account of anything which distinguished the Jew from the Gentile.
     But how then are the election among the Jews said to be beloved for the fathers' sake? Does not this imply that the distinguishing love of God towards the elect among the Jews; took its rise from, or was influenced by, the personal faith or holiness of Abraham, Isaac, and their godly fathers? If we understand the words in this sense, it will not be easy to reconcile them to the Scripture doctrine of divine grace, which is always opposed to any worthiness in the creature, is represented as sovereign and free to the undeserving, and as leading the objects of it not to value themselves on any natural advantages, or even in having Abraham to their father, but to glory only in the Lord. If they were thus beloved merely for the sake of the godliness of their fathers, Ishmael and Esau with their posterities, and, at any rate, the whole nation of Israel, must have had an equal claim to this peculiarity of divine regard, for they all sprang from the same godly fathers. Abraham himself sprung from idolatrous ancestors, and was called out from the idolatry of his father's house (Joshua 24:6,14). He had nothing
of himself but what he received of sovereign grace (1 Car. 4:7). He was justified not by works, but in believing on Him that justifieth the ungodly (Rom. 4:1-6). All the spiritual blessings promised to him, either personally or to his spiritual seed, were of pure grace through faith. Through his faith wrought with his works, which were approved of God, yet it was not £or the sake of these works that any of his posterity were beloved and elected to salvation; for that is an election of grace, not of works (Rom. 11:5,6).
     Therefore, when the apostle says , "As concerning the election, they are beloved for the father's sake," he means for the sake of that which God promised to their fathers. The promise to Abraham was, "In thee," or, "In thy seed shall all the nations of' the earth be blessed" (Gen. 12:3; 22:18}. This, the apostle informs us, was the covenant which was confirmed before of' God in Christ, and in which the gospel was before preached to Abraham; and he explains this Seed in whom the nations were to be blessed, and to whom the promises were made, to be Christ {Gal. 3:8,16,17). This promise was renewed to Isaac (Gen. 26:4) and to Jacob (Gen. 28:14). Now as Christ is the SEED that was promised to the fathers, and as it is IN HIM that men are blessed; so it must be THROUGH, or FOR THE SAKE of this Seed that the fathers themselves, as well as their elect offspring, are beloved. The Lord, indeed, says to Abraham, "In THEE shall all nations be blessed" (Gal. 3:8). And so the apostle terms it "the BLESSING OF ABRAHAM" (Gal. 3: 14) . However, this manner of speaking is not to be understood as if Abraham himself was to be the original source, procurer or dispenser of that blessing, or that it was to be bestowed for his sake; but it was a free promise made to him as father of the faithful, and confirmed to him IN CHRIST, who was to come of his seed according to the flesh, and IN WHOM, not in Abraham personally considered, all nations were to be blessed. So that whatever temporal blessings and outward privileges were promised to, or conferred on the nation of Israel for the fathers' sake; yet the spiritual bless­ings of redemption, which were peculiar to the elect among them, are promised and bestowed only for Christ's sake.

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