Israel and the Church – [Ro 9:1-8]

All Scriptures are quoted from the 1901 American Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

Romans 9:1-8
1 I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience bearing witness with me in
the Holy Spirit,
2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing pain in my heart.
3 For I could wish that I myself were anathema from Christ for my brethren’s sake, my kinsmen according to the flesh:
4 who are Israelites; whose is the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises;
5 whose are the fathers, and of whom is Christ as concerning the flesh, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.
6 But it is not as though the word of God hath come to nought. For they are not all Israel, that are of Israel:
7 neither, because they are Abraham’s seed, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.
8 That is, it is not the children of the flesh that are children of God; but the children of the promise are reckoned for a seed.


In this passage Paul is making a distinction between national Israel (‘according to the flesh”) and spiritual Israel (“children of the promise”). We’ve been making this distinction throughout this series. The nation of Israel was a type of the spiritual Israel that they were to become. They have their end, their completion, their fulfillment, their continuation in Christ as a spiritual nation.


5 whose are the fathers, and of whom is Christ as concerning the flesh, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.


Jesus was of the nation of Israel Himself (“as concerning the flesh”), who was of the tribe of Judah. It was necessary that He be of the people of Israel in order to fulfill all things relating to Israel.  The whole Old Testament pointed to Christ, who would fulfill all the promises and blessings and prophecies regarding Israel. He is the prophesied Israel that they were to become. As believers, we have our identification in Christ. Thus the Church is true Israel through Him.


6 But it is not as though the word of God hath come to nought. For they are not all Israel, that are of Israel:


As already mentioned, Paul is making a distinction between two different types of Israel. The first Israel he mentions is spiritual Israel, and the second one one is national Israel. This will become more clear as we move along.


What Paul is saying is that being born into the nation of Israel, as an ethnic Jew, doesn’t make one a true Israelite in the eyes of God. In the New Covenant, God no longer recognizes national Israel. He only recognizes His Son, through whom they have their continuation as a spiritual nation. In Christ, national Israel disappears. God sees all of us only through His Son.


7 neither, because they are Abraham’s seed, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.
8 That is, it is not the children of the flesh that are children of God; but the children of the promise are reckoned for a seed.


Here Paul elaborates on what he said in the previous verse. Being of the natural seed of Abraham doesn’t make a person his child in the eyes of God. We’re children of Abraham and “children of God” only through faith in Christ:
6 Even as Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness. 7 Know therefore that they that are of faith, the same are sons of Abraham. 8 And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all the nations be blessed. 9 So then they that are of faith are blessed with the faithful Abraham. (Gal 3:6-9)


Only those who share the faith of Abraham, are children of Abraham. Thus only those who are of the faith of Abraham, are of true Israel, which is the Church (“In thee shall all the nations be blessed”).


“In Isaac shall thy seed be called”
“children of the flesh”
“children of the promise”
“children of God”


The “children of the flesh” refers to national Israel. The “children of the promise” refers to spiritual Israel. Paul confirms this in another passage in this same book:


28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh: 29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God. (Ro 2:28-29)
 
“he is not a Jew who is one outwardly”
“he is a Jew who is one inwardly”


Paul clearly identifies the true Israel in the eyes of God. Believers, both Jews and Gentiles are true Jews only in the spiritual sense: through faith in Christ. Thus if we are spiritual Jews through Christ, then we can only conclude that He is True Israel.


The true seed of Abraham are not of physical lineage, but “of the promise,” through Isaac. Only those who are of  “the promise” are true children of Abraham and true children of God.


Paul identifies the “seed” (verses 7-8) even more directly and clearly in the book of Galatians, which is probably the key passage to our understanding of the relationship between Israel and the Church:


16 Now to Abraham were the promises spoken, and to his seed. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. 29 And if ye are Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, heirs according to
promise. (Gal 3:16, 29)


In verse 8 (Ro 9:8), Paul says that the “children of the promise are reckoned for a seed.” And here in this passage, Paul reveals that the seed mentioned in the OT, was actually and ultimately referring to Christ. He is the fulfillment of all things relating to Israel and salvation.


Let’s look at the “promise” and “seed” of the OT that Paul was referring to:


Gen 12:3, 7
3 and I will bless them that bless thee, and him that curseth thee will I curse: and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.
7 And Jehovah appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land:  


Gen 13:14-15
14 And Jehovah said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art, northward and southward and eastward and westward: 15 for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever. 16 And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then may thy seed also be numbered.


Gen 17:5-10, 19
5 Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for the father of a multitude of nations have I made thee. 6 And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.  7 And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee, throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee and to thy seed after thee. 8 And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land of thy sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God. 9 And God said unto Abraham, And as for thee, thou shalt keep my covenant, thou, and thy seed after thee throughout their generations. 10 This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee: every male among you shall be circumcised.
19 And God said, Nay, but Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his seed after him.


Gen 21:12
And God said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy handmaid; in all that Sarah saith unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called.


Gen 22:18
And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.


All these passages are what Paul had in mind when he wrote about the promises and seed of Israel. If all of these passages are read in their respective contexts, in isolation of the NT, we would naturally understand them to be referring to Abraham and to his natural offspring (seed), that is, those born into the nation of Israel as ethnic Jews.


However, Paul reveals that God actually had His Son in mind….and those who would place their faith in Him (the Church). This is a perfect example why we should not try to understand the OT apart from the NT. We come to wrong interpretations when we do that.


So what does all this mean? It means that when God gave those promises to Abraham and to His offspring (seed), He was really referring to spiritual Israel that would be rebirthed through Christ, His Son. This was His plan from the very beginning, that Israel would have their continuation in Christ and the Church, as a spiritual nation.


Something else I want to point out. Notice that land is involved in these promises, the land of Canaan, which was never fully fulfilled. One of the reasons dispensationalists believe that God has a separate plan for Israel, apart from the Church, is because of this land promise. They believe that it must be literally fulfilled to the nation of Israel in a “millennial kingdom.”


However, as we’ve seen throughout this series, both Paul and Peter reveal that God fulfills His promises to Christ and His Church. Thus regarding this land promise, what’s in view here is the Eternal Kingdom of the New Heaven and New Earth: The New Jerusalem (Rev 21:1-2). The land of Canaan was a type of the Eternal Kingdom. That is our true “everlasting possession.”