Posted by Edwin M. Cotto
In an effort to make the Sabbath strictly Jewish, critics say that a true Israelite or Jew are those literal descendants we see wearing the star of David and visiting synagogues. Others, like the Black Hebrew Israelites, think that a true Jew are those of African, Hispanic and Indian descent. But according to Paul, Israel is more of a spiritual concept than a racial one. He said:
“But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, “In Isaac your seed shall be called.” That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed.”(4)
The critics’ reaction to an Adventist quoting this text is more surprising than it is satisfactory. These verses are very clear about who Israel actually is. In context Paul is concerned regarding the fulfillment of the promise in Israel, his “countrymen according to the flesh” (verses 1-5). The promise was that they would inherit the world (Romans 4:13), which is ultimately a promise of salvation. It seems like Israel will be lost, and the promise of salvation will not be fulfilled, until Paul says,
“it is not that the word of God has taken no effect.”
Why Paul? Because…
“they are not all Israel who are of Israel…”
What a revolutionary concept! Israel of the flesh remains Israel of the flesh, but that itself does not automatically fulfill the promise in them….
“Nor are they children because they are the seed of Abraham.”
This makes sense. God rejected Ishmael, Esau and the children of Keturah(5) who were physical children of Abraham. These became Arabian nations, and one of them was Midian, known predominantly for their licentious behavior which succeeded in bringing down the Israelites while they were encamped in Shittim.(6) Though literally the “seed of Abraham,” yet they are not really children of Abraham. Who then is an Israelite, Paul?
“In Isaac your seed shall be called.”
He is quoting from Genesis 21:1-3, 8-12, where God visited Sarah “as He had said… as He had spoken.” God made a promise to them that Sarah would bear a son, even though it seemed impossible.(7) But what made Isaac so much more special then Ishmael? That he was born out of this promise! Thus Paul says,
“That is, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but the children of the promise are considered to be the offspring. For this is the statement of the promise: At this time I will come, and Sarah will have a son.’”(8)
Do you see it? All who are “children of the promise” are “considered to be the offspring.” True Israelites, therefore, are all who believe in the promise! That is why Paul can also say,
“For a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly, and true circumcision is not something visible in the flesh. On the contrary, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is of the heart — by the Spirit, not the letter. That person’s praise is not from people but from God.”(9)
Therefore enjoy the upcoming Sabbath, true Israelites! For it is a sign between US, true Israel, and the Creator, who “in six days made the heaven and the earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed” (Exodus 31:12-13, 17, see also Ezekiel 20:10-12, 20).
4) Rom. 9:6-8.
5) The children of his concubine Keturah, sent “to the country of the easy” to be away from Isaac, who was the child of the promise. See Gen. 25:1-6.
6) See Numbers 22, 25, 31. Also Judges 6-8 where the Israelites were actually enslaved by the Midians for 7 years. Although these physical children were rejected, God allowed them, including even the Moabites, Ammonites and the Egyptians, to “enter the assembly of the Lord (Deut. 23:8) after a few generations. One stipulation though. They must enter into the covenant and, believe it or not, keep the Sabbath! See Isaiah 56.
7) Gen. 17:19, 18:10, 14.
8) Romans 9:9, Christian Standard Version.
9) Ibid, 2:28-29, Christian Standard Version.
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