Thursday, September 29, 2011


"On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates.." -(Genesis 15:18 ESV)

According to one recent anonymous comment on a previous article where we explored the identity of Israel in Scripture, this passage in Genesis 15:18 is "the verse replacement theology cannot answer."

[Note: "Replacement Theology" is the term used by Zionists and Dispensationalists to refer to the teaching that true Israel is anyone who is in Christ. To me the term is inaccurate because nothing is being replaced here, only fulfilled.]

Of course, I couldn't take this comment without providing a response. So, let's look at what the Scriptures say about this passage and how we should understand it in light of what the Apostles taught in the New Testament.

The great confidence my anonymous friend has in this Genesis passage comes from the assumption that it is plain as day that God (in this scripture) is making a promise to every Jewish person on the face of the planet. You can almost hear my friend-with-no-name saying, "See? It says right there, 'to your offspring' and he's talking to Abraham, so God's promise was made to all of the children of Abraham. I rest my case."

And, I will agree, it really does appear to be a slam-dunk, doesn't it? Gee. Sure does. But, let us not forget that it is never a good idea to take one single verse of scripture to build a case for doctrine or belief. Right? We need to look at what the whole scripture says about this, not just the New Covenant scriptures, but also what is reinforced (or contradicted) in the Old Covenant scriptures. So, why don't we do that?

I'll start with an OT reference and then move to what I believe to be the real interpretation of this concept found in the teachings of Paul, the Apostle.

First, the OT reference (which I have mentioned on this blog before), is Psalm 50:7 -
"Hear, O my people, and I will speak; O Israel, I will testify against you. I am God, your God."

Here, God speaks to Israel. Look at what He says to them:

"But to the wicked God says: "What right have you to recite my statutes or take my covenant on your lips? For you hate discipline, and you cast my words behind you." (v.16)

God calls Israel "wicked". Are they all wicked? No, not all of them, only those who are worshipping idols and disobeying His word. So, all of Israel is not automatically blessed. This reminds us (or it should, anyway) of the passage where Paul teaches us that circumcision of the flesh means nothing, only circumcision of the heart.

"For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter." - Romans 2:28-29

"For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God." - 1 Cor. 7:19

"For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love." - Galatians 5:6

Please keep in mind that when Paul talks about circumcision, he is not only speaking of a medical procedure. Not at all. He is referring specifically to a Jewish, racial identity. His point, over and over again, is that being Jewish by race or culture counts for nothing.

Now, here's the real clincher, (at least for me), when it comes to the question of the Genesis passage above. Is God's promise to a race of people? Or is God's promise to those who are in Christ? Here's what Paul says,

"Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring [seed]. It does not say, “And to offsprings [seeds],” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring [seed],” who is Christ." - Galatians 3:16

I don't think I'll need to break out the flannelgraphs on this one. It could not be more clear that Paul believed that the promises made to Abraham were not made to every single descendant of Abraham (other translations render the word "seeds"), but the promises made to Abraham were to his seed (singular)...and who is that one? (Say it with me class) - Jesus.

So, if we are in Christ, then we are Abraham's offspring too? And we're also heirs according to the promise? Let's see...

"And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise." - Galatians 3:29

Whoa. There ya go.

If we are Christ's then we are the offspring of Abraham - the very one's to whom the promises were made. Or, more accurately, the promises were made to Jesus. If we are in Christ, then we also are partakers of that promise.

Just to drive this nail all the way home before I conclude, let's look at what Jesus says about the "seed of Abraham", shall we?

In the eighth chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus is going back and forth with the Pharisees who claimed to be the offspring (or seed) of Abrahm. Here is what Jesus says in response to their claim:

"I know that you are offspring [seed] of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”

They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham's children [seed], you would be doing the works Abraham did, but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did." - John 8:37-40

So, although they claimed to be the "seed of Abraham", Jesus made the point that although they were descended from Abraham, they were not doing the works of Abraham. What are the works of Abraham? For what is Abraham known? Obeying the word of the Lord. So, only those who truly love and obey God are considered to be the true seed of Abraham of "Israel".

To recap, there is only one Israel of God and that is composed only of those who believe God and accept His Son as Lord and Messiah. Anyone who rejects Christ as Messiah is lost, is outside of the Israel of God and is - according again to scripture - anti-Christ.

Again, I want to emphasize here that this teaching is totally based on scriptural evidence and not my own opinion. Like Paul, I pray that all the Jews would turn to Christ and be saved. Thankfully, many Jews do see Jesus as the promised Messiah. We should pray for those who do not do so yet. God loves them, and all the nations of the Earth, with an amazing love and His desire is that none should perish but that all should come to the saving knowledge of Jesus, the Messiah.



Aussie John said...


After reading the comment you mentioned here,I was waiting for that response. You didn't disappoint me.

Hear! Hear!

Alan said...

As always, Alan, you make some great points...and I share your apparent dislike of people not putting their names to their the 'end times' approach we are seeing something quite amazing happening in Israel. Physically, the desert is blooming and the land being restored to productivity after centuries of wasting. We see the Jew restored increasingly to their land, and Jerusalem reclaimed and being restored beautifully. Spriritually , 40 years ago there were one or two struggling fellowships there. Now there are 150ish flourishing churches..Arab and Jew finding Jesus. Some remarkable things happening as we see 'The Day' approach. Coincidence? I wonder. After visiting Israel a couple of times I am convinced a work of God is going on there and I watch with interest and at times amazement at what God is doing. Keep an eye on Israel...and her enemies..fascinating.

Alan said...

sorry, I meant Keith! Put it down to age!

Anonymous said...

Why isn't that land in Genesis15:18 in Christian hands? Why are the overwhelming majority of people there Jews?

Beth said...

Thanks for the clarification, Keith.