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Questions, Clarification, and Contending OR What’s in a Name?
Romans 5:1–2; Genesis 32:26–29; Galatians 3:6 ff; Galatians 6:16
Romans Lesson #049
February 2, 2012
I got a triplet of questions or comments/observations last week that came together in a perfect storm. Tonight is going to be questions, clarification and contending. Yesterday I recorded the next installment in the Jude classes developing Jude 3 and the command that we are to contend for the faith. The word for contending means to strive, work hard or vigorously, bringing in the idea of discipline and intensity. It is a word that is typically used of an athlete preparing for an athletic contest and then all his effort he puts into winning the contest.
We contend for the faith a couple of different ways. One way we contend is within our own soul because the sin nature always wants to distract us and pull us off into some area of false teaching, sin or carnality. On the other hand, we always have to fight the attacks that come from others either from inside the church or outside the church, the cosmic system. When that happens, then we are to contend for the faith. The faith meaning a term that relates to the body of doctrine that is foundational to Christianity.
Last time as we went through our study of Romans 5:1–2, we focused on the fact that now as justified believers by faith, we have peace with God. These questions that came up while they may appear to be somewhat distracting or go in a little different direction, they really are important because they ultimately relate to what Paul has said in Romans 4:13–25. As we shift into a new direction in chapter 5, I want to take this one last time to pull some of these threads together to be sure there is no confusion or questions left unanswered. (But there always will be though—that is just the way we are.)
Romans 4:13 “For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.” The focal point here is on the promise to Abraham. In terms of the Abrahamic Covenant, that was not a promise of eternal life. That is the promise that he would be the “heir of the world”—in terms of the fact that Abraham through his seed would bless all of the Gentile nations, and all the world would be blessed through Abraham. This idea of promise is connected in verses 13 ff to inheritance which focuses us to a future reality. Abraham did not inherit the land and did not realize the promises that were made to him by God in the Abrahamic Covenant.
In other studies that I have had, there were at least 12 different promises that God made to Abraham in the Abrahamic Covenant. They included that God would develop a great nation from Abraham and that God would give Abraham (not just his descendants) a specific piece of real estate in the Middle East which he never personally had. He was still a sojourner, a traveler basically living out of a mobile home (a tent). The only piece of real estate he owned was the burial ground where he and Sarah were buried. God promised that Abraham was to be blessed in his own lifetime, which he was. God also promised that He would make Abraham’s name great. We saw just a hint of that in Abraham’s lifetime.
God promised a blessing upon those who would bless Abraham and his descendants in Genesis 12:3. He announced a harsh, divine judgment on those who treated Abraham and his seed or his descendants with disrespect. That is so important to bring out that God said, “I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you.” In English we use the same word to translate two different words in the Hebrew. The first word in the Hebrew related to God’s judgment is a term for a harsh judgment—the same word that is used in Genesis 3 related to the curse of sin.
But “those who curse you” is a different word that means to treat you with disrespect, which is a light sense. If they do not take Abraham and his descendants seriously or if they treat them frivolously (not in the sense of harsh Nazi-type anti-Semitism but just with disrespect), God says, “I will judge you harshly.” If God says He is going to judge harshly those who treat Israel with disrespect, how do you think God is going to judge those who are seriously anti-Semitic in a harsh, overt way.
In Abraham, all nations would be blessed. Not that national distinctions are wiped out, but through Abraham all nations, all the Gentiles would be blessed. God promised that Sarah would have a son and that was fulfilled in his lifetime. There was going to be an Egyptian bondage. His descendants would be taken out of the land God promised for 450 years, and then they would return. Other nations would come from Abraham aside from the promised seed. This is fulfilled in various Arabic nations. Ultimately, these intermarried, so today you cannot really identify all those different groups—the distinctions between the Midianites, Ishmaelites, and the Edomites.
God changed Abram’s name to Abraham. That is important in light of what we are going to study tonight. The way in which the ancient world looked at a name was that it identified something about the character of the person. The one who changes a person’s name is the one who is in authority. We see this again in the changing of Jacob’s name by God to Israel. God also changed Sarai’s name to Sarah.
All these 12 provisions are part of God’s promise to Abraham which was stated 20 times. It is restated 6–7 times just within the Abrahamic stories from Genesis 12–23 and then reiterated to Isaac, Jacob and Joseph 20 times. It is for us to get the point that God is serious about this promise that He is giving to Abraham that He is going to give him a seed, and through that seed, there will be worldwide blessing of all the nations. God was going to give them a specific, literal piece of real estate.
As the history of Israel developed, and God entered into a temporary or conditional covenant, called the Mosaic Covenant or the covenant at Sinai, there was a further division or distinction that was made in terms of the worship of God between Jews and Gentiles. Paul talks about this as the dividing wall between Jew and Gentile in Ephesians 2. Last time I was focusing on this concept of peace and how it is also developed in other of Paul’s writings. In Ephesians 2:11–22, Paul talks about the peace that comes, the reconciliation that Christ accomplishes on the cross that destroys the barrier between Jew and Gentile, but primarily the barrier between God and mankind.
We see that historically there developed this enmity not just between man and God, but there was this enmity or hostility between Jew and Gentile. Gentiles were demeaned as “uncircumcised.” This was the typical way in which they talked about the Gentiles—they were the uncircumcised, and the Jews were the circumcised. Gentiles were thus separated from a Messianic hope. They did not have the promise of the Messiah. The promise was given to Israel, but it is through the Messiah that the Gentiles would be blessed. But they do not know that; that is not revealed specifically to them. They were alienated from citizenship in Israel, which was a position of temporal blessing and blessing within the covenant.
Gentiles were not party to all the covenants, including the New Covenant. The Jewish covenants were given to Israel and were between God and the house of Israel and the house of Judah. There were three Gentile covenants: the Creation or Edenic Covenant in the Garden of Eden, the Adamic Covenant which is a revision of that initial covenant in Genesis 3, and the Noahic Covenant in Genesis 9. The Abrahamic Covenant is further developed in terms of three unconditional or eternal covenants: the Real Estate Covenant, the Davidic Covenant, and the New Covenant.
Also in Ephesians 2, Paul points out the Gentiles were without hope. That is, they had no promise of salvation, a Savior to them - it was through the Jews. And the Gentiles were godless.
In Galatians 3:26–29, as Paul develops this, he is showing this distinction between Jew and Gentile that was part of the Law was completely obliterated in the church age because we are in Christ. That is just in the church age that he says there is no Jew or Greek. That does not mean the physical, actual reality of being an ethnic Jew or a Gentile was eradicated. Jews were still Jews and Gentiles were still Gentiles, just like men were still men, women were still women, slaves were still slaves, and the free were still free. Galatians 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” He does not mean that everybody who becomes a Christian is asexual and that maleness and femaleness are somehow eradicated. Or that the way to emancipation as a physical slave was through becoming a Christian. When he writes his letter to Philemon about receiving back the slave Onesimus, he cannot order Philemon to release or manumit Onesimus. He cannot do it because that is in the physical realm.
This is talking about the fact that in the Old Testament under the Mosaic Law, there were distinctions made that only free male Jews had access to the inner areas of the temple. The women were restricted to the Courtyard of the Women and the Gentiles to the Courtyard of the Gentiles, but now in Christ, all have equal access to God. These distinctions from the Mosaic Law are completely obliterated in terms of our personal worship, our personal relationship with God.
There was enmity between Gentile and Jew because of the Law, but also enmity between all human beings (Gentiles and Jews) and God. The work of Christ on the cross meant that that enmity is changed to peace, and so the issue is no longer sin but whether we accept the death of Christ on the cross. The result is there is now this unity in Christ, and we are being built together in the body of Christ.
Last time when I went through the Galatians 3 passage and read some of the broader context, I had a question that came to me related to understanding this relationship of Gentiles to Abraham’s faith. In what sense are the Gentiles or church age believers descendants of Abraham spiritually? This also goes back to what we studied in Romans 4:17–18 where Paul states, quoting God speaking to Abraham when He changed his name, “(As it is written, ‘I have made you a father of many nations’) in the presence of Him whom he believed – God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did; who [Abraham], contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations [physically]…”
God had promised him that. That was one of the provisions of the Abrahamic Covenant that he would become the physical father of many nations. But it also goes on to state that he will become the spiritual father of those who follow him in faith (Galatians 3).
Here is the first of three questions that I was asked: Can you please clarify the concept of the spiritual seed of Abraham? Now let me give you the short answer. The physical seed of Abraham is the seed that goes through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. That is Israel and refers to the descendants, and only the descendants, physically of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The spiritual seed, which is the focus of Gal. 3, is only mentioned as the seed of Abraham and not of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. You cannot call the church or Gentiles saved in the church age spiritual Israel. Israel is always a term used of the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In Galatians 3, it is only talking about those who are the spiritual seed of Abraham in that they are of the faith and not of those who are emphasizing circumcision as a path to either salvation or spirituality, justification or sanctification.
The second question which I have condensed a little bit: What does it mean to be the “Israel of God?” In Galatians 6:16, Paul says “And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.” What does that term “Israel of God” mean? The claim that is made is that this shows that the church age believers are really the true Israel and that we are the Israel of God. That is false. I will show you why when we get there.
The third question is: How can someone who is anti-Zionist be anti-Semitic since many Jews are anti-Zionist? You may not realize that, but there are many Jews who do not support a modern state of Israel. The ultra-Orthodox still do not believe that there should be a Jewish nation until the Messiah comes. They are called the Haredi, a term that refers to all of the ultra-Orthodox group–the Hasidic, the Lubavitchers, and a number of other groups. They do not serve in the IDF in Israel, and this is becoming a real controversial issue now in Israel. They live off of welfare in many cases, but they won’t serve in the IDF or the army.
I was reading an article in this month’s Commentary Magazine, which is a publication that deals with a lot of political issues but primarily Jewish issues. The article has to do with why are the Jews letting the anti-Semites define what anti-Semitism means? It was a reaction and is dealing with writings of an Israeli who has left Israel, kicked the dust off of his feet, moved to London, and is a self-declared anti-Semite, anti-Zionist—a self-admitted, self-loathing Jew.
Someone sent me a text the other day that there is an article in the last issue of Newsweek magazine (class recorded 2-2-12) on why Jews vote like atheists. I also found a blog by a rabbi that the reason Jews vote like atheists because they are! It is a simple answer. 90% of Jews are either actual atheists who do not believe there is a God or are functional atheists who live as if there IS a God, He has no relevance to their lives. The rabbi then said, “That is why they vote like atheists, and I am one of them.”
When I get into this, I am going to deal with some issues that affect some of you in this congregation and some of your friends, colleagues, and loved ones. Part of the responsibility of the pastor is laid out not only in Jude 3 to contend for the faith but is also laid out by the Apostle Paul on Acts 20:28–31. “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock …” Who is he talking to? This is at the end of his third missionary journey when Paul was on his way to Jerusalem, and he did not want to take the time to go all the way to Ephesus, so he stopped off at the closest port city which was Miletus. He asked for all of the pastors of the churches of the believers in Ephesus to meet him in Miletus.
He is talking to a group of pastors. Acts 20:28 “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” Pastors, watch your own doctrine, teaching and application. Take heed is a word in the Greek that means to give attention to something, to apply your mind and thought process, focus on something.
Verse 29 “For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves [enemies on the outside] will come in among you, not sparing the flock.” This is everything from persecution to the influence of false doctrine and ideas that impact the local church. Verse 30 “Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.” Some of you pastors are going to apostatize, depart from the faith. So you have savage wolves and perverse pastors. Sadly, we have had our own experiences with pastors who fall into this category.
Verse 31 “Therefore, watch, and remember [Paul’s example] that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.” So Paul is constantly warning everybody about false doctrine.
I want to talk about this second question I raised “Who are the “Israel of God?” The answer to that is the foundation for the answer to question 1 and 3. I got an email from a distance member of our church who got an email from someone who goes to a church that is pastored by someone who has come under the influence of N. T. Wright and his perverted teaching on the distinction between Israel and the church which he has rejected. Wright is also a preterist and has rejected the historic doctrine of justification by faith alone. He has influenced some pastors who pastor churches that were formerly solidly free grace dispensational.
The claim that was made in a Bible class just recently by this particular pastor, who incidentally has no formal theological training, was that the phrase in Acts 15:17 “called by My name” relates to Jacob being renamed Israel by the Angel of Yahweh in Genesis 32. There is no connection between the two. That is usually what happens with false teaching. You either have a leap in logic, or you have somebody who just imposes their theology on the text, which is called eisegesis. We talk about exegesis (ex meaning out of)—we derive or pull out through inductive reasoning and study of the Scripture what it teaches. Eisegesis is when you form up a theological system that you then read into the Scriptures. You get the Scriptures to try and fit your theological system.
The third point in his argument was that after the Angel of the Lord in Genesis 32 asked Jacob what his name was, Jacob says Jacob. Then the Angel says after this he would be known as Israel. What did we just learn about Abraham? This is a sign of authority over someone else: The one in authority has the power and ability to change the name of a subordinate. Then Jacob—the heal grabber, the crafty one, the one who is always manipulating things—says, “Tell me your name, I pray.”
This pastor said that when Jacob asked the Angel what his name was, the Angel replied, “Why is it that you ask about my name?”, and this means that the Angel is saying that Jacob already knows it. He said it is the name he just gave him—Israel. But that is not in the text anywhere. The pastor then says that Christians are therefore called the Israel of God. If the Angel of God’s name is Israel and Christians are called the Israel of God because Christians are in Christ and we are in Israel, then the church age Christians are the new Israel.
There are a lot of people who believe this. This is just one form of the argument. There are large numbers of evangelical Christians (most but not all come from a Calvinistic background) who hold to this replacement theology. It is the belief that the church replaces Israel, so the promises that were supposed to go to Abraham are now going to be fulfilled in the church.
In maybe 1999, the Evangelical Theological Society was meeting in Boston. Since I was in Preston City, CT, I decided to go. I saw a lot of my former professors from Dallas Seminary and a lot of classmates. I was talking with Elliott Johnson, a great hermeneutics professor at Dallas Seminary. Bruce Waltke, Hebrew professor at Dallas at one time and a dispensationalist, walked up. Ed Bloom, who was the pastor of Bethel Presbyterian Church back in the 1960s before he became a professor at Dallas, and Elliott Johnson walked over to Waltke and went right after him. They asked Bruce if he had figured out that Israel still means Israel and that the promise that God made to Abraham still lies between the Mediterranean and the Euphrates. Bruce Waltke has become a covenant theologian and amillennial, so the land is now heaven for him.
In the next two or three months, they are going to have a large conference of these anti-Zionists who have become much more vocal in Bethlehem. A worldwide conference of pro-Palestinian Christians who think that Christian Zionists are a heretical sect according to Stephen Sizer, who is one of their leading advocates and authors.
What you basically have in this construction that this pastor puts together is first of all a context problem. He does not understand the context of either Genesis 32 or Galatians 6. Whenever you take the text out of context, you are left with a con job. You add that to a misreading problem (he just reads something right into that text) and add two lexical problems (one from Genesis 32 and another from Galatians 6), you are left with a theological problem of massive proportions.
This is replacement theology, which is the historical breeding ground for anti-Semitism. It really had its roots back in the allegorical hermeneutics of Origen in the early 3rd century and became institutionalized by Augustine in the late 4th/early 5th century.
To understand the overall context of Genesis 32, you have to understand the Abrahamic Covenant. It is the context for Genesis 12–50. Everything from the call of Abram in Genesis 12:1 to the death of Joseph (left dead in a coffin in Egypt as Genesis ends) is all about God’s covenant with Abraham and the outworking of that covenant. In that covenant, God promised Abraham a specific piece of real estate/the land, a seed through which there would be worldwide blessing, and all the Gentiles would be blessed. Those statements were all expanded in subsequent covenants.
The immediate context in Genesis 32 brings our focus on a word play, and that word play is essential. The Holy Spirit loves a pun or a paronomasia, which is a word play. He uses these in numerous Old Testament books, and they are designed to get our attention. They did not have boldface type or underline or italics, so they used things like word plays and puns in order to get people’s attention and to emphasize certain things. All of a sudden you see this interchange going on that gets your attention.
There is a word play here on the name of Jacob. Jacob means the trickster, the supplanter, the heel grabber. He is the youngest of a set of twins born to Isaac and Rebekah. God had promised them that before these twins were born, the older, which was Esau, would serve the younger. The blessing is already promised to the younger. But the heel grabber has to manipulate things and get it himself. We have the episode where he disguises himself, so that his old, blind father Isaac will think he is Esau. He fixes this favorite meal for Isaac and brings in to him, so that his father will give him the blessing of the older son. Then he tricks his brother Esau. When Esau came in from a hunt and was tired, worn-out and hungry. Jacob said he would sell him the bowl of lentil stew and trade it for Esau’s birthright. He has manipulated things.
That is not the way you get it. Even though he got it, he got it the wrong way. The right thing done in a wrong way is wrong, so God has to teach him a lesson. The lesson is that Jacob has to move out of the land. That is always the sign of some kind of discipline from God. He moves up north to look for a wife and goes to work for cousin Laban. The primary reason he has to leave is because after he has tricked Esau, Esau is breathing murder. His mother Rebekah gives him some money and tells him if Esau finds him, he will kill him. He is to go stay with cousin Laban for awhile.
Jacob works for seven years and wants to marry Laban’s beautiful daughter Rachel. But Laban out tricks the trickster. This is how God is bringing discipline into Jacob’s life. He is going to become the victim of his own methodology. You read through this story of Jacob and Laban and realize these are not likable people. You do not want them for your neighbors. They are conning each other, and they are family members. They are sneaky, hypocritical, always trying to get everything they can out of the other person, not honest, backstabbing, etc. After working seven years and getting tricked into marrying Leah, who was wearing the veil, and he thought it was Rachel. He had to work another seven years to get Rachel. After 14 years, he is finally beginning to get a little humility.
This time God works things out, and he is able to go back home. He heads back to the land. In Gen. 31, Jacob is heading south to the land and Laban is in hot pursuit. Rachel has stolen the family idols which is the sign of the inheritance where the family blessing goes. As he gets ready to enter the land in Gen. 32, Esau is going to meet him. The last time he had any dealings with Esau, Esau was breathing threats and going to kill him. He decides he is going to send all these gifts of sheep, goats and cattle ahead of him for Esau to placate him. He sends all the women and stays behind, so by the time all of this has gone past Esau, maybe his temper will have cooled, and he will not be out to get Jacob.
Jacob is still trying to control the situation and has not really learned to trust God yet. That is when we run into him in Genesis 32:9–12. “Then Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, the Lord who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your family, and I will deal well with you’: I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies and of all the truth which You have shown Your servant; for I crossed over this Jordan with my staff, and now I have become two companies. Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, lest he come and attack me and the mother with the children. For You said, ‘I will surely treat you well, and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.’ ” You see the humility there. He is dependent upon God, looking to God to take care of him and fulfill His promise that through him will come an innumerable multitude of descendants.
In Genesis 32:22 “And he arose that night and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven sons, and crossed over the ford of Jabbok.” Here is where we get into the word play. The story is about Jacob (Yaaqob), the man. And Yaaqob is crossing over the Jabbok (Yabboq). It is the same consanants—you just shift the b and the k sound. Now he is going to get in a wrestling match, and wrestling is yeabeq. So you have those three words—Yaaqob, Yabboq and yeabeq—and that gets your attention.
The map shows the path that he has taken into what is now the Kingdom of Jordan. The Trans-Jordan is where he will cross over into the Promised Land at a place called Peniel. Peniel means “God face to face” which is the verse from which Camp Peniel took its name, so that when people come to camp they will meet God face to face.
Genesis 32:24 “[The women were sent ahead] Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day.” He does not know who this is, but it is a person in the form of a man. He understands who angels are because back in verse 1 “So Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him.” He knows who angels are and can identify them. This is later identified as the Angel of the Lord, but this is in the form of a man. So there is this wrestling match.
The Greek verb that is used to translate wrestling (yeabeq, Hebrew verb) is PALAIO. PALE is the noun used in Ephesians 6:12 “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood …” The Greeks named the land Palestine based on PALAIO because it sounded like Philistine. But Philistine starts with a “f sound” not a hard “p sound”. PALAIO would not make the shift from a p to an f sound, going from Hebrew to Greek. So PALAIO is not based on Philistine. This is one of the myths that the modern Arab inhabitants of the land want you to believe: that they somehow trace their heritage back to the Philistines, and that Palestine is a terms that relates to the land of the Philistines. But it does not. It was the land of the wrestler. The Greeks originated this terminology for that region and called it the land of the wrestler. Who is the wrestler? The wrestler is Jacob. It has nothing to do with the Philistines; it has to do with the land of Israel.
The wrestling match goes on all night. Jacob is not winning. The Angel of the Lord is just fighting hard enough to keep the contest going until daybreak. Genesis 32:25 “Now when He [Angel of the Lord] saw that He did not prevail against him …” Jacob by this time understands that this is not just a man but is a divine person. He is wrestling with Him because he wants the blessing. Now he is being dependent upon God and holding on because he wants God to be the one to give him that blessing. In verse 25 the Angel of the Lord touches the socket of his hip and leaves a permanent wound. Thereafter, Jacob will limp as a constant reminder that his life changed this particular night.
Genesis 32:26 “And He said, Let Me go, for the day breaks. But he said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!” That is the issue. The focal point of this story is on this wrestling match. He is holding onto God in persistence because he wants God to bless him. Verse 27 “So He [The Angel of Yahweh, the preincarnate Lord Jesus Christ—the pastor got that much right] said to him, ‘What is your name?’ He said, ‘Jacob.’ ” Chisler, heel grabber—this is not much of a name for someone who is blessed by God. Verse 28 “And He said, ‘Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God [Elohim. In “Israel” the el is short for Elohim] and with men, and have prevailed.’ ” You have struggled with God. You are not giving up in the spiritual battle and will hold onto God for your blessing. You have prevailed in your problems with Laban and the others and have learned humility and grown to spiritual maturity.
In the term Israel, el is the name of God, but the root sara is used in the same context as a synonym for wresting and for struggling with God. The popular etymology is that he is called Israel because he struggled with God. There is a lot of debate as to just exactly how you get to these things. In Hebrew and in the Old Testament, these words that are used for these names are not always the dictionary meaning of the root word. It’s a word play; it sounds a certain way and so brings to mind this idea of contention or fighting. Jacob is called this because he struggled with God and prevailed.
There is a homophone in the Hebrew, which means that it has the same sound and same letters, sarar, that also means to rule. That is why some of you have seen or heard that Israel means the prince of God or the one who rules with God, but that is again speculation. Maybe that is the word sarar that is translated struggled here and only used a couple of times, so we are not really sure. But the text tells us what the implication is that God wants us to get out of it that he is named this because he has struggled with God and prevailed.
Then Jacob says in Genesis 32:29 “… Tell me Your name, I pray …” He still has a little bit of that “I want to control you, God” mentality that we all want to hold onto. There is no answer. Remember that the contention from this pastor was that the implication of this is “you know who I am.” If there is any implication, it is “if you think about it, you will understand who I am.” But there is this mystery here cloaking the identity of God. This is why context is important—you have the immediate context of Genesis 32, the broader context of the life of Jacob and the Abrahamic Covenant in Genesis 12–50, and the broader context of the Old Testament.
In Judges 13:17–18, you have an almost identical phrase when Manoah, the father of Samson, says to the Angel of the Lord, who has just appeared to Manoah and his wife and promised them they will have a child. “ ‘What is Your name, that when Your words come to pass we may honor You?’ And the Angel of the Lord said to him, ‘Why do you ask My name, seeing it is wonderful?’ ” The Hebrew word for wonderful is pele. It is only used to apply to God, so when he says “seeing it is wonderful,” He is using a term indicating that He is God; He is divine.
God is cloaking Himself. You do not get a full picture of who God is until Jesus comes to reveal Him according to John 1. You are just reading into this text the idea that the name Israel applies to the Angel. That is what this pastor had said. When Jacob asked, “What is Your name?”, it is implied that “you already know My name, and it is the same as yours.” Is that there? It is an error of reading; it is eisegesis. He is reading something that is not in the text. He does not understand the context; he cannot read what is in the verse and is reading things into the verse. Then he completely misidentifies the word study which is related to Israel. If there is a name for God in the text, what is it? Elohim. Israel. Peniel. They are used 4 or 5 times in these verses. The only name for God that is here is Elohim, not Israel.
In the broad context, we see that God promises to bless the Gentiles through Abraham and his descendants. This theological argument, using the term loosely, misreads the text because the Angel never implies that Israel is His name as well. The two key words that are misidentified are first of all Israel, as the name given to Jacob in relation to his new status, his new direction, and his new life. Israel focuses on Jacob and his positive relationship to God, and later Jacob is used of Israel when they are in carnality, like the time of Jacob’s trouble in the Tribulation. Israel is used to focus on the positive when God is blessing them.
That is all background to understanding Galatians 6:16, which is the close of Galatians. Paul says, “And as many as walk according to this rule [what he has just articulated in terms of walking by means of the Spirit starting from Galatians 5:16–6:15], peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.” Notice that even in the English, it is clear you have the prepositions repeated. He is not identifying them with the Israel of God. He is talking about two groups of people. The first group, them, refers to those who are walking according to this rule. The second group is the Israel of God. The NIV translates it “even the Israel of God,” which is a mistranslation because it is clear he is talking about two groups of people.
The term Israel is used 43 times in 41 verses from Acts 1–Revelation 22. It is used a total of 73 times in the New Testament. Every single time (and I have gone through and analyzed every use of the term Israel in the Gospels, Acts, the Epistles and Revelation) it refers to the physical, genetic descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It is a hermeneutical fallacy of the first order to take a word that in every other use in the Bible refers to the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and then all of a sudden give it a totally different meaning. There is no basis, no justification for that whatsoever. There is no foundation for it. It is just reading a theological system into the verse.
It is clear in the Scripture that Paul always recognizes that there is a distinction between the Gentiles and the blessing that comes to the Gentiles through the Jews. This is the background in Romans 15:8–9. Paul says “Now I say that Jesus Christ has become a servant to the circumcision [technical term for the Jews] for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers.” Romans 9:4—the covenant and the promises belong to Israel. Verse 9 “And that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy, as it is written: ‘For this reason I will confess to You among the Gentiles, and sing to Your name.’” The Gentiles are not equated to the circumcision; they are still distinct.
This all started in this pastor’s view in Acts 15:16. “[Quote from the Amos 9:11–12] After this I will return [context of Amos 9 is the Tribulation, so this is the Second Coming] and will rebuild the tabernacle of David [establishment of the millennial kingdom], which has fallen down; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will set it up [establishment of Messianic kingdom]; (verse 17) so that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord [Isaiah 2. All the nations will come and worship God in Jerusalem at the Mountain of the Lord], even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, says the Lord who does all these things.”
This is where the pastor started—“called by My name” is not Israel from Genesis 32. “Called by His name” are those who identify with the Messiah in the Messianic kingdom and those who are believers. Those who are going to the Mountain of the Lord to worship according to Isaiah 2.
Remember the promise in Romans 4 that is talked about as the background in Genesis. The promise to Abraham was that all the Gentiles would be blessed through him. They are not going to become Jews; there is going to be worldwide blessing that is going to come through Abraham and his descendants. In Galatians 3:6 “Just as Abraham ‘believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ ” This refers to the time when God originally imputed righteousness to Abraham and justified him prior to his calling in Genesis 12. The quote comes from Genesis 15:6, but it should be translated as we have seen that Abraham had already believed God, and it was imputed to him for righteousness.
Galatians 3:7 “Therefore [Paul says] know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham.” It does not say sons of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It is only the sons of Abraham – they identify with Abraham because they are trusting in God alone for their justification. They are trusting in Jesus Christ by faith alone, not by works of righteousness which we have done (Titus 3:5).
Verse 8 “And the Scripture foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, ‘In you all the nations shall be blessed.’ ” That is what Amos 9 was talking about. That is why James quotes it in Acts 15:16–17 to emphasize that the Old Testament foresaw that the Gentiles would also be saved. The Gentiles are blessed if they come by faith alone.
Verses 9–11 “So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham. For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them. But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for ‘the just shall live by faith.’ ”
Galatians is sort of the abbreviated short version of what Paul later writes after he has meditated on it for awhile in Romans. He is pointing out that those who follow Abraham receive the blessing of Abraham.
Verse 14 “That the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” We are not talking about Old Testament Gentile salvation; he is focusing on church-age salvation of Jew and Gentile in Christ. He goes on to talk about the promise of Abraham that is fulfilled in verse 15 “Brethren, I speak in the manner of men: Though it is only a man’s covenant, yet if it is confirmed, no one annuls or adds to it.” That Abrahamic Covenant is still in effect.
Verse 16 “Now to Abraham and his Seed…” Now we get into something a little tricky because the word seed is a collective noun. A collective noun is like people – it can refer to a small group or a large group, a crowd. It is a singular noun, but it has a collective meaning. Seed can be singular or plural. It is singular in the sense of apple seed or individual seed, or it can talk about all the descendants of somebody meaning the descendants of Abraham. Here Paul makes a point out of the fact that the word Seed is singular, and so the promise is to a Seed singular. “…He does not say, ‘And to seeds,’ as of many, but as of one, ‘And to your Seed,’ which is Christ.” He applies the promise of blessing ultimately to the person of Jesus Christ.
Verses 17–18 “And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect. For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise.” Paul says in Romans 4 that the promise is to Abraham that he would inherit the world; he would receive his inheritance in the future.
The bottom line here is simply what Paul is saying is that Abraham is the father of those who believe, who follow him in faith alone in the Gospel – faith alone in Christ alone. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are the line for the physical lineage of Israel, and the term Israel is only used for those who are physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The spiritual descendants of Abraham refer to those who are either physical descendants or who are Gentiles who follow Abraham in faith. This is why Paul says in Romans 9 that not all Israel is Israel because some are only physical descendants. You have to be a physical descendant and a spiritual descendant to be justified and to have an inheritance in the future kingdom.
The world is becoming more and more hostile to Israel and the Jews. If the Jewish people are not allowed to have their own territory, and you make statements as some politicians have made that the existence of Israel is a problem, and Israel does not have any right to the land; then what you are basically doing through the backdoor passively is saying that all the Jews need to be in a land that will not protect it. In Israel they have a place that protects them; they have a land that is home base. It is the only place in the world where they have true, 100% security, and the government is not going to turn against them and persecute them for being Jewish. If you say that they do not have a right to that land, you are tacitly giving permission for another Holocaust and giving approval to the Jews living in a world that is hostile to them.
Another way in which anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism is from the UN to the various different groups that criticize Israel. Zionism does not mean you support everything that the Jewish government does. The Israelis do not support everything that the Israeli government does. That is a distortion of what Zionism is. Zionism says that the Jews have a right to the land and to their own nation and to defend it— it does not say anything about whether they are right or wrong. When you hold them up to a standard that is different from the other nations, where you criticize the Israeli government for doing things that your own government is doing and you do not criticize it for, then what you are doing is isolating Israel and holding them up to an unacceptable standard that is unique to them. That is anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism is not just the active hostility and assault on the Jews; it is also a passive acceptance of treating the Jews in a more negative manner simply because they are Jews. There are many people who are guilty of passive anti-Semitism because they take a Palestinian side. In doing so, they totally ignore a whole host of international laws established from the San Remo Resolution in 1920 and subsequent to that which recognized the Jewish people had a right to all the land west of the Jordan River for a national homeland for the Jewish people.