Home Bible Study ©
Established November 2008
Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth
(2 Timothy 2:15)
This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1Timothy 2:3-4
I want to welcome you all to Home Bible Study.
At the beginning of each New Year I repeat a phrase the faithful regulars have heard me say again and again and I do this for the sake of the first-time visitors and for those who are relatively new. Here at HBS the focus is on God and the Truths He has revealed to us in His Word – Rightly Divided. With that said, I trust that each one of you will take up your Bible and search the Scriptures, without paying too much attention to what I say, to determine exactly what this book does say, so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught (Luke 1:4). You see, that’s my earnest prayer.
That you may know the Truth!
Please open your Bible at Romans 9:6 and we’ll pick up where we left off last week.
Because of Paul’s statement, “For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel;” I closed the previous lesson with this thought: just because you were born into an Israelite family, learned the Mosaic Law, and tried your best to fulfill all its demands throughout your lifetime doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed salvation.
The same tenet applies today of course, just because your parents are Believers doesn’t automatically make you one and just because you joined a particular church group doesn’t mean your salvation is guaranteed either. God looks at the heart and it’s there He finds what He’s looking for and that my friend is faith. (1 Samuel 16:7).
…without faith it’s impossible to please (God) Him (Hebrews 11:6).
Faith is essential to one’s salvation. Salvation means: to make “whole” the spirit, the soul, and the body (1 Thessalonians 5:23). Simply said, God is trying to give mankind His grace for free but it can only be received through faith – when accomplished this establishes a spiritual partnership between God and the individual.
Many people do not understand what faith is. The best definition of faith that I’ve come across is simply this: taking God at His Word. God said it. I believe it and that’s that.
This is what Abram did back in 2000 BC. He took the LORD God at His Word.
Keeping this in mind, let’s look at verses 6-9.
6: But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel;
7: nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: “THROUGH ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS WILL BE NAMED.”
8: That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants.
9: For this is the word of promise: “AT THIS TIME I WILL COME AND SARAH SHALL HAVE A SON.”
The Israelites error when they assumed that God’s faithfulness was questionable as it concerned their present and future state is actually two-fold (Romans 9:6).
First of all, the Scriptures never promised God’s blessing to every physical descendent of Abraham.
Second, the basis of God’s blessing is not to be found in one’s physical relationships but rather in one’s spiritual relationship to God through faith (alone) - Romans 4.
If you’ll read verses 7-8 carefully, you’ll see it’s the children of the promise that are regarded as descendants of Abraham and then therefore, children of God (Genesis 18:14).
There are two senses in which the New Testament speaks of “Jews” or “Israel.” If you’ll note from verse 4, Paul speaks of Israel incorporating all Israelites, both Believers and unbelievers. Yet there are a number of places where it speaks of Israel as that which incorporates ONLY Believers. Here are two examples:
“For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation” (Galatians 6:16).
“For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God” (Romans 2:28-29).
Last week I pointed out to you that Sarai had no faith in the LORD God’s promise to give them a son. She conceived her own plan and encouraged her husband Abram to take Hagar as his wife; it was from this union that Ishmael was born. This was the custom amongst the pagan tribes in that region; however, it was not God’s plan for how His promise would be fulfilled. God’s promise was going to depend on sovereign grace, and not on human effort and ingenuity.
Ishmael was NOT the son of promise because he was humanly possible. The LORD intended to show both Sarah and Abraham that nothing is too difficult for the LORD (Genesis 18:14)! Not only would the LORD God give Sarah a son, even though she was beyond childbearing years, and Abraham 99 years of age, He predicted the exact time of Isaac’s birth thus demonstrating His faithfulness, His miracle working power, and His sovereignty. (Deuteronomy 7:9; Psalms 77:13-14; Isaiah 45:8-25).
Our Apostle Paul writes, For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the bondwoman and one by the free woman. But the son by the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise. This is allegorically speaking, for these women are two covenants: one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar. Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother. For it is written, "REJOICE, BARREN WOMAN WHO DOES NOT BEAR; BREAK FORTH AND SHOUT, YOU WHO ARE NOT IN LABOR; FOR MORE NUMEROUS ARE THE CHILDREN OF THE DESOLATE THAN OF THE ONE WHO HAS A HUSBAND." And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise (Galatians 4:22-28).
It’s been said, “A person can make a case for most anything using Scripture.” I believe this is true. But the key to understanding the Truth of the Scriptures is to Rightly Divide them in such a way which brings complete harmony throughout. With this in mind, Paul mentions the “two covenants” in his discourse above and this is important. So, we’re going to spend a bit of time on this so that we understand what this means here and in relation to his remarks of Romans 9:7-9.
Exodus 19 reveals that the LORD was offering Israel the opportunity to enter into Abraham’s covenant of promise rather than the Sinai Covenant which was settled on until Jesus, the promised seed, should come. The LORD instructed Moses to tell the people to consecrate themselves for in three days the LORD Himself would speak His covenant to them and if they would obey this covenant then He would make them a, “kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” Verse 8 gives the peoples response, All the people answered together and said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do!”
With this in mind, let’s go to Exodus 34:1 – Now the LORD said to Moses, “Cut out for yourself two stone tablets like the former ones, and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the former tablets which you shattered.” Verse 4: So he cut out two stone tablets like the former ones, and Moses rose up early in the morning and went up to Mount Sinai… verse 28: And He wrote on the tablets the words of the (what) covenant, the Ten Commandments.
Now notice what’s written in Deuteronomy 4:10-13 – Remember the day you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb (Mt Sinai), when the LORD said to me, ‘Assemble the people to Me, that I may let them hear My words so they may learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children.’ You came near and stood at the foot of the mountain and the mountain burned with fire to the very heart of the heavens: darkness, cloud and thick gloom. Then the LORD spoke to you from the midst of the fire; but you saw no form – only a voice. So He declared to you His covenant which He commanded you to perform, that is, the Ten Commandments; and He wrote them on the two tablets of stone.”
What most people miss (do not understand) but is clear in the writings of the apostles, is that the New Covenant is the same covenant of promise that the LORD God made with Abraham 430 years before the Mt Sinai Covenant. Galatians 3:17 – Paul writes, What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise. Galatians 3:28 –
"For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel (Jacob); nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s (natural) descendants, but ‘THROUGH ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS WILL BE NAMED.’ That is, it is not the children of the flesh (natural seed) who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants" (Romans 9:6-8).
Isaac, not Jacob, was the child of promise and the followers of Jesus are named after Him because they are born again of the Promised Seed and are heirs of better, eternal promises. Jesus Christ is the Promised Seed and those born in Him are Spiritual Israel. Galatians 6:16 – And those who will (it’s a choice) walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.
Since a Covenant is a contract which contains specific terms of agreement, we must understand what our obligation is. The terms of my car loan are very different from the terms of my mortgage. There are certain conditions and assurances in both; but they are not the same. Once the contract is agreed upon by both parties and ratified, no conditions can be added or removed from it. The dealer I purchased my car from cannot come to me a month later and say that he sold me the car too cheap and wants to add more to my debt, nor can I go to the dealer and demand my debt be reduced because I have decided the car isn’t worth what I am paying for it. Once the contract is ratified (today by signing a contract), the terms, requirements, and conditions are set.
The only way to change the conditions is to void the original contract and make a new one. Paul actually addresses this to prove that the Sinai Covenant did not replace the promise of Abraham’s Covenant, "Brethren, I speak in terms of human relations: (giving an example) even though it is only a man’s covenant, yet when it has been ratified, no one sets it aside or adds conditions to it" (Galatians 3:15).
Some argue that the Torah Laws remain, but are written into the minds and hearts of the believers in the New Covenant. Others insist that many of those Laws are not a part of Abraham’s Covenant of Promise, but were added to the Sinai Covenant because of the transgressions of the people.
When reading Galatians chapter 4, it becomes clear that the Sinai Covenant and Abraham’s Covenant are two different testaments indeed. The Apostle’s word to the Hebrews was that while the Sinai Covenant had the priesthood of Aaron and Levi, the New Covenant of Promise has a different priesthood; one that preceded and is greater than that of Aaron and Levi, the eternal priesthood of Melchizedek, which means there must also be a change in Law, "For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of Law also" (Hebrews 7:12).
The previous verse indicates that the Law of Moses (Sinai Covenant) was given on the basis of the Levitical Priesthood and not on the basis of the Priesthood of the Order of Melchizedek, "Now if perfection was through the Levitical Priesthood (for on the basis of it the people received the Law), what further need was there for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aaron?" (Hebrews 7:11)
The children of Israel were given the Levitical Priesthood, but the Church of Jesus Christ is a Priesthood of the order of Melchizedek; Jesus being the High Priest, the Author and Perfecter of the faith.
Now back to Galatians 4 concerning who Sarah and Hagar and their sons represent, "This is allegorically speaking, for these woman are TWO COVENANTS: one proceeding from Mount Sinai (Sinai Covenant) bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar" (Gal. 4:24). Sarah and Isaac represent Abraham’s Covenant of Promise which is the New Covenant ratified by Christ, and Hagar and her son represent the Sinai Covenant in which God used Moses. As both women and their sons were blessed, there are blessings in both Covenants if obeyed. But the true heirs of the eternal and better promises, come through Sarah and Isaac, the New Covenant of Promise.
Something else we learn from this passage is that as the two women and their two sons were not compatible, the two Covenants cannot exist together; notice "And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of Promise. But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also. But what does the Scripture say? ‘Cast out the bondwoman and her son. For the son of the bondwoman shall not be an heir with the son of the free woman.’ So then brethren, we are not children of a bondwoman, but of the free woman" (Gal.4:28-31).
After Isaac was born Sarah demanded that both Hagar and Ishmael be sent away. The son she once loved as her own, she now despised and never wanted to see again. When reading this, it is obvious that we are receiving fresh revelation from the Apostle Paul of the true meaning of this story.
I think we can be assured that when the children of Israel heard Moses read every Sabbath, they never even considered that Sarah and Hagar and their sons represented two Covenants.
This is but one of many examples of how Jesus and the Apostles lifted the veil on the true meaning of the O.T. writings. How wonderful and blessed it is to live at a time such as this.
(To be continued)
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GJ Heitzman’s Ministry
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