Is Paul Confused About Who Are Israelites?
“ Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all ISRAEL, which are of ISRAEL: Neither, because they are the SEED of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy SEED be called. That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the SEED.” Romans 9:6-8
“I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an ISRAELITE, of the SEED of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.” Romans 11:1
“Now to Abraham and his SEED were the promises made. He saith not, And to SEEDS, as of many; but as of one, And to thy SEED, which is Christ.” Galatians 3:16
“And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the ISRAEL of God.” Galatians 6:16
“Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for ISRAEL is, that they might be saved.” Romans 10:1
I’ve highlighted the words I want to focus our attention on: Israel; Israelite; Seed; Seeds.
I’m slowly trolling my way through the book of Romans. I’ve spent a few days, especially as of late, in chapters 8-10. This morning, I just finished chapter 10 again and decided to take a sneak peak at the beginning of chapter 11.
My attention got brought to a halt by Paul saying the he was an Israelite. That stuck out, for some reason this time, as significant.
Not being sure why it stuck out, I started rummaging through my mind about what Paul has to say, primarily in Romans, about Israel. And, by natural course, it also took my mind into the book of Galatians.
Isn’t it interesting how Paul makes the distinction between seed (singular) and seeds (plural). That is the sort of thing I wouldn’t know enough to even take notice of … if it hadn’t been pointed out.
To my thinking, seed is automatically plural and not just singular. I don’t even know if I ever think of it as singular. If you do, you’re much smarter than I. Go to the head of the class (which, by the way, I never did — corners … yes).
Back to Romans.
According to our understanding and usage of the words “Israel” and “Jew,” if you were to ask any Israelite/Jew if they are an Israelite, I’m guessing they would automatically answer yes. And understandably so — according to our understanding and usage of the words.
But, I have a sneaky suspicion that if you were to challenge said person about the validity of that identification, they would be insulted. And understandably so — according to our understanding and usage of the words.
By writing the above verses, Paul plunges us into some rather deep theological aspects to consider. But for Paul, it’s just a walk in the park. — That’s due largely to the fact he had taken a special trip up “into paradise and heard unspeakable words that are not lawful for a man to speak.” (2 Corinthians 12:4) So, we don’t need to feel too dumb. —
He says some things that had to be pretty staggering for folks to contemplate. I’m sure many thought Paul was a heretic.
I can see some of the folks scratching their heads and wondering:
“What’s he mean not all Israel are of Israel?”
“What’s this … being of the seed of Abraham isn’t enough? Of course it is!”
“Well, wait a minute here. Doesn’t Paul himself say that he is an Israelite of the seed of Abraham? Isn’t he a little confused here?
And finally …
“Paul has the audacity to say that the SEED is in Isaac and ultimately in this Yeshua that he keeps blabbing about!”
I think the most staggering statement Paul, in his summation, makes is this: “They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the SEED.”
Please, take the time to seriously ponder all that Paul has said in the verses I quoted from Romans and Galatians. I think the theological and practical ramifications are truly mind blowing.
Paul in these verses is, in essence, expanding upon the foundation already laid down by Yeshua’s cousin John the Baptist in Luke 3:8 —
“Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.”
Stones don’t have blood.
Any children raised up by God unto Abraham from stones would be Abraham’s and — dare I say it? — God’s true children … apart from seed or blood.
I’m going to do something I don’t usually do at this point — stop.
I don’t want to spoon feed you. We have to honestly slow down our minds when reading Scriptures and let them speak in and of themselves. If I’ve learned anything coming into this Hebraic mindset is that I need to slow down and take the time to ponder, meditate upon, what I’m reading.
Because I have read the Scriptures for so long now through a particular set of “glasses” that I don’t even see what I don’t realize I’m not seeing when I’m reading. It’s sort of like I automatically gloss over stuff because I don’t know enough to know I need to think differently.
I read something over 40 years ago that has stuck with me. And at this point in my walk of faith, I now see more fully the wisdom of it.
That is this —
Over 40 years ago I read the autobiography of George Mueller.
He said that he had for the last 14 years (at the time he was writing) meditated, pondered, his way through the New Testament. He said sometimes he would meditate upon a phrase he was reading. Sometimes just a word. And that discipline had led him into a greater sense of depth and understanding like he had never known previously.
Speeding reading the writings of Paul just won’t cut it. And I think almost 2,000 years of Christianity has shown that. Paul has to be THE most misunderstood inspired writer of Scripture to have ever lived.
Here’s an assignment, a challenge:
Meditate upon what Paul is saying in the verses I’ve given. Meditate through the context of each passage while at the same time connecting the verses to the whole book and, by way of final extension, to the rest of his writings.
You might, like me, come to realize you don’t really know Paul like you thought you did.