Dear Church Family,
In our last two sermons from Genesis, chapter 21, we examined how the New Testament interprets and applies God’s promises to Abraham concerning seed (to make him into a great nation) and land (to bring him into the promised land).
With respect to the promise of seed (Genesis 21:1-21, “Children of Promise,”) we saw how Hagar and Ishmael were driven out into the wilderness and the Lord declared that Isaac is the one through whom Abraham’s descendants will be named. The New Testament applies this specific incident in order to teach us that all those who place their faith and trust in Christ (whether Jew or Gentile) are, like Isaac, children of promise (Galatians 4:21-31). There are not two peoples of God (Israel and the Church), but one: Christ Jesus has made both groups into one people, one body, one church (Ephesians 2:13-16).
With respect to the promise of land (Genesis 21:22-34, “Land of Promise,”) we saw how Abraham acquired for himself a well and a piece of land through his negotiations with Abimelech. The New Testament applies this theme of the promised land in order to teach us that even though the Lord brought Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to the land of promise, they lived there as aliens; they recognized that the Lord’s promise would not be fulfilled on this present earth. They were looking for “the city which has foundations, whose architect and building is God” – they desired “a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (Hebrews 11:8-16). The promise of land made to Abraham is ultimately fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ, I the new Jerusalem, in the new heaven and new earth (Revelation 21:1-7).
Why is this important?
If you’re wondering why understanding these promises of seed and land (along with the New Testament’s interpretation and application of them) are important, let me give you two reasons. First, many evangelical Christians base their political views (especially with regard to Israel and the land of Palestine) on an erroneous reading of the Bible. Second, many evangelical Christians deny the exclusive claims of the gospel by erroneously teaching that those who are biologically descended from Abraham (present-day Jews) continue to be God’s specially chosen people.
This is why, in 2002, a number of Reformed scholars, theologians, and pastors, came together to publish a short treatise on what the Bible teaches on these matters; it was called: “An Open Letter to Evangelicals and Other Interested Parties: The People of God, the Land of Israel, and the Impartiality of the Gospel.” Here is one paragraph from the introduction of that document:
“At the heart of the political commitments in question are two fatally flawed propositions. First, some are teaching that God’s alleged favor toward Israel today is based upon ethnic descent rather than upon the grace of Christ alone, as proclaimed in the Gospel. Second, others are teaching that the Bible’s promises concerning the land are fulfilled in a special political region or “Holy Land,” perpetually set apart by God for one ethnic group alone. As a result of these false claims, large segments of the evangelical community, our fellow citizens, and our government are being misled with regard to the Bible’s teachings regarding the people of God, the land of Israel, and the impartiality of the Gospel.”
I encourage you to follow the link to this short, two and half page article and read through the ten statements. This is one of the best summaries that I’ve found on these matters and is an excellent resource. Beginning on page 3, you’ll find a list of the signatories that contains many names that you might recognize. But, what I find most helpful about this document and its teaching is its simplicity, brevity, and the biblical references contained in the footnotes on pages 7-9 (the internal hyperlinks don’t seem to work, so you’ll have to do some scrolling – or, just print out the document for easier readability and study).
Let me conclude by quoting a short paragraph from the final section of the article that summarizes our present place in redemptive history between Jesus’ first coming and His second coming:
“The promised Messianic kingdom of Jesus Christ has been inaugurated. Its advent marks the focal point of human history. This kingdom of the Messiah is continuing to realize its fullness as believing Jews and Gentiles are added to the community of the redeemed in every generation. The same kingdom will be manifested in its final and eternal form with the return of Christ the King in all his glory.”
The Lord be with you!
– Pastor Peter M. Dietsch