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July 2009  •  Volume XII, Issue 15


What Is a Jew? (2)

Who are examples of true spiritual Jews (Rom. 2:28-29)? Many physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in OT times, such as David, the man after God’s own heart; godly Hannah; faithful Jeremiah and those in the great role call of faith in Hebrews 11. Also Gentile converts in OT days: Rahab of Jericho, Ruth the Moabitess, Ebedmelech the Ethiopian, etc. Also believers before Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, before Israel became a nation, before anyone spoke of "Jews:" Abel, Noah, Shem, for example.  Jewish Christians are also true spiritual Jews. One thinks of the 12 disciples (except Judas), Barnabas, Paul, etc., in the first century AD. In fact, there has always been a believing Jewish remnant throughout the NT age, including, for example, Alfred Edersheim. Gentile Christians are also Jews inwardly. The Christian church—that is, elect believers, the church invisible—is now, and has always consisted of, spiritual Jews (whether ethnically Jew or Gentile). A true Christian church is a congregation of Jews, spiritual Jews, consisting of all those redeemed and called of whatever age or nationality. "For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly ... But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly ... whose praise is not of men, but of God" (Rom. 2:28-29).

Romans 2:28-29 is not unique in giving NT believers (whether Jews or Gentiles) names of the OT people of God. The Bible not only "spiritualizes" Jews; it also "spiritualizes" Israel. Listen to Asaph in Psalm 73:1: "Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart," with the second clause defining the true Israel. Christ speaks similarly to Nathanael: "Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!" (John 1:47). Paul declares in Roman 9:6, "For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel." All believers are called "the Israel of God" in Galatians 6:16.

The OT people of God are not only called Jews (after Judah) and Israel (after Judah’s father); they are also called the children of Abraham (after Israel’s grandfather). Like the name Jew or Israel, the name children of Abraham is "spiritualized" in Scripture and applied to all believers, whether Jew or Gentile, who are given the faith of Abraham. John the Baptist proclaimed to the unbelieving Pharisees and Sadducees, "And think 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" (Matt. 3:9). Jehovah later did this (in effect) in saving the Gentiles. Think of Christ’s words in John 8. The unbelieving Jews claimed to be Abraham’s children (33). Jesus told them that Abraham’s children do the works of Abraham (39), and denounced them as being not the children of Abraham but the children of the devil (44). As Paul put it in Romans 9:7, "Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children." Galatians 3:29 states, "And if ye [Jew or Gentile] be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise."

So all saints of whatever nationality who trust in Jesus Christ crucified and risen are called Jews, Israel and the children of Abraham in the Word of God. We are also called the "circumcision," that is, the true spiritual circumcision: "neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh ... circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God" (Rom. 2:28-29). "For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh" (Phil. 3:3). In Colossians 2:11, Paul explains that in Christ we "are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands."

So all believers—you, too, child of God—are Jews, Israel, children of Abraham and circumcised—spiritually. We could also show from other texts that the elect NT church is the people of God, His covenant people, the diaspora (dispersed or scattered ones), etc.

The first important application of the truth regarding spiritual Jews is that which comes from the context in Romans concerning justification. Ethnic Jews are lost and must be saved. Nothing that they are or do can deliver them: not circumcision, not law-keeping, not religious rites. "For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh" (Rom. 2:28). Physical Jews must be justified by faith alone in Christ alone if they are to be saved, "for ... both Jews and Gentiles ... are all under sin" (3:9). There is no special route to heaven for ethnic Jews; they too, like Gentiles, must go to the true and living God through Christ alone.

Similarly, the religiosity of professing Christians is of no avail. Our works, baptism, piety, etc., do not justify us. Only the cross of Christ! Only His spotless life is perfectly righteous and it must be received by faith alone. "In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory"—ethnic Jews and ethnic Gentiles (Isa. 45:25).

A second important application concerns ecclesiology, the doctrine of the church. The OT and the NT do not speak of two radically different people with different eternal destinies. There is one people of God and one church in all ages and in all lands. They are the spiritual people of God—inwardly, in the heart and in the spirit (Rom. 2:29). All believers, whether ethnic Jews or Gentiles, are spiritual Jews, Israel, children of Abraham and circumcision.

This gives us spiritual kinship with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and believing OT Israel. It is not a matter of wearing a skull cap or of seeking salvation by keeping OT law. It is looking for all your righteousness and salvation in the cross of the Lord Jesus alone. There is no need nor calling to Judaize, that is, to adopt Jewish customs (e.g., a prayer shawl) or affect to be Jewish.

Believer, the OT is your book; read it, believe it, love it! You worship Jehovah. You are beloved by God. Yours are the promises of the OT and the NT. Yours is the inheritance of the new heavens and the new earth. For, "he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God" (29). Rev. Stewart

The Eternal Sonship of Christ (2)

Question: "Why is it so important that Jesus was God’s only Son? God could have had thousands of sons. Are not the angels His sons also? And what about Hebrews 2:10? ‘For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.’"

The point of the quotation from Hebrews 2 is that the people of God who are led to glory are called in the text "sons."

In the last issue of the News, I pointed out that the absolute divinity of Christ is the foundation of all the truth of Scripture, the rock on which Christ builds His church, and a doctrine, therefore, of crucial importance to the church of all ages. I also pointed out that all Arminianism, Pelagianism and higher-critical denials of the miracles in Scripture, particularly those of the virgin birth and the bodily resurrection of our Lord from the grave, are incipient Modernism and the beginnings, at least, of a full denial of our Lord’s divinity.

The divinity of Christ has been confessed by the church from the beginning of its history. It was set down in creedal form by the Council of Nicea in 325 AD. The crucial part of that creed reads: "I believe ... in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God; Light of Light, true God of true God; begotten, not made, being of one essence with the Father."

This solemn truth was reaffirmed by the Council of Constantinople in 381, by the Council of Chalcedon in 451 and by the (so-called) Athanasian Creed. All the creeds of the Reformation hold to this doctrine and it is the precious confession of all believers.

The doctrine is taught throughout Scripture. We only mention a few places here, for the truth of our Lord’s divinity runs like a golden thread throughout the Bible. The Angel of Jehovah, the Old Testament manifestation of Christ, is God Himself (Gen. 32:24-30; esp. verse 30). Isaiah 9:6 calls Christ the "mighty God" and the "everlasting Father."

In the New Testament, the divinity of Christ is written large on every page. Paul’s opening words to the Romans are, "... declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead" (Rom. 1:4). In John 1:1, the Word is said to be with God, and to be God. In verse 18 of the same chapter, in a contested, but possibly correct, reading and one in keeping with the context, John says, "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him." In I Timothy 3:16, Paul writes, "And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh." All His life on earth, the Lord was challenged for claiming to be the Christ. The Jews challenged this because they knew that the one who was the Christ, the Messiah, had also to be divine. The Lord was finally condemned to death because He swore under oath that He was indeed the Christ, the Son of the living God. Repeatedly the Jews condemned Him for making Himself equal with God.

It is true that men and even angels are also called sons of God. Men and angels are called sons of God because they were created by God (cf. Luke 3:38). God’s people are called sons of God because of their adoption and regeneration (i.e., second birth from above). When man fell, he became a son of Satan according to the scathing words of Jesus in John 8:42-44.

Modernism denies the fall and its consequences. It prattles piously of all as God’s sons and daughters. It trumpets "the brotherhood of man" and God’s universal family. It speaks glowingly of our service to mankind in general and doing good to the brotherhood.

This is all very wicked and a denial of the terrible consequences of the fall. We are once again brought into the family of God as sons and daughters in His house by a wonder of grace. In that family, the constituency of which is determined by eternal election, the Triune God is our Father and Christ is the elder brother, the heir of the birthright and the head under God of the family. But He is such because He is first of all the eternal Son of God. Thus He accomplishes all His Father’s purpose in gathering this divine and elect family into His Father’s house of many mansions (John 14:1-3).

That leaves us with one question the reader asks: Why is this doctrine important?

Although I have really answered this question already, I can best sum it all up by telling you of an incident that took place at the Council of Nicea in 325.

The great defender of biblical truth at the council was a deacon from Alexandria. His staunch defence of the truth at Nicea and his willingness to suffer for the defence of the truth of the divinity of Christ (he was exiled from his church and home no less than five times) has made him a famous figure in the annuls of the church in her battle for the faith. His name was Athanasius and he was known as "Athansius contra mundi" ("Athansius against the world"). Few believed what Nicea had taught and yet fewer were willing to defend that truth that Nicea had set in creedal form. Athanasius stood alone.

In the course of the debate on the floor of the Council meeting, debate that at times became violent, Athanasius stood up and made something like the following remarks: "Jesus Christ has to be true God of true God. We are depraved sinners who can do nothing to save ourselves. Only God can save us. Our salvation is all through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore Christ is God."

It was left to Athanasius to put the debate outside the limits of academic and "scholarly" debate and put it in the context of our salvation—where it rightly belongs. The issue is so important because it involves our salvation. We can be saved only by a work no man can perform, the full satisfaction of our sins and the meritorious obedience of the Son of God. This is why any attempt to ascribe salvation in whole or in part to man is utterly destructive of our only hope in life and in death. Jesus Christ is true God of true God. Therefore, I have confidence in this life and look to the future with hope, for my life is hid with Christ in God. Prof. Hanko

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