BROTHER C. WEST, by request of Elder N. D. Agea, of Tennessee, desires our views on the text, Rom. ix. 8:
“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.”
These words are in explanation of the declaration in the preceding context: “For they are not all Israel which are of Israel. Nether because they are the seed of Abraham are they all children, but in Isaac shall thy seed be called.” Immediately following these declarations their precise meaning is defined in the verse proposed for elucidation. In speaking of “Who are Israelites, to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises, and whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever?” the apostle draws a discriminating line between the children of the flesh and the children of the promise of God, testifying that being born, even of the flesh of Abraham, neither constitutes nor manifests any vital or spiritual relationship to God. This point is clearly and fully settled by the declaration of our Lord to Nicodemus: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” – John iii. 6. “For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bond maid, the other by a free woman. But he who was of the bond woman was born after the flesh, but be of the free woman was by promise.” – Gal. iv. 22, 24. The apostle further affirms that the children of the promise are counted for the seed; that is, the seed to whom the promise pertains. “And this is the word of promise. At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son.” Isaac was not born according to the ordinary course of nature, but by the manifest power of God, and in fulfillment of the promise of God; but Ishmael was born by no special or extraordinary display of divine power, but as a child of the flesh, born of a bond maid who could not be the mother of a free child, as she was herself a bond woman, and, as such, not her own, but the property of another, and in her figurative relation a type of Mount Sinai, or the law, gendering only to bondage, answering to that Jerusalem which is in bondage with her children.
Now the promises which were made to Abraham and to his seed are not made to the children of the flesh, even of Abraham; but if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made.” To his seed thus defined, which are Christ’s. He saith not, And to seeds as of many, but as of one; and to thy seed, which is Christ.” – Gal. iii. 16. All the children of Abraham to whom the promises of God were made, as children of promise, are embodied in Christ; not as children of the flesh of Abraham, but of his faith, having their relationship to God in the person and sonship of Christ. “And this I say, that the covenant that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.” This last quotation not only proves that the promises made to Abraham and his seed are the same which were made to him four hundred and thirty years before the Sinai law was given, but what is of immense interest to us is that it was confirmed in Christ, not in the flesh of Abraham, but in Christ, as the seed to whom the promises in the covenant were made, embracing all the members of Christ as the children of the promise, and so confirmed of God in Christ that the law which was subsequently given could not annul it; and all the promises of God in which the children of God are interested are in Christ, whom God has given to be a covenant to his people, and in him all the promises of God are yea, and in him amen, unto the glory of God by us. – 2 Cor. i. 20.
By referring to the twelfth chapter of Genesis we see that the promises and blessings of the seed of Abraham were all made and given to them in Abraham before any of them were born either of the flesh or of the Spirit, and all was securely confirmed of God in Christ long years before Moses was born or his dispensation was in existence, except as it existed in the counsel and purpose of God; and so all the spiritual inheritance of the people of God, and all the gracious promises, were given TO THEM in Christ before the foundation of the world. As in the type all the fleshly seed of Abraham so really and actually existed in him that God said, “I will make of thee a great nation.” All that should be developed by generation was in him, as all mankind were in the earthly Adam in the day when he was created. And God said to Abraham, “By myself I have sworn,” &c., “that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven and as the sands which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of HIS enemies; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” – Gen. xx. 16-18. Heb. vi. 13-18. In all this observe, “He saith not, And to seeds as of many, but of thy seed, which is Christ.” – Gal. iii. 16.
To our mind it is clearly manifest that as all the seed of Abraham after the flesh were embodied in his person and loins before any of them were born, so all the sons of God and heirs of glory were identified with and blessed with all spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus, according as they were chosen in him before the foundation of the world, – Eph. i. 4. And the blessings were as actually given them in Christ as the choice was actual and real before the world began. If not, how could the blessings be “according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world?” Is it not a palpable perversion of the inspired testimony to say that all this was only prospective, that God only intended to choose and bless a people who only had a prospective existence, but did not actually exist in Christ before, or until after the foundation of the world? If all the sons and daughters of Adam did not actually exist in him when the first offense was committed, which was before any of his race were born, on what principle came judgment upon all men to condemnation? And if the chosen people of God were not in Christ before the world began, on what principle came the gift of God upon them unto justification of life?
But to come more directly to the questions submitted by our brethren. “They which are the children of the flesh of Jacob, while they were typical of the spiritual Israel of our God, are not the children of God. John the Baptist said to the children of the flesh of Israel and of Abraham, “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. iii. 9. Jesus said unto the Jews who sought to kill him, “I know that ye are Abraham’s seed” (that is, by natural or ordinary generation of the flesh), but he also told them that “if God were their Father they would love him.” And although he recognized them as the children of the flesh, he denounced them as the children of their father, the devil. They possessed a wicked, murderous spirit, which was of Satan, not born of God. – John viii. 37-44.
We do not see how it is possible for us to make the subject on which our views are called for more plain than the apostle has made it in the chapter in which the text occurs. He says, “Neither because they are the seed of Abraham are they all children; but in Isaac shall thy seed be called.” In the allegory which Paul used (Gal. iv. 22-31) it is shown that Isaac, as the son of the free woman, is the true type of all the sons of God, while Ishmael represents the children of the flesh. He says moreover to his brethren in Christ, “Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. But as it was then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless, what saith the scripture? Cast out the bond woman and her son; for the son of the bond woman shall not be heir with the son of the free woman. So, then, brethren, we are not children of the bond woman, but of the free.” As Isaac and Ishmael in the allegory represent the children of the flesh in bondage under the Sinai covenant, which cannot give life, so Jacob and Esau are also used in the same connection to set forth the distinction which God has made between the children of the flesh and the children of God. “For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth, it was said unto her (Rebecca), The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved but Esau have I hated.” “Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved.” Thus we see that the children of the flesh are not the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted for the seed. The children of what promise? As the fleshly seed and heirs of Abraham was counted in Isaac, the child of promise, and not in Ishmael, the son of the bond woman, so the promise which was confirmed of God in Christ, that “A seed shall serve him: it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation” (Psa. xxii. 30); or that promise of eternal life which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began (Titus i. 2); according to the promise that saith not, And unto seeds as of many, but as unto one to thy seed which is Christ, which is Christ in all his mediatorial fullness as the head and body of the church. The apostle informs us that the promise confirmed by the sacred oath of God, is not unto many, but to Christ, as a unit with his body and members identified in him; for although it is to one, that is, Christ, yet he assures us that “if ye be Christ’s then are ye Abraham’s seed, which is all one seed in Christ, and heirs according to the promise, which is not to seeds as implying a plurality, but as a perfect identity. All the children of the promise are heirs of the promise; but as all their vital relationship to God is and must necessarily be in the sonship of the only begotten of the Father, all are but one in him. “For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, and ye are complete in him which is the head of all principality and power.” – Col. ii. 9, 10.
Heirship and inheritance depend on vital relationship. The children of the flesh are heirs of a carnal or fleshly inheritance; but the children of God are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ; and their inheritance is incorruptible and undefiled and fadeth not away. Christians, who in their earthly nature are children of the flesh, and in their fleshly nature find no good, but an inheritance of sin, sorrow, pain, corruption and mortality, rejoice in the blessed assurance that in their resurrection they shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the sons of God, being the children of the resurrection.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Middletown, N. Y.
Signs of the Times
Volume 48, No. 23
December 1, 1880.