I never cease to be amazed by those who are firmly committed to the Reformed faith who at the same time believe that God has abandoned ethnic Israel (1) in favor of the Church. It seems incongruent with the whole idea of Divine Election as well as the character and nature of God Himself. Allow me to explain what I mean.
The Character and Nature of God in Relation to His Promises
No Reformed believer would ever say that believers should disregard the statement found in Hebrews 13:5; “for He Himself has said, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.” To cast doubt on the reliability of this pronouncement is to disparage the character of Jesus Christ and ascribe to Him a deceitful nature. But if you examine closely the statement found in that passage you will find that it the same thing that Yahweh said to Israel in Deuteronomy 31:6, 8 and Joshua 1:5.
No Reformed believer would ever say that Jesus’ words in Matthew 28:20 should not be trusted; “and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” But to reject the same promise from Yahweh to ethnic Israel is to also reject the promises of Christ to the Church. To do this is to say that God Himself is untrustworthy and His character is not holy and righteous.
Please understand what I am saying. If Israel cannot rely on Yahweh’s statements found in Deuteronomy and Joshua (as well as all the other promises in the Old Testament), then the believer and the Church cannot find rest or encouragement in the same statements when ascribed to Christ Jesus in Matthew and Hebrews. It is illogical and unbiblical to say that one set of statements can be unquestionably trusted but the other set has been abrogated. They are one and the same – God the Father and God the Son are of the same substance (see John 1:18; 14:9). To say that one would disregard His promises – Yahweh’s promise to Israel – is to say the same about the other – Jesus’ promise to believers. Therefore, if Israel has no eternal, unchanging promises then neither do Christians.
Conversely, if we believe that these statements (Matt. 28:20 and Heb. 13:5) are trustworthy and that we can build our lives on them, then we must also believe that Deuteronomy 31:6 and Joshua 1:5 are also foundational and worthy of trust for ethnic Israel.
Divine Election and God’s Promises to Israel and the Believer
Genesis 12:1-4 clearly identifies Yahweh’s election, or choice, of Abram, later to become Abraham. The promises made to him in this chapter were reiterated to him and expanded in other passages in Genesis (15:1-21; 17:1-27; 22:15-18). This election and promises were also passed to his descendants through Jacob (Genesis 35:9-12). Yahweh’s choice of Israel is emphatically stated in Deuteronomy 7:6-10. Yahweh also clarifies the eternality of His election of Israel in Jeremiah 31:35-37;
Thus says the Lord, Who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar; the Lord of hosts is His name: “If this fixed order departs from before Me,” declares the Lord, “Then the offspring of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before Me forever.” Thus says the Lord, “If the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth searched out below, the I will also cast off all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done,” declares the Lord.
Paul reiterates the eternality of these promises when, in describing his ethnic kin, he says, “From the standpoint of the gospel they (ethnic Israel, Jews) are enemies for your (Gentiles) sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice (election) they are beloved for the sake of the fathers (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob or Israel); for the gifts and the calling (election) of God are irrevocable” (Rom. 11:28-29). Interestingly, these verses stem from what I believe to be Paul’s use of Israel’s relationship with God as an illustration to affirm or establish the assertions he made in Romans 8:28-39. In order to simply sum up what Paul said in that passage we read verses 38 and 39; “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separated us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Nothing shall separate the Christian from the love of God, which we enter into by faith in Christ Jesus our Lord. NOTHING. “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Rom. 11:29). In case you haven’t noticed, the history of the Church, believers, very closely resembles the history of Israel. Periods of faithfulness to God’s word are followed by vast periods of rebellion, darkness, and Divine discipline, then periods of revival. Yet we know that no member of the body of Christ is ever forsaken by Christ nor does he lose his salvation despite his disobedience or rebellion (2).
Here is what I am trying to point out. God’s election of individual believers in the present age is sure, fixed, reliable, and eternal (Rom. 28-39). This fact is based solidly on the fact that the election of ethnic Israel is sure, fixed, reliable, and eternal (Jer. 31:35-37). If ethnic Israel’s election can be abrogated because of their rebelliousness and then turned over to the Church, then the Church’s election, and thereby individual Christian’s election, can be abrogated for rebellion and disobedience and then turned over to some yet-to-be named group. If this is possible then the doctrine of election is not worth the paper that it is printed on and the breath wasted in debating and defending it.
It must also be stated that if someone concludes that Jeremiah 31:35-37 is no longer for Israel, then Romans 8:28-39 must also fall into doubt. Yet if one ventures to go there we return to the first discussion and conclude that neither Yahweh or Jesus Christ are trustworthy.
In truth, if we are to have faith in God and in His word we must understand that His unchanging promises to ethnic Israel are still in effect having not been abrogated or handed over to the Church. The promises that belong to the Church, including the security of the individual believer, the promises of the rest of faith, etc., are all established by God’s continued and abiding faithfulness to ethnic Israel, which in turn is based upon His character and nature as the faithful, loving God of all Creation.
I pray this helps.
(1) By ethnic Israel I am referring to the elect of ethnic Israel who, in the end of all things, are those who have experienced that circumcision “of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter” (Rom. 2:29), a category into which Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel), et. al. fall, and into which those identified as “all Israel” (Rom. 11:26)fall. These are those who “will be saved.”
(2) Some may wish to introduce perseverance and other topics associated at this point, but that is for another time.