Falling Through The Porch: My Reply to a Critique (1)

A little while back Fred Butler told me that he had passed on my Forty Reasons article to a group of brethren connected with a network called Bible Thumping Wingnut.  These men are proponents of New Covenant Theology and host a podcast called ‘Conversations on the Porch.’  They decided to spend some time on a critique of my article.   This series of posts is my belated rejoinder to what they had to say.

First off, I have to admit that it is not easy to argue well with people who don’t put much effort into understanding your position.  This was evidenced any number of ways, including the pain-inducing way at least one of the three presenters read from my article, which showed a lack of attention to what I wrote.

What was perhaps most frustrating to me was how, despite these brothers claiming to deal with some of the “reasons”, they paid little attention to the words of the article and “rebutted” points which I did not raise.  And even though their podcast was entitled “40 Reasons Paul Henebury is Wrong…” they only dealt with ten of my points, chosen at random.  For this reason I will not go through each of their ten responses since they just keep repeating the same set of stock answers.

“Distinctive Number Two”

Early on in the two hour recording the presenters agreed that the premise that the NT has to interpret the OT is “a huge distinctive for NCT”.  They call it “distinctive number two” of New Covenant Theology.  Their attempts to show this were pretty shallow.  It basically resolved itself into citing a NT precedent, often without a context, and treating it as a fait accompli.  This leaves me with next to nothing to respond to, since I might simply point out that, for instance, the introduction to the Book of Hebrews does not give carte blanche to people who want to treat OT details as symbolical foreshadowings.  But here goes.

Problems with My Intro

Although they failed to represent my intro properly, they did stop for a few criticisms. They straight away appealed to Hebrews 1:1-2.  Those verses say that God has spoken through His Son.  This is all that is needed for us to be told “the greatest revelation is Jesus Christ”.  But what does that mean?  If it means that Jesus’ first advent ministry of three years plus constituted the highest expression of God’s word to those who saw and heard Him, who will not agree?  What it does not and cannot mean is that Jesus’ words were more inspired and authoritative than the words of the Hebrew Bible.

One of the presenters then informed us that “there is progressive revelation”, as if that just settles it.  But progressive revelation is a very different animal from their perspective than from mine.  You see, as used by CT’s and NCT’s it is neither really progressive, nor is it very revelatory.  It does not mean that God’s revelation is traceable in verbal continuity backwards and forwards through the Testaments, but means only, “this is what all that stuff in the OT really meant” revelation.  I have previously written on this.  One observation I made was this:

It would be absurd for a person who professed to come across a bear to claim that the bear made the leopard tracks he was following.  Even so, a person is acting this way who looks back from Christ’s first coming and declares that the covenants which promised land and Davidic throne and prosperity to national Israel are “transformed” or “expanded” so that they are fulfilled spiritually or typologically by the Church.  Discontinuity in the meaning of words often features large in such approaches.  In reality, this is a non-progressive approach, wherein any supposed connections between the building blocks of revelation (i.e. the progressions) are not self-evident, but merely dogmatically asserted to be such.  What is on view here is not really progressive revelation, it is “supercessive” or “substitutive”, “transformative”, or at least “revised” revelation, wherein one entity is switched out for another or morphed into something else.

It can easily be demonstrated that there is an inspired intertextual usage of earlier OT texts by later OT writers: earlier covenants are cited unchanged in Psa. 89:33-37; 105:6-12; 106:30-31: 132:11-12; Jer. 33:17-18, 20-22, 25-26; Ezek. 37:14, 21-26).

For instance, when we come to “land” in Genesis 13 and 15, we find it to be interpreted as the very same “land” hundreds of years later in Psalm 105:6-11

When you follow footprints in the snow you have definite expectations of who or what made them.  Progress and expectation are connected.  By contrast, CT and NCT practices are rather like having those expectations completely overturned (no “progress”).  What progressive revelation boils down to in this approach is their interpretations of the NT.  In my intro I stated:

the New Testament is believed to have revelatory priority over the Old Testament, so that it is considered the greatest and final revelation. And because the NT is the final revelation of Jesus Christ, the only proper way to understand the OT is with the Christ of the NT directing us. Though proponents of this hermeneutic may define “reinterpret” with slippery words like “expansion” or “foreshadowing,” they are still insisting the OT can be, and in some cases, should be, reinterpreted through the lens of the NT.

The Pivotal First Reason…and the Deathblow

Let me reproduce the first of my forty reasons why the NT doesn’t reinterpret (sorry, “interpret”) the OT.

Neither Testament instructs us to reinterpret the OT by the NT. Hence, we venture into uncertain waters when we allow this. No Apostolic writer felt it necessary to place in our hands this hermeneutical key, which they supposedly used when they wrote the NT.

The three antagonists agreed that if this first reason fails then the other 39 also fail.  I myself cannot see the logical connection; not even between Reason 1 and Reason 2.  Although there is some development in my list, there is also a fair amount of diversity in the arguments I raise.  Toppling one does not unduly effect all the rest.   I understand that these brethren would claim that the NT does give explicit permission to them to (re)interpret the OT with the NT.  Fine, but how do they prove it?  Do they deliver the “deathblow” they speak about?  Nein!  The only way one would think that is by sheer partisanship.  So let’s take a look at the texts they repair to:

The presenters give Heb. 10:1 and Col. 2:16-17 as justification for viewing the prophecies and covenants in the OT as foreshadowings.  Now Hebrews 10:1 refers to the Law having a shadow of things in its sacrifices.  Which things and what sacrifices?  In answer to the first question, it is the sacrifices, especially at the Day of Atonement (Heb. 10:3), that are shadows of Christ’s final work.  The verse does not say that the prophetic covenants of the OT are shadows.  And Col. 2:16-17 refers to the ceremonial observations of the Law which are eclipsed by Christ, who is the substance of what these regulations portended. How so?  Well in Paul’s argument in Colossians it has to do with Christ’s sufficiency and finality for acceptance with God.  The Gospel is not Christ-plus, but Christ alone.

So there are foreshadowings in the OT, but how does this address my concerns in the 40 Reasons?  How does this prove the Apostles employed ‘transformational’ hermeneutics?  If one reads them with attention it is apparent that I am not really concerned with such things as new moons and sacrificial offerings.  I speak particularly to things like places (Reasons 3, 4, 15, 24, etc.), and promises (Reasons 11, 21, 23, 26, etc).  Do these referents change?  Do they become something else?  Something unexpected?  If all the OT was made up of cultic and ceremonial laws I would not have so many scruples, but I hardly need to say that there is a great deal more material in it than that.  Hebrews 10 and Colossians 3 do not address that material.

Appeal to the Apostolic Practice

Plowing this furrow a little more, they go to the “mystery” in Ephesians 3 and claim that Paul’s teaching about the “new man” in Ephesians 2:15 shows us “how we’ve received insight into all this [i.e. the OT]?”  And we want to ask, “Which insight?  That the NT should be read back into the OT?”  Where do they get that from?  They claim that “everything [ought to be interpreted] in the light of Christ”.  But what does that mean?  Is Christ to be artificially forced into places where He does not seem to be present?  Of course, Christ is central to the framework of the Bible – it’s creation, fall, redemption motif; and I have made a case that He is central to the biblical covenants.

A favorite proof-text for those sympathetic with my three objectors is 1 Peter 1:10-12.  As one of them commented in light of this text, the fulfillment in Christ “wasn’t revealed to them [the OT writers] but unto us.”  Further on they say that even though the original human author didn’t intend for the NT meaning to be their meaning, the Holy Spirit did intend it.  They cite Baptist theologian Rich Barcellos who said “the best interpreter is the Holy Spirit”

I feel like saying, “Yes, but you aren’t the Holy Spirit.  That statement means nothing at all if you and I are not in agreement with Him.  And we surely can only be in such agreement if we believe what the Holy Spirit says.”

The 40 Reasons engage the issue by making the claim that one cannot claim to believe what the Spirit says in the NT while not agreeing with what He says in the OT.

More to come…

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22 comments

  1. The Jews thought that Abraham’s seed was his physical seed. They were wrong. The Jews thought that the Messiah was a physical king who would deliver them from Roman oppression and restore the glory of physical Israel. They were wrong. The Jews believe that the land covenant was for a physical piece of dirt…?

    One of the basic issues I have with your hermeneutic my brother is your willingness to throw away data. If you were living in second-temple Judaism just before Christ, your argument might have more weight…it would still be wrong because the Jews were wrong. But you are here now, with the complete revelation of God at your fingertips. The whole is interpreted by the whole. You don’t have a partial revelation that is progressing.

    Second, you have yet to show that those who attempt to mimic the interpretive method of the apostles are wrong. If I am wrong for using the apostolic method of interpreting the Old through the New, then Peter and John, and Paul and Jesus must have been as well. If your rules are valid for me, they should also be valid for them. Your argument seems to fall into special pleading where hermeneutics is concerned.

    The footprints analogy doesn’t work. The Jews were following the footprints of what looked to them, like a literal king. What they found was a suffering servant. They had to change their idea of king. They had to change their idea of seed. They had to change their idea of nation. Why shouldn’t they have to change their idea of land? It seems implausible to say that the seed is spiritual and the king is spiritual and the nation is spiritual but the land HAS to be physical.

    1. Abraham has both a physical seed and a spiritual seed. Israel is that physical seed and all believers make up his spiritual seed. Thus Abraham as the father of many nations, not just one. The Jews were wrong about the nature and timing of the Messiah and his future kingdom as they did not have the new progress of revelation on how God was extending grace to all nations in His longsuffering. When Christ returns the spiritual Israel, i.e., the remnant purified by God himself, and the church will see those 2000 year old Jewish expectations gloriously fulfilled. And, of course, they will see it happen on the dirt that the Jews expected it to happen on 2000 years ago. Paul is interpreting the data, but to deny the plain words of Scripture is to corrupt the data and or replace it. That is certainly not a valid hermeneutic! Indeed we have a whole revelation that evidences a progression. A denial of such a progression is tantamount to accusing the HS of blowing wind out both ends wherein it would be difficult to take Him at all seriously. If mimicking the apostolic hermeneutic involves denying half or more of what the HS has revealed, then brother, you simply do not understand the apostolic hermeneutic! Besides, the apostles were gifted. The Jews needed to adjust their notions and they needed the further revelation of the HS because the true believers among them simply did not see the complete picture. Their idea of a physical seed did not comprehend yet the addition of a spiritual seed. Their idea of a glorified king did not realize the facet of His necessary suffering which had to come first. Their idea of a holy nation did not comprehend the addition of many holy nations gathered now in Christ and in the Millennium and thereafter paying homage to that nation which will minister to them on God’s behalf. So there is just as much a physical dimension to all these things as well as a spiritual one and of course that certainly extends to the land too.

      1. The promise to Abraham was never to his physical seed…ever. No one is denying the plain words of Scripture. Such a statement implies neutrality. There is no such thing as a plain word. There are only interpreted words.

        The sort of hermeneutic being defended here would not get me to where it got Paul and other NT writers. Something else was necessary. That is the whole point that keeps getting swept under the carpet in this conversation. Those bears never were bear tracks. They were always leopard tracks. In their unregenerate state, they were unable to recognize the tracks. See how that works.

  2. By the way, unless he has recently shifted positions, Richard Barcellos is not a NCT. My information indicates he is a 1689 Reformed Baptist chap…like me. 🙂

  3. Richard Barcellos is definitely a Baptist covenant theologian. His “In Defense of the Decalogue” is a polemic against NCT. But they largely agree with NCT on the NT use of the OT, etc on issues like this. It is basically the amillennial position (as well as largely the modern postmil position) regardless of one’s views on covenant theology.

    Despite that agreement, that they would cite Barcellos instead of a NCT writer is surprising to me since most NCTers see him as a meanie who unfairly paints them as antinomians due to their rejection of the Reformed confessional teaching on the 4th Commandment.

    As for “throwing away data”, it appears to me that Mr. Dingness throws away some data of his own. You can click through to my blog (https://tinyurl.com/ybkop7cs) to see how one covenant theologian (and a pedobaptist at that) saw both unity and diversity in the covenant of grace when it comes to the people of God, Abraham’s seed, the land promises, etc. (A chapter or two in Schaeffer’s “Joshua and the Flow of Biblical History” basically covers the same ground.) See here (https://tinyurl.com/yd8uexka) for a more detailed argument by another writer who critiques amil hermeneutics from a historic premil standpoint. (The older type of covenant or historic premil did not embrace “replacement theology” or supersessionism the way that most modern proponents do.)

    IMO part of the impasse is due to the idea that many have that it has to be one way or the other on Israel and never the twain shall meet or else there is now no difference whatsoever. If there is no difference between Jew and Greek the way so many modern supersessionists think, then neither is there any difference between male and female when it comes to their “roles” and so on. Harping on Gal 3:28 and Gal 6:16 over and over again isn’t going to get the job done any more than harping on John 3:16 and other pet anti-Calvinist verses is going to get a Calvinist to dump his soteriology.

    The argument that the King is spiritual (and apparently not “physical” in any sense?) is reminiscent of the older type of amillennialism that the kingdom is totally (and only) a spiritual (that is to say, incorporeal) matter that was modified by Hoekema and later adopted by Waldron and others. IIRC, Waldron was largely able to agree with Barry Horner’s “Future Israel” with regard to Horner’s criticism of supersessionism’s denial of what Horner terms spiritual materiality. (Needless to say, he agreed with little else in the book.) I could throw out some nasty theological swear words here, but I’ll refrain for the time being. But if I were the kind of amillennialist who asserts that the Kingdom is entirely and only a spiritual matter, I’d wonder if we’ll really be floating on clouds playing harps in heaven after all.

    It seems to me that you log on here and repeat the same things over and over. I can understand being pressed for time. (And in fairness, the whole argument between the camps tends to be this way.) But it’s similar to a Reformed theology list that I used to be active on. There was a running joke where someone would post “Position 19!” and someone else would respond with “Position 58!” because the conversation kept going around in circles with the same stuff repeated almost verbatim and never really getting anywhere. But who knows, maybe if it is repeated one more time, the Holy Spirit will zap Dr. Henebury and he will finally get it? 😉

    But sometimes less is more. The pompous 95 theses against dispensationalism, and Dr. Henebury’s response to them, practically made a dispensationalist out of me, (I’m basically historic premil at this point) and I had basically agreed with the position espoused by them not long beforehand.

    1. GK Beale outlines the issue best when he writes about the five theological and hermeneutical presuppositions guiding the NT’s use of the Old:

      1. There is an assumption of corporate solidarity on the part of the whole of Scripture.
      2. Christ is viewed as representing the true Israel of the OT and the true Israel, the church, in the NT.
      3. The history of Scripture is unified by a wise and sovereign plan so that the earlier parts are designed to correspond to the latter parts.
      4. The age of eschatological fulfillment has come in Christ.
      5. The latter parts of biblical history function as the broader context to interpret earlier parts because they all have the same, ultimate divine author who inspires the various human authors, and one deduction from this premise is that Christ as the centre of history is key to interpreting the earlier portions of the Old Testament and its promises.

      You believe that much of the Old Testament promises remain unfulfilled, pointing forward still. I believe that most of them were pointing to a time either in our past or in our present and few of them point to our future.

      Beale goes on to make two very sobering, and I think accurate, comments:
      If the contemporary church cannot exegete and do theology like the apostles did, how can it feel corporately at one with them in the theological process? [Beale, 404] He is right. Your method drives a impassable canyon between us and them. This cannot be allowed to stand.

      Beale goes on to say, Furthermore, if Jesus and the apostles were impoverished in their exegetical and theological method and only divine inspiration salvaged their conclusions, then the intellectual and apologetic foundation for our faith is seriously eroded? M. Silva is likely correct when he states that “if we refuse to pattern our exegesis after that of the apostles, we are in practice denying the authoritative character of their scriptural interpretation – and to do so is to strike at the very heart of the Christian faith.

      Silva goes on to say, “What I wish to point out is that adherence to this basic principle (apostolic exegesis) does not entail indiscriminate imitation, any more than faithfulness to the pattern of apostolic evangelism requires us to board ships rather than airplanes or to make Antioch the headquarters for modern missions. [Scripture & Truth – Carson/Woodbridge]

      As always, let me say that Dr. Henebury is my very good friend with whom I have very, very few disagreements. I admire his work and benefit from his keen mind far more often than I find myself disagreeing with him. He is a scholar and a gentleman even though he is a English chap.

  4. Ed and Ross,

    Thank you for your remarks. (Ed, thanks also for the correction on Barcellos). Both of you are begging the question by simply re-asserting what need to be proved. I have started in on addressing the use these brothers put NT verses to in order to settle on their porch chairs. They are extrapolating from particularities in specific contexts to generalities in theology.

    You both assert that I am not taking the Holy Spirit’s NT word seriously. I am, to your minds, struggling in the half-light of the OT, and I am not positioned where I should be at the latter end of the Bible seeing what the Spirit has done. But I see a problem. You see, my reason for passing through the whole Bible the way I do is because I see the Apostles NOT doing what you claim they do. They do not actually make the same claims you and others make.

    As for progressive revelation, well, again you beg the question, since I have already indicated that their is a lack of verbal continuity in the CT/NCT approach to it. By the term ‘progressive revelation’ you have in mind what you think the NT does (as final revelation) to the OT. To my mind this treats the NT like a kind of jack-in-the-box, which shocks us when it pops out. The shock is not (or should not be) the suffering Servant (since we get that idea from the OT), but the transformation of covenants. It is this that I reject and that I insist hides a not-too-subtle incursion against the veracity of God.

    Anyway, in this series I am not going to go deeper than is necessary. Ed, I have not forgotten about your previous comments and your articles.

    God bless,

    Paul

      1. I don’t think its fair to accuse someone of ignoring large chunks of Scripture simply because they do not interpret it they way you do. Tell me, how much space is devoted to the physical land promise in the NT? And tell me about how the covenant can include the requirement of circumcision as an integral component of the covenant while the NT abolishes that component completely? Should circumcision be just as perpetual as the land promise since the two are major components of the one covenant? A covenant cannot be broken up piecemeal can it? Just curious.

  5. “Tell me, how much space is devoted to the physical land promise in the NT?”
    It seems to me we are discounting the entire OT and what it has to say on the matter.
    The Abrahamic covenant required circumcision as a sign which true Israel was required to keep. The new covenant secures Abrahamic blessings for true Israel, as well as, extending them to believing Gentiles with a circumcision and a baptism made without hands. The new covenant facilitates and enhances the Abrahamic.

    1. You criticized Beale and Silva for ignoring large chunks of Holy Writ. Shouldn’t you also criticize Jesus, Paul, Luke, John and the other NT writers who also seemed amazingly quiet on the land promise as dispensationalists understand it? Dispys can’t seem to get enough of the land promise. What is interesting to me is that the covenant, circumcision, now counts as nothing. I cannot help but wonder why that is.

      Circumcision was never a sign of “true” Israel. Look at the history of that nation and what you see from end to end, with a few scant years here and there, is nothing but idolatry. For most of her history, physical Israel has been a spiritual whore.

      Only those who are of the faith of Abraham are true Israel. Or have you not read the Holy Writ, as you call it?

      Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” 9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. Ga 3:7–9.

      Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. Ga 4:28.

       He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well. Ro 4:11.

      But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 8 This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. Ro 9:6–8.

      The land promise has to be taken, as Ezekiel would indicate, as part of the eschatological hope. The land promise is nothing other than paradise restored as far as I can tell. The seed of Abraham has always been Christ and those who place their faith in Christ. There is no longer any distinction to be made between Jew and Gentile. The promises of God have been fulfilled in Christ. This is the position that I hold.

  6. I don’t see why Jesus, Paul, Luke, John should have to beat a dead horse when it was something that having been overwhelmingly established by the HS in the Hebrew Scriptures should be taken for granted. Silence negates nothing. Besides, they said plenty about the kingdom and to speak of such is an absurdity if there is no land over which to have dominion. And I would agree that the land promise is eschatological, as well as, eternal. That is it will first be fulfilled in the Millennium when the kingdom is begun and established and on into eternity.

    “The seed of Abraham has always been Christ and those who place their faith in Christ. There is no longer any distinction to be made between Jew and Gentile. The promises of God have been fulfilled in Christ. This is the position that I hold.”

    With the above I agree with you.

    “Only those who are of the faith of Abraham are true Israel.”

    I have to modify the above statement thus: “Only those Israelites who are of the faith of Abraham are true Israel.” True Israel for the most part made a mockery of the covenant with Abraham by their lack of faith, but even as there was a remnant in Elijah’s day, so there was one in Christ’s and Paul’s day. Believing Israelites = true Israel. In Christ the distinction is erased and so is physical circumcision which served to distinguish Israelite from Gentile. Thus Abraham becomes the father of many nations, not just Israel. Abraham’s true seed includes true (believing) Israelites and true (believing) Gentiles. Because they have faith, we can dispense with ethnic designation because they are all nations included in God’s house.

    1. You read your theology into Scripture there Ross. Let’s try this one more time…and I note that complete absence of biblical references to support your insertion of “Israel” into the statement.

      Ὑμεῖς δέ,* ἀδελφοί, κατὰ Ἰσαὰκ ἐπαγγελίας τέκνα ⸁ἐστέ. Ga 4:28. Now (but) you brothers, just as Isaac, are children of promise.

      Since Paul says that not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, it is safe to assume that his next few points are going to tell us who the true Israel is and is not. First, physical Israel is not ipso facto the truth Israel. Circumcision is nothing now. Physical identify where the covenant is concerned means NOTHING. Not all are the children of Abraham because they are descended from Abraham. I am reminded of when Jesus told the Jewish leaders that they were of their father, the devil.

      So who is true Israel and who are the true children of Abraham. You see, Paul is claiming that the true seed of Abraham is true Israel here. And his point is to demonstrate that the promise has not failed. Let that sink in. That is what he is arguing. The promise has not failed. What is the promise? Exactly!!!

      Physical Israel, then, is not the children of God. The children of the promise are the children of God. These are Israel. These are Abraham’s seed. It is with them that the covenant is made.

      If you are a child of the promise, you are Abraham’s seed.
      If you are Abraham’s seed, you are true Israel.
      All believers are children
      Therefore, all believers are true Israel.

      Finally, the apostle Paul would completely agree with me:
      For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God. Ro 2:28–29.

      1. I agree with Paul in Romans 2 as well. He is addressing the individual Jew in particular and rehearses the truth of circumcision of the heart as a necessity which has been true since at least the composition of Deuteronomy. In other words physical circumcision was nothing without circumcision of the heart or spiritual circumcision if you will. This has always been true. Paul reveals the progress of God’s revelation that God Himself now circumcises the heart and baptizes us in fulfillment of the foreshadow.

        Children of the promise, children/sons of God, Abraham’s seed, partakers of the inheritance with the saints in light are all designations given those who have had faith like Abraham’s faith. This elect corporation is never designated as “true” or “spiritual” Israel. It is broader than that, it encompasses an international scale now. If Abraham’s seed only refers to “true Israel” then why did God change Abraham’s name? He is the father of many nations, not just one.

        All believers are children. Some believers were Israelites, i.e., believing remnant and thus true Israel. Now many more believers were and are not Israelites, thus they can not be designated as any kind of Israel, besides, any such ethnic distinctions (particularly Israel) is of no advantage or privilege in Christ. True Israelites and believing Gentiles are the Body of Christ, the house and temple of God and may be designated as Children of the promise, children/sons of God, Abraham’s seed, partakers of the inheritance with the saints in light, etc.

      2. Actually, you don’t agree with Paul. You are forcing Paul to argue like a modern dispensationalist. I know, I used to be one. I recognize the argument.

        Your argument is the same old dispensational argument that what makes one a true Jew is first, being a Jew outwardly and then being a Jew inwardly. But that contradict’s entire argument.

        Paul says in v. 28, for NO ONE is a Jew who is merely one outwardly. Now this is a play on words for sure because Paul is not LITERALLY denying physical Jewishness. He is doing something much more than that.

        Phil. 3:3 says that we are the circumcision who worship by the Spirit and glory in Christ Jesus. Col. says we are the circumcision in Christ. Gal. 6:16 refers to those who are the new spiritual creation as the Israel of God. This is the true Israel.

        The true Israel of God is made up of all those who are in Christ Jesus. There is no longer any distinction in Christ. There isn’t, believing Israel and believing Gentiles. There is one man in Christ. The promise to Abraham was never to physical Israel. It was always to Christ, the seed who would once and for all restore what was lost in Adam. This is why we see this gospel preached to Adam in Gen. 3 and then again to Abraham in Gen. 12. Christ is the true Israel and all who are in him are true Israel, the Israel of God.

  7. Well, Paul is very close to the same thing as modern dispensationalists, that is why they like him so much! 😉 What makes one a true Jew, is being a Jew outwardly, and then being a Jew inwardly too. That is precisely Paul’s argument.

    Philippians 3:3 (NKJV)
    3 For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh,

    Paul criticizes the physically circumcised as one who is so himself and discounts the physical sign in light of the new covenant’s spiritual circumcision. I don’t see anywhere here Paul identifying the spiritually circumcised in total as being “true Israel.”

    Galatians 6:15-16 (NKJV)
    15 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation.
    16 And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them (i.e., uncircumcision), and upon the Israel of God (i.e., circumcision).

    Nor is Paul doing that here either. Rather he is ministering a unity of the Circumcision (Israel of God) and “them that walk by that rule” (uncircumcision) coming together in the new man: the corporate Body of Christ. He is saying the same thing in Ephesians:

    Ephesians 2:17-19 (NKJV)
    17 And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off (i.e., uncircumcision) and to those who were near.
    18 For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.
    19 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners (i.e., uncircumcision), but fellow citizens with the saints (i.e., the Israel of God/circumcision) and members of the household of God,

    This would have been an excellent opportunity for Paul to designate “Israel” here but he rather designates it “household” because it is now bigger than Israel and thus Abraham is the father of many nations, not just Israel.

    Ephesians 3:6 (NKJV)
    6 that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel,

    Paul is teaching that the fellowship of the mystery makes believing Gentiles…what? True Israelites? No, Paul says no such thing, he rather says Gentiles are fellow heirs and citizens. Their spots did not turn into stripes, they were rather joined together with those striped characters and made into something altogether new (not old Israel).

    Colossians 2:13-17 (NKJV)
    13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses,
    14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
    15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.
    16 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths,
    17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.

    If we enjoy the substance of Christ, why would the new creation be given a designation that would identify it with the shadows from which we have been liberated?

    Colossians 3:9-11 (NKJV)
    9 Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds,
    10 and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him,
    11 where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.

    If there is neither Jew nor circumcised in the new man/creation, how can it be designated some kind of Israel?

    I can not agree with you that Christ is the “true Israel.” He is Israel’s Messiah, king, priest, prophet etc. and will be all those things again when He restores the kingdom to Israel. The Israel of God and all other believers are together in Christ corporate or the Body of Christ. Nothing is mentioned about Jew and Gentile being in Israel, no, it is in the Body of Christ. If it were to be called the “new” or “true” or “spiritual” “Israel,” that would be reestablishing the distinction Paul is working to eliminate.

    1. Your argument fails to consider the dual meaning bound up in words like Jew, circumcision, Israel, etc.

      The whole point here is that the land promise in the Abraham covenant does not signify literal land for a physical Israel. If a Gentile can be called the seed of Abraham, or said to be a kingdom child, or called of the circumcision, then surely you must see that land represents that eschatological hope rather than a literal piece of dirt for a physical nation who played the whore far more often than she did the chaste bride. After all, Abraham look for a city whose builder and maker was God. I hardly think that should be understood as a physical city in this age or in this realm.

      Since you introduced Eph. into the mix, note that the mystery which we all experience was given to Paul by revelation. He understood it by revelation. It was previously hidden by God’s decree and only revealed when God had purposed. But if I take the dispensational hermeneutic, that ought not to be. I ought to be able to readily understand the covenant promises without a special divine revelation. But I cannot. Nor could Paul. Nor can the Jews. So much for those bear tracks.

      1. Well, I think we are going to continue to take different positions on the issue. Thank you Ed for the challenge and God bless you and yours. And thank you Dr. Reluctant for allowing the latitude to carry on the discussion which typically are quickly shut down on other blogs dispensational as well as replacement. They only allow yes-men and back-patters to carry-on.

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