Friday, January 6, 2012

Ask RC: Is it true that God blesses those who bless Israel and curses those who curse Israel?

It must be true, because this is what God says, isn’t it? Well, actually God says this, “I will bless those who bless you,
And I will curse him who curses you; 
 And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3).

When God makes a promise we can know that it is certain, and that He will not change. The problem is, however, when we hear Him saying what He did not say. This text does say not that God will bless those who bless Israel, but rather those who bless Abraham, to whom God is speaking. Later, however, in Numbers 24, it gets a little more clear. There Balaam, clearly speaking about the nation of Israel says, “Blessed is he who blesses you, 
 And cursed is he who curses you.”

That should settle the matter, should it not? The difficulty is still, however, answering about whom this promise is made. Does not Paul himself say, “But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel” (Romans 9:6). Here it is all too easy to get confused. What could it mean that not all Israel is of Israel?

If there are some who are Israel that are called Israel, and some that are not Israel that are called Israel, which of these are the ones the fit the promise? My dispensational friends suggest that the Israel to whom this promise is made matches up with the nation of Israel founded in 1948 in the Middle East. They hear in this promise that those who bless that nation of Israel will be blessed and those who curse that same nation will be cursed. This, in part, informs the politics of American foreign policy. As long as America sees this Israel as a friend, the reasoning seems to go, God will bless America. When America turns its back on that nation, God will curse this nation.

The Reformed perspective takes a different tack. It affirms that that Israel which is actually Israel, just as with the promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:3, applies to those who are in Christ, who trust in His finished work. Though we deny the moniker, this is what our dispensational friends call “replacement theology.” The Reformed, however, see this is as the outworking of the truth of Galatians 3:7- “Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham.” We who are Reformed do not believe God replaced Israel with the church. We believe instead that there has always been only one people of God, those who believe.

Israel is the sons of Abraham. Those who are of faith are the sons of Abraham. Those who are of faith are therefore Israel. And in turn, those who bless those who are of faith will be blessed, and those who curse those who are of faith will be cursed. It is how we treat the church that matters. What of ethnic Israel? What of that country in the Middle East? Many in the Reformed camp hold out hope that there will be one day a mass conversion of those who are not today the sons of Abraham, that virtually all of Israel will once again become Israel. That said, many of these likewise hold out hope that there will be a mass conversion of Arabs, and Persians, of every tongue and every tribe. All of the promises of God belong to the children of Abraham, those who are of faith, including the promise that through Abraham, all the world will be blessed.

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Anonymous said...

We have attended two churches that claim to be Reformed yet are dispensational...please help me understand how that can be, based on your comments, which I respect.

R.C. said...

Some people use "Reformed" as a synonym for Calvinist, affirming the 5 points, or as the Baptists call it, the doctrines of grace. Others, slightly more accurately, see Calvinism as a part of what it means to be Reformed, along with a covenantal understanding of the OT?NT and the people of God. In the looser sense it is therefore possible to be Reformed and dispensational, or Reformed and baptistic. In the more narrow and precise sense, however, this is not possible. Hope that help.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your response. I have another thought regarding the covenants. I understand that Our Lord shed His blood for the sins of the Chosen, those given Him by the Father. How then can we say that God loves those who are possibly unregenerate? And also, wouldn't that be anyone who has not given a credible testimony?

Anon A. Mousse said...

Thank you for the beautiful clarification. I would love to see a follow up piece explaining how Scripture shows Christ to be the true Israel, the one who actually obeyed God and brought salvation to the elect.

Daniel T. said...

Have you ever read Ulf Ekman's books on Israel? Or John Hagee's?

Doug MacLean said...

It would be a mistake to think this is simply an issue between reformed theologians and dispensationalists. Even so, dispensationalist are correct in beliving God is not finished with the nation of Israel. For if God scattered Israel, how can Isael regather itself if it is God's will? The primary problem with RC's position is that he changes the meaning of words. It is true that gentiles are grafted into God's blessings. But Scripture makes clear there are natural branches of those ethnic descendents of Abraham who will be grafted back again. RC really does a disservice to Romans 11 when he equates the hope of salvation of all Israel with the salvation of the gentile nations. Here is the kicker. Romans 11:15 states,
"For if their rejection brought reconciliation to the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?" Their rejection refers to ethnic Israel, not the gentiles.

Chris said...

Whole books have been such as 'Israel and The Church' by Ronald E Diprose, 'Future Israel' by Barry E Horner (Reformed, not Dispensationalist) and Michael J Vlach's 'Has the Church Replaced Israel? to refute the nonsense contained in this article. I felt compelled to reply because this article is so dishonest, it claims to deny the 'moniker' of Replacement Theology yet that is exactly what it is.
Israel remains Israel it never transmigrates into 'those who are in Christ'
The last paragraph begins with Israel being the sons of Abraham and ends with 'how we treat the church...' that is classic replacement theology!
Then to say that Israel are not today the sons of Abraham but will be when they experience a 'mass conversion is merely a cover to show that you don't really dismiss Israel, though Israel today is denied any significance in God's scheme of things.
Many eminent theologians, evangelists and politicians believed and worked for the Restoration of Israel and were moved according to the light they had concerning the Scriptures, to deny that the State of Israel has any significance in God's plans for these people is to deny the plain and literal meaning of Scripture that clearly speaks of a latter day ingathering of the children of Israel (not the church) from the four corners of the Earth. see J C Ryle's sermon 'He who scattered Israel shall regather them' freely available on the world wide web!

Chris said...

Above is the link to J C Ryle's sermon 'Scattered Israel will be regathered'