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Introduction to Personal Bible Study - Videos (2007)

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Friday, November 24, 2023

Has the Church Been "Hellenized"?

For if God did not spare the natural branches [Jews], He may not spare you [Gentiles, unnatural branches] either. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you [unnatural branches] continue in His goodness. Otherwise you [unnatural branches] also will be cut off. And they [Jews] also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them [Jews. natural branches] in again. For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature [unnaturally] into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these [Jews], who are natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?

-Romans 11:21-24 

I saw another interesting post on Social media recently. The person posting was charging Christians with following what he claims is a false "Hellenized" version of the faith. Part of the prosecution of his case is a reference to Paul's warning in Romans 11:18 to the (unnatural) branches to not become haughty or boast against the root (Israel) or the other (natural) branches (Jews).

Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. (KJV)
But you must not brag about being grafted in to replace the branches that were broken off. You are just a branch, not the root. (NLT)

The warnings in Romans 11 are conditional ("if") and specific (to the unnatural branches). They cannot be connected to the free gift of resurrection life through his name by grace alone.  Such an application makes no sense and is an offense to the work of Christ. Gentile believers are warned to continue in the goodness of God's grace in placing them into the blessings of the root, Israel ("IF you continue"). The Lord also warns the unnatural Gentiles not to boast of become haughty against the natural Jews ("but IF thou boast"). 

This conditional warning is clearly for Gentile believers. We cannot stress this enough. The context allows for no other application. Gentiles were not, nor could they ever, the root God has created for His plans for the earth. The greatest a Gentile believer could ever be, in regard to the earthly hope, is to be an unnatural branch grafted in. The context of the chapter juxtaposes Gentile believers with the remnant of believers in Israel, those who are the seed of Abraham by birth.

I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel, saying, “Lord, they have killed Your prophets and torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life”? But what does the divine response say to him? “I have reserved for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work. What then? Israel has not obtained what it seeks; but the elect [of Israel] have obtained it, and the rest were blinded.

-Romans 11:1-7 

God has never abandoned His people (Israel). God forbid! But that does not mean that God either has no other people or that God has no other hopes. Just because God has a chosen people for one hope does not mean that he must use the same people for all hopes. We can see how some are confused when they fail to rightly divide the Book of Romans and understand the hope there in view.

The hope for the earth, started in Adam's hope of a return to Paradise in the Garden, and expanded to a land promised to Abraham and his Seed, and culminated in the promise to David that his descendant would sit one day on his throne in a restored Kingdom in Jerusalem.

Christ satisfies all of these:

And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. -1 Corinthians 15:45

Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ. -Galatians 3:16

He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. -Luke 1:32

We see Paradise restored and the Davidic throne restored in the Revelation. We see the promises made to Abraham realize in the age to come as well. Each of these wonderful hopes is a study in itself, so we will have to leave these here as we continue to look at the claims of Paul in Romans 11.

The gospels and the epistles of the Acts age all have the restoration of the Kingdom in Israel in sight (Acts 1:6, etc.). The gospel of the Kingdom preached by the Lord to Israel alone in the gospel accounts is continued and expanded in the Acts age and the related epistles, In this very epistle of Romans, Paul states without ambiguity that all the promises and covenants apply to Israel, not to some "Gentile Church-Israel." The juxtaposition of believers in Romans 9 to the promises still given to Israel makes a melding of these two impossible.

So, to what is the grafting in in Romans 11 referring? Are Gentile believers then and now somehow a "New Israel?" No, not at all! For in the very warning  in Romans 11 the social media poster uses to argue for some Hebrew church connected to Israel we see a clear distinction. The warning is for Gentile believers only. Gentiles are the unnatural branches grafted into the root and these believers are warned they could be "cut off" from the root. 

Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off.

-Romans 11:22 

"Also" is a reference to unbelieving in Israel. Paul's argument is that Gentile believers in that age should not boast against the Israelites who were cut off from the root even as they were grafted in. But ultimately cut off from what and grafted into what? A political Israel? A nationality?

They unbelieving Jews were cut off from the promises and covenants and the blessings and the adoption and the priesthood. And even as grafted in believers, they were still second to the Jew, hence Paul's warning only to Gentiles. A Jewish believer would not boast or become haughty against the root which is Israel.

We have explored Israel's calling and hope in the Acts age elsewhere (on the blog and on the podcast), so we will refocus on the idea that some "Hellenization" occurred that has corrupted this view of the "church." 

It is not a Hellenization that has occurred, but a putting aside of the hope of Israel, the restoration of the Kingdom and the throne of David, and the revelation to Paul in the book of Ephesians of the new hope of blessings in the heavenly places (in the far above the heavens where Christ sits at the right hand of the Father). This is a post-Acts revelation. It followed the elimination of the middle wall of partition. The current age knows no Greek (Gentile) or Jew for any reason. 

The earthly plan and hope must be distinguished from the heavenly plan. Paul went from being in chains for the hope of Israel in the Acts (Acts 28:20) to being in chains for Gentiles (all men being gentiles when the middle wall came down) post Acts (Ephesians 3:1).

The twelve were promised they would sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel before the cross (Matthew 19:28, Luke 22:30). The resurrected Lord taught his disciples for 40 days and nights about the restoration of kingdom in Israel in Acts 1. Peter promised Israel a restoration of all things if they would repent in Acts 3. James wrote to the twelve tribes (James 1:1) who met in synagogues (James 2:10). Peter wrote of a priesthood to the dispersion in his epistles (1 Peter 1:1).

The Apostles made clear distinctions among Jewish and Gentile believers in the Acts Age (see Acts 15 and Acts 21, for example). This is the context of the warning in Romans 9. We note again that Gentile believers were grafted into a root which they could never become. The point of the grafting is clear: to make Israel jealous. real Israel. Post Pentecost Israel. The "church" (as it is taught in many places today) is not Israel.

First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you.

-Romans 10:19

I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew... I say then, Have they [his people, Israel] stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.
-Romans 11:1-2; 11

In light of this change, may we ask if God has indeed abandoned his people? Of course not. Just as at certain times in Israel history God set them aside, he has set them aside in the current age to call out a different group for a different hope. But do not be deceived. God will again deal with his earthly people for an earthly purpose in an age to come. The Kingdom will be restored in Israel. David's throne will be established.

So, the Replacement Theologian is wrong to say God is done completely with any earthly plan and any earthly children of Abraham and also the Theologian who says that we must return to a Hebrew-Israel based faith system as taught in Romans is wrong. They fail to rightly divide the promises and hopes and plans of God for heavenly places and for the earth.

Once you see this distinction, the prophets and prophecies will come alive as well as God's workings in the Acts and in the Acts Age epistles. We no longer have to explain away the actions and doctrines of the epistles as either "transitional" or as (more insultingly) "racist." 

God is currently calling out a heavenly body which has a a heavenly hope. We have no earthly ordinances. Even in regard to Abraham himself, Paul teaches us we have but "one Father." That is, God alone is our father. We have no "Father Abraham." We have but "one baptism," that of the spirit and not of water and spirit. 

There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. 
-Ephesians 4:4-6

The heavenly hope was hidden from before the ages began while the earthly hope was revealed since or from the time the ages began. We have covered that elsewhere, so we pause here to only reiterate that difference. Paul, in the Acts, witnessed to the hope of Israel (Acts 28:20) and spoke "no other thing except that which Moses and the Prophets said would come" (Acts 26:22). Yet in Ephesians Paul revealed a hope hidden from before the ages and a hope that was not known by Moses or the Prophets. 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:... Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus

Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel

Paul knows no root or branch or hope in an earthly kingdom. The message for the current age is a hope far above where Gentile is a fellow heir. In this same book, Paul proclaims that the middle wall of partition between Jew and Greek (an allusion to the separation in the earthly temple) has come down (Ephesians 2:14). God is now building a spiritual temple in the far above the heavens (Ephesians 2:19-22) .

Paul speaks of walking in the calling to which we have been called (Ephesians 4:1). This is the calling of the present age. The calling of the hope in heavenly places. The calling which knows no distinction between Jew and Greek in Christ. The calling which has no Sabbaths, no holy days, no Feasts (Col 2:16). This calling knows no earthly ordinances (Eph 2:15, Col 2:20-23). 

In this age, the root of Israel does not bear us. Our hope and calling are distinct and separate from the hope and calling of the root which is Israel. The earthly plan will come to fruition. Be assured of that. Yet we are careful not to try and combine the two hopes.

Both the denier of prophecy for Israel yet to come (Replacement Theology, et al) and those recognizing Israel has a future (Classic Dispensationalists, et al) claim the Acts Age and its epistles for themselves thus leading to both groups being lost in a land of confusion.

See to rightly divided the epistles and rightly divide the earthly hope and calling from the heavenly hope and calling and many things will start to make sense. And you won't have to resort to charging the chosen Apostles of God with racism and/or stubbornness and/or stupidity. 

The Lord forbade the Gospel of the Kingdom to be preached to anyone but to Jews and not outside of Israel (Matt 10). He stated (and he cannot lie) that he was sent solely to the lost sheep of the House of Israel with that gospel (Matt 15). He didn't even tell them he was going to die until Matthew chapter 16. So, do we preach the same gospel of the kingdom the Lord preached and the Apostles preached? No!

We preach Paul's revelation of Ephesians 3. We have a different calling and a different hope. 

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