They are not all Israel which are of Israel

by Robert Haldane

Ver. 6.— Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel which are of Israel. [Romans 6:6]

Not as though. — That is, my grief for the state of the Jewish nation, and their rejection by God, does not imply that with regard to them anything said in the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel which are of Israel. — Here is the explanation of the mystery that the Jews, as a nation, had rejected the Messiah: they are not all true Israelites in the spiritual sense of the promise, who are Israelites after the flesh. The Jews might object, and say that if they were cast off and rejected, then God is unfaithful, and His promises are ineffectual. To this Paul answers by making a distinction among Israelites. Some are Israelites only in respect of their carnal descent, and others are children of the promise. 'The proposition of the Apostle,' says Calvin, 'is that the promise was given in such a manner to Abraham and his seed, that the inheritance has no particular regard to every one of his descendants; and it hence follows, as a consequence, that the revolt of certain individuals from the Lord, who derive their birth from the father of the faithful, has no effect in preventing the stability, permanence, and steadfastness of the Divine covenant. The common election of the Israelitish nation does not prevent the Sovereign of infinite holiness from choosing for Himself, according to His secret counsel, whatever portion of that people He has determined to save. When Paul says they are not all Israel which are of Israel, and afterwards, neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children, he includes all the descendants of the father of believers under one member of the sentence, and points out by the other those only who are true and genuine sons of the friend of God, and not a degenerate race.' Through the remaining part of this chapter, the Apostle shows that the rejection of the Messiah by the great body of the Jewish nation was neither contrary to the promises nor the purpose of God, but had been predetermined and also typified in His dealings towards individuals among their progenitors, as recorded in the Scriptures, and also there predicted. This furnishes an opportunity of more fully illustrating the doctrine of God's sovereignty in choosing some to everlasting life, which had been spoken of in the 29th and 30th verses of the preceding chapter, and of His rejection of others.

Ver. 7. — Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but In Isaac shall thy seed be called.

Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children. — In the preceding verse the Apostle had shown that there was a difference among Israelites; now he refers to a difference in the seed of Abraham. The error of the Jews was, that they thought they were the children of God by being the children of Abraham. But in this, as the Apostle declares, they were in error. The promise to Abraham and his seed was not made to him and all his descendants in general, but to him and a particular seed. As the children of Abraham, they were all, indeed, in one sense the children of God. God says to Pharaoh with respect to them, 'Let my son go.' But the natural sonship was only a figure of the spiritual sonship of all believers of every nation. None but such are the spiritual seed of Abraham, whether among Jews or Gentiles.

But in Isaac shall thy seed be called. — Reckoned, chosen, or called into existence, as it is said respecting the birth of Isaac in the fourth chapter, 'God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.' The Messiah, who was emphatically the seed of Abraham, says 'The Lord hath called Me from the womb, Isaiah 49:1. He was called into existence in His human nature, and to His office of Mediator, in the line of Isaac. And Israel was called or chosen as God's people, Isaiah 48:12. 'Hearken unto Me, O Jacob, and Israel, My called.' In this sense the expression called is used in the end of the 11th verse. By thus appealing to the declaration of God to Abraham, that in Isaac his seed should be called — and reckoned more especially the seed of Abraham — the Apostle showed that, notwithstanding the defection of the great body of the nation of Israel which he so much deplored, it was by no means the case that the word of God had taken none effect; for from the beginning a distinction had been made among the descendants of Abraham, indicating that they are not all Israel which are of Israel. Only a part of that nation, which he calls a remnant, verse 27, and afterwards 'a remnant according to the election of grace,' ch. 11:5, was to participate in the spiritual blessings to be conveyed by promise. 'When,' says Calvin, 'we see in the two first sons of the patriarch, the younger chosen by a recent promise (Genesis 21:12; Hebrews 11:18), while the older was yet living, how much more might this take place in a long line of descendants! This prediction is taken from Genesis 17:20, where the Lord answers Abraham, As for Ishmael, I have heard thy prayers, but the blessing shall be granted to the son of Sarah, and the covenant established with Isaac. It hence follows as a consequence that certain individuals are, by a singular privilege, chosen from the elect people of the Jews, in whom the common adoption is ratified and rendered efficacious.' It may be further remarked that when it is said, 'In Isaac shall thy seed be called,' it did not imply that all the descendants of Isaac were to be the spiritual seed of Abraham. Only such were to be so who belonged to that seed to which the word, being used in the singular, emphatically and exclusively applied, as the Apostle declares, Galatians 3:16, 'Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many, but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.' The meaning, then, of the declaration, 'In Isaac shall thy seed be called,' is, that as all Abraham's posterity were not to be the peculiar people whom God was nationally to adopt as His children, but only such as should descend from Isaac, so not all the Jews are the true sons of God, but only such as, like Isaac, are children of the promise. Here it is evident, as also from Galatians 4:28, that Isaac the child of promise was typical of all believers.

Ver. 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.

That is, or this explains, the declaration, 'In Isaac shall thy seed be called.' It is intended to show that not carnal descent, but being included in the promise, constituted the true spiritual seed. This clearly establishes the difference between the sonship of Israel after the flesh, and the sonship of Israel after the Spirit. The nation of Israel stood in a relation to God in which no other nation was ever placed; but only a part of them enjoyed a spiritual relation. Hence the distinction here noted, that the children of the flesh are not the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted for the seed a distinction which the Apostle also makes, ch. 2:28, between being a Jew outwardly, and a Jew inwardly. These distinctions are explanatory of the declaration, 'In Isaac shall thy seed be called,' and of the rejection of the other children, though the seed of Abraham. In the Epistle to the Galatians, 4:22, it is said that 'Abraham had two sons, the one by a bond maid, the other by a free woman.' This appears in the original history to be a merely accidental and unimportant matter; but in that place we are taught that it was a shadow of futurity. Ishmael, who was of the bond woman, it is said, was 'born after the flesh.' This denoted that though he was descended from Abraham according to the laws of nature, he was not a son of Abraham's faith. Isaac was also in a certain sense born like Ishmael after the flesh, because he was naturally descended from Abraham; but not of the flesh merely, nor of the flesh naturally, — for according to the course of nature he never would have been born, — but at the same time he was more. He was not only a son of Abraham's flesh, but his son as born after the Spirit, because he was given to Abraham, after, by the course of nature, he could not hope for children. All this indicated the distinction that existed in the nation of Israel, between those who, notwithstanding their being born in the line of Isaac, were the seed of Abraham merely by carnal descent, and not the children of God by a spiritual regeneration. Only these last were the children of the promise, as Isaac was, who were all one in Christ Jesus, and therefore in the highest sense Abraham's seed, and 'heirs according to the promise,' Galatians 3:29 — heirs of all the spiritual blessings secured to Abraham by promise. 'Paul,' says Calvin, 'now deduces from the prophecy a proposition containing his whole meaning, intent, and aim. For if the seed is called in Isaac, not in Ishmael, and this latter is no less a son of the patriarch Abraham than the former, all his children by lineal descent cannot be reckoned as his seed; but the promise is in an especial and peculiar manner fulfilled by some, but has not a common and equal regard to all. Children by lineal descent mean such as are not distinguished by a more excellent privilege than their being offspring by blood; children of the promise are those who are peculiarly marked out and sealed by their Heavenly Father.'


From Commentary on Romans by Robert Haldane

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