Deuteronomy 9-22 continues with most of the motifs mentioned in the previous post. There we saw how God’s covenant of love is both unconditional and conditional. The way this “paradox” is solved is by making a distinction between corporate and individual. “All Israel will be saved” is a corporate and unconditional statement whereas “but not all Israel are Israel” is a individual and conditional statement.
Corporate = Unconditional
Individual = Conditional
I know people don’t like this. Many try and bring out possible philosophical “problems” by suggesting that without the “individual” there can be no “corporate”. From this philosophical hypothesis they travel down the road from one theory to another to show how this separation of “individual” from “corporate” potentially undermines God’s whole plan of salvation (“what if no individuals accept God’s grace?”). Such a traveler who insists on this road reveals more about the concept of their god (notice the small “g”) then about the God revealed in scripture.
The “god” of these peoples conception is quite small, and it makes them afraid that this god of theirs will somehow fail in his task. He is not “strong enough” to allow free will. He is not “sovereign enough” to unconditional see his plan through while maintaining a “conditional” and “individual” element.
The problem is solved easily enough. Expand your concept of God. Trust that he is able to see his plan through. Embrace his competence. Stop thinking that if God does not control all details of everything, that somehow he’ll lose control of everything. Not everything needs to be seen in such extreme polarized lights. Let God out of your box. Surely we all know that God is not in your box, but until you change the way you think about the Almighty, your concept of him will be there neat and tidy, just the way you like him.
Saved By Grace – An Old Testament “Type“
The New Testament frequently envisions Israel and her journey out of Egypt, through Sinai and the wilderness and into the promised land as a “type“, first of Christ from his birth, through the cross and into his Resurrection, and secondly as a “type” of our (sometimes individually, sometimes corporately) journey of salvation.
For example, the “promised land” which everyone takes so literally, and certainly in its historical context it was a literal thing, is interpreted by New Testament writers as being a “type” of the future “land” (i.e. the New Earth or Heaven). The actual “promised land” is reinterpreted broadly as “earth”, and the promise of the inheritance which God gave to Abraham is interpreted as “a heavenly” future city (Hebrews 11:13-16). But what is even more astounding is that the author of Hebrews goes beyond reinterpreting the Old Testament is “types” to even state explicitly that these are things that Abraham himself actually believed.
So the promised land is symbolic of the “New Earth”, as the scriptures point out. But the author of Hebrews continues with other relevant factors such as stating that “the law is only a shadow” of the reality (Hebrews 10:1) which is why the blood of sheep and goats could not actually atone for sin. They could only point to the reality – Christ (Hebrews 10:3-10).
The promised land is called “the rest” of God (consider the connection here with the Garden of Eden, when Adam was created and placed in that rest, it was God’s “rest” – Genesis 2:2-3). So the Israelites were delivered from Egypt and called to enter God’s “rest”. That “rest”, says the author of Hebrews, still stands today for the believer in Christ (Hebrews 4:1)! Many Israelites (in fact a whole generation!) did not enter that rest because of their unbelief. But notice this line: “For we also had the gospel preached to us, just as they did…” (Hebrews 4:2). The same gospel which was preached to us was also preached to the Israelites, according to the scriptures.
This is why Paul points to Abraham as a “type” of how we are justified – By grace through the faithfulness of God/Christ (i.e. His delivering act), by believing or trusting in God/Christ (Romans 4:1-3).
Now I want you to pay close attention to what happens next.
Israel is commanded by God to be faithful in the promised land and to drive out it’s inhabitants. It reads, “you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty… show them no mercy… break down their altars, smash their sacred stones, cut down their Asherah poles…” (Deuteronomy 7:2-6). Who’s doing all of the “work” here?
Obviously it is Israel. But now let us turn to chapter 9 where the scriptures read, “the Lord your God… goes across ahead of you… He will destroy them… he will drive them out” (Deuteronomy 9:3).
Can someone say “mystery”?
Now then, if the Israelites are the ones driving out the nations, but God is the one driving out the nations the question becomes, who gets the credit? Who is actually doing the work? The answer is given in the next section, and I need to quote it at length:
After the Lord your God has driven them out before you, do not say to yourselves, “The Lord has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness.” No, it is on account of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is going to drive them out before you. It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations, the Lord your God will drive them out before you, to accomplish what he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the Lord your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people.
I can summarize that whole passage by one phrase: It is by grace through faith you have been saved, and not by works so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9). I can summarize it with another passage, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation of everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). Or again, “There is no one righteous, not even one… But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ to all who believe” (Romans 3:10 and 21-22).
I could go on, but I think the point has been made. Israel’s entry for those who accepted it by faith lived out in obedience (cf. Hebrews 3:16-4:11) was by the grace of God alone. Their faith, like Abraham’s, was not seen as a “merit” “cooperating” with God’s grace so that they could somehow “boast”. On the contrary, their faith, like Abraham’s, was credited or declared to them as righteous from God the righteous Judge – clearly not their own righteousness (could the text just sited be any more clear?).
Some popular theologies want to equate “faith” with “merit” so that to “believe” would be a “work” on equal parts with God’s grace, but the scriptures never do. I opt to follow God and the scriptures, not Calvin or some other theologian whose biases want to dictate to us on how we ought to employ these terms.
We are saved by God’s grace alone. But that grace is received by faith. Everywhere the scriptures teach this (as I’ve illustrated in this post). Faith is not seen in the scriptures are a “merit” unto salvation. While some theologians do equate “faith” with “works unto salvation”, that is not my problem. I will not allow a bully theology dictate to me a use of this term which contradicts the Word of God.