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Elpis Israel
by Dr. John Thomas

But why call Him the God of these fathers now?

By anticipation; for, says the apostle, "God, who makes alive the dead, styles the not being (TA ME ONTA) as being" (HOS ONTA; Rom.

4:17) that is, God's promise is so certain to be fulfilled that He speaks of what is to be as though it were past.

He has promised to raise Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who while dead have no being; and as He cannot lie, their restoration to being is inevitable; God therefore speaks of them as though they had already been raised from the dead and "is not ashamed to be called their God".

God is not the God of dead men who are not to rise again.

He is the God only of those who become His children by being the children of the resurrection; and who can die no more, because they are equal to the angels (Luke 20:36).

Such, then, is the way in which the doctrine of the resurrection is taught by the Lord God in Moses and the prophets; plainly indeed, but in such a manner as to require the exercise of the reasoning faculties of men.

But to return to Hebron.

Eternal life having been promised to Abram and Christ by constituting them heirs of the land of Canaan for ever, the Lord proceeded to grant Abram a sign whereby he might know assuredly that he and his Seed should inherit it.

The sun having gone down entirely, which was figurative of the setting of "the Sun of Righteousness" below the horizon of life, Abram beheld "a smoking furnace, and a flame of fire pass between the pieces".

This was a sign which could not be mistaken.

The animals he had slain, and watched and defended so long from the birds of prey, were consumed by fire from heaven.

By this he knew, and was assured, that he and his Seed, the Christ, should inherit the land for ever.

But this was not all.

On the same day the Lord converted His promise made at Sichem, and repeated near Bethel, into a covenant with Abram, as Moses testifies, saying, "in the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, unto thy Seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates:" inhabited by "the Kenites, and the Kennizzites, and the Kadmonites, and the Hittites, and the Perizzites and the Rephaim, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girghashites, and the Jebusites".

In commenting upon these things, the apostle saith, "the covenant previously confirmed by God concerning Christ (EIS CHRISTOU) the law which came into existence (GEGONOS) four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.

For if the inheritance (the land of Canaan and its attributes) be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise" (Gal.

3:17,18).

To understand this, we must know that a question agitated the congregations of Galatia, namely, that it was necessary for the disciples from among the Gentiles to be circumcised, and to keep the law of Moses as well as to believe the gospel and be baptized, or they could have no part in the inheritance covenanted to Abraham and Christ.

The apostle styles this judaizing, and preaching "another gospel".

It was the beginning of that awful apostasy the fruit of which we behold in the ecclesiastical system of our day, He contended strenuously against this perversion of the truth in all places.

The Judaizers argued that a right to Canaan when made a heavenly country under Christ, was derived from the law of Moses; the apostle denied this, and maintained that the law could give no title to it -- that it could only be obtained "through the righteousness of the faith, for the promise that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham or to his Seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.

For if they who are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise is made of none effect: because the law worketh wrath.