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The term Israel has a two-fold meaning

“Is He the God of the Jews only? is He not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also: seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and the uncircumcision through faith” (Romans 3:29, 30).

What has just been noticed leads us to point out that the terms “Israel,” “Jew,” and “seed of Abraham” all have a twofold allusion. The expression “Israel after the flesh” (1 Corinthians 10:18) is obviously a discriminating one, and would be meaningless were there no Israel after the spirit, that is regenerated Israel, “the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16). The “Israel after the flesh” were the natural descendants of Abraham, whereas the spiritual Israel, whether Jews or Gentiles, are those who are born again and worship God in spirit and in truth. When the Psalmist declared

“Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart” (Psalm 73:1),

he certainly did not refer to the fleshly descendants of Jacob, for the greater part of them lacked “a clean heart”! When our Lord said of Nathanael,

“Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile” (John 1:47),

He obviously meant very much more than one who proceeded naturally from Jacob. His language was as distinguishing as when He said,

“If ye continue in My word, then are ye My disciples indeed” (John 8:31).

“An Israelite indeed” connoted a genuine son of the spiritual Israel, a man of faith and prayer, holy and honest. “In whom is no guile” supplies further confirmation that a saved character was there in view (compare Psalm 32:1).

When Christ said,

“I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24),

He could not intend the fleshly descendants of Jacob, for, as many Scriptures plainly show (Isaiah 42:6; Romans 15:8, 9), He was sent unto the Gentiles also. No, the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” there imported the whole election of grace.

“And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16)

could not possibly refer to the nation, for God’s wrath was on that—it is on the Israel chosen by the Father, redeemed by the Son and regenerated by the Spirit that Divine peace and mercy rest.

“Not as though the word of God had taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel” (Romans 9:6).

The Jews erroneously imagined that the promises which God had made to Abraham and his seed pertained only to his natural descendants: hence their claim “we have Abraham to our father” (Matthew 3:9). But those promises were not made to men after the flesh, but to men after the spirit, the regenerate, they alone being the “children of the promise” (Romans 9:8). God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were given to them as believers, and they are the spiritual property and food of believers, and none else (Romans 4:13, 16). Until that fact be grasped, we shall be all at sea with the Old Testament promises (cf. 2 Corinthians 1:20, and 7:1; 2 Peter 1:4).

“Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham” (Galatians 3:7).

The children of Abraham are of two kinds, physical and spiritual: those who are his by nature, and those who are connected with him by grace.

“To be the children of a person in a figurative sense is equivalent to ‘resemble him and to be involved in his fate,’ good or bad. To be ‘the children of God’ is to be like God, and also, as the apostle states, it is to be ‘heirs of God.’ To be ‘the children of Abraham’ is to resemble Abraham, to imitate his conduct and to share his blessedness” (John Brown).

So to be “the children of the wicked one” (Matthew 13:38) is to be conformed to his vile image, both in character and in conduct (John 8:44), and to share his doom (Matthew 15:41). Christ said to the carnal Jews of His day,

“If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham” (John 8:39).

It is his spiritual children who “walk in the steps of that faith which he had” (Romans 4:12) and who are “blessed with faithful Abraham” (Galatians 3:9). We must be united to Christ, who is “the Son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1), in order to enter into the blessings which God covenanted unto the patriarch. The double significance of the expression “children” or “seed of Abraham” was plainly intimated at the beginning, when God likened his seed to the stars of the heavens and the sand which is upon the sea shore (Genesis 22:17).

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

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The Law being given with a gracious end in view, to pave the way for the Savior

“Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions” (Galatians 3:19).

That answer admits of two different significations. First, the immediate purpose in the Law’s being formerly proclaimed and enforced subsequently to the promised inheritance to Abraham and his seed was to place a bridle upon the carnality of the Hebrews and check their sinning—by making known to them God’s will and the fearful penalty of flouting His authority. Second, its ultimate design was to prepare the way for Christ, by demonstrating their need of Him because of their awful guilt. The “because of transgressions” is intentionally general enough to include both: to suppress transgressions, to make manifest transgressors. So too the next verse has a dual meaning: “Now a mediator is not a mediator of one [party] but God is one.” In view of the context (v. 10 onwards, especially 16-19), “God is one” signifies first, that His purpose is immutable. His design was the same in both the Abrahamic and Sinaitic covenants—the Law being given with a gracious end in view, to pave the way for the Savior: hence the question and answer in verse 21. Yet in view of the whole context it is equally clear, second, that “God is one” means that His method of salvation remains unaltered through all dispensations.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

The symbolical application of the word “lion” is applied to Satan and Christ

The Father’s declaration concerning His Son

“By His knowledge shall My righteous servant justify many” (Isaiah 53:11)

certainly has a double force: the “knowledge” He possesses and the knowledge which He imparts. As Manton pointed out, “it may be taken either way: actively, for the knowledge which He shall give out; passively, for our apprehension of Christ,” for the former without the latter cannot justify us. “By His knowledge” can be regarded both subjectively and objectively. First, by His own personal knowledge of the Father (John 17:25), which was the ground of what He imparted unto men (John 3:11) for their salvation. Second, for our saving knowledge of Him— received from Him. Instead of quibbling as to whether or not Isaiah intended to include each of those meanings, let us be thankful that he was guided to use language which included both senses. Again, our Lord’s figurative expression when He declared that “the gates of hell” should not prevail against “His Church” (Matthew 16:19) admits of a double reference: death Isaiah 38:10) and the power of evil. Death and the grave have prevailed over every human institution, but not so over Christ (Acts 2:27), or His Church (Psalm 72:17; Matthew 28:20), nor shall any weapon formed against her prosper (Isaiah 54:17)—meanings so dissimilar are no more surprising than the symbolical application of the word “lion” to Satan (1 Peter 5:8) and to Christ (Revelation 5:5).

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

It is ever to be borne in mind that there is a fullness, as well as a depth, in the words of God which pertains not to those of men, so that rarely will a single and brief definition adequately explain a scriptural term

September 26, 2017 Leave a comment

22. Double reference and meaning. It is ever to be borne in mind that there is a fullness, as well as a depth, in the words of God which pertains not to those of men, so that rarely will a single and brief definition adequately explain a scriptural term. For that reason we must constantly be on our guard against limiting the scope of any Divinely inspired statement, and saying that it means only so and so. Thus, when we are told that God made man in His own image and likeness, those words probably have at least a fourfold allusion.

First, to the incarnation of the Son, for He is distinctly designated the “image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15).

Second, to man’s being a tripartite creature, for “God said, Let us make man in our image” (Genesis 1:26)—a trinity in unity, consisting of “spirit and soul and body” (1 Thessalonians 5:23).

Third, in His moral likeness, which man lost at the fall, but which is restored at regeneration (Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10).

Fourth, to the position assigned man and the authority with which he was invested: “let them have dominion over” (Genesis 1:26). Adam was a “god” or ruler, under the Lord, of all mundane creatures.

In view of what has been pointed out, it is evident that the favorite dictum of Dispensationalist —“application is manifold, interpretation but one”—is erroneous, for the above are not four interpretations of the “image of God” from which we may choose, but the actual fourfold meaning of the term itself. To say that “interpretation is but one” is also flatly contradicted by our Lord’s explanation of the parable of the sower, for when He defined its terms He gave three or four different significations to the “thorns”— compare Matthew 13:22; Mark 4:18, 19; Luke 8:14. We are in hearty accord with paragraph nine in the opening chapter of the Westminster Confession of Faith, when it says, “The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself; and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly,” except that we dissent from the limitation mentioned in the parentheses. We much prefer to side with Joseph Caryl (one of the framers of the Westminster Confession), who, when commenting on a verse the words of which were susceptible of various meanings, and which had been diversely explained by expositors, said, “In a Scripture which may, without the impeachment of any truth, admit divers sense, I would not be so positive in one as to reject all others.”

Even if it were true that the grammatical meaning of a verse be only one, nevertheless it may have a double reference, as is certainly the case with some of the prophecies in Holy writ, which possess a major and a minor fulfillment. In his introduction to the book of Revelation in Ellicottcommentary, when writing upon prophecy, its annotator said, “The words of God mean more than one man or one school of thought can compass. There are depths of Truth unexplored which lie beneath the simplest sentences. Just as we are wont to say that history repeats itself, so the predictions of the Bible are not exhausted in one or even many fulfillments. Each prophecy is a single key which unlocks many doors, and the grand and stately drama of the Apocalypse has been played out perchance in one age to be repeated in the next.” We greatly fear that it is nothing but narrow-minded partisanship which has caused so many to disdain such a concept, and made them reject all other interpretations which accord not with their own particular system. David said, “Thy commandment is exceeding broad” (Psalm 119:96): let us see to it that we do not contract or limit the same.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

Two extremes are to be guarded against, a love of the fantastic and a prejudice against what is novel

September 19, 2017 2 comments

Just so far as we really value a spiritual interpretation of God’s Word will we abominate all counterfeits. Two extremes are to be guarded against, both by those who advance and those who receive some new explanation of a passage: a love of the fantastic and a prejudice against what is novel. There is a middle ground between hastily condemning or accepting, namely to weigh carefully and prayerfully what is presented, testing it by other passages and by our own experience. Doubtless most of us can recall some interpretations which were new, and which at first struck us as being “farfetched,” but which we now regard as sound and helpful. If the Holy Spirit had not informed us that Abraham’s two wives were figures of the two covenants (Galatians 4:24), and that the words of Moses in Deuteronomy 30:11-14, were to be understood spiritually of the righteousness of faith (Romans 10:6-9), we had considered such interpretations ridiculous. Remember that God grants light to one minister which He does not to another. Even though his explanation commend not itself to you at the moment, beware of rashly calling it “a perversion of the Scriptures,” lest the same is being blessed to some poor child of God whose heart is feeding on what your head rejects.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

Every preacher needs to be constantly on his guard against substituting human ingenuity for the teaching of the Spirit

September 12, 2017 2 comments

THERE are certain types of mind, particularly the mystical and fanatical, which are prone to substitute fanciful concepts for spiritual interpretations. God’s Word requires to be handled with reverential fear, and with much prayer for discernment and guidance, lest we tread on holy ground with the shoes of carnal wisdom; or the novice, striving after originality, give rein to his imagination, instead of disciplining himself to adhere strictly to the Analogy of Faith. Every preacher needs to be constantly on his guard against substituting human ingenuity for the teaching of the Spirit. Satan has ever mimicked the operations of the Spirit, and counterfeited a spiritual opening up of the Scriptures by wild perversions thereof. An early instance of this is the Kabbala, which, though of great esteem among the Jews, abounds in the most absurd explanations of Holy Writ. The rash allegorizing of Origen is another example to be studiously avoided, for he twisted the plainest and simplest texts into the most grotesque shapes or meanings. The strange system of exegesis adopted by Swedenborg is yet another case in point. The imagination needs to be bridled by both a tender conscience and the spirit of a sound mind.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

Let us now illustrate from the history of Jonah as it spiritually portrays the experience of many a backslidden saint

September 5, 2017 Leave a comment

Let us now illustrate from the history of Jonah as it spiritually portrays the experience of many a backslidden saint. The Lord gave that prophet a commandment, but it was contrary to his natural inclinations. He disobeyed, seeking to flee “from the presence of the Lord”—yielding to self-will saps the spirit of prayer and relish for the Word. Jonah went down into a ship—seeking the things of the world. God began to chasten him, by sending out “a great wind into the sea” because of his disobedience. That ought to have spoken loudly to his conscience, but, alas, he was sound asleep. Jonah perceived not the first manifestation of the Divine displeasure, and therefore was not troubled over the same. So it is with a backslidden saint: conscience slumbers when God afflicts: he is too stupefied to “hear the rod.” But God would not allow Jonah to remain indifferent. He was rudely aroused from his slumbers by the shipmaster, lots were cast and it fell upon Jonah himself. His “cast me forth into the sea” (1:12) was the language of that despondency which comes upon one when he is made to reap the whirlwind. Yet God did not desert His wayward and despairing child: He “prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah”—supernaturally preserving him. The sequel is blessed: said the erring one, “I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the Lord, and He heard me” (2:2); yes, and delivered him.

Such are, in their essential features, the usual experiences of a carnal believer who is determined to have his own way. In His lovingkindness the Lord disciplines such a one for his self-will and carnality. When he acts like “a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke” (Jeremiah 31:18), and follows a course of disobedience, God makes his self-pleasing plans to miscarry and prevents him reaching some Tarshish on which he set his heart. The Lord will not long suffer any of His own to do as they please. By the workings of His providence, a “great wind” comes and thwarts their desires and designs. If they fail to see God’s hand therein and do not penitently humble themselves beneath it, then His rod falls still more heavily upon them. Then it is that they cry unto Him in their affliction. Note how Jonah looked beyond all instruments and acknowledged, “Thou hast cast me into the deep” (2:3) and owned his folly (2:8). In his “I will pay that that I have vowed” (2:9) we behold him restored to a spirit of submission; while his “salvation is of the Lord” freely ascribes his recovery unto His goodness. Thus Jonah 1 and 2 contain a spiritual picture both of the trials of a froward saint and of the faithfulness and mercy of God in His dealings with him.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures