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Why Israel Exists 'for the Palestinians'—and the Rest of the World
Why Israel Exists 'for the Palestinians'—and the Rest of the World
John Piper

John Piper

This is the conclusion of a four-part discussion between Bethlehem Baptist Church pastor John Piper and Jews for Jesus executive director David Brickner on the relationship and attitudes American Christians should have toward Israel. See parts one, two, and three.

Dear David,

Let's get the relatively minor disagreements and misunderstandings out of the way, so we can celebrate the grand agreements.

I don't regard 1 Corinthians 3:21–23 as hyperbole the way you do. "All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's."

I think the Christian inheritance of all the created universe is the implication of our being "heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ" (Rom. 8:17). It's the point Jesus made in Matthew 5:5: "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." We will even judge angels (1 Cor. 6:3).

And it is remarkable that the "world" is the inheritance of the Christian Corinthians (1 Cor. 3:22) and the inheritance of Abraham and his offspring: "The promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith" (Rom. 4:13).

When I say that Abraham's inheritance is not only Israel, but the world, and that the Gentile Christian's inheritance is the world, including Israel, you say that I am "minimizing the particularity of Israel's election" and that I "take away with one hand what [I] give with the other."

I did say, and I do believe, that Israel, as a people, "will finally have [the Land] as a special dwelling place." By the word "special," I mean to preserve Israel's particular role in God's plan. But when I say Israel gets the world thrown in along with the Promised Land, I don't see why you say, "You are taking away with one hand what you give with the other." How is adding the world in any serious way a subtracting?

The only thing I take away is the "no trespassing" signs to those outside Israel, and the barbed wire on the borders for those inside. The Promised Land belongs to Israel in a special way, and belongs to all the "sons of Abraham" (Gal. 3:7) as well. God will honor the particularity of ethnic Israel's inheritance and the universality of spiritual Israel's inheritance. He will do it without taking anything good away from either. Surely it will not be true that "when Israel gets all, she actually gets nothing."

On the issue of the conditionality of the Abrahamic covenant, I agree with you that "obedience is no more a condition for Abraham than it is for the church." And I would simply add: and no less. All who belong to the visible church or to visible Israel, but who do not confirm their faith with obedience, will perish. To Israel and to the church, Jesus says, "Repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent" (Rev. 2:5). Final salvation is conditional for the church on the obedience that comes from faith, as for Israel. No more, no less.

But let us celebrate our common convictions about the wonder of present day Israel—both the nation and the remnant. I'm sorry that Ryle's language proved misleading, namely, that present day Israel is "reserved and preserved" for a great future destiny. Neither he nor I imply that Israel is "in a pickle jar kept on a shelf somewhere." Both he and I agree with you that on the way to this future destiny (of conversion and inheritance), Israel is a "marvelous evidence of God's continuing covenant faithfulness." Yes. Amen!

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Why Israel Exists 'for the Palestinians'—and the Rest of the ...