The People of God

Bibliotheca Sacra 152 (January-March 1995): 42-59

The ’People of God’ in Romans 9:25-26
--
W. Edward Glenny

One of the challenges to the dispensational approach to Scripture concerns how the New Testament applies to the church certain Old Testament passages that refer to Israel. Some suggest that such passages disprove the main tenet of dispensationalism, the distinction between Israel and the church. Ladd states, ’I do not see how it is possible to avoid the conclusion that the New Testament applies Old Testament prophecies to the New Testament church and in so doing identifies the church as spiritual Israel.’ In the same context he uses Romans 9:24-26 as a ’vivid illustration’ of this principle. Verses 25-26 quote Hosea 2:23 and 1:10, which speak of God’s restoration of Israel to covenant relations with God in the last days. But Paul quoted these Hosea verses to support the fact that God is calling Gentiles to be a part of His covenant people in this age. Verses 27-29 include additional Old Testament quotations (Isa. 10:22-23 and 1:9) to show that He is also calling a remnant of Jews to be a part of this people, the church.

Dispensationalists have not avoided passages like Romans 9:24-26, though such passages have not been central to the theology of dispensationalism. Dispensationalists who have addressed Romans 9:24-26 have suggested one of three interpretations. Most explain verses 25-26 as an application of a principle from the Old Testament to the church in the New Testament. These writers view the hermeneutical connection between Romans 9:25-26 and the verses in Hosea as an analogy. A second explanation of the use of the Hosea quotations in Romans 9:25-26 is that the Romans passage is a literal application of the Old Testament text to ethnic national Israel. McClain views the hermeneutical connection between these passages as direct fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy. Other dispensationalists understand Romans 9:25-26 as an initial or partial fulfillment of Hosea that does not eliminate the final and complete fulfillment of the pattern in the future for Israel. In this approach the hermeneutical classification that describes the use of Hosea in Romans 9:25-26 is called typological-prophetic. This article seeks to argue in support of this third approach to Romans 9:25-26.

The Old Testament Context of the Quotation

Stuart begins the introduction to his commentary on Hosea by stating, ’Understanding the message of the book of Hosea depends upon understanding the Sinai covenant. The book contains a series of blessings and curses announced for Israel by God through Hosea. Each blessing or curse is based upon a corresponding type in the Mosaic law.’ The curses Hosea pronounced on northern Israel were for her more immediate future (as is true throughout the preexilic prophetic writings) and the blessings are eschatological. The two quotations from Hosea used by Paul in Romans 9:25-26 are from eschatological ’salvation oracles,’ or blessing contexts (Hos. 1:10-2:1 and 2:16-23).

The section of Hosea (chaps. 1-3) from which these two quotations come describes Hosea’s marriage to Gomer, her unfaithfulness to him, and his steadfast love for her. God used this account of their life as a dramatization of His steadfast love for ethnic Israel and Israel’s unfaithfulness to Him. The fact that Gomer severed her relationship with her covenant partner was used by Hosea to picture Israel’s disruption of its covenant relationship with God. Because of Israel’s disobedience, the nation that had been the people of God in covenant relationship with Him (Lev. 26:12; Exod. 6:7; Deut. 26:17-18) was then called ’not My people,’ and God was no longer their God (Hos. 1:9). Though Gomer committed adultery, Hosea never sought to divorce her. Instead he restored her to a proper relationship with him. In the same way God’s ultimate purpose with disobedient Israel is to heal her relationship rather than terminate it (2:2b, 7, 14-23; 3:5; 14:1-2). His faithfulness to Israel stems from His love (2:19; 3:1; 11:1-11).

The Meaning of Hosea 2:23

Hosea 2:23, quoted in Romans 9:25, voices God’s promise that in a future day the people of Israel’s northern kingdom, who were called ’not My loved one’ and ’not My people,’ would receive God’s love and be called ’My people.’ These promises in Hosea will be fulfilled in ’that day’ (2:21; cf. 2:16, 18; 3:5) when God will make them as the ’sand of the seashore’ in number (1:10), and they will be gathered together and ’planted’ in the land (1:11; 2:23). These promises will be fulfilled when Israel acknowledges Yahweh as her God (2:23) and He restores His covenant relationship with her (2:19) and reverses the covenant curses (Deut. 30).

The Meaning of Hosea 1:10

Hosea 1:10, quoted by Paul in Romans 9:26, speaks of a time when all Israel will be ’like the sand of the seashore,’ and instead of being ’children of unfaithfulness’ (Hos. 1:2; cf. 2:4), Israel will be ’sons of the living God.’ This will be ’a radically new era, ’Jezreel’s day,’ in which a reunited Israel will be restored to its familial relationship with God, under a single leader, reborn to a status originally envisioned for it in Yahweh’s promises to Abraham’ (1:10-2:1). Israel will experience ’eschatological deliverance from the covenant curses of national death and deportation’ (cf. Deut. 28-30) and fulfillment of Abraham, Davidic, and New Covenant blessings.

Hosea 1:10b states, ’In the place where it was said to them, ’You are not My people,’ it will be said to them, ’You are sons of the living God.’Ê’ Wolff suggests that ’in the place where’ (rv#a&

A more important question is whether ’in the place where’ signifies a geographical location, here perhaps the valley of Jezreel (vv. 4-5, 11) or the land of Israel (1:11; 2:23), or whether the phrase is an expression referring to God’s will prevailing in various situations. Stuart suggests it means that in a future day ’God will have a new people in locations or contexts to which God’s people did not extend in Hosea’s day.’ However, the problem with this suggestion is that there is no indication of a ’new people’ in Hosea 1-2. The pronouns ’them’ and ’you’ in 1:10b refer to ’the sons of Israel’ in verse 10a who will be like the sand of the sea. The verse teaches that in the very place or situation where Israel was not God’s people and was estranged from His covenant, in that same place or situation she will be called ’sons of the living God.’ The simplest understanding of this ’place’ is that it is a geographical location, the land of Israel. The mention of ’land’ in verse 11 with the phrase ’day of Jezreel’ (or ’day when God plants’) and the parallel mention of land in Hosea 2:23, both support this understanding. Thus this phrase means that God will initiate a renewed covenant relationship with Israel in the same place where He severed His covenant relationship with her (v. 9). When God renews this relationship, the Israelites will be called ’sons of the living God’ rather than ’not My people’ (1:10b).

The New Testament Context of the Quotation

Romans is ’Paul’s statement of his gospel.’ It is ’the power of God for salvation’ and is ’to the Jew first’ (1:16). In the opening sentence of this epistle Paul wrote that this gospel was ’promised beforehand . . . in the holy Scriptures,’ the same Scriptures that teach that the Jews are God’s chosen people. These facts raise questions about the gospel that Paul presented in Romans 1-8. How can he offer the gospel to all people if it is based on the Old Testament Scriptures, which give priority of place to the Jews? How can this gospel be true if Israel as a whole rejected it? How can this gospel go to the Gentiles if Israel does not first receive it? If God has not kept His promises to the Israelites concerning their salvation and election, how can Christians be assured He will keep His promises to them? In Romans 9-11 Paul addressed questions such as these.

Paul expressed grief over the present unbelief of Israel (9:1-3), pointed out their many privileges as God’s chosen people (vv. 4-5), and denied that Israel’s unbelief means that God’s promises (to Israel) have failed (v. 6a). Paul then demonstrated in verses 6b-29 that God, according to His sovereign purpose, operates on the principle of mercy and election. God never intended by His promises to Israel ’to guarantee salvation to every Israelite by birth.’ Spiritual Israel consists of an elect remnant within ethnic Israel. In Romans 9:30-10:21 Paul explained that the people of Israel have no one to blame but themselves for their unbelief, because the message of God’s righteousness in Christ was clearly heard by them. Then in chapter 11 Paul stated that ’Israel has not been totally or permanently rejected.’ The saved remnant is a fulfillment of God’s promises and a foreshadowing of the salvation of the nation (11:16). Paul concluded chapter 11 by emphasizing Israel’s importance in the present age, in which Gentiles are able to partake of Jewish covenantal blessings, and in the future, when God’s promises to Israel will be fully realized and ’all Israel will be saved’ (26).

In Romans 9:19-29, which describe God’s sovereign control in the work of salvation, He is likened to a potter, doing as he pleases with clay, in making some vessels for honor and some for destruction. Verses 22-23 support the potter illustration and answer the objections to God’s sovereignty raised in verses 19-20. Cranfield summarizes the meaning of verses 22-23 as follows:

God has endured a Pharaoh, and He now endures rebellious Israel, with much long-suffering for the sake of the manifestation of the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, and also for the sake of the revelation of His wrath . . . and of His [saving] power . . . since this twofold revelation is necessary for the achievement of His ultimate purpose of manifesting the riches of His glory.

God has sovereignly chosen the vessels of mercy, and He manifests His mercy and glory by transferring these chosen vessels from the realm of His wrath to the realm of His mercy.

Romans 9:24

Though the grammatical connection of Romans 9:24 with the preceding verses is not entirely clear, the thought connection is clear: in verses 24-29 Paul developed the concept ’vessels of mercy,’ which was introduced in verse 23 (and showed how ’vessels of destruction’ exist alongside ’vessels of mercy’). The point of verse 24 is that in this age God is effectually calling individuals to be recipients of His mercy not only from among the Jews but also from among the Gentiles. KŠsemann suggests that ’not only . . . but also’ in verse 24 corresponds to the ’not all’ in verse 6b, ’For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel.’ As he states, ’In place of the earlier restriction we now have an extension.’ Jews can no longer claim that the way into the people of God is through the Jewish community, nor can Gentiles claim that God has forever rejected the Jews. His chosen vessels are called ’out of’ both groups and God is now accomplishing His purpose in the church. The juxtaposition of ’us’ to the relative pronoun ’whom’ in verse 24 tightens Paul’s argument and shows that he and his readers are a part of this new group that comprises God’s foreordained ’vessels of mercy.’

The Meaning of the Hosea Quotations in Romans 9:25-26

The Introductory Formula

The two quotations from Hosea in Romans 9:25-26 are introduced by the phrase, ’As He says also in Hosea.’ The identification of these quotations with a human author, which is common in Romans 9-11 (cf. the reference to the Prophet Isaiah in Rom. 9:27-29) ’is probably designed to fix the place of citation.’ The multiplication of citations in verses 25-26, as in verses 27-29 and 15:9-12, emphasizes the truth being supported and the fact that these are indeed God’s words.

The particle wJ’, ’as,’ at the beginning of the introductory formula in Romans 9:25 denotes comparison in the New Testament. This suggests that the Hosea quotations in Romans 9:25-26 are an analogy or example of the previous statement.

However, several facts indicate that wJ’ does more than introduce a comparison or example in this passage. First, wJ’ introduces other Old Testament quotations in the New Testament that are more than mere examples of the point they are used to support (Mark 7:6; Luke 3:4; Acts 13:33). Instead they introduce the Old Testament texts as proof that the events being described happened in fulfillment of prophecy. Second, when Paul did refer occasionally to an Old Testament passage as an analogy of a New Testament truth, he normally quoted a nonpredictive portion of the Old Testament to teach a moral truth. By contrast these Hosea quotations are prophecies of eschatological blessing. Third, the quotations from Isaiah which follow in Romans 9:27-29 are more than analogy; these Old Testament prophecies support the fact that only a remnant of Jews is being saved. The context in Romans 9 is one of promise and fulfillment, not merely of illustration. Fourth, in verse 24 Paul stated that the truths of these quotations were being fulfilled in him and his generation (’us’). In other words the text that follows is an applied theological truth, not a comparison between events. Fifth, the use of kaqwv’ in verse 29 suggests that wJ’ in verse 25 is a variation of Paul’s more common kaqwv’ and that the quotations in verses 25-26 carry the same force as the one in verse 29, which must be more than analogy.

Are The Referents Jews or Gentiles?

Romans 9:25-26 Paul applied the two Hosea quotations to Gentiles (e[qnh, v. 24) instead of Israel to which they applied in Hosea. Clearly the quotations from Hosea and Isaiah in verses 25-29 support the statement in verse 24, ’not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.’ The quotations from Isaiah in verses 27-29 are applied to Israel (uJpeVr tou’ =Israhvl, v. 27), and therefore if verses 25-26 are not applied to the Gentiles, then there is no scriptural support for their being included in the ’objects of mercy.’ This would be surprising for at least two reasons. First, the new privilege and position of the Gentiles in God’s program is assumed in verse 30 (ou ) on the basis of the quotations in verses 25-29 from Hosea and Isaiah. The continuing argument concerning Jews and Gentiles in verse 30 would not make sense if, after mentioning both groups in verse 24, Paul had given Old Testament support only for the inclusion of Jews in God’s present-day program. Second, Gentile inclusion is a major point in Paul’s argument in Romans. It should be no surprise that some Jews are responding to the gospel; Jesus is the Jewish Messiah and this gospel was promised before in the Jewish Scriptures (1:2; 16:26). The question Paul was addressing in Romans 9-11 is, Why are all the Jews not receiving the gospel (9:6)? Part of the answer is that currently they, as a nation, have been removed from the place of covenant relationship with God and God is now grafting individual Gentiles along with individual Jews into covenant relationship with Himself, through faith in Christ. Since this was a new concept, Paul supported it by quoting the Old Testament.

In fact this new concept is the essence of the mystery he defined later in 11:25-26: a part of Israel has been hardened until the fullness of the Gentiles is saved and then all Israel will be saved. At that time Israel’s salvation will be accomplished by a direct confrontation with the Messiah (v. 26) and in fulfillment of God’s irrevocable covenant promises to Israel (vv. 27-29). In 9:25-26 Paul began to explain this mystery of God’s grafting individual Gentiles into His covenant program along with individual Jews during this age by garnering support from Hosea. The apostle applied the truth of the Hosea passages to referents whom Hosea would not have had in mind originally but whom God intended to play a major role in this mystery, namely, the Gentiles.

Such a change of referent is not uncommon in the New Testament’s use of the Old Testament. Sometimes Old Testament passages referring to Gentiles are applied in the New Testament to Jews who opposed God’s people (Acts 4:25-26; Rom. 11:9-10), and some passages referring to God’s people, Israel, in the Old Testament are applied to the New Testament people of God (1 Pet. 2:10). This is true, of course, because of the typological and prophetic nature of the Old Testament and because of God’s developing and changing covenant relationships with Israel and with the Gentiles in the outworking of His eternal plan.

Paul applied Hosea 1:10 and 2:23 to Gentiles in Romans 9:25-26 because of his insight into the mystery described in Romans 11:25-26 (cf. the similar mystery content in Eph. 3:5-6). The order of salvation in Romans 11 (Gentiles, then Jews), the equal access and position in God’s program for believing Jews and Gentiles (11:16-24), the temporary hardening of Israel until the fullness of Gentiles is saved, and the subsequent salvation of national Israel are all part of mysteries revealed in Paul’s writings, especially in Romans 11. If the mystery in Romans 16:25-26 refers to the same truths (which the context seems to support), then the description of the mystery in Romans 16 is instructive for understanding Paul’s insight into Hosea and his application of it in Romans 9. This mystery kept secret from all previous ages is manifested and is being made known through the prophetic Scriptures. Apparently subsequent revelation revealed greater meaning and application for the Scriptures than previous generations found (cf. 1 Pet. 1:10-12). That is the case with Hosea 2:23 and 1:10, and such Scriptures are now being used to proclaim these mysteries (cf. Rom. 16:25-26 and 1:2).

Therefore it is best to understand the Old Testament quotations in Romans 9:25-29 as confirming the fact that God is calling His ’vessels of mercy’ not only out of the Jews but also out of the Gentiles. The calling of Gentiles is supported by the Hosea quotations in Romans 9:25b-26, and support for the calling of Jews is stated in the Isaiah quotations in verses 27-30. This interpretation observes a chiastic order in Paul’s argument in these verses and relates the discussion to the key problem Paul was addressing in verse 6.

The Quotation of Hosea 2:23 in Romans 9:25

In quoting Hosea 2:23 in Romans 9:25 Paul differed from the Septuagint in three ways. First, he reversed the lines of Hosea 2:23 to emphasize the ’people of God.’ Second, he changed ’I will say’ (ejrw’) to ’I will call’ (kalevsw). This effectual call of God is a key idea in Romans and links verses 24, 25, and 26. Third, Paul’s citation has ’beloved’ (hjgaphmevnhn) rather than ’received mercy’ (hjlehmevnhn). Since ’the people of God’ and ’God’s call’ are crucial to Paul’s emphasis in his quotation, he adapted the text in these ways to emphasize them. The verb ’to call’ (kalevw) is used five times in Romans 9 to describe God summoning people to salvation. The verb’s emphasis on God’s sovereignty makes it appropriate in this context.

The phrase ’people of God’ (laoV’ tou’ qeou’) or ’people’ (laov’), which is used in the Hosea quotations, is a common description in the New Testament of the believing community composed of both Jews and Gentiles. It indicates election, covenant status, holiness, and redemption. The last line of the quotation from Hosea 2:23, ’I will call her my loved one who is not my loved one’ (author’s translation), refers primarily in Romans 9:25 to God’s love for Gentiles in Christ, which was demonstrated in His death (5:8). The supreme expression of Christ’s love and the basis for the eternal security of one’s relationship with Him is His blood which ratified the New Covenant (Matt. 26:28; 1 Cor. 11:25; cf. Heb. 9:20).

Therefore Paul used Hosea 2:23 to show that Gentiles who previously had no covenant relationship with God are now, through faith, His elect, covenant people. The effective call and love of God has made them such; they now exist in a special relationship with God as recipients of His love.

The Quotation of Hosea 1:10 in Romans 9:25

Though Romans 9:24-26 is connected by the repetition of kalevw, which emphasizes God’s sovereign and effectual call of believing Gentiles, the key concept that connects the Hosea quotations in verses 25b and 26 is ’the people of God.’

While the second quotation from Hosea in Romans 9:26 supports the first one, it makes two important additions. It adds the thought that God will call Gentiles (who were ’not My people’) to be His people in the very place where they formerly had no relationship with Him. Morris suggests that this phrase means, ’It is not the situation that prevails, but the divine call.’ In other words the emphasis is on God’s divine purpose; He calls whomever He desires in whatever situation He wishes. However, Morris’s explanation of the text may not be as specific as the context suggests. Paul’s missionary endeavors and his future goals (15:23-33) suggest that for him and his ministry this verse means that Gentiles may now be called to be ’God’s people’ in their native lands without the intermediate priesthood of Israel. This same truth is suggested in 15:8-12 and 16:26. They certainly ’need not leave their own country and come to Judea.’

The second new idea the quotation from Hosea 1:10 in Romans 9:26 adds to the previous quotation from Hosea is the description of the present-day people of God as ’sons of the living God.’ In 9:4 Paul listed ’adoption as sons’ (uiJoqesiva) as one of the great privileges of Israel. This special privilege of Israel (Exod. 4:22-23; 2 Sam. 7:14; Hos. 1:10) receives a deepened significance in its application to the New Testament church. In both Testaments it signifies people who have a covenant relationship with God. For believers in Christ in this age sonship is the result of Christ’s work of reconciliation and redemption; it means that the believer is no longer under the Law (Gal. 4:1-5). Furthermore, it is closely connected with the work of the Holy Spirit, who is called the ’Spirit of adoption’ (Rom. 8:15) and who witnesses to believers of their adoption (8:16).

One of the benefits of the New Covenant, as prophesied in the Old Testament (Ezek. 36:26) and experienced in the New Testament (Acts 2; Gal. 3:16), is the presence of the Spirit of God in individual believers. All believers in this age have the Spirit of Christ (Rom. 8:9), and their sonship will be fully manifested when they are glorified with Christ (8:17-19). Thus sonship is one aspect of being in Christ; it involves participation in the inauguration of New Covenant blessings including the personal indwelling of the Spirit, which believers in Christ enjoy in this age. However, as Ryrie explains, though this adoption ’happened when we believed and became part of the family of God (Rom. 8:15), yet it awaits its full realization until we receive resurrection bodies (Rom. 8:23).’ That is why the Spirit is the ’earnest’ or ’pledge of our inheritance’ (Eph. 1:14).

The quotations from Hosea in Romans 9:25-26 argue that God’s receiving Gentiles as His covenant people is consistent with what the Old Testament prophesied concerning His dealings with the northern kingdom of Israel. If He could call Israel who had broken her covenant relations with Him to be His people once again, he could call into covenant relationship Gentiles who had never been His people before. This ’transfer’ principle is key to understanding the text. What Hosea could say of unfaithful, unbelieving Israel, Paul could say of Gentiles. Paul applied to Gentile participants in the New Covenant, Old Testament passages that prophesied of Israel’s future restoration and participation in that same New Covenant. The participation of believers in New Covenant blessings in Christ (2 Cor. 3-4) was what Paul announced as a ’mystery.’ However, this inaugural state of New Covenant blessing is not all there is; Romans 11, especially verses 25-27, emphasizes there is more to come. But for now believing Gentiles through faith in Christ share spiritual blessings with believing Jews (Rom. 15:27).

Paul’s Appropriation of the Hosea Passages

Concerning the quotations from Hosea in Romans 9:25-26 Bengel suggests that God’s dealings with Israel were a ’prophetic type of his future dealings with men.’ Such a typological-prophetic association includes four components.

1. The Old Testament type must be based on ’historical facts--persons, actions, events and institutions,’ not on hidden meanings supposedly in the passage.

2. The link between the type and the antitype must be identifiable in Scripture.

3. A pattern or correspondence must exist between the Old Testament type and the New Testament antitype.

4. There must be an escalation or heightening from the Old Testament type to the greater New Testament antitype.

Typology is distinguished from analogy by the fact that analogy involves a less distinct pattern and the absence of both escalation and a prophetic element. Typology is differentiated from direct prophecy by the fact that in the latter the text looks exclusively to a single future event or figure, while with typology the Old Testament passage ’looks to a pattern within events that is to culminate in a final fulfillment in light of the passages and the Old Testament’s context of hope and deliverance.’ In typology the Old Testament facts provide principles and a picture for understanding God’s greater redemptive work in the New Testament. The correspondence between the type and antitype demonstrates the continuity of God’s work of salvation, while the escalation indicates progression and advancement.

The following sentences relate the passage under consideration to the four components referred to above. The Old Testament type in Hosea 1 and 2 is based on historical facts and principles, not hidden meanings. Paul identified a link between the type (Hos. 2:23 and 1:10) and the antitype (Rom. 9:25-26). Correspondence between the Old Testament type and New Testament antitype have been demonstrated by Paul’s use of the terms ’call,’ ’people of God,’ ’beloved,’ ’sons of God,’ and ’place . . . where.’ What remains is to demonstrate the escalation of Old Testament prophecy to a greater New Testament antitype.

Hosea 2:23 and 1:10 and Romans 9:25-26 both refer to people with no covenant relationship with God who are made His covenant people by participation in the New Covenant. Hosea prophesied that in His mercy God will restore Israel to a covenant relationship with Him; in Romans Paul wrote that God calls individual Jews and Gentiles into a covenant relationship with Him through faith in Jesus, the Jewish Messiah and Lord of the universe (9:5). Paul quoted the Hosea passages to support God’s merciful calling of predestined vessels of mercy from Gentiles; he then quoted Isaiah 10:22-23 and 1:9 (in Rom. 9:27-29) to support the fact that some vessels are also called from Israel (’the Jews,’ v. 24). In identifying all these vessels as ’us’ (hJma’’) Paul pointed out that he and his readers were in some sense a fulfillment of these prophecies. This fulfillment is taking place on a worldwide scale (’in a place where . . . there,’ v. 26); it is something greater in proportion than Hosea foresaw.

The Isaiah prophecies quoted in Romans 9:27-29, 33 are also applied respectively to Israel and Christ by a typological-prophetic hermeneutic. Isaiah 10:22-23 speaks of a remnant of Jews that will survive the Assyrian captivity and return to the land of Israel, and Isaiah 1:9 states that Judea would have been totally devastated unless the Lord had left some descendants. In Romans these verses are applied to the spiritual remnant that God in His mercy is calling out of Israel to be part of His ’vessels of mercy.’ And in Romans 9:33 Paul applied Isaiah 8:14 and 28:16 to Christ, verses that refer respectively to Yahweh and the Davidic monarchy. Therefore the use of the Old Testament in the immediate context suggests a typological-prophetic application of the Old Testament in Romans 9:25-26 and the meaning of verse 24 requires it. God is doing a new work, calling a new people out of Jews and Gentiles, and the Hosea passages support this calling of Gentiles by showing that it fulfills the pattern God established in His prophecies concerning Israel in Hosea. He can ’make people out of formerly nonpeople.’ Insofar as the church presently participates in the New Covenant promises, described in Hosea 1-2, these Hosea prophecies are being initially fulfilled in her. A further question about the typological-prophetic application of the Hosea texts in Romans 9:25-26 is whether these Old Testament passages have a future fulfillment for the nation of Israel.

Do Hosea 2:23 and 1:10 Relate to Israel’s Future?

Several factors indicate that Hosea 2:23 and 1:10 do point to a future fulfillment for Israel. An initial fulfillment of these passages in the church does not eliminate the final and complete fulfillment in the future for Israel. First, the details of Hosea 1 and 2 show that these prophecies are not completely fulfilled in the church. The church does not realize the national and geographical promises made to Israel. Second, many other Old Testament passages, along with these Hosea verses, speak of Israel’s future restoration to the land of Palestine (Isa. 11:1-12; Jer. 31:10; 32:37, 42; Ezek. 37:21-28), their eternal inheritance of the land (Gen. 17:7-8; cf. 12:7; 13:15, 17; 15:18-21), and their spiritual restoration to God and participation in the New Covenant (Isa. 59:20-21; Jer. 31:31-34; 32:27-40; Ezek. 16:60-63; 37:21-28). Third, if Hosea 1-2 does not have some future application to ethnic Israel it could not have given any support to Paul’s argument in Romans. Here the phrase ’in the place where . . . there’ is especially important. Fourth, such a pattern of present and yet future fulfillment is common in Scripture. Fifth, the argument of Romans supports the future application of Hosea 1-2 to national Israel. Paul argued in Romans that in this age individual Gentiles are unnatural branches grafted into God’s covenant program (chap. 11). The covenant promises still belong to Israel (9:4), but Gentiles are able to share in Israel’s spiritual blessings (15:27). Furthermore, Romans 15:8 emphasizes that Christ became a servant to the Jews, on behalf of God’s truth or faithfulness, to confirm the promises made to the Jewish patriarchs. Paul stated that another purpose for Christ’s coming is that Gentiles may now experience God’s mercy (15:9). This passage distinguishes between Jews and Gentiles and points up Christ’s confirmation of God’s faithfulness to the patriarchal promises.

Ethnic Israel, which Paul defined as ’my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh’ (9:3; cf. 11:1), is a group distinct from the Gentiles. Ethnic Israel will be grafted back into a special place of blessing in God’s covenant program (11:17-24) and in the future will be saved in fulfillment of God’s covenant with them (vv. 25-27).

Who then are the people of God in this age? According to Romans, in the Church Age God’s people are believers, both Jews and Gentiles, who have individually experienced God’s effectual call to salvation in Jesus, the Jewish Messiah and the Lord of all (Rom. 9:5). They have been grafted into God’s covenant program and through Christ they participate in the initial manifestations of the spiritual blessings of God’s covenants. They partake of the spiritual blessings God promised to the Jews (15:8, 27) and yet they do not take the place of ethnic Israel in God’s program. Various aspects of the believers’ experience, such as their election, redemption, and covenant participation are parallel to those of ethnic Israel, and yet there is no ethnic or national limitation on membership in the church. Present-day believers are predominantly Gentile in ethnic background, and it is their salvation which will provoke ethnic Israel to envy when they are again grafted back as a nation into God’s covenant program. Then all Israel will finally be saved.

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