The nation of Israel continues to have a place in God’s future plan. The church currently exists as the believing remnant of Israelites with believing Gentiles in-placed within that assembly. Israelites and Gentiles are essentially one body while still maintaining their ethnic distinctions. They come together as one in spite of the fact that they can be as different as night and day. This is due to the work of Jesus Christ on the cross.
However, there are some that teach that because of this unity, that there can be no future for the physical nation of Israel. They teach that the church has superseded all the plans that God had for the nation of Israel in the Old Testament, or under the old covenant. They surmise that those who would believe in a future millennial kingdom here on earth with Israel as the centerpiece just have it wrong. In this post, I intend to demonstrate that those who use these scriptures on unity within the body of the Messiah to try to state that God is done with the physical nation of Israel are stretching these scriptures beyond what they really say.
Galatians 3:26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.
This passage is describing the relationship that a believer has with the LORD as opposed to a previous time when that same believer did not have that present relationship. In context, the passage states that before faith, when living in relationship with God according to the law, someone can be considered like a tutor with the law as guardian trying to discipline them to understand their sinfulness. After faith, they no longer have need of that same guardian to discipline them to understand their sinfulness since they accept it by faith. They move from tutor to adopted Son of God. In the passage following, it likens believers unto sons again, but in this instance comparing the time previous to faith like a child growing up with servants. Until the child comes into their inheritance, there is no practical difference between the child and a household servant. The child must obey all things that the Father sets down just like the servants do. It is only when the child comes into his inheritance that it elevates his status from being just like any other household slave to being a Son of God.
Now, once any believer comes into that relationship with God because He has adopted them, it matters not if they are Jew, Greek, slave, free, male, or female because they are all children of God. They do not need to have a relationship with anyone else because they are direct children of the heavenly Father. A woman does not need to go through her husband. A slave does not need to go through his master. A Gentile does not have to go to the local synagogue. Most importantly, no one needs to go through the law any longer because they are God’s children by faith.
Does this mean that once God adopts that person as His own that they lose their earthly identity? Do females stop being females? Do slaves stop being slaves? Do Jews stop being Jews? You can see that this type of thinking is foolish. Of course men and women retain their sexual identity, that being a gift from God. God has a good many things to say to men and women under the New Covenant, Ephesians 5:22-33, I Timothy 2:8-15. Slaves and masters continue to function in their respective vocational roles and have specific instructions on how to behave as they continue in those roles, Colossian 3:22-4:1. Jews and Gentiles also have unique places in the body of Christ, Romans 3:1-2. The teaching in this passage is that there is a unity in the body of Christ in the midst of those differences, not that those differences no longer exist. There is no salvation preference because each believer, regardless of social status, sex, or nationality, has their own personal relationship with the heavenly Father.
I would draw attention to one more point on this passage. Becoming one of Christ’s means becoming a child of Abraham. This is not the same as becoming an Israelite. Abraham was a pagan Gentile who learned to walk by faith. His grandson was Israel. Israel didn’t exist at the time that God called Abraham to walk before Him blamelessly, Genesis 17:1. Because of Abraham’s faith, God promised that He would make him the father of many nations, not just the father of one nation, Genesis 17:4-6. So rather than look at Abraham as the father of Israel, we need to view Abraham as the father of all who believe, an exalted father of many nations. Previously in the same book, Paul explained that this was because God foresaw that He would justify the Gentiles by faith, Galatians 3:7-9. Also remember that Paul points out that Abraham received the righteousness that comes by faith long before he received the covenant of circumcision, Romans 4:9-12. This reaffirms the point that Abraham received his righteousness directly from God and not through any type of action to identify him as an Israelite in any way. Again Paul points out that Gentile salvation by faith fulfills the promise that Abraham would be the father of many nations, Romans 4:16-18. If the church were the new Israel, why the emphasis on many nations as Gentiles are included rather than on one new nation?
Colossian 3:9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all 12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
For this passage, the same basic principles that we saw above apply here as well. The subject matter is the new identity of bearing the image of our Creator as opposed to the long list of faults that appear just before these verses. Now we are new creations after the pattern of God Himself. Regardless of all these categories, each of us is in the direct image of God. So there is no need to divide Christians up into categories such as slave Christians and free Christians, or Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians, since we all bear the same image. The implications of that should spill over into our daily lives as we forgive other Christians regardless of their social status, education, or nationality.
Does this passage mean that there is no longer a physical nation of Israel? Does this passage mean that the church has eclipsed the nation of Israel? Does this mean that all those old testament (old covenant) passages now must be read that Israel is the church? This passage says none of those things. Those who want to take this passage to that level are stretching the passage to say something that it was never meant to say.
Here may be the most compelling case for believing that the nation of Israel was altered at the crucifixion to be a new Israel consisting of both believing Israelites and Gentiles. In 2:11, Paul directs his comments at Gentiles calling to mind their former estate as being separated from the Messiah, Israel, and the covenants. But now through the blood of Christ, those who were once far off have been brought near. What is eliminated here is the law of commandments. Because the law of commandments has been eliminated, now out of two, He has created one new man. At first glance, perhaps Covenant Theologians have proved their point.
Let’s examine closer. If you notice, there are two groups that Paul is speaking of. The Gentiles are obvious, but look at the description. They are described as being formerly afar off. Jews on the other hand, were near. Both groups were presented the message of peace, those who were far off and those who were near, Ephesians 2:17. So when we read that the middle wall of partition was broken down, what we have is Jews who are near, and Gentiles on the outside of this middle wall of partition. The wall comes down and the believing Gentiles are allowed to come in to that near place where the Jews are. The fundamental nature of Israel has not changed, only the way in which Gentiles relate to the nation of Israel. If you notice, that’s what the passage is really about. Before, Gentiles were separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenant plan of God. Now, these believing Gentiles are joined to the Israelite Messiah, they are benefactors of the commonwealth of Israel, and they are participants in God’s covenant plan with the nation of Israel. The foundation that these Gentiles are built upon consists of the apostles and the prophets, remembering that the apostles are the leaders of the true Israel destined to sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
If you notice, this agrees with what the Apostle Paul writes in Romans 11 concerning the way believing Gentiles relate to the nation of Israel. They are grafted in to the holy olive tree as wild branches who now partake of the life of that tree. The nature of the tree did not change, only the relationship between the wild branches which are grafted in and the life that the trunk now gives them. Paul continues in Ephesians 3 by acknowledging what a mystery it is that Gentiles are able to participate in these blessings that God promised to the nation of Israel. Those who take this passage and apply it in such a way as to say that those promises to the physical nation of Israel have no application any longer are stretching this passage beyond the intent of the Apostle Paul.
Those who understand this point are able to tune into Paul’s thoughts in Romans 15:25-27 quite keenly. This offering for the poor saints in Jerusalem (note that they were Israelites, Acts 24:17) is explained from the opposite view in II Corinthians 8-9. There we see the plea from Paul toward the Gentiles to give to these Israelite brothers in need. In this passage in Romans, we see that it was from the Israelites that all the spiritual blessings had flowed unto the Gentiles. Now in response, the Gentiles are causing physical blessings to flow unto the Israelites. I think it is fitting that Paul left this detail toward the end of this epistle after he has described in depth the relationship between believing Gentiles and the believing remnant of Israelites.
There is unity between Gentile Christians and Israelite Christians. There are not two separate churches. Because we are all a part of Messiah’s body, we are all one in Christ. But this unity does not erase all the promises that we have studied about in Jeremiah’s Covenant Revelation. These promises will still be fulfilled to the physical nation of Israel. These new testament passages do not override the OT passages, but rather they compliment them, more fully revealing what the future of the nation of Israel will be like.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman