Articles

The Israel of God (1d)

The Israel of God - Part 1, #4

by Rev.M.McGeown, missionary-pastor in Limerick, Ireland

Whatever God may have promised the Jews in the Old Testament  He did not (emphatically He did not) promise that to the reprobate, unbelieving majority of Israel, the "of Israel," but only to the elect, and if a person can legitimately claim to be a Jew, an Israelite, an Israelite indeed, a child of Abraham, as all believing Christians can do, as we have seen, he or she can legitimately claim all the promises of God. And we do! No promises were ever made to the reprobate carnal seed; and therefore that reprobate carnal seed have no right to expect any blessings from God. 

But, does this mean that God has finished with the Jews, those whose ethnicity is Jewish? No. Romans 11 teaches that throughout the New Testament age God is gathering a remnant of elect, believing Jews. Paul himself is proof of this (v. 1). God's decree of election and reprobation is being worked out among the Jews: "there is a remnant according to the election of grace" (v. 5); "the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded" (v. 7). Throughout the New Testament age elect Jews and elect Gentiles are engrafted into the organism of God, which is fundamentally Christ Himself (see John 15:1ff). Paul explains God's way with the physical descendants of Israel this way: "blindness [or sovereign hardening] in part is happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in and so all Israel shall be saved" (vv. 25-26). This does not mean that after the Gentiles have been gathered God will return to His "programme with the Jews" (which supposedly has been postponed for some 2,000 years already) but that in the way of gathering the elect Gentiles and (at the same time) a remnant from the Jews "all Israel shall be saved." The word "so" in verse 26 does not mean "then." Romans 11 says nothing about a reconstituted Jewish state, a rebuilt temple or a mass conversion of ethnic Jews just prior to the Second Coming. Believing Jews and Gentiles together make up the church of Jesus Christ throughout the New Testament age. There is not, and there never shall be, another way of salvation. 

In Romans 4 Paul teaches that the uncircumcision (a term used for the Gentiles) are the children of Abraham through faith in Jesus Christ. Abraham is "the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised" (v. 11). In fact, Paul repudiates the notion that those who are of the law (those who rely on law obedience to be saved, i.e., unbelieving Jews) are the heirs of the promise: "if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect ... therefore it is of faith that it might be by grace to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed, not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all" (vv. 14, 16). So, we, the Christians who believe in Jesus Christ, are the children of Abraham. We, not the unbelieving, Christ-rejecting, ethnic Jews, can legitimately claim Abraham as our father, and with him we can claim all the promises made to him (including inheriting the world, v. 13). 

Next we turn to the epistle to the Galatians. In Galatians 3, having proved that Abraham was justified through faith in exactly the same way as believers in all ages, Paul declares, "Know ye therefore that they which are of faith the same are the children of Abraham ... so then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham" (vv. 7, 9). On the other hand, the unbelieving Jews and Judaizers (and all those today, whether Jew or Gentile, who teach and believe in justification by works) are under the curse (v. 10), from which curse Christ has redeemed us (v. 13). Thus, "the blessing of Abraham [has come] on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ: that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith" (v. 14). 

Verse 16 is pivotal. To whom was the promise of Abraham made and what was the promise? Consider these texts: "unto thy seed will I give this land" (Gen. 12:7); "all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed forever" (Gen. 13:15); "unto thy seed have I given this land" (Gen. 15:18); "and I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee and to thy seed after thee. And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God" (Gen. 17:7-8) and "in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice." 

Did you notice the recurring word "seed" and the fact that "seed" is singular, not plural? Modern translations of the Bible have obscured this truth by translating seed as descendants. The fact that God makes promises to Abraham's "seed" is highly significant. It identifies for us the ones to whom God's promises are made.

Last modified on 16 March 2014
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McGeown, Martyn

Rev. Martyn McGeown

Ordained: 2010

Pastorates: Missionary-pastor in Limerick, Ireland for the Covenant Protestant Reformed Church of Northern Ireland - 2010.

Website: www.limerickreformed.com/

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