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The Israel of God (1b)

The Israel of God - Part 1, #2

In the first century AD the people of Israel had become carnal, unbelieving and self righteous. John the Baptist and Jesus encountered a people proud of their ethnic heritage who had to be shaken out of their security and called to repentance. John said to the Israelites: "And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham" (Matt. 3:9). Ethnic Jewishness was no indication of salvation or participation in the kingdom of God. Jesus is even more explicit: "If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham ... Ye are of your father the devil" (John 8:39, 44). Jesus even said to fruitless Israel, "the kingdom of God shall be taken from you and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof" (Matt. 21:43).  Therefore, both John the Baptist and Jesus Christ, neither of whom were anti-Semitic, teach that to be a physical descendant of Abraham does not make one a true child of Abraham or a true Jew. "Jewishness" is a spiritual concept. 

Paul, another who is no anti-Semite and who is apostle to the Gentiles, makes the same kinds of assertions. 

Romans 2:28-29: "He is not a Jew which is one outwardly, neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh, but he is a Jew which is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter, whose praise is not of men, but of God."

(This means that a man living in Jerusalem today, a distinguished Rabbi who can trace his line back to Benjamin himself, but who rejects Jesus Christ, is not a Jew; whereas a Christian, who believes in Jesus Christ, but who has no Jewish heritage whatsoever, is a Jew. Reader, whatever nationality or ethnicity you have, you who believe in Jesus Christ are a Jew!).

In Romans 9, Paul addresses the question: If God promised to save Israel, and if salvation is found only in Christ, why have so many Israelites stumbled at the Gospel and perished? Paul's response is to clarify or define the meaning of Israel.  "Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect, for they are not all Israel which are of Israel. Neither because they are the seed of Abraham are they all children, but in Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, they which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed" (Rom. 9:6-8). 

(Do you see what Paul is teaching here? There are two kinds of people. First, there are the "of Israel." These belong in an external sense to the family of Abraham, to his descendants and to the nation of Israel. Second, there are the "Israel." These are the elect, the chosen of God, the ones to whom God promises and gives salvation. The ones who are merely "of Israel" do not belong to Israel. They are not Israel, writes Paul. In other words, none of the reprobate in Israel were Israel; they were not counted for the seed; and they were not Jews. And the same is true in every age. The reprobate “Jewish” rabbis living in Jerusalem today are not Israel, not the children of God, not Jews).

In Philippians 3:2-3, Paul writes, "Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision."  By these terms, the Apostle means the unbelieving Jewish heretics who taught that salvation depends on being circumcised and keeping the law of Moses. Paul does not call them "Jews." He calls them the "concision." The word concision is a play on words on the word circumcision. It means mutilation! Paul continues in v. 3, "for we are the circumcision." The pronoun "we" refers to all believers in Jesus Christ, and, in the context of Philippi, refers to Gentile believers in Jesus Christ. "We are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh." Thus, unbelieving "Jews" are really mutilators of the flesh; and believing Christians, of whatever ethnic origin, are  Jews! Are unbelieving Jews, living in the modern state of Israel, any different from the evil workers and concision mentioned here in Philippians 3? In fact, we can broaden the application of these words: all who teach salvation by works, of whatever religion or church, are dogs, evil workers and the concision; and all who embrace salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone are the true circumcision, true Jews, true Israelites, truly Israel!  Is that offensive? That is the Word of God!                                                                                                …. to be continued (DV).

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.


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