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Israel and the Church

In a previous article we pointed to the many names and descriptions used in Scripture that show that the church and Israel are identical. The church is "Mount Sion," the "city of God," the "heavenly Jerusalem" (Heb. 12:22-24; Rev. 21:9-10ff), the "holy nation" (I Pet. 2:9), the "vine" (Jn. 15:1-6 and Ps. 80), the "bride of God" (Ezek. 16, Eph. 5:32, Rev. 21:9-10). She is everything Israel was in the OT.

This identity of church and Israel is further confirmed by the fact that Israel is called the "church," i.e., "the church in the wilderness," in Acts 7:38. So too, the church is referred to as the Israel of the NT (in Rom. 9:27 where we are reading of those who are "called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles," and in Gal. 6:16).

Along the same lines the elect of God out of every nation are identified as the true Israel, the true Jews (Rom. 2:28, 29; 9:28; Gal. 3:29; Phil. 3:3). Indeed, the prophecies of Scripture that seem to refer to national Israel are spiritualized and applied to the church in the NT (compare Hos. 1:10 and with its fulfillment in Rom. 9:24-26 and Amos 9:11-15 with Acts 15:13-17).

This is of critical importance as far as the doctrine of the church is concerned. Only in this light is the OT, with its history, its warnings and its promises for the church. If it concerns a people who are not identical with the church then the OT has nothing to say to us today. The OT then can only be a matter of curiosity to us in the NT.

Think about it! Those NT Christians who believe that Israel and the church are two different groups cannot and do not do justice to the OT in their preaching and teaching. The OT is not for them. But if Israel and the church are one and the same, then the history of the OT must be preached as the church's history, and the promises and warnings in the OT as being addressed to the church. Have you ever heard it so preached?

This unity of Israel and the church is also foundational to an understanding of baptism, part of the doctrine of the church. It is the identity of covenants, promises, and of Israel and the church that lies at the root of the Biblical teaching regarding infant baptism. One must differentiate the OT and NT, their covenants and promises, and thereby differentiate between Israel and the church, in order to maintain "believer's baptism."

To understand this, however, it is necessary to remember that in the truest sense of the word only the elect are ever really called either "Israel" (Prince of God), or "Church" ("called out"). The rest are not really Israel (Rom. 2:28-29 and 9:6-8). They have the name only because of the fact that they are outwardly identified with the people of God by their natural birth.

Natural birth does not make a true Jew, nor a member of the church, as John said, "God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham" (Matt. 3:9). One must be born of the promise - born of God - to be a true Israelite, and of stones, both of Jew and Gentile, by the power of the promise, God has raised up a spiritual seed of Abraham.

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Additional Info

  • Volume: 5
  • Issue: 26
Hanko, Ronald

Rev. Ronald Hanko (Wife: Nancy)

Ordained: November 1979

Pastorates: Wyckoff, NJ - 1979; Trinity, Houston, TX - 1986; Missionary to N.Ireland - 1993; Lynden, WA - 2002; Emeritus October 15, 2017

Website: www.lyndenprc.org/sermons/

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    13823 Clear Lake Rd.
  • City
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  • State or Province
    WA
  • Zip Code
    99022
  • Country
    United States
  • Mobile
    360-527-6633

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