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THE ISRAEL OF GOD

Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. —  May 9, 2014 — 4 Comments
Israel of God

Israel of GodThis is the second in a short series on Israel in the Bible. This is being written against the backdrop of populistic dispensationalism. Israel has an important role in the Bible. But that role is confused by many evangelical Christians. And when you confuse such a large portion of Scripture, you have a serious problem on your hands.

In the last article I pointed out the centrality of Israel to dispensationalism. Let us continue our study of this matter

Old covenant Israel is continuous with the new covenant church, which is the fruition of Israel. Or as the Westminster Confession of Faith expresses it, Israel is “a church under age” (WCF 19:3). Quite appropriately, then, New Testament Christians may even call Abraham “our father” (Ro 4:16) and the old covenant people our “fathers” (1Co 10:1), clearly evincing a spiritual genealogical relation.

Employing another figure, Paul says we are grafted into Israel (Ro 11:16–19) so that we become one with her, partaking of her promises (Eph 2:11–20). Jesus teaches that Gentiles are other sheep which must be brought in to make “one flock” (Jn 10:16). In fact, the Lord appoints twelve apostles to be the spiritual seed of a New Israel, taking over for old covenant Israel’s twelve sons. John incorporates the names of the twelve tribes (representing the old covenant community) and the twelve apostles (representing the new covenant people) into the New Jerusalem (Rev 21:12, 14).


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by E. J. Young
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Dispensationalists strongly object, asserting that “the Scriptures never use the term Israel to refer to any but the natural descendants of Jacob.” Nevertheless, Scripture applies old covenant terms to new covenant citizens: we are the “seed of Abraham” (Ro 4:13–17; Gal 3:6–9, 29), “the circumcision”(Ro 2:28–29; Php 3:3; Col 2:11), “a royal priesthood,” (Ro 15:16; 1Pe 2:9; Rev 1:6; 5:10; cp. Ex 19:6), “twelve tribes” (Jas 1:1), “diaspora” (1Pe 1:1), the “temple of God”(1Co 3:16–17; 6:19; 2Co 1:16; Eph 2:21). These terms clearly reflect Israel’s covenantal identity.

The Jews’ descent from Abraham was a source of great Jewish pride and circumcision was the Jew’s distinguishing covenantal mark. Yet the New Testament applies these images to Christians. Peter designates Christians as “stones” building up a “spiritual house” (1Pe 2:5–9). But he does more: he draws upon several Old Testament designations of Israel and applies them to the church. He calls Christians: “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation” (1Pe 2:9–10; Ex 19:5–6; Dt 7:6). He and Paul call Christians “a peculiar people” (1Pe 2:10; Tit 2:14), which is a familiar Old Testament designation for Israel (Ex 19:5; Dt 14:2; 26:18; Ps 135:4).

If Abraham can have Gentiles as his “spiritual seed,” why may we not envision a spiritual Israel? In fact, Paul applies the name “Israel” to Christians: “And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God” (Gal 6:16). The “and [kai]” preceding “Israel of God,” is probably epexegetical, so that we should translate the passage: “mercy upon them, that is, upon the Israel of God.” Dispensationalists see Galatians 6:16 applying to Jewish converts to Christ, “who would not oppose the apostle’s glorious message of salvation.” But such is surely not the case, for the following reasons.

Galatians’ entire context opposes any claim to a special Jewish status or distinction: “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 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” (Gal 3:26–28). In the new covenant Christ does away with all racial distinctions. Why would Paul hold out a special word for Jewish Christians (“the Israel of God”), when he states immediately beforehand that we must not boast at all, save in the cross of Christ (Gal 6:14)? After all, “in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation” (Gal 6:15).

Paul explains this “new creation” in detail in Ephesians 2:10–22, where God merges Jew and Gentile into one body, the church:

But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. (Eph 2:13–16)

Dispensationalism demands two groups and repairs Paul’s broken down barrier by making of the one new man, two.


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Sub-title: Distinguishing Chemical Imbalances, Brain Disorders, and Disobedience
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Depression, Attention Deficit Disorder, Alcoholism, Homosexuality.
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See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com


As Poythress points out, the church is not a “straight-line” continuation of Israel. It fulfills Israel through Christ. All God’s promises are “yea” and “amen” in Christ (2Co 1:20). Since we are all the sons of Abraham through Christ (Gal 3:29), we receive God’s full blessings through him (Ro 8:17; Eph 1:23; Col 2:10).

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Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

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Ken is a Presbyterian pastor and the author or co-author of over thirty books, most on eschatology. He has been married since 1971, and has three children and several grandchildren. He is a graduate of Tennessee Temple University (B.A., 1973), Reformed Theological Seminary (M.Div., 1977), and Whitefield Theological Seminary (Th.M., 1986; Th.D., 1988). He currently pastors Living Hope Presbyterian Church (affiliated with the RPCGA) in Greer, SC. Much of his writing is in the field of eschatology, including his 600 page book, He Shall Have Dominion: A Postmillennial Eschatology and his 400 page, Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation (his Th.D. dissertation). He contributed chapters to two Zondervan CounterPoints books on eschatological issues: Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond (edited by Darrell L. Bock) and Four Views on the Book of Revelation (edited by C. Marvin Pate). He also debated Thomas D. Ice in Kregel's The Great Tribulation: Past or Future? His books have been published by American Vision, Baker, Zondervan, Kregel, P & R, Greenhaven Press, Nordskog, Wipf & Stock, and several other publishers. He has published scores of articles in such publications as Tabletalk, Westminster Theological Journal, Evangelical Theological Society Journal, Banner of Truth, Christianity Today, Antithesis, Contra Mundum, and others. He has spoken at over 100 conferences in America, the Caribbean, and Australia. He is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and a Church Council Committee member of Coalition on Revival.

4 responses to THE ISRAEL OF GOD

  1. Ioannis Kalos May 12, 2014 at 6:30

    Well said and agreed that there are not a special chosen people anymore except those that are in Christ. I have always maintained and never deviated from refraining to call any natural Jew ‘chosen’ as that is not the Gospel of Christ but ‘another Gospel’ and ‘another Christ’ which is subversive and heretic. However, I do not advocate a ‘covenant’ style theology through infant baptism which is steeped in tradition rather than God’s Word. all manner of ‘confessions’ Westminster or otherwise can never equal God’s Word nor should they be relied on, they are flawed, but God’s Word remains and abides forever. Replacing Jewish fables of ‘special status’ with ‘covenant’ theology with paedobaptism is replacing like with like and throwing out one form if ‘ism’ with another.

    • Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. May 12, 2014 at 6:30

      Actually I believe you will find the Reformers John Calvin, etc., were not “steeped in tradition” rather than God’s Word. The covenant is a key principle in Scripture, in both testaments. Infant baptism flows right out of the NT. Perhaps I will have to run a series on infant baptism, since it elucidates covenant theology which is the main evangelical alternative to dispensationlism.

      Regarding through out one “ism” with another: “covenant theology” is not an “ism,” and is not even spelled with an “ism.” I suspect you have not studied covenant theology. Rather you have only seen it rebuked.

  2. Michael A. Hildreth May 12, 2014 at 6:30

    Jesus said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16). Jesus did NOT say, “He that is baptized and later believes shall be saved”. Let us never alter the Scriptural pattern of salvation. There is not one shred of evidence in the Bible that God requires infants to be baptized or that infants are candidates for baptism. There is no example, command or implication of such. Every example of baptism in the New Testament includes penitent believers who knowingly, willfully submit to immersion for the remission of their sins. Only one who believes with all his heart that Jesus is the Son of God may be baptized (Acts 8:36 – 38). An infant cannot do this.

    • Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. May 26, 2014 at 6:30

      Thanks for interacting. But I don’t believe you have studied the issue of infant baptism from adequate sources. Therefore, you don’t appear to understand it. And be careful in how you argue, you are employing an evangelistic text to discredit infant baptism (and even a verse that is textually precarious: check your center column reference in your Bible). Paedobaptists do not go around looking for babies lying in the streets to baptize. We baptize them on the basis of the covenant, so that the faith of the parent sets the child distinguishes the child from the work, making him holy and clean (1 Cor 7:14) in the eyes of God. This is why Lydia’s household was baptized, even though only Lydia believed (Acts 6:14-15).

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