The Israel Of God (5)

In part 4 we considered how Jesus is the Israel of God.


The Dividing Wall Demolished (Ephesians 2:11–22)

The movement of the history of redemption is on this order. The people of God were an international people from Adam to Noah to Moses. Under Moses, the people of God became temporarily a national people. God instituted special civil and ceremonial laws to separate his national people from the Gentile pagans. In Ephesians 2:14 the Apostle Paul describes these civil and ceremonial laws as a “dividing wall” between Jew and Gentile. Because of that dividing wall, the Gentiles, considered as a people, were “separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world” (2:12).

Now, however, because of Christ’s death, Paul assures Gentile Christians that “you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ” (v.13). How? Through his death, Christ has destroyed the dividing wall, torn the temple veil, destroyed the temple and restored it three days by his resurrection (John 2:19),

by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross.…(Eph 2:15–16).

Now, by virtue of our union with Christ, both Jewish and Gentile Christians are “fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household” (Eph 2:19); “For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh” (Phil 3:3). Why? Because “…our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil 3.20). How is it that Dispensationalist Premillennialism, by having two parallel peoples of God, does not rebuild that very dividing wall which Jesus destroyed by his death?

Not All Israel is Israel 

One of the clearest places in Scripture on this question is Romans chapter 9. The context is the very question we are addressing now, what about Israel? Who is the Israel of God? Has God abandoned his promise to Abraham? Paul’s answer is, a Jew is one who is a Jew inwardly, who loves the Savior of Abraham. Since Jesus was circumcised (Col 2.1112) for us on the cross, circumcision is morally and spiritually indifferent.

“It is not as though God’s Word has failed” (Rom 9:6). The reason that only some Jews have trusted Jesus as Messiah is because not “all Israel is Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children.” Rather, Abraham’s children are reckoned “through Isaac” (9:7) What this means is that “it is not the natural children who are God’s, but children of the promise” (v.8). How was Isaac born? By the sovereign power of God. How are Christians born? By the sovereign power of God. Every Christian is an “Isaac” in his own way. Why is this so? Because

before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: 12 not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated (Mal 1:2; 9.1113).

How can this be? It is because God “says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion’” (9:15).

It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.

Is God unfair? According to the Apostle Paul, as creatures, we have no “rights” before God. God is the potter, we are the clay, but Christians are redeemed clay, objects of mercy, prepared in advance for glory. We must evaluate our condition against the backdrop of God’s patience with those objects of wrath prepared for destruction (Romans 9.22-3). These vessels prepared for glory are taken from Jews and Gentiles alike (Romans 9:24). This is what he promised in Hosea, he has made those who were once “Lo Ammi,” “Not my people,” i.e., Gentiles, to be “sons of the living God” (Hosea 2:23; 1:10; Rom 9.256).

The reason that lawless Gentiles have “obtained righteousness,” and that Israel who pursued it by law has not, is because justification is not by works, but by grace (Romans 9:32). They stumbled over Jesus, the rock of offense. He did not fit their nationalist plans and I submit neither does he fit  plans of Premillennialism.

It is not that Paul does not want Jews to be saved, but rather he wants Jews to be saved, and the only way for a physical descendent of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to become a true Israelite, is to be joined to the true Israel of God, Jesus, by faith. “For there is no difference between Jew and Gentilemdash;the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’” (Rom 10:12). “Not all of the Israelites have accepted the Gospel”.

Has God rejected his people? No, the elect are his people and all the elect will be saved. There are believing Jews. Paul uses himself as an example (Romans 11:1). He is a part of the elect remnant who have not bowed the knee to Baal. “So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace” (Romans 11:5). What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. The others were hardened

God’s election of some and reprobation of others are the twin facts of the history of redemption which Paul brings to bear on the question of “Who is the Israel of God?” time and again he teaches: Salvation by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone; and “What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. The others were hardened…” (11:7).

Is God finished saving Jews? Not at all. Salvation has come to the Gentiles “to make Israel envious” (11:11). Gentiles, by God’s undeserved favor, have been grafted on to the Israel of God. “Israel has experienced a hardening until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved” (11:256).

Christians are the Israel of God in Christ

Galatians 6:16

Given this background, it should not surprise us at all when the Apostles call both Jews and Gentiles “the Israel of God.” This is Paul’s language to the mixed Galatian congregation.

1 Peter 2.9-10

The Apostle Peter uses the same sort of language to describe the mostly Gentile congregations of Asia Minor to whom he wrote, saying, “Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

Hebrews 8:8-10

According to the writer to the Hebrews, those who call on the name of Christ are the “House of Israel.” Everyone who has trusted Christ is an heir of the promises of the New Covenant.


Does the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob love the Jews? Yes. Does he have a plan for the Jews? Yes, it is the same plan he promised to Adam, the seed of the Woman, the same plan he promised to Abraham, “the Seed.” That seed is one: Christ. He is the Holy One of Israel, he is the Israel of God. He did what Adam would not do. He did what stubborn Israel would and could not do. He served the Lord with all his heart, soul, mind and strength.

Most of the Jews, however, were not looking for a Savior. They were looking for a king. Jesus is King, but he earned his throne by his obedience and death, and that is not what they wanted. They wanted glory, power and an earthly, political, theocratic, this-worldly kingdom. Jesus has established his kingdom, through the preaching of the Gospel and the administration of the sacraments. This kingdom may not be as exciting as ruling from Jerusalem during an earthly golden age, it may not sell many books or fill seats in movie theaters, but the world never has found the Jesus of Scripture very interesting, that’s why he’s stumbling block to Jews and a foolishness to Greeks. To Christians, however, he is the Christ, “the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor 1:24).

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  1. Thanks so much for this series! I know some folks I want to share this with. It’s a curious thing that premillenialism has overtaken so much of evangelical Christianity today: the same error as that of the Jews of Jesus’s day. Shows how much we are attracted to and are enamored of this world, I think.

  2. “How is it that Premillennialism, by having two parallel peoples of God, does not rebuild that very dividing wall which Jesus destroyed by his death?”

    My understanding is, “historic premil-ism” does not have the two peoples of God scheme, and shouldn’t be conflated with the dispy version.

  3. Doesn’t a famous Calvinist, who unfittingly abhors paedobaptism, teach that all Israel is only all Israel? Kinda like how “all” means all and that’s all “all” means(?)

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